A Statistical Analysis of Observed Random Component Failures in the Genus Austin-Healey Mechanicax
by Tom Mason
Originally published in the Austin-Healey Magazine, October 1991
Edited by Gerard Chateauvieux June 1999
OK, I'm sorry. I was reading Scientific American and what this title means is that this is my recollection of the most frequent problems experienced by the cars in the Minnesota club. The number one failure has been the overdrive. Two of these failures were electrical and the third was fixed by removing and working on the overdrive pressure pump. The simplest
way to test your overdrive is to turn on the key and engage the overdrive switch. Then move the gear shift lever between the first/second plane and the third/ fourth plane. Moving the lever side to side should cause the overdrive solenoid to click in and out, no noise means an electrical failure. That is the most common failure.
Our second leading villain is fuel system failures, with fuel pumps leading the way and one BJ8 rubber diaphragm failure. Our experience has been to stay with a stock fuel pump and to repair them. We all carry an extra set of points and many carry a spare pump.
We have had an electronic ignition fail and one bad cap and rotor. An extra cap and rotor and even some extra plugs and sparking wires are cheap insurance. My personal opinion is that solid core wires are still the best, and MSW wires are solid stainless wires wound in a coil that will supply some noise suppression for cars with radios. I've tried a lot of wires and I still find that these are the best.
We've had two charging failures traced to generator brushes and a regulator. If you hook a voltmeter across your battery, you should get 14.5 to 15 volts with the motor idling. If you do, strongly suspect your battery. If not, it's generator brushes or regulator time. At 70 to 90 thousand miles it's time for new bearings and brushes in your generator.
You might want to think about how long it has been since the generator had attention. The worst part of generator failure is not the electrical part, as you can always limp home, but the generator pulley is on the same belt path as the water pump. If the generator pulley will not turn, neither will the water pump.
Other random failures were a steering idler box (a rare failure for anyone), and miscellaneous electrical gremlins. Besides these we have had a lot of trouble-free driving.
My car has 120k on it now and because I am its original owner, I have the advantage of knowing how a new Healey is supposed to handle. Lately, mine had become what I describe as "loose." I'm experimenting for all of you by replacing motor mounts and working my way back replacing all the rubber. The steering is tight and has been upgraded. The motor mounts have helped about thirty percent, but the car is still not crisp. So I am going to replace all the rubber bushings in the rear end, including leaf springs and track arm bushings. I'll let you know how it turns out.
In the meantime keep driving them with the idea that every time you fix something, it's one less thing to go wrong. Eventually you'll get a year with no problems. Honest.
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