Making the Most of a Minimal Budget. Contact me at: or on Twitter: @skintsailor

Monday, 4 April 2016

Boat Takes a Back Seat This Weekend

My car is due it's MOT on Tuesday so I've been sorting it out ready. Yeah, I've had the Swedish Tank almost a year now.. time flies!

The ABS light was on so I took it into a garage for diagnosis and a quote for fixing it. Their diagnostic equipment said the ABS pump was faulty. The pump is made up of two parts: a hydraulic block with the valves and the motor/pump and an electronic module to control all of the valves and the pump.

The garage could only get brand new ones from Volvo... at nearly £1000 for the electronics and £1500 for the hydraulics! As the car only cost £500 that wasn't gonna fly.

So on Friday I ordered a used pump off ebay.... £45. Job done I thought.

But then I tapped the huge information resource that is the internet. It seems it's quite common for the electronic control modules to suffer from dry solder joints. Quite a common failure in a lot of electronic units since lead in solder was reduced in the name of environmentalism.

The hard part is getting the plastic casing apart to get at the electronics. So, since I had a replacement on the way, I thought there's no risk involved in having a bash at the faulty one.

So the electronic module was removed and I set to with the hacksaw to cut through most of the casing and then followed carefully with a stanley knife to carefully finish separating one half of the case from the other.

The sight that greeted me wasn't pretty: two massive dry joints on the power supply to the ABS pump motor. Usually you have to use a magnifying glass to see dry joints, but this had been on the way out for a while and arcing had occurred across the solder gap.

Anyway, I got the soldering iron out and reflowed the solder to the two obviously dodgy connections and any that looked a little bit suspect.

Before I sealed it all up again I tried it on the car and voila! The ABS motor whirred and the light on the dashboard went out. That was a fist-pump moment right there! The hard part was sealing the case up again (good old black Puraflex from boat-sealing duty) and waiting for it to harden before bolting the electronics back in place.

The ability to  repair, reuse and repurpose doesn't just make sailing cheaper, it also makes motoring cheaper too. It's a philosophy that works in every area of life, saving precious resources. The car could quite easily have been scrapped for something trivial. All that energy and emissions used to create the vehicle would have gone to waste for something as simple as two dry solder joints. As it is, the car hopefully lives to fight another day. I do think this inbuilt obsolescence, the "throw-away" culture that extends even to large systems like cars offends me. A car should be designed and built to last beyond it's warranty period and should be easily serviceable outside of warranty. These days cars are made so complex that servicing is beyond the normal person and once it gets past it's warranty period repair costs are so high and big bills are so frequent that the cars become unecenomic to run way too early in their life. Cars get crushed so that customers can consume newer models, at huge cost in resources.

Far better to extend the life of a car that has been manufactured and suffer slightly higher emissions, because those emissions are a fraction of the emissions generated to create a whole new car. It would take years of running an old car to match the amount of emissions generated to build a new one in a factory.

Sorry to rant a bit, but there really is a serious side to the Skint Sailing philosophy.

The MOT is tomorrow, here's hoping anything it throws up is fairly fixable and cheap.


Overnight I was reminded of a classic tale of inbuilt motoring obsolescence: Peugeot Diesels. Modern diesels have particulate filters to catch all the soot coming out of the exhausts, but to help burn off that soot and stop the particulate filters becoming blocked, they have an additive called Adblue or some other proprietary name. You can see Adblue tanks on garage forecourts for commercial vehicles as they have refillable Adblue tanks.

In Peugeot diesels of a certain age, the Adblue tank is not user refillable: you have to get it done at a garage. So something that the car uses just like petrol and eventually uses up, becomes a non-user replaceable item. There's a warning that appears on the dashboard not when the tank is empty, but when the on-board computer counts a certain number of fuel flap openings. So if you only half-fill the tank every time, the computer thinks you have used more Adblue that you really have so the service light comes on before it's really necessary. So you take it to a garage even before it's necessary!

That I'm afraid, REALLY offends me.


MOT passed with only a couple of advisories. Tyres and rear brake pads will need changing within the next year or so. Well chuffed. I can stop worrying about the car and go back to sorting the boat now then.  2.2Hp outboard cylinder head swap this week then!


  1. Well done.. same with bicycles... my mechanic tels me I need to change the chain on my bike every 5 weeks or I run the risk that as the chain stretches I have to replace front and back blocks = cheap alloys rather than the stuff our bikes were made of when we were kids.. drives me mad..

  2. That's ludicrous! They must be pretty weak alloys not to withstand the amount of force a bloke stood on pedals can exert.
    Lightweight alloys I can understand, but they should still be suitable to withstand the forces involved.