Fiat Tip!

Submitted By:Stuart,


Model Range, Interest:All Models

Addl. Information:This is an OLD tip submission. It was originally sent in January, but was misaddressed.. Stuart was kind enough to resubmit, and here it is- He originially addressed the mail to, not, so the useful Tips went into a Black Hole! I've set up an alias on Mirafiori to handle this common mistake by now, FYI

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Date: Fri, 29 Aug 1997 10:59:28 -0700
From: (Stuart Hastings)
Message-Id: <>
Subject: re-submitting
X-UID: 443
Status: RO

I sent this to '' last January, and it never
appeared on Perhaps this is because the content is
useless, and you discarded it (?). In case this wasn't your intention,
here it is again, addressed correctly this time.

Note also that I mis-stated my email address in my January message;
the correct version ends in ".org".

Thank-you for supporting such a useful website,

stuart hastings
>From stuart Thu Jan  9 17:57:35 1997
Subject: stupid fiat tricks
Content-Length: 9687

Some humble submission for the 'tips' section of your website.  Feel
free to edit or discard any or all of these if you doubt their
usefulness. No offense will be taken.

Several of these items are only useful for the amateur working at home;
if you're a Real Mechanic working at a Real Garage with Real Equipment,
you won't gain anything.

1. Is your fan running backwards?

I was test-driving my 1980 Brava after some extensive work that
included removal/reinstallation of the radiator. It was a warm day,
about 96F, and the engine was too hot. Not only that, but the radiator
fan would turn on and off, and it didn't seem to help like it once

This radiator has two electrical connections, a thermostat and the
electric fan motor. The connectors are polarized, so it is impossible
to "plug the fan in backwards." Almost. ;-)

Actually it *is* possible to "plug the fan in backwards," because the
fan switch and fan motor use identical polarized connectors, and if
you plug the motor into the thermostat's connection and vice versa,
the fan will run when it should, but *backwards*.

This is not a big problem for most folks, just dumb ones like
me. Diagnosis & cure are simple: If you've recently had those
connectors apart, warm up the car and make sure the fan blows *toward*
the engine. If it blows backwards, swap your polarized plugs and
recheck.  Of course, smart mechanics will *label* the connections
before dismantling them...

2. Dismantling your calipers without compressed air.

Whenever I replace disk pads on my FIATs, I always buy & install the
really cheap caliper rebuild kits ($6 per caliper as I recall).  The
Officially Sanctioned way to remove a brake piston is with a rag (to
catch the piston as it explodes out of the caliper), and compressed

If you're patient, of course, you can force out brake pistons
using the brake system itself. Remove the caliper on one side,
top off the brake reservoir, pump 'till it comes out. Messy, but
effective; brake fluid drips everywhere. Rebuild & reinstall the
caliper, and repeat for the other side.

Since I don't have compressed air in my garage, I discovered that
pressurized water usually works, and it's considerably more convenient
(and less messy) than using the brake system. Tap water has
considerably less pressure than a master cylinder, but it nearly
always worked for me, at least on Sunday afternoons ;-) . You'll need
suitable plumbing; I just happened to have a high-pressure hose nozzle
with a 1/8" outlet hole, nearly perfect for forcing water into the
caliper. There is one minor advantage to this method: the piston will
ease out gently and gradually, without the explosive "bang" engendered
by compressed air.

Be warned that inserting water into a brake caliper is a normally a
no-no.  Don't do this unless you have new seals on hand, and you're
rebuilding the caliper anyway.

In all my years of FIAT maintenance and brake jobs, I've only
encountered two pistons that wouldn't come out with household water
pressure; those were off a car that hadn't been driven in several
years. I reattached them to the car and pumped the brake pedal to
dismantle them, one-at-a-time. This is certainly a hassle, but better
than being stuck on a weekend.

3. Removing/Reinstalling your Brava alternator.

My 1980 Brava has A/C, so the alternator is mounted very low on the
engine, next to the oil pan. My Bosch alternator has a dust shield bolted
to the back, presumably to draw air from the less-dusty engine compartment
above the alternator, instead of road dust from underneath.

This dust shield must be removed from the back of the alternator
in order to remove the two alternator-to-rest-of-car wires. Unfortunately,
it's very difficult to remove/reinstall the cover unless you get the
alternator off the engine first, but if you do unbolt it from the engine,
the wiring is so short the alternator won't come clear of the car.
It is very difficult to support the alternator and remove/reinstall
the cover and/or wiring all at once.

(I presume you already disconnected the battery. Oops, I should have
said this first! ;-)

I can imagine why this pain-in-the-neck design may be
*intentional*. The function of the dust cover is readily apparent, and
if the wiring was any longer, it would likely dangle underneath the
car (leading to an entirely different set of fascinating problems ;-).

It seems that FIAT actually anticipated this problem, as there is an
easy workaround on my 1980 Brava. Those two alternator wires can be
disconnected from the car wiring; on my car, the connectors are next
to the master cylinder, in the corner where the firewall meets the
left-side engine bay wall (whatever you call it). Disconnect both
alternator wires here, and you'll gain sufficient slack at the
alternator end to simplify the work.

4. Replacing a 128 front-wheel bearing, without a press.

Haynes doesn't cover this; they believed FIAT when they said it
requires a press. Believe whom you choose; I've done it many times
without a press.

If you have a genuine FIAT 128 Shop Manual (written in impeccable
British English), the basic steps are clear enough, and the white lab
coats sure look professional.

(The following previously published on the italian-cars mailing list, .)

 > For the 128
 > ... From here on I have to go to my Fiat repair man,
 > because a press is needed to remove and replace the bearing. Putting
 > everything back is NO problem. Have fun. It's not a difficult job.
 > Laurie 

Actually, I've done it many times without a press. Of course, many of
those times I did it wrong, and three or four ruined wheel bearings
eventually taught me the right way.  ("Experience is the best teacher,
but also the most strict, as the lesson always comes after the test."
- unknown)

Another post pointed out the special tool; specifically, a "wheel
bearing retaining ring remover/installer." If you've got one, you're
all set. Remove the steering knuckle with bearing & hub, and drive the
hub out of the bearing using brute force and bloody ignorance.  If one
of the inner races comes free of the bearing and stays on the hub
shaft, it will be difficult (but not impossible) to remove.  Un-stake
the retaining ring, and remove it with the special tool.  (Once I met
a retaining ring that wouldn't budge; a welding torch easily cut
through it without damaging the knuckle.)

With the ring out, drive the old bearing out using the usual subtle
methods. Remember, you're throwing it away; there is no need to
"preserve" anything. Try to install the new bearing without hammering
on the inner races; the battered body of the old bearing may be
interposed between the new bearing and your sledgehammer. A large
bench vise works well if you have one. Please insure you have the new
bearing pressed all the way in, and then install your new retainer
ring and stake it.

Now the clever part: We must "press" the hub back into the bearing
without damaging the delicate grease seals. FIAT recommends a press.
However, a length of threaded rod, two nuts, and some random hardware
will gently squeeze the hub into the bearing without violence. If
you're hard put to find suitable "random hardware," you can borrow
some of the large washers used to compress the "doughnuts" on either
end of your sway bar (you've probably already dismantled one side).
Make sure that one end of your threaded-rod "press" bears upon an
inner race, and not the surrounding body of the steering knuckle; the
intent is to hold the inner races together while forcing the hub
through them both. An inner race extracted from your old bearing works
well as a spacer, and guarantees that your "press" bears precisely
upon the inner race of your new bearing.

If you don't have a sway bar (coupe/3p), you still have suitable
doughnut washers, but you probably haven't dismantled them. You're
stuck rummaging for "random hardware." I am personally blest with an
appropriate leftover gear from a washing-machine transmission.  I also
have a large collection of ruined wheel bearings and inner races ;-) .

Of course, the reminder of the reassembly is "an exercise for the
student."  ;-)

5. Setting your own Toe-In.

The Haynes 128 manual has instructions for setting your own toe-in,
using some long sticks. Believe it or not, this works!  I paid about
$30 for the materials they suggested, about what I would have spent
for a Professional Job. I'm reluctant to plagarize their method here,
so I'll meekly suggest you spring for their useful book. This should
work on nearly any vehicle, FIAT or otherwise.


I went to this trouble because I found some valuable information on
your website; one good turn deserves another. I have no welding setup,
so I can't yet fabricate a shock-tower brace, nor fix the negative
camber on my Brava, but at least I understand the problems and their
solutions. And, someday I want to try some wagon springs on the rear
axle; right now, the car feels like it wants to roll over in turns.
Perhaps somebody else can learn from my misteaks ;-) .

I suppose items 3 and 4 above could be vastly improved with some
pictures.  Alas, I haven't any. Maybe if I remember it for the next
wheel bearing, but that should be years away.

Happy Motoring!

stuart hastings

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