I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you out there, the readers of this website. There is an overwhelming positive feedback that comes from you in comments on articles, YouTube videos and via the Contact page. I try to respond when I can. I always love to see pics of your cars and hear about your own repair adventures.
I’d like to send out a special thanks to Michael Crowther that was kind enough to buy me a Whiskey. Mike used the ‘Donate’ page on the site and got me a bottle of MacAllan 18. Yum! Although Mike wasn’t here to share a dram with me, it was a good chance for me to also thank my cameraman Rob.
About 400 viewers a day are accessing the website now – just wow! I’m glad some of the information is helpful. I know I go way too deep into details for some, but I make videos and articles for myself first, and I want to see exactly how to do something, not some vague recollection of what was involved. I make it for me, and share it with all of you.
I also would like to thank the guest authors that have taken the time to contribute their own articles to this website [Truly – thank you guys]. I’ve managed to rope in a handful of like minded Aston owners that usually write me separately about their projects and my hope is to coax them and more of you into helping share the knowledge. If you’d like to share an idea, large or small, just contact me.
I also work at an IT firm full time and we’ve been going non-stop during the Covid crisis (essential service). Worrying about the firm, our staff, and all those responsibilities have sidelined some of my hobby time. When I do get a few free minutes, I am stressed out a bit, so the MacAllan 18 was well timed.
What’s ahead? I have a ton of backlogged content. I waffle between sitting down at the computer and doing the hours of post production work for stuff already ‘in the can’, and the longing to just get into the shop on new projects (many of which I have parts staged). Upcoming new works include:
The final results of my quest for more Horsepower. The results are in…..
Automatic Transmission Fluid change (many are asking for this article)
Completion of the Brake Service series
Power Steering Fluid change
All about the magic AMDS dealer computer (I managed to purchase one ;>)
Last November I was replacing the coil packs and spark plugs on my 2011 Rapide and the oil in the inlet manifolds and throttle bodies made it pretty clear that my PCV valves were past their best.
I decided to replace the PCV valves with these £15.98 metal ones from i6 Automotive (check it out here) in Sheffield, England. But since it would take them a few weeks to get to me here in Adelaide, South Australia I set to thinking. On my diesel 4wd one of the first modifications you do is to fit a catch can into the PCV system. Good ones are incredibly effective at removing the oil mist and preventing it being recycled through your engine.
Every now and then you will come across an existing sheared bolt or you will shear one yourself, either way they have to be repaired. Sometimes (rarely) there might be a length of bolt or stud proud enough to be able to get a grip of it with mole grips or self tightening pipe wrench. If you try to get a stud out this way be sure to soak it thoroughly with a good penetrating oil for as long as you can first and work the bolt backwards and forwards to loosen it don’t try to undo it in one direction straight away you have to “persuade” it out.
The sheared bolt on my Aston’s slam panel was where it bolts to the bonnet release catch. The shear is about 3mm below the top of the steel of the catch and is quite a common failure. It’s quite easy to over tighten and shear smaller sized bolts particularly when using ratchets or spanners with handles/lengths that are up to 200-250mm (8-10″) long. One trick is to hold the spanner in the middle of its length to reduce the lever arm if tightening up smaller bolts. On more critical bolts use a torque wrench, most torque figures are given in manuals so use them. The overriding requirement is common sense, are you bolting up a bit of light weight “slam panel” as in the case above or a major suspension part !!!
The worse situation is the sheared stud or bolt that shears below the surface of the steel and it’s the most common. There is a reason why car manufacturers say you should use new bolts in critical areas and it’s not just to make money out of us. Bolts that are located in areas of high stress, high temperatures or exposed to potentially rusty locations will experience changes to their mechanical properties over time. Corrosion can reduce the surface condition of bolts not to mention the “eating away” and “pitting” of the threaded area. The pitting can eat into the steel causing areas of potential weakness that will fail under the load of tightening. Bolts that are exposed to the effects of heat (heating up then cooling down) such as engine/cylinder head bolts or exhaust bolts and that are under load for a long period will not exhibit the same mechanical properties once removed and then reused. Hence manufacturers recommend replacing all the cylinder head bolts once they have been removed which often seems a little extravagant as they always look fine but as I’ve explained it’s not done without good reason.
There are two options to repair a sheared bolt. If possible it may be extracted by drilling a hole down through the centre of the bolt and using a stud extractor. These extractors are readily available but I have to say I haven’t had much success with them. The extractors have a left hand thread so as they are screwed into a drilled hole in the sheared bolt or stud they tighten in the direction that will unscrew the sheared bolt.
I always try to extract a bolt but usually end up drilling it out and re-tapping the hole. The size of the sheared bolt or stud determines the size of the hole to be drilled and tapped here are some common drilling sizes for tapped holes that you might come across when working on your Aston.
As you will see there are a number of different Pitches for “Fine” bolts so it is important to select the correct drilling size particularly if you are having to drill out a cylinder head bolt for example, you only get one chance at it. To ensure you are using the correct size drill you can measure the size of the replacement bolt you are going to fit using a thread gauge.
When you drill out the sheared bolt consider where the swarf (waste) will fall. If there are critical items around such as say the alternator it will not react nicely to having small metal pieces dropped into it so protect vulnerable areas with cloth covers etc..
If the swarf can be easily vacuumed up then covering everything up is not an issue.
Once the old bolt has been drilled out you can now start to tap a new thread for your replacement bolt. When tapping out a hole it is important not to try to rush the job by driving the tap down into the hole. You will almost certainly shear the tap in the hole then you really do have a problem as the tap is made of extremely hard steel that you will find impossible to drill out. Since taps are made from particularly hard steel that brings with it an inherent brittleness so don’t go mad trying to cut the new thread in one go.
The technique is to apply downward pressure to get the tap started whilst turning the tap half a rotation (180deg) clockwise then reversing the tap direction for a quarter of a turn (90deg). This is repeated for the whole of the tapping process until the full depth of the hole has been tapped. The small rotation backwards allows cut material to release into the grooves of the tap so that the tap does not bind in the hole and potentially break. Once the tap has cut a thread of a few millimetres you will no longer require to apply downward pressure as the tap will use the thread it as cut to provide the downward force into the hole. During the cutting you should use a light oil or grease to aid the cutting process, WD40 is a good lubricant for this. It is also advisable to remove the tap completely periodically to clean away swarf.
The key is to take your time, you’re not on the production line at Ford, if you are doing this job it’s probably a one off, so there’s no need to rush.
When you have finished tapping the hole and have cleared away all the swarf check that the replacement bolt will run down nicely into the new tapped hole. You don’t want to get into the assembly of everything to find for some reason the replacement bolt you are going to use is too tight or too slack in the hole.
Remember the key is take your time and start off by marking the centre of the broken bolt with a good centre punch mark so your drill will not wander off the centre of the bolt and drill squarely down the bolt. You don’t have to drill out the hole to the final tapping size in one go, it’s often better to drill out in say up to three stages to arrive at the final size. If you follow these instructions you should be able to replace a sheared bolt on your Aston with no problem.
There is a short video here showing the drilling out and tapping of the sheared bolt on my Aston’s bonnet catch.
When you’re working under the Aston just about every job seems to require you to remove the undertray or underpan. This is a large sheet of Aluminium approximately 1500mm long x 800mm wide. In itself it’s not heavy but due to its size it is very cumbersome to handle.
As those who have removed the undertray will know you seem to be undoing bolts for ages (about 36 in total, I kid you not !!!) before you can get it down/out. If you are doing an oil change there is a hole directly below the engine drain plug but I would defy anyone to get that plug out without the oil running all over the undertray. I don’t see the point of the hole as you have to remove the undertray to change the oil filter anyway, unless you do it from the top as Steve has done finding it almost impossible to remove the filter from below on a LHD Aston. I can confirm that on a RHD Aston it is relatively easy to change the oil filter from below.
When I first started removing and replacing the undertray I had to get my wife to hold the back end whilst I removed the final bolts then we could lower it together to the floor. Since just about every job under the car requires this taking off I decided I had to come up with another way of doing it and hence the “Third Hand” was created. When I stopped to think about it the answer was simple in the end … the best ideas are always the simplest.
The “Third Hand” couldn’t be simpler, a piece of strong nylon string and two pieces wood. As you lift up the front end of the undertray the rear hangs from the exhaust bolts allowing you to feed the front end of the undertray over the lip of the front valance and insert bolts to secure it in place.
With the undertray bolted in position at the front the next stage is to insert the central bolt through to the main cross-member. Once this is in place the “Third Hand” can be removed and the rest of the bolts fitted.
Here is a short video showing how this works in practice.
So, we decided to go out for a short trip now that the Coronavirus lockdown has been eased a little and it was a beautiful sunny day. We set off with no particular destination in mind just a ride out for a change of scenery, we don’t think it is fair yet to descend on the local beauty spots where people who live there have also been in lockdown.
As I said it was a nice sunny day with temperatures in the low 20’s C so on went the Air Conditioning. Having travelled about 15-20 miles we both said “it’s a bit warm in here” and on checking, the Aircon wasn’t working. We decided to return and came back with the windows down !!!
I have quite a good setup in the garage with just about any tool I might need for doing a job as some of you might have seen in my previous Blogs, what I don’t have however is Aircon testing and gassing equipment, who does !!!
Anyway, I jumped on the internet to find a mobile guy near us to come and do a few checks. As it happens my wife’s Audi had a problem as well so I thought we could kill two birds with one stone. The first guy I rang asked me what the cars were, I told him an Audi A6 S-line 3.0ltr TFSI and the second car an Aston Martin DB9. There was then a pregnant pause and I could imagine the money signs in his eyes🤑! He came back with “I could do them both for only £465.00”. After a deep gulp I said I’d get back to him if I was interested but at that price I said, I think I’ll just be opening the windows !!!
My next call was to “Car Aircon Services” http://carairconservices.co.uk/ and I spoke with Damian. He covers Manchester and North Cheshire. All his prices were set out on his website, no hidden extras, he told me when he could come and even arrived an hour early. As soon as he started to look at the cars, I thought this guy knows what he’s doing. You just get that soft and squeezy feel about it. The Audi was resolved within a few minutes of checking gas pressures and connecting up his ODBII reader, a faulty pressure switch, for which he carried OEM parts in his van.
So, to the Aston, this is a story of woe I’m afraid at the moment. A check revealed no gas in the system. Moreover, we discussed the background to the car and we (well Damien) came to the conclusion as you will read.
I bought the car just over three years ago from a dealer in Wimbledon, South London and he undertook to carry out an oil change service prior to me collecting it a week later. Part way through the week I received a call saying that the air conditioning had stopped working and they would need another week to get it sorted. No problem I thought better to be sorted now than have a problem later.
When I collected the Aston, everything was perfect and as we drove back up to Manchester (about 31/2 hours just over 220 miles from the dealership for those who are not aware) the Aircon was working fine. However about 3 months later the aircon stopped working so I gave the dealer a ring and he said bring the car back and he would get it sorted again. After some discussion about the distance involved and me having to make two return trips to London and associated costs, he agreed for me to get it tested locally. I found a local mobile guy (not Damien at the time) who came and checked it out but he concluded that there were leaks from both the condenser radiator and the compressor. I relayed this to the dealer who was quite sceptical at first when I told him it needed a new condenser radiator and a compressor plus fitting of same. Eventually he agreed as long as he could supply the parts and my guy could fit them. A few days later an OEM condenser radiator arrived at the house direct from Aston followed by a “reconditioned” compressor from another company. These were duly fitted by the guy I was using at the time and the system re-gassed.
All was then OK for the next 21/2 years or so, until now. Damien found traces of dye under Ultra Violet on the connections to the new condenser radiator but he concluded that this was dried residue from when the condenser was fitted. More serious he found evidence of fresh dye around the pulley drive end of the compressor. Damien suggested that even though the compressor was a reconditioned unit it should last a good number of years certainly more than 2-3 years.
Damien put forward a hypothesis with which I am inclined to agree. He has seen it before that a leaking system is repaired with a sealant additive. This works in the short term, however it is only a temporary repair, moreover it can lead to more problems. It is possible that the dealer in London might have had the original leak repaired by the use of such an additive. It follows that this repair would then fail after a short time, perhaps shorter than he would have expected and he then had to provide new replacement items under the 6 month warranty.
Unfortunately, once the sealant is in the system it is near impossible to remove, it requires complete flushing and possible replacement of other parts of the system. The sealant can blind pipes and galleries along with the other items in the system such as the expansion valve, receiver drier or the accumulator this causes the compressor to run at higher pressures to maintain circulation ultimately this higher pressure weakens seals in the compressor and produces the leakage trace usually at its drive/pulley end.
For now, we are in the testing period as Damien has refilled the system with gas at my request and we will see how long the Air Con keeps working. The result will determine the path forward but now the leak is established I suspect it will not be long before I have another Blog to post on changing the Air Con compressor or even more items !!!
A quick search on the internet found quite a few of these products on the market all professing to seal your system leaks, but none advise of the potential pitfalls. I found an article on line that confirms everything that Damien told me, you can read it by copying and pasting the link, if it doesn’t work don’t ask me what do I know, I found through Google so good luck !!! http://www.ricksfreeautorepairservice.com/does-ac-stop-leak-sealer-work/
My recommendation would be to bite the bullet on your air conditioning and get someone in like Damien who knows what they are doing and don’t go for short term fixes, it could end up costing you a lot more in the long term. Watch this space over the next few months (or perhaps days !!!) for progress updates.
By the way Damien’s price for both cars one with a new pressure switch and the DB9 checked out and regassed not to mention his advice (he was here for over 2 hours) was £134.00, more than reasonable.
My DB9 was resprayed (repainted) recently. It was done by our regional Aston Martin Certified paint shop. When I got it back I was gobsmacked by how awesome the paint looked. A few days after I had it home I got the call from the paint shop, they realized that they had forgotten to install the DB9 badge on the trunk/boot lid. Doh! Sure enough, my car was debadged. The paint shop was a 2+ hour drive away, so I opted to have them FedEx me the logo. To my surprise it comes as three loose pieces D – B – 9 with NO template provided (Gee Aston – could ya toss in a piece of paper please). I asked the paint shop how they do it. They seriously said “We just wing it”. Which got me started on how to figure out exactly where to install them. This article covers it all. Continue reading “Installing the DB9 Badge/Logo on an Aston Martin DB9”→