By on December 28, 2010

Yesterday morning, it seemed that Spank’s LeMons-veteran ’71 Citroën DS would be stranded in El Paso due to a bad water pump shaft seal. When your car is made out of pure unobtanium, Miami seems much farther than a mere 2,800 miles from San Diego.

The clutch started slipping somewhere in the California desert, Actually, it started slipping during the Sears Pointless LeMons race in March, but it became alarming in the California desert.
Thanks to some help from Quattroporte-drivin’ Pendejo Racing, Spank figured out that the weight of the clutch pedal was overwhelming the weak spring and causing the clutch to disengage slightly. The fix: bungee cord on the pedal!

Things were going fine for a while.

But then Spank’s Honda-motorcycle-radiator-and-AC-condenser-fan heater rig stopped blowing warm air. Uh-oh.

No water! Turns out the Citroën’s water pump shaft seal had let go, causing water to pour out the drain holes designed to keep water out of the bearing. Water was still being pumped, but most of it was being pumped to the wrong place.

After spending the night in El Paso, Spank worked on the car while dozens of LeMons veterans called every auto-parts store and junkyard in West Texas. You want a water pump for a whaaaaat? That’s when the 12-volt RV hot-water pump came into play: just remove the Citroën’s fan belt, block off the pump’s drain holes, and let electricity cool the engine.

Weirdly enough, it worked! As you read this, the Citroën is well into Louisiana on a “no sleep till Miami” run. You can follow the ongoing adventure here, as legions of LeMons racers offer help to heroic solo Citroën road-tripper and Index of Effluency winner Mike Spangler aka Spank in his crazed cross-country journey. And I thought I’d made some epic road trips in hoopty-ass cars— San Francisco to Atlanta in a beater ’65 Impala loaded with all my stuff now seems like nothing!

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16 Comments on “Despite Water Pump Woes, Citroën Hell Road Trip Reaches Louisiana...”

  • avatar

    If you need help around New Orleans, I have a friend down there who is a good wrencher.  I subscribed to this thread, just drop a note.

  • avatar

    Its been over 48 hours since I heard of this trip and I still don’ t know where to get ANYTHING for this vehicle when it comes thru Houston.  But we shall overcome!

  • avatar

    Keep the updates coming fellas! Awesome!

  • avatar

    Got to give it to the boy: he’s really taking on a challenge — I owned a ’69 DS21 Pallas (really cool pigskin leather and mohair interior) about 35 years ago.  What a pain keeping it running.  Today, with the ability to find parts worldwide on the internet, it would be cool to have one again.
    If the Desee suddenly appeared in 2012, it would make other cars look crude by comparison.  Full hydraulics, rear suspension linked to the brakes, hydraulically-shifted tranny, hydropneumatic suspension (very soft initially,  but getting highly progressive due to the accumulator spheres) hydraulically linked steering, etc.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    He’s a brave, brave man.

  • avatar

    The weak design point of the Lotus Twin Cam is that the water pump is built into the front engine cover, requiring disassembly down to the short block just to replace the water pump element. Well, that is if you don’t crack the aluminum front cover removing the element. As a result there have been a number of solutions, including redesigned front covers that take cartridge elements or just putting in blanking plates and running an electric water pump.

  • avatar

    Kinda ironic, isnt it? Citroen, Renault, Peugot–we all have not-so-fond memories of these cars. These makes, like Triumph, Rover(cars), MG, Austin, Fiat, Alfa and others were sent packing by Japanese superiority in reliability. I’ve often wondered how it felt to live in a country where their domestic brands were shunned by us Americans.     Then I remembered I live in the USA…

  • avatar

    Google “1971 Citroën DS used auto parts”
    and/or access a modern salvage yard for parts interchange access and, especially if, that particular yard is on of many tied into a horde of other yards who share their computerized inventory with other yards.
    Express shipping can lead to a lusted-for part arriving quickly.
    May not be the cheapest manner to obtain a part but technology has had a huge impact upon the used parts industry.
    Some yards are lazy but offering to pay extra can result in the little extra effort required at times to obtain the needed part.
    Good luck!!!!!!

    • 0 avatar

      Before a road trip with an iffy and rare car, like the CHRT, it might make sense to use one of the online salvage databases and cross reference the location of the shops with a decent stock of parts for your car with your trip route and if you have the choice, take the route closer to the available parts.
      BTW, please contact me @ [email protected]
      PS. Is something wrong? You posted a completely coherent comment. Not that I don’t enjoy your normal flavor of commenting, I do, just surprised to see you drop out of character.

  • avatar

    Hell, Cit parts are easy to come by, if you join the clubs and learn where to look.   What I don’t get is they are sitting in front of a machine shop.  You tell me that they could find a suitable bearing and seal right inside and have both replaced right then an there?

  • avatar

    Is this really a DS?  I had an ID19, with the hanging (not mushroom) brake pedal, and a clutch pedal, and this car is looking much more like an ID than a DS (which should have had Citromatic in 1971).

  • avatar

    Spank is in Florida! After driving straight through from El Paso he’s ready to find a motel and get some rest.

  • avatar

    Is he coming to see us in August 2012, Yorkshire, UK for the 15th International Citroën Car Club Rally?
    Lots of “D” Spares there!
    We look forward to you joining us for the most memorable Citroën event that you will ever attend!

  • avatar
    Ken Nelson

    The DS had the “champignon” (mushroom) brake button as it was always the upscale model.  The ID was a few francs cheaper as it had the not quite so proportioning (front/rear) pendant pedal, but both of them have very short travel as they’re just pushing a tiny valve feeding hydraulic system pressure of 2500 psi to the brakes, and either “pedal” will stand the car on its nose!  The Cit always had a crummy waterpump seal, held to the shaft by nothing but a rubber collar, and the first time the sliding seal faces stuck while sitting, the shaft would spin inside the collar, burn it out, and the pump would leak.  So now I glue the rubber collar insert to the impeller hub with PL roof & flashing sealant from Home Despot, and the seal should last the life of the car.  But then Spank hasn’t lived with Cits as long as some of us, so he’s definitely a very brave man!

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