Dis­as­ter strikes. Again.

PART TEN: Hav­ing clocked up 1400 miles in our In­signia, the en­gine sud­denly stopped run­ning. Rob Hawkins puts on his over­alls once more.

Car Mechanics (UK) - - CM Project -

We hon­estly thought that once the trip­me­ter had passed the 1000-mile mark, we’d got the bet­ter of our In­signia and fixed all its prob­lems. Then it well and truly bit us on the be­hind one day, when the en­gine sim­ply cut out and raised a trac­tion con­trol er­ror on the dash­board. The en­gine would freely spin over on a twist of the ig­ni­tion key, but re­fused to fire back into life.

Green Flag came to the res­cue and trans­ported the life­less In­signia back to our lo­cal garage, MJ Mo­tors, who have been in­volved in the res­ur­rec­tion of this project ve­hi­cle from the start. Both Green Flag and the me­chan­ics at MJ Mo­tors plugged in their di­ag­nos­tic equip­ment, but noth­ing was point­ing to the rea­son for the en­gine not run­ning.

Con­fi­dent that there was diesel fuel in the tank and that it was get­ting to the en­gine, we de­cided to check the tim­ing. We got stuck into re­mov­ing the tim­ing belt cover and off­side en­gine mount to be able to check the tim­ing marks, but ev­ery­thing ap­peared to line up cor­rectly.

The next sug­ges­tion was that the rock­ers could have bro­ken. With the two camshafts lo­cated in­side the rocker cover, the valves are opened and closed via 16 rock­ers. So, the in­jec­tors along with their fuel pipes, wiring and other as­so­ci­ated parts were re­moved, be­fore the bolts hold­ing down the rocker cover could be ac­cessed and un­done. Once the rocker cover had been re­moved, we thought we had found the cause of the prob­lem. Four rock­ers were in­deed bro­ken – but there was more… We then dis­cov­ered the ex­haust camshaft had snapped in two, close to where the tim­ing belt sprocket is at­tached.

Armed with a new set of rock­ers and an ex­haust camshaft, we thought we’d got the bet­ter of the prob­lem. Once the en­gine had been re­assem­bled, we tried to man­u­ally ro­tate it, but it re­fused to move. Dan Smith at MJ Mo­tors re­mained calm and day four of this dis­as­ter saw his two-post ramp oc­cu­pied by a dead In­signia. Af­ter some ex­plo­ration, Dan found the cul­prit.

The crank­shaft tim­ing cog was dam­aged where a cut-out on the in­side al­lows it to be lo­cated on the crank­shaft by a woodruff key. That cut-out had been en­larged, so there was move­ment in the cog, which meant the tim­ing was in­cor­rect. We sus­pect this prob­lem was the rea­son for the tim­ing belt re­newal in July last year by the pre­vi­ous owner.

Un­de­terred by th­ese set­backs, ev­ery­one in­volved has re­mained keen to keep this In­signia alive, and we’ve suc­ceeded once again and are clock­ing up the miles once more. The costs may be spi­ralling into the strato­sphere, but there’s an im­por­tant les­son to be learned here: when you skimp on rou­tine main­te­nance, even­tu­ally there will be a price to pay.

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