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My Adventures with Brenda - Chapter 3

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So Many Bolts...

If you haven’t already read Chapter 1 and 2, they are here (Chapter 1 Chapter 2). I’d suggest reading those first or this won’t make much sense at all.

I’m already past the original ‘completion date’ and I haven’t finished the tear down. It’s fair to say that I was a smidgen optimistic in my original plan… especially since most people on the internet say it’ll take me between one and three years. I’m not going to let a thing like that get me down. I’ll be done when it’s done - everything in life worth having only comes with hard work and perseverance.

Ignoring the “schedule”, the plan in my head has begun to solidify with specific things I want to use and fit. The ancillaries for the engine (water pump, fuel pump, belts etc.) are all cheap so I’m going to replace those where I can. I’m already imagining the little things like how I want my dash to look & where my sat-nav will bolt in. This keeps me motivated as the nights close in and the temperature drops.

I’ve had to order a whole new chassis (the frame that the engine and body bolt onto) as the old one is more rust than metal. New doors and bulkhead have been ordered too. All of this apparently takes 8 weeks to make and ship to me, so there’s another lesson about project management; do the research on lead times to enable proper planning and a lack of parts slowing you down.

The dismantling is proceeding though. In October I’ve removed the roof, side-walls and (with help from my chum/director Chris Musgrove) the rear tub thereby leaving me with a bare chassis and axles. By taking it all apart myself, I’m learning loads about how a car works and hopefully, how to fix it should anything go wrong.

The engine has been sent away to a professional to be looked at and refreshed. I was thinking about tackling it myself but given how steep the learning has been to strip the engine and car, and how long it is taking, I thought this may be a bridge too far and would only serve to highlight my inexperience and lack of ability.

Things have sped up a little. If you have a stuck bolt – I’m your guy! I’ve become quite the expert in their removal. My research on overcoming such things has been done largely through Google and YouTube. If you’re ever overcome with the desire to restore a Defender, I can recommend FunRover and Britannica Restorations. Both have YouTube channels and provide some really clear and useful advice.

Fused nut & bolt – Such was the decay after 20 years, many nuts have seized/fused completely solid with one another – i.e. there is no longer a distinction between nut and bolt. Cranking on them is very frustrating as they don’t want to budge. You can squirt a tonne of penetrating oil at them but more often than not, this achieves nothing. Fear not though; They can be overcome!

Assuming it’s a small bolt, your main tools are brute force and ignorance. Crank on them with a breaker bar and spanner and (after expletives) you shall be rewarded with a very satisfying ‘tink’ noise. This noise is created by the bolt snapping in half.

Rounded bolts 

These are less than fun. Essentially it is when a hexagon (the bolt head) is transformed into a circle because the tensile strength of steel is less than the binding force of the rust holding it in place – you turn it with a socket and the corners of the hexagon break away leaving a lovely rounded circle. There are a few solutions to this; one solution are these things (pictured). I forget their proper name but you smack them on to the rounded bolt with a hammer & then twist – the corkscrew inside runs counter to the thread so as you turn them, they bite harder onto the bolt head and eventually the bolt will give up and start turning.

Both fused and rounded bolts have another solution: I mentioned last time that you’ll need a grinder. Essentially, this is a rapidly spinning disc that that can cut or wear away (grind) metal. These things are a life saver and can be used in a few ways;

1. You can cut the head off bolts & the threaded bit then just slides out. You don’t actually need to cut all the way through – 2/3rds will do it as you can then insert a screwdriver into the slot, give it a smack with a hammer & the rest will ping off.
2. Cut the nut in half or put a slot in it (as pictured). You can then persuade the rest to part slightly (again using the trusty screwdriver/hammer combo) & thereby release the bolt.
3. Finally, you can use them as their name suggests – grind the bolt off. This will transform the offending bolt head into sparks and powder that will fly off and settle on everything within a 12ft radius. Once the head no longer exists, you can punch the remainder out with (you may spot a theme here) a screwdriver & hammer.

The old health & safety bit – if you are doing any work on a car, always wear the appropriate safety gear. With a grinder, gloves and safety glasses/goggles are a must! Teeny shards of steel will fly off with more than enough speed to do your eye some damage. Also, aluminium dust is meant to be quite bad for you if you breath it (who knew!?) so wear a dust mask if your grinding on aluminium. In fact, just wear a dust mask all the time – can’t hurt can it!? Last warning about grinding from personal experience; unless you change clothes and thoroughly wash the steel powder off your skin and out of your hair, it will utterly ruin the cappuccino coloured cushions on your sofa! You have been warned.
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