The MGA With An Attitude
Grapes of Wrath Repairs
Page 2

Ratty Rocker, Midget Light Switch

Depending on how it bit the dust, you may be able to fix it. On mine, the back of the switch (that holds the contacts) came loose from the main body of the switch when one of the two plastic tangs that hold the switch together broke off. Here's what I did to fix it in a desperate few minutes:

1) Remove remains of switch from dash (this will require some fiddling around behind the dash with a small screwdriver to remove the clip/light assembly that holds the switch in place). Be gentle but persistent.

2) Locate the parts of the switch:
  the back of the switch (dangling from the wires)
  the copper U-shaped sliding contact
  the nylon slide that fits into the copper contact
  the spring that goes on the nylon slide
  the main body of the switch
You may find the little bits hiding where the dash curls under at the bottom edge.

3) Find the end of the main body of the switch where the clip broke off (it may be both ends).

4) Drill a pair of small holes (1/16" or less) in solid material either side of the broken clip.

5) Use a small piece of solid wire threaded through the holes to fashion a new clip that will engage the hook on the switch back (I used a paper clip). Twist the wire off securely so it won't come loose.

6) Reassemble the switch:
  set the U shaped slide in the back of the switch
  set the nylon slide into the contact
  set the spring on the stem on the slide
  snap the back of the switch into the main body of the switch, making sure that the other end of the spring goes into the little stem on the rocker

7) Reinstall in dash

Chris Kotting
'77 Midget (with all the rocker switches fixed this way)
'93 Saturn (with unfixable switches)

Lost and Found -- the king of coincidence

A long time ago I was traveling down the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey in my '67 Rover 2000TC on my way to Wildwood for a vacation weekend. I heard a clunking noise from the rear but everything still worked OK, so I pulled over in a rest stop to take a look. I had lost a bolt that held one side of the differential to the frame, and the diff. housing was hanging at an angle. This car had independent rear suspension and inboard disk brakes, so I didn't want to drive it unsecured and hanging by the u-joints.

The bolt was long gone so my wife and I started looking around on the ground for a similar size bolt that may have fallen off another car. And we actually found one! Correct threads but longer than the original, it only had threads half way down to a plain shank, so it actually worked fine.

I don't remember ever replacing that old bolt when I got home, and I never had a recurrence of the problem. These days with most cars having metric hardware, I may not have been so lucky.

Allen Hefner
'77 Midget

Pull Tab - Set Points - (settle argument later)

A little known "point setter" was fairly common, at least in my vehicles, in the good old days. The average pull top from a beer can measured .016" and came in handy more than once when points slipped or burned. After filing the burned points with an emery board (yeah, you have to buy them a new one), set the points with the Budweiser feeler gauge and off you went.

Larry Dickstein
Lone Jack, MO

For the purpose of making it run well enough to get you home, almost anything will do for setting the points gap. You can use a matchbook cover, a doubed over bsiness card, your thumb nail, or just your eyeball. Contact points are not very finicky about the size of the gap as long as they actually open and close to make and break the ground connection. If the gap is not right it affects the dwell, which is of no relavence whatsoever, and it changes the timing a little, but it still runs okay.

The Original Story

"Al, bent over the wheel, kept shifting eyes from the road to the instrument panel, watching the ammeter needle, which jerked suspiciously, watching the oil gauge and the heat indicator. And his mind was cataloguing weak points about the car. He listened to the whine, which might be the rear end, dry; and he listened to tappets lifting and falling. He kept his hand on the gear lever, feeling the turning gears through it."

"Listen to the motor. Listen to the wheels. Listen with your ears and with your hands on the steering wheel; listen with the palm of your hand on the gearshift lever; listen with your feet on the floorboards. Listen to the pounding old jalopy with all your senses; for a change of tone, what a variation of rhythm might mean. That rattle - that's tappets. Don't hurt a bit. Tappets can rattle till Jesus comes again without no harm. But that thudding as the car moves along - can't hear that - just kind of feel it. Maybe oil isn't gettin' someplace. Maybe a bearing's startin' to go..."

The Grapes Of Wrath
John Steinbeck

It was near life and death for the people Steinbeck was writing about, but does it strike a chord?

Toothless Odometer Drives Again

The TD speedometer also uses the phenolic gears. The odometer on my TD was also not working. I repaired a phenolic gear that was missing TWO teeth. I applied some epoxy to the areas of the missing teeth. After it dried, I cut new teeth. I did this using a THIN hack saw blade and some jewelers files. The hack saw blade had the set taken out of the teeth by hammering it on an anvil. You may also need to grind the edges so the blade is narrower at the teeth as in a V. I did this repair 34 years ago, and it is still working. I may have also switched the repaired gear from the odometer to the trip meter. It's been along time, but I believe this gear is just pressed onto a square shaft.

Blake J. Urban (aka Bullwinkle)

Restoring a Lost Propshaft

I drove an MGA in college. The bolts holding the driveshaft to the differential were loosening for weeks. I did not know what the vibration was or really care at that age. They finally let go and the driveshaft dropped to the ground. On a rainy night, I used the four nuts and bolt securing my license plate to hold the driveshaft in place. Tightened them with a pair of vice grips and was on my way, for weeks. I put the license plate back on with some speaker wire. Ahhhh....those were the days. Doh!

Pete W., So. Jersey

Paper Clipping the Fuel Pump

In the early 70's, my wife and I drove everywhere in our '62 MKII, so roadside repairs were not uncommon. One of the most memorable was a trip through New Hampshire when the fuel pump (original Lucas) kept dying. The rocker arm in the pump was getting stuck, so to get to our destination we removed the battery cover and I continually tapped the pump with a wrench with my right hand, left hand steering and called out what gear I needed to my wife. I'd hit the clutch and she would shift for me. We finally pulled over in an empty parking lot and I removed the pump, fixed the rocker arm problem by fashioning a washer from a paper clip to give the pivot arm a bit more clearance and put it all back together. Around that time a State Trooper pulled up and told us to move out quickly - the reason the parking lot was empty was that someone had called in a bomb scare to the nearby factory!

Ken Doris, New York, USA

Huffing and Puffing to Blow Your Way Home

For some time while I was a teenager I had a problem with my fuel pump. The problem was handed down to me from my father when he gave me the car, and with the problem he gave me the solution. Having limited funds as do most teenagers I was forced to use my father's solution for what seemed like an eternity.

The problem was that the fuel pump, at random, would stop pumping fuel. Much later on I would figure out it was a pump diaphragm issue but for now I simply dealt with it. More comical, perhaps even disturbing than mechanical, the "solution" taught me humility among other lessons such as setting my priorities in the proper order.

Driving along with a smile on my face I would suddenly find myself sputtering to the side of the road. The smile turned to nervous dread as I found a safe spot to stop and exit the car. I wished the fix was as simple as stories I had heard from others such as banging on the fuel pump with a wrench, but my problem wasn't stuck mechanics.

As people drove past with strange looks on their faces and sometimes even laughing, I would at this point perform the "solution". First I removed the fuel cap. The next step requires pressure to be built up in the fuel tank until the pump diaphragm reset itself. How do you build pressure in your fuel tank while on the road? With the only device available to you..... your lungs.

Placing my mouth inside the fuel filler I would make a seal with my cheeks and chin. Next I placed my hands on either side of my face to keep my cheeks from exploding and to prevent the pressure pushing my face away and breaking the seal. The next 2 minutes went like this:

Inhale through the nose.
Exhale through the mouth.

With lungs straining, cheeks aching terribly and a great fear of accidentally inhaling through my mouth (it happened occasionally from the immense pressure in the tank) I would continue to blow until one of three things happened..... I couldn't blow anymore, I lost the seal and had to start over or I inhaled and passed out from the fumes.

Once the solution had been completed I walked, lightheaded, back to the cockpit. A quick prayer to the gods of British Iron and I would flip the ignition to "on". If the fuel pump clicked, all was good. If not, back to the blowing. 1 out of three times resulted in a failed attempt.

They say money can't buy happiness but whoever "they" are never saved enough money to fix their Lucas fuel pump. I was very happy that day!

Steve Simmons, Woodland Hills, California

Drive Without A Fan Belt ???

Yes, it can be done in a pinch. This is not another story about alternative uses for panty hose. I did actually drive my MGA 40 miles without a fan belt, and no damage to the engine. Read the tech article here: How to Drive Without A Fan Belt

Barney Gaylord - 1958 MGA with an attitude

Cooking In The Engine (not on it)

As an 18 year old student running an MGA at college was a little beyond my financial means.

When the oil pressure fell due to lack of oil in the engine, having no funds available to purchase any oil, I borrowed my mothers cooking oil from the kitchen and topped the car up. I was then able to keep using the car (with very low oil pressure) until such times as I could afford to purchase some genuine engine motor oil.

John Bray, Bedfordshire, United Kingdom

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