(if a car is not pictured here, it has been sold)

Austin Healey Sprite fuel pump woes

That’s my Iris blue Bugeye (“The Egg”) getting retrieved by a flat bed tow truck a few weeks ago. The fuel pump failed, a nice looking little German model which started pumping furiously (without moving fuel) because the diaphragm failed. Below on the right is a picture of the one that came with the car, which broke. Alongside I have also shown an Ecco brand pump that comes with plastic fittings- I much prefer metal ones.

Sadly, we have seen lots of these aftermarket alternatives fail.

We have had zero failures with the square solid state pump we sell. This is the most reliable set-up that we have found, and they live on almost all of the cars we have shipped to customers around the world. The Egg will get one too (click this text if you want to order one).

Last week, we were putting together a Bugeye with a working pump and fuel pressure regulator in place. Lots of people use higher pressure pumps and adjustable pressure regulators to step down the pressure for SU carbs, which only need 1.5 to 2PSI of pressure. But the regulator has one more diaphragm in the chain that you just don’t need.

In fact, on a test drive this week, I felt something unusual on my right foot as I applied the accelerator pedal. Heat was all I could discern, and while it felt a little like a snake bite, my sock also felt wet. So I switched off the engine to evaluate and found that my shoe had filled with fuel. This particular regulator was located next to the pedal box and the diaphragm inside it failed, thus causing a gasoline rainstorm on my pedicure.

I’ve had plenty of brake fluid land on my shoes while driving, but this was my first fuel-foot. So I would rip out your regulator and put in the correct low pressure pump.

Every diaphragm has a limited life span, so it’s best to get rid of them all. The diaphragm on the mechanical fuel pumps original to the car will tear and can send fuel into your sump and/or onto your hot manifold. SU pumps have diaphragms that can tear. And regulator rubber can also perish. The square pumps are piston powered and seem much more durable and so far, represent the best path to reliability. My car looks great on the truck below, but I would have much preferred to have driven home!

Don’t do this to your Bugeye Sprite

The iris blue Bugeye in this photo came to us from Boise, Idaho for sorting and upgrades. I climbed-in to unload it from the enclosed trailer in front of our shop and my conversation with the driver went something like this:

Driver: “Turn the wheel to the right”
Me: It’s all the way to the right.
Driver: No it’s not.
Me: the wheel is hard over
Driver Then how come this wheel is all the way to the LEFT?

At which point we climbed deeper into the dark 53′ trailer so we could see the front of the car. Indeed, one tire was pointing fully to the left and the other fully to the right. We looked under the car to find the nut missing and the tie rod end no longer connected.

It may look pretty normal in the photo, but if you look closely in the upper right of the picture, you will see the tie rod end floating in mid-air beneath the steering arm. That’s because the nut came loose, unscrewed and departed the vehicle, and then the tie rod end fell out of the steering arm. When turning the steering wheel with this configuration, one wheel turns, and goes in any direction other than parallel to its mate, which is to say, driving in this mode could have disastrous consequences. Fortunately, this all happened while the car was making its cross country journey, safely secured inside this trailer.

We fixed it, tightened it and drove it off the trailer without issue. No one was hurt. But
please before your next drive in your classic car put a wrench on YOUR tie rod ends. Original tie rod ends were drilled for a cotter pin. Unfortunately, newer replacements are sold with a nyloc nut instead. We’ll never know why this one fell-off. Perhaps it was insufficiently tightened. Or maybe the installer lost the nyloc and used a generic nut. Regardless, have a look at yours. Two-wheel steering is a good thing.

Why this innovative new Sprite product is worthy of its own post!

The new generator shown below (installed in a customer’s car) looks completely stock. Yet, hidden inside is a modern high-powered alternator that outputs more than twice the amperage, spins on superior bearings, and weighs about half as much as the original!

Introducing the “GenerNator,” an exciting innovation of great interest to everyone who owns a Spridget fit with a Lucas generator and regulator. This new dynamo looks original but is superior in every way to the original Lucas generator. It’s available for positive and negative ground cars, as well as traditional Mark One Bugeyes with a tach drive and also for later non-tach drive set-ups.

For years we have done alternator conversions to get rid of the generator and regulator-the alternator provides more power at lower rpms, with better bearings, and it’s more durable. But this change always necessitated a change to an electronic tachometer, because the tach drive went away with the alternator change-over.

No more.

Now, our new GenerNator gives you all the the benefits of an alternator with none of the downsides. It looks completely stock but hidden inside is a modern alternator. It spins the tachometer drive just like the original. The difference is more than twice the output of a generator, more power available at lower RPMS, much less weight, built-in regulator, better bearings.

It’s brilliant!

You no longer need your regulator with this product (this is more great news-regulators are sometimes unreliable-the GenerNator gets rid of another potential trouble spot!) Instructions are included to wire it all up. You can leave the stock regulator in place, it becomes a fused link for the new set-up. If you are missing your regulator, or yours is damaged, you can also order our dummy regulator, which looks stock and includes a fuse hidden inside.

Check it out at our catalog page by clicking here. We are actively installing these in customer cars and have thus far had no issues and expect this product to be a winner all the way around! Retain the stock appearance, retain your stock gauges, upgrade the power output and reliabilty, lighten the weight. What’s not to like?

It’s a particularly timely innovation, and the need for this product was “driven” home this week. One of the cars we recently delivered to Western New York (Hampton) stopped working when the voltage regulator melted. It may have shorted internally, or the generator may have shorted and fried the regulator (we’ll know when we inspect the pieces soon) but regardless, the charging system failed and it left the customer’s car inoperable in his own garage. This is of course completely unacceptable… frustrating for the customer and particularly frustrating for us!

This happened in spite of our routine inspection of these components when we released the car. In fact, every car we sell goes through a comprehensive check list before we allow it to depart, and the charging circuit is thoroughly inspected as part of this checklist. Still, the system stopped working, which is our worst nightmare. Hampton will get a new GenerNator, and this should serve the car and the customer quite well, and most importantly should end hassles with the charging system forever.

If you want to order one of these beauties, click here. We have the tach drive model in stock now, and will have the non tach drive version available next week (for later cars).

Positive ground simplified

Believe it or not, wiring a car with positive ground is supposed to make them rust less. Doesn’t seem to work very well… my first car, a (positive ground) 1966 MGB came to me with rocker panels completely absent, as though they had vaporized. At the time the car was only 12 year old! The car needed more than positive earth to survive..BMC Corp needed more than the flow of electrons to rustproof their cars.

Around 1967, negative earth became more popular and more common on all cars, especially British ones. Negative is nice because you can power negative ground cigarette lighters, LED lights and stereo systems. Alternators require negative ground too, if you are planning a conversion for more output. Negative ground is more common and less intimidating so it’s a popular conversion for formerly positive ground cars. Thus we now have a mixed fleet, with classic cars (and Frogeyes) set-up for both positive and negative ground. It’s imperative that you learn how to identify with ease which type you have. We find that many people are still quite confused about battery polarity and British cars, so I’ll try to clear things up a little here.

Which way is the Frogeye grounded in the photo above? Can you tell from the photo? Don’t let colored leads and stickers fool you, this is something you want to verify before you create a shower of sparks and potentially do any damage.

All batteries have a marking on the case that identified positive and negative. Sometimes these marks are hard to see when the battery is installed in the car. Let’s presume you can’t see those markings-how can you differentiate the polarity? The larger terminal is the giveaway. Every battery has a larger positive terminal. You can see in the photos below that the positive terminal is slightly larger. So in the photo above, the battery above is wired for negatve ground, with the smaller terminal on the right wired to the firewall for ground and the fatter post wired to the starter solenoid.
Make sure you know before you hook up a charger or a jump, because reversed polarity can melt your charger and/or damage your wife’s car if you jump incorrectly. Whenever you connect another battery to yours (or a charger), always connect negative to negative, and positive to positive. Whether you have positive or negative ground, this rule always holds true.

Once you ID your configuration, mark the terminals with a sharpie to make life easier in the future!

Bugeye Sprite A pillar water leaks

The stamping in the sheet metal seems to funnel the water into the front hole, where it can pool in the A pillar…

While preparing Timothy’s teal Bugeye (above) for his road trip, I was briefly caught in a shower. I zipped into our garage and dried the car, and forgot about the deluge until we removed the windscreen the next day to replace the windshield to body seal. Much to my surprise, the depression in the cowl under the windshield pillar was quite wet 24 hours later. The rust commonly found at the bottom of Bugeye A pillars was starting to make more sense.

These seals are extremely important. About 50 percent of the Bugeyes we see have some form of blistering at the union of the A pillar and rocker panel. If the windhshield doesn’t seal properly, water runs into the little cavity shown, which funnels water right into the front windshield post hole. You can see how the captive threads are wet, so it’s easy to imagine water dripping down into the flat A pillar floor and ruining your car.

Here’s the new gasket, rolled under for a tight seal. You’ll also notice the windshield wiper posts are clear of the seal when you roll the edge under, which helps keep water out.

The seals that keep out the water have to be done right. I’ve written before about rolling the cowl gasket under so that it forms a tight seal. When it’s unfurled flat, that cowl seal will wick water underneath the windshield, which will run down to the mounting holes and into the car. This car had cracks in the seal, which made water entry easy.

The pad gaskets also have to be sound. We routinely enlarge the holes on these to get them to fit, so that has to be done carefully or there will be more opportunities for water to find its way into the A pillar. Lastly, make sure to tightly butt the new windshield to body gasket right up against the pad gaskets. If they overlap, water will get in, and if there’s a gap, water will get in there too.

The windshield post base pad seals best on the body when the cowl seal is butted against it. Make sure the cowl seal is not underneath, or water can run in. Be careful not to leave a gap between pad and cowl seal, or water can sit in that space too.

We sell new gaskets and you should check to make sure yours are sound. If yours are cracked, you’re due. Voids in the gasket under your windscreen will let water in even when you are washing the car. Good rubber will help you keep the water out.

To buy new ones click the links:
New windshield to body gasket that fits
New windshield post pad gaskets

Don’t do this either to your Bugeye Sprite

There is only one way to put your fuel sender into a Sprite tank that will have the sender work. But that doesn’t stop people from getting creative. The unit has to be configured with the arm on the sender running parallel to the car and perpendicular to the tank. In the photo above, you can see the sender installed at 45 degrees, which limits the full swing of the float and limits the travel of the fuel gauge needle. The upward dent on the tank in front of the sender allows the float to swing upward for a full fuel indication. It won’t work if the sender isn’t oriented correctly.

In the photo below, you can just make out the fuel 1/3 up the inside of the plastic float. We have published this many times but still see so many of these in the field that it bears repeating… plastic and ethanol do not mix. Plastic floats are attacked by ethanol, fill with fuel and sink. We have seen this happen in a matter of months. Throw away your plastic float before verify this theory. We sell a nice metal one instead, that should last longer than your car! You can get one by clicking here, and you can find it already paired with a new fuel sender by clicking here.

A younger version of myself had plenty of fuel run into his armpit while rolling by creeper under a Bugeye and bench-pressing a full fuel tank up into position. A lift and a helper make it a lot easier these days. But you still only want to do this stuff once, so best to do it right the first time.

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