January to March 2002 ramblings

Good news (oil pressure, head gasket, radiator, exhaust, air filter), head gasket result, Yoko A032R end of term report, Palm IR HotSync, head gasket, old timer, camber and toe, back to work.

Good news

Oil pressure

I think the oil pressure is OK. I tried wiggling all the electrical connections with no joy. Then I tried to twist the sender, just to ensure that it was screwed in properly. It turned, or rather half of it did. The case of the sender is made from two halves crimped together. The bottom half was screwed tightly where it was supposed to be, but the top half twisted round fairly freely. When I twisted it the reading on the oil pressure gauge changed, all the way up to just under 4 bar at cold idle - spot on.

Just to be sure, I've ordered a new sender from Caterham, but they are on back order until mid-April.

Head gasket

I checked the oil, and it was still nice and clean, several hundred miles after having the work done. Unfortunately I also checked the water and there was a beige emulsion inside the expansion tank. Worried, I called Steve. He reckoned that I was probably OK, and it was just a tiny bit of oil left over from the clean-up. It's difficult to see inside the tank, but I thought I could see coolant under the surface layer of gunk, which gave credence to Steve's explanation. I also phoned Caterham and they agreed that it was impossible to completely clean the engine (but then they would say that).

The oil seems to come up to temperature more quickly now. That's probably because pure oil conducts heat better than the mayonaise that had been in the engine. I hope there was no damage (other than the head gasket) caused by the high temperatures that the engine was likely seeing.


Whilst checking that the mayo wasn't getting any worse, I noticed that the water level seemed to be going down. Since the oil still looked pristine I was fairly confident that it wasn't leaking there, so I've tightened all the hoses to the radiator, and I'm crossing my fingers, hoping I don't need a new one. It would be extremely annoying if I were to find out that the couple of hundred quid I saved not buying a new rad after the fox attack cost me my head gasket.


I've asked a few people and the consensus is that a bit of blowing shouldn't fail the MOT (which is booked for next Saturday). But the exhaust is getting quite noisy so I want to get it fixed.

I checked with Caterham and they confirmed (based on the chassis number) that the law doesn't require me to have a cat. (The current exhaust, 4:1 inside the engine bay, has one just before the silencer.) To allow for future engine upgrades I want a proper 4:1 this time round. Caterham are asking £445 (+ VAT) for theirs, or £595 for the Superlight R's 4:2:1. For that kind of money I'm sure I could get a nice custom repackable one, and I can't afford it right now anyway so I'll have to make do with getting the current exhaust welded, if possible.

Air filter

I cleaned the K&N air filter. They recommend cleaning every 50-100k miles, but Caterham reckon on 30k intervals. Regardless, at about 44k miles I got hold of a cleaning kit, and the job is done. They give you an unbelievable quantity of stuff in the kit - I could probably have split the purchase with 20 friends and still had some left over.

Sunday 31st March 2002. Link to this ramble.

Head gasket result

I got my car back from Caterham today. Just the work relating to the head gasket came to about £930. They said the engine was in a complete mess, and charged 13 hours for the job. The original estimate (before they saw the car) was about £340. I'm only half joking when I say that if they'd quoted that figure in the first place, I'd probably have bought a replacement engine instead.

Even after doing the head, Caterham said the oil pressure was still low. A common cause of this is that the foam baffle in the sump has broken up, so they dropped the sump and found that was indeed the case. The pressure still seems low to me though. It's 2 bar at cold idle, rising to around 3 bar at 3-4k revs while still fairly cold. Once the engine warms up the pressure drops to 2 bar, or down to about 1 when idling. I'll call Caterham tomorrow to check whether they think this is OK, but it doesn't sound good to me. Perhaps I should keep my eyes open for a decent used K-Series engine.

Caterham noticed the dent in my radiator, and wondered whether this had caused overheating, and hence the gasket trouble. I doubt it, considering that happened a year ago, but I'll be keeping a careful eye on the coolant level from now on. The only other thing of note is that there is a crack around the exit of the silencer, which I guess I will have to get fixed before the MOT next month. It's going to be an expensive Sevening year...

Thursday 7th March 2002. Link to this ramble.

Yokohama A032R end of term report

Click on a chart for more detail.

Front left

Front right

Rear left

Rear right

I promised to give a report when my rear tyres were replaced. This happened a few weeks ago, but I've only just got round to writing it up.

Basically, the 32s are great in almost every respect except wear. I'm amazed how good they are in the wet, although I don't take liberties when I think there might be standing water around. In the dry, they are just fantastic (and the weather's not even warm enough for them to get sticky yet!).

The charts show the tyre wear over 3273 miles of purely road use, which was enough to take the rear left tyre down to the legal minimum. Pressures all round were 16 psi cold. The increased wear in the centre of the rears is apparently "normal". The excessive wear on the insides of the fronts was due to too much camber and toe out. These were put right at 2521 miles.

Longer term I can't afford to stay with 32s, given the mileage I do. I'll probably swap to 21s, but I do want to experience the 32s on track so I've got some new rears and I'm hoping that the fronts will last long enough for me to get my act together and arrange a track day. One thing is for sure - I'm not going back to ordinary tyres on my Seven.

Wednesday 6th March 2002. Link to this ramble.

Palm infrared HotSync on Windows 2000

It used to be that Windows made an IR port look like a serial port to software. This meant that any old comms app could be made to work over IR, with a bit of tweaking. However, that didn't work too well if several apps wanted to use the IR port at the same time, so in Windows 2000 Microsoft changed the programming interface, and in doing so broke all the existing apps.

I had wanted to be able to sync my Psion Series 7 using IR, and now wanted to be able to use IR to HotSync my Palm and laptop at weekends (I keep the cradle at work). I couldn't believe that Microsoft had been that stupid. There had to be a work-around, but I just couldn't find it.

I've no idea how I missed this earlier, but I found the answer. Palm have a document with the innocuous title "Updater for HotSync v3.1.1 for Windows". Read the section "Setup Instructions for Infrared (IR) HotSync". Works a treat.

Incidentally, if your m505 is suffering from timeouts when syncing with AvantGo, then you need the update for HotSync Manager 4.0.

Monday 4th March 2002. Link to this ramble.

Head gasket

I make no claims to be anything other than a mechanical novice, but even I should have seen this one coming. The head gasket on my Seven blew today (or some time in the recent past). The symptoms are low oil pressure, running hotter than normal, and the killer, creamy emulsion in the filler cap (and on the dipstick).

Green Flag have come through again. They've taken the car to a secure compound tonight, to be delivered to Caterham's factory tomorrow because they weren't able to get it there today before Caterham closed. There was no Spanish Inquisition on the phone when I told them what was wrong; they just sent a low-loader as requested.

In retrospect, the symptoms were obvious. They probably began when I had starting problems in December. I'd also noticed recently that the oil pressure was lower than it had been, but managed to convince myself that it was just the sensing / display that was probably wrong (a delusion made more convincing by the fact that I've had an oil pressure sender die on me before). Then, the stuttering problem came back again last night.

I'd decided after the last episode that it was worth replacing all of the ignition leads and the fuel filter. I'd even bought the parts from Caterham, but hadn't got round to fitting them. Last night I fitted the ignition leads, distributor cap and spark plugs. I couldn't get to the end of the HT lead under the intake system, so I didn't do that, and I chickened out of tackling the fuel filter too. Then I made the mistake of driving in to work this morning...

Oh well. I've just got to cross my fingers now and hope that there are no complications...

Thursday 28th February 2002. Link to this ramble.

Old timer

This time last year, I noted my car's mileage. This year it's 43,345, so that's 13,345 miles in a year. That's slightly more than normal (because of the Haggis trip), but even a typical year wouldn't be bad going for a Seven.

Friday 1st February 2002. Link to this ramble.

Camber and toe

The wear pattern on my front 32s seemed to confirm my suspicions that I had too much camber. (The insides were wearing far more quickly than the outsides.) After breaking Steve's ball-joint splitter trying to dial this out, I took the car in to see James Whiting. James' technique for getting the joint apart involved two people, a big thick bar, and a hammer. I've now got about 0.75 degrees of negative camber (it was around twice that).

James also questioned my toe out. Apparently, slight toe in is the norm (on the basis that the wheels get pushed out once the car is in motion, making them tend back to parallel). Having toe out is often preferred by the racers because it makes the car more responsive when turning, but on the road it tends to make the car fidgety, and along with too much camber, helps to destroy tyres. Because I liked it as it was, James compromised and set the toe to parallel.

The result is great, on the road. I had a storming drive home tonight, on roads which were dry for a change. The feel has improved - there is less tramlining and skittishness, and the steering weights up nicely as more lock is applied going round corners.

I will post an end-of-term report for the 32s soon, because I will have to replace the rears this weekend. The fronts are also close to the limit on the insides, so I just hope that these geometry changes help to make them last a bit longer. I can't afford to keep the 32s longer term, but I do want to experience them on track, and in warmer weather, before I switch to something slightly more sensible. (I couldn't go back to a truely ordinary tyre now, but I will probably compromise on 21s.)

Tuesday 22nd January 2002. Link to this ramble.

Back to work

There was an item on the news this morning about it being the busiest day of the year for recovery organisations, as people tried to start their cars after being inactive over the Christmas break. I hadn't driven the Seven for nearly two weeks because we've all been too ill (we all had a horrible stomach bug, followed by lingering colds, and now Thomas has chicken pox). The Seven started first time :-) It was very cold, even though I wore two fleeces under my windproof coat, and silk liners inside my leather gloves.

I almost didn't make the first yard up the road. An extra-thick coating of frost lay on the ground, and the 32s are as bad as any other tyre when there simply isn't any grip available. Fortunately there wasn't any traffic, and traction improved when I got up to the roundabout and onto the main road. Conditions were treacherous for most of the way in. Although the main roads were simply wet because of the volume of traffic that had passed over them, the minor roads had many icy patches waiting to catch me out.

I do love these cold winter days, without a cloud in the sky, but I'd like them just a little bit warmer, please...

Wednesday 2nd January 2002. Link to this ramble.

This page is http://www.strangely.org/diary/200201/index.html. It was first published on Monday 15 April, 2002 and last updated on Tuesday 11 January, 2005.