So let me get it straight on a selespeed 147 model there is a selespeed oil reservoir, brake fluid reservoir and its own gear fluid accessed at the front of the gearbox then?
- Selespeed oil operates the gear selectors and the clutch... needs special Selespeed 'liquid gold' oil (i.e. very expensive!)
- Brake fluid, obviously enough, operates the brakes... any standard DOT4 fluid is fine
- Gearbox oil lubricates the gears and differential gear inside the gearbox... any gear oil designed for modern gearboxes should work, but preferably semi-synthetic and if in doubt, just get the genuine oil at a dealer (not very expensive)
I think what was confusing me was that the cap was labelled for a hydraulic brake & clutch.
Indeed, that would be confusing, and applies to the manual-transmission version without Selespeed.
The cap was off for around 10 days but I think I will still get the brakes flushed anyway because as you say I have no record of it being done and I've read somewhere that this is recommended at 30,000 mile intervals.
Also, brake pad changes done on the cheap sometimes involve pistons being pushed back with clamps etc. that pushes old dirty fluid from the caliper back into the system. The proper way is to open the bleed nipple so that the dirty fluid escapes - at which point, the person doing the job may as well bleed the system properly. Since it's hard to tell what's done when you pay for a brake pad change, I think you're taking the right approach. Maybe the brake fluid has already been changed - but who knows?
As for the whining noise I forgot to say it happens more often when doing hill starts or when the car is cold. I agree with you that I don't think its a Selespeed problem as it still selects gears fine and I only ever got Selespeed Failure once. I reckon the gear box oil level could really do with a check but on a side note I'm not convinced my gear changes sound 'normal' beyond the sound of the selespeed pump. There is no clunk/grinding noise or anything like that but it sounds more like a 'gasping' noise. I presumed this was maybe the natural note of the gear change in an Alfa or TS engine but I'm beginning to wonder now...
It's really hard to diagnose that sort of thing without driving the car. There may be nothing wrong at all, the oil could be low, the input shaft bearing could be noisy (but able to last for years in this condition), or the clutch could be about to fail. It would pay to find an Alfa specialist and get their opinion which you should trust more than any of my guesses, and it is definitely important to at least check the gearbox oil or have it checked.
Some handbooks/service guides were confusing on this point, because they implied that the special Selespeed oil was the only oil in the system that needed checking/topping up. I wonder how many cars go for years without the gearbox oil being checked/topped up. Of course, it should not leak away, but you just never know.
Personally, even though it is not in the service schedule, I think it is best to drain the gearbox oil every couple of years (it often has a swirling silver mist of tiny metal particles) and refill with fresh oil - it only takes about 2 litres, so it is not expensive to do this (and it gives me a warm feeling inside, knowing that the gears/bearings are running in clean oil). On the other hand, the special Selespeed oil gets less dirty and does not need draining/replacing, and I am told by specialists that the less interference with it, the better!
I'm not too sure if I want to go back to the workshop that left the cap off as I am thinking if they forgot about that, what else might they forget about, especially when flushing the brakes. I once had Kwik Fit mess up a gearbox on a Vauxhall so I don't really trust them kind of places!
Exactly. I have seen some horrors created by "trained professionals" in the trade - wrong size brake pads, brake pads fitted backwards, seized ABS modulator, etc. etc. which is why I always do my own work on important things like brakes - the opposite logic to what many people would apply
Training is important, but it's the attitude and motivation on the job that counts. I can't comment on your local garage - they may be perfectly up to the job (and as I said before, bleeding the brakes requires no special equipment)... it will have to be your decision there!
I think on the whole, "you get what you pay for" when paying other people to work on a car, so while I have no specific advice for where you should go (unless you happen to move to New Zealand
), in general a workshop that specialises in Alfa Romeo/FIAT, that has a good reputation to uphold, and that seems to be run by nice friendly people who seem to actually LIKE you and your car - that is the type of place to go, even if it costs more than local garages/Kwik Fit, etc. In the long run, it will pay off... good luck