This blog, in addition to the usual maintenance details for classic mini cars, an attempt is made to explain the "whys" and "wherefores" of the various jobs.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

The Missing Starting Handle

A retrograde feature of the Minis which they share with many other modern cars is the lack of a starting handle. Most do-it-yourself owners will regret the absence of this useful item when carrying out many servicing jobs. A starting-handle kit is available which can be fitted by any owner who has an electric drill and is able to handle simple tools. This conversion will be dealt with in a moment, but in the absence of a starting handle what is the best method of turning the engine?

When it is simply a matter of making adjustments, the best plan is to remove the sparking plugs in order to relieve the pistons of compression pressures and to turn the engine by pulling on the fan belt. An alternative scheme when a manual gearbox is fitted is to turn the steering wheel to full right lock, jack up the offside front wheel, engage top gear and rotate the engine by turning the road wheel. Some owners adopt this method, as a last resort, to start the engine when the battery charge is too low to turn the starter motor but sufficient current remains to operate the ignition system. In such a case a quick twirl of the front wheel, after switching on the ignition and setting the mixture control, will usually produce a start but do make sure that the handbrake is applied really firmly and that the jack is secure. If the car should topple off the jack after the engine has been started the results might be disastrous!

The starting-handle kit just referred to is made by Oselli Engineering, Industrial Estate, Stanton Harcourt Road, Eynsham, Oxon. It is ingeniously arranged so that the handle can be inserted when the left front wheel is turned to full lock. It is necessary to cut an opening in the wheel valance and to bolt two guide plates in place to position the inner end of the handle. A bracket, bolted to the front suspension, steadies the outer end of the shaft. The only other job to be done is to unscrew the crank shaft-pulley securing bolt and substitute the starting-handle dog bolt, which is also provided in the kit.

On later models on which the starter motor is controlled by the ignition key, through a solenoid (electro-magnetic) switch in the engine compartment, it is possible to use an ingenious device known as the ETT 80A Junior Autopoints Unit, which was obtainable at the time of writing from Eldred Motors and Electronics Ltd., 15a Lincoln Road, Hull, E. Yorks. When this is connected-up to the battery and starter solenoid switch, the engine can be "inched" round at the slowest possible speed, making precise adjustment an easy matter.

The device is not expensive and if you intend to carry out home maintenance as a regular rule, it will soon repay its cost, as it can also be used to set the basic ignition timing, check the actual firing point of the engine, check the condition of the starter ring gear and for other purposes which are described in the instruction leaflet which accompanies the unit.