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Rover Vitesse, A Clean and Repairing Washer Switch

I’ve been kinda bad, and lazy. I haven’t washed Tess since before I put her in storage when I moved, in April, and she is FILTHY.

I’m a bit weird too, because I like seeing cars that are clearly used and dirty (not dirty from sitting neglected under a tree, but obvious signs of spirited use) so having mud all up the sides of Tess hasn’t really been too much of an issue, but since working on her recently I ended up with clean patches and hand prints in places from brushing against the car. Not a great look

Because she is finally holding her oil, and running well…. oh and because she is booked in for a Warrant inspection this week, I felt I needed to clean her and get her looking presentable again.

I was going to polish and wax her but couldn’t be bothered today, so I only gave her a good wash, and clay barred the bonnet. The reason for the clay bar there, was due to my stupidity when painting my calipers in my old garage, and not having enough room, so I ended up with a fine mist of red overspray on the bonnet. Most of it came off with a previous wash, but there has always been a slight pink haze to the bonnet when its clean, so I used a clay bar to remove it, which it did successfully. Unfortunately this has highlighted the fact that the rest of the car now needs another clay, as the paint isn’t as smooth as it should be.

On the flip side though, I forgot how much gloss her paint has when clean!

After the photo I went over all the black trim with 303 Aerospace, which is a trim protectant (also happens to black and shine the trim too) and shined the tires. It’s a shame there isn’t a show, she looks amazing! At least with her own garage space I should be able to keep her cleaner easier, than living outside like she was.

So with that clean done, I needed to quickly address an issue that presented itself recently. The windscreen wash button isn’t working, so I have no washer jets.

This is a Warrant of Fitness issue and would cause a failure. I know the motor is good, as is the jet, and since I was getting nothing from the system I knew it had to be the switch.

The Rover way of firing the washer jets is to turn the whole end of the wiper stalk into a button, so when it’s pressed toward the column it activates the washers.

Lots of other British cars of the time use the same/similar stalks and have the same operation, including the Mini.

To delve into why mine didn’t work, I removed the column shrouds. Just a screw top and bottom, and the bottom drops off. The top needs the dimmer removed, which is done via pulling the knob off and removing the large hex nut on the outside of the shroud.

A quick fiddle around and I found my culprit. I think this should be connected to something

But where? With limited space on the column to get my noggin in for a look, I dug into my spares and found an old Series 1 switch. It works the same but is upside down due to S1 cars having the indicator and wiper stalks swapped to S2 (S2 has indicators on left). Someone has previously chopped the loom for this switch, so no idea if it was any good. Either way, it wasnt good for my car, so destructive investigation it was

You can see the black wire on the left in the above photo. It disappears into the depths of the switch. With some uh, percussive persuasion (and a drill, since the housing is riveted together), I found where it goes. The wire is literally flattened out, and jammed between the stalk shaft and housing, to ground the switch when the button is pressed. Typical Lucas design.

Now I had three options. Replace the stalk with another; extend the “wash” wires and use a random dodgy button to trigger them; or fix the switch.

I checked my stocks, and the only switches I had were either wrong, or the one correct one I had actually had the same broken wire. So option 1 was out.

I could easily extend the wires and put a random button somewhere, but that just isn’t my style. Option 2 was out before it was even really considered.

Option 3 was to fix what I had. Let’s get ‘er done.

So now I knew what I was looking for, I removed the switch from the car. two 1/4″ hex head screws, and a round clip thing with metal prongs. I used a small pick to lever up the prongs and slip the clip off

The connector for the switch is buried way up under the dash on the RH side. You need the drivers glovebox out to get to it. Remove the switch from the column, and just jiggle the wires from it until you can feel where they go under the dash, and then unplug it.

With the switch out, I knew I needed to remove the stalk from the body. First I marked the stalk position to the body, so I could align it easily. I carefully placed the stalk into soft jaws in my vice, and using some small taps from a dead blow hammer, out it popped

This exposed the badly corroded remains of the wire. The wire on this is weird, it’s a mesh instead of straight strands. Maybe Lucas knew it was going to move every time you moved the stalk, so thought it might last longer. I stripped the broken wire back

There was corrosion inside the insulation on it, so I cleaned it as well as I could, and then fed it through the housing, smeared some copper grease on the wire and stalk splines, and pulled the stalk into the housing, making sure it jammed the wire into the splines and was lined up correctly. Obviously I couldn’t just assemble it by hand, so it went back into the soft jaws, upside down now, and a couple of light taps on the back of the housing slid the stalk back into place.

Next I plugged it back in under the dash, before reassembly, to make sure it worked. Sure enough, my freshly cleaned paint and windscreen got a blast of washer fluid

It was just a matter of routing the wires again, reinstalling the stalk onto the column, reinstalling the column shrouds and away we go. Now we should be 100% ready for Wednesday. Hopefully she passes the WOF; she should, since she is significantly better than the last inspection.

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