Riveting rubber

Tyres are the first thing this week. I’d been aware there wasn’t a huge amount of life left in them, but a closer look last week revealed that the inside edges were completely bald. They’re about 20,000 miles old, but clearly the tracking is a little out as well, so it was back to Bell Silencers, who I know usually keep a pair of the Falkens in my 205/70 r15 size. Once the young lad fitting them has worked out what a hubcap was, and how to remove one, they were fitted in no time. The rears are nearly gone too, but they can wait a few months and have new rubber for winter.
However, when they tried to check the tracking we found a worn track-rod end that will need to be replaced before the tracking can be accurately set up. Track rod ends I had heard are hard to get hold of, but a quick call to Martin Barnes at the American Car Centre (no website – 0207 278 9786) in London tracked one down. He is currently out of stock of new ones, but is sending me a good second hand one.

The second thing this week was a bit more involved, and slightly unexpected. I checked the oil as usual, which was fine, but after that I could not get the bonnet to shut at all. It would catch the safety catch, but not close properly. Inspecting the mechanism did not initially show anything obvious, but a touch and it was obvious. The spring-loaded catch, attached to the bonnet frame, was completely mobile – all the rivets holding it in place had sheared. At a glance it was OK because as I lifted the bonnet the mechanism fell back into place, but as one lifted it, it would not stay in place. The six rivets holding it on were all clean and shiny and had all clearly failed at once, which seemed unlikely, but in fact there were four further rivets around the back which were dark and dirty and had obviously failed long ago. This would explain also why the bonnet has always been slightly reluctant to close. If the four around the back failed (at right angles to the other six), it would allow a little flex which had clearly eventually failed the rivet heads. The first photo here shows me holding the spigot and its mounting plate away from the frame – the holes should have rivets in! It was clearly assembled as part of the bonnet’s frame, before the aluminium skin was put on, as it was completely captive in its hole.

The only option was to drill out the old rivets and reattach, but my concern was that as I had to drill up through the mount, I did not want to go too far and dent the bonnet as the drill broke through. (Yes I know – I should have got a drill with a depth stop on it!) However, careful poking around and shining of torch through small holes revealed that the frame there is in fact box section so there’s another layer of metal between me and the aluminium skin. Once I knew that, it was no trouble to drill out the old rivets. A quick trip to ScrewFix then had me equipped with a riveter (as well as a box containing what is likely to be a lifetime’s supply of assorted rivets) and we were home and dry.

Happily, the bonnet now shuts with a delicacy and precision that it has never had before in my experience. It always used to need a bit of a shove, but it now just clicks shut very easily. The leading edge of the bonnet is obviously very exposed to muck, salt, water and all the crap from the road that is more diluted by the time it reaches the rest of the car, but hopefully this should last for a good many years now.

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