Tech Tips: Austin-Healey 3000

Rick Bodeur
Ragtops & Roadsters
203 S. Fourth Street
Perkasie, PA 18944
(215) 257-1202

Upgrading the gearbox to a modern five-speed transforms the car and makes it more pleasant to drive.

One common problem with the Austin-Healey 3000 involves the brake lights. They turn on via a pressure switch, and over time they require higher pressures on the brake pedal to light up. Check the brake light operation regularly; replacing the switch is relatively quick if it’s necessary.

As with any British car of the period, the electrical switches should be toggled frequently– even the windshield wiper switch when it hasn’t rained–to prevent oxidation build-up in the contacts. The wiping action of operating the switches often gets them working. If not, cleaning or replacement is in order.

When shopping for an Austin-Healey 3000 there are a few things you should keep an eye out for. First, check door fit. Doors can sag due to rust and/or improper structural repairs. The rockers/sills are prone to rust-through and are sometimes covered or patched without concern for strength.

These cars use an oil filter canister with a replaceable filter element. The element is held in place against the engine block by a spring and plate located in the bottom of the canister. During an oil change, take care that these parts aren’t accidentally discarded. If they’re found to be missing, replace them quickly to avoid compromising the functionality of the filter element.

Most Big Healeys in the U.S. have wire wheels secured with “knockoffs.” Several times during the driving season, the knockoffs should be tapped with the proper hammer to ensure they stay tight.

At least annually, the brake system should be visually inspected for leaks, especially at the rear wheels. Remember, the brakes can seem to work okay even when the rear-wheel cylinders leak or seize. That’s because the front wheels do most of the braking. With inoperative rear brakes, an emergency stop could result in a spin. Rear brakes rarely wear out; they are more often replaced due to fluid contamination.

Check all fluids regularly. This is vital to the car’s health.

A popular update is to install an electronic ignition system to replace the ignition points. The result: Starting is better (especially in damp or colder weather), and the electronic units are less sensitive to wear of distributor shafts.

The cars should start readily with the choke engaged (cold start). Once warmed, they should run reasonably smoothly without hesitation. Worn-out carburetors or distributors can be costly to repair correctly.

Check front suspension components by shaking the top of the tires in and out. Any click or clunk indicates a suspension rebuild may be needed.

Here at Ragtops & Roadsters, we most commonly see these cars come in for comprehensive tuneups, brake repairs, suspension rebuilds, electrical fault analysis, and full restorations on examples stored for 10 to 40 years.

Michael Grant
Moss Motors
440 Rutherford Street
Goleta, CA 93117
(800) 667-7872

One of the most common problems you see in these Big Healeys is high engine temperature. Two consequences of this are possible engine damage and the dreaded “Healey hot-foot,” a state of discomfort caused by a hot driver’s footwell. This problem can usually be solved with better insulation around the driver’s feet and new grommets throughout the firewall.

However, the engines in these cars are actually comfortable running at higher temperatures, so don’t be overly concerned unless there’s a loss of coolant. The 3000 is fitted with a 7-pound pressure cap that raises the boiling point of the coolant to approximately 233 degrees. Therefore, a reading in the neighborhood of 190 degrees is not considered high in these engines.

In extremely hot summer weather, there is an advantage to removing the thermostat altogether. However, if this is done, it is vitally important to install a blanking sleeve in its place. Otherwise, overheating will occur.

We commonly field questions regarding brake fluid. Some are concerned because the old familiar brands have changed. Castrol LMA now says “Synthetic” on the bottle. The Lockheed “Premium” fluid has been replaced by “Super DOT 4.” Others have questions about the ever-contentious silicone brake fluid.

When it comes to picking a brake fluid for your Austin-Healey, do not consider anything that doesn’t meet FMVSS 116. Fluids rated at DOT 3, 4 and 5.1 are all hygroscopic, meaning they will absorb water out of the atmosphere. This will lower the boiling point of the fluid. We recommend using fluids that meet the DOT 4 specifications, like Castrol GT LMA and the Lockheed Super DOT 4.

A common misunderstanding is that DOT 5.1 fluids are connected to DOT 5 fluids. This is not true. Think of 5.1 as a glycol-based DOT 4 fluid that meets DOT 5 standards. The 5.1 fluids are used primarily in vehicles equipped with ABS. If you choose glycol fluids, they must be completely drained and replaced every 18 to 24 months, regardless of how much you drive your car. Glycol fluids will strip the paint off the car if they spill or leak.

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dougie Reader
5/21/15 11:59 p.m.

If you want a real thrill, you should try racing the big Healey. It's not easy to prepare and the learning curve can be steep on the competitive track, but when you get it's awesome.

NOHOME UltraDork
5/22/15 9:54 a.m.

Unless you embrace the relentless cowl shake in these cars, try a set of these.

If you actually LIKE the cowl shake, try one of these:

If you want the wife unit to ride along with you, best secure her one of these fashion accessories.

If you run modern tires, you can skip arm-day at the gym.

TR8owner HalfDork
5/22/15 11:24 a.m.

In reply to Ed Higginbotham:

Saw an immaculate big Healey just a few days ago. The guy driving looked very happy. I remember turning down one back in the early 70's for $400. Bought a $500. Porsche 356B instead.

NOHOME UltraDork
5/22/15 1:59 p.m.

Here is a picture of the nicest one I have had the honor to get my grubby hands on. This being the underside that no-one will ever see, you can imagine what it looks like up top.

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