Thursday, 17 April 2008

Happy (well maybe) Memories - 2

While looking round my computer I found this peice I wrote in July 07, when Bitsa had an impressive gearbox faliure. I'd written it to send into a Landy magazine, but its getting a bit dated now, so I suspect this will be as far as it ever gets...

I do have some pictures, but blogspot is being tempremental, so I'll add them later...


I spent a good part of last week listening to one Bod Dylan CD. Not particularly from choice, it was mostly the Landrovers fault. The gearbox on the Bitsa had finally gone bang, and that was seriously bad news - I was using her every day to commute to work and back. One Saturday afternoon, after a pleasant time at the annual local farm auction, (mostly spent towing lesser 4x4's back from the mud they had strayed onto), I jumped into her cab, fired up, shoved the gear-lever into reverse, lifted the clutch, and she moved back an inch and stalled. Assuming I'd just been indulging in some sloppy driving, I flicked the key, and tried again with a bit more throttle. Result – another stall.
This was getting less amusing. I tried to select a forward gear, guessing that the handbrake had jammed on. The lever refused to shift out of reverse. I selected neutral on the transfer box, and lifted the clutch. The engine stalled.

That was the last trip out for that gearbox. A friendly farmer towed me out to main road, I phoned the breakdown recovery and spent an uncomfortable couple of hours waiting for the lad with the truck to arrive. I wasn't altogether surprised the gearbox had died, just rather annoyed at the timing.
The box had been giving warning signs for most of the year, and at least 20,000 miles had passed since I had first associated the whine in 3rd gear with the layshaft bearing. Things had gradually progressed until I couldn't hear the engine over the scream from the bearing whenever I picked third. As my daily journey to work involves a climb of a good couple of miles with the engine and box screaming at 35mph in third I was acutely aware that a replacement was overdue. I secured a replacement gearbox on Freecycle, and had been planning to head up to Leeds to collect it on the following Tuesday evening. Somehow, I felt my plans were being just slightly re-arraigned.

The breakdown truck eventually hove in slight (as usual the claim “we will be with you within the hour” was about as reliable as the offending gearbox), The truck was winched on, strapped down, and I was gently relayed home. Its nearly a year since Bitsa's last ignominious return strapped to a lorry, which isn't bad for an old lady of 36, who is expected to drive nearly 30,000miles a year. Even so, I feel I am becoming too acquainted with the process of being recovered from some inconvenient location. It seens that it always involves a long delay and that I've always cleared the cab of all food, books, or anything else interesting, just before a breakdown occurs. My cynical side suggests that if I never tidied the cab, I would get 100% reliability.

Dropping Bitsa off into the local rugby clubs car park opposite the house, (my drive is too awkward to even consider), I walked home, starving hungry, tired, and frustrated. One good square meal, and an hour on the 'net and I was feeling rather happier. A helpful Series Two Club member had offered to deliver the gearbox from Leeds on Monday night, for his diesel money. Considering my only other option was pallet line at £70, I nearly bit his hand off. I arranged to borrow my mates 110 to get to work on Monday, and we towed Bitsa down to his house (it is usually fixed in his garage) and went to bed.

At half four on Monday morning my alarm clock went off. I staggered out of bed, jumped on the push bike, and shot down to the garrage. By five am, fuelled with some good hot toast, Sam and I were savagely attacking Bitsa. Cab off, screen down, seats cleared and removed, floor out, seat-box out... by five to seven, the last two stubborn seat-box bolts were out, and the gearbox was visible. A quick hand-washing, and we leapt into the 110, and headed off rather rapidly. I dropped Sam at the farm, and drove to work.

Around six pm I was back, and work restarted. I removed the prop-shafts, undid the handbrake linkage, removed the gearbox mounts, jacked up the back of the box, and got engine sat on a block of wood between the flywheel housing and the cross-member below. A short spell on my back saw the bell housing nuts off.

Wok was then interpreted by the welcome arrival of another 70's landrover, along with Dave, and the 'new' gearbox. A good chat, tea drink, and Dave headed back north, while work restarted.

I can't even begin to give a detailed account of what happened that evening, but suffice to say, it was at this point things started going down hill. The old gearbox was a SIII box, and the new one IIA, which has a totally different clutch release mechanism, for a different clutch. Simple then, to know what to do – fit the SIII bell housing to the IIA box, and I wouldn't have to muck about with the clutch plates, or find a release assembly for the IIA box. At this point, we put disk 2 of “Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits” into the CD player, and set it to repeat all. This was to prove a mistake.

We took the bell housing off the dead gearbox first. This was a piece of cake, apart from the fact that the bolts were so stiff I needed a scaffolding pole to crack them undone. Then I took the bell housing off the IIA box. First off, I had a massive battle with the split pin on the layshaft nut. Then, once that had finally admitted defeat, the bell housing came off, and we hit rock-bottom.
Not only did the bell housing come off, but out also came a large mass of gears, shafts and other important looking gubbins, and a tidal wave of old Ep90. Now, I have had most parts of my Landrover in pieces at various times. I've had my diesel engine strewn round the workshop in little bits on several occasions, I've put clutches in several other people's trucks, welded most parts that can rust away, but I'd never before found out what is inside a gearbox. Now I knew, I wasn't at all convinced that I was in any way a happier individual. It was half eleven, the truck was still broken, I'd been up rather more hours than I liked, and to crown it all, the garage floor was like a re-enactment of the Battle of the Somme, with various critical bits washing up and down it. My hands were far too filthy to touch the CD player, and as Dylan had now been round 4 times, I was starting to get tired of it. Sam and I just stood there, as if transfixed, by the sight of the mess we had created...

After a minute or so, the spell was broken. I picked up the pieces, and cleaned the worst of the garage floor off them, while Sam busied himself in putting dirty fingerprints over the valuable words of wisdom in the Haynes Manual, “Assembly is the reverse of removal”. After conferring briefly, we felt that shoving all the bits back in randomly, then bashing it with a sledge hammer, while a perfectly adequate approach to dismemberment, was unlikely to yield effective long term running.
A certain amount of head scratching later, I had deduced the order everything was supposed to go back in, and found that actually doing the deed was a little like doing a Chinese puzzle with an extra piece. Doubtless its simple in daylight, on a proper workbench, with everything clean, but at one in the morning, when feeling very sleep deprived, and enduring the seventh repetition of Bob Dylan's greatest hits (I normally do like the man), it really starts to get beyond a joke. Eventually, everything was induced to drop into line, the bell housing slid on, and I declared that enough was enough for the night, even if that meant borrowing the 110 again. Its better not to know how long it took in the shower to remove the worst of the Ep90 stains, suffice to say I had been up for over twenty two hours when I finally got into bed.

At work on Tuesday I arranged to have Wednesday off. I also felt like death warmed up. Tuesday evening also saw me fit the clutch release mechanism back into the bell housing, (its better not to ask what I had to do to the input shaft first, or my reputation as a total bodger will be made for life), and drop the box back onto the engine. After that, I was too knackered to contemplate further work that night, and went home to bed.

Wednesday morning saw everything bolted back down, and the gearbox filled with the cheepest thin oil I could find, to flush out any remnants of garage floor. The engine was started up, and I left it turning the gearbox in various gears for a few minutes. The oil was then drained, and the box re-filled with proper Ep90. After doing that, I threw the whole truck back together, and took it out for a test drive. Talk about luxury – I couldn't even hear the box any more, even hammering over Monks Road (about the steepest hill round here, ) in third, changing up and down the top two gears no-longer needed a double de-clutch, and all in all, things were pretty much perfect.

I got a fiver for the scrap man for the old box, after the obligatory pulling apart to find what had happened to it. I found a couple of teeth, and some random bits and pieces floating round in the oil. Judging by the evidence, one of these had worked its way into one of the main drive cogs, and locked it.

So, a little under 24 hours working time, and I had a living Landy again, total cost £30 including the gearbox oil change. Bitsa is still a right old shed, but it seems I love her anyway. Oh, and its strange to say, I've not been listening to much Bob Dylan lately.

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