Monday, May 19, 2014

Winter Weather Has Beaten Me

After the last trial and the work on the clutch I was looking forward to a good trial at Hartside, just outside Melmerby, East of Penrith.
There are some detail that I am going to miss out on but suffice it to say that the trial report said it started very wet and became very much wetter. The earth beneath the grass squirted out like brown toothpaste and blathered everything.
This was before the event had even begun. Getting the tow vehicles into the site was difficult. I had difficulty which I don't normally, but when I saw two Defenders getting stuck I knew it was going to be a bad day.

The first two hills were just above the paddock area and we were already having to carefully choose a route to reach them.
My bloody clutch started playing up again, so I was leaping out of the car, laying in the mud and tapping the release lever with a hammer each time that happened.
By the second runs before lunch we found it impossible to get to the start of Hill 2 (our last Hill before lunch). We didn't feel so bad when we saw Ian Bell trying various routes to try and get there.

At the lunch break our scores were dire (I'd also got a couple of 12s for not getting to Hills before the second runs, due to the clutch problem).
We were cold, wet and dispirited. I also had a problem with my tow car.
We decided to pack up and clear off.
That's the first time I have done that in the almost 2 years I've been doing this.

Thinking about it I realised that since the December event we had only had either bitter cold winds, or deep mud, or both, at events.
This wasn't what I wanted to do. I don't enjoy being either frozen or wet or muddy or any combination of those.

The next event was a 2 day one in May. I feared that if I did that one and the weather was good I would fool myself that it was OK really and I was just being a pussy.

So I advertised the car wherever I could think of and after a couple of enquiries two guys from Bexhill-on-Sea paid me near-enough what I wanted and came the 300 odd miles to collect it.
To be honest I could have held out for a bit more, but was in "Get It Sold" mode and didn't bother arguing about the odd £100 or so.

They got a bloody good deal. The time I spent on the engine change and the power and torque it now has made it worth every penny.
I even fixed the clutch problem (as far as I know) by fitting a clutch return spring to the release arm. I think that the release bearing was just touching the clutch cover fingers and the jiggling as the cover revolved was encouraging the release arm to droop so that the release bearing was again jamming on the spigot shaft sleeve.
I got a Reliant Regal return spring which has a long extension at one end. This allowed me to fit it in the confined space so that it not only pulled the release bearing clear of the clutch fingers, but also slightly upward. Hopefully that will prevent the release bearing jamming again.
They have done their first event and apparently the car went well.

I sold the trailer with it (although they did have a bigger trailer already). I slightly regret that now as it is a good trailer.

This was them at it Darn Sarf


They are double-driving, which is a bit tough on cars, but I reckon it should stand up to that.

So that's it for the moment. I don't have any plans to get another car (at least until Global Warming finally gets here).
I've enjoyed it and the club members have been great. The events ran like clockwork and those that weren't a mud bath I really enjoyed. I didn't even mind the sub-zero events when the sun was out, but the murky wet and wind-swept ones were too much like self-flagellation for me......

(I also don't like getting up before 07.00 in winter. Yes. I am a wimp)




The End






Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Getting A Grip On My Clutch

These clutch operation problems had become serious. They spoilt the last event and whilst I managed to adjust the mechanism to just avoid totally jamming, it wasn't right.

So the choice back at home was do I carry on making adjustments to get the clutch to work without jamming at all, or do I whip the engine out and get to the bottom of it?

Obvious answer really. Whilst there was another event in 2 weeks time, I wasn't planning on doing it. It was to be at Keighley which, whilst it's 60 miles away , and so is Alston where I'd just been, the trip for my regular passenger Ian would be 100 miles as he lives at Carlisle.
Plus, he would be away for the event anyway, sorting out his boat on the Thames at Chertsey, after all the flooding.

My reticence to take the engine out is to do with the installation which I made so precise that there is no wiggle room. The gearbox is shimmed and bolted to the chassis and the bulkhead has to be removed to get it out so, realistically,  the engine has to come out on it's own. As I made the new engine mounts so precisely, getting any movement to fit the spigot shaft into the bush in the flywheel was very difficult.
I had no design slogger.

But a few minutes looking at it brought a light-bulb moment (or as Ian says, a "duh" moment).
All I had to do was remove the cast engine-mount brackets from the cylinder block and I'd have lots of room to joggle things about. Of course it meant having the engine hoist attached first. That meant re-inforcing the steel beam I had put up for it as when I used the hoist to hold up the front of the car when I removed the front coil/dampers the beam twisted.



With that done the engine was out and sitting on the garage floor in an hour or so. I wasn't rushing as I wanted to check various things as I removed them. Like the exhaust header I had made for instance.
I also made use of the better space as I removed bits to play about with the clutch release arm to determine just where it was jamming and what was really releasing it once it had bound-up.

Once the bellhousing was revealed and the clutch release arm and bearing were open to fiddling about with, it became clear that the release bearing housing (which is plastic) was jamming on the spigot shaft sleeve attched to the gearbox. This sleeve is stationary and provide a surface for the release bearing to slide to and away from the clutch cover.



The sleeve had a patch of rust on the top and the bearing was actually sticking on the rust. 



If I tilted the bearing slightly it would jam completely. I'm pulling forward with that finger, but it is stuck.



 So, to my mind, when it was pulled back from the clutch cover it was free to pivot on the lugs which the release arm uses to pull it backwards and to stop the housing spinning.
When you apply the clutch pedal pressure the release arm bears on the back of the housing to push it forwards, but it is not straight and jams.
This was what I had. I solid clutch pedal at the top of it's travel and not de-clutching at all.

Another thing I wanted to address was that when the release arm was right forwards, as it was when the clutch is fully disengaged, the curve in the  contact surface on the arm that is supposed to allow for the change of angle in the arm as it moves was not sufficient to prevent the arm catching the edge of the release bearing housing, which causing it to tilt at that end of the travel.



This was down to a simply error on my part.
Whilst I had inserted a 6mm adaptor plate to join the engine and gearbox, I hadn't thought to pack the release arm pivot pin out to make up for the extra distance to the clutch cover release fingers. So the release arm was having to push further forward to release the clutch.

I couldn't see an obvious reason for the rust to have developed on the spigot shaft sleeve though. It may be that I had been too thorough in cleaning up the parts before assembly. In it's life up until then there had been an oily film over the inside of the bellhousing.

I cleaned up the sleeve and applied a coat of Copperslip grease for the bearing housing to  slide on.
I also lengthened the lugs on the release arm which pull the bearing housing back from the clutch. The plastic tabs they pull on are not adjustable and I think that the arm hasn't been pulling the bearing clear of the clutch cover properly. It may be the clutch cover fingers that have actually been throwing the bearing back and that may have been what has been jamming it.

So now that I had addressed everything that I thought could be wrong I put it all back together.



The engine, without the engine-mount brackets, just slid back in in a few seconds and I bolted the brackets back on without any bother.
Adjusting the pedal pushrod again to get the right amount of travel at the right point was a few minutes work and I tested it.
Works beautifully.

At the moment.

Something to keep my eye on though.

This took about a week to complete working now and then and asking advice from a friend.
It was the night I finished that I got the final entry list for the event I wasn't going to do.
I realised I had been a bit previous in deciding not to enter as I could have probably got one of two local friends to passenger for me. Anyway, I thought I may nip across and either help or video some of the action. As it happened I didn't manage to do that as something else took priority.

Maybe I was lucky as the pictures that Glenn took showed it to be cold and windy and the Hills were maybe a bit steep for a first time passenger to feel comfortable with. I noted that Martin , the Clerk of the Course set the tyre pressure to 10 psi for the morning. Quite high and I assume he did that to make it possible to set less steep Hills but still make it difficult to clear them.




They look like they are pretty chilly to me...





Still, it would have been an opportunity to see if my clutch is behaving itself.
I'll find out in April at Hartside.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Eee! But It Were Chilly!

After the Colston Farm trial (Jiggers Jug) I decided to play with the front suspension and see if that was causing the wandering and bouncing off-line. I was going to get some coil/dampers from Bryan which he had fitted,  but then upgraded from. They were pretty new and have progressive rate springs fitted.
When I took mine off and removed the springs I discovered  the dampers were actually quite good, so decided to give them another go. I stripped and painted the springs and dampers and also polished the spring platforms, which are alloy. Not that any of this helps the performance, but I like doing it.
I mounted them the right way up this time. Some people say this increases the unsprung weight, which it may do a fraction, but the springs are red now and it looked better this way.
Some also say that oil dampers don't work well upside down. I don't know if they are oil-filled or not.



I also had thought that the rear suspension might be steering the car when it bottomed-out. Which is what it was doing on the Hill I found a problem on.
I'd already raised the spring platform on Ian's side of the car to preload the spring as he has more mass than I do. I raised mine by a similar 1cm and also cranked up the damper adjuster 2 clicks on each side. Ian's side was already 2 clicks up from zero.

So. Ready for the next event, I got bit of bad news in that Ian was working and couldn't get a shift swap for the Sunday meet on 2nd February. I decided to try and find a temporary passenger so that I could still go to the event.
It's at Blaghill which is the site of an old lead mine just North East of Alston, which is the highest market town in England. It's about 1300 ft above sea level up on the Northern Pennines.
It's a steep and hummocky ( I just made that word up) site with no trees. I like sites like that. Not that it makes my performance any better.

I did find a passenger from amongst people I know. A couple of people were keen, but then found they had other commitments. It would be interesting though as Steve, who was up for it, is probably about 11 stone which would make us a balanced crew and would contrast with the usual slightly "tilted" look. Not saying Ian is huge, but he is short and his volume is spread around .....

The weather forecast during the week for Sunday was a fine, sunny day with no wind.

Ha! So much for forecasters.
It was cool and windy with, initially, some fleeting glimpses of our mother star. The cloud started covering over quite soon and the wind started picking up.

We went for a mosey around the site to give Steve a bit of practice at leaning out of the car. After a few climbs (not on the set Hills of course) with about 10psi in the tyres.Then I dropped down to about 4 psi to see if we could get a bit further up the slopes and hope that Steve was getting used to the idea of the angles you get to.


Then the clutch gremlin that I posted about in the last missive struck again. It manifests itself when I try to de-clutch. The pedal is solid and will not shift. The car will usually stall, in gear as it happens when I have been about to slow or stop. It's difficult to select neutral as the car is normally on a steep slope and the weight of the car is preventing deselecting the gear you are in.
Once we got into neutral we free-wheeled down to the pits. I selected the correct tool for dealing with this problem. A hammer.
The recognised method is to tap the clutch release arm where it exits the bellhousing. Upwards seems to work best. This means getting on your back under the car. In the mud. Or worse, sheep shit.

People seemed very jolly at the start and despite the coolness the atmosphere was warm.



We were running just behind Simon. This is a 2-edged sword as you can spot the proper line to use and the technique to follow. On the other hand he makes it look too easy and we usually end up thinking, part-way up the Hill,  "why have I stopped here?"




The first two runs before lunch were a bit of a nightmare. We kept getting stopped by the clutch problem. Some people say you don't need to de-clutch on the upward bits, but I like to when manoeuvring. It's just the way I feel comfortable. Watching others you see some do and some don't. The jamming clutch release stops me in my tracks. If I'd been planning to de-clutch and steer, the car just carries on and it's usually too late to use the fiddle brake. If I am planning to use the fiddle for a turn it doesn't really matter as I am not wanting to de-clutch.
Either way, it's not right.
As we moved through the Hills I was jumping out and bashing away with my hammer under the car more and more.

Something needed to be done.

At lunch I spoke with Bryan and a couple of people. We came to the conclusion that the release arm may be over-throwing forwards and getting caught up on the end of the spigot shaft sleeve which the release bearing moves along. I decided that if I adjusted the master cylinder push-rod that attaches to the clutch pedal, I could use the bulkhead as a pedal stop to prevent over-throwing the release arm. The trick was to lower the pedal enough to prevent problems but retain enough movement to release the clutch.
It sort of worked. The clutch did still slightly jam but stamping on the pedal cleared it.
This brought about a great increase in our performance and we did a lot better. However as it was so cold,  with sleet and rain  in the wind, the organisers sensibly decided to do just one run after lunch. The marshals at the top of the site must have been freezing.

Another thing we tried was on the climb between Hills 1 and 2 and the remaining four Hills at the top of the site. It was pretty steep and bumpy. I had to take a few runs at it to get up initially. The car was losing grip as the bumps upset it.


So after getting stopped partway up we backed down and I slackened off the setting on the rear dampers by a couple of clicks. The next attempt we ran straight up with no problem.
As a novice facts like this are difficult to find. Ask people and some are unsure or hazy (or keeping quiet!) about things like this. But here I had back-to-back attempts which showed better result from a softer back end.

However this is great for our new, svelte, lightweight crew, but when we are running with Ian as passenger the tendency to bottom-out is still there. I did put 125 lb/inch springs on (previously 100lb/inch) but without some compression stiffness wound into the damper, they still bottom on the bump rubbers.
Bryan has lent me some progressive springs to try. They are 120/160 lb/inch so may be what's needed to control the back end.

The better control of the suspension really helped on a couple of oblique passes over steep banks which some cars seemed to lurch over and we seemed to just pass over quite smoothly. In the past I would have expected to head off in the wrong direction in that situation. (See Simon at 44 seconds in the video. Our car managed that in a similar way).
Still not World-Beating but these little things give you the confidence to expect to go in the direction you intend.


I managed to snatch this video from my temporary passenger, Steve, who filmed it on his iPhone. The second car is driven by Simon who won the event. The other car is Jeff who came 9th. We came 19th. Not last. I've left the wind noise in as it helps to give a feeling of how chilly it was.




The others are here on Youtube.

The next post will be about the resolution of the clutch problem. Honest