Some hints and tips
Over a great number of years I have found various ways of overcoming some of the normally encountered problems associated with Minis - here are a few simple remedies which might help get you around some of those problems. They are not in any particular sequence, just as I remembered to add them to the site.
Removing indentations in Vinyl Trim
From time to time we have all probably come across a piece of trim or a seat which has had some compression damage. This can be caused by a heavy object being allowed to rest on or against it and results in an unsightly dent in the surface. Trim should always be stored very carefully if these problems are to be avoided, but if the damage is already there, then there is hope!
This happened to me very recently when I bought a pair of seats for my Minivan. The passengers seat was in basically very good condition, but something with two pointed ends had been placed on top of it (more than likely, the drivers seat mountings)
It is probably common knowledge that many thermoplastics (vinyl seat covers, dashboards, trim pieces and the like) have a 'memory' for the shape they were moulded in. Well, if you raise the temperature of the item sufficiently, this memory effect comes in to play. I use a hot air paint stripper to GENTLY heat the damaged section and a little of the surrounding area. It should be slowly brought to a temperature which is quite hot to touch with a bare hand, but no more. This can be achieved by wafting the hot air gun in a circular motion in the desired region. The offending part can then be stroked with the hand until the material returns from whence it came. If the underlying foam is also compressed, then the heat should be allowed to be conducted down into the foam too. It is quite satisfying, almost magical to watch it take on it's original shape. The following pictures are of the seat after treatment. All that is now required is to clean the whole thing with 'Decosol Valay' trim cleaner.
Rear brake adjusters
The rear brake adjusters are notorious problem areas - even on later Minis - they are often seized into the brake back-plate - so let's see if we can free one up for re-use, and then think of a way of preventing it from happening again! The large diameter fine pitch thread starts life with new brake shoes and is exposed to the elements and very quickly corrodes. The next time the brakes are adjusted, by screwing this adjuster further into the back-plate - even if no seizure has occurred, this corrosion is forced into the small gaps in the thread, where it sits until next time. Not content with hiding there alone, it calls to some of its other Iron Oxide mates to join the party. Each time the adjustment is done, there is never enough time to unscrew the adjuster and lubricate it, so it tightens more and more. This is how it was when you bought the car wasn't it? Obviously the first stage is to remove the wheel and drum. Usual safety precautions apply here as always - Jack, axle stands positioned in a strong area. Bugger! - the cross headed screws holding the drum on won't come out either! Don't even think about attacking them with a screwdriver, until you have first, soaked them with you favourite penetrating oil and second, given the screws and the face of the drum a few sharp taps with a large hammer and brass drift. I have never yet had to resort to drilling these out in more than 30 years of playing with Minis - they always come out! It is not the thread on the screw which is stopping you removing it, but the larger surface area of the countersink, which is stuck with rust. Anyway, when the drum is removed and the shoes and springs taken off, both ends of the adjuster can now be got at. The same brass drift and hammer can be used to strike the end of the adjuster axially (on the end) from the front and radially from the rear (slightly sideways). Now, with the correct squared spanner, you should find that it has become free. Do not be tempted at this stage, to try screwing it into the back-plate, but try instead to unscrew it a small amount, then soak it again with releasing oil. Once fairly free it can be gradually worked back and forth (like when using a tap to cut a thread) until it is free enough to screw all the way in for removal from the shoe side of the plate.
In order to prevent this from happening again, or indeed in the first place, first remove the adjuster and treat it with copper grease, now cut a short length of half inch heater hose, to slip between the back-plate and the thin strap which surrounds the adjuster when it is in place. This short piece of tube can be squashed and teased into place so that the adjuster can now be fitted through it. The previously exposed thread will now be covered and shielded from the elements, and you will never have the problem again! I recently removed one of these bits of tube from a back-plate which I had modified in 1969 and although the rubber was in very poor condition, probably from the grease, the adjuster still looked almost as new.
Rear Sub-frame bolts
These bolts are threaded for the whole of their length (not good engineering practice for this application)) and the end engages with a captive nut in the plate covering the end of the sill. If you use a standard bi-hexagon 1/2 inch drive, 1/2 inch A/F socket to try to remove these, you will find that it does not quite sit squarely on the bolt head. The result with a tight bolt, which will be slightly reduced in size by rust, will be that the socket will slip on the hexagon of the bolt. By far the best plan is to use a 3/8 inch drive 1/2 inch A/F single hexagon socket. If rusting of the head is quite bad, then a 12mm hexagon socket just might be a better fit, as it is slightly smaller. If you are lucky you might be able to get it to move - I sometimes tighten stubborn nuts and bolts a fraction initially, to get them to move. Do not get euphoric just yet, but try to ease the bolt back and forth as if tapping a thread, gradually increasing the range of movement as you go. An occasional squirt with release oil won't go amiss either. What you are trying to achieve is to slowly remove the rusty bit of the bolt which is on the wrong side of the nut, buried in the sill end. If you go at it too quickly, it will bind up again and probably shear off! If you are successful in removing the bolt, it will probably not be worth re-using and if obtainable, stainless steel makes a great replacement. I usually squirt Waxoyl and then stick the grease gun in the hole left by the bolt and give it half a dozen strokes, before replacing these bolts - it helps protect the end of the sill too!
These bolts were removed by me from the damaged 1999 Sportpack Cooper which I used for my Clubman Estate project - at the time the car was only just over 1 year old and had covered just 5000 miles and only one winter, they came from the same trunnion on the sub-frame - the better of the two (but the head has even started to go on that one) from the lower hole, and they were both as dry as a bone. Can you imagine what the bad one would be like when it came up for a sub-frame change?
Preventing problems with later headlamp Back-shells
The later Minis had their headlamp back-shells (bowls) secured to the wing aperture with pop-rivets, which was nothing but a cheap option and made looking after this vulnerable area even more difficult than it had been on previous models. The plastic shells on very late cars are obviously rot-free, but they are often cracked around the pop-rivet hole, by the force of the rivetting. If you are going to keep your Mini in good condition around the tops and sides of the front ends of the wings, it is a good idea to remove the back-shells from time to time, to clean around the area where the mud gets lodged and to re-apply Waxoyl. (or whatever type of rust prevention you prefer)
You could just replace the rivets with large self-tappers, but the holes would eventually become too large and rust would set in around the screws. The best way is to remove the back-shell and file out the round hole with a 6" square file, until a plastic plug fits snugly into the now square hole.
This shows the back-shell mounting holes filed out square before painting
Some form of protection will be needed where you have bared the edge of the metal, you can either dab some paint on, or grease, or again Waxoyl will do the trick. If you now use stainless self-tappers to secure the bowl, you will never have any more problems, and if the holes in the plugs become worn, you can simply replace them.
Further instalments include:
Engine mounting bolts - re-fitting the awkward little swines
Exhaust front-pipe fitting - so it doesn't leak!
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