To spellcheck or not to spellcheck

It’s been a while since our last blog post.

We’ll  try and give it a bit more time in 2016 … promise.


Recently a pre-1960 vehicle came in, which was not required to have an MOT.  It wouldn’t have passed one, and we gave the owner a list of things that needed rectifying with the following notification:

“Please note that this vehicle is not roadworthy and should not be used on the road until remedial work is carried out.”

The wonders of modern spellchecking on our invoicing system took exception to the word “roadworthy” and thought it had a better alternative – see the picture above.

Needless to say it’s been added to the dictionary now.


Technical weekends

We’re holding another Technical weekend for D owners in the Citroen Car Club.

They were started over ten years ago, to help owners learn simple fixes to help keep their cars on the road.

Usual jobs completed across a weekend include:

  • Engine work – setting tappets, change spark plugs, cleaning, clutch adjustment
  • Body work – adjusting panels, grease points/greasing, removing and refitting wings
  • Electrical work – cleaning connectors,  ignition work, fitting 123/points& condensers, tidying up
  • General maintenance – changing oil, bleeding brakes, changing rear gaiters,  checking fluid levels, changing wiper blades
  • New owner help – what the buttons do, changing tyres, maintenance schedule, what to look out for
  • The weekends are a great place to get together with other D owners and help each other.
  • This coming Tech weekend (on April 12 & 13 2014) is fully subscribed, but there is contact information on the Citroen Car Club site, if you are interested in attending further Technical weekends


Credit card security and fallout.

We’ve noticed an increasing number of customers complain that their card transaction is being declined, apparently for no reason, when using our website to buy parts. This is mainly over the past 2 weeks and I’ve looked into each case. Most of the time it is due to the address details entered not matching those on the card authorisation database. I guess the card processing people, in our case Cardsave, have tightened up their security checks. I have spoken with them and the only way to avoid being caught by it is to enter your payment address details exactly as shown on your card statement.

One side effect of this, as we discovered with one such case this week, is that if a transaction is declined due to incorrect address details, the money is still set aside in case the transaction is later authorised. The money apparently does not actually leave your account, but is just not available for you to use. The problem is that if you only just have enough money in the account to cover the transaction and you try again with the correct address details, it gets declined again,  this time due to lack of available funds caused by the first declined transaction.

I’d not heard of this happening before, and to me it seems like complete madness – surely nothing should happen to your funds if a transaction is declined,  but after speaking to Cardsave about it, they tell me that this is standard procedure and the money is available to use back  in your account in 4 – 5 days.  I’m guessing all the card processing companies will operate in a similar way.

Apparently it only happens when a transaction is declined due to incorrect address details. Nothing happens to your funds if the transaction is declined for any other reason.

I do not like this, but security is security and there doesn’t seem to be much we can do about it. The key is to avoid it happening by very carefully entering your details exactly as they are on your card statement. If your transaction is declined, it is unlikely to be a fault with our website, although we will always investigate if you think it is, it is more likely a slight mismatch of your details compared to the card company database.

What are your thoughts, experiences and comments?




Some people should not be allowed to touch cars!

It’s been a funny month with a higher than usual number of vehicles through our doors with stupid things wrong.

The 3 photos below are the ones that most made us want to say”FFS! Some people should not be allowed to touch cars!”


This is what happens when you do not check there is oil in your H Van engine. In this case, one big end seized and made a hasty exit!


We do not know who is responsible for this, but we nearly didn’t let it in the yard when it arrived! I can understand someone who has nothing to do with cars not knowing which way up the chevrons should be, but then they wouldn’t be fitting them either. This must have been done by someone who should know better, but how the heck they went on to try and fit the D on DS20 upside down too, I’ll never know!

Citroen H Van wiper blade

Just put new wiper blades on! It’s not hard – it took me all of 40 seconds!

Bathurst-winning Citroën Traction Avant!

Bathurst-winning Citroën Traction Avant to cross the auction block | Hemmings Blog: Classic and collectible cars and parts.

New feature in a DS19…

An amusing enquiry this week was for “cock heater parts” for a DS19.

Now this is a feature that mine certainly doesn’t have and there is no reference to it in the parts book!

It may have lost something in translation however as it turns out they wanted parts for the heater valve – which we just happen to have, but it did make us laugh!

Flying DS Doctor

We had a bit of an unusual call out this week.

A long time customer of ours in Irvine, Scotland was having problems with his DS23. The engine wouldn’t run properly and the semi auto gear shift kept stalling the car, which then would not restart easily. The gentleman, we’ll call him Hugh because that’s his name,  had tried unsuccessfully to find someone (anyone!) reasonably local who knew enough about DS carburettors and the semi-auto set up to help him out. He even had someone who supposedly knew all about them travel over from Edinburgh, only to find that when they arrived, they appeared to have forgotten what they thought they knew! We’d been helping out with diagnosing and advising over the phone and by email, but he was going around in circles and getting nowhere (apart from maybe closer to the looney bin!), so I offered to fly up for the day and sort the car out for him.

This resulted in me being at Heathrow airport at 6am on Tuesday morning, boarding a flight to Glasgow with my tools in a bag. Arriving at Glasgow an hour and 20 minutes later I picked up a hire car and drove the 40 mins  to Hugh’s place in Irvine.  After a quick discussion about the symptoms over a cup of coffee (the first of many that day), I set about checking over the carburettor.

Certainly the float height was about 3mm too high – it always amazes me as to how they get that far out. It doesn’t seem to be wear and judging by the crud on the outside of the carburettor, nobody had seen the inside of it for years. The rest of the carby checked out OK. One of the problems was constant fouling of the spark plugs and I’m not surprised, as that float height would have been causing the fuel to be going into the engine in bucket loads! After reassembling the carburettor, fitting new spark plugs and resetting the ignition timing, the engine ran surprisingly well and once up to temperature the slow idle responded well to adjustment.

A drive around the block showed that the semi-auto clutch and gear change controls needed setting up from scratch, which I duly did and when Hugh took it for a drive, he said it had never run or driven that well in his ownership. The test drive also showed an indicator not working and a headlamp out, both of which I fixed whilst I was at it.

The car also needs the roof off and cant rail repaired as well as a pair of engine mounts, but those jobs will have to wait for another day…..

It must be said that the majority of this was happening on Hugh’s driveway in between (and sometimes during) horizontal rain showers and a bitingly cold wind. I think they call that “summer” in Scotland……

Whilst there, another Citroen DS owner by the name of James called in for a visit. He was from just down the road in Kilmarnock,  had recently bought his DS and is in the process of restoring it. He wanted to meet me and have me cast an experienced eye over his car, which he did and I did. I pointed out a few things that needed attention, but otherwise it was quite a tidy job, slightly customised to his taste and should serve him well.  One anomaly was that it appeared to be a 1970 D Super, but with the identity and engine from a 1968 DS19. The RHD 4 speed manual car came from Australia via The Netherlands, so  what happened when and why to cause it to end up in that spec will never be known.

As darkness fell, there was just time for one more cup of coffee and another chokkie bikkie before I drove back to Glasgow, returned the hire car and boarded the flight back to Heathrow. I finally made it home at 10.30pm after  a strange but enjoyable day.

Now, I really must see if that customer in the Maldives needs a hand with his DS…..

Hugh with his Slough built ID19 and French built DS23




Have you got a screw loose?

Recently a customer about to collect his car after having it serviced, was found muttering about his wing mirror which kept moving on it’s pivot at speed. He claimed that it would not tighten up and was about to add more tape to that already wound around the pivot in an attempt to stop it moving. I said “Let’s remove the tape and I’ll see if I can tighten it up”. So he removed the tape and I got my screwdriver and tightened the pivot screw which went up from underneath. That made the pivot nice and stiff, so I said “Job done, put the tape away”, to which he replied “I didn’t know that screw was there!”

Well, you do now! I promised not to mention names if I ever spoke or wrote about it, so I wont…..

Citroen Classics changes workshop booking-in system.

As of June 11th 2012 we have had to alter the way we book work in to the workshop.

Due to the nature of the work we do, dealing only with classic Citroens, we can never be sure that whatever job is booked in will only require the work it is booked for. In actual fact it is a rare occurrence that a booked in vehicle only requires the work it was originally booked for as circumstances beyond our control often dictate that a 4 hour job can turn into a 2 day job, for example.
Until now there has usually been enough space between jobs to allow the additional work to be carried out without affecting the following bookings too much.

However, over the last 12 months or so demand for our services has increased to the point that there are no longer any gaps between jobs to act as buffers and on top of that, we are now fully booked until approximately mid-October.
This puts time constraints on the work we are able to do to your car and has also led to the problem of having nowhere to put the cars which arrive for work on the day booked, but which we are unable to start on for a number of days, or weeks.
Both of these things I believe adversely affect the level of service which we are able to offer you and in some cases I am downright embarrassed that we have been unable to get work completed and back to the customer within a reasonable time frame.

Therefore I have taken the decision to alter our workshop booking in arrangements to follow the same queue system that we use for the body shop.
Jobs will no longer be booked in on a certain date, but when booked will join the end of the queue. At the time of booking we will let you know approximately when you should expect to be at the top of the queue.
As we work through the queue and your job gets closer to the top we will contact you to discuss the best day and time for you to bring the car in.
We will give you as much notice as we can, but this will usually be around 5 – 10 days beforehand.
Should you require the car to be ready by a certain date, for a holiday or wedding for example, please advise us of this when booking and we will do our best to accommodate it where possible.

Although this will inevitably result in an amount of uncertainty as to when you will get your car fixed, the advantages are that when we are working on your car it will get the best possible attention, there will be time to do all the jobs you require and it will be here for the shortest amount of time.
Also, should you be unfortunate enough to suffer a breakdown or need an emergency repair we will have the flexibility to be able to respond and get you on the road again in the shortest time, with minimal disruption to our other clients.

All jobs currently booked in for work after June 11th 2012 will automatically form the queue and will be done in the order that they are in the diary.
If you are one of our clients who is already booked for work, your booking still stands, it’s just that the actual date you were booked for may no longer apply. We will contact you to explain the situation further and discuss your specific case.

I apologise now for any inconvenience this may cause, but I also feel that it ensures we can offer you a better level of service with the least amount of disruption in the long term. (and I can stop working 15 hour days, 6 and often 7 days a week, just trying to keep up!)

Darrin Brownhill
Partner, Citroen Classics.

P.S.  As the queue for the workshop is currently about four and a half months long, in order to shorten it to a more acceptable level, we have a vacancy for a competent mechanic. Must have experience working on older Citroens, or be a fast learner and must be able to work to a very high standard unsupervised. The successful applicant will be part of a small team, who wish to stay as a small team, turning out high quality work done right the first time.

Contact me via email or telephone if you are interested and can meet the conditions above. Contact details can be found at

Rusted core plug in Traction Avant cylinder head

A Traction Avant came to us for an MOT today and after the 1 mile each way journey, it had a lot of steam coming from under the bonnet. When we opened the bonnet to investigate, we found the steam to be coming from the engine oil filler / breather not the radiator!
We pulled the dipstick and found lots of emulsion instead of oil, but the puzzling thing was the amount of coolant that had got into the oil in a short space of time – too much to be a head gasket and the car was still running sweetly.
I suspected a rusted through core plug in the head and upon removing the rocker cover I found coolant squirting out of 2 tiny holes in one of the core plugs. By the time I’d got the camera it was a welling, rather than squirting, but it did explain things. An easy repair by replacing the plug and a change of fluids later it was all was sorted. The other 2 core plugs were still nice and solid.

Core plug with holes

Video of coolant welling up from below!