I believe I now have a complete understanding of my R500 starting problems including what I suspect has been known as the "click of death". My sources have included the Alcester Racing Sevens web pages on the subject and within that the "extra relay" writings by Chris W. I have also read all I can find within Blatchat.com having searched on "starter motor" in the "techtalk" section "from the beginning".


There is much discussion about the "K series click of death" - whether my R500 is a "K Series" I have no idea, but all written about the matter seems to fit my experiences with my 2001 R500. So these sources were my support while travelling in Portugal and suffering starting failures at an increasing rate to the extent I could predict after a period of running (finally when over about ten minutes) that the engine would not start until allowed to cool for a while (ten or fifteen minutes, sometimes less). In addition to this the tickover has never been fast enough so stalling is a more frequent (sometimes embarrassing as everybody is always watching) - learning how to ask for a push in multiple languages was looking like a necessity (Portuguese for "to push" is "empurrer" (I think)) - this became necessary to learn after numerous instances of making a pushing motion with both hands and pointing at the roll bar, only to get noisy friendly Portuguese response copying my hand motions and saying "si, si," loudly...... Hopeless I was. And helpless. Finally when I would make myself understood the person asked would (always) disappear saying "ah, si" and I would be left wondering what I had actually said.. then said soul reappears with THREE other chaps to give me a push!! (For anyone who doesn't know, one fit man can push start a Seven with consumate ease.) So anyway, usually then one chap would lean on the car waiting for the others to help, only to find that it rolled forward and I let the clutch out and the engine started with a loud bang.. thankfully. The thought of four sets of muscle power finding bits of a Seven to push on set me fearful - usually the windscreen! Helpful Good intentions are usually damaging where a Seven is involved.


In any case, I decided a day must be devoted to solving the problem as the idea of a start failure somewhere up a mountain or in dangerous circumstances was becoming stressful to the extent of reducing my enjoyment - being alone I simply cannot both push the car and let the clutch out at the same time. 


I called in at a parts factor and after some calls to Caterham Parts established a Bosch starter motor part number; shop tells me it was originally a Sierra part - I phone Caterham and am told the relevant part has never been anywhere near such a car and they can supply for £225 (plus vat (I think) and international carriage, plus a few days of course), shop tells me this item will be a mere 900 Euros (about £550). I depart offering my thanks for their time to look.


I call by at the "Opel" dealership garage (known as Vauxhall in the UK) kind of thinking it was a bit Rover like, since I could find no sign of Rover anywhere. The nice man said "no problem, come back tomorrow and go over there" (pointing to "recepcio"). So I did. I sat outside in my Seven feeling progressively uncomfortable about the whole idea. Talking with myself: "they are professionals and the Spanish Ford garage was great; yes but that was for a Ford Mondeo (if a slightly specialised one) and I 'm not at all sure Rover has anything whatever to do with Vauxhall and even if it does this is a Caterham; they are unlikely to allow me to stay with the car and watch/supervise them work and provide backup via my phone calls to Minister Power and Caterham Cars when necessary - and if they screw up they just try to hide it, excuse it, justify it or decide to do nothing and charge me for deciding such." So it went and so I pulled away - also having been roundly ignored. I decided (a) that was not the place for me (b) I wanted to collect further information before making any more decisions. 


I recalled the various sources of information above, which is to say I recalled they were on Blatchat.com somewhere. I reckoned I may as well get some work done as well, but the "Peso do Regua" Minicipal Library was having none of it, their security system for public access to the internet is sufficient to render it beyond use for purposes of any serious content - such as business or private finances etc. One can use the machines they provide for student work and a bit of internet browsing (though actual research would be not possible as there is no way to save anything or print etc - without seeking staff involvement and then they have to make enquiries). The place has been open only two months so perhaps in time they will decide to allow practical public access to the internet. In contrast just down the road (15/20 mins only)  in "Castro Daire", one can sit outside in the communal area and do all one wishes using one's own laptop using an open access public WiFi system from the Museum (perhaps it is the library (bibliotec) too). On the face of it this sounds open to abuse for permanent use by someone, but in fact as gar as I can see, battery life is the limiting factor and that precludes such use for most practical purposes. In addition so does the weather. They may switch it off outside business hours, I don't know. So there we are, two towns, two approaches to what I gather is a Portuguese political move to bring the internet to the people - who as far as I can determine, are some time behind the rest of Europe in their access and use of it - especially as a window on the world - still, if they are behind, they can choose which bits of progress to adopt and which bits to avoid, something I see as immeasurably positive for the country. If I have understood the adverts at all, it seems Vodaphone may be making a very interesting mobile internt offering given the country wide complete lack of connectivity. It's a shame the mobile networks charge so much and don't charge fixed line rates... I can dream. 


I ought to mention I was using my Mac (Apple Macintosh) laptop. I could have taken my PC Laptop along, but decided against it when I saw what was required; staff to be allowed to operate it themselves to set it up! Talk about security risks. The system administrator seems to have missed that his staff represent a security risk when on someone else's system. 


By this time I was becoming stressed and managing my composure. All that remained was to forget all I intended to do and search blatchat.com for the starting problems I had read about in the past. Didn't take very long before I was reading all about everyone's shared experiences and the other writings I have referenced above. The first clear idea seems to be that the problem is heat related - when I start cold, no problem, as soon as the engine is warm, "click click" (not much of a "click" actually, more of a "nothing" concept really). Sometimes it would start after only some moments, a minute or so, more often much longer; ten minutes or so. This had been a comfort in so far as knowing that it would restart given time, rather than not at all.


There was one occasion when it was the immobiliser that failed to de-immobilise itself; that too rectified itself after five minutes with the cut-out key removed and the immobiliser "key" inserted before the ignition key was turned. Since than there have been no copycat recurrences though I have noticed a few times that the immobiliser seems not to have activated since the car starts without being de-immobilised. Have noted to check into it. May be when I have not removed the cut-out key. This experience caused a local man to turn out to offer the above guidance - he disappeared making no attempt to charge anything! 


The theories/stories about heat effects on the starter seem to be (1) heat fries the commutator windings (2) heat burns away the grease on the bendix so wit won't slide so easily (3) heat affects the positive feed cable (4) the battery earth isn't big enough. 1 & 3 amount to metal becoming less conductive after long periods (years) of being heated and cooled. Of course if the starter motor would simply cease functioning all together, the UK solution would be easy - replacement. As regards 3, someone has measured the voltage at each end of the cable and found 13v at one end and 6v at the starter end; that the apparently good connector is actually falling to bits. 


Enough, I head off to find Pedro. The disappearing electronics genius from yesterday. I phone Andre (who speaks great English, reads Evo and knew exactly what an R500 is (me duly amazed), and extracted idea of where I might find Pedro (I didn't know his name) "somewhere up by the football stadium". I suspected this was what I call "Electric Avenue" - where all the motor trade businesses operate together, loads of them, one after another, parts shops, cafes. bodywork, spraying, electrics and so on. Sure enough I find Pedro, simply my spotting him! The original man who telephoned Pedro to assist me did say he was the best electrics man in town, possibly the country, high praise indeed. During the original incident I had asked Pedro why the starter always struggled and he took one look and said the battery earth cable is too skinny and a gel battery of twice the amperes would solve the trouble. 


Pedro extracted himself from various tasks and customers to spend ages with me; finally he asked if I would like my starter motor rebuilt. I said "yes". No thought required whatever. I also asked if he could change the oil and fix my broken sidelight bulb holder. His turn to say "yes". "How much?" "About 150 Euros; come back tomorrow morning at about 9 am." We had established I had the oil to effect the change, 5W40 acquired cheap in France. I noted the coolant level had remained rock solid now and every time I checked it, since the new 4 row aluminium radiator. I headed off in the Seven with Carlos who had been translating all this having engaged me at the library upon hearing my tribulations, took me to a great place for a lunch, also highly inexpensive, then offered me a bed for the night but I wanted to get to my "base camp" and trailer the Seven the next day. The drive back was atrocious. I was driving along with the sun roof fitted thinking "this is torrential rain, no it's not, don't exaggerate, it's very heavy rain, that's what it is. I could see, but not well. Whoosh! 


The rain came down thunderously, no kidding, I promptly invented the term "blackout", borrowed from the skiers' expression "whiteout". The torrents of rain make the road shiny black, the sky is black, the surrounding mountains are black, I cannot tell where one starts and the other finishes. All I can see is the white line marking the edge of the auto strada. I worry as the previous night I had seen a rescue vehicle all lit up like a christmas tree just stopping by a coach not quite fully on the emergency shoulder, no lights and would I have seen it? The engine coughs. Would I see anything in that visibility? If I go more slowly I then feel vulnerable to faster traffic approaching from the rear, despite my modern rear lights. It's not about being in the right, it's about survival. I can see the attraction of the third brake light that some owners like to fit, though really I'd prefer a laser gun to zap anything that gets too close, because when they do I simply get blinded from behind; this where my car's shadow is cast forward by the lights of a car behind me, such that I can barely see where I am going.The same thing that happens to cyclists. One time coming through Luxembourg on the two lane autoroute, two very fast cars passed me by in appalling weather, I was doing 40; they must have been doing 90. There were no cat's eyes and I was scared stiff. The problem is being unable to go faster for lack of forward vision - I wouldn't go out in such weather, but occasionally get caught in it. I have to get to the next exit or service area and wait for it to ease. Stopping on any emergency hard shoulder is even more dangerous, I gather - and that's just in good weather so in bad, it's a lethal place to be. Having said all that, the Seven is suitably equipped to survive these conditions. It may be unpleasant, but the equipment is sound and effective. I suppose it's just that one is closer to the elements, which is what the Seven experience is all about. Comforts zones are not really the relevant idea.


I arrive back at base camp, pop the Seven back inside the trailer, tie all ties and set everything for immediate trailer travel in the morning, I dislike doing it at this time and always celebrate having done so the following morning when I awake. 


Sleep log like. Wake 7.30 am. Go back to sleep for half an hour. Something wakes me again, zoom out of bed, shower dress, grab bags including computer and out the door, into Mondeo happy all is ready to drive away. Exit Mondeo and remove wheel clamps and chocks. Depart for Peso do Regua along autostrada. Arrive Pedro's 9 am. Detrailer car and park outside doors. Spend ages selecting parking place for tow car etc. About 10 am conclude this is the wrong place. Roll Seven down the cobbled hill to correct place. Pedro appears and firmly directs me to put the car in the garage next door, presumably as it's raining and his place is clearly full. 


Pedro reappears armed with tools.  Various expletives heard which seem to amount to "these bolts are British A/F not metric". Approximately. Disappears, reappears, loses bolt behind starter motor, recovers with mirrors and magnets. I decide it is time for breakfast and leave Pedro to work in peace. It is not at all easy working with only four inches of ground clearance on a starter motor he eventually concludes was fitted not just without the exhaust manifold fitted, but with the engine out. Given the car's pedigree at Hyperion this does not surprise me one bit. On this note he later also concludes that it is not a standard fit starter motor of any sort, in fact it's from Hitachi and he guesses it was fitted because it fits where others would not - so maybe it was a very good idea to have it repaired rather than replaced with something else.



The pictures show the work so I think a few lists complete the documentation.


Seems interesting to list the tools and parts employed to effect the work:


(1) Two very strangely shaped spanners for undoing installation bolts - suspect this is why he thinks it was installed "engine out" - wouldn't surprising me considering it's Hyperion Motorsport pedigree. 


(2) Digital camera and mirrors for seeing places the human eye could not.


(3) Gasoline & brush 1891, compressed air gun 1893, kiln 1903


(4) copper contacts (1899)


(5) copper brushes & braids (1909)


(6) flamethrower (1913/14/21/35x3/36)


(7) Lathe 1925/26/27


(8) Highly skilled (see 1926/29/30/31movie) and willing "can do" person (1926)


(9) Vice (1928 and others)


(10) Grinder


(11) cable making gear and assorted tools.


(12) interpreter who can interpret engineering terms (I had two, one engineer, one physicist)


(13) time.


The matters that became clear as each reducing the amount of current available are as follows:


Note that not all these are exacerbated by heat and that what they do is to reduce the amount which any heat related current constraint has to achieve in order to produce a start failure. In other words all the system's spare capacity disappears so that the final straw is loss of current capacity when a component is heated. I observe here that all the components are being warmed to some degree, but I am focussing on the extremes since the normal use of the system always involves warmth, shall we say.


(1) 1884 increased friction requires more current

(2) 1886 Broken braided wire, there are four of these, so one broken means 25% loss of current capacity.

(3) 1887 dirty contacts reduce current.

(4) 1888 ditto, also oxidised, same effect.

(5) 1896 mucky bendix, friction means more current required to make it wizz out - see video IMG_0001.AVI after 1952.

(6) 1916 Dry solder joints increase impedance

(7) 1925 dirty commutator contacts demand more current for same effect

(8) 1929/1930 I presume muck in the grooves interferes with current and

(9) 1931 grease has dried out so everything takes more oomph (current) to work 


None of the above are really heat related as distinct/unique to a Seven. In my view what follows is the "coup de grace" as described and experienced and even measured by me and other Seven owners concerning the "click of death". I suspect that a NEW starter motor attached to an OLD cable will work fine, until some time passes and all the above start to contribute. That is assuming the cable is not entirely disconnected. After all, reduce the overall impedance (i.e. increase electrical current efficiency) of the motor by renewing it (so less current is needed to begin with in order to function), then a reduced current cable will work fine. Again I suspect that to not work at all attached to a new motor, the cable would have to practically disintegrate - look at the size of the wire in a 30 amp fuse, it's big as fuses go, but very small compared to a starter motor "live" cable, equivalent to perhaps one strand.


It is worth mentioning that before all this commenced I had a feel of the red cable to the starter, the top section felt bendy/malleable/flexible the lower half felt unbendy/unmalleable/inflexible even brittle. The connectors at both ends appeared fine. I asked for it to be metered, but that request got lost somewhere.


So to the cable pictures. Pedro came to me with the discarded red cable and showed me where he had bent it and it had snapped! Pic 1982. The cable was blackened and clearly challenged, the connector was still connected to the cable, though looking decidedly frizzled 1983/84/85. The other end was a different story. A wiggle and it came off! 1986-1989 and movie 1992. I was not expecting this - the other end perhaps, but not the "cooler" end. Pict 1993 (twice) shows the dry solder in the strands of the cable; clear causes of current loss/impedance lack of ability to carry current. So it seems the cable is damaged from one end to the other. 


I recall someone measured the voltage drop on theirs as around 13 to 6 volts from top to bottom - I wonder what the current drop was. It's like using cheap "jump leads" that are not up to the job.


In addition to the above Pedro changed my oil (supplied by me 5W40), supplied a Rover filter, repaired my front sidelight bulb holders (or rather rebuilt them, better), reglued my steering wheel velcro, supplied and fitted three stainless steel nuts and bolts to replace rusty ones holding Momo steering wheel to Raceline boss, strengthened my Macintosh laptop power cable where it enters the machine (it was failing), repaired my iPod Bose speaker, answered a callout for free two days earlier and solved my immobiliser not disengaging problem, supplied and changed the very tatty spark plugs and showed me how to adjust the tickover all for €274  Euros. Around £200.


Trying not to stall a "too low tickover" engine that will probably not restart becomes actually stressful in the end.


Thank you Simon and Darren and Tony at Caterham for telephone support during the starter motor preliminary decisions (Darren/Tony) and the oil change (Simon, instant practical responses, thanks). Thank you to Minister Power for the initial pointers (starter and immobiliser), just the ticket.


Oil change: the oil "suck out" device worked ok on the Apollo tank and would have worked on the dry sump tank if I had thought of it instead of insisting they remove the blue plate when they saw the suction device would not fit through the dipstick hole; only later to have to remove the whole tube top to refill it! I dipped the Apollo first and it had about two inches in it. 


The price before fitting, VAT and international shipping of a replacement starter from Caterham Parts would have been £225 and no understanding of what the causes of the symptoms might have been; nor all the other things of course. Pedro Nobre is in "Peso da Regua", relatively near Porto, Portugal. He understands quite a bit of English, but doesn't speak it much. Telephone & Fax is: + 351 254 312 606. In Summer he is more likely to be found fixing boats - electrics, naturally. I commend him very highly, bear in mind he is in constant demand.


The above is not a cost or skill criticism of Britain, the two countries are very different in practically every way. Portugal had 40 years of dictatorship and 15 years of cold war which slowed their development in some ways, though now they can choose what to emulate and what not. When I said this one Portuguese observed to me that some politicians take ideas that have not worked elsewhere and think they can do better and then don't. I suppose there's always going to be politicians!


Outstanding question: why is too much fuel being dumped into the engine as evidenced by the plugs? Suspect per Minister that having replaced the accelerator sensor, the water temperature sensor needs replacing too; even though it doesn't look like it does.


The future: my car had reached about 17,000 miles (first 1800 track, then 15,200 road) when the starting problems hit (hard road miles, easy ones are done in the trailer). The cost of a new cable is buttons. I recommend changing it as soon as the lower half feels less flexible than the top half and in any case every 10,000 miles (max 15,000) track use divide by three (on principle, constant high heat 3,000/5,000 miles). Change in any case if discolouration noticed.


The "direct to battery" cable is probably illegal for a race car and unwise for a track car, though easy to move from A to B at will, take advice from your own sources on this please. I will be wrapping red tape round my black cable!