Project Renault update: It runs!

A few days after dragging the Renault home, I ordered all of the parts for a timing belt refresh from a Renault guru who rebuilds the tensioners himself, and went nuts on spares from RockAuto. Since RockAuto was having a closeout on Renault parts, I stocked up on everything I could; I snagged a $5 water pump and some $25 struts among other dirt-cheap parts. eBay provided a Haynes service manual for 75 cents, while I also ordered a period factory service manual for $30. When the weekend hit and I had everything in hand, I started tearing into the car.

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While it seemed like there was a lot of crap in the way at first, the timing belt job actually turned out to be pretty easy. There wasn’t a motor mount in the middle of my workspace, and the intake is routed across the opposite side of the engine, so it actually turned out to be rather simple. I also replaced the water pump while I was in there, as the old one felt stiff; while not driven by the timing belt, there was precious little space to work in between the pump and the frame rail. I’m not sure how I would have finished the job without an 11mm ratcheting wrench! But, I managed. Getting the timing marks on with the belt tensioned was the hardest part; after five or so tries though, I got it on. A few spins of the engine with a breaker bar confirmed I got it right, and I put the whole thing back together.

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I had put the decade-old battery on a charge the night before, not expecting much. To my surprise, it took a solid charge! I bolted it in and turned the key; I then realized I had pushed all of the old crappy fuel through the system, when I had intended to replace the fuel filter before going any further. Alas, I had already made the mistake, so I topped up the oil and coolant, kept fluids and a fire extinguisher on standby, and tried to fire it up. Amazingly, it started and ran with almost no trouble whatsoever! With non-running projects like this, you never truly know if there’s more trouble than what you were informed of by the previous owner; it’s always a joy when your faith is justified and they actually end up starting.

Having verified that it started and ran, I filled up the tank with some fresh 93 octane, changed the oil, and slid a piece of cardboard under the engine so I could check for any fluid leaks. While running, the idle doesn’t seem to drop below 1000rpm, so I’m going to give it a tune-up and check for vacuum leaks. Otherwise, it’s onto the next project: fixing the damage sustained while its previous owners awoke the GTA from its slumber. Stay tuned!

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