For the second weekend in a row, I’ve been “sent out to the shed” to “muck about with the car”  Can’t complain 

Started off by cleaning up the starter motor …

When you want to start the car, the solenoid (bottom left) pushes down on the spring & plunger (just above it), which pushes the cog on the starter (bottom right) forwards and into engagement with the ring gear on the flywheel. This turns the flywheel, setting in motion the whole suck, bang, blow thing 

The ‘cleaning up’ mainly consisted of getting rid of years of accumulated clutch dust in the front bowl of the starter, and some oily-sludge which I guess is from the rear crank oil seal on the engine. I put everything back together and cleaned all the electrical contacts while I was at it.

The sandwich plate that goes between the bellhousing and the engine just needed a damn good clean, again covered in a ton of oily-sludge. I noticed a black bit of foam on the floor as I was tidying up which seemed to match up with a rebate on the plate, so I cleaned that up too – then glued it onto the plate with some Hylomar Blue. Not sure if it’s an important bit of foam, but it looked like it was meant to be there. 

The gearbox mounting rubber on the crossmember had definitely seen better days, so I phoned up the local factors and got them to look through the Quinton Hazell parts book for a price. Eight pounds twenty three pence and in my hand that afternoon , or I could have bought exactly the same thing from eBay on a ten quid Buy-It-Now wth three quid postage on top.  If you need one, part number EM680 is what you want and is the same one used on practically every Ford gearbox from the late sixties through to the late eighties … apparently. 

As I’ve never fitted a clutch before in my life, I weighed up the prospect of “having a go and doing it by feel” in the six inches of space under the car and opted to just buy an alignment tool … at least that way, if the box doesn’t go in it’s because of the tool and not my judgement.  I also didn’t relish the prospect of taking the box off again should the alignment be out, so that sort of clinched the deal – it was only six quid anyway. 

I have to confess that I’ve no idea how hard a job it would have been lining up the pressure plate and the cover plate by hand – whilst tyring to screw down the six screws on the edge of the cover in a diagonal sequence to avoid stressing anything … but I do know that with the alignment tool it was a piece of the proverbial. 

Got the gearbox back underneath the car, jacked it up and with only a little bit of wiggling it slid straight in.  To try to make sure that everything was in alignment, I fashioned a simple plumb line from a bit of string and a split pin, then used that to make marks on the floor below fixed points on the chassis rails and down from both the tailshaft of the gearbox and the nose of the differential. A bit of maths should then tell me if the propshaft was inline from the gearbox to the diff, as you really couldn’t tell by eye. 

At the back, the middle of the diff is offset 1.75cm towards the passenger side – and that’s really a given, fixed state, as I’ve not moved it. Further forwards, the centre of the output shaft on the gearbox is offset just under 2cm, again to the passenger side – so given the inherent vagueueness of my measuring, I’m declaring that to be bang on. 

I then chopped up some 10mm thick flat bar to act as spacers for the centre bearing on the propshaft and bolted everything up.

Before putting the box back on, I put a litre of fresh oil into it, but didn’t fill it as it would have a tendency to leak through the big hole at the back where the propshaft slots into. Truth be told, I was also worried about it falling off the jack and spilling oil everywhere – and all over me.  The remaining oil was fed down some tube running through the engine bay and into the filler hole, as you can’t really get to the filler hole directly when the box is on.

With nothing left to bolt back up, it was time to see if it worked, so I double-checked that the car was solid on the axle stands before starting it up. (Quite why I felt the need to “double check” escapes me, as I’ve spent the last few weeks crawling underneath there lugging the box in and out… ).

Turn the key, the starter goes click, the engine fires and ticks over nicely, press in the clutch, knock the box into first gear and gently ease the clutch up and …



… we have rotation. 

The box and propshaft both seem strangely quiet, as though the previous combination had been making an assortment of noises that I just though was part of the old car lifestyle.  But, it has to be said, it was nice and quiet with no grinding, whirring, clunking or scraping. OK, there was a little clunk as each gear engaged, but I suspect that sensation was artificially amplified with the rear wheels being up in the air.

So, is that the end of it? Err, no – there’s a couple of issues need addressing before I can even drop it down and take it out for a roadtest.

Firstly, the rear oil seal on the gearbox leaks  When the car’s in gear and everything’s working it comes out as a small, but steady, trickle – fading to a slow drip, drip, drip once the engine stops. Bummer  At least the box won’t have to come out to do it, though. Must have either put it in wrong to start with, or disturbed it when doing all the lining-up with the propshaft. 

Second, about every third time at starting the engine, the starter seems to not engage with the flywheel and you can just hear it whizzing round. If you stop, then turn the key again it works fine – so I must have put something back together there slightly out of kilter.

Third – and this is the strange one … when it’s in gear and the engine’s running, the offside wheel is only rotating at about a quarter of the speed of the nearside wheel.  It’s most pronounced in a low gear, as in first there doesn’t seem enough oomph to turn it and it just stops rotating. What the heck could this be? Is it just because it’s up in the air and there’s no force acting in opposition to the diff, or is it a problem? 

In spite of all this though, I’m not down about it.  I’m concentrating on the fact that when you put it in gear the wheels go round and there’s no big explosion or shower of sparks.  The remaining hiccups will be sorted one way or another, I’m sure …


Dan: excellent work and write up as usual stu  the leaky oil seal is in actual fact part of the automated oil replacement system that most ford gearboxes have… top it up once a while and you always have nice clean oil 

and one wheel spinning more than the other sounds more like a sticky brake than a dodgy diff 

alladdin: nice to see others suffering 

no1 you got covered.
no2 lets hope its not worn ring gear box off job

no3 dont worry just the diff playing while its got time 

Graham: [on the wheels spinning at a different rate when up in the air] dont worry stu, thats quite normal