An active weekend

I spent lots of time with the car this weekend since the weather has been great – highs in the low 70’s and sunny. I wouldn’t mind some chilly winter air to make the season feel more Christmasy, however, I could stand to have another few days of driving time before winter really sets in.

Saturday morning Kim and I took the Caterham up to the park to get some exercise since the weather was good and I needed to get the car up to temp before I worked on the idle tuning. The park was unusually deserted; I assume most folks were out Christmas shopping. I grabbed a quick pic of Kim and the car; this composition is entitled “Two Princesses at the Park”.

Two Princesses in the Park

On the way back we stopped for breakfast at the Flying Biscuit since Goldberg’s was packed – I guess everyone was at breakfast instead of shopping. The Flying Biscuit was also packed, but ended up with a parking spot directly in front of the door. As a general rule, I hate parking in front of the door – too many people asking questions and too much attention. True to form, everyone waiting outside for a table took their time checking out the car and before I was able to even get out of the car had a group of onlookers asking questions. When we went in the waitress asked us if that amount of attention was normal; Kim and I laughed and said yes. The waitress then went outside to take a picture of the car for her son; again, a normal occurrence. Breakfast was great, eggs and sausage, then went for a quick drive to enjoy the warm weather. Once home I set about tuning the idle and fixing the temperature gauge light that had burned out.

Two notes on the idle issue. First, the idle screw that comes with the throttle body from Ford (Caterham OEM) is a hex head little nub and a pain in the ass to tune. You have to get underneath with a hex head wrench and adjust then use an 8mm socket on top to lock the idle screw in place. The socket isn’t so bad, but getting the hex head in there and lined up by feel requires patience.

Old idle screw

The better approach, thanks to James at Caterham, is to replace the idle hex head screw with a phillips head bolt and nyloc nut. This pic was prior to adjusting the position, hence the nyloc nut isn’t secured (yet).

Correct idle screw

Tuning the idle after swapping the idle screw out was much easier and faster. About 10 minutes later I had the engine nice and smooth about 1500 RPM. My second point is that I did notice the RPM gauge is not entirely accurate as Mark mentioned to me in email a week or so ago – it’s a good 150-200 RPM high. With that in mind, I’ve got the idle about 1300ish or so and the car seems to run well. I moved the throttle by hand quite a bit while tuning, and have driven it a hundred miles or so since, and haven’t had it stall on me once. The engine note at idle is MUCH better – the engine is actually idling now rather than “running” at 2200 RPM like before. Big difference. I still get a small surge where the engine gets loopy, but it only bounces 2-3 times then settles right down to a smooth idle. Much, much improved.

Next up was changing the burned out bulb in the dash. I used a small mirror to see under the dash without trying to get my head underneath – it’s a handy tool I got at Sears for $5 one day on a whim – and very quickly found the two spade terminal disconnects and the bulb socket. Just pull out the bulb from its round socket on back of the gauge and then use a set of needle nose pliers to pull out the spade terminals. Insert the new bulb into the spade terminals then push it into the back of the gauge. Make sure to turn off the lights / power when swapping the bulb.

On Sunday morning, I went to pick up Mick at his house to go to the local Lotus dealer’s Toys for Tots charity event. But before we did that, it was time for some breakfast! Obligatory Waffle House stop in full effect. Mick queued up some Marvin Gaye on the jukebox; I ran out to get a picture of the car in front of Waffle house just cause.

Waffle House

The event was a success, lots of toys donated, and weather was again great for a drive in the Caterham. Lots of people at the event asked about the car; its a small sense of accomplishment when the guy with the $300,000 dollar McLaren long tail (675LT) comes over to say how much he likes your car. After dropping the toys off, Mick and I did a scenic drive home. Car ran great, weather was great, was an awesome day.

One last note – when on the expressway, wear a full helmet. I got knocked in the lip with a small pebble and it stung quite a bit. Around town I’ve always been fine with the Halcyon goggles, but at higher speeds those little stones hurt a lot more!


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