What you see below is a car that has just passed its MOT with no advisories.

Back in July, I knew that wouldn’t be the case, however. The front strut mounts were worn quite badly, the cheap Chinese tyres I had used as a stop-gap were cracking on the sidewalls, and one of the inner CV gaiters was torn. It was also leaking a little coolant from somewhere, an ongoing problem that I have been trying to diagnose for quite a while now, and like I always do before an MOT, I intended to give it a service. So I got the Leon up on jackstands, and used all the available daylight hours to sort out these few issues.

Replacing the strut mounts was simple. I separated the ball joint from the control arm, removed the hub nut and pressed the axle out, and undid the nut holding the strut to the strut tower, at which point the whole assembly slid right out. A bit of work with the fearsome coil spring compressors, and the old and new mounts were swapped in short order. You can see below how worn the old bearings in the mount were. I replaced the ball joints at the same time, just to help tighten everything up.

Next, I replaced the inner CV gaiter on the nearside driveshaft. This again wasn’t a difficult job, although I did need to purchase a XZN socket to get the job done (apparently these are only used for VAG driveshafts and Mercedes head bolts). Once I had the assembly out, it was a matter of minutes to clean and re-grease everything, and get the new boot on and clamped down.

While I had the driveshaft out, I decided to clean and re-grease the outer CV joints as well. Here I was in for a big surprise. When I removed the clip and opened the gaiter, I discovered a ball bearing rolling around inside. Immediately fearing the worse (although I had no reason to, as the joint felt fine), I hit everything with a bunch of brake cleaner, only to discover another surprise: all six bearings in the joint were still in place. Yes, this was an extra ball bearing, just rolling around inside the boot. I have no idea how it got there, or more importantly, why it was there, but to my relief, it hadn’t done any apparent damage. I tossed it in my toolbox, re-greased the joint, and buttoned everything up again.

Though I know a small coolant leak wouldn’t be an MOT failure, I still wanted to get to the bottom of the issue, as I had been dealing with it for months by this point. It wasn’t going through a lot of coolant – I only had to top it up once or twice since last winter – but it was dripping a little underneath the car. I took a lot of things apart and did a thorough investigation of every coolant hose and line I could find, even taking the timing belt cover off – not a five-minute task – to see if the water pump had sprung a leak, but discovered nothing obvious in the process. Someone helpfully suggested it might be a pressure-related leak – when warm and under pressure, whatever minuscule leak there was would seal up, only to drip again when cold. In the end, based on where it seemed to be dripping from, I determined that if it was going to be anything, it would be the thermostat housing. Since these little plastic housings are only a few quid, I decided just to replace it, if only for peace of mind. After removing it, I still couldn’t see any obvious cracks or signs of leakage, but the new one seems to have stopped the leak altogether. I remain slightly mystified, but I’ll take what I can get.

Finally, I gave the Leon the usual service – oil change and new filters, including the fuel filter – as well as some new spark plugs, and got a decent set of part-worn Falkens to replace the Chinese rubber. Judgement day arrived, and I brought it to the local garage for the test, which it passed with flying colours. And though I’m not usually one to brag, I will brag about the fact that the mechanic complimented me for how clean the car was underneath. I’m glad that my degreasing efforts did not go unnoticed. Good amounts of the underside were also treated to a liberal dose of ACF-50 at the same time.

And as I always do, I treated the car to a good scrubbing after it passed its MOT.

The car runs as well as ever, and the new strut mounts in particular have really transformed how the car drives. It is so much tighter and more precise than before, and combined with the upgraded tyres, handles better than it ever has. I’m getting the tracking done tomorrow, and we’ll be set for another year of hooning round local B-roads.

Current mileage: 83,260
Mileage since purchase: 10,977

(Incidentally, I’ve dubbed this a ‘fleet update’ to spur myself on to post a bit more regularly here. My last post was in July, at which point I mentioned that I had bought another car, but haven’t really said anything else about it yet!)

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2 thoughts on “Fleet update, September 2018: The SEAT Leon

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