Tuesday 29 December 2015

Santa's Been!

With the R500 having been at Dartford for the past few weeks, I've not had any real content to write about.  I've been in regular contact with Simon Lambert over the last four or five weeks and he has been extremely patient with me and has kept the information coming about my car... And, on that note, the gearbox leak is fixed (TBC! :-)), the diff leak is fixed and also the issue with the wiring loom is sorted... Unfortunately everyone who ordered their kits wanted them before Xmas (how dare they :-)) , so I'm having to wait until 5th Jan to get my car back - which is fine by me as I'm a little 'short of space' in my garage, but more on that later...

Now that most of the festivities (and meeting up with the outlaws) are out of the way, I feel a little more 'enthused' to write a post...

Santa was extremely good to me this year, and in typical 'petrol head' fashion I thought I'd share my latest goodies... So with the on topic items first...

An ELF beard hat!  Now I like a blat, but in an ELF beard hat, with ears... hmmm, not too sure this'll get used!  I'll vouch for the beard hats though, the beard part obviously fits under your chin and as a result they're great at stopping the hat flying of your head!
An ELF beard hat
An ELF beard hat
A couple of Caterham 13" wheel centre caps (as I lost one and wanted a spare) along with five centre cap badges as I'm feeling the need to change my 'road' wheels to a different colour... More on that in the next few weeks.
Caterham 13" Wheel Centre Caps and Cap Badges
Caterham 13" Wheel Centre Caps and Cap Badges
Now slightly off the 'Caterham' topic, but hopefully still enjoyable to those fellow petrol heads...  I don't think Christmas could be Christmas without a decent sized LEGO Technic to build - this year I got the 42039 Le-Mans Racer which took around five hours to build and was a good way to fill an otherwise boring boxing day.
LEGO Technic 42039 Le-Mans Race Car
LEGO Technic 42039 Le-Mans Race Car
On the small scale car theme, I was also lucky enough to receive an RC18B2 / T2 kit... This is quite an old kit (in terms of release date and now is only available in a ready-to-run format, which is a shame) but I was given the kit form to build - which is great, and will help me get through these last few days until the Caterham returns home!  I'm also aiming to replicate my Caterham's colour scheme of light blue, orange triple stripes and using a friends vinyl cutter I'll also try and get the model derivative masked and sprayed into the shell in white too - should look good once finished, and will post pics of them when completed.
Team Associated RC18B2 and RC18T2 kit
Team Associated RC18B2 and RC18T2 kit
As an avid EVO reader, my girlfriends mother always buys me a six month subscription for xmas and the same for my birthday (which is great!), but rather than a picture of the magazine, I found these little gems towards the back of the advertisers section.... A bluetooth tyre pressure (and temperature) monitoring kit... Should be great for track day action, and I think these will be making an appearance on my birthday list - gotta try em out!
Snooper / Tyre Pilot Tyre Pressure Monitoring Set
Snooper / Tyre Pilot Tyre Pressure Monitoring Set
Oh yeah, and I nearly forgot... Santa (well I) also treated me to a new car... Along with a new blog domain, but no dry weather to get any good pics / post anything interesting... yet......  
The domain is www.ferrari458.co.uk and I am hoping to get some nice pics, write some informative posts, get some interesting videos yadda, yadda, - perhaps a back to back track day comparison with the R500 would be good?!? - I just hope the gearbox doesn't leak on this one :-)
Ferrari 458 italia in Grigio Silverstone grey with black roof
Ferrari 458 italia in Grigio Silverstone grey with black roof
The R500 should be back with me on Tuesday the 5th Jan, and I'm very much looking forward to seeing it again!  Not only that, there are a number of upgrades I've got planned, so 2016 is looking like it will be a great year!

Thanks once again to all the blog readers - I'm hoping to reach the 250k+ reads next year... Wishing you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2016. 

Wednesday 25 November 2015

The Final Collection? and First Update - Already!

Ian from Caterham arrived around midday on Monday to collect the car, after he'd dropped off 'someone' else's kit!  Hopefully this will be the final collection for my issue, as I'd really like to have the car back and be leak free once and for all!
The Caterham collection van - my R500's second home!
The Caterham collection van - my R500's second home!
Simon Lambert has come back to me today to say that Mick Atree and James have been working on my car already and their eagle eyes have been hard at work - which is very reassuring to hear.

They found an obvious issue straight away... Apparently the seal that CC Midlands had sourced was not an OE Ford part, now this would be normal for them to do with a service item as it's something they don't hold stock of and would naturally have been given the assurance by their supplier that it was the right part to use... and now comes the big however... Once the removed seal was compared with the genuine Ford part it proved quite different.

So the seal has been changed to a genuine Ford seal, the prop shaft has been balanced and according to Simon the static running is also proving positive too!  Happy days...  I would sign off there, but...

...Mick and James have noticed the diff is leaking! So that's their next job... Now I can sign off!  Will post with more updates as and when I get them...

The overall feeling is we're getting there, so I'm happy!

Saturday 14 November 2015

What Shall I do Poll Results and 'THE decision'

Thanks (once again) to all those that voted in my poll about what to do next, and I'm pleased to announce I've made a decision about what to do!

Below are the poll results... and this is where we're at, results (based on todays date) are as follows:-

There have been lots of comments of (as always) varied opinions, a few emails and so on, but... and thankfully the majority of the voters went with what I'd already 'pre-chosen' to go with.  I'll go into a little more detail below about my reasoning.

Starting with the lowest scored option first:-

Last: 46 votes / 20% - upgrade to a 620R
  • For:- Faster, extra bhp, torque, newer and hopefully a non leaking gearbox :-)
  • Against:- Couldn't build it, probably another ten or fifteen grand!
Third: 52 votes / 22% - to ask for a refund
  • As the car is eighteen months old, I think this was a bit ambitious and perhaps more a 'cry for help' than a genuine desire to get rid of the car... After all I built it, it's my first car build and I feel somehow 'connected' with it... It's special (to me), and I want it to be the best it can be, hence losing the plot when the box was leaking again.
A close second: 66 votes / 28% - upgrade to a Sadev Sequential

  • This was the closest 'next option' for me too... I seem to get the most pleasure out of the car on track, and why not go for the sequential gearbox?  Well there's a few good reasons, firstly it was in the thousands to upgrade, secondly it wouldn't have been the spec I built, and thirdly this would no doubt take away some of the 'analogue fun' of blatting on the roads and general hooning around.

Number one: 69 votes / 30% - Stick with it and get the gearbox re-worked

  • THANKFULLY... the majority were thinking the same as me, and this is what I'm going to do! I'm extremely grateful for everyone that voted, as this has helped back up my decision as the right thing to do....
Caterham will collect the car on the 23rd November, and take it back to the factory in Dartford.  They will give it a full inspection, get the gearbox out, re-work it (or replace if deemed necessary) and seeing as I don't have plans to use the car over the next few months, they can take their time....

...Having said that... I've had my eye on a set of carbon interior panels that from Westermann Motorsport which I'd love to get fitted during my time off over Christmas.......  Hmmm, and I might get my 'road wheels' repainted... Anyway.............

I'd like to say a big thanks to Simon Lambert for coming back to me with a lot of answers to my questions, and helping to (hopefully) get the show back on the road...

I'll post again when the car is collected next week - watch this space...

Thursday 29 October 2015

What To Do Next? Over to you

Firstly I'd like to apologise for not posting anything sooner after my end of the road post...  I've been in-undated with well wishers (which has been very nice to hear, so thank you to all those people who have contacted me) and others wanting an update, so now I have a little free time I can write up what's happened since I saw oil on my garage floor for a fourth time and freaked out!

Quite a lot has happened since that date, so I've bulleted as much as possible below:-
  • I sent a ranting email over the Graham MacDonald (CEO) of Caterham cars asking for my money back.
  • Graham responded, was sorry for the way I felt, said he wanted to get all the facts from CC Midlands and would call me the next day.
  • Graham called the next day, he apologised the for problems I've encountered and I agreed to having a further discussion with a view to Caterham Cars (CC) getting the car back in Dartford and giving it a thorough inspection.
  • Simon Lambert contacted me to arrange a convenient time to meet up and talk things through, I said I was going away for a break and would contact him on my return.
  • Got back a week ago (21st October 2015) and sent Simon Lambert a text to arrange our meeting.
  • Nicely chilled from my holiday I met up with Simon Lambert at the North Star pub in Welwyn on Friday night (23rd October 2015) - perhaps a bit too chilled, but...
  • We had a good long discussion about the situation and he came up with some options for me...
So the options are:-

  1. CC will collect the car, take it back to Dartford, give it a thorough inspection, get the gearbox out and either replace it or send it off for a full re-work
  2. Get CC to remove the h-pattern box, and pay the extra for the Sadev sequential (it's not just a gearbox change, there's about an A4 sheet of parts that are needed, clutch, fly-wheel, new prop tons of different washers etc etc)
  3. Consider my options for upgrading to a 620R which would mean trading in my car and basically buying a new car (which I wouldn't have built)
  4. Chuck the towel in and get a refund.

So over to you... I'm pretty sure I know what I want to do, but I'm a firm believer it's always good to ask for others' opinions, so what do you think?

Please select one of the four options below and hit the vote button, or if you have any alternate ideas I should be considering please use the comment form below.

What Shall I do?

Stick with it and get the gearbox re-worked
Upgrade to a Sadev Sequential
Upgrade to a 620R
Chuck in the towel and ask for a refund
Free Poll creator

Monday 5 October 2015

The end of the road?

A little over a month ago, the car was returned from having it's third gearbox seal and service. I've used the car three times since then, and after the Snetterton track day I thought there was a little bit of gearbox fluid on my garage floor, putting it down to paranoia I ignored it.  Now a week after my Rockingham track day the gearbox is leaking again for a FOURTH TIME! 

The fourth gearbox leak
The fourth gearbox leak
Not only that, after lunch at Rockingham I turned the 12v power switch on and some white smoke exuded from my bonnet... Thinking the car had caught fire (which I guess it had), I switched the power off, hastily removed the bonnet to see the white smoke coming from the coil cover. I quickly prised the cover off and could see that a part of the HT lead wiring had somehow shorted on the inside of the coil cover and was melting it, causing the white smoke.  As the coil cover is made from Carbon it made some serious looking white smoke, but nothing was actually damaged.

With the coil cover removed, I tie wrapped the dubious HT lead in place.

The shorted HT lead
The shorted HT lead
I think it's time to call an end to this on going story of hassle, so I've emailed the MD of Caterham requesting a full refund.  I'm sick of this.

The follow on from this post is here:-

Monday 28 September 2015

Rockingham Track Day - with Videos

With my previous escapade involving an 'estimated' increase of 40bhp, you can guess I was chomping at the bit to get out to sample this newly found performance.

I was left with two swimming pools of water underneath each seat due to the soaking I got on Monday, so towards the end of last week the car was partially stripped, cleaned, re-assembled and the suspension and tyres were put back to their base settings.

After the torrential rain, the weather turned into glorious sunshine, but I just couldn't get the time to get out in the car...  So, having investigated some local track days, Rockingham seemed like a good chance to blow the cobwebs out of the engine... However it was a pretty quiet noise limit at 98dp, so I called to see what would happen if I failed the noise test - to which I was told I would lose the entry fee... Not wanting to lose a couple hundred quid we agreed that I would 'reserve' my place, turn up, get noise tested and should I pass, I would then pay the entrance fee; fail and it was ok to leave without paying - so a no brainer... I donned the Raceco can, packed the carbon airbox and headed up to Rockingham early yesterday morning.

Needless to say, I passed the noise test with the Raceco exhaust fitted, (although I think I didn't pass, as they made me run half revs, not the usual three quarters), so I signed on, the briefing was given, sighting laps were completed and it was then onto the open pit lane sessions.

The driving standard was pretty poor, with cars not moving out of the way, not indicating, undertaking into corners, overtaking mid corner and as a result there were five red flag stoppages (in the morning alone!) due to cars in the kitty litter, engines letting go and so on... I've never seen anything like it, and was left thinking I'd made a mistake in attending.  The organiser held an emergency drivers bollocking just before lunch, and things seemed to calm down.

(an apt video from the afternoon session)

I think the organisers felt that lunch couldn't come quick enough and at 1pm we stopped for lunch, during which time the paddock seemed to empty somewhat.

After lunch I went out for a few runs, and when upping the pace the rear seemed a little too loose for my liking, but was quite good fun for a little bit of sideways action...
A nice bit of sideways at Rockingham International Super Sports Car Long Circuit
A nice bit of sideways at Rockingham International Super Sports Car Long Circuit
Some front and rear shock tweaks and a bit of tyre pressure adjustment later, the car was handling much better... The track seemed to have cleared a little too, so I took the opportunity to try and blast out some clean laps, but there were a few mistakes and a little traffic in most instances...  Below is a video of three consecutive laps which I'm reasonably happy with.
After taking the car to Track n Road, I'm confident that the car is running far better than it has been (for probably the most of this year), but there are a couple of things I'd like to clarify:-
  • "they thought the throttle was never setup"
    >>> I think it setup was initially, it was just a long way out when I took the car to them.
  • "you were down 40bhp"
    >>> quite possibly, but that was due to the throttle bodies being out of balance, and not additional power they found - it was more getting the power back.
In summary it was a good track 'afternoon' with he morning a bit of a write off, but as the weather was so good I once again had a thoroughly enjoyable experience!

Tuesday 22 September 2015

R500 (not) Wide Open Throttle and first power run with video

A bit of background info:-
Some of those avid blog readers will recall that I've attended only a handful of track days this year, starting off with Folembray in France...

Whilst at Folembray I noticed that going up the hill in fourth and fifth gear the car felt, dare i say it a little 'under powered'.  I took note of it, and put it down to the ZZR tyres, but thinking back to it I've always thought the car hasn't really pulled that well in fifth and sixth gears...

The car was then flat floored by Rob at Ratrace motorsport, and I went to Cadwell Park for another track day... And once again, I noticed the same feelings... Again putting it down to the additional weight of the ZZR tyres I made nothing of it and just thought that was the way it should be.

Nevertheless, a week or so ago at Snetterton, I had to fit the RaceCo exhaust and going down the back straight there the car felt like it was considerably hesitating.  A few calls to Rob at Ratrace, he suggested it could be the throttle bodies out of balance or a top end misfire, I discounted the throttle bodies being out of balance, as the car had just been returned from a service by CC midlands, and this is part of the service.  I decided not to run the car anymore on circuit and headed gingerly home.

A few more calls to Rob at Ratrace motorsport, after which he suggested I contacted Steve at Track n Road performance, to get a power run done and take things from there.

Onto the session with Track n Road:-
So... yesterday the weather couldn't have been better for an hour and a half blat to Rainham - torrential rain!  Not one to cancel an arrangement, I donned my wet weather gear and headed off.

The car wasn't running great on the way there, and even though the rain was pretty much the worst we've had this year, I was happy to be on my way to get some answers.

I arrived after a slow two hour drive and a proper soaking, and it was straight down to business for Steve and Jim. The aim was to run the car with the cat bypass pipe and standard R500 can, then with the Raceco can, then with the Raceco can and carbon airbox to see how this effected the fuelling...

The car was put on the rollers, strapped down and plugged into their dyno... Immediately they noticed a few things:-
  • The map is a Cosworth map, even though it's not a Cosworth engine
  • The Cosworth map is locked, so they can't remap this version
  • The car was running poorly
  • They couldn't get full throttle
  • They think the Lambda sensor is burnt out
They ran the car with a small amount of revs, and started to disconnect the spark plugs one at a time to see if there was any difference, and quite worryingly, there wasn't much difference when they disconnected plugs three and four... Whereas when they disconnected plugs one and two you could immediately hear the difference.
Steve fiddling with the throttle
Steve fiddling with the throttle
The air filter was removed, and straight away Steve said that the balance of the throttle bodies was 'miles' out!  Not only that the throttle on the rear barrels wasn't opening to more than 75%, and as roller barrels only offer a benefit when opened over 80%, I was seriously down on power as a result of this - Steve suggested around a 40bhp loss!

With the throttle bodies being awkward to adjust in situ, they removed the inlet trumpets, and the carbon backplate - which was hard to remove as it had what seemed like the factory glue holding it in place along with the bolts.
Jim removing the inlet trumpet backplate
Jim removing the inlet trumpet backplate
With the inlet trumpets and backplate removed here's a look at the roller barrels in the closed position.  I'm kicking myself as I didn't get a shot of the previous 'Not Wide Open Throttle' position, and must admit I had to laugh as my number plate is R500 WOT (Wide Open Throttle) which Steve and Jim are pretty confident the car has never had since day one!
Caterham R500 Duratec roller barrels with inlet trumpet and backplate removed
Caterham R500 Duratec roller barrels with inlet trumpet and backplate removed
The throttle cable was adjusted, the throttle position sensor was also adjusted and then the 'wide open throttle' position was setup to finally be 'wide open'.
Caterham R500 Duratec engine with roller barrels finally in the 'Wide Open Throttle' position
Caterham R500 Duratec engine with roller barrels finally in the 'Wide Open Throttle' position
About three hours after I arrived, the backplate, inlet trumpets and air filter were all put back and the car was restarted with the Lambda sensor disconnected.  The car immediately sounded like a normal engine, with none of the misfiring and lumpiness I've been experiencing all but gone!

So, here's the highly anticipated power run video:-

And the results of the power run, along with the graph:-
  • 255.1 bhp at 8,600 rpm
  • 171.1 lb-ft at 6,174 rpm
  • 148mph top speed
  • 464 bhp/tonne (based on weight of 550kg)
Caterham R500 Duratec power curve graph
Caterham R500 Duratec power curve graph
So what's next?
I'm going to order a new Lambda sensor for starters... The guys from Track n Road are going to make some enquiries as to how to get into the map to customise it, but as it's a locked Cosworth map, it'll be more than likely that they'll get a new map board, and start with a different map and take things from there.

The plan will be to create three maps for the engine:-
  1. Map one will be for standard R500 can, cat bypass pipe and piper cross air filter
  2. Map two will be using the Raceco exhaust, cat bypass pipe and piper cross air filter
  3. Map three will be using the Raceco exhaust, cat bypass pipe and carbon airbox cover
The aim with the new maps will be to improve power delivery and drivability, and if there is any additional BHP then great.  The maps will only be switchable by laptop, so I'll need to take my laptop as well as all the exhaust and airbox gubbins whenever I go to a track day - proper geeky, but... If it work's and keeps the engine and fuelling in tip top condition I'm happy.

Friday 11 September 2015

Snetterton 300 Track Day - with video

A friend of mine (Andy) was keen to get on track at Snetterton 300 (in his R300D), so last Sunday we decided to book with MSV track days, one of their upcoming 'Burton Power' Snetterton 300 track days.

The date was in the diary, and we went last Tuesday (8th September 2015).  The car passed the static 105db noise test at 104db, so off for the first session we went.

Getting pulled into the pits due to the noisy standard exhaust
Getting pulled into the pits due to the noisy standard exhaust
I was pulled in within two laps, having been recorded at 100db which is 5db over the drive by limit of 95db... So it was on with the RaceCo exhaust and re-tested.  This time the car tested at 98db static, meaning it was under the drive by limit too.

Off we went again for a few more laps, but, and similarly to the Cadwell MSV track day I attended, there was always traffic on every lap, so could never really get a clean lap in.  I guess this just shows the incredible track performance of an R500.   I also felt a little under-steer in some of the corners, which I tried to dial out as best I could by stiffening up the rear shocks, adjusting the rear anti roll bar and front tyre pressures.

Adjusting the rear anti roll bar drop link setting
Adjusting the rear anti roll bar drop link setting
Off it was for a few more laps, the car was handling better, but still had a bit of understeer and once again felt a little underpowered in fifth and sixth gears down the back straight... Nevertheless I managed to get a clean lap in!  Yay!  Anyway, it wasn't the best and there's plenty more time on the table to be had, but as it was my first visit to Snetterton, I was reasonably happy with the lap (aside from the tank slapper coming into the last corner)!  Enjoy...

Monday 31 August 2015

Rivnut Refiitting Guide for Rear Wings

After all the toing and froing of the leaking gearbox dilemma, I think it's sorted! No leaks (yet) on my garage flooring, so it's happy days once again... So... I decided to take the Caterham to work on Friday to enjoy the weather before the heavens opened for a miserable bank holiday weekend's worth of rain!

The car was all good and running well.  Not the longest of journeys, but good to get out again, as it has been a while... I think nearly two months!  At the end of the day and time to leave, I had a few things still to finish off, at which point my business partner came up and said he'd crashed into my car whilst reversing out of his space - I thought he was joking as he's the type to muck around like that...

Anyway, it wasn't a joke and yes, the car had some damage!  I didn't freak out (which was surprising) as it looked worse than it was...   Lee (my business partner) was very apologetic as you'd expect etc etc, and I assessed the damage.  I'd say it looked more like a 'slow clip' of the wing than serious damage and it appeared that the rivnuts had been pulled from the skin behind the wing, with only the exhaust mount being a little bent.  I taped the car up with some low tack tape, and drove it cautiously home.
Caterham with taped wing after a minor incident with an X5!
Caterham with taped wing after a minor incident with an X5!
I rang Caterham Midlands to see what they suggested and it turns out Simon Lambert was up there helping out and I spoke to him... Simon was extremely helpful, went through the issue with me and suggested it may be a fairly easy fix (which I thought was the case too, but I wanted to double check with them).  He pointed me to this threaded rivnut insertion tool on amazon and said I needed some 5mm aluminium rivnuts... With a little persuasion he posted the rivnuts to me first class, I ordered the rivnut tool from amazon and everything arrived the very next morning!  Well done Caterham and Amazon!

I had some karting in Llandow to attend to over the weekend, so it wasn't until this morning that I could fix the car.

So onto my guide for replacing a wing and refitting rivnuts
I've put this guide together for my car (an R500 Duratec) please read the full guide before you start, and note there may be variances between the vehicle you are working on and this guide.

As a number of people had advised me in the past, Caterhams are quite susceptible to losing their rear wings... On track days, hitting cones and business partners reversing into them in their X5's!  Some people have suggested using plastic screws to hold the wing in place, which means the plastic screw snaps cleaning removing the wing from the rivnuts - which is great for racing, but not so practical on the road as you could do more damage to the paint on the wing (when it hits the tarmac) than the wing just pulling the rivnut away from the skin of the car.  So I've decided to stick with the metal screws.

Firstly, get yourself a large coffee and a bacon sarnie - a great way to fuel yourself for a couple of hours in the garage!
BLT and Costa before the rivnut refitting
BLT and Costa before the rivnut refitting
Below is a picture of the wing, you can see it's pulled away from the skin of the body, with the rubber piping lose, and also the exhaust looks somewhat askew.
Wing pulled away from the body, wing piping lose and askew exhaust.
Wing pulled away from the body, wing piping lose and askew exhaust.
What you need to do to get started is get the wheel off.  So using one of the rear jacking points (I put the jack on the cross section underneath the fuel tank), jack the car up sufficiently to remove the wheel.  Put an axle stand in place if you need to, but I trust my jack as it has a locking mechanism.

Then remove the rubber grommet (left of the picture below) and you should be able to pull the light connector block through the hole and separate the two connectors.  Then using an 8mm spanner loosen all ten fixings for the wing - start at the bottom and finish at the top, so the wing doesn't fall away from the car unexpectedly and cause further damage.
Remove all ten wing fixings, from top to bottom and remember to disconnect rear light wiring.
Remove all ten wing fixings, from top to bottom and remember to disconnect rear light wiring.
With the wing removed you can see that the front five rivnuts have pulled through the aluminium skin of the car.  The protruding aluminium around the rivnut holes will need to be lightly tapped back into place.
Wing removed, five rivnuts pulled through body skin.
I wanted to completely check the wing for damage, so I laid it on some cloth on garage floor so as not to damage the paint.   I know of other Caterham owners who've clipped their rear wings, with the GRP literally tearing apart, so I was hoping the wing would still be intact.  The wing was completely intact on the underside, which is testament to the additional strength of the carbon fibre over GRP wings.
Underside of wing intact, testament to the strength of carbon fibre over GRP wings
There was a very slight crack of the wing on the leading edge, which just needs some carbon epoxy left to cure overnight, a rub down and a touch of paint.  I'll get 'my mate Dave' at Daytona Coachworx to do this.
Very slight crack in leading edge of wing
Very slight crack in leading edge of wing
With the wing removed and checked over, it was time to push the protruding body skin back into it's original location.  I found the best tool for this was a medium socket extension, covered in a microfibre cloth, tapped lightly with a rubber mallet.
My bodywork repair contraption
My bodywork repair contraption
The skin of the body is very soft, so using my 'hammering contraption' I very lightly tapped the protruding body skin back to it's original state.
Rivnut holes tapped back to their original state
Rivnut holes tapped back to their original state
Here is the threaded rivnut insertion tool and the rivnuts that Simon Lambert from Caterham very kindly posted to save the day.
Threaded rivnut insertion tool and 5mm aluminium rivnuts
Threaded rivnut insertion tool and 5mm aluminium rivnuts
Having never used a threaded rivnut insertion tool before, I had to read the instructions!  It's really easy to use once you get the hang of it.  Open the handle, put the correct sized mandrel and collar into place, and screw the rivnut onto the end.
Threaded rivnut insert tool with 5mm aluminium rivnut ready to go
Threaded rivnut insert tool with 5mm aluminium rivnut ready to go
And the first one goes in... Really easy, put the rivnut in the hole and squeeze the tool... Don't squeeze too hard though as you can ruin the thread of the rivnut!  You can easily feel when enough pressure has been applied, and it doesn't 'snap off' like a standard rivet, you need to unscrew using the knob on the back of the tool to remove.
The first rivnut goes in
The first rivnut goes in
 Repeat for all the rivnuts you need to replace, in my case it was the leading five.
Leading five rivnuts replaced
Leading five rivnuts replaced
Then starting from top to bottom, very loosely replace the fixings for the wing.  It's worth loosely fitting the wing, with about 5mm of gap, so that you can then fit the rubber piping.  I find that working the piping from the top of the wing is the easiest way to fit it, but for tightening it's worth adjusting the piping to fit, then tightening a few fixings at a time to get a good fit. These fixings do not have a torque setting, so just nip them up to hand tight being careful not to over tighten.
Wing replaced, rubber piping in place, and rear light reconnected.
Wing replaced, rubber piping in place, and rear light reconnected.
Don't forget to reconnect the rear light connection, and replace the grommet.  Refit and torque the wheel, and then lower the car and the job should be complete!

I also had to remove the exhaust, slightly bend the exhaust bobbin mount back, and then refit the exhaust to finish the job, but the wing is now secure and looking like new again.
Rivnuts refitted, wing securely fastened, with exhaust re-alligned too - job done!
Rivnuts refitted, wing securely fastened, with exhaust re-alligned too - job done!
Hopefully I'll be able to have some trouble free use of the car over the next few weeks, I think Snetterton is calling!

Thursday 27 August 2015

Third Seal Lucky

Received a call from Caterham Midlands yesterday morning, but was in a meeting so missed their call.  A follow up email came promptly through saying that another new rear seal (the third one!) was fitted to the gearbox tail a couple of days ago.

For the third time... This wasn't the smallest or easiest of jobs... The diff and prop had to come out, the existing seal (I would write old, but it was brand new!) was removed and the new seal was refitted.  One of the main problems with replacing the seal is the propshaft guard (specific to R500's and 620R's) means that it's very awkward to get the oil seal and the prop cleanly aligned without nicking the edges which causes the leak.  
The offending article - the rear gearbox oil seal
The offending article - the rear gearbox oil seal

Another new oil seal was 'extremely carefully' refitted a few days ago, the car was road tested and then left on the ramp for 24 hours.  The car was then road tested again this morning and there hasn't been any leaking whatsoever, so Caterham Midlands rang earlier on today to say that Keith could be with me this afternoon!  Great news!

So Keith arrived around 2pm, the car is now in the garage (it's chucking it down here) and 'may' get used this coming bank holiday Monday...

The Caterham is fixed and back!
The Caterham is fixed and back!

Tuesday 25 August 2015


Following on from my last post, (where my car was collected on 17th August 2015)...  That was over a week ago and since then I've not heard a thing from Caterham Midlands... So one of my friends who frequents my blog as an 'anonymous' poster sent this tongue in cheek, but pretty apt picture over this morning...  I had to laugh...
...But... In all seriousness, my car has been with them for over a week now, and I've not even had a call to say it's arrived, or anyone is working on it.  I wonder where or when I'll see it again........

Monday 17 August 2015

Off to it's second home

Received a call first thing this morning from Caterham Midlands, apologising for their error (see last Friday's post)... Luckily Keith was down in Crawley today collecting a red / orange demonstrator 620R...  So on his way back he picked up my car, and the car is now on it's way to it's second home (or so it seems at the moment!)

The R500 being loaded onto the Caterham van to go to it's second home!
The R500 being loaded onto the Caterham van to go to it's second home!

The dripping of fluids has eased off a bit, but even so there shouldn't be any drips / leaks, however small they are. I'm hopeful it's only something minor, but will wait and see what Caterham say...

Friday 14 August 2015

Collection for the leak, or was it?

Last week after the car was returned (from having the gearbox leak fixed) I noticed there was still some fluid dripping onto my garage floor... I called and spoke to Caterham Midlands, who couldn't believe it was still leaking, and at which point I thought we agreed for them to be collect the car on the 6th August... Alas, there was no appearance from Keith and his collection van, and as I hadn't heard from them by 16:30 that day, I thought I'd call to chase them up.

To cut a long story short, I think Caterham and I misunderstood what we wanted, so I 100% re-booked the car to be collected this morning at 10am.

It's now 8pm and the car is still in the garage.  No phone call, no email, no collection - absolutely sweet FA, they simply didn't show up!  I'll ring them on Monday to see what's happened this time, but for now, the car is still in my possession, leaking fluids, some twelve months after this problem initially surfaced.

This is really, really poor...
The R500 should be in the Midlands right now, but Caterham didn't come and pick it up!
The R500 should be in the Midlands right now, but Caterham didn't come and pick it up!

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Drift Champion Experience Day at Silverstone

Along with a number of other gifts, my girlfriend bought me a voucher to do the Caterham Drift Champion Experience at Silverstone.

It was one of those gifts that I was ecstatic to receive, but somehow 'forgot about it' in a usual bloke type way... So a few weeks ago Charlotte was lets say 'encouraging' me to book it up, but being a bloke 'booking things up in a diary' are not that easy!  So she took it out of my control and booked it for me, told me when I was to be at Silverstone and that was that!  I'm really glad she did as I had a great day...

Arriving at Silverstone's main entrance, the Caterham van and hospitality suite was large enough to see from the road.  The day is run in one of Silverstone's main car parks, so there's plenty of space and I guess a good revenue earner for what would be a dis-used carpark for most of the year... Next up was the usual signing your life away, briefing, a little bit of tuition and then off we went to the cars...

There were two different courses in the morning, one with a small donut and large drift area, then the second which was a figure of eight.

We stopped for an hours lunch around 12:30, whilst the Caterham team replaced the cones into the afternoon's layout which was to be practised on by all with a final assessment run at the end of the day.

Below are two videos, the first being an onboard video (that you can buy on  memory stick from Caterham for £25!) of my final assessment lap...

...and the second video is also of my final assessed lap but this time from the 'pit lane'...

I was happy with my final run, and thought it was worthy of a top three finish... The scoring was based on 100 points as you started the lap with single point deductions for every small errors, ten point deductions for hitting a cone, twenty five for a spin and so on... So to get a perfect score was going to be pretty tough!

The top three finishers scored, 92, 93 and myself at 94!  Well happy to win the day, and the gift... A whole autoglym cleaning kit - for me a so called polisher?!?  Perfect! :o) Well there was also a Caterham 1st place embroidered hat, and a goodie bag too... (by the way the valet kit is already on eBay as a polisher like me already has everything in the bag anyway!)
Collecting my 1st place cap, goodie bag and autoglym valet kit
Collecting my 1st place cap, goodie bag and autoglym valet kit
And the picture below is of the top three drifters of the day...
The top three drifters of the day
The top three drifters of the day
There were a total of seventeen 'drifters' at the day of varying abilities, the overall time in the car was reasonable.  I'd say it was a very well run day, the refreshments and lunch were good, the tuition was noteworthy and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I would recommend the day to anyone who wants to improve their drifting skills, have a day out, or generally just smoke someone elses rubber and gas!

Saturday 8 August 2015

Checking the Leak and Cleaning

Having taken control of my irritation, I contacted Caterham Midlands and have organised for the car to be collected (again) to have this gearbox oil leak inspected / fixed... I guess as this will be the third time it's been back for this, I'm hopeful of the old saying coming true 'third time lucky' and I've a feeling I'll be 'lucky' if it is fixed.

Anyway, enough ranting... With the superb weather this weekend, I decided to get up early and give the car a check over, see if I could confirm that it was in fact the gearbox that was leaking  and to give the car a clean as it was still filthy after the service.

I decided to start with the long job first - the clean.  Starting at the front, the wheels, nosecone and bonnet came off.  All were cleaned to within an inch of their lives!  The sides of the car were cleaned, and then I started on the rear...

I wanted to get a picture of the new diff cage, so here it is:-
Replaced diff cage on BMW diff in Caterham R500
Replaced diff cage on BMW diff in Caterham R500
With the rear wheels off the car, and the car firmly on axle stands I took the opportunity to check under the car and to see where the leak was coming from.  In the picture below I've highlighted the area, and it appears there is still fluid on the bottom of the rear of the gearbox tail (silver section) and also some fluid on the chassis cross member.  I guess the cross member is where it is dripping to and from based on the fluid spots on my garage floor.
Tail of gearbox housing moist with oil and oil also on chassis cross member
Tail of gearbox housing moist with oil and oil also on chassis cross member
I'd also mentioned on my previous post that there seemed to be some fluid dripping from one of the seat bolts, and I'd noticed that looking through the hole in the seat base that there seemed to be a lot of fluid in there too?!?  So I removed the floor mats to reveal this mess:-
Oil and gunk under drivers floor mat
Oil and gunk under drivers floor mat
The picture doesn't do it justice, as there is so much oil and gunk in here, I guess from the initial problem, and also compounded by the steam cleaning Caterham had to do?  Quite poor (but not unexpected) that they didn't even remove the floor mats to clean up the mess.

After seeing how much fluid was under the floor mat, I checked the passenger side, which also had fluid and gunk there, but not as much as the drivers side.  I thought it necessary to take both the seats out, to check what was under there.
With drivers seat out you can see the amount of oil and gunk on the floor
With drivers seat out you can see the amount of oil and gunk on the floor
This is what both footwells looked like:-
With both seats and floor mats removed you can see the fluid and gunk remaining
With both seats and floor mats removed you can see the fluid and gunk remaining
I cleaned both sides with kitchen roll... Just aiming to get rid of the oil, gunk, stones, and the occasional ladybird in there! - this is how much kitchen roll was used... I estimate there was around 100ml of fluid that required removal.
Crazy about of oil, crud, stones and the occasional dead ladybird in the footwells and under the seats
Crazy about of oil, crud, stones and the occasional dead ladybird in the footwells and under the seats
I continued with the rear of the car, boot cover, put the seats back in and then it was finished and looking glorious once more.
The R500 is clean once more
The R500 is clean once more
I've also wiped clean my garage flooring, so will keep an eye on how much fluid is still dripping onto the floor.  If the dripping has stopped (which I doubt) then I'll cancel the collection and eat humble pie, but otherwise the car be back in the Midlands Caterham branch at the end of next week.

Monday 3 August 2015

Five Weeks Later

It's back - happy days!  The guys at Caterham Midlands had a fair job on their hands...  With the broken diff cage pushing the prop into the back of the gearbox, it was a mammoth task to repair (or so they thought!)
An 'artistic' shot of the Caterham R500 with opaque bonnet
An 'artistic' shot of the Caterham R500 with opaque bonnet
A little explanation as to what happened... Apparently the diff cage broke (the diff cage incidentally hasn't been confirmed as having had (or not had) the recall work)... The broken diff cage was then practically swinging backwards and forwards on one bolt, which was pushing the prop into the rear of the gearbox, and machining both the rear of the gearbox and the front of the prop shaft.

So the diff (and cage), prop shaft, and engine had to come out... This was all covered under warranty, which was definitely a relief... The guys at Caterham Midlands said that once the diff and prop were removed they had to steam clean the underside and the tunnel as there was so much fluid there!  The engine and gearbox were removed, with the rear of the gearbox being sent off for repair.

With the gearbox repaired/replaced (I'm not sure if it was repaired or replaced in the end), the box was put onto the back of the engine and then eased back into place with a new prop shaft and diff cage - I just hope this diff cage is stronger than the last one... My diff doesn't have any mounting braces, whereas Caterham supplied braces with my kit, but the diff didn't have any mounting eyes and it was confirmed by Dean Francis (after he spoke to the workshop) that this particular diff didn't require the mounting braces (any comments about this welcome!)...

The car then had it's first annual service and was road tested.  There was also a weep from the petrol tank, that just needed the gasket screws tightening, so that has been eradicated (for now!)

Last Friday (25th July 2015) Keith arrived in the Caterham Van and transporter with my car in the back!  I was very much looking forward to a blat, but the first thing to do was to check the underside for fluids and thankfully it was clean!
Underside of my Caterham R500 Duratec looking nice and clean again!
Underside of my Caterham R500 Duratec looking nice and clean again!
I gave Keith the thumbs up and the car was unloaded... but...
The R500 being unloaded from the Caterham transporter.
The R500 being unloaded from the Caterham transporter.
It was still filthy!  Now I don't expect all of my cars to be cleaned after a service, but Keith was quite embarrassed by it all - it looked a mess... And considering the service and parts cost me £588, I think a clean wouldn't have been out of the question.

So I took the car to the office, and the smile was back on my face once again - what a great feeling to drive after so long! I drove the car home, and put it in the garage... Took it out again on Saturday for a short blat, and everything seemed all in order, apart from a little bit of fluid I noticed on my garage floor... I looked closely, and hoped it was just the oil weeping out of one of the seat mounting holes...

But alas, it seems like it's coming out of the tail of the gearbox... again!  This is the fluid on my garage floor after one evening:-
The gearbox is STILL leaking!
The gearbox is STILL leaking!
Having kept and eye on it, my gearbox leak is still not fixed.  I'm going to have to call the guys up at Midlands tomorrow to arrange for them to come and pick it up... again!  As you can expect this is a right pain in the arse as I'm missing out on 'the season' for using the car - I'm not impressed right now.