It’s time to solve a known issue of our Morgan. In fact, it’s not just our 3-Wheeler that has this issue, but every Euro4 version cars do. It’s the weakness of the front turn lights’ supports.
What’s wrong with them? And why only the latest cars seem to have this issue? Let’s answer these questions!
The standard turn lights in our 3-Wheelers are an assembly consisting of a bullet-shaped large enclosure made of plastic and an orange colour module with seven LEDs.
The LEDs module is wedged inside the bullet-shaped enclosure, as shown in this picture below.
So, again, what’s the problem with this turn light? Nothing really. It works properly. The first problem is where it is placed. Or it was. That’s why we say “first” problem. You’ll understand if you keep reading.
If you look at the following picture of an early 3-Wheeler, you can see that this turn light is screwed to a short bracket welded below the arm supporting the main headlamps.
Here you have two more photos, courtesy of M3W Services, of an early-design spare arm, with the turn light installed. You can see the detail of the welded bracket holding the turn light.
This early design was solid. The bracket is solidly welded to the main arm and there is no news of this breaking. But look again, more carefully, to this picture below! Do you see where the turn light is positioned?
That’s the first problem. The exhaust headers run extremely hot, and the plastic enclosure with the turn light is too close. In fact, it’s so close that it can melt, as you can see.
Why are we talking about the “first” problem”? Why “first”? As this was a known problem, Morgan Motor Company redesigned this piece for the latest Euro4 machines. The main arm is still the same, but the welded little bracket holding the turn light was changed for a longer one, and repositioned: on the new design it’s welded at the very extreme side of the main arm, just above the big nut you see in the pictures.
The idea is good, as this design takes the plastic turn light’s enclosure away from the hot exhaust header. It solves the “first” problem. The turn light will not be damaged by the exhaust header heat anymore. But with this modification, a “second” problem appeared… keep reading to know about it.
Many owners of early 5-Speeder haven’t changed this front lights’ support, and they don’t complain about the melting plastic problem. It seems it’s not happening in all cars.
It might depend on how often you drive your car in heavy traffic, therefore slowly with little cooling air flowing around the exhaust headers and the turn light’s enclosure. If this kind of driving happens too often, you may suffer from this plastic meltdown.
But in the Euro4 versions as ours, it’s a different story. The heat coming out of the exhaust headers is much more because the catalysers restrict even more the exhaust gases’ flow. Don’t you trust me? Well… have a look at this next picture! This red-glowing exhaust header is our friend Pedro Freitas’ Euro4 car after a nice daily drive in Grindelwald. And not precisely slowly in heavy traffic, but at nice speeds with a lot of cool Swiss air flowing around.
It’s clear that having any plastics close-by this exhaust header is a very bad idea!
But, despite this new bracket design solves the first problem as it avoids the melting plastic issue, it comes with a new problem that makes it even worse: the “second” problem! The first one solved, the second one appears: the welding of the little bracket for the turn light is weak, and with the vibrations of the V-twin S&S engine, and the shacking while starting, they tend to break. It’s a manufacturing problem. The welding proves on and on to be too weak.
And guess where the turn light falls when its support breaks! Got it? Exactly! Just on the exhaust header… and as it’s hanging from the cables, it stays over the header melting as a marshmallow… This happened to us for the first time in September last year, on our way to Grindelwald (see our post “Long range campaign #2”, day 4).
This is what happens when the turn light’s support breaks. Our right side turn light almost disappeared, melted over the exhaust header while driving.
When we came back to Madrid, after such a long trip without front right turn light, we went to the Morgan dealer’s workshop as asked them to fix the broken bracket. Our car was (and still is) under warranty.
It was then when I investigated a little more about this issue and got the confirmation via Facebook and, of course, the Talk Morgan forum, that ours was not an isolated case. These new Euro4 brackets are not solid enough, and we are many owners suffering this.
I started thinking about a solution, at least something to avoid the turn light to fall over the exhaust when the support breaks. But as the repair was done fast, under warranty, we picked up the car and I did nothing, hoping this new bracket will not break.
And I should have… because on a short drive, end of May, the same bracket (right side) broke again and got the turn light melting against the exhaust pipe once again.
Fortunately, this time I was driving in Madrid, and the smoke and smell warned me immediately about this issue. I could jump off the car and quickly remove the turn light from over the exhaust header. I rolled it over the main arm and drove home.
But it was too late… the few seconds of the turn light being over the exhaust pipe were enough to partially melt the plastic enclosure anyway.
The turn light still works. But it clearly needs to be replaced again. History repeating: back to the Morgan dealer’s workshop, change under warranty faster than expected, got the same weak kind of bracket back again on my Morgan.
But this time I won’t make the same mistake. I’ll solve the problem for good before the next breakdown. I have a clear idea in mind. I’ll do a reinforcement bracket along the standard one, this one with a 3mm thick stainless-steel plate. Keep reading to know how it’s done!
I start doing the drawings and taking measures, using the still unbroken left side bracket as a template.
The measures are not 100% accurate, but good enough to develop my idea of the additional reinforcement bracket.
For my idea, the real obstacle I have are the main headlights cables. Looking at the next scheme of the idea I have, you’ll realize why.
I’ll need to totally disconnect the cables, removing them from the Econoseal connector. I mean I should unpin them from the connector, to be able to pass them through the upper big 16mm hole of the reinforcement bracket. And this is difficult, but not because of unpinning them from the connector (that can be easily done with the appropriate tool, that I have), but because you must slide them out of the protecting flexible corrugated hose they’re in, and later slide them back in.
Before getting the Morgan to the dealer’s workshop, I tried this with the two cables of the turn light, and it was really complicated to do. So, as I’m using a very thick (3 mm) stainless-steel plate for the reinforcement bracket, I decide to make a simple cut, so the upper hole is open to the edge of the bracket. I’ll slide through the cables of the main headlights, so I don’t have to disconnect anything.
The reinforcement bracket should look something like this.
Then I think about how to build these reinforcement brackets. And, as a man who knows his limitations, I know that building these with the tools I have, and not being aside the car while doing it, will make this extremely difficult. I won’t be able to do this properly and in a decent time. I need a true workshop. And unfortunately, I don’t have it at home.
But here is the good point: we’re taking our 3-Wheeler in July to M3W Services, in Southwest France. The purpose of this trip is to leave the Morgan in the magical hands of Steve, so that he can make the improvements the car deserves. And these are:
- Bleazey Centa drive conversion
- Bleazey upgraded clutch plate
- Centa main bearings
- Clutch release cylinder
- LED main headlights
- Walbro fuel pump upgrade
- M3W Services’ rear disc brake conversion
- New front and rear Öhlins shock absorbers
- New rear tyre
And some other small things here and there. The purpose is to make the car as much reliable as possible. As enthusiastic 3-Wheeler travellers that we are, we don’t want to see ourselves in the middle of the Portuguese countryside with a fuel pump failure, or have the Centa rollers breaking in a Moroccan mountain pass and be unable to repair them in a little local workshop.
As I know that M3W Services has a really nice workshop plenty of tools I can borrow, I’ll wait to be there to manufacture my reinforcement brackets. I hope the delicious Spanish cold meats and wines I’m bringing to Chas and Steve will be enough as “payment” for borrowing their workshop!
Before leaving, I buy all the materials I need and pack some of my own tools. The most important item is the stainless-steel profile. It’s a 1m long, 20mm wide and 3mm thick piece. And I also take the 4mm Allen bolts, washers, locknuts, metal bits, etc.
Thursday, July the 7th
And it’s on Thursday July the 7th that I secure the trailer to the Land Rover Defender and hit the road to France! It’s a 785 km trip, and I shouldn’t drive faster than 90 km/h as I’m pulling the trailer. So, I leave Madrid at 07h45 in the morning and set the cruise control on the motorway. Unfortunately, Ana Maria must stay at the office, incredibly overloaded with work these summer days. So, this is a solo trip.
Driving the new Land Rover Defender is a delice. The P400 petrol engine pulls the trailer without effort. And the comfort is amazing. I even have a small fridge between the front seats, under the armrest, with cold bottles of water! I’m really in love with this new “Bomber”. And despite travelling alone, I don’t feel tired at all during the whole journey.
With the appropriate stops to rest, refuel, and lunch, I arrive to Montignac-de-Lauzun at 18h00. The sunflowers’ fields welcome me to this quiet and beautiful French area!
I park and disengage the trailer in front of the M3W Services mythical barn. Four other 3-Wheelers are awaiting ours inside. This is the “temple” of the 5-Speeders. Steve shows me where are the tools I’ll need tomorrow. Apart all sorts of wrenches and all imaginable classic tools, he shows me the whole set of Makita wireless electric tools: drills, grinder, impact wrench,… they even have a bench grinder, a bench powerful drill, and a massive vice! And all this in a garage holding four beautiful 3-Wheelers. I’m drooling all over the place!
After memorizing the tools and where they are in the workshop, I jump back in the Land Rover and drive to the lovely guesthouse Le Papillon, in the village. It’s just a 3 minutes’ drive. Le Papillon is managed by lovely Annette, and it’s a super-comfortable and spacious village house. Really a peaceful place with all the commodities. Even too big for me being alone! As the house has three large rooms, I can’t decide in which one sleep!
Check Le Papillon in AirBnB! If you ever plan to take your 3-Wheeler to M3W Services, and want to stay a few days in this beautiful area, that’s an amazing place to stay!
After dropping the luggage, deciding about the room, and having a fast shower, I head to Au Bosq. Chas and Chris invited me for dinner, and I’m really happy to see them again and enjoy their fresh and comfortable terrace. Excellent dinner, fantastic wine, and the best possible company! I really like Montignac-de-Lauzun!
Friday, July the 8th
It’s Friday morning! Time to work! I get to the M3W Services workshop and start cutting the stainless-steel profile.
Then comes the drilling, bending and grinding to reach the appropriate shape and dimensions of the piece, so it fits perfect below the turn light bracket.
The stainless-steel profile is surprisingly hard. It takes hours to make the first reinforcement bracket. But the point was to do it with precision, making sure that it fits like a glove below the standard turn light bracket. The highest difficulty I find is that the inside lower part of the standard Morgan bracket is 18mm wide, so I must file the sides of the 20mm profile to get it in there.
Then I use the big vice and a nylon hammer to bend the piece, then a metal hammer too, with patience and precision. More bench grinder, manual file, Dremel polishing… I try the piece on its position several times until I get the perfect shape, angles, and dimensions.
Once the first piece is done, the second one is much faster and easier. I do the final retouches with the Dremel to smooth the edges, and job finished! They might not look amazing in the pictures, but I assure you they do the job way better than I could imagine.
I put them in place and tighten the big M16 nut that holds the main headlights in place, and now also the upper part of the new reinforcing bracket.
I make sure they fit perfect in place, without any unnecessary metal tension when tightening the big nut, I take them out again and make the final 4mm hole in the bottom part using the bench drill.
And I put them back again and, using the 4mm hole of the reinforcement bracket as a guide for the bit, I make the hole on the original bracket with the wireless drill.
The final dimensions of the reinforcement brackets are these.
I know I’m missing the angles of the elbows. I’m sorry for that, but don’t have on hand any appropriate measuring tool to get these.
A little bit of manual file to smooth the edges of the holes, and then I pass through the Allen bolt, washers, and nylon lock nut. This set is made of a stainless steel 4mm Allen head bolt, a stainless-steel standard washer and a locking star washer on the upper side, and a stainless-steel standard washer and a stainless-steel nylon lock nut on the lower side.
Once installed, the reinforcement bracket is hold by the big M16 nut and its washer, holding the main headlights. And it holds the standard bracket via this M4 Allen bolt assembly. If the standard bracket breaks again, this 3mm thick stainless-steel reinforcement bracket will hold it in place.
I have doubts about spraying these new reinforcement brackets with black paint, but I finally decide to leave them as they are, because you can barely see them, and many other pieces there aren’t painted either.
I make the final adjustments and tight hard everything in place. The result is very satisfactory. I’m really pleased with this idea. Now the turn lights’ supports look indestructible!
But the time is gone so fast! I can’t believe it’s already 17h30! And we must be at the local pub at 18h00!
With a big smile on my face and the satisfaction of a nice and productive day in the workshop, I drive back to Le Papillon, have a nice shower, and get ready for the evening. I’m joining Chas, Chris, Annette, Steve, and many other friends at the local pub.
Tonight, there is live music at the Old Lord Raglan! And a Thai food truck is coming! It’s a sunny evening. Nice beer, nice food, excellent company. What an excellent day!
Saturday, July the 9th
After a peaceful sleep – this village is so quiet! – I wake up and talk to Chas and Steve and agree to meet around 10h00.
Today, Michel, a French owner of a really nice Super Dry Edition 3-Wheeler, is coming with his wife to pick it up after some M3W Services modifications and repairs. We meet them and have a good chat, then take the Morgans out for a short test drive. Everything is perfect, and on ours the reinforcement brackets are almost invisible. But we know now they are there. Our front turn lights should never again fall over the exhaust headers!
Chas comes with me as co-pilot, and he seems surprised of how quiet our 3-Wheeler is compared to the ones he owns. That’s a good sign. I really think our Morgan is healthy and runs smooth as it should.
I finally have to say goodbye. Because I’m supposed to drive back home today. Same 785km back to Madrid, but only this time I’m not limited to 90 km/h!
The sunflower fields that welcomed me on Thursday are gently waving goodbye with the breeze.
Goodbye Montignac-de-Lauzun! See you again very soon! And ready for the third Grindelwald adventure!