Technician’s Update : DIY servicing – enjoy it while you can
So many times have I moaned about the difficulty in service/repair of cars. This is probably why my own 75 1.8 scores so highly in my books as it’s the only petrol R40 offering that doesn’t make you curse or swear when it comes to periodic servicing. It seems a far cry from the days of three simple spring clips to remove the air filter from your 2.0 Montego or when a timing belt on a 1.6 S-Series required a flick through a Haynes, three tools and a Kit-Kat.
A contact called Nigel has just recently bought (against recommendation I may add) a pretty and well loaded 2.0 KV6 powered Rover 45. Initially, a few texts came by lauding its Church like refinement, leather trim and sprinkling of burr walnut. But the texts have now turned into one or two phone calls which by the tone of his voice, rather than actually saying, have become more like ‘oh God, what have I done’. It’s fair to say that the only making plans for Nigel, will be to sell it on again.
Bought privately from the stereotypical mature gentleman with half decent postcode, the only fly in the ointment was the fact needed a good service after a lengthy time off the road. Don’t get me wrong – the 2.0 V6 Rover 45 is a lovely thing to spank along the road in even if only offered in slaughtermatic option only, but you do needs your wits and patience along with some old fashioned skill when it comes to routine fettling.
Circumnavigating the engine bay of an 825 or 75/ZT can be challenging enough for the faint-hearted but with the cozy confined bay of the HH-R derived 45 – its takes a turn for the worse. Of course, with a K-Series of any size with the exception of a TF, everything is tickety boo – even the timing belt tends to be a mornings work and nothing more. In the case of the aforementioned 45, it proves the time old saying that there’s no such thing as a cheap car.
In the current climate of every speck of information being a click away, researching a new or potential car for vulnerabilities or owner experience requires as much effort as sleeping. But there again, it’s also true of the phrase every car has its owner. Going back a few years, I used to enjoy nothing more than going to an independent car auction to watch the useless and feckless buffoons blow their money on the most sinister purchases.
I remember standing alongside a rather dim witted chap who was there to buy a sensible four door family saloon for around the £2000 mark. Easily achievable of course but you should have seen his face light up like a fruit machine at the sight of an XJ40 for similar money. He was either with a friend or his brother and he remarked on what his wife would say if he rolled up in said big Cat – I’m not sure if I wanted to be present on that occasion.
Said dunderhead bought the car and brought it back to sell again around two months later – probably owing to the £5 of fuel wasted just by nipping to the paper shop and back. Of course, its lovely to have a purring huge engine up front but its all rather expensive if you can’t get a fag paper between the inner wing and the drive belts. Even fixings and fittings are no longer as simple as they used to be under the bonnet of your average new smoker.
It’s all about splines and torx nowadays – not long before our old friend the 13mm combination spanner will become one of those through the ages exhibits you find behind glass in the London Science Museum. The days of servicing your own car are dwindling as manufacturers do their utmost to ensure your car remains in their care – use the trolley jack and your old washing up bowl while you have the chance to do so.
This is why I actually enjoy a K series, simple to work on and enjoyable too and the only special tools you really need are the cam locking tool for the timing belt and a sturdy E14 socket for those ten head bolts. Big engines are fab in big cars but somewhat challenging in smaller vehicles, though it’s nice to have the power there when you need it. Sadly, we have moved away from the days of Haynes, feeler blades and a Gunsons Colour Tune – even OBD is slowly becoming obsolete.
Bring back the days when a Cavalier 1600 clutch could be knocked out inside and hour or when a 1.6 Montego timing belt required just a few tools and 30 minutes of your time. This is probably the main reason why I`m such a fan of the 1.8 Rover 75 – its the only model in the range that’s 100% DIY friendly. Take a look around your local breakers yard and have a look-see at what you find and wonder why the landscape has changed so much.
Not that long ago, your average breakers yard would be full of ancient Allegro’s, corroded Cortina’s and knackered Nissans – all often as a result of accident damage, rust or being just plain life expired. Today, the common theme is “beyond economical” repair causing many perfectly usable clunkers to be bannished to the crusher owing to design touch rendering them beyond the scope of a competent DIY motorist. I personally know of one almost mint 2005 Vectra scrapped off all because of a juddering clutch.
By adding lengthy warranties that encourage owners to rely on the franchised dealer, car makers see more money going back into their coffers than in the days of the usual 12.000 mile / 12 month warranty whereby your Ford dealer would rarely ever see a Sierra back on the ramps after its 1st birthday. As a rule, unless the marque is presteige, very little, or sometimes no profit at all is made on the actual sale of the car – the big bucks are in the parts and servicing.
Its also had a knock on effect in the service bays too. Anyone born into the era of pushrods and contact breakers knew how to diagnose faults and rebuild components – but now, its all plug and play and throw away. New mechanics coming into the game know only about basic servicing and how to operate the hand held computer software. Clever all this tech stuff may be but personally I think its taking the life, soul and fun out of motoring – but there again I’m just an automotive Dinosour just like the cars I dream about.