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Spitfire Questions About My Latest Spitifre

urchin

Jedi Trainee
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After looking around for a while this "spring [hah!]" I decided to purchase an ugly duckling of a 1980 Spitfire. Its plus points are that the frame and undersides of the car are very clean and rust free for a New England car. It has a genuine 39,000 miles on the odometer. It even has the ugly houndstooth cloth seats and rubber bumpers.

It appears that I"m the second registered owner of the car, purchased today in the hills of western Maine. The current owner, a mechanic in the same town, purchased it about a year ago but never registered the car. He performed some basic engine work, greased and lubed parts, and kept it in his shop over this past winter; prior, it had been stored in a local barn during the winters.

The minus sides are annoyances: the blinkers and four-way flashers do not function, although the brake, headlights, parking lights and taillights work. The gas gauge remains at 1/4 full. When I took it out for a test drive the brakes were very poor; checking the reservoir revealed next to no fluid. The header/exhaust pipe connection is a weld that's developed a leak. The soft top is present but the rear window is torn at the base. The hardtop is an aftermarket "Snug Top." The tie rod ends are well greased but with torn boots.

With the bonnet up the mechanic watched the front brake hoses move slightly when I pumped the brakes. He saw wetness behind the right rear wheel so he'll replace that wheel cylinder, bleed the brakes and double check the brake lines. He's also weld up the header/pipe connection. I should be able to pick the car up before the end of the month.

Any thoughts on the annoyances mentioned above?

Thanks!

Jeff IMG_1563 (640x426).jpgIMG_1564 (640x426).jpgIMG_1569 (640x426).jpgIMG_1567 (640x426).jpg
 

TR3driver

Great Pumpkin - R.I.P
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According to the diagram I have, the turn signals get power through the hazard switch, so it might be bad. They also share a flasher, so the flasher might be the culprit. Don't know, but I'd guess the hazard switch is somewhat expensive, so it would pay to do some investigation first before just replacing it.

For the fuel gauge, I would probably start by disconnecting the wire from the sender (assuming it is relatively easy to get to). If the gauge slowly drops towards empty, likely the sender is bad. Connect a voltmeter from the sender wire to ground and see what you get. You should see it switch between zero volts and roughly 12 volts, or possibly stay at 10 volts if someone has replaced the voltage stabilizer with an electronic one. If it stays at 12 volts, the voltage stabilizer is bad.

If it were my car, I would simply replace all of the brake soft lines. They might be fine, but they don't last forever and 34 years is a long time. Same goes for all of the seals. This is also a good time to consider switching to DOT 5 silicone brake fluid and to "SS braided" brake lines. Both are worthwhile upgrades in my opinion (but of course not everyone agrees, especially on the DOT 5). Since the rear brakes appear to be leaking, the shoes will also need to be replaced. There is no good way to clean them, once they've been contaminated with brake fluid.

Also check the age of the tires. Old radials can fail suddenly, even when they look fine, and do a lot of damage. I learned the hard way with my first Stag, as the belts turned into a giant flap wheel that not only took off the paint around the wheel well, but also a fair amount of the sheet metal; all before I could pull off to the shoulder and stop.
 

tdskip

Yoda
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Tie rods are easy, and i bet they will make a nice difference. Fuel sender may fix itself after couple tanks of fuel actually.
 

dklawson

Yoda
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I will echo some of Randall's comments and suggestions.

Go through the brakes 100%. Rebuild the master cylinder and calipers, replace the rear wheel cylinders and all the flex hoses. Flush the hard pipes with alcohol and blow dry. Get all the old fluid out. Old DOT-4 fluid can turn into very strange looking stuff after sitting for a long time. I like the stainless overbraid hoses suggested. With all that done and the system flushed, this IS the time to consider if you want to switch to DOT-5.

I have seen a couple of Spitfire fuel sending units seize up from sitting in damp conditions. In addition to Randall's suggestion to unplug the green/black wire from the sender to see if the needle falls, hold the terminal on the green/black sending unit wire to ground. If grounding the green/black sender wire causes the gauge go to full, you have a functioning gauge and the issue is somehow with the sender. If it is a seized sender you may be able to free the float arm after removal from the tank. If you can't free it... at least the sender is not too expensive. If your temperature gauge appears to work as you expect, you are not likely to have problems with the voltage stabilizer which also supplies power to the fuel gauge.

The link below is to a late model wiring diagram from Spitfire & GT6 Magazine.
https://www.triumphspitfire.com/images/wiring/78diagram.jpg
The hazard and turn signal circuit is different on these later cars and I am not familiar with troubleshooting them. As Randall said, power for the turn signals passes through the hazard switch and it is not at all uncommon for hazard switch (and therefore... turn signal) problems to develop on Spitfires. Hopefully it will be the flasher and/or switch contacts that can be cleaned. Lucas hazard light switches can be expensive.

If the car still has the factory exhaust... I think it has a cast iron exhaust manifold with a 3-bolt flange to the downpipe. If the exhaust leak is in the pipe itself, welding will be OK. If it is a leak at the manifold to downpipe joint, a new gasket there is the fix, not welding. While the nuts at the flange will sometimes come off, they are more likely to be really seized on a car this age. You should be mentally prepared for studs to break off when trying to separate the manifold and downpipe. Repair is by removing the manifold and carefully drilling out and re-tapping the manifold. It's not a major disaster, it's just something to keep in mind as you prepare to work on the car.
 
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urchin

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Doug and Randall, thanks for the diagnostic tips! I'll report what I find when I get the car. Replacing the rubber brake lines would be simply and make a lot of sense. I thought the same with the rear shoes as they will grab; the current owner will examine them and let me know their condition in terms of fluid saturation. If they need replacement, it's an easy fix. Doug, it does not have the factory exhaust but a different header unit. My '66 Land Rover has he same stud-nut exhaust header pipe arrangement and yes, the nuts corrode on the studs. I've switched to brass nuts in an effort to reduce that corrosion.

Jeff
 

78Z

Darth Vader
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I recently bought a slightly ratty Spitfire as well. I had the same issue with my fuel gauge but also the temperature gauge seemed to only read up to a 1/4 as well. The voltage stabilizer was at fault in my car's case. It is inconveniently located on the back of the speedometer.



In the photo I'm temporary testing the replacement.
 

78Z

Darth Vader
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I only suspected it because both tempature and gas gauge seemed to be reading too low. I think the key is both are wrong for the stabilizer to be suspect. If your temperature gauge works fine then it is probably something else. I happened to have a spare speedometer laying around so I borrowed the stabilizer off it for testing (then replacement). I've only tested the gas gauge so far but it seems to have done the trick.
 
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urchin

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78Z. your comment was spot on. I don't know if the temperature gauge works as I didn't drive the car long enough to see if it did. But since the gas gauge does remain on 1/4, and since it's possible that I'll find a faulty temp gauge, too, you've raised a good possibility for me.

Thanks!

Jeff
 

TR3driver

Great Pumpkin - R.I.P
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I've switched to brass nuts in an effort to reduce that corrosion.
What works better for me is copper-based (aka C5-A) anti-seize, every time the nut is off. The nuts still erode with long usage and need to be replaced eventually, but they come off easy. The AS is not cheap, but a little can will last a long time. I'm still using the first can I bought some 30 years ago. Haven't had a stripped or seized fastener since I started using it (except the ones I didn't put together of course).

The test I outlined before (checking voltage at the sender wire with the sender disconnected) is a pretty good indicator of VS performance. It will catch the most common failure modes. Since the voltage changes so slowly (by design), it is hard to get an accurate measurement of the average output voltage (which should be 10 volts). The method recommended by Smiths is to hook a gauge to a regulated 10.0 volt source with a light bulb (or resistor) in series and mark where the needle comes to rest. Then connect the same setup to the VS output and see if the needle winds up at the same spot. Probably easier to just replace the VS, though.

PS, it may not be obvious, but the voltage stabilizer requires a good ground for proper operation. Without the ground, it will supply full 12v all the time, making the gauges read high (and vary somewhat with engine speed). If your speedometer is not grounded, it might cause the VS to act like it has failed.
 
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urchin

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Thank you, Randall. I'll follow your diagnostic when I pick up the car. I don't know if the current owner has actually filled the tank this year. As for the temperature gauge, I'll know about its movement [or lack thereof] when I drive the car for a longer distance. At least the coolant looked quite clean and right up to its top when I removed the cap. I might try and pick up a laser thermometer to bring with me to check temp readings during the trip.

Jeff
 
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urchin

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The latest word from the P.O. is that the temperature gauge works, so the problem must be with the fuel sending unit.

I have another set of questions, this time regarding the directional lamps. With the key "on," the directionals don't work, front or rear - they don't even illuminate. The headlights, taillights do work off the switch. The flasher unit does light up and make noise, but there's no lamps flashing front or rear.

The directional wand does operate a horn and the dimming/ high beam function, but does not make the front or rear lamps blink. The interior indicator lamps don't light up, either.

Shouldn't the interior indicators come on when the flasher unit is activated?

Thanks for your tips,

Jeff
 

trrdster2000

Luke Skywalker
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Jeff, before you get to involved with a wiring problem, take the light bulbs out and run a fine piece of sand paper around it and the bottom contact. Unplug the rear lights and sand the fingers on the holders where they touch the housing. Grounds are a big issue with these cars when they set for some time.

Wayne
 

dklawson

Yoda
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+1 for Wayne's advice to clean the bulbs and sockets.

Generally in Lucas wiring, if a bulb burns out the flash rate changes and/or the flasher doesn't work at all. To get the system to work correctly you are supposed to use the correct Wattage for each bulb (which is listed in the owners manual somewhere... and hopefully is in the service manuals). Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier the very late cars had their hazard and turn signals wired differently than the earlier cars so I cannot offer any detailed troubleshooting advice.
 

Don_R

Jedi Warrior
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while you are cleaning the bulbs, clean the fuses and the fusebox clips. I have had one part of a circuit not work because of bad contact at fuse
 
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