Saturday, January 18, 2020

Going through the "shakedown" process.

image source: getty
This would not be the result that I would be hoping for.
Looks like the driver abandoned ship!

I never once, even once, thought about doing a bad lip sync of Taylor Swift's hit "Shake it off!" Though it seems that many, many, other people succumbed (sadly) to that desire.


"Shake down miles" refers to the period that follows after a major rebuild or repair has been completed.

It also pertains to vehicle that has been recommissioned, that is, placed back into service after a long period of inactivity. The term recommissioned is used on the Jaguar forum by our British members. I like it. It has that nautical sound to it, apropos to the Brits, who once ruled the waves.

In my case, it's more like just putting some miles down to see what kind of existing problems continue, or new ones that pop up.

It's a time to evaluate the condition of your machine and to start to build some confidence in it's reliability.

No car is anything but a big toy if you are not confident to drive it.

Obviously, no used, older machine can be considered to be completely reliable.

We are dealing in probabilities.

We've all seen "Dirty Harry."

As Clint Eastwood said in his immortal role as Inspector Harry Callahan, "Do you feel lucky?"

You've got to find a way to take luck out of the equation.

You've got to stack the odds in your favor.

Several years ago I posted a checklist that would help you to determine if your old car could be considered a daily driver. This was posted on September 6th. 2014. (Hard to believe that I've been blogging for so long!)

I'll admit now that my phrasing was very much influenced by Jeff Foxworthy's comedy riff, "If you do----- blank, then you might be a red neck." Either way, it just set up a series of conditions that you would expose your car to, and if it performs successfully, then "You might have a daily driver!"

Anything can happen to any car. Even brand new cars. That's what the original warranty is for.

Generally, most new cars never experience a debilitating failure in their early years.

Though many may experience them after the warranty period has expired!

Old cars are worn cars, but nor necessarily "worn out" old cars. Regular maintenance is meant to extend their useful lives and keep the attentive owner apprised of his vehicle's condition.

Many common maladies make themselves known gradually, leaving plenty of time to make the necessary replacements and repairs. In other words, you've got to pay attention.

One of the kids at work once described how the oil light came on in the old Dodge Neon that he had gotten from his Father in Law. When he checked the dipstick he found that no oil was registering on it!

He asked me how that could that happen. I told him that old cars burn and leak oil and that they are likely not going to make it to a normal oil change interval before the level is dangerously low. I told him that he should check the oil every fuel fill up. Oh! He said. He never knew that.

Of course I do know better, so I have no excuse.

I'm keeping an eye out for oil and other fluid leaks, listening for strange engine noises, monitoring imminent overheating and paying strict attention to how the engine is running and how well the transmission and brakes are working.

As I stated once before, you should never start out on a trip with a car with known issues.

So my job right now is to drive the car as much as I can. Driving to work is a good distance, only 11 miles each way.

Of course you have to have some basic confidence that your car is going to make it to work on time, it's one thing to have a problem on the way home. That would be bad enough, but getting to work late, or even worse not getting to work at all, kind of defeats the purpose of the whole thing. You're not saving any money that way.

How to fit a tow truck in your wallet.

So, how should you start this process?

I recommend just going for it. Just pay attention and stop the car (!!!!) if problems develop.

In any risky endeavor you need to have a back up plan.

My ultimate back up plan is my extended range AAA towing insurance. I have four free 100 mile tows each year. My wife and Daughter both have four tows also. Those tows can be strung together if necessary. This can provide great peace of mind.

I had to use my extended tows when my four year old F150 broke down on the way home from Las Vegas. The a/c compressor seized up just north of Santa Maria. My first tow carried me from Santa Maria to Gilroy. The second tow got me all the way home. I was glad to have the insurance and the provided tows, but riding with my Wife in a tow truck for a couple of hundred miles isn't anyone's idea of fun!

This was with a truck that I had purchased brand new. It was just a bit out of warranty. The repair; replacement of the compressor, condenser and evaporator cost me 1,500 dollars. So having a new or nearly new vehicle isn't a way to completely eliminate the risk.

We're talking about probabilities.

As I mentioned in a previous posting, just getting over the novelty of driving the car is a major hurdle.
That can only be cured by familiarity. No matter how fantastic any car is, it is just a machine intended to be used as transportation.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Thirty Something.

The ABC television series ran from 1987 through 1991.

This post isn't going to be about those angst ridden Yuppies. Though the adventures of Michael, Hope , Elliot, Nancy and the others, were entertaining to many, myself included. I mean who wouldn't want to be Gary? Good looks, great job, the only single guy in the bunch. That guy had it all.

This is also where I got hung up on the idea of having a big, old, fixer upper of a house. Oh, how I dreamed about having a Victorian, Tudor, Colonial Revival or Mission bungalow. I read so many books on rebuilding these houses and subscribed for years to "The Old House Journal." I went on historic homes tours all over the state. This was on top of my prior years of subscribing to "Better Homes and Gardens."

In the end more practical considerations overcame all my enthusiasms. The only historic houses that I could afford were the ones located in transitioning areas selected by "Urban Pioneers." These are a hardy, self reliant, optimistic group of homeowners. Time has proven them to be right, and their homes in once blighted areas have become well kept neighborhood investments.

But that didn't seem to be the right choice for my family. My Wife was probably right. I managed to work my way up into a conventional California Ranch that needed some work then. Thirty something years later it still does.

During the first ten years of home ownership the house and raising the family became my main focus. Cars and motorcycles were still around of course, but they were all shoved onto the back burner.

I still remember what it was like during this time, when I was thirty something. But enough about me.


I'm talking about one of my cars that has just turned thirty one years old, My '89 Jaguar XJS.

It's first blush of youth, which was spent with an unknown original owner, has long been left to memory. The fresh faced Twenties have been lived through, and now it's time for maturity to set in.

Unfortunately, for cars reaching 30 years of age it isn't like with us humans. For people, it's time to get real and figure out where your life is going. Thirty years to a car means encroaching old age. Like a dog, the years carry a much greater toll.

One area that is particularly important is that this is the first generation of thirty something autos that carries a whole slew of electronic gadgetry. There are rudimentary micro processors employed here. And while no one is using a 30 year old desk top computer anymore, these cars must continue to function with a plethora of Stone Age computing power.

Fortunately, they are not asked to run new programs or applications. They just keep on working within their familiar tasks and parameters.

Until they don't.

While we can choose to leave that old Commodore desk top unit turned off, we need to depend on our cars to function. With electronic control modules controlling the fuel injection and anti lock braking, we need to be sure that these two essential functions will continue to work properly. Automatic temperature control isn't essential, but it sure is nice. Sometimes there isn't an easy way to run it in manual mode. Then there are the myriad electrical assists. Cruise control, power windows, seats, door and trunk locks.

A particular question had been nagging at the fringes of my consciousness for the last couple of decades:

Will a time come when these essential electronic systems cease to work, and will the parts to repair them even be available in the unknown future?

The XJS was a bit of a Wunderchild back in the day. It's specifications were pretty impressive back then.

The number of cylinders was always the first thing that was impressive, but that alone is not the main issue.

Electronic fuel injection requires an ECU (electronic control unit) with many sensors. Temperature, vacuum, and throttle position, for example.

Electronic ignition requires numerous sensors to decide when to fire the spark: crankshaft position, throttle position, and magnetic triggering.

Anti lock braking systems require speed sensing devices on each wheel to gather wheel speed data. This data is fed into the main ECU or it's own computer. This will direct impulses to an electrically driven pump and valve body.

Automatic temperature control requires sensors that control the activation of the heating and cooling systems to maintain a consistent cabin temperature.

These cars are full of sensors, which wear out and degrade through the years of their service life.
Luckily many of these sensors were used by a large number of manufacturers and are still readily available.However some are specific to a certain engine/ car application and are a little harder to come by. Sometimes an internet search will return with the result that that specific part is NLA (no longer available).

Other more complex devices such as the primary ECU are not only vehicle specific but of course NLA, at least as a new replacement unit.

What do you do if your ECU goes out? How will you get your car to run? It's not like you can convert it back to breaker points and a carburetor.

You have to either repair the part that you have, or hope that a unit sourced from a wrecking yard will still have some life in it.

Their are many threads on the Jaguar forum where the owner has opened up an ECU and re-soldered loose components on the printed circuit board. Constant shock and vibration over the years can result in cracked or broken solder connections. This can result in intermittent or no function. The mechanic has to find and "reflow" the damaged connections. Many components were assembled with internal "ribbon connectors" instead of a conventional wiring harness. These can also fall prey to cracks and breaks incurred during their lifetime.

Even good old basic wire harnesses find difficulty in standing up to the rigors of time. Breaks, shorts opens, and other maladies can afflict the car owner. And best of all. many of these failures are intermittent!

To Infinity, and Beyond!
I can't take credit for thinking up that line.

How did they fit all that music into such a little box?

"Solid State" construction was  the buzzword of the Space Age of the early 1960s.

Here's how, miniaturized components.

Transistors and circuit boards promised increased reliability and a longer, trouble free service life compared to vacuum tubes, capacitors, resistors and diodes connected by yards of electrical wire with hand soldered connections.

That transistor radio eliminated all these bulky components
and had the added benefit of the FM band.

This of course begs the essential question; " how long exactly, is their lifetime?"

In the coming years I think that automotive enthusiasts are going to find out the answer to that question.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

2020:  The year of the XJS.

A candid photo reveals that I
 could stand to lose a few pounds!

A New Year calls for resolutions even if we don't stick to them for very long. I no longer verbalize my resolutions, no need to call attention to my failings!

However I do have plans that I would like to accomplish this year. Plans that include my cars of course. Especially my XJS.

I've had the XJS for several years now. I think it's actually been around four years plus. I bought it before I bought my XJ6 and well before I bought my Mark VII.

Progress has been made, but it's happened slowly. One of my priorities was to spend very little money, very slowly. I have taken a very low buck DIY approach to the project.

The car was a running and driving example when I bought it, although there were clearly problems with the transmission. It was slow to engage gear and would slip before catching, especially in the drive position. It was a bit better in the First gear position.

Over time I tried many things to fix the transmission on the cheap, but was unsuccessful. Swapping in a good used transmission got the car up and running. That cost me all of 180.00 but much more in effort and frustration.  I am very glad to say that the transmission shifts beautifully and will kick down with a tap of the toe. Mission accomplished, at least in this area.

While I have been involved in other automotive and home projects the car has always sat on the back burner.

I replaced the front lower suspension arm bushings, That was easy, there was no need to drop the steering rack though I did it anyway. I should have waited to see if it was necessary. It did make a noticeable difference. The car tracks straight when I let go of the wheel. It could use an alignment as the wheel isn't oriented in the center. I also don't want to ruin my new tires.

After the suspension work I experienced all that rough running business which I was able to sort out with the assistance of my fellow forum members.

The car really needed a new set of tires and that has been the biggest single cash expenditure so far. But now I can actually drive it around. I'm trying to put some shakedown miles on it.

I'm concentrating on the ABS system, as I have some valid concerns. Changing the fluid does seem to be flushing the system. I need to replace a broken wheel lug so that will be a good time to bleed the brakes to clean the remainder of the old fluid out. I would also like to put new pads in the parking brake system so I'll have to crawl under the rear of the car some more.

Up and running that's the plan.

It's about time that I moved the car up on the roster.

Can I get the car into the condition that I would be able to use it as an actual car? One that I can drive to work, on errands and little road trips?

That's what cars are for, but they have to be real. Can this become a real car?

My feelings about the car are ... complicated.

I do think that it is a very handsome car. While it is not easy to work on, it is actually one of Jaguar's better designs.

Comparing it to the later XK8 model it comes out looking pretty good in the comparison.

The motor doesn't have the Nickasil liner problems or plastic timing chain tensioners that plague the early V8s.

The transmission is a well proven General Motors Turbo 400, the same as found in every late 60's Cadillac, Corvette, and classic big block Muscle car. There's no issue with the "A" drum breaking. The convertible top mechanism is reliable and the manual front top clamps will never spray me with green hydraulic fluid.

Both cars are known to wear their suspensions bushings out fairly quickly. Pretty much like every other Jaguar.

The only really well known XJS problem is a propensity to overheat if the cooling system is neglected.
Overheating can result in the notorious dropped valve seats. The V12 kiss of death. My car has never displayed a problem even when I drove it in 90 degree temperatures.


Posters on the forum declare that the V12 engine is so tough that you just can't wear it out.
I might snidely remark that no one's ever kept one running long enough to find out!

So, keeping a twelve cylinder XJS as a pet is not the most illogical choice.

I'll admit that I feel a bit uneasy driving the car. It is so out of the ordinary. It seems kind of "excessive" to fire up twelve cylinders just to make a run to the supermarket. I feel like I'm firing up a Rose Bowl Parade float to sneak off to the Dollar Store! It's not the most profligate when it comes to fuel consumption either. Twenty miles to the gallon on the freeway bests a whole herd of brand new trucks and SUVs. And nobody's shy about driving those things.

The experience of the driving the XJS is quite sublime. It quietly rolls smoothly down the road feeling like an enormously heavy sled coasting down a snowy hill side. Yes, it is somewhat heavy. It weighs just a bit more, (200 lbs) than a brand new Mustang. So that weight is somewhat of an illusion. Most modern cars are pretty heavy. It sticks pretty well going around turns, inspiring confidence.

So do I love the car? Is it everything that I hoped it could be?

Not Yet. Irrespective of the real work that it still needs, there is still "something".

Growing up in a family of modest means, a vehicle of this type and the people who would have owned it are completely outside of my experience. I was originally very self conscious when I first got my Cadillac Seville.

I have to get over a tremendous feeling about the novelty of driving the car. Driving it seems like a "put on" almost a gag. At this point it doesn't feel like something that you could actually use as daily "transportation."

Funny that I think that this old, almost worthless car is too special for me to drive. This afternoon I was returning home from a fifty mile shakedown run, just cruising along. Suddenly I hear the high pitched roar of exhaust and some BMW hyper car blows past me and cuts directly of me. I guess to establish "what's what."

So maybe it ain't all that special to anyone else.

I still need to bond with the car, it's still a stranger to me. Many more miles will be needed.

I don't need to make the car perfect, just to get it into reliable driving condition. Then I can deal with the myriad little problems that need to taken care of.

Put up or shut up.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Does it hurt to become real? Part Two. Signs of Life.

Fake, Fake, Fake.

I'm sure that the owner of this wrapped Mercedes has never owned a car that was really rusty. The whole patina thing started out with the hot rod and muscle cars guys protest against the tyranny of over restored cars. This type of presentation doesn't lend any cred to the owner in my book.

Real, Real,Real.
Matt Hummel and his 356.

On the other hand you can't help but admire someone like Matt Hummel. If you haven't checked out the Petrolicious video "Against the Grain" than you should. Matt is a very easy going guy that assembled a very nice, unrestored Porsche 356. Matt decided that he might as well drive his creation since he didn't have to worry about getting it dirty and possibly chipped up. So he drives it all over the place, even on dirt fire roads and he seems to be having a great time. Like many car enthusiasts he acquired this car years ago as a basket case, before they increased in value. Even in this unrestored state it is still worth a fair amount. In fact, these days it is probably worth a bit more than some of the better preserved or older resto examples.

I just love the car, and Matt's story. This is the kind of relationship that an enthusiast should have with their car. Strange as it might seem, this is the same relationship that most ordinary motorists have with their everyday car. They use them to go places and live their lives. They may value the car. but they aren't doting on it. They just use it.

Sometimes we car lovers get a little too precious with our much loved vehicles. Just owning the car becomes the primary motivation, whether the car is just preserved, or restored,or just rusting away in a side yard. We forget that cars are made to be fixed up and used.

Years ago I ran into a couple of guys at the local Friendship Days event who had purchased their cars back in the 1970s. Now that's not so unusual, but the kind of cars they bought is. One had an Aston Martin DB5 and the other was a 1960s Ferrari. The Ferrari owner said that his buddies thought he was crazy to pay ten thousand dollars for an old car!

Both of these cars were in clean,original, non restored condition. The bodywork was nice and straight but the paint was faded and worn in some spots. The interiors were obviously well used but repairs had been kept up and everything was quite presentable. Under the hood some of the alloy components  could have used a bit of polish as there were the tell tale stains of old oil and fuel leaks.

It was a delight to see these cars in that condition. The owners were quite friendly and the owner of the Aston told me that if he restored his car than he would probably never be able to drive it again! It would be worth too much to risk anything happening to it.

Finding the right car to preserve is often up to luck. You don't want to start out with a rusty, banged up example if you can help it. Original is best. Original paint, original interior, original mechanicals.  Of course, the car is bound to show some wear and tear. Often the paint can be touched up in the worst spots and the upholstery repaired and everything can be cleaned up and polished. Obviously the drivetrain should be brought back to reliable running condition.

Nope, That ain't gonna buff out!

I would prefer not to drive it in this condition.
But I probably will anyway, at least for a while!

Sometimes things have deteriorated beyond the preservation stage. In this case, this wasn't the original paint and the interior had been redone in vinyl years ago.

On the other hand there are cars like my '96 Mustang.

The paint on my Mustang is fading gradually from the sharp looking original Lazer Red to a somewhat mellow, ripe tomato color. The rear bumper has some weathered clear coat on the top surface and there is a strange weathered thin area of paint behind the driver's door. It's gotten thinner over my ownership. I invested in a new convertible top years ago, which still looks very good. Inside, the cloth tweed like seats have held up well. There was a worn area on the driver's seat lower cushion where the  width adjustment mechanism blade wore a hole in the seat bottom fabric.

I still wonder what could have caused this.

Just recently I decided to fix that worn spot. I added some foam rubber to cover the edge of the adjuster blade and into area around the seat bottom cushion. Then I sewed up the hole and hid the repair with some black liquid shoe polish.

Not too bad for twenty minutes of work.

These signs of wear and usage can be proudly displayed as badges of honor. These cars are being used as they were meant to be, not encased in a protective bubble. They have, and will, "endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" ( Shakespeare said it better than I could).

But, they have not been actively abused or ignobly ignored or forgotten.

Right now my XJ6 is sitting in the driveway exposed to the first torrential rainstorms of Winter. (Finally!) I've been driving it everyday for the last couple of weeks. Soon it will trade spots with my '96 Mustang in the garage.

The XJS will remain in the garage as I sort out it's problems. It's got a pretty worn out top and I'm not going to let it fill up with rain water. My Mustang had to suffer that indignity when I first got it years ago. Hopefully it will take it's place in my fleet rotation some day, when it's earned it's spot in the driveway of daily usage.

Still, I've decided that I've got to get the car into actual use, or what's the point?

The Skin Horse was right. Becoming real doesn't happen to things that break easily, have sharp edges, or have to be carefully kept. It only happens to the things that you can actually use, live with, and build up a history of memories. Cars like my Mustang. Can it happen to my XJS? I don't know, but I'm going to give it a try.

2020 is going to be the year of the XJS.

Happy New Year to All! Here's hoping that all your dreams and schemes (car related) come to fruition.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Taking first steps, hopefully not on a very long road.

I covered the fender with a plastic sheet then used a cloth.

What I mean is, that I hope that preparing the XJS for actual driving duty won't be too long a process.

As I stated in an earlier post, I've got to do some maintenance on the XJS brake system.

First thing was to remove the dirty fluid that's currently in the system. I've used a bubble baby syringe to remove fluid from my '07 Mustang but a turkey baster should work even better.

It's pretty apparent that the fluids dirty.

I just sucked up what I could from the reservoir. That was some dirty looking brake fluid. One good thing about using the baster is that I can't remove all the fluid so I shouldn't have introduced any air into the system. So no bleeding is needed yet.

I've read a few discussions on the Forum but decided to stick with
the factory recommendation.

It is essential to use DOT 4 brake fluid. It is formulated to prevent foaming from the action of the ABS pump.

I plan on draining and refilling the reservoir again, after I drive it for a bit. After refilling then I'll bleed the brake system. Bleeding the rear calipers is supposed to be quite difficult. I'll be sure to document my efforts.

I think I'll watch some videos on just how to use this thing.

I bought one of those MityVac hand vacuum pumps which I hope will make the process easier. I think that I might find the bleed nipples somewhat rusty. I've read threads on the Jaguar Forum where posters accidentally broke seized nipples off. This would probably require removing the calipers to remove the broken threads. The problem will probably present itself on the rear calipers. The XJS has center mounted disc brakes. It wasn't a servicer friendly set up, but it remained in use for many years.

I probably won't get into driving the car much until after the Holidays are over. California got the rain we've been needing, but I'd rather not put the car outside in the rain. That bodged up top isn't going to keep the rain out.

I thought that I'd turn my attention to some areas needing work in the interior.

One major problem is that the passenger side window doesn't work very well.

The power rear view mirrors quit working.

The veneer on the console is cracked.

The driver's seat is in terrible shape.

The location of the blue tape identifies the damaged areas.

At first I just figured to replace the damaged veneer on the console "ski slope". However the veneer on the upper end was still pretty intact. Down at the bottom near the window controls it is pretty broken up and missing some pieces. Those darn switches don't want to stay in their mounting holes either. Something else to fix.

I started by gluing down the loose edges and cracked and peeling pieces. I held them down with some blue tape overnight. I carefully peeled off the tape and accessed the damage. The area below the shifter lever looks particularly bad. There is a big chunk of veneer missing.

I think that this damage occurred because of the lack of a cup holder. I can imagine a travel mug set on the console dribbling liquid onto the veneer over time. There are plenty of alternatives now available, I'm sure that I can up with something.

Here's how it looks now.
Hopefully the veneer is more stable.

My plan is to paint over the edges of the cracks with clear nail polish. I'll try to build up a layer of clear polish to hold down the edges. Maybe I can use some touch up paints to try to simulate the missing burl pieces.

Then again, maybe not.

If you can't fix it why not just cover it up?

My other option is to cover the damaged area with a piece of leather, wood or metal.

Speaking of covering something up. There is some damaged leather in the cockpit. Luckily it's limited primarily to the driver's seat.

It looks bad but it doesn't affect the drive-ability.
Those flamed floor mats are from my old '66 Riviera

The bottom of the driver's seat is the worst. The front of the seat cushion cracked off years ago. The seat bolster is cracked also. The leather is so dry and brittle it's like old beef jerky. It's so dry that it would just crack and split if I tried to stitch in a patch.

Lexol has been a go to product for leather rejuvenation for years.
This will be it's toughest challenge.

I've been treating the area with numerous applications of Lexol in the hopes of softening the leather. I just spray it on and rub it in with my fingers. I leave the surface wet with the conditioner overnight. I don't know if it's possible to restore the leather back to a somewhat pliable state. I would just like to arrest the further deterioration of the seats, even if I just cover it up with some kind of high quality seat cover.

I've seen many threads and videos on restring worn leather sets but they usually weren't as bad as mine. The best option would be to have just the seat bottoms reupholstered. That can wait.

My twin Harbor freight battery tenders.

I use these two float chargers to keep my cars batteries in good condition. Both of my Jaguars had been treated to new batteries within the last two years. Quite an expensive proposition especially with the XJ6. It's important to maintain them. I don't keep them constantly plugged in. I connect the chargers every couple of weeks. and also check on them throughout the day. I've read that some "cheap" chargers can get too hot. I haven't noticed that problem. But I do keep my eyes open.

The year is rapidly drawing to a close and I'm anticipating 2020. The next year belongs to the XJS.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Sometimes you can't help but learn something new.

Anti Lock Braking Systems (ABS) are now standard equipment on most new cars.
At one time they were seen as an exotic offering on high end cars.

Learning more about potential problems with thirty year old anti lock braking system.

This black ball is a gas pressurized accumulator and an indication of the existence
 of a Teves Mark II  ABS system.

I didn't delve into this subject because I was intrigued. I did it because I became aware of certain problems that could affect my XJS's ABS system.

Like total brake failure.

Or the steering pulling hard to the right or left upon brake activation.

I was well acquainted with possible brake failure with older single circuit systems.

 A leak in a line or in a wheel cylinder could result in a loss of all braking power.

The switch to dual circuit systems isolated the front and rear brakes

A leaking master cylinder could still cause problems with both systems.

Leaking wheel cylinders would result in the inside tire wall being covered with brake fluid.

On American cars a leaking master cylinder would often leak into the area in front or behind the firewall.

Of course unless you regularly kept an eye on fluid levels you might never notice it until it was too late.

I once had a front brake line rupture on my '77 Datsun 280Z as I backed out of a parking space. I felt a sudden decrease in pedal resistance but the car still came to a stop.

I stopped, got out and looked at the parking slot. It looked to me as if oil had been sprayed onto the pavement.

Luckily, I was only a short distance from my house so I carefully and slowly drove the car home.

I replaced both front lines, bled the brakes and was good to go.

My '89 XJS is equipped with the Teves Mark III ABS system.

It does not have the familiar vacuum booster on the firewall, instead it utilizes an electric pump to provide a source of high pressure brake fluid. A spherical pressure reservoir (accumulator) is mounted on a manifold on the opposite side of the firewall. These black balls are quite distinctive.

The accumulator stores enough pressure to provide boosted stopping for several applications even if the pump fails. Much like the more familiar vacuum booster which does much the same thing.

The accumulator/ pump manifold is energized by turning the ignition on. The pump runs until it pressurizes the fluid in the accumulator ball. Then the  pump shuts off and awaits the need to pressurize the system during a brake application. Warning lights on the instrument panel advise of this process.

The master cylinder is directly activated by the brake pedal. The hydraulic fluid is directed to the front brakes as well as the accumulator manifold. The pressure opens a valve which directs pressurized  fluid from the accumulator ball back to the master cylinder, where it helps provide boost to the master cylinder piston. This pressurized fluid is also routed to activate the rear brakes.

The wheels are equipped with speed indicating rings with pick ups. This info is fed to the ABS computer which will determine if a wheel has locked up and is skidding.

The computer activates electrical solenoids that control the amount of fluid flowing to the brake caliper at each wheel. If a wheel is determined to be skidding the solenoid can stop the flow until the computer can determine that the wheel has started rolling again. This takes place very quickly and it is the basis for the "pulsing" felt by the driver at the brake pedal.

The actual braking action is supplied by conventional discs and calipers.

The XJS and other high end cars were the first to be equipped with these systems. However this same system was used on a surprising variety of cars both foreign and domestic. It was high tech and functioned well back in the day.

In my case that day was thirty years ago. What can go wrong? Plenty, of course. We can leave the regular hydraulic components and fittings out of the discussion for now.

I visit the Jaguar forums on a daily basis and I look through all of the new posts as well as search for answers to my specific questions.

I stumbled across several threads with frightening titles such as Total brake failure, Sudden brake failure. Occasional problems stopping, and, The car darts suddenly upon braking. Not too reassuring.

Pressurized brake fluid is supplied and stored by the ABS pump and accumulator ball. If the pump fails than there will be no assist. When the accumulator fails than there is no safety reservoir of pressurized fluid and again assist is lost. The front brakes should still remain operable but require much higher foot pedal effort to stop. Pretty much like any conventional vacuum boosted system.

It seems that an equal concern is the failure of the solenoids that control the distribution of brake fluid. If they get stuck in the closed position than that wheel will lock up and stay locked up. If a single front wheel locks up it will cause the car to pull severely to that side. It seems that some of the forum members have ended up in a roadside ditch.

photo source: jaguarforums com
These are the six solenoids and you can see the ribbon wire connections.

Those solenoids are connected to the connector plug with ribbon wires. There are reports of these ribbons breaking due to old age.

What can be done to prevent these problems? Keep in mind that these cars can be thirty years old. Components can and will wear out and require replacement.

First of all is performing the proper maintenance, which includes using the proper brake fluid

This actually seems to be the most important factor. The specified fluid is DOT 4. DOT 5 silicone fluid is not compatible with these ABS systems. Since it doesn't absorb water, the water sits in different parts of the braking system causing corrosion and it can boil under high heat conditions. It was also noted that it can foam when pressurized by the pump.

Also very important is to change the fluid regularly to keep it clean. The fluid in this system doesn't just sit in the reservoir. It circulates throughout the system constantly. Dirt and contaminants will be spread throughout the system instead of just settling to the bottom. Change the fluid and flush the system by bleeding the brakes. This is important to keep the distribution solenoids clean and working freely.

Of great importance is that when changing brake pads the caliper pistons should never be forced back without opening the bleeder valves. This could force dirty fluid and contaminants back into the distribution block. This could result in the solenoids sticking resulting in seizure or erratic behavior. This is what causes the car to pull to the side.

The accumulator ball is a very important safety component. Not only does it provide a storage area for pressurized brake fluid but it also controls the length of time that the ABS pump has to run. These balls are gas charged and on average lose 10% of their charge every year. As they degrade the ABS pump must work longer to bring them up and maintain the required pressure. These pumps were never designed to work 100% of the time, they were designed to bring the pressure up when the vehicle is started up and they will kick in to keep the system at proper pressure. Think of it like your home's heater thermostat, it's there to maintain a certain temperature. It shouldn't keep the furnace running all the time! If the pump is activated after every brake application due to a faulty accumulator, it will eventually overheat when repeatedly used, and will shut down, with predictable results.

Obviously it's extremely important to pay attention to how long the ABS pump runs upon initial start up.

First things first. I'm going to replace the brake fluid in the master cylinder using a turkey baster. I know there's one in the kitchen somewhere! Then I'll see about bleeding the brakes. That's probably going to have to wait until the Holidays are over.

I'd like to thank the Jaguar Forums, and Jaguar Lovers websites as well as Kirby Palm and his book; Experience in a book, Help for the Jaguar XJS owner.  They have made an enormous amount of valuable information available to the enthusiast.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

"Does it hurt to become Real?" Part One.

photo source: Get me
C'mon you know that you'd love the little guy a bit more since he's been through a few things.

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time. Not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes" said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up." he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once,"said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

_ Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit.

Maybe you remember the entire story, I just remember hearing the quote somewhere.

Anything that is actually used as it was intended too is going to display evidence of that use. Now multiply this use by years and years, even decades and be honest, "That's going to leave a mark."

Of course the subject of my discourse is not going to be about well worn, stuffed childhood friends, it's going to be about old automobiles.

They are designed to be very hardy and to stand up to years of exposure to the elements. The paint, the bright work, the interior can last very long time, almost indefinitely.

However, over time, even a well kept vehicle will display fading paint, dull, tarnished, and oxidized bright work and dirty and worn upholstery.

Sometimes if a vehicle is bought and placed in a time capsule, usually purchased new as a collectible, it can easily be preserved cosmetically as a brand new vehicle.

The 1976 Cadillac El Dorado convertible was purchased by some collectors as the last of it's kind, the owner's goal was to maintain it in an "as new" condition. Hopefully to sell it at a later date at a huge profit.

Unfortunately, some cars are bought and subject to complete neglect. They are seldom washed, never waxed, and certainly never garaged. I've always felt that kind of treatment was unfair to the car and a very poor reflection on the owner.

Their interiors are never cleaned and they develop an accumulation of trash, food wrappers, and liquid spills. They also develop some rather unpleasant odors due to this accumulation.

Cars treated in this manner quickly deteriorate to a very sad level and remain at that level for the rest of their useful lives.

Most of us, being enthusiasts, maintain our cars much better than this, even if we don't always dote on them excessively.

My stable of cars have endured the bumps and grinds of life commonly referred to as everyday use.

Take my Explorer for example. It arrived in my garage already a veteran of over twenty years of road campaigns. It had accumulated over 200,000 miles of experience with the requisite scars. Careful maintenance had preserved it's innate nobility.

Though it was looking a bit down at the heels around the edges.

Overall it was acquired in presentable condition.

Looking kinda faded.

Definitely broken in but still real comfy.

Ouch! That had to sting!

The right rear door had sustained a pretty big scrape before I bought it. The hood is pretty chipped up and the rear window posts have both weathered quite badly. The front tires were scuffed and one was missing  a hub cap. The front seat bottom leather covering had cracked and broken in several places, and they were covered by those hideous cheap nylon covers. Luckily the seat backs are still in really good shape. There are a couple of dents and dings but overall, the body and paint are in good shape.

You could just leave everything as it was and learn to live with it, Or, you could do a few things to spruce it up a bit.

That door scrape was the worst spot, so I went over the area with some touch up paint and a Q Tip. It made quite an improvement.

A year and a half later the touch up still looks pretty good.

Replacing missing badges and emblems shows that you care.

I found the missing Ford emblem at a wrecking yard and glued it onto the tailgate.

Those weathered roof posts really made the Explorer look old and tired. A quick mask and spray perked things right up.

I decided that those cheap seat covers looked worse than the damaged seats so I pulled them off. The seat backs are the only part visible from outside, and those look perfect.

What about those cracked and torn seat bottoms? I'm going to live with those for a while. I'm a mechanic, not a magician!

My XJS looked pretty good as found.
Yeah, I wish that was my house, too.

My XJS was purchased in pretty good shape, the body and paint were quite good. There is a faded spot on the lower left quarter panel. There a few small dings along both sides and one of my co workers recently scraped the left rear bumper panel. Luckily, it only abraded the rubber. I rubbed it out with compound and it's almost invisible. It just wouldn't have been worth replacing.

Before the buffing.

The Skin Horse would be sympathetic.

The interior has held up well except for the driver's seat bottom and the wood veneer on the console face. The top was in bad shape and my driveway patch job really hasn't done it any favors.

This is after I glued down all the broken bits and loose edges.

Not done for beauty, obviously
There are several cosmetic things that I'd like to fix and improve on the XJS but I have to address the mechanical items first.

My XJ6's photo in the Craig's List ad.

My XJ6 was purchased in pretty good overall shape. The body was straight and free of collision damage. The paint was still shiny, the interior clean. There were a few dings here and there a chip in the paint.

Located somewhere between those two leaves is a little dent.
Kind of hard to see so I usually don't worry about it.

That inside headlamp is kind of wobbly.

That was there when I bought the car.

This one really hurts. Supermarket damage sustained under my watch.

Another door scrape to the right rear quarter

Both sides of the rear bumper had these scrapes when I bought the car.

A pretty good chip on the left rear door.
I should really touch this up.

One small ding on the left side of the hood, a scrape on the left rocker a noticeable ding on the rear passenger's door, and a small scrape that damaged the pinstripe on the right rear quarter. The rear bumper has scuffs on both sides. The interior is in great shape as the headliner was replaced. I believe that a couple of new panels were sewed into the driver's seat. A professional repair. I need to find an upholstery shop that can do that. Still it looks really great.

I haven't addressed these cosmetic imperfections and they don't detract from the appearance of the car as a whole. I've described how I repaired that inside rear view mirror that kept falling off. After I peeled off the melted velcro tape. Yes, there are a few things that I can and will do.

Next week I'll finish up my thoughts and see if I can offer some kind of conclusion.