Category Archives: Restoring my Mini Cooper

Nushka Pt 5: Chilli is a Nutter

As you may have read in part 4 of this series I’ve had real trouble trying to get the locking wheel nuts off of my mini. I’d tried hammering on impact sockets, using a special locking wheel nut sockets and even taken an angle grinder to them! All had failed and I now new there was just one thing left for me to do… get a man in.

I mailed Chilli in the week and lured him (and his more hardcore tools) over with the promise of lunch. Thankfully he agreed and yesterday he turned up with a powerful dewalt drill and a huge toolbox of other manly instruments… oh and he also bought his beautiful daughter Charlotte along to oversea the works.

There were three nuts that needed removing and one of those had already had the butcher treatment from me and my angle grinder. After a quick pizza break he set to work trying to drill out the mashed nut while Charlotte kept me distracted so I wouldn’t get in Chilli’s way.

Charlotte make sure Chilli does it right

The nut (or what was left of it) finally gave up and came free… to say I was happy would be the understatement of the year.

He then moved onto the next two nuts which he made swift work of by hammering on an impact socket (yes I know I tries this) and applying some brute force. They didn’t give up too much resistance and we now have a mini which can have the wheels removed easily.

The Butchered Locking Wheel Nut
The Butchered Locking Wheel Nut

I’m eternally grateful to Chilli for helping out with this and just hope that one day they’ll be something that I can help him with.

So what’s next you ask? Well I now plan to remove the rears wheels and service the brakes (not sure if they’ll actually need replacing or not) and also check out the handbrake. Stay tuned for the update 🙂

Nushka Pt 4: Getting the wheels off

Following on form my previous posts on getting my lovely little mini back on the road this one relates to the first 3 attempts I’ve now had at getting her wheels off.

For most people removing wheels from cars is not something to write home about (or blog about for that matter)… but for me and Nushka this has turned into something more than a five minute job. The reason for this is simple… I don’t have the key-socket for the locking wheel nuts! I need the wheels off so that if (or when) I get a flat and am where a lot of mini owners time is spent (i.e. on the hard shoulder of motorways) I can very easily replace the wheel with the spare. Oh there’s also the added necessity so that I can service the brakes, replace the ball joints and correct the steering.

The Blasted Locking Wheel Nut
The Blasted Locking Wheel Nut

Attempt 1 – Impact Sockets

Well to start with my locking nuts had this tasty little metal collar on which span freely around the outside… this would have put stop to any attempts at just hammering on an impact socket over the top. So this was, and quite hastily at that, removed using a screwdriver and hammer combination. Next up I hammered an undersized (is that a real word) impact socket over the top of the locking wheel nut. Of course with this firmly in position I just attempted to unscrew the nut as normal. Sad to say all that happened was the locking wheel nut with it’s once perfectly cylindrical exterior now hexagonal returned to it’s circular shape and my impact socket just came free. Blast!

Attempt 2 : Special Tools!

Thanks to my boss I was able to get my hands on a special set of sockets which were specifically designed for removing locking wheel nuts. These had a fluted interior with a very sharp reverse thread. The idea being that you hammer them on and then as you turn the socket they ‘claw’ into the nut and eventually cause it to turn free.

Sadly this attempt achieved similar results to the first… the end product being a wheel nut with a smaller diameter due to the outer few millimetres being shaved off!

Attempt 3 : The Angle Grinder

Fair play, perhaps I was really looking for an excuse to buy such an exciting power tool… but nevertheless I was hoping that by cutting a nice grove lengthwise through the nut I could then use a long thin tool (such as a beefy screwdriver) to finally free up the nut and get it off (there are in fact 3 nuts I need to remove).

The cutting went fine… in fact more than fine as I had great fun as there were loads of sparks 🙂  Unfortunately once again, due to the softness of the nuts, this did not work. As I was pulling up on the lever (in this case a screwdriver) half of the nut – down to the depth of the slit – snapped off! The inner part of the nut is still attached fast. Attempt number 3… FAIL!

So What’s Next?

Well, I currently have 2 more options that I can think of:

  • Drill out the stud
  • Use a cold chisel to snap off the remainder of the nut

These will be explored in later posts.. wish me luck!

Nushka Pt 3: Steering Column and Wheel

So on further inspection of the damage caused by the low-life scum that smashed her window and tried to hot wire her (yup perhaps I should put the to-do list up in the window to deter would-be thieves) it appears that not only had they buckled the steering wheel but also bent the steering column. I can only presume they were trying to break the steering lock. I managed to get a like-for-like replacement wheel off in eBay and Chilli supplied me with a spare column. All was looking good.

Removing the old wheel and column was a relative breeze to be honest. A bit of brute force here and there saw them both removed without too much fuss. Upon opening the Haynes book of lies it seems that Nushka was not fitted with some of the parts described there… I couldn’t find the “U-clamps” that needed to be used and I still have no idea as to why I had to remove a rubber plug from the passenger footwell… it seemed to play no further part in the instructions! In the end I just reversed the removal instructions and everything seems to be OK.

Actually I do need to replace a pinch nut which I appear to have threaded which fixes the column at the base and also need to check the placement of the column which I’ll do once I have her front raised off the ground.

So, next up I need to find a way to remove the locking wheel nuts (for which I don’t have the key) and then get to work on the brakes, ball joints and checking the steering.

Will update soon I hope.

Nushka Part 2: The new quarterlight

As previously written in part 1 of this series on the work I’m undertaking on my ’91 Mini Cooper I have a large list of works to complete and number 1 on the list was to replace the rear driver’s side quarterlight which was smashed by some knobs trying to steal her.

I actually ended up buying a pair off ebay for ~£35 inc P&P. They were the green tint variety and apart from some minor rust on the hinges they were in good nick. The actual replacement was a breeze and for now (at least) she is keeping out the great British summer again.

I realise this wasn’t the most detailed post but all the work counts right?

Anyhoo, next up to get Chilli round to give her the once over.

Nushka the Mini: Some Background

A few years ago I purchased a 1991 Rover Mini Cooper; a beautiful bright red young lady named Nushka.

Nushka The Mini
Nushka The Mini

After a year or so of happy carefree* driving she started to have issues with a loss of power. I took her to a Mister Clutch branch in Hemel Hempsted and she was diagnosed with a broken clutch… an expensive fault. Of course I wanted her fixed so I asked the garage to go ahead with the repairs. After an absolute headache with them (I shan’t go into details here as it makes me angry) I now have her back… but now she’s diagnosed with a “borked oil pump” and possible gearing parts in the engine!

Due to a prior lack of space, equipment, knowledge and skills (let’s just breeze over the laziness) I’ve only just got around to looking into getting her fixed up and back onto the open road. This delay however has added complexity to her resurrection plans since parts of her have not enjoyed sitting still for so long. Oh I suppose this is a good point to bring up the incident where she was broken into by some low life scum.

Anyhoo moving on… thanks to my love of driving minis I’m now going to attempt to fix all the bits myself. I’ll of course get some professionals to replace the engine and I’m sure I’ll have a helping hand from my good friends and budding mini enthusiasts Chilli and Marcus and of course the lovely Badja.

The decision to undertake these works came about as at present we have no real need to have a car on the road and also that I hope to keep driving minis my entire life. Thus this work will be as much of a training exercise as anything else.

So onto the list of jobs… this is only an overview and I’m sure some more will be added once Chilli has given her the once over;

  • Engine replacement (inc oil pump)
  • Replace steering wheel (busted by the thugs)
  • Possible steering column replacement (also busted by the thugs)
  • Some electrical works (windscreen wipers don’t work, other circuits playing up)
  • Ball joint replacement
  • Front and rear brakes (straight parts replacement for the time being)
  • Rear quarter light replacement (thugs again)
  • Fix exhaust (at the moment she sounds like a tank… or at least she did last time she was started)
  • Some added/replacement bling (Petrol cap, eyelids, bumpers, etc)
  • Steering stick housing (not sure what this is actually called… due to thugs again)
  • Handbrake service.
  • New wheels and tyres
  • Fit carpet and sound proofing
  • Some ICE… you know for when I’m in Watford or the engine is off
  • Rust (there’s quite a bit which is visible… and probably a lot more which isn’t)

I think I should make it clear at this point that I’m not mechanically minded, though I have replaced a fan-belt previously and re-wired one of the front indicators…. oh and also fitted a new dashboard with the help of Chilli. As you can appreciate this may all take some time and I’m sure the list will grow.

Anyways, first things first I need to replace the rear quarter light to make her watertight(ish).

* of course there were issues with leaking windscreens, corroded fuse boxes and the like but that’s all part of owning a mini.