by Rick Regan
A. If your car has any known mechanical problems,
One month (minimum) prior to departure, perform the following complete
mechanical check-over, and write down the results:
(This checklist is intended to be applied to an Austin-Healey which is
currently in frequent use with no known problems or things that need to be
Jack up front and rear of car and put on wheelstands.
- 1. Check fluid levels:
- Rear axle oil
Brake and clutch fluid
Windshield washer fluid
Steering box and idler oil.
- 2. Check windshield wiper blades for rubber
- 3. Check windshield wiper arms for adequate pressure
on windshield and correct sweep area.
- 4. Check all exterior and instrument light bulbs.
- 5. Check aim of headlights.
- 6. Check both horns working.
- 7. Underneath the car, check for signs of fluid
leaks from fuel tank and lines, engine, gearbox, differential pinion seal,
clutch slave cylinder, engine frost plugs (rust streaks), water pump,
radiator, and lower rad hose.
- 8. Remove all wheels.
- Check for loose or broken spokes.
- Clean wheels.
- Clean out wheel splines and hub splines to bare
metal with solvent and stiff brush and inspect for wear.
- Note whether splines are squared off (correct),
sharp, or rounded.
- 9. Check special nuts securing rear spline hubs.
Note any that can be turned down all the way by hand.
- 10. Remove brake drums and disc pads and check
- Linings should be at least 1/8" thick and dry.
- Check wheel cylinders for signs of wetness.
- 11. Check beneath rear hubs inside backplates for
signs of wetness (indicating rear hub seal leaks).
- Note - while rear drums are removed, protect brake
shoes from possible oil drips from axle shaft flange.
- 12. Back off slightly, then torque front shock
absorber mounting bolts to 45 lb-ft.
- (Better yet, remove one bolt at a time, install new
lock washers, then torque as stated.)
- 13. Remove bolts securing rear shock absorbers to
- Check roundness of holes in shocks and on frame
- Check for impression of bolt head in shock absorber.
- 14. Check rear springs carefully for broken leaves
or loose or missing clips.
- 15. Snug up U-bolt nuts. On BJ-8s, do not
over-tighten or the plate will deform.
- 16. Check for tightness of nuts on rear spring
forward mounting pins.
- Torque to a minimum of 30 lb-ft.
- 17. Check condition of anti-rollbar and Panhard rod
- Check that anti-rollbar frame brackets are not
- 18. Temporarily install front wheels.
- Jack one side at a time under spring pan to
approximate normal suspension position and check for wear in king pin lower
bush, lower trunnion, and steering linkage.
- Grasp tire at top and bottom and attempt to rock it
in and out while a helper observes the lower trunnion area.
- Grasp tire at front and rear and rock side to side
in both directions while helper watches steering linkage joints.
- Noticeable play in both directions without obvious
cause indicates loose or damaged wheel bearings.
- 19. With front pads or drums removed, check for play
in front wheel bearings, or resistance to turning. The front hubs should
turn freely but with no play in the bearings.
- 20. Check that front brake pads are evenly worn.
- 21. Check fan belt for proper tension and inspect
for frayed edges or splits.
- 22. Tighten all hose clamps, especially the
hard-to-get-at ones on the heater under the dash!
- 23. Check around heater valve for signs of leaks.
- 24. Move steering wheel back and forth and listen
for clunking noises.
- Check for wetness below steering box and steering
- 25. Check driveshaft U-joints. There should be no
perceivable play at all.
This completes your check, and you now have a list of items which will need
attention before your departure to ensure a safe and trouble-free trip.
C. Remedies and Maintenance Items (Refer to
checklist prepared in Section B.)
- 1. Adjust rear axle oil level (ensure not overfull).
- 2. Drain gearbox and overdrive, clean filter screen,
and refill with correct oil. Overfill by 1/2 litre.
- 3. Drain engine oil, change filter, clean out filter
housing, make sure all parts which are meant to be there are, in fact,
- Install new oil filter and refill engine with oil.
- Make sure you replace the sealing ring to the filter
head and that it is correctly seated in its groove.
- 4. Top up the brake and clutch fluid to within
1/2" of the reservoir top. It tends to siphon out if higher.
- If the existing fluid is black and sparkly, change
it by pumping out through the left rear wheel bleed nipple, refill with
fresh fluid, then bleed all four wheels as usual.
- Repeat for clutch fluid. Brake fluid should be
changed every two years.
- 5. Top up washer fluid, set jets to hit windshield
just below the top. Fix any leaks.
- 6. Check antifreeze content in radiator. A mix of
50/50 to water is best for hot weather or cold.
- If in doubt, drain and refill. Use one whole 4 litre
jug of antifreeze, then top with water, preferably distilled.
- Test the pressure cap or, if in doubt, replace it.
Make sure it has the correct depth of plunger (should be 1").
- Check for swollen, cracked, or very soft radiator or
heater hoses. Change any that are bad or suspect.
- Check that your engine block drain tap is not
leaking (under exhaust manifold).
- Replace heater valve if leaking. Correctly tighten
or replace fan belt.
- 7. Replace any wiper blades that are less than
perfect or over one year old.
- 8. Change any bad bulbs and set headlights to aim
straight ahead and parallel on high beam.
- Set other lights as required.
- 9. Replace defective horns or adjust, if possible
(first check for blown fuse).
- 10. Rectify any leaks discovered, especially from
engine frost plugs, water pump, rear hub seals, or hydraulics. Any other
leaks may be lived with, provided adequate topping up is done during the
- 11. Replace spokes, wheels, and hub splines as
- Also make sure tyres are in good condition and a
- Set pressures to between 20-25 psi front and 23-28
psi rear. The best pressure will depend on your individual type of tyre and
how much load you are carrying. The shock absorbers will not work properly
with tyres any harder than this.
- Have wheels balanced.
- 12. Rear shock absorber bolt holes must be round. If
the shocks have worn holes, replace them. Worn mounting holes in the frame
must be welded up and redrilled.
- Also weld up any cracks that may exist where the
shock mounting plates are welded to the frame rails.
- If possible, install washers under bolt heads,
install bolts with head on shock absorber side, and secure with new lock
washers and lock nuts.
- Tighten securely. If holes in frame or shock body
are oval, the shock will move and not function correctly, regardless of how
tight the bolts are.
- 13. Replace any loose or missing rear spring clips.
- If any spring leaves are broken, replace the leaf or
the spring on both sides of the car.
- 14. Straighten anti-roll bar frame brackets and
replace rubber bushes as required.
- 15. Replace and/or rebush king pins as required.
- Adjust vertical play to absolute minimum.
- 16. Remove, clean, and repack front wheel bearings.
- Refit and install new hub seal, and adjust to
no-drag with no, or just barely perceptible, end-float.
- 17. Top up steering box and idler with differential
oil if necessary. 80/140 is best.
- If clunking is audible when moving the wheel back
and forth, adjust idler vertical play.
- If too much play in straight ahead position of
steering, adjust steering box, but not so much as to cause a tight spot.
- 18. Replace universal joints as required.
- Lubricate both joints and shaft sliding spline with
- 19. Lubricate all grease nipples - consult your
manual for locations.
- There are 8 - 10 on a BJ8 and up to 21 on BN1s and
BN2s. Other models fall in between.
- Apply a thin coat of grease to all hub and wheel
splines and knock-off threads.
- 20. Replace brake pads or shoes as required. Replace
in axle sets only.
- Adjust brakes.
- 21. Do major tune-up, including valve adjustment.
- Fit carb kits if required.
- Clean or replace fuel filters, including in fuel
pump if so fitted.
- Clean and oil air cleaners.
- 22. Test drive locally for one week.
- If battery is more than four years old or of unknown
age, replace it. Use Interstate or Sears brands.
- Now you should be ready.
D. Departure and EnRoute Checks on departure day
and each day of travelling, check before leaving:
- 1. All fluid levels.
- Engine oil should be checked with the car on a level
surface and only after refilling tank with gas to ensure consistency in
- Don't forget to check gearbox oil.
- 2. Check the ground where car was parked overnight
for fresh puddles of fluid or more than the usual drip spots.
- 3. Check tyre pressures cold before moving the car.
Make a note and adjust, if necessary, at the next fill-up. Allow 2-3 psi
extra for warm tyres, if driving for more than 1/2 hour, or if sitting in
- 4. Give knock-offs a couple of good whacks to ensure
E. Suggested Traveling Kit
Usual jack, knock-off hammer, etc., plus:
a) Short distance - under 500 miles
- One litre engine oil
- Fuel additive (if used)
- Combination wrench to fit oil filter bolt
- Feeler gauge and screwdriver to reset ignition
- 7/16" wrench to reset distributor timing and
tighten fluid pipe nuts
- Screwdriver and/or wrench to adjust carburettor
mixture and idle 1/2" wrench (short) to remove air cleaners 3/8"
drive ratchet, extension, and spark plug socket
- Phillips screwdriver to fit condenser screw
- Good pair of pliers
- Wire and wire cutters
- Electrical tape and some 3M connectors
- One spark plug, set of points, condenser, rotor
- Flashlight with spare set of batteries
- Ground sheet
- Workshop manual
b) Longer distance (500 - 3,000 miles) - Add to above
short distance kit:
- Small oil pump can with flexible spout containing
- One extra litre of engine oil
- Fuel pump and tools required to change it
- Water pump and tools required to change it
- Lower radiator hose
- Overdrive solenoid and tools required to change
and adjust it
c) Long distance (over 3,000 miles) - Add to above kits:
- Tools required to adjust brakes
- Oil filter(s)
- Wrench for engine oil drain plug
- Grease gun
- Valve cover gasket, putty knife, tools to adjust
- Brake fluid<
- Fan belt and tools required to change it
1. Plan your fuel stops in advance, every 150 miles maximum, until you
know that you can go further.
2. Use self-service gas stations (where available). Attendants at full-service
outlets have been known to put oil where the water goes, etc., and will
(almost) always spill fuel on your paintwork. Also, you will have a better
feeling for what's happening with your car and you will worry less.