Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Adventures with Nemo

No, this isn't a post about a clown fish. Today, I'm going to cover the adventure of trying to get Nemo, T's A4, to operate correctly again.

Break Down
This story actually starts very soon after the last post about A4 ended (See A4 Puzzles). It was late Summer, and T had been living with us for a while. His car had been behaving well, but he wanted to make sure everything was tip-top before leaving for Eugene. Well, we got it running, but he broke down with a coolant leak on the way to Eugene. We knew the radiator had a small leak, and we concluded that the leak was the cause. I drop-shipped him a replacement which he installed in his garage. Unfortunately, this was not the cause of his coolant loss.
T replaced the coolant outlet flange. Twice.
He replaced a few hoses.
He swapped the coolant overflow bottle with a used one from the junk yard.
By the end, he was no longer seeing coolant puddles appear under the car, but when he would return from a drive the coolant bottle would register below "MIN". Frustrated, he had the car towed home, to Beavo. He rode with the tow truck driver and borrowed Flash while K2 and I assured him that we would find the cause and fix it.
That was in June.

Rad Patch
K2 was out of school and missing his daily shop time, so we thought he would get into fixing the A4. Well, that didn't last very long as Summer brings its own distractions and rewards. So, while he took some air, I re-assembled what K2 had started (he was preparing for a head-gasket job) and got Nemo to start again. I had forgotten that I had drop-shipped a radiator down to Eugene, so I started to disassemble the front to remove it. I discovered that one of the fasteners holding the air conditioning condenser to the radiator was a screw instead of a bolt. AND, the tip of the screw had pierced the plastic side-tank on the radiator, causing a leak. So, I started with that.
I used an old Shade Tree trick for small (read: pin) holes. Do NOT do this for a hole of any significant size because the superglue could get inside the radiator rendering it less effective or even completely ineffective. Anyway, the quick fix for tiny holes:
drain the coolant down below the small hole and make sure the area is dry.
rough it up a little bit with sandpaper or a file
apply superglue, covering the hole
dust baking soda on top of the superglue, completely covering it
once dry, blow off excess baking soda
fill system with coolant/distilled water mixture and pressure test
Yes, it actually works. Again, this is only recommended for very small holes. There are epoxy-based kits that are designed for larger holes. At some point, though, even those become ineffective and you need to replace the whole thing.

This worked great. No more leak from the radiator. But other puddles still appeared after a spirited test drive and the coolant in the bottle read below "MIN". Well, that's familiar. In fact, it is the exact experience that T was having. At least we're back to what he was seeing, and the pin hole in the radiator was not the cause. I found the coolant dripping from the lower radiator hose, which appeared to have been replaced with one from NAPA. I replaced it again with a Continental hose, and cinched the hose clamps down nice and tight. Another spirited drive and another drip-drip-drip, landing in the same spot. I could hear a "pssss" sound, and traced it to a hose near the intake where I could see water bubbling around it. I tightened it up and then started tightening every hose I could reach. I tightened the thermostat cover as well.

Temperature Sensor
During my early test drive, I noticed that the coolant temperature gauge wasn't working. This is often diagnosed as the sensor being bad. I knew we had recently replaced it, but I replaced it anyway. That didn't fix it. While installing, I noticed that the 4-plug socket that plugged into the sensor had a frayed the brown wire. When I tested continuity between that wire and the other end of the gauge-sending side of the socket, I got continuity at the wire (which had a bare spot), but not at the socket. So, I knew the socket was bad. But, where do you find a 4-pin socket with the correct alignment grooves? On eBarf. I cut off the old plug, leaving a short length at the socket for reference and as much wire in the loom as I could. One at a time, I checked and re-checked as I connected the wires with crimp-on butt-connectors and then heat-shrink'd the connections. It plugged in easily and with the hoses tightened, it was ready to test drive. If you replace a plug like this, take care to wire it correctly or you could fry your ECU. No, I didn't, but I was full-on scared about it until I turned the ignition to run and saw the coolant temp appear on my OBD-II reader.

Leak Free
I took a familiar drive up the connector streets onto the main road, thundered down that main road, right at the major intersection, around the next main road to the connector streets on the other side of the neighborhood before returning home. This route has stop and starts, speeds up to 45mph as well as lots of turns and speed bumps. All while remaining within 1/2 mile of the house. By the time I got home, the temperature had gotten up high enough for the thermostat to open. I backed into the drive, pulled the hood latch and hopped out. I couldn't hear any "psss" noise and there was a single drip from the lower radiator hose. I figured that drip could have been residual from prior leaks, and a longer test drive was needed before I called it fixed.

Coolant Bottle Swap
I decided to replace the coolant bottle since I knew the one that was in was not exactly right. The bottle fit the mounting points, but the low-coolant-level sensor was rectangular instead of round, so the sensor wasn't plugged in. When you know you have a coolant leak, that's not a good set up. I drained enough coolant out of the old bottle so I could swap them out, but I did not fully bleed the air. Once re-filled, I got distracted, and left it filled, but un-bled.

Another Drive
The opportunity for a longer drive appeared the following weekend when T stopped by after helping his mom with some chores. He was eager to see how Nemo was progressing, so we pulled him out and took a drive, T behind the wheel. T was thrilled to feel the big turbo spin up (PO upgraded it) and hug the turns (PO upgraded suspension too). By the time we got home, we had been running at normal temperatures for probably 10 minutes. When we got home, we both realized that we couldn't smell coolant, and I mean not at all. Not a whiff. All prior drives had at least a small smell, so this was a really good sign. We popped the hood and saw that the coolant bottle was down to just above MIN. Recognizing this could have been because I failed to bleed the air, we figured we would wait until it was cool again before checking. We also discovered that the tail lights were not illuminating with the headlights. I'll need to fix that before T takes the car back to Eugene.

Bad News
So, I seized upon an opportunity to drive Nemo when I had to take a run to Tualatin. That's a 20+ minute drive with a mix of highways and surface streets, so it would be a good test. When I arrived at my destination, the coolant bottle was pretty much empty. I let the car cool down and then added some water, and drove back home. When I got home, the bottle, again, was nearly empty. I wanted to prove that the system wasn't leaking. So, I grabbed my MityVac. When I removed the overflow bottle cap to refill the water, I could distinctly smell exhaust as the pressure released. I was starting to conclude that the head gasket or head were allowing water into the exhaust. To confirm there were no other leaks, I removed one of the hoses from the bottle, plugged where the hose came from and applied 14psi of pressure to the cooling system. Over the course of several minutes, the pressure would drop by 1/2 psi, and no coolant was appearing anywhere. More reason to believe the coolant is traveling into the combustion chamber. So, my next task, which I will document separately, will be to remove the head, have it tested and then replace the head gasket.

This is a big job. Just for context, I got a quote from a mobile mechanic I've never used, and he came back with $1250US. Seeing that the quote is more than we could get if we sold the car if it didn't have this problem, we're doing it ourselves. Well, myself. I really would rather not spend my autumn working on the A4. I would rather combine efforts with C and dedicate ourselves to the Zed (1979 280ZX), completing the sand-down and possibly spraying primer before the temperatures get too cold to paint. Oh well.

It has been unseasonably cold for more than 3 weeks (10F* / 6*C or more below average), so the window for spraying primer may have closed and it may make the Nemo work a little less fun. Regardless, I probably will not have much time to get back to Hapy until dead-of-winter. I may delay the electrical re-do I had in mind and focus instead on recovering the front seats, since I can do that indoors where its warm and dry. We'll see how I feel and how the weather behaves when the time presents itself.

Thanks, as always, for following along.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Dog Days 333 (Part 2)

Continuing the story of the 333-mile loop we did in mid-August. In part 1, I explained the plan, and the longest leg of the trip, from home to just south of Florence. Today, I'll cover the journey from Florence to Newport, happenings at Newport and then the journey through Lincoln City and home again.

I left off the last post with our departure from Honeyman State Park. We had a great time there, but it was approaching lunch time for most, and we had one rider who had skipped breakfast, so food was at the front of our minds. When we entered Florence on our way in a few nights earlier, we spotted a Dairy Queen, so we had a fail-safe. I wanted to see if there were better offerings before suffering the Brazier. Our patience was rewarded with an A and W car hop on the north end of Florence. We were fortunate to arrive just after someone else had left, so we could pull into a car-hop spot. I didn't think these things were still around, but not only is the place still standing, they still bring food out to you at your car on big platters that you can hang on your window. I wasn't sure that was a good idea with a nearly 50 year old bus, so we used the tray as a table inside it instead. They served the classic A/W root beer in heavy freezer-cold glass mugs, and the food arrived slightly wrapped in paper. Maybe it was because we hadn't eaten planned food in a week (no grocery store stops means you make up meals based on what you have, not from a plan) or maybe it was because we had worked a bit to get there, but those burgers and fries tasted fantastic. As we sat, we could better see just how busy they were. Inside the restaurant, there were no open tables and the line ran back to the door. Around the parking lot, there were no open spots, and there were motorists queued for the next open car-hop spot.

From Florence to Newport
looking South
Northward is just as amazing
Now fed, we could embark on the US-101 north to Newport. I hadn't driven this stretch of the US-101 in many years, but as much as other areas of Oregon have radically changed, this area is relatively static. The coastline is peppered with public beaches, but for the most part, the waterline is unreachable. The cliffs are too steep, or the terrain too rough for a road. Or, a path could be put in, but there's no place on the 101 to put a parking lot. As a result, there are long stretches of untouched coastline to enjoy out the window.

With all of the recreational vehicles on the road with us, there was little pressure to drive too terribly fast, making the drive all the more pleasant. The road is curvy, so even if the road had been empty, Hapy tips a little bit on corners anyway, so I wouldn't have been driving much faster than the current speed of traffic allowed. Hapy was running great. His temperatures would pop above 185*F for a quick second and then drop back down to 185*F as we climbed inclines or had to slow way down. Overall, though, his temperature issues of the past were quickly moving further into the back of my mind, as the scenery increasingly took over the front.

park, as it appears in googleImages
As I mentioned in the last post, we rented a house in Newport. Well, my sister Em did. We had her text the address to C, my navigator, so he could get us there. He had us take a left off of US-101 after we crossed the bay bridge into Newport and then he became confused. He asked me to pull over real quick and he asked a pedestrian "is there a skate park around here?". Hilarious. But, there was, and he had almost gotten us there. We were a block and a half away from it. We parked in front, nose pointing at the concrete bowls, and C jumped out, board in hand. K2 opened the slider, but remained on the lot couch while I wandered over to check it out.

725 NW High Street, Newport
This skate park looked like a combination of planned park and random construction. A few words from the older cat hanging out brought clarity: the city built it, and then the skaters added to it. For materials, they used whatever they could find plus concrete. Patio blocks? Check. Concrete slabs? Check. So.. that begs the followup question: how were the transitions? Well... you needed to plan for them. C worked the park, and while he did a car-load of locals arrived. Apparently, this was a super-hot day for Newport, so the locals would do a run and then pant in the limited shade. They all had an interesting style where they would look uncomfortable on their board, but then pop an amazing trick or fly out of the bowl and land it.. just to look unstable again after they had landed the trick and rolled a few feet. Maybe it was all of the home-made transitions. Regardless, I pulled up the address for the house, and it was about a half-mile away. We were early anyway, so C got his skate on. Once he was pouring sweat and ready to roll, we pointed south and within 10 minutes we were sitting across the street from the rental.

The rental was an odd, albeit large, 4 story house. The first floor was a separate apartment, but it was part of our rental. The upper 3 floors were, in order from bottom-to-top: more bedrooms with a bathroom, the main living space and a full-floor master bedroom. There was no yard, but there was a grassy park across the street with a big playground in it. It was perfect for the cousins, but no yard meant no tent for C and K2. Arrangements were resolved, and shifted each night as who was able to stay the night changed each day. Boo and I got a bed for one night, but honestly, we prefer Hapy so we stayed in the bus the other nights, and were grateful for it.

The family reunion was great. Boo and I had seen everyone within the last few years, but many family members hadn't seen each other in a very long time. For example, K2 had never met Chris, Rebecca's husband, and C hadn't seen him for close to 10 years. Lives get busy, and travel isn't the highest priority when there are colleges to pay for. Regardless, it was great to have that time, all in one place, for a few days so we could really re-connect.

Newport to Lincoln City
near Yachats
When it came time to leave, the plan was for the smaller, or more distant traveling families to pack and split, leaving the final walk-through for those who simply couldn't move fast. Boo and I were that last group, transporting the grandparents and teens. The plan didn't really work out that way, though, and we had all of the families all packing and leaving at about the same time. This made for a little extra chaos, but it also provided a little extra time to see each other. Ultimately, we were out by the appointed time, and the families went their separate ways... with Boo, K2 and the grandparents in K'Lack and me in Hapy with C, we headed north towards Lincoln City with hopes that this time Moe's wouldn't have a long line.

The drive to Lincoln City was as eventful as the drive from Florence to Newport. Hapy's temperatures stayed very level, he had plenty of power and the traffic didn't push faster than around 55mph anyway. We took the left to get to Moe's and could tell from the parking lot that things weren't looking very good. It was past noon, but still close enough to lunch time, even on a Wednesday, to create a crowd at Moe's. I found a spot near the door and C jumped out to find out how long the wait was... 40 minutes for a seating. Boo quick-conferred with the grandparents and we all decided to go to the McMenamin's Lighthouse Pub instead. Of course, McMenamin's isn't exactly known for fast service, but I figured that with the time to seat and then get food, we were still ahead versus Moe's.

Lincoln City no-start
After lunch, Hapy's now-typical 'starts the first time' didn't happen. I turned the key and nothing. I wiggled some wires behind the ignition switch and I could get the system to flip to "run", but "start" was still a no-go. Neat. With Boo, the grandparents, C and K2 watching, I simply pushed in the clutch, let off the brake, and roll-started by popping into reverse. Within a few seconds, I dropped into that 1200 rpm limp mode. Fun. I just puttered to an incline and roll-started him again. With concern about Hapy's limp mode issues and inability to start, we headed back to the US-101. He didn't drop into limp mode again, nor did we stop the engine again until we got home.

We made one stop after Lincoln City. There was a pressing need for road-bev's and a restroom so at the north end of Dundee, we stopped at the Chevron. I stayed with Hapy as he idled and C dashed into the store for a couple drinks for us. Other than the no-start in Lincoln City, Hapy continued to run like a champ. It was a hot day, and he was staying nice and cool. He continued to have plenty of power as well, and he demonstrated both on the long uphill between Newburg and Sherwood. I described this climb, and it's significance in my recent post (See Now Water COOLed), but I'll stress it again. This is the ultimate test ground for the success of the cooling system. Hapy has struggled up this hill on the way home every time we've driven it. Part of that is because of the length and height of the incline, but part too is because by this point, he has run for multiple hours and is already plenty hot before we start. This time, though, his temperature peaked at 194*F as we took the hill in 4th gear. Boo and I parted ways in Sherwood. I took Roy Rogers into Beaverton and she continued on 99W into Portland to drop off the folks. Roy Rogers has gotten very built up now, making this less and less of a quality cut-through. I may need to work the maps for something more interesting for next festival season.

Anyway.... 4 successful round trips, To celebrate, here's a clip from Sesame Street back when the painter was still part of the show. Yeah, showing my age here a little bit, but I liked this guy, back when the Count was spooky, the parents didn't know about Mr. Snuffalupagus, etc. Once they started PC-ifying all that stuff, they took some of the special with it. Anyway, 4 successful 300+ mile trips, totaling over 1200 miles without the support of a towing company nor AAA. Hazah!

By the way, the starter no-op was solved once I emptied the back of the bus and disconnected / reconnected the wires going into the TDI ignition switch. Something shook loose on the drive. Another argument to spend time this winter getting after the electrical: solving the 1200rpm issue with the accelerator pedal, the occasional issues with the engine not starting and maybe even organizing some of that wiring in the tire well. Nah... that's crazy talk :)

That's it for today. Thanks, as always, for following along-

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Dog Days 333 (Part 1)

2 weeks after the Newberry Event, we had a family trip planned. With the fuel and cooling issues presumably solved, we embarked on a 333? mile loop through Eugene, Florence, Newport and Lincoln City. Gmaps thinks it was 333 miles; so, we'll assume that's correct and that should explain the title. Anyway, today's post covers that late summer run, or should I say, the first half of it. As usual, I'll mask the names of minors with a single letter and the * when I mention speed or distance refers to my inaccurate speedometer (See the "Clock Turns" section within the 4Peaks 2019 - Road Report).

The Plan
Maybe I should start with some context. I have 2 sisters; neither live in Oregon. Both were coming to visit, though, so the greater family saw opportunity for something big. My brother Rob and his wife started the fun with a 3-day weekend (Fri-Sun) camping reservation at Honeyman State Park. Rob's wife Kirst camped there many times as a kid, so this was a throw-back for her. They reserved a bunch of sites all backed up on one another for whichever family units among family and friends wanted to join. My younger sister Em, her husband Sun and her two kids (I and K3) were in, as were we. The rest of the spots filled with Rob and Kirst's kids' (A and N) friends' families. Once we had our spot assigned, I reserved the night before so we could arrive whenever we wanted to after 4PM on Thursday.

Following 3 (or 4) days of coastal camping, the families moseyed up the coast to a rented house in Newport. We would be joined by T, my parents, my brother Eric with his 2 daughters (K4 and K5 - yes we have that many kids whose name starts with K) and my sister Rebecca with her husband Chris. All in, we would peak at around 17 people for one night to celebrate Dad's birthday, but I'll get to the Newport stuff in another post.

Drive at Night
This trip starts like so many: at night. Boo and I worked our regular jobs on departure day, so we weren't really getting things going until Hapy Hour, 530PM local time. We had loosely packed Hapy the days and nights before, and most of the regular gear had been left in there from the Newberry run. We added the washtubs forgotten on that trip, as well as clothing bags, sleeping bags, an extra tent for the boys (K2 and C were joining us) and a pair of large foam mats for the boys to use to cushion their sleep. We had been delaying a grocery store trip, and still hadn't gotten around to it, so we just went through the cupboards and fridge, grabbing anything and everything that looked edible, tossing it into one of the three coolers (one cold, one not-so-cold and one for beverages). I had hoped to leave by 10:PM, and we were pulling out of the driveway, caravan-style (Boo driving the JettaWagon named K'Lack with K2, and me driving Hapy w/C) around 9.

Privacy Screen for Honeyman
By 9:PM on a Thursday, the streets and highways in suburban Portland are fairly empty. We filled fuel tanks and got ice at the corner store before heading to the highway. The evening air was cool, and Hapy hummed along, seeming to enjoy the deserted highway. Unlike our last trip down OR217 / I-5 for Newberry (See Newberry 2019 - Getting There), there were no crowds, no crawling traffic through Wilsonville. Quite the contrary, we were able to run at over 60mph* and cleared the greater Portland area easily. As we passed the Wilsonville exit, Boo called from the lead car, recommending road-snax. We pulled off at the Aurora truck stop, Hapy's temperature rarely getting above 185*F (peaked at 188*F for a moment as we pulled off the Interstate). We split Popeye's Chicken and a plastic-sealed chef's salad. With some form of energy drink in everyone's hand, we set back out to the freeway, this time with Hapy leading.

It is interesting how 15 years of driving the bus without music tends to continue even after a nice stereo is installed. Almost the entire drive to and from Newberry was without music, choosing to listen to Hapy's engine and just think. Now, on this trip, C and I talked without the radio on. C and I haven't really seen each other much over the last few years, so having him on this trip, sitting beside me for all of the driving meant a lot to me. Based on the fact that he didn't have ear buds in, I think the same could be said for him. To be fair, C started living with us nearly full time shortly after school let out in June, so, while we hadn't seen him much before that, we have been treated (and I mean that genuinely) to sharing a home with him for a few months now.

Honeyman SP map
We passed through some clouds at road-level south of Albany and through the interchange in Eugene from I-5 thru OR-569 to OR-126, adding damp to the windscreen. I call it "clouds at road-level" because it wasn't actually raining, and it wasn't fog. I believe it was actually clouds down to the earth. It was quite surreal, especially alone on the freeway passing through nowhere land mid-Willamette valley farm country. OR-126 had a short delay due to some flagger-protected construction, but even the ensuing drive through the coast range was an easy run for Hapy. The route only had a handful of short inclines, with most of the driving being downhill. Still, Hapy's temperature didn't get above 190*F as we cleared the range and hit the coastline in Florence. We turned south on US-101 and within minutes, we were pulling into Honeyman State Park and backing into our (reserved) campsite. It was now 2:AM.

Honeyman State Park
above us, only sky
That first night was actually one of the most efficient load-in efforts I can remember with 2 kids. We started with setting up the the 10x10 EZ-up canopy over the large thick-topped picnic table. Then, Boo and K2 set up the massive tent for the boys while C and I unloaded the bus onto the picnic table, under the canopy. We unloaded just enough for Boo and I to get into the rock-n-roll bed (so we could sleep), making sure everything was under cover in case of rain or heavy dew.

I was the first one up a few hours later that morning, so I cleared out some space on the table, set up the stove and made french-press coffee. I puttered around, coffee in one hand, some piece of gear in the other, slowly making our space work until Boo awoke. Between us, we set up the rest of the space: bus canopy, new area rug, the kitchen, even a drying line and hammock between a pair of nearby trees.

Hammock'd Boo
I had visited Honeyman State Park many years earlier with Hapy and the boys, but they were much younger then. I rooted around the blog for a post about that trip, but didn't find one. Odd, I know some of the first pictures I took while driving Hapy were on that trip. Perhaps that trip pre-dated the blog and it's in my old paper log. Anyway, Honeyman is on the northern-most edge of a, maybe, 50 mile long section of the Oregon Coast that is covered in massive sand dunes. By massive, I mean like upwards of 100 feet high and they run from the water's edge at least a mile or more inland. This is an ATV'ers paradise, and on my last visit to Honeyman, that was very clear. The sound of ATV's being cleaned, tuned, ridden and repaired echoed through the campground then. Not this time, though. New rules prohibit all ATV activity inside the campground. One unique upside to Honeyman I had completely forgotten about was the complete lack of wind. Yes, there's a spot on the Oregon Coast where there isn't wind; it is blocked by those massive sand dunes. You would think that no wind means lots of insects (like the Carolina outer banks), but that's not the case. Still, virtually no biting bugs. Love Oregon.

There were other upgrades. For example, the park rents out sandboards for sliding on the dunes. Boo and K2 tried it, and had a fun time of it. Unlike snowboarding, though, there were no lifts so the better the run, the longer the subsequent climb back up. When we visited before, the park rented paddleboats for use on the freshwater lake. Those were still available, but now there were 1 and 2-person kayaks available as well. Boo and I tried a 2-person while K2 took another.

C, N and K3 playing
C has been spending most of his free time working on skate-boarding. So, while he didn't try the sandboards or kayaks, he did find the tarmac'd roads in the park suitable for skating. He even found a small spot where the pavement was pushed up by a tree-trunk, forming a small ramp so he could bang some aerial trick-work. In each of the 3 days he would put in at least five 20-minute sweat-producing sessions working his board. When he wasn't doing that, he was playing with the camp kid cousins who have evolved from make-believe to throwing a football. Everyone grows up, I guess. K3 and N would come over as soon as they saw C arise from his tent asking him to play football. C never said "no", but at least once gave them a "gimme a few minutes". Seeing that he was barely vertical, and only awake for a couple of minutes, that was quite a civil response. Even then, he would be playing with them within 10 minutes. He just needed his morning Yerba Mate.

Two weeks earlier it was the new moon, so this weekend was the full moon. Boo and I took full advantage and took a moonlit walk on the dunes. The white sand glowed, illuminating everything into a semi-daylight. If you looked away from the moon and the sand long enough, you could see thousands of stars as well.

Pack Out
Our visit ended too soon, though. Just as we were getting comfortable with the camp set up, the location of the flush-bathrooms and showers and the beautiful surroundings, it was Sunday, and our reservations concluded. Boo got up extra early, and grabbed a few things that we wouldn't need in Newport, but were not actively in use... like the hibachi and the empty cooler, and took off for Portland to pick up "the folks" to take them to Newport. I watched her go, and then started slowly breaking camp.

By the time C and K2 awoke, everything was taken down and stowed except their tent, their things inside it, the coolers of food and a few odds and ends. I encouraged them to grab something to eat and then pack up, and that was met with varied enthusiasm. Their things found their way into the bus, and the tent was packed away, but K2 had decided not to eat, and after some activity, he was unable to participate any longer because of that choice. We parked him in the bus next to the coolers and packed around him until it was time for our farewells.

I'll cut the story here and pick up next week with the trip to Newport, happenings there, and the drive back home. Thanks, as always, for following along-

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Making Hapy Sounds (part 4-ish)

Well.. it is sort of part 4. In the other 3 parts, I made stereo choices, installed the front speakers and the head unit. The rear speakers were popped into 6x9 boxes and allowed to float around. Today, I harden those wires a little bit.

Why Harden the Rear Speakers First?
That's a great question. The head unit is resting on top of the cardboard that it shipped in. That's the most expensive part of this operation, and it isn't held down at all. Well, I drove to Newberry (La Pine Oregon) and back, as well as a 300 mile round trip from home through Eugene, Florence, Newport and Lincoln City before circling back home again (yes, there are posts on that trip coming). That's over 600 miles all together and the head unit didn't bounce at all. The slap-together wiring of the rear speakers, however, came apart plenty. So, that needs to be first.

Clean Up
I explained that I ran the speaker wires through the same hole in the partition as a bunch of other wire bundles. Well, many of those bundles aren't used anymore. For example, there was a 3-wire cable for the heater fan. I yanked the heater fan circuit to reduce the load up front, to prevent another ignition failure. So, that cable was no longer used. I removed it. To get rid of all of it, I needed to remove the side panel along the outer skin that runs from the driver partition to the fridge/storage cabinet. This opened up a means of burying the speaker wires.

Wire It Up
I took the speaker wires I had flopping around, and routed them behind that side panel. Just past the mid-point of the fridge/storage cabinet, I spliced in a pigtail, and more speaker cable. The pigtail is just like the pigtails I put into Oliver's (the '78 MGB) trunk. I had corresponding pigtails added to short runs of speaker cable that ran into the speaker boxes. I extended speaker cables (for both left and right) behind the rock-n-roll bed to the far passenger side, terminating with another set of pigtails. This created a means of plugging in speakers either at the fridge/storage cabinet or at the slider.

I will create a couple extension cables so we can run speakers out into the camp zone, or at least outside the slider.

While this was a brief post, this took me most of a day to do. Burying wires, and making solid connections isn't exactly fast work. The result, though, is pretty neat. 2 pigtails appear just above the cabinet, the left with a strip of yellow around it; the right with a strip of orange, so I know which channel I am plugging into. Next to the slider, there are now 2 matching pigtails (yellow/orange) and the 12V socket (repaired to work again).

I did not run any speaker wires to support a sub-woofer. I figured that if I get ambitious enough to add that and the amplifier to the mix, it will be a complete effort of it's own.

That's it for today. Thanks as always for following along.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Now Water-COOLed

Before I begin, our family lost a brother over the weekend (14 September). Travis was taken from us too soon, but he left doing what he loved most, riding his Harley on a beautiful early autumn afternoon. To meet him was to know him, and to know him was to love him. You will be greatly missed, brother. On to today's post...

The cooling system for Hapy's new engine has been a journey. Looking back on multiple years of efforts to get Hapy to be genuinely water-cooled, today's post covers what may be the last thing I needed to do. I have lots of links referencing pretty much all of the things I've done, but I probably missed a few at the beginning of the project because many of those early posts covered multiple project aspects.

Initial Cooling System
Recall when I started this project, I sourced a radiator off craigslist for $30 (See TDI - Day 2). At the time, I was even offered the air-conditioning condenser, and it had the original fans. I passed on the air-conditioning condenser, which he subsequently sold, and I removed the fans. I added 2 flex-cool fans and wrapped the radiator with an aluminum frame (See bracketing the radiator and rad brackets continue) and put sides on it (See Radiator shrouded) to reduce the amount of air allowed to slip back around from the rad exhaust back into the rad intake. This sort of worked, though I always had my eye on the temperature. Along the way, I removed a bunch of extra wiring from the original harness that was part of the air conditioning circuit, and added a switch to the dash for turning the fans on.

Then the leaks started. I spent many hours trying to solve outlet flange leaks (See Reality Strikes, for example). Ultimately, I learned that the plastic parts were designed to fail first, so more expensive parts didn't fail when the engine got too hot and the coolant expanded faster than the expansion tank could handle. Still, replacing that outlet flange and getting the coolant temperature sensor to seat properly are two of the most patience-testing things I've done on this conversion. Having these components by the fuel tank makes the reach and visibility particularly difficult.

Still, with the system seemingly in-tact, the engine temperature would still climb and not come back down easily. As the miles and years passed, the engine would heat up faster and cool down slower. We had a super-long return from 4Peaks in 2017 (See 4Peaks 2017 - Road Report), and had our first vagabonding experience when we were unable to make it to Frog Lake due to an overheat, and big coolant loss (See Almost Frog Lake Part 1 and Part 2). The whole time, Boo was incredibly supportive, and heroically kept my spirits up. My last, most tragic failure was when I added the wrong kind of coolant. That amplified the problems, and ultimately led to the troubled drive to Newberry this Summer (See Newberry 2019 - Getting There).

Resolution Path
I promised Hapy that I would start fixing the cooling system when we were on the side of the US-26 outside Rhododendron, unable to make it to Frog Lake. So, that next Spring, I replaced the old Jetta radiator with a Mishimoto all-aluminum radiator (See Back to the Bus: Rad Swap Part 1 and Part 2). Things were not that much better on the way to 4Peaks in 2018 (See 4Peaks 2018 - Road Report), but with the ignition fire on the way home, it quickly moved to the back burner. I removed the wiring for the heater fan controls when I did the ignition replacement, believing it was causing large load spikes.  While that didn't really change the cooling system, its a change worth documenting. By the time the ignition was done, festival season was over. But before I covered Hapy for the winter, I replacing the fans with a real dual-fan shroud (See Cowling the Hapy Radiator). I thought this was the final solve. The drive to 4Peaks seemed fairly good (See 4Peaks 2019 - Road Report), with temperature spiking at 196*, but the drive home was again spent watching the temperature gauge. We peaked at 205*, but the alternate route through the farm country allowed us to keep our speed (and therefore temperatures) down. The drive to Newberry, though, was enough for me to know that I had not solved the problem, and I really needed to fix it right if I was going to truly enjoy driving distances with Hapy.

Last Solve
In my last post, I described the issues with the fuel I bought in Oakridge (See Green Diesel isn't BioDiesel). That bad fuel held my speed so low, I didn't have temperature issues the rest of the way home. I knew they still lurked, so after the fuel system was drained, new filter system installed and new fuel added, I shifted back to my nemesis: the cooling system. I started with a basic drain and water-flush. Then, I removed the thermostat and filled with water, ran the engine, and drained. I did this a couple of times. Then, I went nuclear and did a chemical flush with Thoroflush. The Prestone radiator flush is weak tea compared to this stuff.

The directions are hard to find on the internet, but it's fairly clear:
Remove 1 gallon of coolant from your system
Mix one gallon of water with the right amount of Thoroflush mix for your application
Add mixture to cooling system
Get engine up to temperature (to open thermostat) and run for 10-15 minutes. DO NOT RUN LONGER THAN 15 MINUTES
Drain and flush with water until drainage is clear (no pink from chemicals)

Seems fairly straightforward. But, I pulled my thermostat, so how long do I need to run it? I was unable to find any direction for this case. I concluded that since my engine was fairly warm (upper 160's), if I added the mixture and ran it for less than 15 minutes, I would do no harm, but might not get maximum benefits. So, that's what I did. I used the water from the 2nd rinse-flush and added the mixture to that, ran the engine for just shy of 15 minutes, drained, flushed, and flushed again. After flushing everything out, I re-installed the thermostat with a new housing and O-ring. I determined that the old housing was slightly warped (possibly from the flushing efforts), and found that removing the hose from the thermostat housing makes re-install 100x easier. I filled with G40 and distilled water, clearing the bleeders so there were no air pockets trapped in the system.

Testing and Proving
gmap image of 99W steep
I wanted to demonstrate that this was the fix. So, I drove around town like a total dick: jack-rabbit starts, rapid accelerations... basically zooming around West Beaverton pushing the bus as hard as I could for a good 15 or 20 minutes. It wasn't until I pulled over onto our quiet street that the temperature raised above 185*F (to 188*F), and even then it was only for a second before it dropped back down to 185*F. The real test came later in the week when we drove to Honeyman State Park, up to Newport, through Lincoln City and home again. I'll post on that trip later, but I'll summarize the coolant test with a simple number: 194. 194*F was the highest the temperature ever got the entire 300+ mile road trip, including climbing the coast range and driving in slow, heavy traffic. At no time did I need to pull over because of the temperature. I did not drive especially gingerly either.

There is a hill climb on 99W between Newberg and Sherwood. Every time we take the back road alternate route, we drive up this hill as our last big pull. Accordingly, it is a consistent gauge for how Hapy is doing. When I drove this hill after Newberry, I barely kept the temperature under 203*F, driving with the flashers on in 2nd gear (25mph* tops). This time, Hapy's temp peaked at 194*F running at the speed of traffic (55mph*) in 4th. In both cases, this was at the end of a multi-hour daytime summer-heat drive. This feels like strong evidence the cooling issues have been solved.

That's it for today's saga. Sorry there weren't any real pictures, there really wasn't much to take a picture of, except, maybe, a picture of the cooling system map. That reminds me, I never did document system-by-system how the conversion was done. Hmm.. maybe I should dust off that documentation effort over the winter. Anyway, thanks, as always, for following along.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Green Diesel isn't BioDiesel

In my last post, about getting home from the Newberry Event (See Newberry 2019 - Getting Home), I described my stop for fuel and that Hapy started acting funny within 20 minutes of that fill up. Today's post covers my investigation into the acting funny. I now had 4 codes getting thrown by the computer. I was getting just one code before (P0121), so with the extra codes, I feared I had bigger problems.
Before I start, today is C's 18th birthday.... C, it has been an honor being part of your life, and I greatly look forward to our years together as our relationship shifts, grows and deepens; you truly are an amazing person.

For posterity, the codes were:
p0121 - accelerator pedal position sensor getting funny readings. Causing a version of limp mode where we lock in at 1200 rpms
p1562 - injector pump quantity adjuster. Could be caused by the bad fuel, could be my timing is suddenly off
p1550 - discharge pressure is off. This is usually caused by a leak in the charged air system or in the vacuum lines.
p1403 - EGR malfunction. My vacuum for the EGR is closed off, since I removed the EGR for a straight pipe.
Remember, this is a '72 bus so emission control devices are not required. Before my fellow tree-huggers get all spun up, recognize that I run B20 so mathematically my emissions without the EGR are cleaner now than this bus was with the original gasoline engine. So... back off! Still, could be a loose vacuum hose.

Tank Blockage
I figured I would approach the fuel system from front to back, meaning from the supply hose through to the injection pump. So, my first stop was the supply line coming out of the tank. Remember, back in 2011 on my drive home from Further, I was stopped by a blockage in my fuel tank (See Further - the Return), so I'm fairly familiar with this experience.. First, I put vice grips on the fuel lines to prevent fuel from going everywhere. Then, I disconnected the line from the clear filter and pointed the line at a fuel can. I removed the vice-grip from that line and fuel flowed easily out of the tank into the can. Gravity-feed tank checks out.

Check the Filters
While I was re-connecting things, I took a look at the clear filter. It was still clear-ish. Well, there weren't any cloggy-bits in it. So, with the fuel lines reconnected, I removed the feed line from the injection pump, leading from the "original" fuel filter. With the MityVac, I checked the fuel flow. Again, the fuel came out with very little vacuum applied. So, we have fuel making it to the injector pump easily. Hmm... So if the fuel filters are clear, and everything was running great up until it suddenly wasn't, I had to conclude that the fuel I got in Oakridge was the problem.

Drain the Tank
I raised the rear end of the bus enough to fit a 5 gallon bucket in front of the right rear axle (and under the fuel lines). I disconnected the supply fuel line at the "original" fuel filter, and routed the fuel into the bucket. While the bucket slowly filled, I removed the "original" fuel filter and drained it into the bucket as well. Once full, I clamped off the line, and swapped a second bucket underneath. I filled that bucket as the tank ran dry. I moved the buckets into the sun, and you could see the first bucket had cloudy green fuel in it. The second bucket was much more clear and less green. I interpreted this as the bad fuel settled to the bottom of the tank, leaving the older-to-me fuel floating on top.

So, what's this green fuel? I think it took this fuel those 20 minutes to settle to the bottom of the tank and then feed into the injection pump. I ran on that fuel for the remaining 150+/- miles home. By why green? Well, an underground tank can get water in it, either through condensation or seepage. If this happens for a long enough period of time, algae, fungus or other microbes can form. This usually happens at fuel stations with little traffic. I had ruled this out initially because this was a busy fueling station and there was someone getting diesel right next to me. Clearly, that doesn't matter. Whether this fuel simply had lots of water in it, causing the cloudy, or also had other matter in it, causing the color change, it had to go. The 2 buckets have been securely lid'd and will be taken to the toxic's section at the waste transfer station. I'm sorry I don't have a picture of the green fuel; I put the tamper-proof lids on before I thought to take a picture.

Current ongoing cost: $28 for the full-up. The toxic dump will be another $27. Replacing the fuel will be another $30.

New Filtering
Since the "original" fuel filter is quite literally the original fuel filter that delivered with this engine over 10 years ago, this filter was long overdue for replacement. Yeah, bad owner. I had a pre-filter on there to help it last longer, but still... So, I looked around for a replacement, and noticed that all of the replacements needed one of those plastic thermotatic "tees". These things will re-route unused fuel from the injector pump back into the tank until the fuel reached 85* and then it sends it back to the fuel tank. My "original" always routed it back into the filter. This is to help the engine warm up in cold weather, and since I don't drive Hapy in cold weather, I decided I could look at the thermostatic "tee" style. For the filter plus the tee, it was around $70US. Or, I could upgrade the whole thing.

Upgrade? The standard filter filters down to 10-15 microns. That's great for most applications. If you drive in lots of dust (read: central Oregon where 4Peaks is), that may not keep everything out. For bulldozers and large construction diesels, they have filters that go down to 2 microns. Something that fine would protect the injectors from getting destroyed by particles in the fuel. Particles of, oh I don't know... algae or water or fungus? Anyway, I looked at a combination filter housing and filter, and I was able to upgrade for $75US, so $5US more. And, it's all made in the US. Of course, it's mustard yellow has this big CAT symbol on it, but it's hidden so I don't really care. For those shopping, the extra $5 was for the little barb/nipples that the hose fits onto. They are not included in the $70 kit.

The housing has dual source options, and a feed/return configuration. I went with the most simple: one feed, no return, and routed the injection pump overflow straight back to the tank. If the day comes that we want to drive Hapy in cold enough conditions where having the fuel get warmed up is necessary, I'll deal with that then. We will need to solve for his got-no-cabin-heat challenge before that.

While I was in the engine bay, I noticed that the straight pipe which replaced the EGR had an issue. The pipe came with a nipple for attaching a gauge, and the little rubber stopper had split. This was letting out charged air, a potential source of the p1550. I replaced that stopper. After a few hundred miles of driving since, the code has not returned.

I expect the p1403 may reappear. I thought one of the vacuum lines around the "N18" vacuum valve / box came loose, but I didn't notice anything around the vacuum valves. I removed and re-connected the vacuum lines just to be safe. The p1403 code has not returned.

Now, with everything hooked back up, I cleared the codes and started up the engine. After some rough running, it settled down within a couple of minutes and sat idling at 900rpm. After a few minutes I got the check engine flash, but there is only one code (the one I had before): p0121 - the persistent accelerator pedal issue. I think it is a wiring issue where one of my splices is becoming inconsistent. I'll deal with that another time. The p1562 code has not returned.

So, that's it for the fuel system / bad fuel issue. Total cost: $165, but one of those fills should be considered part of just driving, so it's really $135. Since bad diesel can destroy injectors and injector pumps, the $135 is nothing compared to what it could have been. For example, a single injector could cost that much and a new pump could be up to 10 times that much. Of course, if the only damage was the injector nozzles, I could use this as an excuse to upgrade to bigger tips (like these) for around $180US. I'll be watching the engine behavior, regardless. There still could be an issue lurking.

Thanks again for following along-

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Newberry 2019 - Getting Home

I know. A reasonable response to having 2 separate posts about driving to a single festival means either I have become too wordy, or I'm running out of things to write about or something happened. I don't think it's the second one. Apologies for no personal pictures from the drive home. You'll see why. Before I begin, to my US readers, Hapy belated Labor Day (yesterday). Now begins the "most productive" block of weeks of the year, from Labor Day to ThxGiving. I hope one day our compensation again reflects that production so more of us can afford to spend time doing things like drive to festivals.

Getting Home
Odell Lake from gmap
Every time we leave 4Peaks (except once) we go through Sisters via US-20. And, every time, we have temperature challenges until we hit the pass. This time, knowing I'm barely getting by temperature-wise, I took some advice from Tony and drove south on US-97 and used a cut over to OR-58 out of Crescent. OR-58 is a much easier over-the-pass route heading west. The longest inclines were actually on the cut-over from US-97 to OR-58 past a rock quarry. Once on OR-58, there are still some up's, but they are brief. I welcomed the new views as well. Shortly after getting on OR-58, we passed a large lake (Odell Lake) with dark, almost brown water. It was super big, but I didn't see anyone playing on it. Maybe it's more for fishing, even though the state site says louder watersports (water-skiing, eg) are approved. There were numerous turn-offs for various campgrounds (Princess Creek, and Trapper Creek being right on the water) so it was a fairly popular place to camp, at least. Still thinking about the campgrounds, we reached the summit of "Willamette Pass" and passed the ski resort by the same name. Until this point, I was pulling over every 20 minutes or so to let Hapy cool down from his higher temperatures. At no point did Hapy's temperature get above 202*F, but I usually pulled over as he was hitting 198*F and let him cool down to 190 before resuming. Willamette Pass had a bunch of stuff going on. There was a go-kart track rolling and folks with mountain bikes and hiking gear filling the parking lot. I wondered if there was a larger crowd for summer activities than for skiing in the winter. After the peak, we started the long downhill, picking up the Salt Creek on our left until we reached Oakridge. Similar to the drive out, once we started going downhill, Hapy didn't have temperature issues.

Speed Limiter Engaged
wiki image of Lookout Point Lake
I stopped for diesel at the ExxonMobil station on the western edge of Oakridge, filled my water bottle from the 5-gallon barrel-cooler on the floor in front of the passenger seat, and nosed back onto OR-58. By the time I reached Lookout Point Lake, I started noticing what felt like a speed limiter. We could get up and go from a dead stop okay, but 4th gear was becoming gut-less. The traffic around the lake was kind of heavy so the speed-limitation wasn't much of an issue yet. Lookout Point looked fun; there were boats, swimmers, and ski-doos, everywhere. Tons of teens just getting their summer on, it looked like a great place for Eugene-residents to go when they want some lake fun, and the weather was perfect for it. On we pressed, or tried to press, with Hapy's accelerator becoming less and less responsive as we went. Interestingly, though, since I couldn't go very fast, the high temperature issues subsided as well. I no longer had to keep one eye on the temperature gauge. Which was good because soon, we were merging onto I-5 North. This was borderline scary. Consider, we are just trying to maintain 45mph* as we merge onto an interstate where the average motorist is trying to achieve 75mph. Flashers on, I held my own through Eugene but by Coburg I just couldn't take it any more. Between the cross wind buffeting, and the speed limiter, I needed a rest, and the rest area just north of Coburg was perfectly timed.

Avoid Freeways
Peoria Rd from gmap
I pulled out the Gmap and requested a route home, to see how much longer I was going to have to do this. 2 hours, and it assumes you can drive the 65mph speed limit. So, I flipped the switch to "avoid highways". As it was calculating, the voice-over said there was an accident on I-5 causing a 27 minute delay. I figured that was kismet, but I still needed to get on the freeway long enough to get off. As scary as the OR-58 merge was, getting back on from the rest area was even worse. I could not get up past 35 mph* so, with flashers on, I hobbled to the next exit. No sooner were we off the freeway than Hapy started acting better. It was short-lived, but for a minute, he seemed almost grateful. We made our way to Peoria Road and then through the middle of hay farms, along the Willamette River. It was a little surreal; on one side of the road are large hay farms with big circular bales sitting in the middle of their sandy-colored fields and on the other side of the road are houses surrounded by trees backed up to the river, docks jutting out into the water. Peoria Road took me to OR-34 and then to 99W which ended up being my main road home from there. With the speed limiter in full effect, I followed a pattern similar to my drive east: when the passing lanes are too far between, I used the shoulder to allow the traffic pressure through. With the accident on I-5, there were lots of "i'm in a big ol' hurry" types trying to 'make up time' by taking 99W after getting bottled up on I-5. I guess they had an important meeting.... late afternoon on a Sunday?... Of course, some of 99W is multi-lane, so those who don't understand that the journey is part of the trip had a lane to speed past well above the posted limit. I did get a courtesy wave during one of my use-the-shoulder pressure releases, though. More proof that there be nice folks in rural Oregon.

Roy Rogers
Roy Rogers from gmap
I followed our usual cut-through from Sherwood down Roy Rogers and was surprised to see just how much progress had been made on the massive housing development going on there. It had been almost 2 months since we did this stretch on the way home from JRAD (See JRAD Eugene - Road Report), and I swear there are multiple blocks of occupied housing where they had just foundations the last time through. I know progress can't really be stopped, but I remember that road as the road where the boys and I declared success as we took Hapy on his first journey with his new engine (See One Small Step for Van). Now, that country road is becoming a major road between Beaverton and Sherwood and instead of hay fields and grazing horses, the land on either side are filling with multi-level condos, townhouses and McMansions. It's pretty hard to watch.

Home At Last
3! 3 Round Trips! Ah Ah Ah!
I arrived home just before 7, in time to see Boo's mom and best friend... who were the last to leave the family obligation I mentioned in the "Getting There" post. Tired and hot, both Hapy and I were glad to be home. My next order of business is to solve his heat problem... and the speed limiter problem... before our next trip in 2 weeks. Regardless of how much we may have limped home, this trip was a win: we made it home without the help of a flatbed. That makes 3 complete round trip journeys, each over 3 hours one-way this season for a total of over 1000 miles... so far.

Thanks, as always, for following along. I'll post as I solve things. I'll be starting with a cooling system flush or changing the fuel filters. Whichever one I feel inspired to do first when I get out to the bus.