Tips for New Owners

 RM ownership should be a pleasure but new owners can encounter a few snags which might detract from this. Below are some tips born from experience which will help with some of these snags.
 
Getting Comfortable
To be properly in control of the car you need to be comfortable in the seat and able to reach all the controls without stretching. The seat can be slid backwards or forwards by releasing the lever on the seat runner by the side of the seat. On early cars there is a knob which can be pushed down to release the seat. After adjusting the seat position make sure the lever is firmly re-engaged. On later cars the lever moves sideways but adjustment is the same. The steering wheel can be moved in or out after the clamp at the back of the steering wheel boss is released.  There is also a very limited amount of up/down movement available for the steering wheel when the clamp holding the steering column to the parcel tray is released. Always make sure that all clamps are fully tightened after use. Since the steering will be heavier than on a modern car you may want to sit a bit closer to the steering wheel than you would in a modern car.

To the left of the clutch pedal is a foot rest which will help brace the driver during cornering.

 Starting the Engine
 RMs usually start quite easily. All cars seem to vary slightly but usually a bit of choke will be needed and possibly the ignition will need to be slightly retarded especially on 2½ litre cars. The necessary knobs on the dash board are easily reached and do not present a problem. Once the engine has fired the ignition can be returned to its usual position and the choke can be eased in a little until the engine has warmed up. It may be necessary to wind the handle throttle control out a little to keep the engine running at slow speed in cold weather.

 All 2½ litre cars apart from the very earliest are fitted with electric petrol pumps so when the ignition is turned on you should hear the pump ticking as it primes the float chambers. Once they are full it will probably continue to tick every few seconds. If it continues to tick like a machine gun there is a problem which needs investigating.  All 1½ litre are fitted with a mechanical pump which is silent in operation so there is no obvious indication whether it is working or not. It too needs to prime the float chamber when the car is first started and it can only do this while the engine is turning and this can take few spins of the engine. It is possible to prime the float chamber by hand using the lever on the pump but this usually result in dirty hands or sleeves so most people will let the starter motor do the priming for them. It is not uncommon to find 1½ cars which have been converted to use an electric pump.

 If you need to start the car using the starting handle be sure not to grab the handle in your fist to try to spin the engine. If the engine kicks back you may get injured. Be sure to keep your thumb on the same side of the handle as your fingers. That way, if the engine does kick back, the handle can roll out of your hand. It is also safer to use the left hand to pull the handle up. If you use the right hand and the engine kicks back your hand will come off the handle and swing to the right and the rapidly turning handle might come round and hit the back of your wrist or arm. If you use the left hand your hand will swing away from the path of the handle.
 
 Gear Changing
 New owners may find themselves crunching the gears particularly when changing down. The flywheel is heavy particularly on 2½ litre cars so it takes time for the flywheel to slow down after the accelerator is release and the clutch depressed. Gear changes need to be made slowly with a short pause as the lever passes through neutral. If you want to change down quickly double declutching will help a lot and toe heeling the brake and accelerator pedals will make things even more enjoyable but for normal driving neither are really necessary. Just change gear slowly.
 
 There is no synchromesh on either first or reverse gears so a small amount of crunching as either is engage from rest is almost inevitable but it can be greatly reduced. Before engaging either gear pull the gear lever back against the synchromesh in second gear. This will slow things down in the gearbox and is almost as good as having synchromesh on the other gears. Sometimes first or reverse refuse to engage. Just release the clutch pedal and try again.
 
 Stopping the Car
 All RM brakes should be good especially those fitted to the later cars. On earlier cars the front brakes are fitted with leading and trailing shoes whereas later cars have twin leading shoes. Leading shoes are more efficient than trailing shoes as the rotation of the brake drum gives them some self servo action. The pedal should feel hard without excessive travel. If not, then maintenance is needed to ensure that the car is safe to drive. Hand brakes too should be good although later cars use a long cable with an outer sheath covering most of its length. With the handbrake applied hard the sheath can often be seen to compress a little thus giving then handbrake a slightly spongey feel. If the car is left parked on a slope it is good idea to leave it in first gear if facing down hill and reverse gear if facing up. On a very steep hill also leave the steering positioned so that should the car roll the front wheel will immediate jam against the kerb.
 
 We all like to avoid emergency stops so leave a good gap to the car in front. He may have an emergency and slam his brakes on hard. He is probably driving a lighter car with disk brakes and can stop quicker than you can so leave the extra space. If you do have an emergency and need to slam on the brakes make sure you hit the clutch pedal at the same time as you hit the brake pedal. As noted above, the flywheel is heavy and the engine takes a while to slow down so if the clutch is not disengaged the brakes will have to slow not only the car but the engine as well. Remember also that the rear axle has a ratio around 4:1 so the load on the half shafts will be 4x the load needed to slow the engine. You will have heard that early 2½ litre cars can be prone to half shaft failure and you will want to avoid this happening to your car.
 
 Changing a Wheel
 Punctures happen to us all usually at the most inconvenient times and in the most inconvenient places. The first thing to be done is to remove the hub cap without scratching it. An effective way to do this is with a bent strip of steel as shown or an old push bike tyre lever. Push the lever between the hub cap and the wheel near one of the pegs which hold the hub cap on and give it a sideways twist. This can be done one handed leaving the other free to catch the hub cap before it hits the ground.  Next we need to loosen the wheel nuts a couple of turns. You might find that they are too tight to be undone by the supplied tool but fear not. A spark plug spanner is a good fit on the nuts so carry a socket version with a ½" drive and suitable ratchet handle or T-bar. If you are worried that the nuts will be very tight, long ½" breaker bars can be bought quite cheaply and take up little room in the boot. Garages sometimes use power tools to tighten the nuts leaving them overtight. This not only makes them difficult to remove but can lead to cracking the wheels around the nuts.
 
 With the nuts loose it is now time to jack up the car. Do not change a wheel using just the original jack especially on sloping ground or on a cambered road. It is necessary for the jacking point to lifted a long way before the suspension unwinds and the wheel leaves the ground. By this time the jack has become unstable. If a rear wheel is lifted in this way the car will be so high that the other rear wheel will have little weight on it and could easily slip. Should it slip sideways the jack will twist in the jacking point allowing the wheel to fall a long way as the car moves sideways. I speak from bitter experience. Should the car slip towards the rear the jack could fold under and collapse completely. Jacking up the front wheels presents similar risks although with the rear wheels firmly on the ground and the hand brake on the car should not slip either forwards or backwards but a sideways slip is still possible. By all means use the original jack to lift the car sufficiently to get a trolley jack or a screw jack under the car but do this while the wheel is still on. With the car jacked up properly give it a good shake to make sure that it really is safely on the jack. If it is going to slip now is the time to find out while the wheels are still on it. When lifting the car make sure that it is lifted high enough to get on the fully inflated spare wheel but do not lift it too high as the spare wheel will be heavy to lift in place. With the spare wheel fitted on do the nuts up finger tight and lower the car off the jack. The nuts can now be tightened properly and the hub cap replaced.
 

 
 See and B
e Seen
 Original RM headlamps are no match for modern headlamps. RMs use tungsten filament bulbs with an output of just 36w on dipped beam and 42w on main beam. Fortunately standard 7inch units are used so conversion to better lights is easy. Sealed beam units can be fitted and generally have an output of 45w dip beam and 60w main beam but even these look very dim when compared to the lights on modern cars. Quartz halogen units can also be fitted and these are much better to drive behind. Of course they are not original but what matters more to you - originality or safety?
 
 The D-lights used at the back of the car are little better. They are fine as number plate or stop lights but as tail lights following drivers will find them hard to see in poor conditions such as fog or rain. On a Motorway a fast approaching modern car may not see a relatively slow moving RM until the last moment. Being mounted either side of the number plate they are a long way from the side of the car which can give a false impression of the width of the car. Even Riley realised these problems and the 1955 model features extra lights mounted on the rear wings. Earlier cars can be fitted with similar extra lights too. Such lights usually have double filament bulbs for use as tail and stop lights but since the RM uses the D-lamps for the stop lights quite effectively the stop light filaments in the extra lights can be used as fog lights.
 
 The direction indicators (trafficators) originally fitted may look good but are little use in modern traffic. Today all motorists look for a flashing indicator and even if they see the trafficator with its tiny 3w bulb they might not realise its significance. The trafficators fitted to open RMs  are set very low down and are very difficult for other motorists to see. Fitting flashing indicators to an RM is very easy and can be done very neatly. Motor bikes use indicators which bolt on and can be fitted to RM bumpers without looking out of place.
 
 RM rear windows are small even on the RME and RMF models. Mirrors mounted on the front wings are almost essential for safe driving. It is better to use mirrors with convex glass as opposed to flat glass. These give a much larger viewing angle and reduce the dazzle from headlights on following cars. The outer edge of the mirrors will align closely with the side of the car giving the driver a good guide to the width of the car, if the mirrors will go through a gap with a bit to spare then so should the rest of the car. Interior mirrors which are simple pieces of flat glass can be changed to ones which can be dipped. This is much better than using the original rear window blind which blocks out all rear vision.
 
 Cornering and Stability
  All RMs handle well. On original cross ply tyres they tend to follow lines and grooves in the road but when fitted with radial tyres they are directionally stable and need hardly any input at the steering wheel to keep them nicely centred on the road. They hold the road well during cornering with radial tyres again being better than cross ply ones. On corners 1½ litre cars are almost perfectly balanced with a secure neutral feel. 2½ litre car have a tendency towards understeer but this is easily overcome by a little acceleration to drive the car around the bend.. As a bonus, radial tyres wear better than cross ply ones.
 
 Sources of Spares
 The days are long passed when RM owners were often seen exploring scrap yards looking for RM parts. I spent many hours in scrap yards in and around London in the 1960s and 70s looking for parts to keep my car on the road. At that time Rileys had stopped making spares for RMs so none were available from Riley dealers and RM owners had not yet banded together to have parts remade. I recall one long search for an exhaust manifold for my RMF including a search through a scrap yard just outside New Malden. In it I found a line of about 10 RMB engines all fitted with the earlier manifold. In my ignorance I walk passed them all not realising that these manifolds would fit my car with very little work and were of a much better design than the later one. My excuse is that I was distracted by the sight of a Monaco at the back of the yard still standing proudly on its wheels. Unfortunately for people like myself, RMs never appear in scrap yards anymore so the joy of digging into a pile of scrap and coming home with a treasured part is denied to new owners. RM are still broken up from time to time so diligent searching can yield results even today.
 
 Between them the various Riley Clubs throughout the world provide an excellent range of spares many of which they have had remanufactured as there are no alternatives available. Rileys used parts made by suppliers such as Lucas, Butler,Jeager,Smiths,Wilmot-Breedon, Sphinx, Girling, SU and Tecalemit. These people supplied parts to other car manufactures too so parts used on RMs were often used on other marques. For example some Rover brake parts are the same as those used on RMs and the SU petrol pump used on 2½ litre cars is the same as that used on the Morris Minor.. When looking for a part, the part number is an essential piece of information and an internet search will often lead to a source of supply. Auction sites such as Ebay are always worth checking as there may be someone selling original parts or parts made for a different marque which are the same.

 On this web site you will find lists of part numbers for Girling brakes, Payen seals and fan belts.
 
 Tools
 Doubtless we would all like carry everything which might be needed to correct any problem which could arise on the road but this is impractical. Riley included a tool kit which contained 3 open ended spanners,  3 box spanners plus tommy bar, a spark plug spanner, pliers, hammer, screwdriver, adjustable spanner, 1/8 Whit spanner, jack, starting handle, wheel brace, tyre pump, grease gun and brake bleeding kit.
 
 So what compromises a sensible tool kit to carry today? Perhaps the most important thing is a membership card for one of the motoring organisation which offer a rescue service. You might be very unlucky and something major could break, big end failure, broken halfshaft etc. and you will need to get the car transported home to fix the problem. It could also be something more minor but which needs a tow off the Motorway.  Hopefully you will never need a rescue service but if you ever do it could be very expensive if you do not have one.

Most breakdowns can be fixed quite easily with a small tool kit.  Any breakdown needing a more extensive tool kit is almost certainly best fixed when the car has been taken home as it is all too easy for a small job to escalate into a much larger one.
 
 Essential items for the tool box are,
    1. a set of open ended BSF/Whitworth spanners. Short spanners are more useful than long ones as there is not always a lot of room around the engine in which to work.
    2. a BSF/Whitworth ½" drive socket set including a socket for sparkplugs. The set should include a short extension to reach the sparkplugs and the wheel nuts.
    3. a 2BA spanner
    4. Two screwdrivers, a small one for electrical work and a medium one for general work
    5. a pair of pliers
    6. a lever to remove hub caps
    7. a strong jack such as a trolley jack or a bottle jack. To be really safe you might want to consider a small collapsible axle stand too
    8. a roll of sticky plastic tape
    9. an inspection lamp or torch
    10  a length of wire to repair electrical items or tie something up
    11. a foot pump if there is room for it
    12. radiator top up water.
    13. a tow rope
 
 It is also worth carrying a couple of spares such as a fan belt and a set of contact points. If the spare wheel is put into its locker upside down it makes a useful space to store small rarely needed items such as these.

For garage use a more extensive set of tools will be useful and it will probably grow as time goes by and the need for additional tools arises. You will probably also amass a collection of special tools such as a torque wrench, a puller and spanners bent so that they easily fit onto particular nuts.
 
 Where to get Help

If you need help with your car a good place to start is this web site which provides technical information for RMs as well as many useful tips. The Workshop Manual  is essential reading as is the Driver's Handbook. These are available from many sources including being on the Maintenance Notes CD on this web site. There are many books about Rileys and perhaps the most useful is the Riley Maintenance Manual 1930-1956 by S.V. Haddleton. The data tables in this book are very comprehensive.

Both the Riley Motor Club and the Riley RM Club have Technical Advisers who can help as well as forums where members exchange experience. The Clubs also have local meetings (usually monthly) and these are well worth attending not only to talk to other owners but to look at their cars.

Of course, other owners will be interested in your car too, so fire it up and enjoy driving it.