Monday, August 13, 2007

It never rains but it pours

Tinkering with a Morgan
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
So on Saturday morning I was cruising around at speed in my campervan. In the evening I head over to Kenilworth (about 7 miles) and pick up some petrol and a screwdriver from a supermarket garage on the way.

After a pleasant evening in the pub which could only have been improved by not having to drink Diet Coke, I return to the car park. Hopping in the van I turn the key. It turns over runs for a few seconds and then dies. I try it again and the engine turns over but won’t fire.

Several times.

I ring the RAC who tell me I have a 75-minute wait. As that means I’ll be in the car park until after midnight I decline. Instead I accept the offer of a lift home (Thanks Steve) deciding to return the next day when I’ll actually be able to see in the engine bay.

Handy hint: Don’t park front on under the only streetlight as this fills the engine bay at the back with deep shadow. Also, keep a working torch in the car not a stupid wind-up one.

I confess to not sleeping well that night. To be honest I find owning a broken car very stressful when I can’t seem to dig myself out of the pit of brokenness my van currently wallows in. Having reached the top edge earlier in the day and then crashed down was especially bad. A bit of me I’m not proud of hoped the local youth would be more successful than I was at starting and steal it.

Next morning things don’t look any better. The filter was full of fuel and a quick check with an old spark plug showed that there was plenty of spark. At this point the battery was complaining that it had done a lot of starting and not a lot of charging. I called the RAC again.

While I waited (about 25 minutes as it happens) I fiddled some more. The fuel bowl on the carburettor had petrol in it. If I sprayed carb cleaner in the top the engine would fire. Spraying this in the main jet achieved the same thing. I assumed that somewhere in the carb, petrol was not getting where it should.

When the RAC man arrived I explained what I’d done. He hooked the battery up to the bigger version in his van, did the carb cleaner trick again and it worked just as well for him.

Then we had another look in the carb bowl. I’d let the stuff run out the bottom and was more interested in trying to keep my hands clean. He looked at the outpouring and said,

“That isn’t petrol.”

Now I hadn’t thought of this. However not everything evaporated as quickly as petrol should. Some of it sat there. RAC man disconnected the filter and ran some off into a bowl. What you could see were definitely two liquids. Most was petrol but at the bottom were some large, clear globules.


After running off a bit more, everything was connected up. The engine fired and ran. A touch roughly to start with but enough to give me a good run home. In fact things improved as I drove. Later on in the day another quick trip was better still.

So the conclusion ? Water in the petrol. When I had filled up at (evil) Sainsburys earlier in the evening I think I got a fuel/water mix. This separated while I sat in the pub and the water gathered at the bottom, where the fuel outlet is. Then when I started the van I was trying to start on water.

I don’t have a picture of this so instead you get something from the vintage motor racing I went to see later that day. I can’t help feeling that a 3-wheeler Morgan race car with it’s JAP engine on the front must be a whole lot easier to work on sometimes. Pretty nippy on the track too !

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