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Project Car SOTU UK Edition: Nothing to see here

Chris Haining August 4, 2017 Featured, Project Car SOTU 1 Comment

Three cars belong to my household. There’s the Audi A4 1.8T, a car with a reputation for a serious appetite for suspension ball joints and ignition coilpacks. Then there’s a ’95 Peugeot 306, which has the multiple afflictions of being French, old and worthless. And pride of the fleet is our Rover 800, widely regarded among the lowest point of Rover’s recent history. Best of all – mine has the 2.5-litre K-Series V6 engine, renown for its sinister cambelt arrangement and hunger for head gaskets.

So, what litany of woes can I report in keeping this motley collection of automotive detritus?

Well, none. Sorry about that. A far more interesting article will be along in a little while.

The Audi: I had entertained the notion of performing myriad upgrades for OMG power – the 1.8T responds well to a bit of chipping and a bigger second-hand turbocharger isn’t a difficult thing to come by. Thing is, though – I concluded that I have no need for more power. Not from that car, anyway. It’s really not a slow car. Its 0-62mph time of 8.2 seconds is hopeless by modern minivan standards, but where I live there are next to no times that you need low numbers in that particular increment. What you need is passing power, to overtake tractors, dawdlers and, frankly, have lots of fun between corners. In that respect, the punchy mid-range of my small KO3 turbo does just fine.

The last big job I did on it was to cure the symptoms of head gasket failure, and a replacement oil-cooler turned out to be the answer. While the front end was off I changed the cam belt, tensioner, water pump, thermostat, cooling pipes and radiator. I had done the job once before, and next time I probably won’t need to follow the Haynes manual.

The only drama I’ve had this year was on the day I returned from a short break in Slovenia – On the drive home from the airport, at 02:00AM, I felt a vertical judder from the front end, as if something was badly bent. I pulled into a lay-by, performed a brief inspection and a forward-reverse maneuvers, and the couldn’t feel anything wrong. Nursed it home, and then to a tame mechanic the next day, and my suspicion of a knackered CV joint was confirmed. I contracted it out as I didn’t have the time to wave a spanner at it myself. That’s about as dramatic as things have been since our last update.

The Peugeot: Well, I’m ashamed to admit I’ve not got around to repairing the cosmetic damage that remains when an evil Vauxhall Corsa attempted to kill it in November, but in some ways it’s a fairly noble scar for it to wear. It’s certainly a car with a story to tell – the fact that it has a ‘Category C’ insurance write-off marker on it and is essentially a dead car rolling would be a shame to conceal. To be honest, I have the paints and the kit, but haven’t yet given myself the time.

Mechanically, I reported a failure to proceed earlier this year and, while I was flushed by my success in fixing it, the symptom returned weeks later in a fairly dramatic way. It would only run for three minutes at a time, and eventually we nursed it to our favourite workshop (a trip that took two hours in bursts of three minutes moving and then twenty minutes waiting to restart). My suspicion was a crank or camshaft position sensor – it turned out to be the former but it was frankly more convenient for a mechanic to properly diagnose the fault, supply and fit the part. Reason? I’m out in the boondocks here, and it’s only within the last few months that a decent auto part supplier has set up shop nearby – it was previously an hour’s round trip. Plus, a good value mechanic is well worth paying for when it’s a job without an open-ended timescale.

Other than that, clean bill of health on the Peugeot. Certainly the hardest worked car in the squadron, and most probably the hardiest.

And now the Rover. Easily the most fragile car in the fleet, the Rover has been entirely blameless over the last year. OK, the fact that it’s only covered 3,000 miles since the last SOTU update probably contributes towards that, but most of those have been on long trips. In October last year it was called upon for a 600-mile round trip to the English / Scottish borders and back, it visited a driving day at Millbrook earlier this year, and has generally covered more high-speed motorway miles than either of the two others this year.

It did, annoyingly, fail its MOT roadworthiness test this year – I say annoyingly because the fault actually appeared during the journey to the MOT test centre. George, one of the two windscreen washer owls, had stopped issuing its screenwash tears. It was the only fault on the car, but the examiner was forced to issue a fail. Still, he also cleared the nozzle and issued a pass, so fairs fair. Whilst it was in the workshop, I had the a/c regassed and it’s now ice cold, so we’ll see how long that lasts.

I have done at least some wrenching on all three cars this year, if only to change the oil. I no longer have a job where there’s access to a nice, convenient two-post lift, so I’ve had to make do with a pair of ramps on my driveway. It’s fine, albeit that my 6’5″ frame seems to sustain muscle strains as soon as I adopt an unnatural posture, such as when twisting off an inconveniently located Rover KV6 oil filter.

That’s it, then. Fleet changes: Zero. Expected fleet changes: None. See you next year.

(All images Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2017)

  • Rover 1

    I’ve also discovered that the way to reduce the calender average of faults of my Rover 800s is to not use them.