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The Curious World of Safety Wire

While doing some routine brake work on an XJS, I was inspired to write this next article.


As we all know, Jaguars are just a little different than most. In many instances, this is what draws us in as owners, purveyors and caretakers of the breed. I am talking about things like, vanity mirrors on the inside of the glove box doors instead of the sun visors, dual fuel tanks, heated windshield glass, a key that is a "rod" instead of a "blade", bonnet latches that require locking as well as releasing, the "flying buttress". The list is comically long.


One of the odd choices that Jaguar used for a really long time is something that mystifies many - and something that, personally, I really like - I am talking about choice to use safety wire to "lock" important bolts in place. I say "mystifies" because it really doesn't seem to make much sense; Much like the coil-spring-rear-transmission-mount witchcraft, It's as if, (to paraphrase Colin Chapman) the thought was "add complicatedness".


Where most other vehicles use very simple devices such as lock-washers which bite into the surfaces as the bolt is tightened or lock-nuts which are just slightly "distorted" nuts that effectively bind onto the bolt making it tighter than normal to remove, Jaguar opted to make special bolts with drilled heads to accept wire threaded in, twisted in a specific way and then threaded through a sister bolt to tie the two bolts together. 


routine brake work on XJS

As you can see from the "before" picture - if you don't know how safety wire works...it isn't going to work.


The last guy not only made a ugly mess of the job, but the correct bolts are in the wrong places and the wire does not tie the two bolts together. He didn't even use the right type of wire...sigh.



As I said, I like safety wire. I like it for the same reasons why it is annoying.


Making sure that it is used correctly is tedious, time consuming and, unlike polishing your wire wheels (which is ALSO tedious and time consuming), no one is ever going to see it.


Most casual car people don't even know that it's there.


If anyone reading this knows the reason that safety wire was used, I would be interested in knowing it.


Perhaps it is simply because it is extremely effective? I doubt that manufacturing special, drilled bolts and stainless wire is more cost effective than lock washers, not to mention the increased potential for screw ups - it's use is definitely not foolproof.


Safety wire is used extensively in aviation, but Jaguar has no heritage in that department.


Digging a little deeper here, perhaps Sir William knew something that we don't.


Perhaps like following your grandmother's recipes, smoking a cigar or choosing to read the book rather than watch the movie, one could argue that safety wire forces you to slow down. To go to the garage. To focus. To center yourself on and to appreciate the task. To be content and satisfied with the completion. It is static movement - you can actually SEE how it works by imagining one bolt trying to loosen counter-clockwise, effectively tightening the other by pulling clockwise on the wire that penetrates and binds the universe together....


In conclusion; Safety wire helps to add that little something extra...whatever that may be.


Does your vehicle need a special attention? Schedule an appointment with Dancia Motors today and experience the difference firsthand. Your vehicle will thank you for it!

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