I just joined, hoping to get some advice on a restoring a Big 15 that’s been garaged for the last 15 years.
My dad used to be a member of the club and I remember reading his copies of floating power as a kid, he did all his own maintenance and his Red Big 15 always got admiring looking when he drove it round Biggin Hill, Kent.
Sadly he passed away 15 years ago, we actually drove the car to his funeral, unfortunately when putting it back in the garage I managed to jam the starter motor in the gearbox and it’s been stuck in the garage at my mums house since then.
Me and brother bumped into another traction owner in Wales last week who thought the gearbox jam could be fixed fairly easily by removing the starter motor (I’m pretty sure this happened to the car before which also required the starter motor removal) which got us wondering whether we could get it back on the road. Obviously there’s a lot of other things to fix. The brakes have bound onto the drums and the engine hasn’t turned for so long that maybe it’s all seized up and rusted? Hopefully the body hasn’t rusted while it’s been garaged.
Does anyone have experience of restoring a car in this state? Where would you start? I guess remove the starter motor, see if the engine can be turned by the handle, sort out the wheels and brakes, try to get the engine going?
Any tips would be appreciated.
1st- remove the starter. It won’t be stuck on the gearbox but would be stuck on the ring gear on the flywheel. Have the starter rebuilt.
2nd- Put some oil down the spark plug holes, such as Marvel Mystery Oil if that is available in the U.K. I have heard that Red X is similar. Let sit for a few days, then try and crank the engine by hand. If it moves easily, great, if not then the engine most likely will need to come out.
3rd. Are all the wheels stuck? Jack the car up and try to move each wheel. You will probably need to back off on the adjusters on the backing plates but they should move. If not, remove the drums and see what is going on. A proper front brake drum puller will take the drum off even if it is stuck. The rear drums should come off by beating on the rear sides using a sledge hammer and a block of wood. Then do the needful for the brakes.
This is all for starters, but how was the car stored? In dry conditions? Exposed to the weather? Up on blocks? 15 years really isn’t that long if the car was stored properly. Keep us appraised of your progress.
Welcome to the club. Good luck with this. Whereabouts are you?
Without knowing how much Traction-lore you picked up from your dad, when Larry refers to a proper front drum puller, he means the special Citroen tool. Not a generic 3- legged puller. This is what it looks like in action with a tyre lever stopping the drum rotating. Big spanner on the hexagon nears the camera. When it goes, it goes with a bang!
I would expect all 4 wheel cylinders to be rusted up and need replacing. I would recommend looking at all the brake pipes and at least replacing the flexible lines at this point.
Whilst the brakes may be stuck for forward rotation you might be able to get them to move by turning the wheels backwards.
If you put Redex down the bores, which s a good idea. Don’t use too much – half a tea spoon is enough – and keep the plugs out when you try to spin the engine.
What actually is the symptom of the jammed starter / gearbox? Or what were the original symptoms?
Taking the starter motor off is pretty simple – it is just held on by one bolt. Then there’s a bit of jiggling and persuasion needed to get it to come out. If things free up with the starter motor removed, do not be tempted to bump start the car. Never do this. Use the starting handle.
When you have things going round, you will need to drain and replace all the fluids. Flush the rad / engine. And take a good look at the rubber bits – brake hoses, water hoses and fuel lines. Best to replace the lot. Grease all the grease points. And take a good look at the tyres. They will be past their use by date.
To get it to run you’ll need to make sure you have fresh fuel, points and lugs properly gapped and the timing more or less right – and some charge in the battery.
If it doesn’t fire up there are several threads on here that cover troubleshooting that sort of thing.
You’ll be getting to know Chris Treagust – TOC Spares.
Hi Larry, Chris,
Thanks for your suggestions. I’m no car mechanic, but I used to watch my dad maintaining his Citroen as a small boy so hopefully some of it sunk in.
Chris – A 3 legged puller sounds like your having a joke with me! Your picture looks a lot like a tool I saw in the garage so maybe we have one of these.
What happened to the starter motor was that it used to occasionally spin up without engaging, whirring at very high speed. When this happened, we would quickly have to switch it off and try again. Unfortunately this time I was too slow and before I could switch it off, the starter gear flew into the gear at high speed jamming it in. The engine became stuck at the point (unable to turn it with the handle).
My brother is down on the bank holiday weekend so we’ll see how far we get. Fingers crossed..
I’m guessing there’s a few tech articles in the magazine that refer to reviving a garaged car, although I haven’t looked through them yet.
If you are a member of TOC you will know there are sections that have tools for loan. It is imperative that you borrow a set and use the correct tools to remove the front hub, don’t be tempted to make do with a lash up. There is plenty of information in back issues of Floating Power to help and there is some good stuff on line although most seems to be in Dutch. The rear brakes are less of a problem but I would heat any of the drums around the periphery rather than banging them with any thing if they are reluctant to come off. Brake cylinders can be honed if not pitted even if they are seized and brought back into service with new seals. The cooling system will obviously need draining and cleaning and the drain plug on the block removed to check that coolant flows out. If not I have a formula for flushing out. All the previous post tips are well worth following up.
Usually when the starter spins without engaging, it means that there is grease or other crud on the splines. This must be kept free of grease and the only lubricant should be a light oil like 3 In1 or some kind of sewing machine oil. If the starter won’t come out after removing the securing bolt, the engine will likely have to be pulled out and the gearbox removed. Then the starter can be knocked out with a hammer. I had to do this with my 49 BL and it took a BIG hammer that I swung like a golf club. But you may get lucky. And yes, use the proper club-supplied brake drum puller. Anything else can be dangerous.
We’re going to have a go next weekend. I’ll do a quick check on what tools we need tomorrow.
>If you put Redex down the bores, which s a good idea. Don’t use too much – half a tea spoon is enough – and keep the plugs out when you try to spin the engine.
A question about Redex. They make a number of products.
I assume it’s the Petrol System Cleaner I need?
Also, I have a question about tool hire. Is there a deposit / rental charge? Would I just drive down and collect from one of the local sections?
I’m in Croydon, Surrey, but the car is in Biggin Hill, Kent.
thanks in advance,
Here’s a couple of photos I took. I assume the starter motor fixing bolt is the one I circled in red.
Update – Starter motor came out easily! Access makes it hard to fully remove. Is it possible to get it out without removing the manifold? Maybe by lowering it downward?
Engine seems to turn a bit now, I didn’t want to move it too much yet. Something sounds a bit like lose parts in the gearbox, hopefully nothing broke off, can’t be sure until fully remove the starter and check it. Gearbox turns freely and quietly if clutch is in.
Jacked up the wheels. Front two turn ok. Rear ones won’t budge. Is there an adjuster I can try to free them with before taking wheels off? I suspect the brake hoses are perished a bit. Not sure what state the pistons are in, likely not good, but I have only one spare piston.
You should be able to lift the starter out from under the manifold- it is smaller in diameter than a 6-volt unit so it ought to come right out. You will have to remove the manifold drain line but that should be it.
On the rear wheels there are two shallow bolt heads that take a 17 mil spanner- looking at the backing plate, you will see them on the upper part of the backng plate. Try to move these in either direction but to loosen the shoes, they should both be turned in a downward direction. Try turning them and smacking the upper part of the brake drum with a hammer and a block of wood- this may make the brakes shoes retract a bit. New brake cylinders are available, but you may only need to replace the rubber bits.
Loose parts in the gearbox, that is a little hard to determine.
Your car looks to be left hand drive? Very rare!
Are you sure its a Big 15 and not a French or Belgian 11B? If its French, it would be 6 volts and looking at the battery I think it is, but the starter should still come out without taking off the manifold. It won’t go from underneath.
Thank you for the tips, that’s very helpful. I’ll give that a try on the brakes.
>Are you sure its a Big 15 and not a French or Belgian 11B?
Sorry for the confusion, this is a French model 11BN (Normale)
Tool sets are held by a number of TOC Sections. A full list appears on the Section Details page in FP and a symbol indicates which ones hold tools and the relevant contact information.
The nearest to you is probably London or perhaps Surrey/Hants/Sussex. They tend to be in fairly high demand so the sooner you stake your claim the better.
For ease of admin and traceability, tool sets are loaned to members as an entity- i.e. not split to supply idividual tools – and, although there is no hire fee, a substantial deposit will be required. Borrowers are expected to use and return them promptly to assist others.
I noticed the toolset only mentions front wheel puller. Do the rear wheels not need pullers to remove?
Rear wheels are on taper bearings. The hub nut should be no more than finger tight and the drums come off easily but may need a jiggle for the inner bearing to finally clear the outer end of the stub axle.