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Miscellaneous - Beginners guide to spannering on your Mini

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Miscellaneous - Beginners guide to spannering on your Mini

Postby TechTeamMod » Tue 25th Nov 2008, 01:22pm

Beginners guide to spannering on your Mini

Now you may have only just got your mini or you may have had it for ages and just paid your way at the garage, but here I will attempt to give you a basic guide to starting to fix stuff your self.

What do I need?
Before you get started there are a few things you will need:

The first thing is some tools. You don't need anything fancy but good tools do a long way. To start with all you will need is some screwdrivers, Imperial spanners and an Imperial socket set. These can be got cheaply enough from a number suppliers but Machine Mart do some cheap Clarke sets which aren't that bad either. A grease gun is also pretty essential for old cars like the mini as well as the fabled 'BFH' or big effin hammer.

With these simple tools you can do pretty much all the basics. As you progress you will need more items such as feeler gauges and torque wrenches but these can be bought as needed.

Other stuff
Get a Haynes manual. Yes, believe it or not they are actually useful! The best one is the light blue one, if you have a later injection Mini you will need the manual that covers these cars (though they cover it all they are not as good generally as the light blue one so it may be wise to have both knocking about).

You don't need to pay much for these either. eBay will want about £5-10 to your door often and most are in mint condition.

Other items that may prove useful are the old BMC workshop manuals. Again you can get these on eBay for about a tenner or they do exist on PDF format so ask about and I am sure some one can send you a CD with them on for a pint. These are very useful as they are what the manufacturer gave to garages to fix the cars so do cover everything. The down side is they do expect you to know a certain amount.

Space and Storage
If you are thinking of planning a complete rebuild of a mini from shell level then space is vitally important. Minis contain a lot more parts than you think and having mini parts here there and everywhere does create a mess and not having the storage capacity can mean parts left outside to rust or parts in every room of the house. Fine if you're single but not so suitable if you're wanting to attract a partner to your place for dinner!

Having the space to actually work on your mini is also a major godsend. Having to work out on the road is not practical and rather dangerous too as there is the tendency for cars to use the roads. It is more convenient to have a mini space if your property allows.

You know that ball joint you were going to replace 3 weeks ago but ran out of time to fix?? Let that be a lesson to you. Many people regard Minis as a simple, basic car with simple mechanicals.. In essence, they are.....that doesn't mean that they are not a complete pain in the bum to work on at times. Sometimes the simplest of tasks such as a ball joint or replacing a filter can lead to untold problems, just because it is a '5 minute job' do not assume that that is always the case!

With added time comes added patience. That ball joint has cost you more time than you wanted and you just want the mini back on the road dont you? Keep calm, have a cup of tea (apparently obligatory for mini owners), do what you have to do to calm down and keep at it. A lot of projects fail because the owners have lost patience with the car. We suggest you keep at it and reap the rewards at the end. They make all the hassle seem worth it.


Getting Started!
The best place to start is usually to give your mini a service. Most minis are neglected mechanics wise and you cannot check things too often. So open the Haynes manual you bought earlier (You did buy the Haynes manual didn't you?) and turn to the bit about servicing near the front.

Right now read it. And now again. In fact just keep reading it some more. Now you should understand it. This bit is designed to be reasonably simple, but if you do find your self struggling to understand bits go out to the mini, open the bonnet and look at what they are talking about, it usually helps you.

Once you understand the service items go ahead and do one! It might be a bit scary but everyone had to start some where. Though before you do start taking bits off make sure you have all you need, oil, filter etc as there is nothing worse than having a car in bits the realising you haven't got a bit you need!

A service will replace the some or all following depending on condition and if your car has them:
  • Oil and oil filter (ideally this should be done every 3000 miles, only use 20W50 oil as that's what your gear box was designed for)
  • Air Filter (do this once it looks dirty, but check it every time you change the oil)
  • Spark plugs
  • High Tension Leads (The leads to the spark plugs aka HT leads)

On pre 1996 Minis:
* Distributor cap (the 'pot' at the other end of the HT leads)
* Rotor arm (the small arm in side the distributor that turns and chooses which cylinder to get a spark)
* Contact points (A small switch inside the Distributor that switches the spark on and off. Some later cars had an electronic system replace these. These usually have a black box on the side or a electric box of tricks either in the Distributor or connected to it.)

Moving forward
Now you have had your first go at fixing something on your mini and not killed your self you should have gained some confidence. So next time you have a problem you might be more prepared to have a go. But how do you know if you can actually do the job? The answer is in your Haynes manual.

First you read the job you are contemplating a couple times. If you under stand it and feel confident, go for it! If you are a bit unsure or need some reassurance, have a quick search or ask in the technical forums. A quick search will often find a nice full thread (or 10) answering the question well but failing this just ask in the appropriate forum, we don't bite (often) and will try help if we can. But be aware there are some grumpy gits in there, so make sure you ask your question clearly and try use the right names for parts as it makes it easier for every one. Also starting threads "I couldn't be bothered to search so....." is generally a bad idea.

Don't be afraid of admitting a job is beyond you either. Not every one is able to strip a gear box or rebuild a radius arm, some stuff is better left to some one who knows what they are doing and has bought the expensive tools needed for some jobs.

Getting in the swing of things
By now you should be getting quite handy with the spanner and building up your tool kit nicely. With time you will be able to do more than you can't and will be saving a small fortune in garage bills.
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