The MGA With An Attitude

At 08:10 AM 8/26/03 -0600, Kelly Corkill wrote:
>".... So breathlessly I go to the next pages but find .... no list of spare parts.   :(
>I AM NOT   :)   going to complain or anything, but you might consider adding that at some point."

Okay, well, some things just take a little longer to get to, depending on how many people holler. I guess most people don't drive these cars far enough to worry about carrying parts. People who do drive these cars a lot seem to understand the need for good maintenance and pre-trip preparation, in which case the cars are generally quite reliable and don't need many parts on the road.

As for myself, I don't consider an outing as a "Road Trip" unless it's at least 1000 miles. I very commonly do 300 to 500 miles in a day just for a club tour or a road rally, and fairly often 300 miles for an autocross date, and I never bother carrying parts for those trips. In 1996 I did Chicago to Brooklyn and back for a weekend autocross, 1700 miles in 36 hours. In 2002 we did a trip from Chicago to Key West for spring break, 3800 miles in 10 days, and I didn't bother carrying parts for those trips either. The only times I have ever carried a moderate stock of spare parts was for the 13,000 mile trip around the country in 1989, and the 19,000 mile Alaska trip in 1997. Even then I never carried anything as large as a generator.

Every Day Spares:

I mentioned in the tool kit article that there are a few very small parts which I do carry almost always in the tool kit. I carry a set of carbon brushes for the generator, and a couple of rubber grommets for the carburetor float chamber mounting on the H4 carburetors, because those are things which have bothered the car at least once in the first 100,000 miles after restoration. I often carry a spare throttle cable, which likes to break in about 20,000 miles, as I don't seem to ever get the hang of programmed maintenance for that part. On at least one occasion I attached a small ViceGrip to secure a broken cable end so maybe that part is not so important either. I also carry a small baggie full of electrical bits, especially wire ends, crimp-on butt connectors, a few light bulbs (spare fuses, never needed, are in the fuse block), and ignition points, capacitor and rotor (but not cap or wires). And I carry another small baggie full of miscellaneous nuts and bolts, one or two each of various sizes, and a few washers and cotter pins.

Spares for the Long Haul Trip:

When I do deem it appropriate to carry parts for a longer trip, everything I would carry will fit in a box with a footprint just large enough for an oil pan gasket, and about 4" thick. I might take the water pump because it's hard to find one just anywhere locally on short notice. I carried one for 13,000 miles in 1989 and never needed it. In fact for most of 200,000 miles I never needed a water pump. This is one of those parts that will generally give you a nice long notice before failure, like hundreds or maybe even thousands of miles of complaining before it would let you down. But I can tell you when I did need one (twice).

I built a new engine for the car just before the Alaska trip, including a new aluminum bodied water pump, and I carried another water pump as a spare. We were plannig on being in some very remote places where assistance or parts might be hard to find. As fate would have it, the aluminum water pumps have a design deficiency. The extended ear that holds the front bolt for the generator mounting is too thin and weak. If the bottom adjuster link on the generator works loose, and the top bolts are tight, the vibration of the generator when you hit road bumps is enough to fatigue and break the ear off the water pump. That happened about one week into the Alaska trip, and again a few weeks after the end of the trip. Prop the generator back up in place against the water pump, tighten up the remaining bolts, and drive on to the next convenient service location before changing the pump. Lesson learned the hard way but learned well. I now use only original iron bodied water pumps, and have never had a problem with one of those. In fact, the original factory issue water pump currently on my car has survived to operate on the third engine, having accumulated over 300,000 miles, and still going strong. If I hadn't been using aluminum bodied units I may never to this day have ever had a water pump failure. The risk is so small that I would likely not bother carrying one in the future even for a long road trip. In a pinch I could make a phone call and have one delivered next day air, anywhere I might travel (except Deadhorse AK, which would take two days).

Most of the traveling parts kit (when I do carry it) consists of every gasket and seal and locktab for the entire car. That way I can disassemble and reassemble anything on short notice without needing a parts order. These parts are both small and relatively cheap. Additionally it would contain one radiator hose and one heater hose, and a fan belt, although these too should never be needed on a road trip, as long as you don't do something stupid like run old hoses for more than 100,000 miles. A new fan belt lasted through the 19,000 mile Alaska trip with no problem, and new water hoses usually last at least a decade in good form. For the 19,000 mile Alaska trip I took along a few oil filters. They are comon spin-on filters, but the quick lube places often don't have a clue how to cross reference the part numbers. In mid trip I stopped to buy a tube of wheel bearing grease, as I had a programmed stop to repack the front wheel bearings and the trailer bearings. And before you ask, yes I did have a spare set of spindle bearings and hub seals for the trailer. As a matter of superstition only, I also took along one brake hose (all three are the same on the MGA 1500).

The other "largest" parts I carry would be a heater valve and a palm size fuel pump (see Electrical Mods). One heater valve let me down once after a moment of brain fade. I hit the road once with an "unknown part" (used heater valve) that came with a used cylinder head (stupidity will get you every time). I did mention part of the tool kit was a small plug to stop off the heater hose to accomodate that type of failure, so if you're prepared for a failure of the heater valve you may not need to carry a spare (at least not in warm weather). The small aftermarket fuel pump is a concession of convenience (and smaller total parts volume), as opposed to carrying a set of repair parts for the original SU fuel pump.

Otherwise I carry some small parts to rebuild things, like bushings and brushes for the generator and starter motor. There is great consideration for parts that keep the car moving, and very little need for convenience and luxury items like the speedometer or fuel gauge or tail light lense. The primary concern is to be able to fix things enough to finish the trip and get home without a tow, or at least to be able to drive to the next convenient service facility. That does reqire a decent assortment of tools, but generally very little in the line of parts.

In a case where the car might drop a valve or break a crankshaft, you just resign yourself to a small delay of a couple of days for machining if necessary, and an air shipment of new parts (while waiting for the machine work to be finished). If you manage to really blow it up big time, like chuck a rod through the side of the block, then the delay could be a little longer (maybe a week), in which case you consider either the motel parking lot fix or figuring out how to get the car home. But those incidences should be very few and far between. If you were racing the car regularly, you might condsider taking it to the track on a trailer. Otherwise you might have to carry a complete engine to cover those instances. This does not generally fall into the domain of what to carry for spare parts to keep it running during a casual road trip. If you don't count the times I abused it to near death while autocrossing, my MGA has been towed only about once for each 100,000 miles of touring.

".... you might consider adding a list of spares that you take for each trip length (always in, medium out of town, Alaskaish drive). Though I can see why you need a trailer for the latter!"

Shucks, you don't need a trailer to carry spare parts. A case of oil and a spare oil filter or two would take more space than the listed spare parts. The trailer is for the camping gear and ice chest and luggage for a week (before you need a laundry stop), or alternately the trailer is for the race tires, or to haul home the booty from a swap meet. Otherwise all the spares I carry, even for a REALLY LONG road trip would easily fit in the boot.

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