Tuesday, June 11, 2019

JRAD - Eugene Road Report

The first of the usual 2-part post when we go on a trip to see something interesting, this post covers the travel to and from, how the bus behaved, etc. JRAD (Joe Russo's Almost Dead) played the Cuthbert Amphitheater in Eugere, so this trip the down-and-back for that show.

Getting Out
We have gotten our packing and departure steps down to a fairly good science. Our gear is stored all together on a pair of racks in the garage next to Oliver (the MG) so loading up is fairly fast. We replaced our 10x10 again; it seems these things only last a single season anymore. The new one was the exact duplicate of the one we had last year, only not constructed as well. Regardless, it went into the bus with the low-back concert chairs, classic camping chairs, folding table, cooler, sleeping bags, etc. Once ready to go, I turned the key on the new ignition to start... and nothing. Great. The test drive a week ago didn't shake out whatever spirit was preventing us from leaving. Quick time-check... if I can't solve it in an hour, we're taking another car and solving later.

With Boo near the rear bumper, I tried turning the key a few times. We could hear a click, so there was hope. After a couple more tries, we could determine that it was coming from the electric bundle in the spare tire well: my wiring. Fun. So, we switched spots, and I could tell the clicking was one of the relays that linked the ignition from the front of the bus to the TDI ignition switch in the spare tire well. I disconnected and then reconnected all of the wires going in and out of that relay and verified that the grounding wire was grounded. Tested the key again, and he fired right up. I concluded that the signal wire leaving the relay had loosened itself, so the disconnect-reconnect solved the problem.

We drove to the corner fueling station and tried to add some fuel. I say tried because the tank was nearly full from last June when we had the ignition fire on the way home from 4Peaks. One more thing to remember next Fall for winterizing: drain the tank. So, we had a tank of year-old fuel and no time to deal with it. So, with a thought about old fuel, we headed for the highway.

On the Road
After a few initial studders, Hapy drove through the local highways well. The "studders" were just that: momentary engine stammer followed by normal running after that. He idled steady at the traffic lights, so we decided we would keep going. We hit some getting-out-of-town traffic as we left the greater Portland area on I-5 South, but it had cleared by Wilsonville (like it usually does), and we were cruising at 60mph. Once past Wilsonville, the speed limit goes up to 65mph, but most traffic accelerates well past that. I drive as fast as Hapy's temperature will allow. Since it was an 80*F+ day, the air temp didn't really factor in, but I could tell that the more I tried to stay at 60mph, the more his temperature would hover at 192*F. If I dropped down to 55mph, his temp would sit at 185*F. Since his normal operating temperature (NOT) is 190*F, I figured I could stay just under 60mph and he'd run well. I was right, and left his speed hovering between 58 and 60 the rest of the way. After Wilsonville, an early bay appeared in front of us. We paced with them until they got off at Woodburn. We flashed lights, exchanged peace signs and continued on our respective journeys. Love bus folks.

We stopped at the Flying J truck stop near Aurora for travel snacks and beverages, and found ourselves behind an RV running the same 58mph pace once we got back on the I-5. That RV set our pace until we were well past Covallis, The drive itself was fairly uneventful. The wheels held the road well, and I didn't have to fight Hapy for control the whole way like I used to. The only times of trouble were when a semi-truck passed us, and created wind turbulence. Fortunately, that didn't happen very often; I think the road was kind of quiet, actually. Another advantage to leaving town in the early afternoon instead of at rush hour.

Armitage Park
We pulled off at Coburg, thinking we would grab a camping spot at Armitage County Park. This is the same campground Hapy, Boo and I used when we came down to Further in September 2011 (See Furthur - To Eugene). The campground this time was very different from when we were there almost 8 years earlier. For one, it was practically full and second, there weren't any fellow concert-goers. The sign out front said there were 2 RV spots: #13 and #17, so we backed into #17. While I set up the little tent (shed), Boo headed to the front desk to check us in. She returned displeased. While the site was marked as open, the camp people decided that we should move to a tent spot instead. Okay... So, we moved, and saved $10US for the trouble. Turned out both #13 and #17 went unused that night, so the camp lost out on $10. Meanwhile, the tent spot was bigger and more shaded, so it worked out better for us anyway. We just didn't have an electrical post on our site. Fortunately, the group-sire next to us (also empty) had one, so we charged phones there in the morning.

For that past few years, my allergies have been effectively stopped by acupuncture. I realize that's hard to believe, but I used to take multiple medicines every day, year round. At least 3 years ago, I started getting pins stuck in me and that's made medicines a very rare thing. I have had to take something maybe once or twice in the spring since I started with the pins. Unfortunately, that all became unraveled in the parking lot at the Cuthbert.

After we set up the shed, and loaded it with whatever we didn't need in the lot, we drove the short stretch down Coberg Road into Eugene and to the venue. We were parked on the opposite side from where we usually parked (near the disc golf), over by the Science Center. This was a very small lot, but many VW's, and it was the open-early lot, so there were folks BBQ'ing, and such. My allergies kicked in almost immediately. They didn't meaningfully affect the show, but they did impact the next day or three.

Getting Home
I'll post about the show in another post. The drive from the show back to the campground was as uneventful as the drive to the show earlier. Temps stayed predictable, steering was predictable, traffic was non-existent. We fell asleep fairly quickly after 3+ hours of dancing and awoke the next morning to the crashing of the dumpster. Ah well. We dragged ourselves up, used the free hot showers, made coffee and oatmeal, and considered the day. The shower helped wash off pollen, etc, but the residual histamines from my allergies were still a problem. We decided that lingering another day was probably not a good idea, rather, it made better sense to start heading home. We took in the river for a morning meditation before we broke camp, and packed Hapy.

We headed north on I-5, but found that the traffic was very different from the traffic we enjoyed on the way down. There were many semi-trucks and they were all moving very fast. At 58mph, the trucks were blowing past us, buffeting the bus, and causing all kinds of steering difficulties. By the time we were approaching the Halsey/Brownsville exit (216), I needed to get off the freeway. So, we took the scenic route home. From Halsey, we took 99E up to Tangent and then OR35 to Corvallis. We picked up 99W there and took it through the sleepy country towns of Polk county. Somewhere before Tangent, I started to notice that our top speed was getting artificially limited. Our acceleration in first and second was pretty good, and I could feel the turbo kick in, but I couldn't feel the turbo in 3rd or fourth, and fourth gear was just a dog. Feeling glad again for not being on the interstate. I concluded that the cheap clear fuel filter had gunked up from the old fuel and that was limiting our speed. Would have been an easy fix if I had a spare onboard. I used to keep one in the tool box and another under the rock-n-roll bed, but I appear to have stopped doing that. Note to self: keep spare filters, just like you keep spare fluids, onboard.

rear driver window dolled up for JRAD

By the time we hit Monmouth, we were ready to eat. So, we hit the local Burgerville. I can't remember a nicer fast-ish food place. A fellow patron held the door open for us on our way in (and her way out). The restaurant, though fairly full, was quiet. There was a large family sitting in the center, taking up 3 tables, celebrating someone's birthday, and even they barely made more than low-conversation noise. The service was fantastic and food delivered to the table much faster than I remember Burgerville to be. Boo and I split a 1/4 pound burger and a salad. Back on the road, we stayed on 99W to outside McMinnville which we avoided on the OR18 bypass before re-joining 99W through Dundee and Newburg. In Sherwood, we hopped onto the familiar Roy Rogers Road to cut over to Beaverton, avoiding Tigard and more traffic.

old fuel filter after removal
It was a great trip, and overall Hapy performed very very well. I know there are a few things that need to be addressed before our next trip (listed below). The fuel, fuel filter and the rear brake adjustment are the most pressing.

+ still need to clean up the wiring in the spare tire well. Maybe it's time to use the plastic relay holder thing that the TDI-engine relays are in for my custom relays
+ drain the tank of the old fuel OR add some fuel stabilizer / diesel fuel stuff that the boaters use
+ replace the cheap clear fuel filter. Get a few spares.
+ adjust the rear brakes a little tighter. Not sure they are really doing anything.
+ get front end alignment done by a shop. Steering was way better, but there could be improvement.

Thanks, as always, for following along. I'll post on the JRAD show soon.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Seasonal Cleaning

Okay, so this won't be a very exciting post, but it's how I spent a weekend. After pulling off the winter car-cover, I couldn't help but notice just how dirty Hapy got over the winter. You'd think, with a cover, he would look pretty much the way he was when the cover went on, but that's just not how it works.

Winter Plan
Moisture gets under that cover. To keep the inside of the bus healthy all winter, I pull the cushions out of the pop top and lay them on top of the seats. This prevents moisture from getting trapped between the cushions and the poptop, or between the cushions and the bed floor. I will usually pull out the extra foam bed mattress and thick blanket from the back deck too, and stow them inside the house. Then, the thin original pad gets partially stood up. Again, this is to keep moisture from getting trapped.

Last, I have a set of rechargeable desiccants I rotate in every couple of weeks. These Eva Dry things (I got a 4-pack of E-500's a few years ago) are pretty clever. You plug them in, and the moisture they collect steams out, turning the little dots from a purple color through pink to blue. It usually takes a few days for it to completely turn, but once that happens, I swap it out with one inside the bus, which I put in the center of the bus, on top of the seat-back of the middle row seat. If I rotate the driers often enough, and if I did the cushions correctly, everything inside is ready for a new season without a big mold effort first.

Spring to Action
The uncover effort starts with little ceremony. I simply wait until it looks like the rainy season is over and pull it off. It takes all of about 5 minutes to go from covering the bus to stowed in it's stuff bag. Next, I'll pop the top up, and check for leaks. Assuming I don't find any, I'll inspect the cushions looking for mildew or mold. As I clear the cushion, it goes back to it's designated spot. Once the inside is in order, I'll put the deep cycle battery on the charger overnight. This year, I was charging the battery while swapping out tires.

With the battery full, it's time for cleaning. As I've said before, television shows about cars do not do the amount of cleaning justice. Seriously. For every few minutes of wrenching time there are hours of cleaning. Otherwise, you're taking a dirty part off another dirty part and then sticking either that same dirty part back on, or installing a new one... on top of that grime. That's silly. So, you clean the parts before you disassemble, clean them when they're apart and then clean them again after they're put together. That's a LOT of cleaning. That only accounts for those parts. At some point, you need to do the typical car owner cleaning. With a bus that has a fiberglass top, "typical" cleaning isn't exactly typical.

Scrub -a- Dub
Every Spring, I clean the pop top outside. I'm not very tall, so I need a 6' ladder on top of the garden hose, a scrubby sponge and a tub of fiberglass shower cleanser. Yeah, that's right: bathroom cleanser. It is gel-coated fiberglass just like your fiberglass shower, so it's the best stuff for getting it clean on the first try. I simply hose off the top with the most powerful setting to get stuck-on stuff off of it. Then, I'll apply cleanser (I use Soft Scrub w/bleach) and scrub with the itchy side of the sponge. I'll work sections that can be easily and safely reached from the ladder. Then, hose that off, hose another section wet, move the ladder and repeat.

With the top cleaned, I switch to more standard car cleanser in a bucket with a car-wash sponge. Then, I wash the pop top again, but this time with the car wash. I think this helps the gel-coat, and it helps to carry away any leftover residue from the bathroom cleanser. Once the top is done, I raise it and then I work my way around the rest of the bus, getting him clean top to bottom. This way, I get the tin-top between the bellows and the drip-rail that is covered by the pop-top when it is down.

Now, with Hapy freshly cleaned, with new tires, and safe brakes as well as all the other fixes since last June's ignition fire debacle, he is ready for a Summer of travel and adventure. We start very soon with a trip to Eugene, followed by our annual trip to 4Peaks. Additionally, we have a camp at Honeyman State Park in August and a return to Eugene for String Cheese in September. We have some home repair plans for July, but I'm hoping we get a weekend away in there somewhere as well. Regardless, there will be many road reports and friends met along the way. Thanks, as always, for following along, and I hope our paths cross in person somewhere along the way.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Brake Fluid Replaced

When I had the wheels off, I tested the brakes, replaced some parts and replaced the brake fluid. Today's post covers that adventure.

Brake Check
The wheel saga I just recently posted about all started because the camping festival season is coming and I wanted to make sure my brakes were up for another season. I had remembered that my old rear hydraulics were bad and I hadn't checked the wear since the beginning of last season. Even then, it was a visual without removing the rims. So, after I got the wheels off, I checked things off.
Front pads: 60% remaining
Rear shoes: 70% remaining
Front rotors: unblemished along friction surface, rust along outside edge
Rear Drums: some scoring
Front calipers: unblemished, bleeder caps missing
Rear hydraulics: some surface rust, one bleeder cap missing

This was a far better state than I feared. I knew, however, that the brake fluid hadn't been changed in a long time. I couldn't remember doing it, but I must have when I replaced the rubber lines on the corners. That would have been 8+ years ago, so that fluid is way past due.

DOT3 or DOT4
Sometimes, I think the internet is the great religion creator. If you have a relatively straightforward yes/no question, you can find all kinds of long treatises waxing the pro's and con's but getting a real yes or no can be nearly impossible. In the case of DOT3 or DOT4 brake fluid, I have found some level of consistency, which I found rather surprising. So...can your older car which required DOT3 brake fluid can use DOT4: Yes. Can your newer-ish car which required DOT4 use DOT3? Only in tiny quantities, with the expectation that the system will be bleed-filled with DOT4 later. In other words, if you are running low on fluid and somewhere that you cannot buy DOT4, you can put in some DOT3 to get you back to civilization. DOT3 cannot handle as much heat as DOT4, so to prevent failure of your DOT4-requiring system, you should stick to DOT4.

As to me, and the old bus, I can run either. DOT4 can handle higher temps. Some folks say the DOT4 absorbs less water (and that's why it can handle higher temps), so you can change it less often. Like any good pseudo-science, there are great theories (sometimes with great single-experience stories), with little science, to support both of those claims. Enter religion. Regardless of whether they are accurate, I chose DOT4 for the higher temperature tolerance. I will assume that I need to change the fluid on a 3-year interval just like I was supposed to before. I was apparently a brake-system sinner before, letting it get so outdated.

Vacuum or Pedal
Once you decide on the fluid, you need to arrive at a method. If you have a helper, I encourage the pedal method. If you don't have a helper, but you have a MityVac, you can do the fluid change with it. Take ibuprofen first; your wrists and hands are going to hurt later. Regardless of your choice, the pattern is the same:
keep the reservoir topped off with new fluid while bleeding old fluid out of the bleeder furthest from the master cylinder. Once it changes color, and stops changing color, move to the next-furthest bleeder. Don't let air into the system at the bleeder or you will have that to deal with. Move from furthest to closest wheel until you've done all 4.

New Reservoir Hard Hose
I have come to realize that any time I am touching a system on this 50 year old bus that I haven't touched for a long time (or maybe ever), I should assume that any rubber part will need to be replaced. And, I should assume that I may touch something else that will fall apart on contact while the one thing I'm trying to get apart will require acts of God to get them separated. Never was this more true than the little rubber bushings that snug the connections between the hard plastic hose and the 2 brake fluid reservoirs. Yes, this bus has 2 of them. There is one sitting on top of the master cylinder like any normal car. We'll call this the lower reservoir (LR). Attached to the side of this is a plastic hose which runs up behind the driver seat to another reservoir. We'll call that the upper reservoir (UR). To be fair, it is much easier to add fluid up there, so that's probably why they designed it that way. The hard plastic hose stays connected to the hard plastic reservoir because there is a little rubber bushing between the plastic parts and then the whole thing is cinched together with a plastic thing that looks like a hose clamp with a slotted screw holding it together. Very sketchy. I figured the rubber bits on mine were gone, and that the damage to the steel behind and under the driver seat was caused by leaking brake fluid. The fact that fluid didn't stay in the UR for very long supported this theory. Knowing that parts on this old bus are either falling apart, rusted or otherwise seized, I got replacements for the hose, the rubbers and even the UR. I only ordered one grommet, and it turns out I needed 2. Check twice, order once. Don't assume the websites know your bus; you have to look yourself.

Unfortunately, the hard hose in its original length is no longer available (NLA). Only the Vanagon hose is available, and it is at least 8 inches longer. Longer is better than shorter, I suppose. That's definitely true for summer days and early Dark Star's, but this is a hard hose, so putting a few bends in it to make up the slack is not an option. On each end, the hose is fluted to fit around the nipple on the reservoir, so even though the web sites all say to cut the hose to length, that's all fine until you want to install it, and then the cut end won't fit on the nipple. And, because you cut it, it is not returnable. So, I suggest you don't cut it and do something clever... like I did.

You have 2 options:
(1) cut 8" out of the hose in the middle and figure out a way of joining the 2 ends without creating a new leak source or
(2) keep the hose the way it is and figure out a new way to attach the UR to the short wall behind the driver seat.

I went with option 2, knowing I could always fall back to option 1 if I couldn't get it where I liked it. The UR is basically a cube with a filler cap along one edge, pointing away from the dead-center of the cube at a 45* angle. Originally attached with the cap facing forward, this made filling easier than having it smack on top. We can use this angle to our advantage. If we rotate the reservoir 90* so the filler cap faces the center of the bus and then tilt the hose towards the door frame, eventually the cap faces straight up. It can be mounted to the wall like that. Before you get too far down this path, assemble the hose, rubber bits, plastic hose clamps, etc to the various reservoirs. Connecting to the LR is swear-word generating-ly frustrating, so prepare with a loud radio and sending the kids inside.

Install Hose
LR image from theSamba
I started by threading the one grommet around the hose and then the hose from above down through the hole in the floor. Since I didn't have a second grommet, I did not want to cause the hose to fail prematurely, so I did not thread it through the little hole in the driver seat pedestal. Instead. I routed it through the large square hole immediately in front of it. This may make it more susceptible to getting struck by camping gear, but I rarely put anything behind the seat, so that risk should be low. It also looks quite janky, and I will probably want to solve it properly before I re-install pedestal carpeting. Regardless, I decided to go with option 1 because I wanted to get this on the road for test drives, and knew I could change this fairly easily later.

Anyway, once threaded through the hole in the floor, it settles onto the nipple of the LR. It takes prodding to get it to sit on the LR nipple without damaging the rubber bushing and getting it deep enough that it won't leak. For me, it took wrapping the hose with a rag and grabbing on with channel-lock pliers to force it on that last bit. I found that putting the bushing on the nipple rather than seated in the fluted end of the hose was more effective as well. Tighten on the plastic hose clamp with a slotted screwdriver. Circle-back to check for leaks later, once you've put brake fluid in.

schematic from VWHeritage
The UR is easy to assemble with the hose, if you don't cut off the end. Placement of the reservoir, in my case, is temporary while I figure out a better long term solution. Ultimately, I will probably do option 2, and cut out a section in the middle. If I can do it right, I'll make the cut between the floor and the driver pedestal so the cut solution is not visible once the pedestal carpet is re-installed.

That's it for today. We got the DOT4 through out the system, using the vacuum method for the rear and the pedal-pump for the front. While the vacuum works, I greatly prefer the pedal-pump method. It is much faster and you get to hang out with a friend while you do it. After a test drive, the brakes settled down into a predictable response as the air worked it's way back through the master cylinder and up through the reservoirs. After several longer drives, the UR fluid level has remained unchanged, and the brakes are consistent. The brakes are ready for another season.

Thanks, as always, for following along.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Hammered Rims (part 3)

My last two posts on this topic have been epic, at least in terms of time consumed. Much like the floor replacement or the front end rebuild on the MG, the amount of time consumed really hasn't been captured. Still, today, I continue this Odyssey. When we left off, I had the front passenger-side (right) wheel removed. I had test-fit the new rim onto the hub and confirmed it fit properly.

Tires Mounted
Test fit
I'll start with some details around what I am installing. I picked up a set of 15" diameter XXR 533 rims. They are 6-1/2" wide with dual-mount options for 5x112 (fit older VW's like Hapy, Audi, Mercedes, some BMW's) and 5x115 (lots of GM's). For more complete lists, check wheel-size for 5x112 or for 5x115. Onto these rims, I had intended to install a set of highway all-season tires, like the Destination LE. I had looked at the BFGoodrich All Terrain KO and KO2 as well as the Yokohama Geolandar A/T G015 as on/off road alternatives. I had reservations about such aggressive tires, though. The bus is already loud. It was loud before I added the diesel engine to the point where it was like sitting in a shed during a windstorm with a lawnmower running in the far corner. Now, just trade out the lawnmower for a city bus. So, yeah, it's loud. Add road noise from the tires and its like something vibrating on the outside of the shed from the wind, adding a hum to the din.

After running various sizes through a spreadsheet, I determined that the Destination AT in 215/75R15 would fit the rims and fit the wheel wells. While they have deeper treads than a highway tire, they ride quieter, according to reviews and the Firestone guys. I like the extra tread for getting in and out of camping spots and festival grounds too.

hole saw'ing
So with the choice made, I had the Firestone guys mount the Destination A/T onto the XXR 533 rims. I had some chrome valve stems I picked up at a tire-shop closing sale a few years back, and asked the Firestone guys to use them, if they fit and held air. They did. So, once mounted, balanced and filled with air, I hauled them home in the wagon for another test fit.

With only one free hub, I can only really test fit that one. Still, that is the rim which needs to be able to turn side-to-side, so it is arguably a more important test. I figured I could consider the straight-mount fit on the front as a rough-guess for the rear. The front was already on a jack stand, so slapping the new wheel/tire on was a simple process of raising the corner another few inches so I could get the wheel on. I fingered on a couple of the old nuts so the wheel was straight and wouldn't fall off. Then, I lowered the bus down until the wheel was holding the weight so I could verify the fit (and the spreadsheet). The tire tucks inside the front lip and rear (near the slider) very well. It appears closer to the front, but the overall arch of the wheel well is fairly consistent along the entire arc, and the tire fills the visual space without overwhelming it.... in my humble opinion.

what lies beneath
Next, I wanted to confirm steering movement. For this, I raised the front corner just a little bit, so some of the weight was on the jack. I didn't want to stress the crappy, barely-threaded lug nuts. I turned the steering wheel from lock to lock, checking how the tire set at each extreme multiple times. When turned such that the front of the tire was all the way inward (steering wheel turned left), the inner wheel wall does not touch anything, including the up-rated sway bar. The old 16" wheels rubbed a little bit there, evidenced by a highly polished strip on the outer edge of the upgraded front sway bar. The front-most edge of the tire, so the outer edge, was well clear of the front of the wheel well. The rear-most edge, so the inner edge, was very close to the rear wheel well, but it did not touch. I can't fit a finger between the tire and the rear well, though, so I will test again once all wheels are mounted, and I'll test with some weight in the front seat to see if compressing the springs matters.

More Rim Removal
With the one tire test fit success, I switched gears again. I put the new tires and wheels away, and put the rest of the bus back on jack stands. Once in the air, I removed the remaining lug nuts so I could start cutting with the 7/8" hole saw. In a marked contrast to the 2 days of cutting and sledge-hammering to get the first rim off, the other 3 rims were removed in about an hour in-total with the hole saw. Part of that is the bit, I think: a Hole-Dozer from Milwaukee Tools, and part of it was getting the smallest size I needed, allowing for the least amount of material to be removed. With each rim removal, I could see the broken-off stem from the lug nut and a little bit of aluminum rim left clinging to it. With a pair of channel-lock pliers, I was able to grab the leftovers and un-thread it from the stud. After a quick brush, the studs were ready for re-use.

Aw Nuts
So, this all started because I bought the doubly-wrong lug nuts 3 years ago. How doubly wrong? First, they had an extension on them that was supposed to help hold the rim firm, by running between the hole in the rim and the stud. I have since concluded that the shaft wasn't necessary, and helped create the jammed-on condition. That's wrong once. Wrong twice: they were made of cheap metal and the little extension broke off on every one of them. This time, I was very careful and confirmed after measuring multiple times with a digital caliper. The rim has a "conical seat". This is not the same as a stock rounded ball seat nor washered straight mag style. Because of the narrow hole, a thin "tuner" style nut was needed. There are many available, but I got a name brand set of nuts this time: KSP Performance. These have a 19mm wide shaft terminating at a nut diameter of 23mm. Unfortunately, these require a special tool for installing and removing the lug nuts, so I bought a set that delivered with 2 of them, planning to keep one in the tool box and one in the garage tool cabinet.

Rims On
With the nuts sitting in a box to my side, I started installing wheels. First, the fronts. These were easy. Following the advice on the internet, I put a thin coating of copper anti-seize on the back of the rim. This should reduce the probability of the rim rusting / seizing to the hub. Most folks advise to coat the hub or rotor of drum, but since these rims are universal fit with a second set of holes, I didn't want the copper showing through the unused holes, so I painted on the rim. Once applied, the rim easily popped on, and the lug nuts threaded right on. Once hand tight, I moved to the rear. I inspected and adjusted the drums, but I'll post on that another time. To get the rear rims on, I needed to get the back end pretty fair into the air and then raise/lower the drum with a floor jack on the lower shock mount. The drum had to be low enough to tip the top of the wheel under the lip, then, I raised the drum so I could slide the bottom of the wheel under the drum, and align the studs with the holes. Like the fronts, the wheel fit the studs and the nuts tightened by hand easily.

Tight Fit
With the wheels on the hubs, and the lug nuts tightened by hand, I was ready to drop the bus and torque the nuts down. This represented the final fit test. I knew the fronts were good so I lowered that end first. Check. No binding, nothing touching, nor even close. Next, I lowered the rear, driver side first. To get it off the jack stand, I raised it up by the lower shock mount. This slowly compresses the shock so the wheel presses into the wheel well. By doing this, I could see how the wheel would behave through its entire motion. It never touches anything: suspension, nor lip... but it gets super close to the lip. I can barely get a finger between the rubber and the lip, but it never touches. Boo even jumped up and down on the rear bumper to prove it.

We concluded the effort with a test drive around the neighborhood. We took the same loop I always test the cars on, and Hapy was fantastic. These tires are quieter than the worn-down 16" ones he had, even though the tread is much more aggressive. With all of the steering work I did last fall, he handles very well, allowing me to drive over 100' without a hand on the wheel. That would have been impossible a year ago. When we returned, I checked the tires for wear spots. I couldn't find any. So, I conclude that this mash-up of parts is a winner:

15" XXR 533 rims (less than $100US each)
Destination A/T 215/75R15 tires (about $125US each including mounting, balancing and warranty)
KSP 14mm 1.5 thread-pitch (conical seat, 51mm long, tuner-style thin) lug nuts. Slightly shorter (40mm) would have fit.

Tires any larger would have rubbed and died prematurely. That's it for this saga. Thanks, as always for following along.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Hammered Rims (part 2)

Continuing the saga of Hapy's rims...

Sorry Mate
As I indicated in the last post about these rims, I tried every trick in the internet playbook to get these rims off the hubs. I finally gave up and took the bus over to the local Firestone. We met Dan the manager man and Mat the Tech and explained our situation:
We have a new set of rims.
We do not want to mount tires onto them until we know they will fit properly because we can't return rims after tires have been mounted on them.
We are unable to get the old rims off.
Please remove one rim, demonstrate the new rim will fit, then we'll mount some tires, they slap them on the bus, and we're done.

Clint cutting rim
First, Mat needed to remove a rim. Mat is an old longhair VW'er with a car he intends to get buried in, so he understood what he was working on: a family member. We moved Hapy outside one of the bays, and he chocked the wheels. Some quick work with a floor jack and a tire tool and he had the front end in the air and the lug nuts off. That was where the easy stuff ended. He tried a few of the things I had tried, and added a long pry bar to the mix, but he couldn't get the wheel off either, though he put his sweat into it. He and Dan conferred. They decided that they could not remove the wheel without risking damage to a bus that they could not repair because parts for a 50 year old bus aren't as plentiful as they once were. They pointed across the street to an old VW repair shop which I had never seen before. They figured that shop could get the wheel off, and could replace whatever parts they break along the way. They didn't charge us anything for the effort, and said they would hold the tires for a few days in case we could get the old wheels free.

Disappointed, Boo and I left in separate cars. She headed for Beaverton Sub Station (treated Mat to a foot-long 2-car for his trouble) and I headed for that old VW shop. Since it was Saturday, the shop was closed. So, after a morning of hope, I was looking at an afternoon of trying to solve it myself. Again.

Food First
First, we ate subs. Now, the Beaverton Sub Station is under new ownership. After many years, Chuck has finally retired, and sold the shop to 2 of his longest tenured employees (like 20 years there), so the shop will probably remain very much the same. With food in my belly and about 1/2 a bottle of Pineapple Jarrito's in-hand, I returned to Hapy's rim.

Cut Hammer Cut
While looking at the rim with Mat, he indicated that wheel was stuck on either by the center bore or by the lugs. It was difficult to tell for sure, but it was one or the other. It was not held on by rust between the 2 surfaces. I decided I would take the most desperate of measures and start cutting the rim down with an angle grinder until it came off. With the front right corner of the bus back on a stand, I decided I would sacrifice the front passenger-side rim to figure it out. I donned my full face-shield and gloves and then started cutting around the center bore of the rim. After a few cuts, I would swing sledge-hammer to see if it would break free. I did this over and over again until I was running out of meat around the grease cap. It was about this time when a couple of our friends dropped by for an afternoon / evening of visiting. Clint likes clowning on cars and his current living situation has him without tools and a project, so he wanted to jump in. More hammer swingers always welcome.

Clint set to work on the rim, determining what Mat and I had concluded: this is not stuck in any typical way. Since I had already decided to sacrifice the rim, Clint got bold. He suggested (I agreed), and then cut the spokes in half, removing the outer rim (see the picture above). This left the hub still attached, but with greater access. We talked about various ways we could continue, but decided that drinking by the fire pit was a better idea, especially since it was getting dark, the fire had been started and our wives were already a drink ahead of us.

The following morning, I started up again. Since it was a Sunday morning, I grabbed my quiet manual hacksaw and cut along the mating edge where the rim meets hub. I cut all the way down to the studs. No effect. By then, it was after 11AM, so with the angle grinder and the hacksaw, I cut from the outer edge of a spoke towards the hub. Then, I cut between the spokes towards the center. Then, I made a cut along the backside of the spoke. I thought this would weaken the alloy enough to brake off pieces. And, I was right. Bit by bit, over the course of the afternoon, I was able to make 3 cuts, and then hammer with the 4# sledge to free some pieces. This left broken alloy against the hub and studs, but the outer edges of the studs were visible.

So... What Was It
cut, cut, cut. then
pound, pound, pound
With the alloy coming apart, I was able to see something wrapped around the studs inside the stud-hole of the alloy (see picture below). It was the inner edge of the lug nuts. These lug nuts had a small shaft that was designed to go between the hole in the rim and the stud for a snug fit. That little shaft broke off inside the rim... on every wheel... on all but one stud. So, when you buy lug nuts, make sure they are the right ones, and don't buy the cheap ones. Cheap nuts break, and the cost could be really bad if it's while driving, or it could cost you a rim. Someone once said you rarely regret buying good tools, except at the sales counter; in contrast that is the only time you don't regret cheap tools. Replace "tools" with "car parts". My lesson learned.

So, to complete the removal, I chiseled the lug nut shaft to break it and then chiseled off the remaining bits of rim, leaving a pile of alloy under the hub. I sprayed the rotor with brake cleaner and brushed the studs with a wire brush. Last, I verified the threads were clear with an old original lug nut. Now, I could test fit the new 15" rims.

Replacement Shoes
note gunk on stud
Bear in mind, I had been cutting and hammering for about 6 hours, so I was getting loopy. Still, I wanted to enter the week knowing if the rims were a fit or had to get returned. I bought these rims off eBay marketplace, and had 30 days to return them. I had possessed them for less than a week, so I had time, but I have little trust in return policies, so I wanted to get one rim on relatively quickly. I got it unboxed and unwrapped fast, and it popped right on. There is a little wiggle around the center-bore and the studs have a little too. I can rotate the wheel/rotor as a unit and nothing scrapes. So, they technically fit. But how do they look? For that, I defer to my more aesthetically aware half, Boo.

She noticed that the lines on the rim bring out all of the horizontal lines on the bus which I hadn't really noticed: the air vents in the back, the jalousies window, and then the body lines of the pop top, the sliding door, the window top/bottom, the belt line, etc. I guess there are lots of horizontal lines. The new rims are smaller in diameter than the 16" rims, but the new tires will be taller, so the bus will look more like it did with the original tires, in terms of rim -to- tire ratio. Last, the check from the front. It looks like the rim sits a little bit deeper in the wheel well, so I may be able to fit a spacer in there, if I want to.

Regardless of that decision, the next step was easy: get the new rims to the tire shop and get the new rubber installed. The step after that, getting the other 3 rims off, was the step I was most concerned with. It took me 2 full days of cutting and hammering to get the first one off. I don't think I could repeat that if I wanted to. So, thinking "work smarter not harder", we consider the root cause: junk threads on the studs holding the rim like lug nuts that don't have anything to put a wrench on. So, maybe the right cuts to make are with a hole saw around the stud. If I can run a hole saw around each stud, I should be able to remove the rim. 9/16" is just a hair larger than 14mm, and the stud is 14mm. Since a 9/16" hole saw would bind against the stud, I'm going one size bigger: 7/8". I have a shallow one from an old hole saw kit and the size should be perfect. A quick trip to the Home Despot and I'm ready to remove the other 3 rims.

That's it for today. I'll follow up once I get the tires back, the 3 old rims off and the 4 new rims mounted. After that, I'll be able to focus on the rear brakes like I intended to when this saga started. Thanks, as always, for following along-

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Hammered Rims (part 1)

After many months of looking at Hapy under a big gray cover, I finally got to play with him a little bit. So, today's post is a triumphant return to posting about the bus. It got long, so it's been split into multiple posts.

Where Were We?
rear left tire
3 years ago, I replaced the 14-inch stock steel rims. The tires had not been replaced in 10 years, so they had become dangerous, and I did not want to get another set of tiny tires. Instead, I got a set of 16-inch rims for $200 from a Vanagon guy out the Portland Eastside. These are "aluminum" which I put in quotes because they aren't pure aluminum; they wouldn't be strong enough if they were pure aluminum. They are an alloy. Does that matter? Well, sort of. Pure aluminum wouldn't rust to my steel hubs. The alloys within the not-pure rims allows for that possibility. Enter today's fun. I wanted to check the brakes, knowing that the system needed a fluid refresh, the rear cylinders needed to be replaced and all of the other components needed a looking at.

Wheel Stuck
With brakes in mind, I cracked the torque on the passenger side rear wheel and got Hapy up on a jack stand. I loosened the nuts and grabbed the tire... it wouldn't budge. Hmm.. I tried a few leverage ideas. No luck. So, I tried some internet ideas that didn't work even after I shot the snot out of the mating points with PB Blaster and the Lucas Oil alternative (Tool Box Buddy).

Have the nuts loosely threaded onto the studs and....
1) swiftly drop the bus off a jack
In theory, this would "pop" the rust seal. This didn't work. It sounded dangerous in the first place, honestly, and I would not encourage this. Best case, the wheel comes free. Worst case, the wheel comes free and bends or defaces a stud. Then what?

2) rock the bus (your car) back and forth
This assumes that the bus/car is back on the ground with the nuts loosened. The idea is, you rock the car/bus side-to-side, not front to back. This didn't work, but I liked it better than roughly dropping the bus from a height.

3) drive the bus forward and back, slamming on the brakes
This idea had some controversy on the net. There were those pointing out that you should never drive around without your lug nuts tight. Having helped another person who had a wheel fall off when the nuts hadn't been tightened, I understand the fear. I tried it anyway. It didn't work.

4) drive the bus around in a figure 8 pattern
Like number 3 above, this has the same controversy. After this didn't work, I combined numbers 3 and 4 together, but that also didn't work.

5) drive the bus off curbs
Doesn't this feel like we're just getting into more and more dangerous ideas? What's next, drive the bus off a loading dock? Yeah, I drove it off the curb anyway, albeit slowly, like under 10mph. This didn't work either.

So, then I started looking at even more aggressive ideas. Again, nuts loosely on so the rim doesn't completely fall off and start rolling away on you...

6) while holding a block of wood against the inside of the rim (you're under the car now), whack it with a 4# sledge hammer
I started with my hand way choked up on the handle so it was almost touching the hammerhead. It made no difference. I moved further and further out on the handle, and rotated the wheel so I made contact all the way around. No difference. By the end of this effort, I was holding the sledge at the end of the handle, using a full arm swing as I struck the rubber tire (wood got totally smashed anyway and I needed both hands to swing hammer). It was a great workout, and I could see the entire rim shudder, but it wouldn't give.

Since this seemed like the most probable option, I then started a daily routine of spraying with a penetrant (PB Blaster, LucasOil Tool Box Buddy) and then hammering. Meanwhile, I started looking at options for how I could cut the rims off, recognizing that I would need new rims and tires afterwards (so, signing up for $1000US of unplanned cost). Plus new rotors and drums, pads and shoes for another three hundred, now that they are all coated in oil. Neat.

Lets Get Crazy
7) wrecking bar
I tried putting a wrecking bar (looks like an old man's cane, but it's super strong steel) behind the rim, with the 90* bend against the drum. By pressing against the end of the bar, there's considerable leverage. Just pulling or pushing on the bar didn't work. Then, I tried hammering on the end of the bar with the 4# sledge. That didn't work either, but the way it bounced off the rim, it told me that was a bad idea. I could have hurt myself or the bus from the recoil. So, dear reader: don't hammer the bar.

8) put a tire jack between the frame and the rim
Yes, this sounds crazy, but I tried it anyway, after a week of daily application of penetrating oil. This didn't work either. Nor did more hammering, changing to a different penetrating oil (Kano Labs' Kroil)... gasp. pant pant pant.

9) trucker chain and a gear puller
This time, I grabbed some trucker's chain. If you haven't used or seen these, its about 20' long, super thick and has a hook on each end so you can make a loop and have it hook on itself. I used this chain with a come-along to move Hapy around the yard 10 years ago mid-engine swap at the old homestead. Anyway, I took this chain and weaved it around the mags: under over under over. Once pulled tight, I hooked it up so it was a closed loop. I used this chain as a grab-point for my 3-arm gear puller as you can see in the picture above. These pullers are supposed to be pretty strong, so I figured with some steady pull pressure, maybe the wheel would pop. Nope. Instead, I broke the gear puller. You can see one of the bolts sheared off in the picture here, circled in red.

Delayed Maintenance
The more I looked at ways to get after the rims, the more I realized how much delayed maintenance lay beyond them. I haven't ever serviced the wheel bearings. Yeah, that's really bad. I know the wheel cylinders for the rear brakes need replacing. The brake fluid is crazy old. The whole underside needs a lube job. Regardless of how this resolves for the rims, I have quite a bit of work ahead and camping season starts in like a month! Feeling the pressure, I switched gears again.

Give Up and Hire Someone
10) hire a mobile mechanic
I called up the MobilePDX guys. Courtney and company have pulled me out of a few jams with various cars. From removing the stripped lower control arm bolts on Flash to the no-start problem on the A4, they have been great. Courtney arrived with a massive sledge-hammer and set to working on the front passenger-side rim (protected with a thick piece of wood). After a few swings, he could tell that it wasn't going to happen. While the ring of the hammer-on-rim persisted in the air like a church bell, he advised I take it to a tire shop who have better tools and do this kind of thing every day.

11) tire shop
I decided that I wasn't enthusiastic about these rims anyway. They are 16", which for some cars would be small, but on the bus they look a little too matchbox-car-ish, especially the rear wheel. At least to me. More importantly, they are 7" (or maybe 7.5") wide so the footprint is fairly wide. This creates more stability, but also rolling resistance. The biggest issue is trying to turn the steering wheel when the bus isn't moving. That creates considerable pressure on a 50 year old worm/peg style steering box.

So, I bought a new set of 15" rims that are 6" wide that should fit, based on my calculations. Again, a bus rim needs to be 5x112 bolt pattern with a center bore of at least 67mm (new set has a centerbore of 73mm). The stock offset (ET) is 39, so the new rims need to be in that ballpark. These new ones are ET35, so with the increased width, these will fit in the wheel wells. Assuming everything goes as expected, I'll have them mount highway tires onto the rims, since we don't really go off road in this bus, and the highway tread should be quieter than an aggressive off-road tread would have been. If there's room, I may introduce a spacer between the rim and drum/rotor so future removal isn't nearly this much of a pain-in-the-ass. All this depends on the tire shop getting these rims off.

Once I get back from the tire shop with new shoes (and spacer decision made), I'll post a follow up. At this point, I am on the calendar at the local Firestone (no more Les Schwab for me) for next weekend. Thanks, as always for following along.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Put Your Home Where Your Sign Is

Limited bus (or car) content today, and this will be rather short.

Yard Sign
A couple of years ago, mr. trump started making changes about which countries could source travelers into the US. This was met with protests at airports and in front of government buildings. Eventually, some states sued, and the restrictions were relaxed. Remember all that? Well, the day after that started, my neighbor down the street put a yard sign on her front lawn declaring "Refugees Welcome". It wasn't a home-made sign, so I figured there was some political movement she subscribed to which gave her the sign to raise awareness. Honestly, unless you were without access to any media, pretty much everyone knew what he had started. After all the lawsuits and protests, her sign persisted. We had neighborhood barbecues (yes, our neighborhood does that) and picnics and her sign was a point of conversation. Oddly enough, no matter the general political tilt of the folks who lived on the street, the underlying sentiment was "we're all from somewhere else" and the huddled masses phrase from the Statue of Liberty still resonates.

Refugees Really Welcome
it kinda looks like this
Fast forward to a few months ago. Our neighbor who started the conversations with a simple black and white sign kicked it up 5 notches: she adopted a family of refugees from Syria. That is taking "putting your money where your mouth is" to a whole 'nother level. This family was bombed out of their home and have been on the move in one form or another ever since. When they last had a home of their own, their youngest son (now 4) was in his mother's womb. As the weather has gotten nicer, the boys are playing outside, using the street like a soccer field, complete with the hooting and hollering that comes with 3 boys playing outside.

Consider this short street with a cul-de-sac has, maybe, 20 houses on it. Most of them are occupied with older couples with grown children or families with teenagers. It's quiet. There is no thru-traffic people drive super -slow down the street waving at each other, and everyone pretty much knows everyone else. Yes, it is like Smallville, but it is actually a fairly good cross-section representation of the ethnic diversity on Portland's west side. I can count the number of young families on 2 fingers, though. So, the new family is changing the dynamic and increasing the number of young families by 50% along the way. How the neighborhood is responding is quite telling, and heart-warming.

We have one neighbor, she's single, retired and has 2 Corgis. Rather than just throwing the ball for her dogs as she used to, she encourages the boys to play with them too. I saw another neighbor bring out some cups of juice one warm afternoon. The younger families now have more kids on the street to play with, so the games are getting bigger and louder and longer.

Boo and I hosted the three boys for a couple of hours this past weekend. While Boo entertained the younger 2 with games, toys and snacks, the 11 year old older boy (M) helped me get Hapy back down off jack-stands following an unsuccessful attempt to get the rims off. There's a post in the works on that saga. He loves cars ("second only to family" he said), and is interested in our collection of mid-project pieces. I can totally appreciate where he's coming from. I loved cars when I was 11 too, so I'll be welcoming our new neighbor whenever he wanders over and is looking for something to work on. Our corral is definitely a target-rich environment for car-mechanic-ing.

Our involvement has been very light, and depending on what they need, it may remain so. This post is really not about us, though. I am humbled by our neighbor's huge leap from posting a yard sign to hosting a family of 5. So many others, myself included, will wring hands or shake a fist at the news, but will do very little otherwise. Some will vote with their feet and not go certain places or vote with their wallets and not buy certain things. Fewer will make donations. Our neighbor is that extremely rare person who opened her home. That's every day, every night with a family of 5 people you don't know with kids ranging in age from 4 to 11.

2 Sentence Bus Content
I have uncovered the bus for the summer, and expect to do a great many things before camping / festival season starts. I expect my new friend M will be helping when and however he can.

I think it is much easier to want to close the border or refuse refugees when you haven't ever met one. M is my friend and I would like to believe he now has an opportunity to achieve his great potential. He and his family endured difficulties most Americans, including me, couldn't imagine. Maybe learning of their perils will help us realize just how blessed we are, and how truly "first world" our supposed problems are. I think the steady introduction of refugee reality over generations has traditionally kept we Americans humble and appreciative. I hope we can remain that way, and not react with walls and policy intended to protect us, but will only further isolate us from our neighbors.

I guess that's it for today. Thanks for following along. You know I don't usually get political, and this wasn't meant to be. I am just amazed by our neighbor's capacity to give, and needed to share it. Thanks-