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PostPosted: Mon Jul 19, 2021 9:29 am 
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Posts: 497
Location: Kent
Yes, Matt's project 123 not for the faint hearted but a good guide to how these rust, badly!


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 19, 2021 11:14 am 
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Location: Colerne North Wiltshire
Car Models: GSXR1000 K2,CBTwo Fifty,OG Aero vert gone
Glad you made it home without too much drama. Good news is that it is not overheating, no mayonnaise visible so cylinder head gasket would appear ok. I would drain, flush and put fresh antifreeze in it if it was my car.

I drove a saloon version for two weeks taxiing. An unusual Merc as it was petrol but it had one private owner and but 20 odd thousand miles on the clock. The owner had just become a cabbie.

Like you I loved the sunroof although unusually this one had A/C as well and leather, it was well specced and far too good for cabbie work. It averaged about 17 mpg around Bath.

I have driven both E class and S class Mercs. I agree entirely with your view "not massively engaging, but a lovely way to waft around." I have found that with all big Mercs I have driven, the S class in particular was very efficient, very comfortable but completely lacking in personality.

Good luck with your 230e at least you will always be able to get spares for it. As always Zel I look forward to your updates.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2021 12:54 am 
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Location: Milton Keynes
Car Models: 96 Citroen Xantia Activa 2.0T & Several Others...
Little very mild tinkering before I went out to run some errands this afternoon.

Step 1 was to implement a slightly more robust solution to the broken secondary bonnet catch pull than the bit of bent wire on it.

Cable tie to the rescue.

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Which I can tuck back into the grill to make it slightly less conspicuous when not in use.

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Of course I remembered about 30 seconds after this that I have some grey ones in the garage. Meh, it will do for now, the broken bit will be getting replaced eventually anyway.

While I was under the bonnet there were some checks to make. First up, how much oil did we use during the run down yesterday?

A sufficiently tiny amount that it doesn't show on the dipstick. Not going to complain at that!

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Coolant hasn't moved either, which is pretty impressive given the conditions yesterday.

On the subject of coolant the radiator isn't in the best of condition. It's serviceable (if she held temperature yesterday she should do under any situation) but I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for a replacement.

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While the oil is a bit grubby the air filter looks pretty much new so I'll leave that alone for the time being.

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The spring clips on the airbox are wicked strong so I quickly learned to keep your knuckles out of the way when releasing them...ow.

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Fuel metering plate could do with a clean though. This ideally wants to be cleaner than a hospital operating table after it's prepped for surgery.

Just having a general poke around the engine bay I discovered that the power steering pump has an integrated reservoir...

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This was a surprise as that's what I'd (for no particularly good reason) assumed the oil reservoir on the offside front wing was for.

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After a little head scratching I remembered reading something about the estates having self leveling suspension on the rear...so that will be what this is for then. All I know so far is it looks like we have a camshaft driven pump and that the pipework disappears downward in the general vicinity of the brake master cylinder.

I was wanting to renew the thermal compound under the ignition amplifier, I was expecting to find this on the nearside inner wing...which was exactly where it was.

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The heatsink compound under it wasn't horrible but was clearly just starting to break down and go chalky in a couple of places.

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This was cleaned off and replaced with new good quality stuff. I do note that the O-rings on the wiring connectors are badly perished so will need to change those - especially as a date with the degreaser is definitely in the future of this engine bay.

First lesson I learned during the trip out today...if you brake fairly firmly at speed, the sunroof will slide shut and scare the bejeezus out of you. Will check to see if it can be locked in the open position next time...never occurred to me.

She really is a nice car to waft around in and really does look classy.

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Really does have proper presence on the road too.

A long term fleet member? Bit hard to say so early on...but my gut feeling is that she may well be.

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96 Xantia Activa, 90 Merc 208D, 85 Jaguar XJ-S V12, 85 Sinclair C5, 83 Citroen BX14, 73 AC Model 70


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2021 6:43 am 
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Location: Wigan, Lancashire
Car Models: 99L, 9000cse, Panda, Octavia estate and far too many 9-5s.
You will have to pay attention to the car you are in and parking bays. The merc simply will not fit into an invacar sized gap.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2021 7:52 pm 
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Car Models: 96 Citroen Xantia Activa 2.0T & Several Others...
DeeDub8 wrote:
You will have to pay attention to the car you are in and parking bays. The merc simply will not fit into an invacar sized gap.


I'm pretty sure the Invacar can fit into narrower gaps than I can on foot... luckily I swap vehicles enough it shouldn't be an issue.

Definitely noticeable in car parks though that this is a properly long old car, even if not as wide as it's modern counterparts.

-- -- --

Just as a bit of background to the "thermal incident" during the trip home, this is the highest the temperature gauge ever seems to get to, in stop/start town traffic today with 30C ambient temperatures.

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It gets that far, then drops back down to just below that mark on the gauge over the course of a minute or two, then just repeats that cycle. Presumably as the (electromagnetic) clutch on the fan cuts in/out. Temperature when actually driving seems to sit at a fairly solid 85-95C. So I don't think she's overheating, rather something just took exception to being hot.

Having scared myself half to death yesterday when the sunroof slammed itself shut (it's unsurprisingly heavy!) under braking I had a closer look today. It can indeed be locked in place when open...not sure why this never occurred to me before.

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Will try to remember to do that in future to avoid giving myself a heart attack again. Speaking of the sunroof, yes that locking/pull handle is indeed as satisfying to operate as it looks like it should be.

While the stereo fitted was relatively recent it lacked Bluetooth connectivity. Given that this is a car I plan to use regularly this was a must have, and I figured I may as well just get it swapped out now while I'm waiting for some service parts to arrive.

Pulling the old one out revealed that the cage wasn't actually anchored to the dash at all and typically 80s stereo wiring.

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The fact that by wiggling the wires I could make channels cut in and out confirmed that I needed to remove the tape and properly connect these wires together.

By the standards of modern stereos the new one is not massively blingy at least.

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The display colours on this unit are fully customisable and you can separately set it for the display and buttons. So I went with warm white for the display and red for the buttons, matching the heater controls directly above.

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Far better than the bright blue gaudy thing it replaced anyway.

Haven't fitted the hands free mic or DAB antenna yet, will come back to that when I have more time and it's less than 29C in the shade. In fact I've not even turned the volume up to see how good or otherwise the speakers are, as they may well be the next thing to see attention if they're poor. Even sticking with the stock sizes there can be huge improvements to be had, speaker tech has come a long way in recent years. Don't worry, no holes are getting cut, everything will be kept behind the factory grills.

It did reveal that the centre console doesn't actually appear to be attached to the rest of the dash...so that's something else I'll need to add to the to do list for investigation.

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96 Xantia Activa, 90 Merc 208D, 85 Jaguar XJ-S V12, 85 Sinclair C5, 83 Citroen BX14, 73 AC Model 70


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 21, 2021 11:10 pm 
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Car Models: 96 Citroen Xantia Activa 2.0T & Several Others...
Had a proper nose around in the engine bay today for the first time since I picked the Merc up, when a very basic check of "does it have oil and water in?" was done.

Immediate thing which just leaps out at me is how much room there is around the engine on all sides.

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Even behind the engine there's about a 6" gap.

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Anyone notice anything missing there?

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Yep, missing a manifold nut. Looks like the threads are a bit chewed up so we may wind up with a few washers involved. I'm inclined to just leave the stud alone rather than breaking it trying to remove it for replacement. I *have* a spare head and manifold here but I'd rather not have to mess around swapping parts over between them if I can avoid it.

Looks like radiator replacement will need to be moved up the list a bit. Not lost any measurable amount of coolant, but the top tank to core seal is definitely weeping.

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Will have a dig around and see what I can find. If there's a drop in all-metal replacement I'd rather go that way as I'm really not a fan of plastic tanked radiators. Having said that I'm kind of curious to see if I can find any date codes on it to see how old this one actually is.

First mechanical job though is definitely going to be setting the valve clearances in the hope the rattle is slightly reduced.

https://youtu.be/TeoJ12AkgOo

As soon as the new rocker cover gasket arrives (a whole £18 from the dealer - going rate on eBay looked to be £20-25) I'll get that done. Then drown the whole engine bay in degreaser and blast the worst of the crud off, as it's honestly disgusting. Every time you touch anything you get covered in oil.

Did notice one nice detail in the engine bay that I'll need to try to remake...you know all that technical info for servicing you're likely to need? Spark plug type and gap, timing details, valve clearances...all right here on the slam panel.

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Nice little detail to find. Just a shame it's so faded...wonder if someone sells reproduction engine bay sticker sets for the W123...

Made a run over to the Formula 1 in Newport Pagnell to get her up on the ramps to see if we could find where the exhaust is puffing from. The answer is the second silencer, which has split around the weld on the outer casing on the leading edge. The rest of the system isn't in bad shape actually. Given the degree of grot is visible on some of the body panels the underside looks to be in surprisingly good shape to be honest. Does look like I've got a bit of a fuel leak though - looks to be from the top of the tank, so thinking the seal around the gauge sender is most likely the culprit. Wasn't actively leaking but you could see the evidence of it having run down the side of the tank.

Sadly they can't source any exhaust parts for a car this old (can't say I'm surprised) so I'll need to see if I can track one down...or just go round to Deutsche Tech and get the offending section made up in stainless. I don't like faffing about with exhausts so that is likely what we'll end up going with, as the puffing from it will likely drive me mad.

Quite happy with today's tinkering though. Was pleasantly surprised at the condition of the underside of the car, found the exhaust is actually mostly sound aside from one silencer (which actually looks like a manufacturing defect rather than corrosion), got a price on a set of tyres which is well within my expectations, dealer was helpful, oh...and found this bit of broken trim in the glove box.

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Just glue this back together and replace the missing fastener, you'd never notice it was cracked.

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Feeling quite positive today. There was a certain degree of "what have I got myself into" creeping in with regards to some areas, but I'm getting more convinced that there is actually a good car here, she just needs a bit of TLC.

Finally got around to getting a couple of photos of her and the van together. These do a good job of showing how much wider than a car the van is too.

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I think a couple of paint touch ups, a really good polish, some nice fresh tyres and a new set of number plates will make her look quite different.

The number plates are both pretty knackered.

Front one is cracked around both mounting screws.

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The rear one is crack free but is delaminating...plus both are in the post 2001 typeface which on a vehicle of this age bugs my OCD something rotten.

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Thinking that given the age just standard acrylic plates make the most sense. Think pressed metal would look like we were trying to pretend to imitate the German ones a bit too hard, which is why they bug me on Golfs etc so much.

Question is whether is just go for a plain plate though or if I try to recreate a dealer plate? Not sure where this car was originally sold. Though I wouldn't be surprised if someone could figure it out!

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 22, 2021 10:31 pm 
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Location: Milton Keynes
Car Models: 96 Citroen Xantia Activa 2.0T & Several Others...
Out and about again today. Stopped in one of the local car parks and grabbed a couple of photos.

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These cars really do have quite some road presence. Can't really think of many things which compete in that regard other than the like of Rollers, Tatra T-603...

Really does suit the estate body as well I think, so many estates look clunky or out of balance compared to their saloon or hatchback variants, whereas this shape just works for me.

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Gave the interior plastics a really quick wipe down this afternoon with some vinyl & rubber care solution. Never ceases to amaze me how much life that alone can bring back to the interior of a car.

They really were quite dull and chalky.

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The interior really is a pleasant place to be. Even in spite of a partly collapsed driver's seat base.

While I had the stuff out, gave a few of the exterior plastics a quick wipe down as well - totally forgetting the grey bit of the radiator grill. Derp.

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Noticed while doing this that there's quite a bit of condensation in the nearside headlight.

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Given how warm it currently is have just popped the rear cover off it, hoping the weather will dry it out for me. I'll have a closer look to see if I can see any evidence of where water may have got in at a later date.

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Courtesy of a local independent locksmith we now have a non manky set of keys, the tatty ones it came with have been relegated to the spares drawer. They both worked fine but the ignition key had long since lost the plastic handle bit so was really awkward to use.

Has reminded me that I still need to get a spare made up for the van, as they have the right blanks will run by there again tomorrow to get one made. Not having a full set of spare keys makes me really uncomfortable... especially as I've locked them in it once already (and had to break in via the gas locker and unbolt the sink from underneath to gain access!).

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96 Xantia Activa, 90 Merc 208D, 85 Jaguar XJ-S V12, 85 Sinclair C5, 83 Citroen BX14, 73 AC Model 70


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2021 9:00 pm 
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Car Models: 96 Citroen Xantia Activa 2.0T & Several Others...
Rocker cover gasket arrived this morning so should be able to look at getting the valve clearances set and the top end at least something resembling oil tight soon. Then will get an oil and filter change done. I'm looking forward to that as I'd really like it to stop sounding like an 80s 1.1 Fiesta.

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Fuel filter was done not massively long ago, but I don't know precisely when...so I'd like to get it on the service log. I'm seriously tempted to fit the old fuel pump from my Saab as the one currently on here makes an utterly horrendous, piercing whine. Just need to look up the specs for the two to make sure they're the same - but my gut feeling is that they will be.

Normally I'd have already done the oil & filter change, but I'm holding off until I've done the valve clearances and have cleaned up the remains of the old petrified rocker cover gasket that will no doubt be stuck to the head. I'm bound to get some crud washed down to the sump when I do that, and I'd rather do that immediately before rather than right after an oil change.

One thing I noticed a day or two ago was that the tailpipe was only sitting in one of the rear hangers.

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Upon reattaching this errant hanger it immediately became apparent *why* it was detached as a horrible rattling buzz reverberated through the car. The unmistakable noise of an exhaust pipe touching the underbody.

Right here.

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The reason that one hanger was removed was because they were too short. A simple fix at least by sticking a couple of slightly longer (50mm diameter) hangers in there instead.

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While in that corner I investigated the non functional reversing light. Just a case of dirty contacts, after a quick clean it was back in action - though it needs a good clean and ideally a new lens.

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As I had hoped the condensation in the nearside headlight has cleared up completely.

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Annoyingly I then spotted there's similar damp in the offside one...it will get the same treatment next week.

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Was interested to discover that the inner two elements in the headlights aren't actually used for main beam (as on the Ford Sierra to name one car with a visually similar structure to the lights) but appear to be front fog or driving lights. Really need to track down an English PDF of the handbook!

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 25, 2021 11:18 pm 
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Car Models: 96 Citroen Xantia Activa 2.0T & Several Others...
Couple of things done today...first of which you likely won't be able to see on camera - cleaning the inside and outside of the windscreen. It's nice being able to see where I'm going now. Inside was particularly bad with a really thick, greasy coating on it.

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Had a nose around under the bonnet with a view to seeing what I need to move to get the rocker cover off. Doesn't look like it should be too bad.

Found a nut and a few washers so have replaced the missing nut on the exhaust manifold.

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Couldn't actually see or hear any sign of it blowing there, but at least I know it's bolted up properly now.

While the exhaust manifold doesn't seem to be leaking, the rocker cover definitely is. Oil everywhere.

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I am seriously looking forward to cleaning this engine bay. Not only will it be immensely satisfying, but it will be really nice to not get covered in black grime every time I so much as walk within ten feet of it.

Realised this afternoon that I'm going to need to spend more money before the proper cleaning can start though as my pressure washer died a couple of months ago. This shows that she really needs a good clean outside as well as under the bonnet.

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Sadly my pressure washer died a couple of months ago...so I need to replace that sooner than later.

Spotted something that needed immediate attention today...this looks like it might be a vacuum leak.

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Yep, that will be letting a bit of air in.

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Found another one of these in a similar state over on the offside inner wing. I don't have a diagram of the vacuum system yet so not actually sure what this does just now...There are a lot of vacuum lines on this car as a lot of things operate off vacuum. Central locking and headlight height adjusters to name two.

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I'll probably go around and change all of these boot connectors at some point as they're all a bit soft. Thankfully the lines themselves are plastic and still seem in fine shape.


Speaking of rubber that needs changing, the supply line for the self leveling suspension is looking rather sorry for itself.

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Will look to get that changed soon. I do need to confirm what type of fluid this uses - though the initial glance at Google seems to suggest that it's basically LHM with a Merc logo on. Which would be nice as I've a load of that in stock. It certainly *smells* like LHM.

I think one of the first non mechanical tasks will be seeing what I can do to straighten this roof lining trim.

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This panel needs to come out anyway for two reasons. One is to replace the tailgate gas struts, the other is to fit rear speakers as there currently aren't any.

The moulding is basically fibreboard and I imagine has got wet at some point. Hoping that with a bit of persuasion I might be able to get it to sit flat again. Apparently getting this hooked back in place is a pig of a job so hopefully I'll only need to do it once.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2021 12:12 am 
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Car Models: 96 Citroen Xantia Activa 2.0T & Several Others...
What do you need to do to pull the rocker cover on a W123 with this engine?

1. Remove air cleaner housing (4 10mm nuts and pop two PCV hoses off).

2. Remove HT leads from the little plastic channel they sit in.

3. Detach the throttle cable at the engine end (little ball and socket setup, just pops off) and feed it back through the cable bracket.

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4. Remove the nuts (noting that one is a bolt and post arrangement to hold the ATF dipstick in place).

5. Lift off rocker cover. That's it...ten minutes tops. It's almost as though someone during the design stage thought that you might need to service a car one day.

Speaking of servicing, that's something somebody earlier in this cars life didn't pay much attention to. She clearly never had regular oil changes... it's quite manky in here.

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Sadly there is evidence of damage due to this...the camshaft in particular looks to have taken quite a beating, a couple of the lobes on cylinders 2 and 3 have some really rather nasty scoring.

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That is why you should change your oil and filter regularly, folks...

Valve clearances were a mixture of slightly loose, perfect and slightly tight. I think whoever was last in here just set them all roughly to 0.2mm from the feel of it. With them reset she does sound better, though a couple of valves definitely are still clattery. I suspect trying to quiet things down far is a bit of a lost cause given the state of that camshaft.

One thing I am definitely going to do when I've next got an hour free will be to pull the spray bar off and make sure that all the holes are clear, if it's clogged the cam will obviously be starved of oil.

Solving the issue properly isn't necessarily a huge headache given that I just happen to have a complete spare head sitting in my conservatory.

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In which the camshaft looks like this.

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So somewhere down the line one of two things will likely happen.

A: I swap the camshaft and rockers over from the spare head.

B: I drop the spare head off to be professionally cleaned, inspected, valves lapped, new valve stem oil seals fitted etc...and then just swap the whole head over.

B probably makes the most sense - though in the same breath the bottom end of the engine has suffered exactly the same degree of neglect...so dropping a lovely rebuilt head onto it without doing any other work might be a bit silly... though I do keep being told how hardy these engines are...so we'll keep an eye on things basically. Regular oil changes will definitely be adhered to though going forward! I'm not immediately worried, but definitely want to keep an eye on things.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2021 8:09 am 
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Zelandeth wrote:

Speaking of servicing, that's something somebody earlier in this cars life didn't pay much attention to. She clearly never had regular oil changes... it's quite manky in here.


So somewhere down the line one of two things will likely happen.

A: I swap the camshaft and rockers over from the spare head.

B: I drop the spare head off to be professionally cleaned, inspected, valves lapped, new valve stem oil seals fitted etc...and then just swap the whole head over.

B probably makes the most sense - though in the same breath the bottom end of the engine has suffered exactly the same degree of neglect...so dropping a lovely rebuilt head onto it without doing any other work might be a bit silly... though I do keep being told how hardy these engines are...so we'll keep an eye on things basically. Regular oil changes will definitely be adhered to though going forward! I'm not immediately worried, but definitely want to keep an eye on things.


I would not worry too much about the bottom end at this stage. You know you would have heard it if it was bad, I suppose it depends on how many miles you intend putting on the car, 10k/20k? My point being that the car has already done 167k if you cannot hear grumblings from the bottom end now I doubt whether another few thousand miles will make a lot of difference. Obviously there may be clues when you change the oil and filter. I do not know how difficult it is to drop the sump. By the way is the ATF ok? If the oil changes have been neglected I guess the same may be true of the ATF.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2021 6:10 pm 
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old cabbie 1945 wrote:
I would not worry too much about the bottom end at this stage. You know you would have heard it if it was bad, I suppose it depends on how many miles you intend putting on the car, 10k/20k? My point being that the car has already done 167k if you cannot hear grumblings from the bottom end now I doubt whether another few thousand miles will make a lot of difference. Obviously there may be clues when you change the oil and filter. I do not know how difficult it is to drop the sump. By the way is the ATF ok? If the oil changes have been neglected I guess the same may be true of the ATF.


The ATF was changed roughly a year back, and the pan, filter etc were dropped at the same time. What came out didn't look horrific...and the ATF on the dipstick doesn't look bad.

I think by and large I'll just be keeping an eye on the engine and ensuring it gets very regular oil changes for a while, probably with a high detergent content oil for the next few changes.

-- -- --

Given we had obvious signs of poor lubrication on the camshaft that at least verifying that we had clear holes in the spray bar made sense. Especially as I had a spare present on the spare head, so simple to clean that up and just do a swap.

Here's it having just been removed - it has four pretty small holes in it which provide a drip feed of lubricant to the cam lobes, one for each pair.

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They are pretty tiny.

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Despite the head that came off being about 93% cleaner than the one on the car, only two of the holes were clear...doesn't bode well for the one on the car. I gave the "clean" one a thorough clean and got it flowing nicely.

Ten minutes later, had them swapped over.

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Having clean metal to contrast it against really highlights how grubby that top end is.

All back together.

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Has it made any audible difference? Not really. Though at least I know there's a good chance of lubrication getting to where it should now.

The old one was pretty manky indeed.

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Only one of the holes was clear, one other was about 50% clogged and two were completely missing in action - and you couldn't even see them for the gunk...so I think this was worth doing, even if most of the damage is already done it makes me feel better.

Being finished messing around under the rocker cover for a while I decided it was time for us to actually change the oil and filter. Went out for a run first to get everything nice and warm and to ensure as much of the gunk was stirred up in solution as possible.

Sump plug unsurprisingly is really easy to get to and came off without excessive effort. What came out was really dark but I've definitely seen worse. It was dark brown rather than black ink like you tend to find in diesels.

Oil filter has some crud immediately visible on top of the filter even before it was pulled out.

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This definitely looks to have done its time...the fact that part of the filter has collapsed tends to suggest to me it's a bit plugged.

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It has actually pulled the element away from the top cap there.

Out of curiosity I will dissect this filter to see if there's any evidence of issues visible.

New filter in, new O-ring and copper washer fitted to the filter housing...

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The old O-ring had (like the rocker cover gasket) pretty much turned to plastic.

Double checked I'd refitted the sump plug... possible to do easily from next to the car as you have line of sight of it from above.

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Then refilled with some fresh oil, started up and checked for leaks. None present.

I'm not used to seeing this sort of thing actually making any visible difference...but this has where hot idle oil pressure is concerned. When at full temperature, in gear at idle I used to see 1 bar or fractionally above of oil pressure (it jumps off scale as soon as any revs are really used).

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So it looks like I've gained somewhere in the region of 15psi of oil pressure at a hot idle. Not going to complain at that. I may try 15W 40 for the next change (10W 40 or 15W 40 are recommended) and see if that makes a difference.

Think my oil change program on this car is basically going to be "Change it as soon as it starts to look dirty" for a while.

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96 Xantia Activa, 90 Merc 208D, 85 Jaguar XJ-S V12, 85 Sinclair C5, 83 Citroen BX14, 73 AC Model 70


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