Abingdon Classics … Volume 5 Number 8
By Harvey M. Wolen
It's a bright, sunny, warm, clear day and you're motoring along a tree-lined country road revelling in the pleasures that only an MG has to offer. Sputter! Pop! Jerk! The tach and speedo needles race each other to the zero peg. Quietness envelopes the scene and you coast over to the shoulder of the road with that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach.
However, all is not lost. You've planned ahead. Snuggled in the boot is your 'emergency kit'. If you've done your homework adequately, you could be pressing on in a matter of minutes.
Figuring out what spares and tools to carry in the very limited space available is the tricky part. Let's separate road emergencies into three categories for our analysis. Class one are those malfunctions which need rectifying but do not immediately totally immobilize the car: alternator failure, blown head gasket (maybe), transmission bothers, brake failure (haven't we all driven with only the handbrake?), damaged exhaust system, burned valve, etc. We can ignore these modes of failure for our purposes here.
Class two are those failures which may immobilize the vehicle, but for which local repair is available: punctured tyre, out of petrol, out of oil or coolant, flat accumulator (dead battery), etc.
Class three is the mode of failure that completely immobilizes the vehicle and for which it is not likely that local repair can be obtained. This is the critical class that we must prepare ourselves for. Obviously, major failure such as a fractured connecting rod or crankshaft is beyond the realm of roadside repair. Let's take a close look at those types of roadside emergencies that we can handle.
According to the American Automobile Association, the most common type of roadside failure involves the electrical system, the second most common failure is the fuel system. Yes friends … the Prince of Darkness has a following in Detroit too!
My electrical spares kit includes an ignition coil, sparking plugs, ignition contact set, fuses, small (tail/stop) lamps, a static timing lamp, plastic electrical tape and clip leads. The clip leads (small alligator clips on each end of three foot lengths of 16 or 18 AWC wire) and timing lamp are an absolute must for trouble-shooting an elusive electrical problem. The lamp is an indicator of the presence (or lack of) voltage at the point in question. The leads are needed to temporarily supply that voltage to the needy component.
You can perform 'by-pass' surgery on electrical components by jumping across that component with the clip lead.
Any faulty switch, wire, fuse, relay, connector, contact, resistor, etc., can be thusly bypassed. Caution: don't bypass the starter-current carrying components with a clip lead! Carry at least three leads. Fabricate these or purchase from electric supply stores (Radio Shack part number 278-002). Longer lengths can be made up by hooking two in series. Use rubber boots over the metal alligator clips for safety. Use the static timing light for verifying electrical continuity and for static ignition timing as well.
Plastic electrical tape can be used for wrapping wires, of course, but also for temporary repair of water hoses. Wrap the burst hose (after draining water and drying the area), tightly with several layers of tape stretching the tape tightly as you wrap. Use 'half-lap' layers … that is, overlap each wrap only half the width of the tape, in a spiral pattern. Do not stretch the tape for the last few turns. This is so that the tape tension will not unwrap the end of the tape. Run the cooling system un-pressurized (cap loose) until a proper repair can be made.
A word of caution about plastic tape: keep a full roll of tape, preferably in an air-tight container, in your kit, but if you haven't used the tape for a couple of years, replace it with a fresh roll. Plastic tape has a limited shelf life … it's not going to remain usable indefinitely.
Tools required for electrical repair consist of diagonal cutting pliers, wire stripper (or knife), needle nose pliers and screw drivers.
My fuel system spares kit is comprised of fuel pump, fuel hose, hose clamps, and feed line cap. You could economize by carrying only a fuel pump diaphragm and contact points set, but do you really want to rebuild a fuel pump at roadside?
If your fuel pump is 'hard plumbed' into the line with flare nuts, banjoes and copper tubing, it is strongly recommended that you convert them over to rubber hose connections. When laying on your back under the car which is teetering on it's 0.E.M. jack, you don't want to be fussing with flare nuts and brass fitments. Being able to simply push on a rubber hose also obviates the need to carry the required Whitworth size spanners. The feed line cap is necessary to keep the petrol tank from emptying whilst the fuel pump is being swopped. It is fabricated simply by cutting a short piece of hose and plugging the end with a rod bolt or ??
Before leaving the subject of fuel pumps … if you are tempted to deviate from original by using one of those inexpensive 'universal' pumps, be aware that the output pressure of this type of pump is much too high for MG carburettors. You will need a fuel pressure regulator set to '1', on the adjustable scale and that still may be too much.
Some provision should be made for repairing or replacing a broken throttle cable. A complete cable need not be carried as it's the inner wire that breaks. A spare can be made up from motorcycle clutch cable inner wire with the appropriate end fitment soldered on. Emergency cable ends are handy for this purpose and can also be used to repair choke cables, etc. These preclude the need for soldering equipment, as they attach to the cable via a screw clamp arrangement. These are now available at auto supply stores as well as motorcycle shops.
A spare alternator belt should be carried as well as the tools to effect the replacement. A rubber freeze plug replacement (as suggested by William H. Sapp in the December 1984 issue of Abingdon Classics) could prove to be indispensable.
Have we forgotten anything? Oh yes-a spare set of keys, hidden on the car (but accessible) might be very convenient some day.
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