Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Snap Ring Pliers review

I don't usually review tools.  Usually, I research a bunch and then pick whatever the interweb tells me to buy.  I wasn't able to get a good direction from the web for Snap Ring Pliers, so I bought a couple pairs and experimented.  Today's brief post summarizes those experiments.

Why Bother?
In my previous post, I talked about solving a leaking oil seal.  Some of my research on that issue pointed me to believe that the input shaft was loose and needed to be removed and re-installed.  To do that, a circlip needs to be backed off so a thick lock-ring can be pulled back (see picture to the right. The input shaft rises from the center of the picture to the left).  Then, the input shaft can be threaded off the reverse gear.  First step in that process requires a pair of Snap Ring Pliers.

Some things about the old Volksies are very well documented on the web.  Arguably, some are over documented.  If you want to know what kind of oil to run, for example, you can go through literally hundreds of opinions.  Tires are equally well-opinion'd.  Getting something as simple as the size of the tip needed to remove the circlip on the input shaft, however, can sometimes prove impossible.  Hours of searching netted no useful information.  The size is 0.07 (US), by the way.  This is the largest size available in the standard multi-tip Snap Ring Pliers sets, and individual pliers with fixed-size tips can be found.

boink! tip fail.
Off to the friendly local auto parts store (FLAPS), I went to find a pair that would work.  Since I'm only really doing this once, I didn't want a spendy pair, just some that would do the job.  So, I tried the tip-adjustable set available at NAPA.  Using the largest tip (0.07), I was unable to open the circlip wide enough to get the circlip out of its seating channel without the tip failing.  The tips are held on with small Phillips head bolts pressing a removable plate against the plier arm.  The removable plate is slightly bent, presumably to best fit the tip on, but the engineering is flawed such that the final bit of torque needed to hold the tip is robbed from you by the curve of the plate.  Neat.  I tried to undermine that torque-robbery by jamming a finish nail under the plate on the opposite side of the bolt, increasing the torque on the tip.  That didn't work either.

mod no worky
Net-result: not good for this job.  Maybe, if the circlip you need to remove requires less than 10 foot-pounds of torque it would suffice, but for real automotive situations, its junk.

After setting the NAPA pliers aside, I hit Home Depot looking for a pair of Husky one-size-only 0.07 Snap Ring Pliers.  While their web site showed that they were in stock at the store (for $13), neither I nor the clerk could find them.  I'd love to review them, but instead I offer just a head-shaking at Home Depot.  Either offer the product or don't; don't post it on your web site if you don't have it.  Boo.

Channel Lock
Channel Lock works!
Home Depot did have Channel Lock 927 Snap Ring Pliers (for, like $23).  These are multi-tip pliers like the NAPA ones, but are clearly better made.  They are much heavier.  They have a flip-switch to set inner or outer ring direction.  Oh, they're made in the US, so somewhere my countryman benefited from my buying them, so that's nice.  But do they work for this?  Why, yes, they do.  Unlike the NAPA pair, the ring easily opened up enough to slip out of the channel and out of the way.  Like the NAPA, Channel Lock 927's are sold with a collection of smaller tips, and are delivered with the largest (0.07) already installed.  This made the test easy, removing the possibility of me putting the tips in wrong.  I didn't bother removing and re-installing to see how bad it was, but the engineering is very different.  Unlike the NAPA which has a plate screwed on, leveraging the friction created to hold the tip in place, the Channel Lock has a hole in the plier arm to slide the tip into.  The securing bolt simply prevents the tip from falling out, so the arms need to be able to support far less torque.  The arms are much thicker too, implying that they can handle far more pressure than the NAPA tool could.

In the end, I didn't need to remove and re-install my input shaft.  After I installed the oil slinger and input shaft seal (see: Transaxle Re-Assembled), I re-tested the wiggle in the input shaft.  It barely moved.  I concluded that the input shaft was appropriately loose, and some additional digging into theSamba verified that conclusion.  I'm keeping the Channel Lock's with the car tools, and returning the NAPA's.

That's it for today.  I'm working on a post summarizing the engine-trans re-mating as well as the adventure of raising the engine-tranny unit back into the bus.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Transaxle Re-assembled

Last weekend, I got the transaxle put back together and back into the bus.  Fast sentence to write.  Lots of effort to do.  Today covers the first half of that 'effort to do': getting the transaxle ready.

Slinging Oil
slinger by hole in bell housing
where it's supposed to be attached
The bellhousing for the 002 and 091 transaxles are supposed to have this ringed collar around the input shaft to help guide the hypoid oil away from the input shaft seal and back towards the gears.  There are a few names for this bit, but the boards call it an "Oil Slinger".  According to the Bentley, this was supposed to be a non-repair item that was pressed into the bellhousing with a 4-ton press.  If it separates, you get a new bellhousing or re-press it in.  Well, the VW world has discovered that's not exactly right anymore.  Instead, you create a rough edge on the inner edge and along the rear (engine side) of the bellhousing.  I used a chisel and a file for this.  Then, rough up the lip and outside of the slinger near the lip.  Peanut butter the edge with JB Weld and press it into place by hand.  I treated the excess like caulking, and ran a gloved finger along the edges, pressing it in and making the edge clean.  Last, hold it firm with a simple weight and gravity.  Once its cured (18 hours), its ready.

Install Input Shaft Seal
roughed up edges
This was actually quite simple.  Lightly brush the inner and outer edge with hypoid oil.  Set into place by hand, and press it enough by hand so it sits still.  Find a short section of 3/4" PVC pipe (I used a 3/4" - 1/2" T from Home Depot).  With a rubber mallet, smack the seal until it seats flush with the face of the bellhousing.

Into One Piece
When the transaxle was built by AA Transaxle in Seattle, the bellhousing was sealed to the transaxle body with what looked like clear silicone caulking.  Not a fan.  I scraped all that out and instead ran hi-temp form-a-gasket along all of the mating surfaces.  Once it becomes tacky, set the 2 sides together and set the bolts in.  Rubber mallet the bellhousing into place and finger-tighten the bolts.  Following the jump-the-center torquing process, set them to 18ft-pounds (if memory serves. check the Bentley).

Topped Off and Ready
slinger with JB Weld
Before I put the bellhousing on, I made sure the oil drain plug could be loosened.  I had vaguely remembered that it was frozen in-place.  I was right.  After some hard torquing, I got the nut out.  I cleaned off the tiny metal filings off the attached magnetized rod, cleaned the threads and re-seated it.
Once the transaxle and bellhousing were one piece again, you need to give the form-a-gasket time to cure.  I gave it 24 hours and then opened up the fill hole.  It took all the gear oil I had on hand, and was still a touch low.  I'll need a fresh bottle to top it off before I take much of a test drive.  Remember, the tranny is full when oil spills out of the fill-hole when the tranny is on level ground.

That's it for today.  The tranny looks good, the input shaft has almost 0 wiggle to it and the seal / form-a-gasket are holding oil.  Hazah!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Bearing Bang On

As the leaves start to change color, and the sunsets arrive sooner each day, the pressure to beat the rains increases.  Accordingly, I have spent the last 2 evenings trying to get the bus back together.  A quick update today, recognizing there will be great progress over the weekend.

note the band on the
inside-left making it thicker
than original bus bearing
Wednesday, I had about 45 minutes between the time I got home and the time I needed to pickup C from soccer practice down by his mom's house.  I figured that wasn't enough time to get the pilot bearing in, but I'd just see how far I could go.  I was pretty fortunate, actually.  The 13mm bolts loosened pretty easily.  I held the clutch in place with a thick bolt slid through the pressure place and clutch center hole, and removed the 2 as a single unit, noting the position of the pressure plate on the flywheel.  The flywheel looked and felt abrasion-free.  a wipe with a paper towel brought it to a scuff-less shine.  Since it has been less than a thousand miles since I swapped tranny's and less than 2 thousand since I put on the clutch, I expected nothing less.  I looked at the clutch face next.  It still looked new, so I switched to installing the bearing.

Bearing Bang On
About this time, T was messing around on his skateboard, so I asked him to hand me the pilot bearing I'd picked up earlier ('98-'02 Jetta/Golf/Beetle 1.8T bearing).  Unlike the original bus bearing, this one delivers pre-packed with a yellow-ish grease.  For the first few millimeters, it slid in, and then required some setting after that.  I used a ratchet extension against the bearing and a lightly-tapping framing hammer, (following a figure-8 patterns) to slowly set the bearing flush with the flywheel.  I did a quick time-check and had about 15 minutes left.

I grabbed the extra input-shaft I have lying around for my clutch alignment effort.  I aligned the clutch/pressure plate such as they were when I removed them and loosely fingered in the bolts.  Unlike the first time I did this 2 years ago, the input shaft slid in tightly.  There was very little wiggle for the clutch, helping me understand how much wiggle there used to be without the pilot bearing.  Everything held firm, and I finger-tightened the bolts.  Following the jump-the-center torquing model, I first tightened with the socket in my fingers, then a short ratchet and finally my torque wrench (set to 18ppi).

After a quick tool put-away, wash-up and change, I headed south to collect C from soccer practice.  I arrived as practice was ending.  Perfect timing, and now we're one small step closer to having the bus in one piece again.  That's it for today.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Engine Drop Thoughts

Over Labor Day weekend 2012, I dropped and re-installed the TDI engine so I could swap transaxles.  I had bought a newly rebuilt one from AA Transaxle in Seattle (See Transaxle Transition).  This Labor Day weekend (2014), I dropped the engine again to remove that transaxle so I could replace the input shaft seal.  In both cases, I leveraged the notes I made in 2011 when I removed and re-installed the fuel tank (see Engine Extraction).

In preparation for the drop, I re-read the notes and realized that I didn't explicitly state whether the bus had to be put on stands for the engine drop.  So, I thought I'd try it this time with the bus on the ground.  It can be done.  Once the engine is down, unless you're going to work on it right there, you still need to lift the bus to get the engine or transaxle out.  Admittedly, you only need to jack-up the passenger side so the transaxle can slide out, but still, its worth noting.  To get the engine out, it is a big hairy deal.

I am seriously considering changing the rear-end to have a removable valence like the early bay and the split-window buses.  Consider, I have a thick steel bar running across the rear from frame-to-frame, holding the engine.  This is creating increased stiffness at the rear, which (reportedly) was the motivation to eliminate the removable valence.  My thinking is that if I can remove the valence, I could lower and remove the engine/transaxle as one unit without having to lift the bus 3+ feet into the air or parking over a ditch (yes, I did that to install it the first time).

The transaxle is still on the ground in my garage, and the engine is still on the ground (on the ATV jack) under the bus.  I have pulled together all the bits and parts I need to fix the leak and re-install, and I hope to start some of that before the weekend.  For my own future reference, here are a couple fruitful notes on parts:

The pilot bearing for the KEP flywheel (all 200mm clutch adaptions): '99-'03 VW (Jetta, Golf, Beetle) 1.8 Turbo bearing
The stud / mounting bolts from the transaxle to the adapter are 3/8", standard (not fine) right-hand threaded.
The Circlip which holds the input shaft tight to the reverse gear is part number 004 311 317.

That's it for this time.  Hopefully, I'll be able to get under the bus tonight or tomorrow night to get the clutch/pressure plate off so I can seat the pilot bearing.  As always, thanks for following along-

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Removing an Input Shaft Seal

I have a bigger post in the works for the engine drop, transaxle input shaft seal replacement, etc.  For now, I have the engine lowered onto an ATV jack, and the transaxle in pieces on my garage floor.  I removed the old input shaft seal in a unique way.  Everywhere I looked, the advice was to get a seal removal tool, hammer it into the rubber seal and pry away.  I did something else, and that's what I cover in today's post.

Identify the Seal as the Problem
After separating the engine from the transaxle, and before moving the transaxle into a clean location, look at the inside of your bellhousing.  Does it have a bunch of oil residue lining it?  Maybe a small pool of oil?  Dip your finger in it and sniff it.  Does it smell like your engine oil?  Does it look like engine oil?  Lighter color?  Maybe slightly different smell too?  Yep, you have a leaking input shaft seal.  Now, remove the throw-out bearing like everyone says.  If you have the sleeve behind it, remove that too, exposing the input shaft seal.  Look at the seal.  Wiggle the input shaft a little bit.  Does the seal cling to the shaft or do gaps appear?  Is the seal smooth or does it have a pinch in it?  Mine had 2 small pinches along the outer edge and the shaft did not cling to the seal.

Removing an Input Shaft Seal
This is the point where everyone else says to remove the seal the brute-force way.  For some transaxles (those without a seal housing), it may be the right method.  I took a different tack.  Remove the bellhousing.  Its held on with 13mm bolts.  3 on each side inside the bellhousing and 2 on the bottom.  With a rubber mallet, lightly smack the bellhousing to free it from the transaxle body.  Mine had been silicone sealed but the seal didn't hold up much.  Place the bellhousing engine-side down on top of a shop towel.  Pointing up, you will see the seal housing.  Smack it with the rubber mallet and out pops the input shaft seal.  Easy peasey.  EDIT: Through further research, I believe the housing should not separate from the bell housing.  If you were able to get your seal out this way, by lightly tapping on the housing (like I did), you have a new problem: how to get the "housing" (some call it an oil-slinger) re-attached to the bell housing so that it doesn't re-free itself.  I'll post a picture of what my driveshaft looks like after less than 2 thousand miles like this.  I am assuming it wasn't like this when I got the transaxle from AA. End EDIT.

New Seal, Torn Seal
I have been unable to successfully get a seal back into the transaxle, to the point where I tore the only replacement I had.  All of the advice on the interweb seems to exclude transaxles with a seal housing, making their "slip it over the input shaft and drive it in by alternating sides" unusable.  I have tried setting the housing first, but that hasn't worked.  I got close, though, using a 13mm socket to press the seal.  I made the mistake of trying a larger socket and tore the seal.  I need to hit Discount Import Parts (DIP) for another one.  Once I get the seal onto the housing and into the transaxle, I'll close the loop on how I did it.

That's it for today.  I picked up a pilot bearing and a replacement mounting stud for transaxle re-install at the local FLAPS during lunch today.  They didn't have a suitable input shaft seal.  Off to DIP when the next opportunity presents itself.  Thanks for following along, and Hapy Birthday, C!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Drinky drinky, not wet and sticky

After 10 years of owning Flash (silver Jetta), I have finally replaced the broken drink cup holder for the front seats.  It was broken when I bought the car, and I didn't think much of it.  Looking back, I'm amazed at how used to not having a real drink-holder I became over such a long period of time.

Drink Cup Management the Broken-Holder Way
We would jam hard-sided cups between the driver seat and the e-brake handle.  I'm sure that put unwanted pressure on the handle, and it was then unavailable as an emergency brake because there was a cup jammed in there making it harder to grab the handle.  Sometimes, I'd fit a cup between the driver seat and the door.  If the cup was slickery, it would topple over and slide to the base of the seat belt, spilling contents under the seat.  Fantastic.  Lastly, I'd drive, juggling it from hand to hand or parking it between my legs.  Memories of that Seinfeld episode with Kramer and the hot coffee.  Ye-ouch.

Old Holder
old holder in pieces on the ground
The original 1999.5 to 2002 cup holder was poorly designed (sorry German designer, but its true).  It had multiple weak points that couldn't stand up to American drink sizes.  In my case, the slider mechanism broke where the plastic holder met the thin steel.  If you set a light drink in it, it would appear to be capable of holding it until you started driving uphill or accelerated quickly.  Then, the holder would take flight, bathing your shifting arm with beverage.

New Holder
In 2002/2003, VW designed a new, more sturdy cup holder.  Rather than 2 fixed diameter holes, the new design has spring-arms which flip outward to accommodate varied cup sizes.  It is also much stronger at the slider with thicker metal and thicker plastic, making the joint-point much beefier.  I got mine from AARodriguez operating as FixMyVW.  I doubt it will hold one of those ridiculous super slurpy cups from 7-11, but it holds a standard tall-coffee just fine.  After installing, we tried a full quart bottle of Dad's root beer.  It strained, so we pulled the bottle back out.  It grips a can very well, almost too well.  I was unable to quickly free a can of coffee energy drink, creating a small spill.  Basic drive-thru paper cups, however, are ideal for this new holder.  The arm will flip back with the back of your pinky or the base of the cup while you place the cup in the holder.  It doesn't over-grip on the waxy-paper cup, so it pulls out easily too.  Have I over-rev'd on the cup holder yet?  :)

Extraction / Install
Both cup holders are held in place the same way.  There are 2 small metal tangs on either side close to the cabin-end of the holder.  With a thin slotted-screwdriver on each side, press the metal tangs towards the center while pulling on the holder.  You may need a partner.  In Flash's case, the holder was so mangled, only one of the tangs was holding on, so I was able to free it by myself.  Clean the slot with some window cleaner or something.  This will be the one time in years you'll have this cavity open.  Installation is simply slide the new holder in until the tangs click-in.

I've had the great pleasure of hosting 2 nephews and a niece from Montana (the MT3) over the last 2 weeks.  It was a crazy time, but now we miss them terribly.  It did distract us from the approaching school season, though, so now we're scrambling to get kids ready for school, soccer and all the other things that seem to arrive with Labor Day's passing.  Before I know it, it'll be snow-season again.

Lastly, this past weekend, I officially took the bus off the road to replace the transmission input-shaft seal.  I haven't decided if I'll do anything else before returning him to service, but I've thought a lot about addressing the electrical short in the dash.  I'll post an updated "how to drop the TDI engine" complete with what tools are needed for each step soon.

That's it for today.  As always, thanks for following along.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Flash gets a facelift

Last week and weekend, T and I got the front end damage on Flash (the TDI Jetta) repaired.  Today's post covers that epic.

Accident Reminder
I should probably start at the beginning.  In mid-May, T was asked by his mom to drive his brother from their house in LO to my house in Beaverton for C's lacrosse stuff and then on to his 6:PM lacrosse game in Camby.  This led to 2 hours of rush-hour rubber-band driving, terminating in the chaos of intersections around Camby High School.  It was in one of those intersections, T got into an accident with an uninsured driver resulting in damage to the left-side fender, front bumper and the corner-edge of the hood (see picture to the right, here).  We left Flash like that for the next couple of months.  After buying and then changing our minds about a parts car (See: Welcome 2dot0), I re-doubled efforts to get Flash fixed.

Steal Your Face Right off Your, uh, Head
In a 95* garage last Tuesday, I set off to remove the damaged parts from Flash.  The shop manual is helpful for things like this, but it seemed like every "first" step was to follow a series of steps elsewhere in the manual.  Once the hood is up, the front latch is removed first by releasing the spring and then placing a slotted screwdriver into the Y and rotating it.  The plastic Y will pop off the nubs attached to the metal latch so it can be pulled straight out through the front grille.  The grille simply pops out by tilting the top forward.  If you still have your lower grills, they would be removed now; mine were lost in the accident.  Now, all of the star-driver bolts holding the front fender should be visible.  Remove the star-driver bolts from the bumper-ends which attach the bumper to the inner wheel wells first.  Then, remove the 2 lower bolts through the lower grille holes.  Last, remove the star-driver bolts accessible from above.  The bumper pops right off.

All of the above is necessary to just get to the fender.  But you can't take the fender off yet.  First, you need to remove the inner wheel well.  It is held on with more star-driver screws around the outer edge and one buried deep near the front strut.  Once you've wrestled the wheel well out of your way, the fender can be removed with a standard 10mm rachet.  The 4 bolts across the top are obvious.  There are 2 more at the front, and 3 buried at the rear.  The middle one of the "rear" on Flash had body filler slathered on it, so I had to dig that away first.  We discovered the plastic parts of the headlight were broken at this point, so we removed that too.

Searching the Yard
Wednesday, T and I drove Hapy to a wrecking yard, looking for body panels.  Turns out, Jetta's don't last in the yard too long.  One had been in the yard for just over a week and the front end was gone.  The others had been there longer and were even more picked over.  We did find a 1/3 rear-seat back, though.  The latch on Flash's had broken at Home Depot months ago, and was effectively locked in place.  Removing the replacement was easy: just pitch it forward, and with a screwdriver rotate the collar near the door to expose the opening.  Then, just tilt the back towards the center of the car, freeing that end.  The center just slides out.
For T, it was his first trip to a wrecking yard, and we had a blast.  He saw a few cars he had never seen before, like a late 70's Honda CVCC that he really liked.  While we didn't get the body parts we needed, it was still a good time.

The following night (Thursday), I got a response from one of my craiglist part queries.  Since he lived in the countryside outside Vancouver, WA, we agreed to meet at the IKEA near the Portland airport.  I took both T&C with me, and we got there a little early.  So, we went into the A/C to wander and wait.  The seller ended up about an hour late, but having not been at an IKEA for years, we had an unexpected tour.  They displayed a small-house set up of 590 square feet that all three of us found very interesting.  It seemed like every wall had storage solutions on it.  I remembered IKEA having much more disposable furniture made of veneer and glue-board than we saw.  What really tripped me out was how we walked in with no agenda, no real needs or wants, but by the end, we could feel the covet creeping in.  We found ourselves genuinely shopping for furnishings, and looking for particular things.  Fortunately, we recognized it, and quickly made for the exit.  We met "bumper buy" in the parking lot, accepted his bumper and pair of headlights for the arranged amount and headed home.

GTI Headlight != TDI Headlight
On Saturday, T and I started the work on installing the headlight and bumper.  Turned out, the headlights we got were GTI headlights, and the plugs were all different.  Additionally, the physical attachment point for the main headlight in the silver-flashy plastic was different.  We cannibalized the wiring and silver-flashy from the old headlight and the clear plastic and housing from the new-to-us one.  The head-lamp plug, though, couldn't fit through the housing, so I had to cut and re-wire a little bit.

Getting Hammered
Since we only had a bumper, we needed to make some ghetto adjustments to the fender and hood to fit properly.  Using an old spare tire from the bus as an anvil, I hammered on the fender to get most of the disfigurement out.  The rubber hammer and anvil worked really well, actually.  Don't get me wrong, it still looks bad; it just fits around the headlight, bumper and hood now.  At the end, I beat on the corner of the hood to get it to fit a little better as well.

As we did final assembly, we discovered that the front driver-side bumper mount/support was damaged in the accident.  Its a $20 part, but we didn't have it.  So, we put the front end together without it, knowing we'll need to remove and re-install stuff when we get the new fender anyway.  Also, the headlight housing and plastic screen need to be caulked to keep water out.  I need to do that before the weather changes.  I don't like the idea of the fender hanging out there anyway, so if I don't get a replacement fender soon, I'll swap out the mount/support and do the caulking anyway.

That's it for today.  Have a great weekend, and, as always, thanks for following along...