Today I mostly .....

Any topics of general interest (not lada related), post them here.
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Re: Today I mostly .....

Post by Zelandeth » Wed Apr 21, 2021 9:21 pm

Task number 1 today... changing rear spheres on the Xantia. Aside from knowing having it done will make the car far, far more pleasant to drive, I really want to get the sphere removal tool back to its owner. I'm utterly paranoid about losing other people's tools so always try to get them back as soon as I can.

Dodged the usual game of chasing the ramps around by doing the job on the lawn. They dig in enough there to stay put.

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Still hate getting the car onto the ramps.

Of course because it's the Activa there's a hydraulic line in precisely the right place to be in the way when you're trying to get the removal tool onto the sphere.

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Not enough to be a problem, just enough to be moderately annoying.

Offside one first, wound off without too much of a fight

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Only slight game I had there was the seal vanishing into another dimension (I did find it eventually) which had me second guessing if I'd got the old one out of the strut for a few minutes.

New one in. That's this side done.

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Nearside required a little more persuasion to shift, but I was still able to do it by hand just using the sphere tool. Didn't need to get any additional breaker bar or anything involved. It's really nice working on a car where the previous owner or a garage haven't overtightened absolutely everything.

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New sphere on.

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Tightened the bleed screw on the regulator back up, checked for leaks then that's that job done. Maybe 20 minutes?

Well it would be if the new spheres weren't flat. Knew it was a bit of a risk being NOS ones from 1998...but was worth a shot. Offside one is passable, nearside one though is just as bad as the one that came off.

No huge inconvenience really, as mentioned above they take about 20 minutes to change and they were given to me free, so I'm really not even in the slightest irked by this development - it's just one of those things that happens when you're tinkering with old cars and old parts!

We'll be playing this game again shortly then.


Second new belt was picked up for TPA today so those have now been fitted. Adjustment seems spot on with the six spacers split evenly with three on each side.

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The bit of trim that I re-stuck to the offside door appears to have remained firmly attached overnight - so if I have any more bits coming adrift I know going in what approach to use - basically loads of adhesive.

On the subject of trim, while getting the whole roof lined is definitely a job for "sometime in the future" one bit I really wanted to address was the rear C pillar on the offside, mainly because of an unsightly historic repair there.

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Conveniently I had a couple of offcuts left from when I did the carpeting job which I was fed up of shuffling from place to place in the garage. They were just big enough to do this.

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Far tidier!

Obviously made a matching one for the other side too.

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Have left them both wedged in place while the glue sets. I'd really like to replace the windscreen demister duct, however it's still a way down the list - especially at £25+ a metre!
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Current fleet: 96 Citroen Xantia Activa, 90 Mercedes 208D Autotrail Navajo, 85 Jaguar XJ-S V12 HE, 85 Sinclair C5, 73 AC Model-70.

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Re: Today I mostly .....

Post by Zelandeth » Thu Apr 22, 2021 4:55 pm

Well I don't know if it is the *only* oil leak on TPA, but the oil pressure switch is definitely a source of *an* oil leak. This was cleaned up and completely dry before I set off today.

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Will get a new one ordered from Prokschi later on.

Have to admit that I'm staggered at the difference changing the Dynastart belts has made. Not so much in noise, but I'd say it's reduced mechanical vibration by about 80%, the engine just feels so much smoother now. Wouldn't have expected such a small mass wobbling around a bit to make such a huge difference, but I know vibration can be strange like that once you take into account resonance effects and such.

It's definitely improved performance of the charging system too, it starts charging a good bit earlier than it used to.

The additional trim panels on the rear pillars has helped the overall feeling of refinement in the cabin I think. It vastly reduces the amount of unfinished fibreglass you can see when you open the door. The roof obviously being the major bugbear in that department now.

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Trying to decide when I get to that stage whether to trim the panel behind the sun visor the same dark grey I've used elsewhere or to match it to the lighter shade I'll be using for the roof.

Thinking probably stick with the grey as that will nicely blend in with the windscreen pillars.
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Current fleet: 96 Citroen Xantia Activa, 90 Mercedes 208D Autotrail Navajo, 85 Jaguar XJ-S V12 HE, 85 Sinclair C5, 73 AC Model-70.

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Re: Today I mostly .....

Post by Zelandeth » Sun Apr 25, 2021 10:44 pm

Nothing much to report from this weekend, though I did finally get around to giving the Jag a wash this afternoon. The amount of gunk that was accumulated around the window seals and such like was frankly embarrassing.

It's definitely one of the most awkward cars I've ever had to clean - especially the front and rear overhangs. Doesn't scrub up too bad though from ten paces.

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Hoping to get the van in for an MOT this week to find out if there's any work needed for that I'm not currently aware of (expecting a shock absorber and a couple of brake pipes as the ferrules are rustier than I'd like). Have had a couple of recommendations for a garage to use (my usual one can't deal with vehicles this large) so we'll see how that goes.
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Re: Today I mostly .....

Post by Zelandeth » Mon Apr 26, 2021 10:57 pm

Later this week I've got a couple of portable split system air conditioners to collect. I reckon that I *might* just about be able to Tetris both of them into the back of the Xantia...maybe. I'm quite braced for having to make two trips though. At the end of the day it's only an hour each way so if I need to make to trips it's hardly the end of the world. However if I had the van available that would make things far, far easier as I'd have bags of room to spare then.

Following a few recommendations on the MK Modern Classics group on Facebook, I've got it booked in with MOTest in Newport Pagnell on Wednesday morning for a test. My usual garage can't do me an MOT on this as it's too big and too heavy for their test bay.

I've been out and given her a quick once over. The brake hose ferrules are a bit more crusty than I'd really like. I wouldn't say they're bad, but I'd definitely expect them to at the very least to be an advisory. They'll be getting changed either way - just not before Wednesday.

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Still slightly irked that the garage last year didn't even get a mention last year given the number of as far as I can tell non existent faults with the braking system that they found and charged me for sorting...Would have expected the rigid lines to have got a mention too - though those at least just need a clean up I reckon.

The front shock absorbers, particularly the offside one look quite crusty (and it has a dust cover held on with a cable tie), but they both work as far as I can tell. Like the brake flexible lines, I'm going to plan on swapping those out in the near future anyway for peace of mind.

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I've sorted the spurious brake pad wear warning light issue - by disconnecting the sensor leads. I'm not proud of it, but the problem is a simple fundamental issue with the system design which results in false triggering with modern brake pads. Rather than the way for instance BMC did where they just have a light in series with a metal tab in the brake shoe, which grounds the circuit through the disc when the pad gets worn down, Mercedes have the switching done by a transistor - meaning that even the tiniest bit of leakage to ground at the brake end of things brings the light on. I don't think I've ever actually seen one of these vans where the wiring wasn't snipped off decades ago... guessing this may be why! I've not cut anything, no need to. There are two connectors that can be unplugged in the engine bay. So if somewhere down the line I feel like modifying the system to be less hyper sensitive I can easily get it going again. Though being honest on a van that's doing a couple of thousand miles a year it's really not necessary. Obviously would be far more important a feature if she was a van in heavy commercial service doing thousands of miles a month!

Discovered the nearside indicator repeater was out. This turned out to be a bit of poor design. The ground for the repeater is via the mounting screw - however that's just a self tapping screw into a plastic plug on the inside of the wing. A bit of rust on the screw where it passed through the wing = dead light. I've done away with that and replaced it with a nut and bolt with a shake proof washer, and a big blob of grease over it to keep water out.

There could be a thousand things I've missed though...it barely moved last year. Obviously being an old Merc rust is the biggest fear!

I then went and cleared what felt like about two tonnes of dead leaves and dog hair out of the interior.

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I'll get back under there tomorrow and give all the rigid brake lines a rub down and see if I spot anything else needing attention. I will say it's really nice having a vehicle that you can comfortably work underneath without needing to faff about with jacks or ramps! In the interests of seeing off Murphy's Law, I do stick an axle stand under the chassis rails though just in case a spring decided to snap while I was crawling around under there. Unlikely? Yes. However I know my luck and it takes all of thirty seconds to do. So let's just play it safe.

I'd by absolutely lying through my teeth if I didn't say I that even just on the run to the testing centre that I was massively looking forward to driving the old bus again. It's been far, far too long. I do find it highly amusing the degree of decision paralysis that I sometimes suffer as to whether to go out driving in a Citroen Xantia Activa, 2.8 tonnes of camper van with 78bhp, a V12 Jag XJ-S, or an Invacar. I enjoy driving all of them...Though honestly the Invacar probably has caused the biggest grins from me lately.

They all have their moments though...

Xantia: Seeming ability to totally ignore the laws of physics where changes in direction are concerned and the addictive shove in the back when it comes on boost.

Jag: The sheer degree of torque from a standing start is absolutely ridiculous...oh, and the noise when you go anywhere north of 3000rpm. Comfort goes without saying...and the looks.

Van: She's just a lovely old thing to drive. Gearchange, steering, ride and strangely enough, the smell all say vintage bus to me.

Invacar: Hard to point at any one thing, as it's just such an utterly unique driving experience...and far, far more capable a vehicle than you'd ever think to look at.

In other fleet news, for the last month or so I've been unable to get the boot on the Xantia unlocked. Wouldn't unlock with the central locking or the key. No amount of fiddling around with either on a dozen or so occasions had any effect. Yeah...right up to this afternoon when I went outside to properly investigate and fix it.

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When I unlocked the car to undertake this task the bootlid unlocked perfectly normally. The lock has then proceeded to work absolutely perfectly, and pulling the trim off didn't reveal anything amiss which would have caused any issues. Yep, that's pretty much situation normal then!
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Current fleet: 96 Citroen Xantia Activa, 90 Mercedes 208D Autotrail Navajo, 85 Jaguar XJ-S V12 HE, 85 Sinclair C5, 73 AC Model-70.

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Re: Today I mostly .....

Post by Zelandeth » Tue Apr 27, 2021 9:07 pm

Had a few errands to run today, the weather was decent and as we weren't boxed in by school traffic for five minutes I took TPA out.

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Another fifty or so miles done today without really thinking about it - even though I could have done without the monsoon that descended on the A5 about halfway home. She handled it fine though and about 90% of the water stayed outside the car, reckon it'll be fine once I replace the window channel rubbers.

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The windscreen is at least fully weatherproof now it seems so I don't wind up with water dripping on my knees any more - that used to get old in a hurry.

Dynastart belts are squeaking a bit just now at idle but I reckon they'll shut up once they've bedded in a bit.
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Re: Today I mostly .....

Post by Zelandeth » Wed Apr 28, 2021 11:03 am

Well that could have been worse.

One sticky brake caliper (41% imbalance on the machine - though it felt like it was improving on the way home) and a couple of silly minor things that will take five minutes to sort.

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I've got it booked in for next Tuesday to have the brakes sorted - though if I have the opportunity before then I may well whip the wheel off and see if it will respond to a clean up and grease of the caliper slides.

Bit irked at the headlight aim...that was last touched by the previous test station and I always reckoned it was off since they fiddled with it. Though given the overall standard of their workmanship I shouldn't be surprised I guess...
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Re: Today I mostly .....

Post by Zelandeth » Sun May 02, 2021 11:11 pm

Absolutely nothing to do with the cars this weekend - I'm absolutely wrecked now as it's been flat out yesterday cleaning and gardening today.

Turns out that the BBC want to do a brief segment (like a couple of minutes in one of their regional news shows) on the 40th anniversary of the Homeworld 81 Expo...And of course given that our house was built under contract to the then Money Programme, they want to get a bit of footage both from outside and looking into the house through a couple of the frontage windows.

This will be happening sometime over the next few weeks...Which means that a SERIOUS bit of tidying up needed to happen. Especially in the Atrium which has been basically buried for the last year and a half. With getting to the tip being a major hassle and charity shops not accepting donations, things have just slowly built up in there.

So over the weekend we started tidying it up. Took *all day* yesterday but it's mostly done now. Have had to recycle a lot of stuff we would normally have donated, but that's just how things have gone. Xantia is full again so will be doing another tip run on Monday, and a huge amount of stuff has just been chucked into the shed...I'll curse myself for that next time I need to get the mower out.

This does mean however that for I think the first time in at least a year and a half, we can actually see the pool table again!

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Once that pile of stuff at the far end is cleared enough you can absolutely bet it'll be getting used again. Really do need to get the poor thing re-covered at some point though as the cloth is in really poor shape. Well, cosmetically it is - it actually plays astonishingly well all things considered. Just would be really nice to get it properly tidied up.

In the same vein, we got any graphical wizards here? One small cosmetic issue that really bugs me is that the original makers badge is really badly faded.

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It's a small but quite prominent detail and really bugs me. The fact it's right in front of you when you come in the front door doesn't help.

The background should be black, the HGM logos and lettering frame white and the fill of the lettering a deep green. I *think* the "shadow" should be a 75% grey. Shouldn't be that hard to remake, but figured it was worth asking before I spend forever doing it the hard way.
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Current fleet: 96 Citroen Xantia Activa, 90 Mercedes 208D Autotrail Navajo, 85 Jaguar XJ-S V12 HE, 85 Sinclair C5, 73 AC Model-70.

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Re: Today I mostly .....

Post by Zelandeth » Tue May 04, 2021 6:10 pm

So the van was back in for remedial work and a retest this morning. Something became immediately apparent pretty much the moment I pulled out of the driveway - and that was that she was now pulling up in an absolutely perfectly straight line, rather than pulling hard to the right under braking. Apparently whatever was causing the nearside caliper to be lazy has cleared itself. Sure enough, on the rollers at the test station the brake balance was spot on. One headlight adjustment later...

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Advisories:

[] Corrosion on brake hose ferrules. Knew that going in. I'll look to get the flexible brake lines changed in the near future as I agree they've seen better days. While I can't see any perishing the rubber just has that "old" look to it that doesn't inspire confidence. There are only three on the van and they're not expensive.

[] Corrosion on rigid lines. They're fine I reckon and just need cleaning up and given some protection. If anything looks even vaguely suspect though I'll change it.

[] Frayed nearside seatbelt. It's been on every test back to about 2003 I think. Someone obviously used to regularly shut it in the door. If I come across a breaker at some point I'll change it, but I'm not worrying about it in the meantime.

[] General underbody corrosion. Yep...It's an 80s/90s Merc. The underside of the cab is basically a series of patches held together by some bits of vaguely cab-shaped metal...Though it doesn't look to have got any worse over the last couple of years - I do think that a Vactan/Dinitrol party will be in the van's near future though. I did actually think about doing that before the MOT, but I'd rather the tester be able to see it warts and all given it's the first time they've seen the vehicle.

[] Missing exhaust rubber. It isn't...There are about half a dozen exhaust layouts used on this van and the hangers are present on the chassis for all of the variants - the one that's "missing" is positioned in such a location that on this system there is physically no way you could fit one there, it would pull the pipe into direct contact with the bodywork - not that there's a hanger on the pipe there for it to attach to anyway.

The initial issue with the brakes though is a clear signal that she's telling me that the calipers need to be given a good clean and inspection though. Aside from anything else the front brakes squeal horrendously when you're coming to a halt and have done as long as I've had the van. I'm seriously tempted to just to fit the new pads I've got in stock to see if that stops the squeaking as it's absolutely maddening in stop/start traffic.

Did mean I could get her out for a decent run this afternoon though which I'm sure has done the world of good. Also finally got around to replacing the horrible aero hybrid wipers which just looked daft.

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If you couldn't see them so obviously from in the cab it might have annoyed me slightly less. Anyhow, standard wipers now on...and again have confirmed that there's nothing for making you realise how badly degraded your old wiper blades were than fitting new ones.
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Re: Today I mostly .....

Post by Zelandeth » Sat May 08, 2021 8:28 pm

Seems to be a week for disintegrating wiper blades - Xantia decided to start shedding the rubber from the driver's one while I was out this morning so that too has joined the New Wiper Blade Club.

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Disappointing to see the hybrid blades fail so quickly. They performed very well, but at more than twice the price of normal ones they would need to last at least twice as long as they did for me to consider putting them on again...so back to conventional ones it is. To be fair, they look absolutely daft on anything made before about 2010 anyway so probably for the best.
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Re: Today I mostly .....

Post by Zelandeth » Tue May 11, 2021 1:36 am

Little been going on lately really as sadly boring responsible adult homeowner tasks have been keeping me very busy.

A little package arrived this morning though.

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Lovely little IBM branded calculator paperweight. I wasn't expecting to win this to be honest as IBM memorabilia usually goes for silly money. Quite possibly because the calculator was dead so a static exhibit. I didn't really care either way as it's an interesting bit of desk furniture anyway and will look great next to the IBM keyboard (which is one of those bits of technology I can't ever see me replacing).

Oh...and one turned up on Saturday too. That was another £0.99 starting bid item that nobody else bid on so was less than a fiver delivered, so an Imperial 91S has also joined the calculator collection.

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I don't have a problem...I can stop any time I want!

Of course being me the calculator built into the paperweight wasn't going to be left as a static exhibit if I could fix it was it? On removing the cover it was obvious no batteries were fitted, replacing those though did nothing so I pulled the board out.

Can you see anything wrong here?

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Yes, that is indeed the front display polariser. Behind the display. Well that's not going to be helping anything is it. Sorted that out, cleaned the inside of the display window and put it back together and...

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Success!

Have to wonder if that's a manufacturing defect and it's never worked since it left the factory in May 1984.

Tell you what though, by mid 80s standards it's a *slow* calculator. All 9s divided by 1 takes a good half a second. That's mid 70s territory! Guess that's the price paid for something so cheap as to be built into promotional novelties like this.

It's a lovely thing though and given I do tend to have a window open or fan in use a lot a paperweight is honestly something I'd been meaning to add to my desktop for a while.
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Re: Today I mostly .....

Post by Zelandeth » Wed May 12, 2021 12:16 am

Well this afternoon was "fun."

The tap in our kitchen had failed. As is often the case these days it turned out that the bits it needed were proprietary and no longer available. After two weeks of bashing my head against it I ran out of patience and decided to just replace it.

The offending article.

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This is DIY 101 and really should have been an hour's work. Maybe two given I don't do anything quickly.

However I knew it was going to be fiddly...Because the idiot who designed out kitchen stuffed the sink into the very far corner of the kitchen. If I ever meet the person who designed this I will coat them in jam and Chuck them into a fire ant colony. It is an absolute pig of a location to use the sink. However trying to do any servicing is nigh on impossible.

This is my access.

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Now what makes this even more annoying is that the tap is set so far back that they actually had to cut a hole in the back of the cupboard to clear the pipework.

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At this point I then ended up fuming because the last plumber to work under here hasn't done what I had asked them to. I wanted them to have remove the thoroughly mangled plastic isolator ball valves and the push fit fittings the tap tails went into to replace them with normal 1/2" fittings so it wouldn't be a headache in the future.

Look what I found...

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That's the better one of the two. Oh...and look, the original fittings are still there.

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I simply don't like plastic fittings. I know they're probably absolutely fine if fitted properly, but they just feel flimsy and floppy and just don't inspire confidence. I also don't trust whoever did this work to have fitted them properly.

Thanks to the ever-present scale here there was no chance whatsoever that the push fits were going to come apart. Cut me having to get the pipe cutter out and doing some sorting out.

Having been out three times I thought I was on the home straight - right up to the point I pulled the tails for the new tap out the box and realised they were about half the length of the original ones. The hot just reached, cold...not so much.

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Finally.

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Albeit with a bit of a mess to clean up!

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By this point it was about 1830. This took me the *entire* afternoon. Plus I need to go back through at some point to actually anchor any of the pipework to...well... anything. Especially as all the elbows and Ts are push fit so just flop around. Given the hot and cold are overlapping sorting that will require moving at least some pipework. Oh...and I discovered that not a single one of the locking collars on the push fit connectors was properly screwed down.

If I'd known it was going to be such a hassle I'd have gone about this a very different way. I'd have just drained everything down (the original hot isolator is still there, just redundant) and ripped every piece of pipework in that cupboard out and rebuilt it from scratch. I think I probably will at some point anyway now I've properly looked at it. Work clearly done by the same folks who installed the master bathroom.

That was without exception THE most awkward bit of DIY I have ever, ever undertaken though. Not difficult, just unbelievably awkward. All done left handed, at the limit of arm's reach and entirely blind.
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Re: Today I mostly .....

Post by Zelandeth » Sat May 15, 2021 3:38 pm

Between poor weather and lack of time I've really not touched the cars or anything relating to them this week. Poor Invacar hasn't been out of the garage in over two weeks at this point, given the looks of the weather forecast it doesn't look like that's likely to change this coming week either. For now have another brief foray into historic technological distraction as some of you have apparently found this interesting...we'll be back to the cars again as soon as time and weather allow.

Have had some quite major progress on one of my longer term historic computing projects though.

One of my favourite machines out of all those I've owned over the years was an old Toshiba T1200. An 80C86 based portable dating from 1988. I found it to be a really genuinely useful productivity machine, with a nice keyboard, form factor which made it actually easy to travel with, and a battery life which can put many modern laptops to shame. Sadly this came to a shuddering halt in mid 2002 when the power supply board developed a fault. Didn't take long to figure out that all it needed was replacement of a couple of capacitors and a good clean. Unfortunately due to a communication breakdown between me and my parents while they were doing a clear out, several key components were lost. The remainder was stuffed in a box in the hope that I could get back to it one day. Particularly of note was that I really wanted to recover several documents off the hard drive (I was young and stupid at the time and didn't have a backup regime in place), which meant getting this or an identical machine up and running as the hard drives are of a non-standard type so I can't just plug them into another computer.

Note the strange 26-pin interface connector.

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It was then largely forgotten about for a good few years, until about ten years ago when I started to get back into the hobby of messing around with old computers. Unfortunately I discovered at this point that these machines are actually quite sought after, and the issues I had with the power supply in mine turned out to be one of those faults where it's a matter of when it happens rather than if it happens...as such working examples swap hands for several times more than I was willing to spend. Non working or those claimed to be untested seemed to have their pricing rather more determined by a random number generator.

The big problem with buying a machine that was non functional or untested is that the nature of the fault means that it's a complete lottery as to whether the machine is repairable, a good parts donor or nothing but a door stop. This is the power supply board used by the T1200.

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By the standards of 1988 for a power supply board this is quite a complex bit of kit. That's because in addition to providing the voltage rails needed by the machine (12V, 5V - all normal there then, but also -9V and -22V more unusually), this board also does all the battery management and has direct control over power to the hard drive, floppy drove, internal modem (where fitted) and the display. It also interfaces with the screen closed switch to give the ability to suspend the machine state - which we take for granted on laptops these days, but in 1988 that was a truly cutting edge feature. One of the reasons that this thing was quite capable of getting north of 7 hours out of a charge with a bit of care on the part of the user.

The problem with these power supplies is with those electrolytic capacitors to the right of the board. Once they get to a certain age they tend to become physically leaky. In the short term this isn't a huge issue...It causes the power supply to trip out into a protection mode meaning that the machine won't work (you just get a flashing red status light) as it can tell something is amiss. The big problem however is that the electrolyte which leaks from those caps is corrosive, and if the board is left in that state (and when these machines stopped working they tended to just get stuffed away in a cupboard or loft and forgotten about) this causes the traces on the PCB to be eaten away. A pretty typical example of this is shown below. That photo is actually of the underside of the board...the traces on the top layer tend to fare even worse.

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It would *probably* be possible to repair this...however I've never been able to find a schematic and layout diagram for the board so you'd need to reverse engineer it first. Trying to do that with half the traces and three quarters of the through board vias having dissolved is a bit like trying to do a crossword puzzle backwards while wearing a blindfold and a pair of boxing gloves. The *biggest* problem though is that due to the location where the corrosion tends to start, the first traces that usually seem to go are the output side feedback lines...meaning that when someone plugs a machine that they've just found in a box somewhere into the mains, the first thing that happens is that the output voltages from the power supply shoot sky high...Usually resulting in every chip on the motherboard being nuked about five seconds before the switching transistors in the power supply itself take exception to the situation and expire in a puff of acrid smelling smoke. Even figuring out what those are to replace them is a chore in itself as they seem to be stamped with only a Toshiba internal part number which doesn't match anything else anywhere. So you've quickly gone from a machine which needs £15 worth of capacitors and an hour's labour to sort...to a half dissolved, blown up power supply and a motherboard which is now a doorstop.

It's because of this situation that over the last couple of years I've ended up accumulating three parts machines in addition to the 3/4 I still have of my original one. The most recent of which arrived last week.

This was described by the seller as broken, with the light on the power supply initially being green when plugged in, but turning to flashing red as soon as the power switch was flicked. Having a pretty good understanding of how these machines work, I knew that was actually a VERY good sign. These machines don't like running without a battery installed - tending to trip out during high power events (such as the hard drive spinning up) if one isn't in place. If the supply had failed catastrophically and nuked the whole machine it would either do nothing or show a solid amber light (which isn't a valid state)...so the odds were that the PSU board in this machine was either working or in a state where it could be saved. The rest of the machine was missing a couple of bits here and there but nothing I didn't already have spares of.

Obviously the very first thing I did was pull the board out for examination and testing (which takes all of five minutes...oh how I wish modern laptops were this service-friendly!). Initial signs were very good. This is the area of the board which usually suffers by far the most badly.

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I'm not entirely certain if these caps have just started to leak or if the grime on the board was just generally there from the fact that it's 33 years old (there is a small vent grill above the power supply in that area). However they're obviously going to be changed (along with every electrolytic cap in the entire machine) as a matter of course. After giving the board a good clean I did a bit of testing, sure enough the expected voltages were present in the expected places.

After a bit of head scratching I managed to figure out an arrangement where I could make all the necessary bits of wiring reach to allow me to do some testing without reassembling the case...and when powered up we got life on the screen showing that it was at least trying to work.

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The hard drive that was actually in the machine at that point wasn't interested in working. It simply went "click" once and that was it. While having that drive working would be nice, I had another from the previous spares machine, plus the one I was really interested in was the one from my original machine. The other spare was successfully spinning up but kept shutting down again during the initial seek operation - it allowed me to confirm the right supply voltages were present on the right pins though and that I wasn't going to immediately fry my old drive by plugging it in...so it was time to do some testing of that. I had the camera rolling for the event. I had no idea whether the thing would even spin up, much less whether we'd be able to actually read data from it.



To my considerable surprise it spun up and worked absolutely fine on the first attempt...No untoward noises, no protest...just worked. Since that video I've managed to coax both of the other drives back into operation as well, though the one is still a little cranky about starting.

I had no memory of setting up a custom boot screen and a little system description that prints on the screen above the command line at start-up...but apparently I did! It's astonishing the things you find when digging through a drive you've not been able to look at for 15 odd years.

It was obvious though that something was amiss with the display...I had a *serious* lack of contrast.

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I knew this wasn't right as I remembered the display on this as being pretty decent. A bit of examination quickly identified that this is a physical problem with the actual display itself - however I do have two good spares. Looking at it next to one of my spares it was really obvious that there's something wrong with the original panel. The "off" state of this display is dark, so in an unpowered state the display should be a uniform deep indigo colour - like the lower one in the photo below. You can clearly see how much paler the top one is, with the tan colour of the unlit backlight showing through.

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Thankfully swapping the panels over on this - as with most parts - is a quick and simple job. The difference compared to the earlier photos is clear as day. While the response time isn't anything to write home about this display really isn't bad at all to use. Contrast is very good, viewing angle is fine and the backlight is more than bright enough in shady areas. When you're in an area with lots of light you can basically turn it off thanks to the nature of the screen.

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At this point I put everything back together and set about copying the documents I wanted off the hard drive.

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After that the system was depowered and everything unplugged. It won't be going near power again until such point as I've had a chance to replace all of the capacitors. Given it's taken me so many years to get to the point of having a working system again I'm being very cautious with regards to not doing anything stupid that might cause issues. Once the caps have been replaced there should be no reason that the system can't be put back to work.

I also gave the case a good clean. I may well transplant this into the case from my original machine as it's far, far less yellowed than this one is. That is if I can *find* the upper case moulding in the loft. I knew which box the innards were in...not so sure about the case! Sorting the loft out is a job on my list closely behind "sort the garage."

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Another reason I'd like to swap the cases over is that the legend on the indicator lights above the keyboard clearly shows that this upper case half came from what was originally a dual floppy drive model which had the hard drive (and controller card) fitted at a later date, as it shows drives A and B on the legend.

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Whereas factory hard drive equipped models have this legend showing A and C, like this.

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Minor detail, but it would be nice to have that right if possible.

The battery in there is from the second parts machine which had obviously spent much of its life sitting next to a window and has one of the worst cases of yellowing I've seen! Despite dating from 1988 though that battery pack still took a charge!

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While the capacity will no doubt be vastly reduced compared to its original figure it was still able to run the machine for more than the 15 minutes or so that I had it on test for. It shouldn't be too difficult to open this pack up carefully with a Dremel or similar and rebuild it though, if memory serves there are 6 2/3AA sized cells in there - and I've got a few of these packs so don't mind potentially sacrificing one in the interests of seeing how hard it is to rebuild. Having a useful battery life though is something I'd like to make sure this still has to offer though.

Just waiting on the capacitors to arrive in the post so I can give the machine a blanket cap replacement then it can be put back into use...and to have a bit of fun testing done on it. I know about and have a lot more DOS software in the library these days than I did back in 2002.

Feels like I've finally made some good progress on this one after ten years of false starts, setbacks and frustration.
LOZ: Oddball cars, lighting information, and anything else I remember to upload!
Current fleet: 96 Citroen Xantia Activa, 90 Mercedes 208D Autotrail Navajo, 85 Jaguar XJ-S V12 HE, 85 Sinclair C5, 73 AC Model-70.

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Re: Today I mostly .....

Post by Zelandeth » Mon May 17, 2021 9:27 pm

Really not much to report, though despite the weather I did manage to get TPA out for a run today when I had to go out and collect a couple of things.

Once more making normal modern cars look comically huge.

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I need to take a look at the idle adjustment as it is definitely a little on the high side. Not sure if the throttle cable just needs a little more slack in the adjustment or if the idle screw on the carb actually needs adjusting. It's one of those things that I keep remembering every time I have the car out, but immediately forget to actually get as far as doing when I get back home.
LOZ: Oddball cars, lighting information, and anything else I remember to upload!
Current fleet: 96 Citroen Xantia Activa, 90 Mercedes 208D Autotrail Navajo, 85 Jaguar XJ-S V12 HE, 85 Sinclair C5, 73 AC Model-70.

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Re: Today I mostly .....

Post by Zelandeth » Thu May 20, 2021 12:00 am

Last week we had the little T1200 in a more or less functional state. There was quite a bit of noise on the screen now and then which I really didn't like, but I was at least able to copy the documents I'd been after off without incident. With the new capacitors in hand though it was time to see if they could improve matters.

So started what was without doubt one of the most annoying repairs that I'd faced for a long while. There were a few contributing factors.

[] The component density on the back of the PCB is such that this is really stretching the limits of how tiny traces I can deal with without a proper magnifier and kit to hold the work piece on the bench.
[] The tip on my soldering iron is absolutely shot...I have finally caved now and ordered a couple of replacements.
[] One leg of several caps is tied to the internal ground plane in the PCB which was acting like a giant heatsink and making it very difficult to desolder those pins - especially with a soldering iron with a stuffed tip.

I eventually opted to snip off the last few caps and just solder the new leads onto the stubs of the old ones...Which would have been far easier if I'd been able to find my good pair of side cutters. Of course I *couldn't* find my good pair of side cutters so had to resort to wobbling the caps back and forth until the leads fatigued and snapped.

The resulting hack job is without exception the most downright horribly ugly repair I've ever done. Though when I go through this job again in future I'll have a better plan going in, will make sure I have the tools on hand and also ensure that I actually have a decent tip on the iron. I reckon I could do a far, far tidier job in about a quarter of the time in future. I'm honestly ashamed enough of this one that I really don't want to show it! If the supply proves reliable I'll go back in and tidy things up a bit and add some support for the caps which are now sitting quite proud of the board.

Taking a look at the display backlight inverter board I don't think leaves us with any question as to why that was fading out over the course of a few minutes...

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I think that this one falls under the "caught it just in time" category given it was still functioning. With a thorough clean and a new set of caps I reckon this will be fine as a spare. Thankfully the inverter board in the spares monitor was mounted the opposite way up (no idea why!), so the leakage there hadn't touched the board, just left a stain on the inside of the case. So I stuck a new set of caps in that board and swapped them over.

Somewhat to my surprise when powered back up I had all the correct voltages present on the output terminals of the board (the -22V rail was actually showing a far better value too, it was only showing around -18V before, which I reckon is why the screen was struggling), and when hooked back up...

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Given what a messy job I'd done of it I was honestly quite surprised that it just worked properly. It was immediately obvious that the display was a lot happier too, I'm guessing the -22V rail struggling before was upsetting the bias voltage for the LCD.

It's quite interesting comparing the new capacitors being installed to those which came out, the fact that insulation technology has come on a fair bit since 1987 really does show in how much smaller some of the new caps are than those they replaced. In the photo below the new caps are to the left of those they replaced.

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I had mistakenly thought this machine had failed just before I finished secondary school, but the contents of the documents folder suggests that it made it into the first couple of months of my time at university too. Though reading some of the notes I'd taken there did a good job of breaking my brain a little - it doesn't feel like more than a year or two back that I was taking them...Definitely not 19 years ago!

I wanted to keep the machine up and running for a few hours as a stability test...Not hard when I discovered that all my Sim City saves had indeed survived.

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Well there went a couple of hours no problem! Probably looks a bit strange to people being in inverted blue on grey...but given how many hours I spent playing it like this seeing it in colour looks odd to my brain.

Back when I was using this machine as my "daily driver" I didn't have all that much DOS based software to hand. It was pretty much just VDE as the text editor, Sim City for when I got bored, and for reasons I can't quite fathom I had an image viewer on there as well...which on a mono inverted LCD screen is about as much use as a chocolate teapot...My guess is it ended up on there purely because I apparently got it in my head one day that I wanted to create a customised graphical welcome screen to show when the machine started up. Beyond that it was just a bog standard OEM MS-DOS 3.30 install - only interesting add-on I'd found was the program for setting the BIOS options...all eleven of them! Useful though as without this there's no way to enable the hard-RAM and suspend features, which I made plenty of use of back in the day.

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While this did everything I needed it to at the time, something I was acutely aware of being absent was anything whatsoever in the way of software to keep tabs on the health of my hardware. Something I was easily able to rectify today though. I've always had good luck with the Norton Utilities suite, so chucked that on there. This was obviously the result we were hoping for from the hard drive health check.

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Glad to see the surface test come back clean despite the 19 year hibernation.

Also meant I could interrogate the system with the information tools to see what they had to say.

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Not exactly a speed demon...but with a 9.81MHz 80C86 you're not really looking for performance!

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Might be interesting to do an actual performance comparison at some point between this and the Amstrad PPC512...

I've only got one other hard drive which uses a stepper motor based head actuator, and it's a good deal slower than the one in the T1200, especially where seek times are concerned.

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Though this result only really counts when the drive is "awake." After about five seconds of idle time this drive automatically parks the heads - which given how fragile drives of this era were, and with this being a portable machine is honestly a very sensible design choice I think. The downside however is that it takes a good half second for the head mechanism to unlock and get the drive back into read/write mode. Realistically, do you notice? No. Absolutely worth a bit of a performance hit...I'm pretty sure this design choice is one of the main reasons that this drive has so few bad sectors on it - about 20K's worth, which is an order of magnitude less than the other few drives I've got from this era. Latency was never going to be a huge strong point of this drive anyway given it only runs at 2650 rpm.

Given the relatively slow seek performance of it being a stepper motor rather than voice coil actuated head in the drive, defragmentation can (and does) really help with performance.

Here's some audio that should be a blast from the past for folks who used machines like these back in the day - that drive getting a good old workout while being defragmented.



I remembered something quite abruptly a couple of days back when backing up my old files...That file management from the DOS prompt is downright painful. Easily solved with Microsoft MS-DOS File Manager...which I'm not quite sure why wasn't just bundled with DOS back then as it makes things so much more usable.

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It's basically the DOS Executive from Windows 1 & 2 sans some of the graphics - even has a dedicated menu you can save shortcuts to commonly used programs/commands in.

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It's basic, but does what I need, and is all of 70K...so far I've not come across anything it won't run on.

With the machine having been running all evening it had been absolutely stable. The power supply was barely even warm - so the running conditions have definitely improved as it used to get really quite obviously toasty after half an hour or so.

Need to have a dig around and see if I can find anything else interesting to run on it...though to be honest I've got everything I actually need for it to do what I want it to now.

Last thing I wanted to look into was the battery situation. I've got two packs which appear to be taking a charge - but they're obviously not going to have much capacity left. I did have one that was as dead as a door nail though...An ideal candidate to be sacrificed to find out if they can be rebuilt.

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These packs are 7.2V NiMH units rated at 2200mAh. Annoyingly they're sonic welded shut...However I have a Dremel so that took all of a minute to get around.

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Chunky cells! Looking at them though, no surprise this one isn't charging.

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A bit of investigation revealed that they're bog standard C size cells.

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Well isn't that convenient? A quick look at Google seems to suggest that the going rate for NiMH C-Cells these days is 4000-5000mAh - so with modern cells in here we should be able to more than double the original battery capacity. Let's just remember...I was getting through a full day on the original batteries back in 2002 when they were 14 years old...We should be able to comfortably get 10+ hours on a battery out of this thing. Not bad for a 33 year old laptop.

Probably won't see a huge amount more of this thing now it's been officially revived (unless you want to and/or have anything you'd like me to try with it).
LOZ: Oddball cars, lighting information, and anything else I remember to upload!
Current fleet: 96 Citroen Xantia Activa, 90 Mercedes 208D Autotrail Navajo, 85 Jaguar XJ-S V12 HE, 85 Sinclair C5, 73 AC Model-70.

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Re: Today I mostly .....

Post by Zelandeth » Sun May 23, 2021 10:12 pm

Remembered the keyboard shortcut to get to the "fuel gauge" for the battery - function + sys req.

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Also figured that this might be an interesting experiment.

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Windows 3.0 is the last version that would run on an 8086/8088, albeit looking a bit strange on an inverted monochrome LCD with a bit of an oddball (640*200) resolution.

Runs a lot better than I expected to be honest. Bit sluggish when waiting for disc access but that's expected really.

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To be honest I'm not really likely to use Windows for much...the MS-DOS Manager does a decent job of file management and all of the software I really need is DOS based anyway. I was mainly just curious to see how it ran on an 8086 machine.

Think the display really does show how it was really designed with text based applications in mind. It's not at it's best when dealing with graphics - but does a surprisingly good job of text. To be honest it's a lot more pleasant to use than the DSTN panel on the mid 90s ThinkPad I've got. Which is just utterly "meh" whether displaying text or graphics.

Replacement tips finally arrived today for the soldering iron so hopefully future work requiring it will be somewhat less frustrating...I really hadn't realised how knackered the old one was until I started doing delicate work with it!

Few folks have asked me what iron I use elsewhere, same one I've had for about fifteen years now.

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Iroda Solderpro 120, little gas unit. It's not as precise as an electronic one where you can dial in an exact temperature but you can very the power from virtually nothing through to about 100W, which has done everything I've asked of it so far. Using an electric iron with a cable in the way always feels really cumbersome once you're used to a gas iron.

Speaking of tools, I finally stopped procrastinating about it today and picked up a new lawn mower.

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Initial impressions are that it feels well made. Quite a bit bigger than our old mower, will be curious to see how well it works - given that the old one was a kerbside find that cost me all of about £3 to get running it owes me nothing. It could be repaired - but has just got to the point that enough things need doing that it's just not worth it when there's something I really can't fully resolve - and that's that the grass collection box is missing. I've tried half a dozen times now to buy a new one but just haven't been able to get hold of one - so given it needs new rear wheels, replaced wheel bearing on one of the fronts, a couple of missing bolts replaced, ideally a new drive belt and a couple of cracks in the deck that are starting by the handle base repaired...it's just not worth it. Nothing wrong with the engine though...so I need to see if I can come up with something to do with it...current thought is "I wonder if I could find a suitable pressure washer pump head to hook up to it..."

Given the weather forecast over the next few days goodness only knows when I'll get to do the first test!
LOZ: Oddball cars, lighting information, and anything else I remember to upload!
Current fleet: 96 Citroen Xantia Activa, 90 Mercedes 208D Autotrail Navajo, 85 Jaguar XJ-S V12 HE, 85 Sinclair C5, 73 AC Model-70.

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