I happened to read on Daniel French’s blog about his continued problems with his gearbox leak and resulting decision to possibly get rid of the car. I can completely understand how he feels – I’m not very much removed from that myself after last week’s onslaught of issues. And yes, it’s gotten worse for me since the last update.
Yesterday, Saturday, October 24th, I decided to spend some time on the car since Michigan wasn’t playing this week. To start with, I jacked up the rear end, put it on stands, then popped the wheel off to get at the speedo. The first test was to see if the speedo sensor was actually working. I tested it by spinning the wheel by hand and confirming the speedo LED blinks as each tooth in the gear passes the sensor; it did and appears to be working fine. Second test was to use a multimeter to check the electrical connection; also looked fine. The third check was to verify the plug and wiring I added as part of the first fix was ok, which also looked fine and nothing loose. My last remaining idea was to undo the new ground I added to the chassis and used a flat bladed screwdriver to chip the powder coating away from the connection. I did that and now there’s nothing between the ground and the chassis at all, it should be a perfect ground.
After that I took a look at the fuel gauge. I opened up the boot floor and validated no wires were loose or plugs undone; everything looked fine there. Next, I undid the electrical ground from under the dash and chipped the powder coating away from it as well. A few folks on Blatchat said that’d helped to fix some of their issues too. Next, I filled the tank with a can of gasoline to the brim to verify it indeed was half empty. It took about 3.5 US gallons of gas which means the tank was just slightly over half full and indeed the gauge is reading wrong. I also checked the signal from the fuel sender with a multimeter and was getting close to 12volts as expected. The ground seemed to be working just fine as well. At this point, no idea what the hell is wrong with it.
The third item on the punch list was to try and figure out the idle issue. During last Sunday’s outing it seemed the car ran better when it was cold out and it ran less reliably as it warmed up. With that in mind, I started the car up in the garage on jack stands and used a small hex wrench to adjust the idle screw until it was idling perfect at 1500 RPM with no funny business. I then revved the engine with the throttle body by hand to get it up to temperature. The car immediately started acting loopy and couldn’t seem to find a good idle to save its life. It stalled out once. Keeping my hand on the throttle just enough to set the RPMs at 2,000 kept it from stalling or bouncing.
I then cut the engine off and climbed underneath the car to look for any bad grounds or issues that might be present. While I was down there I happened to notice an odd gold color on the oil pan.
I climbed back out from under the car and fetched the flashlight. Sure enough, there was a sheen of oil all over the oil pan and near the bellhousing.
The string of four letter words I’m sure was heard in the neighboring county.
After calming myself down, I got some brake cleaner and cleaned the pan off. I then put some RTV under the bolt heads which appeared to be leaking as shown in the following pic.
That’s all fine and great though, and a total waste of time, because oil is still leaking from between the oil pan and the bellhousing which means the seal between the block and the pan inside the bellhousing isn’t intact.
That means the pan has to come back off, and to do that means pulling the motor this time. I don’t think you can get a good seal without taking the timing cover off, and that probably means taking the motor out or at least lifting it partially, which probably means doing a bunch of more shit. Sigh.
After that I calmly put my tools away, turned off the light, and called it a day. As I trudged up the stairs I realized I didn’t even feel defeated or frustrated, just completely numb from acknowledging the reality I’m wasting my time going further with fixing everything. If it can’t hold oil, well, that’s kind of a prerequisite.
That presents the next question – how do I get this thing to even run properly? For starters, I need to get the car to a race shop where they can resolve the oil issue. Either the race shop or I need to get Caterham to help identify what the hell is wrong with the idle, speedo, and the fuel gauge while the oil issue gets resolved. In the UK, Caterham has a post-build check to resolve these kinds of issues, but nothing like that exists here in the States. You’re pretty much on your own so perhaps a ‘health check’ of sorts makes sense.
After that… who knows. When writing the first draft of this post I actually had written a fairly emotional rant here at the end. However, after reading it back a few times, I decided to remove it because it’s clear I have a lot of conflicted emotions. Rather, I’ll just simply say I’ve hit what I believe is the end of my patience with this experience. It’s probably up for debate if that’s due to Caterham’s poor product quality or my inexperienced mechanical skills, but the fact remains that my view of this experience, and the car itself, is so negative at this stage that I think it folly to continue investing my time or energy on it in at least the near term.