This afternoon, to make the most of the sunshine, I got Neddy out on the drive to have a look at the brakes. For some time now the handbrake had not been holding very well, and although I had not really noticed any instability in braking I had a feeling something was up with the driver’s side rear wheel – with the handbrake on the wheel still turned easily! I wasn’t sure if that would be the case when using the footbrake, but I figured it was serious enough that I ought to look into it fairly soon, and having borrowed a brake adjusting spanner from my Dad (the brake adjuster has a square head rather than a hexagonal one so normal spanners won’t work) I thought I’d be daring and try to suss it out myself.
The first problem I encountered was trying to understand the Haynes manual. It said to turn clockwise when viewed from the rear of the backplate. The backplate faces the bodywork, away from the wheel, but which side of the backplate was the rear? Was the rear the outside or the inside? It didn’t say, so I turned it clockwise looking at it from kneeling next to the car. Nothing. If I was doing it right the wheel was suppose to lock up, which it didn’t. No problem, I thought, I’ll just start turning it the other way. Again, nothing.
In the end I realised that there must be something wrong with the brakes themselves, because the adjusting mechanism didn’t seem to be doing anything at all. So off came the drum. Well, it wasn’t quite that simple, there was a lot of tapping with a hammer and prising off with a screwdriver, but it came off in the end.
It was at this point that I found out what the problem was – the whole inside was covered in gunk. It turns out that the brake cylinder had developed a leak and was depositing fluid inside the drum, which had effectively greased the pads and the drum so that they wouldn’t perform any braking no matter how much pressure you put on them. So that explained the lack of handbrake performance.
I shall therefore be ordering a new cylinder to replace the faulty item, and a friend from the Colchester Mini Club will be coming to help me fit it and bleed the brake system on Saturday. That does mean I’ll be without the car until then, but I’m sure I can manage to walk or bus for a week! In the meantime I’ll probably check out the other rear wheel, just in case there is anything that needs doing to that while we’re at it.
Other plans for Neddy include replacing the rubber suspension cones with springs, which will smoothen the ride while keeping the rigidity needed for good handling. Of course, that should really be coupled with some hi-lows and some better shock absorbers, but that’s going to put the cost up even more. Just the springs will cost at least £200! It will make the ride a lot more comfortable though, and I have heard nothing but good reports about them so far. The other option would be coil-overs, but I’ve heard they can be quite difficult to install. I shall also need to replace the tie rods at the front as they’re looking rather old, and I still need to fit the track rod ends I’ve got sitting in the garage… looks like it’ll be a busy time ahead! It will be worth it though, I’d much rather be driving around in a car that I know isn’t going to fall apart, and I want it to be in tip-top condition for when I drive down to Cornwall in May for the MiniWorld Riviera Run – that’s going to be so much fun!