Sunday, 16 September 2018

Bearing up

Gawd, i wish I'd taken the early advice of a forum member who said on day 1 that my problem was big end bearings. At the time, that was the worst possible news for me and I was desperately hoping for a simpler solution. As it is, changing the bearings is far simpler than I'd expected....

I've sort of done all 4 now - this is what they looked like (cylinder 1 on the left, no. 4 on the right):

Weird how cylinder 1 is so bad and the others just have a slight mark down the centre (not sure if that is normal or the start of a problem?).

Anyway, taking them out and replacing took no more than 30 minutes going slowly. The only problem is one that has plagued me since day 1 of my build - bolts! Those cap bolts are stretch bolts which are one use only, so I've had to order new ones from Ford (the only place to get them) - going to take a few days to arrive so I can't rebuild the bottom end until then.

Once they arrive, i can re-do the timing. I'm going to take the cams out, take them to a garage and ask them to use their air wrench to loosen the sprockets. I should be able to do the timing properly then.

Annoyingly, I've had to cancel a weekend trip to France on the 22nd because i can't be sure I'll be done by then. I've got a handling day on Oct 5th which I'm desperate to get to...better be or I'm going to have to do a John Cleese on Zedster!

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

It all becomes clear

So, valve clearances....this is the process:

1. Engine at TDC, remove rocker cover.
2. Remove fan belt.
3. Remove crankshaft pulley.
4. Remove 3 timing belt covers.
5. Loosen tensioner and remove timing  belt.
6. Loosen camshaft sprockets.
7. Remove camshaft caps and camshafts.
8. Replace required shims.
9. Rebuild in reverse, using special timing tool to get camshafts in right place.

This is a summary of what the Haynes manual says. What the effing manual DOESN'T say is that for items 3 and 6 you really need an air compressor and gun because the bolts are done up flipping tight. What it also neglects to mention is that Ford only do shims in set thicknesses and did they have the one I needed? Go on, guess the answer....

The problem is made worse by the fact that you don't know what shim size you need until you have taken everything off to get to the existing shims!

So i decided to cheat (you can see where this is going) and I didn't take the crankshaft pulley off, or the camshaft sprockets, relying on the timing tool to work. Needless to say, it didn't and now my timing  is slightly out and Zedster doesn't idle or run smoothly. While the camshafts were out, i didn't see any obvious cause of my rattle.



I decided to leave the timing to another day and concentrated on the bottom end. Amazingly, it took just 2 hours to get the sump off and the first big end bearing removed.


That's one of my bearings on the right, the one on the left is a new one and what it should look like. That is one knackered big end bearing. Worse, it has scratched the crankshaft:

Next step is to see whether that is something i can just clean up myself or if it needs removing and taking  to an expert. I know what my money is on...

With hindsight,  i wish i had taken the big end caps off when i first took the sump off but i was just too scared. ..the joys of experience.

Thursday, 30 August 2018


This is getting annoying now...

After a stupidly expensive 2 week holiday which has not relaxed me and ended badly (long story), I'm still not much closer to resolving my problem.

What is so frustrating is how no-one can pin the problem down - I've spoken to several mechanics, posted videos and pictures to various forums and I've got suggestions that point to every part of the engine! Every time I think I have found something, someone else comes up with another theory.

So, current situation; Simon (ex-GBS) and 1 or 2 others think it's top-end, not bottom end. As it's easier to take the top off, I've done that and checked the valve clearances. All are fine EXCEPT one intake valve on cylinder 3 which is on the limit (0.11mm gap). This is unlikely to be the cause of my rattle as tight valves don't make a noise but I need to fix it anyway, which involves taking the camshafts out to replace a shim. While they are out, I should be able to check the valve springs aren't loose (?), which might cause the rattle and maybe some other stuff (hopefully, Simon can make some suggestions about what to check).

Once done, and assuming I don't find a problem, looks like I will need to go into the bottom end and do/check the big-end bearings. If they aren't the problem, then it's a problem that will need the engine out and engine stripping, not something I have the time, space or tools to do.

This is a real low point in the life of my kit car journey - I've honestly contemplated just sticking the whole thing up for sale and cutting my losses. If I can't fix this, that may be my only option...

One plus is that the DVLA have agreed to give me a new registration, after I sent them a letter explaining how i incorrectly filled in one of the forms and that, actually, all my parts were new (except the gearbox). So i now have a 17 reg plate and i can maybe buy a private plate in future (if i ever get back on the road).

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

(Not) Under Pressure

Well, there may be light at the end of the tunnel...although, it's a dreary, grey light...

I popped into my local Ford dealer, he had a listen and said it wasn't the starter motor, as I was hoping. He said it was almost certainly internal - bugger!

After more quality time on YouTube, I found a good series of videos by a US mechanic who had some great suggestions. Basically, for future reference, this is a good diagnostic process to follow to identify an engine noise:

1. Oil pressure test - I should be seeing 3 to 5 bar at idle. If it's low, you might get top-end rattle and, long-term, wear at various points.

2. Compression test - if one or more cylinders have low compression, that indicates a valve (top-end) problem.

3. Spark plug test - remove the HT leads from one cylinder at a time while the engine is running. If the suspect noise disappears, the problem is bottom-end on that cylinder.

So, test 1 (I bought an oil pressure tester) and I am now getting 5 bar at idle BUT I have no idea what I was getting before, as my dash gauge has never worked properly.

Missed out test 2 (I've ordered a compression tester but not arrived yet).

Test 3 - and VOILA!! With the HT lead off cylinder 1, no rattle, no matter how hard I rev. Repeated for the other cylinders and the rattle was still there.

So, I think I've had low oil pressure from day 1 because of that rubbish oil pickup being too close to the bottom of the sump and not allowing the pump to get enough oil round the engine. Over the 3.5k miles I've done in the last year, this lack of oil has caused premature wear in the big-end bearings, to the extent that it is now noticeable on cylinder 1 (and maybe the others to follow soon).

As I've cried wolf a few times recently, I'll hang fire on saying this is definitely the problem until some more people agree with me but it seems plausible.

Now, I just need to work out how to fix it...

Friday, 27 July 2018


Argh!! After all that work, i put it all back together and...still rattling! In fact, it's  worse!

BUT I think i know what it is now - step forward Mr Starter Motor.

To get the sump off,  I had to take the starter motor off (in fact, I just unbolted it and moved it aside). When I came to put it back on, I noticed that the main body was a little loose. It has a base that bolts on to the bellhousing but the main body, I believe has a couple of long , internal bolts that hold it on. I don't know how and why but something has come loose internally and I'm almost certain (again) that is my rattle. Definitely. Maybe.

So, do I blow another £100 or so for a new one? I drove to work today and the rattle is unbearable so it looks like I'm going to have to, and pray that is the problem.

On the plus side, after 2 months of baking heat and clear skies, today was the first bit of rain BUT I have doors and a roof - and they work! The doors are awesome; really solid, no flapping about and the windows work really well. They're just clear plastic with velcro on 3 sides, so you just pull it down and, voila! In fact, the doors are so good, they kept all the engine heat in as well. Horrendous today when it was still around 30 degC but will be great when normal British weather returns.

So, more expense...great, kitcars, aren't they?

Thursday, 19 July 2018


I wasn't getting anywhere trying to find the rattle UNTIL I cleaned up the sump in preparation to taking it to a local welder to fill in the hole. With it cleaned, a magic symbol appeared:

See that ring? That is where the oil pickup sits and no way should it be making that mark. That means that it is touching or maybe occasionally touching and making my rattle?

The pickup felt very solid when i took the sump off so I'm not sure if it is the rattle but it certainly should be at least a few mm off the bottom of the sump. I thought about trying to bend it but it's steel and thick - not easily bent. Then i looked a bit more closely:

Can you see how the end has been welded on the tube? It's offset by a few I'm going to take it to the same bloke who welded up my sump and see if he can re-weld the end on but better that it was done originally. If that works, it should give me the few mm clearance i need. Basically, i seem to have got a 'friday afternoon' sump kit from Tiger!

I mentioned the sump - the guy has done a good job:

Sunday, 8 July 2018

The Long Haul

Well, it's been a frustrating month since my last post...

Despite my PMA (positive mental attitude), my engine rattle didn't disappear. Admittedly, I only used half a tank of fuel with the cleaning additive but still rattling. I met up with Matt from the SKCC forum who's a great bloke - a mechanic who has been racing and building cars since he was 12. He's the guy who helped me setup my front suspension shortly after IVA.

Despite all this experience, neither he nor his brother (who worked for Ford as a mechanic for years) could explain what my rattle was. Using the long-pole-and-an-ear technique, he believed the noise was coming from the front of the engine and suggested the only way forward was to take the sump off and see if anything showed up.

With the design of the GBS (and most kits), taking the sump off is much simpler than a normal car as it can easily drop out underneath with only the starter motor that needs to come off. So, off came the starter motor and the sump bolts came out with no difficulty at all. Then, it all went to Hell...

The sump just wouldn't drop. I had used sealant round the edge but I cleared most of that out so that shouldn't be the problem. I spent over a week of evenings trying numerous different techniques to lever the damn thing off. Even Matt couldn't work out why it would not come off. Then, a post on the Tiger Owners forum suggested that the problem might be the windage tray. I used the tray that came with the ERA sump from Tiger but it seems it is a VERY snug fit in the sump, not something I noticed when I fitted it. Now, when trying to pull the sump down, the curved edges of the tray were digging into the side of the sump - the harder I hit it, the more it dug in!!

A cheap endoscope verified this was the problem as I could clearly see the edge of the tray dug into the sump wall. After a few more days of trying to get round this, I admitted defeat and took the last resort - I drilled a hole in the bottom of the sump and used a screwdriver to lever the tray away from the sump wall. The sump dropped off almost immediately. Jesus, what a ball-ache...!!

In the pic above, you can see the hole I had to drill and the groove above it, cut into the wall of the sump by the tray.

Now the sump is off (and I need to find someone to fill that hole now), I can't see any obvious problem; the oil pipe and windage tray are solid, there is slight play in the bottom ends but I'm guessing that is normal as all 4 cylinders are the same. I'll have to get Matt over to have a look...I don't really know what I'm looking at.

Some better news, my doors are done and they look awesome:

I just need to bend the frames a little in places to follow the curve of the body but otherwise they look great.

Hopefully back on the road soon - I've got a long holiday for most of August and then a very busy September planned for Zedster; an epic long journey, a trip to Brands Hatch, our first foreign trip and a handling day in early October.