Mechanical incontinence - Faine 422

By: Jon Faine

Presented by

faine 4 faine 4

When is a leak not a leak? - A fine legal mind is brought to bear on this and other related complex questions

My cars all leak. Every one of them. They are old, feeble, fragile and to put it bluntly, incontinent.

Unlike humans, they cannot wear nappies. Instead, I have to find the vehicular equivalent of a urologist and apply similar techniques.

A few years ago, suffering acute pain, I was sent for treatment for kidney stones. Some of you will be relating to this now, crossing and uncrossing your legs, wincing with a sharp intake of breath as you are traumatised with recovered memory. Apparently child birth is excruciating, but kidney stones are not far behind.

My Citroen DS23 has the worst leak of all. The heart of the brilliant if eccentric Citroen hydraulic system is green fluid called ‘LHM’ and it is supposed to circulate within a pressurised system to make everything work. When it is going well, it is brilliant. When it is broken, it is a curse.

The suspension depends on the slimy green muck running through pipes and pushing pressure into spheres filled with gas, instead of shock absorbers. Typical Citroen – why would you design a car that is anything like what every other make builds when you can do it totally differently? Who said Steve Jobs and Apple were the first innovators? Andre Citroen leaves him for dead.


An intermittent leak, and thus harder to trace, means this car behaves very well most of the time but like an excited puppy only very occasionally forgets its manners and leaves a little unremarkable stain on the ground. In the underground car park at my day job, I have some times been embarrassed to find my car will occasionally leave a small calling card, triggering a passive aggressive email from the Property Services Manager asking that I attend to my aberrant conveyance forthwith, or leave it at home.

The trouble is that I cannot find from where the leak has sprung. The steering rack is clean, the hydraulic pump runs properly to time, the brake inlet and outlets hoses and rubbers are unspoilt and so on. So I ignore it.

The E type Jaguar has a different problem – being English it leaks oil, but oh so slightly. Fixing such a tiny leak would be expensive. It is more a slow weep than a drip, that goes away with the occasional wipe of a rag. That is, it is not a problem if you remember to do the wiping thing and after all, which of us finishes a drive by crawling under the car and waving around a rag to make go away a small oil smudge? I regularly drive this one to work too, and because it is what it is, the passive aggressive Property Services Manager does not say a word. He loves the E type so it is allowed to misbehave. The 1949 Light 15 Citroen has totally dropped its bundle. A month ago I went to ease her out of the garage only to discover the brake pedal went all the way to the floor unimpeded by any pressure whatsoever. Limp. Flaccid. Floppy soft. A quick removal of the brake fluid reservoir lid showed the bleeding obvious – nothing there. A grab at the rechargeable torch and down onto my knees and lo! behold, a puddle the size of Loch Ness and the monster. The brake master cylinder has decided that it has done enough for one life and is entitled to early retirement regardless of whatever plans I might have had for it. It needs a catheter.


Thankfully the excellent spares service offered by the Citroen Classic Owners Club of Australia readily supplies me with a new old stock identical replacement tin reservoir, brand new hoses – the old ones were super grotty and clearly due to be superannuated – and a new internals kit for the master cylinder. Hooray for car clubs.

All I have to do now is find the time to apply an anaesthetic, replace the old brake fluid reservoir, replace the front and back brake lines, resleeve and fit the master cylinder, bleed the brakes and mop up the mess on the floor. And  then find and fix the mysterious and intermittent hydraulic fluid leak on the DS23. And wipe up the oil from the sump on the Jaguar. And apologise to the Property Services Manager at work and see if he will reinstate my car park pass.


Sign up to our free weekly newsletter for more unique car reviews and features plus see the latest unique and classic cars for sale.

Subscribe to Unique Cars magazine
- Print edition
- Digital edition