Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wetting My Pants

I have known that the fit of the top and sidescreens probably makes my car less than weather proof. I have been opting to drive the backup car on rainy days but there have actually not been very many true rainy days.  Of course, it frequently storms in the spring and summer, but since my normal commute is short and I have a garage on both ends, I have learned to check the hour-by-hour weather report in the morning and make a decision based on that. As long as it is not supposed to rain during the drive in or drive home, I take the MGA. Still, I have been wondering just how bad would the car be in the rain just as it is? The few times I've been in light rain with the top down I haven't gotten very wet. I decided to start looking for an opportunity on a rainy weekend to experiment before risking arriving to work sopping wet. An opportunity presented itself before I was ready for it.

The weather app predicts a wet drive home.
It was a day like many others, with clear skies predicted in the morning and early evening, but some storms predicted around 6 or 7 PM. I drove the MGA in and planned to get on the road by 5:30 to beat the storm. Unfortunately, by that time the rain had already started, and the radar showed there was no point waiting. A friend helped me put the top up and the side screens in. I buttoned things up as best as possible, and headed out into the sopping wet rush hour.

Immediately, the rain began dripping in along my left shoulder. I was able to rearrange the top flap to cut the dripping down, and I scooted over just enough that the remaining drips hit the carpet instead of me. The windshield wipers, in their first test since I tore the wiper motor and drive cable apart and reassembled (pt. 1, and pt. 2), were anemic but were improving visibility. I had just finished thinking this was not too bad when I noticed a bead of water forming in the middle of the windshield where the top doesn't fit tightly enough. Instead of dripping in the middle, surface tension held the water to the windshield frame as it headed to my side of the car. As it turns out, the point at which gravity overcomes surface tension in leaking top situations like this is directly above the drivers legs. So a steady drip began wetting my pants right on top of the knees, alternating between left and right.

The water damage once I got back home -
this is wet enough to wring out.
Clearly this would never be OK on the way to work, but with only a few miles to home I'd arrive with a soggy knee and none the worse for wear. Just as I was thinking this, the windshield wipers decided to quit working. The rain was coming down pretty hard, making it hard but not impossible to see. Traffic was heavy but moving well and the brake lights in front of me made it easier to see. I could make it the two miles on side streets to home, so I kept moving. Had it been any longer and had Shelly been home to pick me up I would have been looking for a place to pull over and wait, but I made it home safely and got into some dry clothes.

I decided a few things as a result of this experience. First, with my eldest son's drivers license approaching like a freight train I'm going to need a new backup car to replace the Civic for heavy rain and snow. It'll need to be cheap but presentable. Second, I need to get the car a little more weatherproof. Despite the failure in this case, I now know I'm close. The leak between the top I think can be fixed by installing a clip that was included on later MGA models. In the winter I used a small wood clamp to prevent cold air blowing in my face. I bought a clip a few months ago, and just need to figure out the install. The leaking on the sides will be harder to fix. I believe my top was installed with a front wooden bow that is too wide, or the top fabric is too narrow, and it causes the sides to fit poorly against the side screens. The side screens also could be changed out for a pair that has rubber seals along the top and front, but I've decided to wait until I have the problem with the top resolved to determine if the seals are really necessary.


  1. For most rain, I just figure on getting wet. If you really want to seal an MGA, Duct Tape is the way to go. One strip across the top of the windshield to seal the top to the windshield. You can even use it around the side curtains, if you really want to go to the trouble.

    I saw in your previous posts that your carpet is glued down. You really need to be able to remove the carpet if you're going to drive in heavy rain. Water will come up through the floor and soak the carpet from underneath.

    The one thing I don't do anymore is drive with the top down at night when it's raining. The lack of visibility is too significant.

    Another thing I wanted to ask about from a previous post is if you've eaten barbecue from the Aldie General Store? We stopped there on a R2R test run, and then ate there again during the rallye itself. Excellent ribs! Very recommended.

  2. Well, I'm a little more optimistic now. I definitely won't resort to Duck tape, so I'll have to re-assess after taking care of these two items.

    Haven't tried Aldie General store yet, but definitely will on that recommendation. I've been past it quite a few times and wondered how they are. There's a few other old general stores around the western part of the county that we've been to and none have let us down yet.

  3. Perhaps you could wear protective foul weather clothing like scuba gear complete with face mask, a downeast sailor's gear with hip-waders or a motorcyclist's suit!

  4. I'm thinking you should also change out your pants for "a pair that has rubber seals along the top and front."