by Mike Peake
I left the last episode in my tale in a panic as only 2 weeks remained until my daughters Prom on 23rd May 2014 and I was consulting a bottle of Merlot on how best to proceed.
The Merlot came up trumps again and advised me to stop wasting time and money tracking down yet another original washer pump/switch and fit an electric one. A quick search of the great bay of e turned up a pump, push button switch and a bracket to mount it under the dash all with the promise to be delivered on Tuesday. I also knew that I would be able to source the required wire and terminals from work. (Automotive wiring harness manufacturer remember.)
Sunday morning found me back at the lock-up gazing thoughtfully and fearfully at the offending steering gaiter. There was no getting around it. Despite all the tales of doom on the internet, I would have to get on and replace it with the new one waiting in the box in the boot. The gazing had also revealed the need to remove the offside engine valance to give me room to work around the gaiter. To remove the valance I would have to remove the radiator… yet again! I was getting quite expert at draining and removing the radiator by now (and quite fed up with having to do so!) so it was soon all done…again.
With Poppy’s front end resting on axle stands again and with room to work, I was back in action with my trusty ball joint splitters (I love this tool!) and said ball joint was split without damage to the new TRE gaiter. The TRE position on the track rod was marked with correction fluid raided from my daughter’s stationary supplies and TRE was removed. I was now able to remove the old gaiter which confirmed the internet horror stories about how difficult it was to get the new gaiter onto the housing. The previous person to fit it had cut off the narrow end of the gaiter and cable tied the 1st “bellow” onto the housing.
I wasn’t going to resort to these dirty cheating tactics though. Oh no. I was determined to prove I was made of sterner stuff! After about an hour of wrestling and the use of 3 rolls of paper towels to remove the grease from hands and gaiter, which was making it impossible to handle, I was no closer to success. A cup of tea was poured from my thermos and contemplation began.
Inspiration struck. In our factories, when we want to fit a grommet to a harness, we have a nifty tool for stretching the grommet until the hole is large enough to fit over the harness. (Funnily enough it is called a “Grommet stretcher”) Obviously I didn’t have one of these tools in the lock up but could I improvise one? A search of my puncture repair kit turned up 4 plastic bicycle tyre levers. If I could position these around the housing at one end with the other in the gaiter mouth, the mouth would be stretched as I pushed the gaiter onto the housing and tyre levers until it was in the correct position when I could simply slide out the tyre levers leaving the gaiter snugly fitted to the housing.
After another hour of wresting, the answer was clear. Being somewhat less endowed in the arm department than an octopus, I could not improvise a grommet stretcher using 4, or even 3 plastic bicycle tyre levers. Bad words were said. The tyre levers were ejected forcefully through the lock-up door narrowly missing the local cat. Another cup of tea was poured and further contemplation embarked upon. The temptation to take the Stanley knife to the gaiter was getting ever greater but I resisted manfully.
I was on my 2nd cup of tea after the abortive tyre lever attempt and reaching almost Zen-like levels of concentration when inspiration struck again. No, really, it did this time. I had hatched a plan so cunning that I was in serious danger of ruining my carefully cultured reputation for being an incompetent bumbling fool.
What if I folded the gaiter back on itself so that the wider diameter bellows section could be offered up? I could then simply unfold the narrow part of the gaiter back over itself again and onto the housing. Well I thought about it some more but couldn’t come up with anything more cunning than this.
I cleaned all remaining grease from my hands and carefully turned the end of the gaiter inside out. I offered it up to the housing and, holding my breath, I carefully unfolded it onto the housing all the way round…it worked…it was in place…turning slightly blue in the lips as I was still holding my breath, I quickly grabbed the cable tie supplied by Canley’s with the gaiter and fitted it tightly around the snugly gaiter wrapped steering rack housing. I carefully let go. It didn’t all suddenly fly apart. I started breathing again as I was about to pass out. It was all still fitted. I cable-tied the other end of the gaiter to the track rod and still nothing had exploded free.
I carefully refitted the TRE and assembled it to the steering arm. I refitted the engine valance and radiator and topped up with the correct water anti-freeze mix…again. And STILL the new gaiter was in place. I had done it. I had succeeded when the previous chap had failed. I had succeeded when seasoned weekend warriors on the other forums had failed. I was Super mechanic …NO …I …was …an …auto …motive …GOD! … Yes, I was quite pleased with myself.
I was home in time for a long soak in the bath with a celebratory pint of Gin and Tonic whilst Mrs FB put the finishing touches to one of her superb Sunday roasts.
to be continued
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