TVR Vixen S3

Running Maintenance & Pre-MOT Checks

TVR Vixen S3 Reliant Scimitar GTE SE5A  TVR 3000S  Jaguar XJS 5.3 HE  Other Classics 
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This section is for any jobs that I do on the car therefore I intend to add to it whenever I have any problems. I will put up a brief explanation of what the problem was and how I fixed it etc. Hopefully there wont be problems going up here. At the end I have included a Pre-MOT check section.

1) 5th November 1999. I noticed that the clutch felt a bit spongy and odd. On further investigation I noticed drips of brake/clutch fluid on the mat under the master cylinder. So I decided to replace the rubber seals in both the Master and the Slave Cylinder as they hadn't been touched for at least 8 years. Unfortunately when I dismantled the Master Cylinder I discovered that the spring inside had broken and scored the bore so a new Master Cylinder was needed. After a bit of investigation I found that the Master Cylinder was from a 1970 TR6 and the Slave Cylinder was from a 1970 Ford Cortina 1600GT MKII. I purchased a repair kit for the Slave Cylinder from my local car factors and the new Master Cylinder from Rimmer Bros. The removal and refitting is very straight forward so I won't go into details and after bleeding the clutch all seem to be OK again.

2) 3rd March 2000. 

The car developed a flat spot as soon as the accelerator was pressed and if kept at this position the car stalled. I stripped the carb. (Weber 32DFV) and rebuilt it with an overhaul kit but the problem still persisted. I then remembered that I had come across this problem before on a friends Mk1 Capri many years ago and we found that by removing the 2 jets on the outside of the carb, one above the mixture screw and the other on the opposite side, and then blowing through with compressed air this cured the fault. I tried this and it's now running really well again. As an aside I have found that the best way to set mixture is to connect a Vacuum Gauge to the inlet manifold and then adjust the mixture until you obtain the highest vacuum reading.

3) 1st Jan 2001

I decided to sort out my temperature gauge as the sender had packed up and I couldn't get a replacement, I believe it was from a Vauxhall Ventora. I bought a Ford Kent engine sender and found a small variable resistor from an old radio. I then heated up some water with a thermometer in it to 90 degrees and put in the temperature sender and adjusted the variable resistor until I got the correct reading on the gauge. I also checked a few other temperature readings and the all seemed to be OK. I then taped up the resistor so that it couldn't be altered and fitted up behind the dash next to the gauge. A simple and easy fix providing you can find a small variable resistor.

4) 27th April 2002

The Weber 32DFV carb. I have fitted has started playing up quite a bit recently. Firstly a flat spot occurred just as you touch the throttle which sometimes caused me to stall it. Then it decided to surge a lot at low revs. I have tried cleaning the carb. and blowing it through with an airline. I also fitted an overhaul kit but the problems still persisted. So I decided to fit the Weber 32/36DGV and inlet manifold that came with my spare engine. The only problem I had was getting a throttle cable long enough. In the end I found one from a Ford Sierra was just right. The car is running loads better now and I wish I had fitted it ages ago.

5) 9th June 2002

Well the flat spot went but the surge at low revs didn't so I decided to check a few things. First of all I put on a vacuum gauge and the needle was flickering between about 12 and 15 which usually points to a valve gone down or the head gasket blowing. I then checked the compression and the middle 2 cylinders were well down compared to the outer 2. Some oil was then put in through the spark plug holes and I tested it again and there was no change in the compressions so I deduced that it was again pointing to the valves or head gasket. I decided to take the plunge and replace the head with my spare. After about 30 mins. I had removed the head, the worst part being actually lifting it out of the engine bay, and on inspection all the valves seem OK with no signs of burning. Unfortunately the head gasket shows no signs of blowing either so I'm at a bit of a loss as to why the compression was down on the middle 2 cylinders and I'm just hoping that putting on the new head will cure it. I've taken the opportunity to check the bores and there are no signs of wear or scoring which is good news. I'm hoping that next weekend I will be able to get the spare head on. 

5) 16th June 2002

I decided against putting on the spare head after discovering it was a later head and was flat whereas my original is recessed around the valves. I took out the valves and cleaned them by putting them in the chuck on my electric drill and then holding a piece of sand paper against them. I also cleaned up the head and checked it for flatness with a straight edge. This was found to be OK and so was the top of the engine block. I then reground the valves reassembled the head and put it back on the block. After resetting the valve clearances I turned the engine over with the compression tester back in and found the readings to be the same as before which is annoying. It also still runs the same as before so it looks as though it's been a bit of a waste of time. Any way I've decided to put up with it until I get the 3000S finished and then I will put in my spare engine. The only other thing that has happened is that the gear lever is now a lot looser than it was before so I hope this isn't going to be a future problem.

5) 16th June 2002

I decided against putting on the spare head after discovering it was a later head and was flat whereas my original is recessed around the valves. I took out the valves and cleaned them by putting them in the chuck on my electric drill and then holding a piece of sand paper against them. I also cleaned up the head and checked it for flatness with a straight edge. This was found to be OK and so was the top of the engine block. I then reground the valves reassembled the head and put it back on the block. After resetting the valve clearances I turned the engine over with the compression tester back in and found the readings to be the same as before which is annoying. It also still runs the same as before so it looks as though it's been a bit of a waste of time. Any way I've decided to put up with it until I get the 3000S finished and then I will put in my spare engine. The only other thing that has happened is that the gear lever is now a lot looser than it was before so I hope this isn't going to be a future problem.

6) 4th May 2003

I've taken it off the road to replace the engine and the gearbox due to few problems that have occurred. The engine problem is explained above. The gear lever has become a lot more sloppy and I've found that the nylon bush that the bottom ball joint fits in has disintegrated so that's the reason it has become so sloppy. The gearstick has also been getting stuck in reverse which could be down to the same problem. Another problem that I've also discovered is that the front brake callipers stick occasionally so that will need investigating.

7) 19th October 2003

Due to other commitments and enjoying the extremely nice summer we've had in the 3000S I've not done anything to the Vixen up until today. I've removed the bonnet, and stored it at the end of the garage, together with the exhaust, propshaft and most of the engine ancillaries ready to remove the engine and gearbox. This was all straight forward with no problems.

8) 26th October 2003

I decided to remove the engine and gearbox as a complete unit and it came out without any problems apart from a bit of oil that was left in the gearbox spilling on to the floor. I've also discovered that my sons bike has fallen over and broken the passengers side rear light and chipped a bit out of the bodywork just above the light so I've got some extra thing to add to my list of jobs.

9) 2nd November 2003

As the front brake callipers have been sticking I've decided to overhaul them with some stainless steel pistons and also to renew the seals on the rear brake cylinders and the master cylinder. While I was at the back of the car removing the rear brakes I decided to remove the rear suspension and give it a good clean, check the bushes, and repaint it. The next few weekends will be spent overhauling, cleaning and painting the brakes and rear suspension.

10) 23rd November 2003

I put the bellhousing from my old gearbox onto the new one and bolted the gearbox back onto the engine. I then lifted them back into the car with no problems until I came to fit the engine mountings. I had a hell of a job getting them onto their positions on the engine. I thought this was a bit odd as I had no problem taking the old engine out. I then discovered that the newer block is slightly wider than the old Cortina engine which explains the difficulty in fitting the mounts to the new engine.

11) 30th November 2003

I finished fitting all the ancillaries etc back on to the engine and was ready to start it. I put a tablespoon of petrol down the carb. and turned it over and I was quite pleasantly surprised that it started straight away and ran very well. I then timed the engine and set the carb. slow running so I could drive it down the garden to see how it ran. Unfortunately the clutch release arm pivot decided to disintegrate due to metal fatigue so it was pushed back into the garage. Most of the old pivot had fallen out and I was just left with a few fragments. It's no 11 in the diagram below.

12) 18th January 2004

I haven't had much luck finding a new clutch release pivot up until today when I heard from Russell Talbot who had managed to track one down for me.

13) 2nd February 2004

I have now removed the engine and gearbox and replaced the clutch release arm pivot and refitted them both.

14) 21st March 2004

Due to other things like refitting the Kitchen I haven't had a chance to do anything to the Vixen for a while but today I finished fitting up the engine ancillaries and started it up only to find that the clutch has well and truly stuck on so I now have to remove the engine and gearbox again :-(

Pre - MoT Checks

Remember that it is essential to have a good jack and solid ramps or stands when working under the car.

Steering &, Suspension

Examine any power steering pipes for signs of oil leakage. Check the ends of the steering rack which are fitted with rubber bellows or gaiters, look for oil or grease leaks here. A split means replacement of the bellows.

 Jack up without loosening the wheel nuts. Grip the tyre top and bottom and try to rock. Anything more than the merest movement indicates a loose bearing. These may or may not be adjustable to take up slight wear.

Grip the sides of the tyre and rock it from side to side, then heave the wheel from one side to the other on the steering (make sure the steering lock will activate by turning on the ignition).

Remove the wheels. The car may have to be lowered to the ground unless another person can press the footbrake while the wheel nuts are undone. Use the handbrake to lock the rear wheels. Examine the rubber boots on all the suspension and steering joints. If there are any splits, or if the rubber is perished, a new unit will be needed.

With the wheels off, the dampers (shock absorbers) are visible. Not only do dampers wear inside, letting the piston move more easily through the oil, but they eventually leak oil. The result is a bouncy and unstable car, particularly when cornering and braking. The rubber bushes at either end of the shock absorber tend to fall apart or tend to collapse and have to be replaced. Look for oil leaks where the shiny piston rod comes out of one end of the damper. If oil is visible, it's a fail point.

With the wheel back on and the car sitting on the ground, test that the shock absorbers actually work. Push down hard on each corner of the car in turn, then release. If the car springs back and keeps on bouncing, you'll have to budget for new dampers, which should be fitted in pairs. (Fitting a new damper on one side will highlight wear in its opposite number, and may cause handling problems.)

Exhaust & Emissions

With engine just ticking over, listen to the exhaust. Any puffing or blowing means a leaking joint. Anything louder probably means a split pipe or muffler box.

Check further by momentarily blocking the open end of the exhaust pipe with a gloved hand or a ball of rag. This certainly shows up very small leaks as the gas pressure builds up.

Exhaust emission requirements get tougher each year. The actual test requires expensive specialist equipment and therefore has to be left to the MoT test station. But a basic check is to see if there is any smoke leaving the exhaust when engine is idling, followed by testing at medium revs (around 3000 rpm), watching for any puff of smoke as the throttle is released. You'll obviously need a helper to carry out these tests.

Blue smoke is a bad sign - it means engine oil is burning in the cylinders, and usually points to serious wear. The remedy could be as simple as new valve stem oil seals; on the other hand, an expensive rebuild or fitting a reconditioned engine may be the only solution. Black smoke means too much petrol is being burnt.

If you're lucky, either fault might be put right by as little as a twist with a screwdriver on the carburettor screw, or fitting a new air filter. On the other hand, exhaust smoke could mean the carburettor needs replacing.


Tyres are a common fail item but are easy to check. The minimum requirement is 1.6 mm of tread depth showing in the pattern all the way round the tyre and over three-quarters of the width.

No breaks, gaps or low spots are allowed. This figure is a bare minimum - it's safer to replace tyres before they reach this limit. There must be no cuts, splits or serious cracks in the tyre's sidewall. If any are seen, you need a new tyre.

It's easy to inspect the outside wall of all the tyres, and similarly the tread depth - it's obvious if there is plenty there or if it's marginal.

If the latter, it is advisable to jack the car up and spin the wheel round to inspect the complete tyre and make a decision on whether to replace it. Looking at the inner sidewalls probably also means jacking the car up and peering underneath with the aid of a torch or inspection lamp.

Warning: If the car is on a side jack, never put any part of your body beneath the car unless there are axle stands in place. Unless they're on a hard level surface, car side jacks are renowned for slipping out and letting the car drop. Even then they are not to be relied upon. So don't risk it - there have been many accidents where home mechanics have got trapped under cars.

The spare tyre must also be included when doing the above checks. The tester will check for signs of high or low tyre pressures. Too high and there is less tread pattern showing in the centre of the tyre, too low and it is the outer edges which wear most. Many cars tend to wear their tyres slightly unevenly, but such wear is apparent only towards the end of the tyres' life. If any unusual or dangerous pattern of wear is spotted during the MoT inspection, the tester should advise you.

Number Plates

These are a part of the MoT test, too, and must be clean, undamaged (with not even a crack) and securely fixed. The number plate light must also work.


Lights are easier to check on a dull day or when daylight is fading.

SIDELIGHTS: Two white at the front; two red at the back. Should be bright and of equal intensity. Look closely at the rear lights to see if there is a dim glow from the brake lights, turn indicators or high-intensity fog lights - this may mean a poor earth to the car body on the nearest sidelight. If the front sidelights are small bulbs set in the headlight reflector these may be dim - these little bulbs tend to overheat and go black inside. Not a fail point as such if they are both equally dim, but it's best to replace them.

HEADLIGHTS: Put the headlights on dipped beam. Both should shine with equal brightness - failure to do so means a bad electrical supply or earth at that bulb. The reflection from the lights on a wall or garage door should show the two beams pointing slightly down to the left and level.

There are adjusting screws on each headlight, but unless a beam is so far out of line as to cause a hazard, it is probably best to leave adjustment to the MoT tester, who will usually use a beam-setter to set them spot on. Switch to main beam and make the same check - the beams should be higher and central.

REAR FOG LIGHT(S) IF FITTED: Switch on the high-intensity red rear light(s) - your headlights need to be on dipped beam. If fitted, fog lights must work, so must the interior 'tell-tale' light on the instrument panel.

TURN INDICATORS: Turn the ignition on and operate the indicators. Check that there is a flashing 'tell tale' light on the instrument panel. Check that front and rear indicators are flashing.

The flash rate should be between 30 and 90 per minute. If it's just under 30 it may speed up once the engine is running, though not if the flasher unit is an electronic rather than a mechanical unit. Side repeater indicators on the wings must be working if fitted.

HAZARD LIGHTS: With the indicators off, switch on the hazard flashers, checking for the warning light and/or tick inside. Walk round the car to ensure that all four hazards are flashing, and that no other lights are glowing dimly. Switch off hazard flashers.

BRAKE LIGHTS: Get a helper to operate the foot brake while you check the brake lights. Again, both brake lights must be equally bright, with nothing else glowing. Switch off the ignition. Then test the horn.

LIGHTING REPAIRS: If a light isn't working, chances are the bulb is blown. Bulbs are standard items, so replacement is easy. Indicators and rear red hazard lamp bulbs are 21 watt; brake light and rear tail light are usually a 21 and a 5 watt combined into one bulb. This only fits one way round to ensure the brake light is the more powerful. If it doesn't slip in easily, don't force it! Ensure that the offset pins match the slots in the bulb holder.

Front sidelights are either small bulbs set in the headlamp reflector, or larger bulbs (around 5 watts) under separate covers. Headlight bulbs come in various fittings and types, so take the old bulb along when buying a replacement. Access to the bulbs is gained by either unclipping the bulb-holder from the back of the light housing (usually after removing a cover) or by use of a number 2 Pozidriv (cross-head) screwdriver to unscrew the coloured lens from the outside.

If you have a vehicle handbook, it may show the correct procedure for removing and fitting bulbs. Other reasons for a bulb not lighting may be broken or badly corroded wiring. If one lamp lights up another, check for broken or corroded wires or a damaged lamp-holder and replace them. Many rear light units are mounted on a printed circuit board. If the circuit strips corrode, a new unit will probably be needed.

LENSES & REFLECTORS: Headlamp reflectors must be bright and not obviously misted, tarnished or corroded. The headlamp lens should not have any hole or a crack that could let in water.

Brake Pipes

Look also at both the metal and flexible rubber brake pipes going to the brakes. Minor surface corrosion of the metal is allowable, but there must be no cracks or visual deterioration on the flexible pipes.

If possible, ask a helper to press the brake pedal hard while you hold each flexible pipe - if you can feel the pipe swell, it is in need of urgent replacement.

Body & Doors

A hole in a door, wing or wheel-arch is permitted as long as it does not affect the structural strength of the body. However, there must be no protruding, sharp or jagged edges.

If the bumper is bent or twisted, with protruding edges, it's best to replace it or remove it altogether, including the mounting brackets.

Where the 'bumper' is a plastic moulding forming part of the outer bodywork, professional repair or replacement is the only answer.

Doors must close securely and operate from both inside and outside. If there is a snapped-off handle or broken linkage on a rear door that is never used anyway, it's still a fail point.

Under the Bonnet

Check the battery, which must be securely fixed. A radiator leak won't mean a fail, but leaky or damaged fuel pipes will.

Both flexible and metal fuel lines from carburettor or injection system back to the fuel tank will be checked for secure mounting and lack of corrosion.

While it is only possible to look at what is readily visible, check anyway.

The flexible pipe inside the engine compartment may be in a poor state. Other pipes to check are the brake lines running from the brake master cylinder, usually mounted high up on the bulkhead behind the engine along with the servo unit.

Inspect these for signs of corrosion or fluid leakage, and give them a very gentle tug to check for secure mounting.


Mirrors are a common fail point. There must be a right-hand door mirror and one other, either inside or on the other door; many cars have all three.

A cracked mirror may pass an MoT inspection - it depends whether it still provides a clear view. If the glass is still there such a fault is easily remedied by fitting a stick-on replacement.

If the mirror is missing or damaged beyond repair, an original manufacturer's replacement will be needed - it has to fit the housing exactly. Alternatively, scrapyards often stock mirrors and mirror housings.

Seats & Belts

Pull each seat belt out to its full extent and check there are no cuts or frayed areas. Fasten each belt, examine the buckles, and inspect where the belt anchors are mounted onto the car body.

The seats must be secure - firmly mounted to the floor with no corrosion around the mounting points. All clips, latches and seat adjustment mechanisms must work properly.

Windscreen & Wipers

There are strict guidelines about whether a crack or scratch interferes with the driver's view.

There are several processes available to repair chips and repolish glass to MoT standard, so you may not need a new windscreen.

Check the screen washers (the ignition may have to be switched on). Spray from the nozzles should hit the windscreen around the top of the wiper blade sweep.

If wiper blades are damaged or leave streaks, they must be renewed. The wiper arm should hold the blade firmly against the windscreen. If not, try bending the arm inward to make it press harder. If this fails, new arms are needed.