Tech Tips: Summer 1996

When my ’68 Jaguar XKE needed a new clock battery, which is a small mercury cell 1.5 volt, I was informed that the EPA had banned the sale and disposal of mercury cells in California!

Determined to have a working clock in the Jag, I modified the circuit, grind two pieces of insulated wire, approximately four inches long, and solder one end of each to the copper terminals where the original clock battery sits. I used rosin-core solder.

Next, being sure to observe polarity, solder the other end of each wire to the terminals of an AA-size battery holder, available from any electronics supply store. Insert a new AA-size alkaline battery and wrap some electrical tape around the holder to prevent possible electrical shorts.

I also used electrical tape to secure the battery/holder assembly to the back of the dashboard. Alternatively, you could use wire ties or Velcro for this purpose. This takes about 10 minutes, costs a couple of dollars, and works just great!

—Garry S. Gunderson, Yuba City, CA.

During a camshaft upgrade job on my 1972 MGB, I came across a real road block that threatened to stop the whole job.

I was slowly but successfully disassembling the, engine which had been left in the car, and felt I was on a roll after finally dropping the sump pan (aren’t those numerous sump bolts a pain?) and pulling the oil pump.

I came around to the front of the car and decided the next thing was to remove the crankshaft pulley retaining bolt. No problem. I persuaded the folding washer back to be flush with the pulley and fitted the correct size socket onto my 1.5 breaker bar. Those of you who have been there will know what happens next. The engine turns over. Putting the car in gear and applying spirited high velocity impacts to the bar did nothing but rock the car. The bolt was ON there!

I have owned several MGBs over the years and the experience with them has taught me a great deal. One of the most useful lessons, and the hardest to follow, is just to walk away when you’re beaten. It’s far better to come back calm and prepared rather than get all worked up and eventually do some real damage.

After the calming effect of a couple of English beverages, I was graced with a plan. I ran down to the car and while looking into the engine bay, momentarily kicked over the starter motor (after disconnecting the coil and returning the transmission to neutral). Sure enough, the pulley turned clockwise—I had a chance!

I placed the breaker bar back on the nut and laid the handle against the inner fender wall on the driver’s side. Then, with trembling hand, I again flipped the starter. With a loud CRACK the bolt broke free and spun right out of the pulley!

I just leaned back in one of those solitary, pensive moments when you know you have mastered your machine. I suddenly had enough energy to work late into the night, sure that nothing could stop me.

The sound of that high-lift cam and the feel of the extra BHP has transformed my MGB into a tiger and I can highly recommend the cam upgrade kit from Moss, especially for later MGBs, which suffered from “tuned” cams right from the moment they left the Abingdon Factory.

—Francis J. Cusack Jr., Grolon, MA.

(While this works, we would advise anyone undertaking this operation to exercise extreme caution.—Ed.)

Changing the oil filter on the MG TD (and later MGs) with the replaceable element is often made difficult by the O-ring that fits into the groove on the casting side of the oil pump. If a new, second, oil ring is installed over the old one, it’s guaranteed to leak. Removing the O-ring is greatly simplified by using a large sewing needle, similar to a carpet thread needle, to poke into the ring and extract it.

—Richard B. Fritz, Boulder, CO.

With rear wheel drive cars, especially those with relatively small wheel diameters, trying to drive onto portable ramps can be almost impossible. The ramps have a tendency to scoot in front of the wheels rather than allowing the wheels to travel up and on to them.

If you have the “ladder” type of ramp, an easy solution is to cut two strips of strong carpeting, about four feet in length, and just less than the width of the ramp. Loop the carpet through the first rung of the ramp. When the wheels travel up onto the carpet, the carpet will anchor the ramps and not allow them to be pushed away by the tires.

—Kurt Schley, Rocky River, OH.

In the Spring 1996 issue of “Moss Motoring,” Ken Swaggart described his MGB’s attempt at self motivation and his subsequent cure for the problem. While this was an excellent article, he omitted to mention a very important item that should be installed on all vintage cars—an electrical cutoff switch, such as that sold by Moss (#145-785).

In addition to the obvious theft prevention benefits, this will immobilize the car during routine maintenance, preventing damage to both car and mechanic should an errant wrench find its way across the starter solenoid terminals. (I won’t say how long it took me to learn this, but let’s say I have more than one wrench with burn marks on the plating!)

The cut-off switch also reduces the chances of electrical fires. It should be mounted in a place easily accessible from the outside of the car and should be attached to the ground lead from the battery. If you have a stereo with a memory installed, a separate circuit will be necessary to keep the unit’s memory alive. It is also essential that the cut-off switch is NOT used to kill the engine in alternator-equipped cars to prevent damage to the alternator.

—Mark Shipley, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Obviously a broken valve spring requires immediate attention, but what about weak springs, especially after upgrading to a higher lift cam? The problem is in determining whether or not to pull the cylinder head.

If the head is not removed, an easy way to keep the valves from falling down into the cylinder is to snake in about three feet of small diameter rope into the cylinder while the piston is at BDC (Bottom Dead Center) of the cylinder and the valves you will be working on.

Rotate the crankshaft clockwise towards TDC (Top Dead Center) BY HAND, via the crank pulley nut. DO NOT TRY TO TURN IT WITH THE STARTER. In fact, as in any other major repair, it’s a good idea to have the battery disconnected to prevent accident or injury. Gradually rotate the crankshaft until light resistance is felt. The valves are held up by the compaction of the rope, and no air pressure, coat hangers, or trick tools are required!

After repair or replacement, don’t forget to re-torque the head and set the valve clearance. On A and B series MG engines, it’s also a good idea to add a cooling system sealer to insure there are no leaks, since some of the cylinder head studs come up through the rocker pedestals and removing it may produce a leak. However, there is a 90% chance it will be okay after repair.

—Joe Baba, Fresno, CA.

To remove a stubborn cylinder head, try this first. Remove all cylinder head bolts but leave the spark plugs in place. Then crank the starter a few times—just tap it, don’t turn it. The compression of the motor should break the gasket seal on the head.

—Wil Bernstein, Nashua, NH.

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