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

Tools and Equipment

No job can be done properly if the correct tools are not available. Unfortunately, manufacturers of popular cars seldom include any but the bare minimum of items in the tool kit and it will therefore be necessary to purchase one or two items to supplement the selection of screwdrivers, pliers and so forth that the average home handyman will usually have accumulated over a period of years.

Spanners are particularly important, if any but the most elementary servicing is to be done. It must be remembered that "Unified" screw threads are standardized on these models and that nuts and bolts of this type call for the use of American spanner sizes (usually termed S.A.E. spanners). If you have a legacy of Whitworth spanners from an earliercar, do not be tempted to use them on Unified nuts. They may appear to be a reasonably good fit but there is a risk of damaging the corners of the hexagons if any stress is applied. It will be necessary to purchase a set of good-quality double-ended spanners in a range of sizes from, say TV in. to

in. A/F ("across the flats"), which will fit Unified nuts in sizes from i in. to & in.

Ring spanners are to be preferred, although one or two slim-jawed open-ended spanners may be required for the occasional awkwardly-placed nut. Better still is a set of socket spanners. If these are provided with an extension drive and, possibly, a ratchet handle, so much the better.

A medium-sized adjustable spanner will often come in handy but it should be used for holding, rather than turning, nuts and bolts. Always use a proper spanner whenever possible.

Before leaving the subject of spanners it should be mentioned that a B.S.F. nut should not be forced on to a Unified thread or vice versa. When buying replacements, make sure that these are of the Unified type; if these are not available, American National Fine (A.N.F.) threads are interchangeable, for all practical purposes, with Unified threads.

Next and equally important comes a set of feeler gauges. The small plug-gap and contact-breaker feelers provided in the tool kit may serve in an emergency but a combination set of feelers, which can be purchased quite cheaply from most accessory houses, enable adjustments to be carried out more accurately and more conveniently. A set of feelers is, in any case, essential when adjusting the valve rocker clearances. For the sparking plugs, however, wire-type gauges are preferable. These can be obtained in sets which incorporate a gap-setting tool which eliminates any risk of damaging the sparking plug electrodes, as described in.

A good tyre-pressure gauge is also a worthwhile investment, as it is seldom wise to rely on pressure gauges used by garages. In the first place, these are not always as accurate as they should be; and secondly, pressures should always be taken with the tyres cold, and this is obviously impossible if the car has to be driven to a garage or if pressures are checked during the course of a journey. The inexpensive telescopic type of gauge will serve quite well, provided that it is kept free from grit and protected against knocks. Better still, one may take a tip from rally and competition drivers and spend a little more on a dial-type gauge, which gives clearer and more accurate readings.

If one is starting from scratch it will be necessary to purchase a selection of screwdrivers, including one with a small blade for electrical work. The most economical plan is to buy a set, consisting of a handle and several interchangeable blades, fitted in a plastic wallet. Make sure that the set contains two different-sized Phillips screwdrivers to fit screws having cross-shaped recesses in their heads. A pair of side-cutting pliers and also the tapered, round-nosed type, will be needed, as will a ball-pane engineer's hammer and (although this is not essential) a hammer having both copper and rawhide striking faces, which will enable recalcitrant components to be dealt with without the risk of damaging machined surfaces.

An electric drill of the home-handyman type is, perhaps, something of a luxury, but the way in which it can speed-up a surprisingly large number of jobs, particularly if it is provided with the usual range of accessories, such as wire brushes for use in decarbonizing the cylinder head, a grind stone and a lambswool polishing mop, renders it a really worthwhile investment for an owner who carries out any appreciable amount of work.