Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Lakeside lamenting - Packard Creek

When we thought Hapy was going to be ready for camping by this Summer (over the Winter), we planned a camping trip to Packard Creek with some friends of ours. Since the bus is still up on jackstands, and the engine is still in the garage, we obviously had to find some other way of going about this. The Benz is running well, and holds a lot of stuff, so that was the only real choice. So, Friday morning I threw the soft-shell onto the rooftop rack of the wife's Benz and started loading. Between 4 sleeping bags, foam mattresses, and clothes bags for the kids, the thing was full. I was able to jam a few of those "bizarre" chairs in as well as a couple pillows at the end, but it didn't take long to realize that, though the Benz seems like it fits a lot, it pales in comparison to a Baywindow Bus.

The circus tent, the cooler, bags of food, random camping bric-a-brac and the dog fit onto the rear deck. Barely. The poor dog had as much space as his sleeping crate would had allowed, but he was separated from the family during the drive. I could see his sad face in the mirror the whole drive. We pulled out of the driveway for the final time around 10 and headed South.

Packard Creek review
Packard Creek is outside Oakridge (no, not RockRidge, but the train does go through there), Oregon which is about 35 miles SouthEast of Eugene down Oregon 51. If you're just passing through Oakridge on your way through the Cascades, there's a nice park on the East edge of town that has creek access, is dog-friendly and has a big playground. It would have served as a nice rest-stop, had we needed one. We visited the park on the way home and ate lunch there.

Packard Creek Park is beautiful, though rustic by "KOA" standards. There are no electrical hook-ups nor watered sites, as is typically the case in Oregon or BLM/Forest Service parks. It is pretty dense forest - high canopy of fir trees with some smaller deciduous trees mixed in. Central to the Park is a large reservoir that offers a log-encircled swim area, a boat ramp and a dock. Neither we nor our friends had a boat, but we did spend most of Saturday playing in the water. Our only real regrets from the weekend stemmed from not having Hapy with us. From not having sufficient storage for our gear to sleeping arrangements, we missed Hapy. If I needed more motivation to get moving on this project, sleeping on an angle in a big tent on the ground was a pretty good motivator. Not having space for a stove was a pretty good one too. Although our friends had one, I couldn't just walk over and start making coffee when the birds woke us at dawn. We really missed the bus, but we loved the camping. We were all ready to go again soon. The drive home was highlighted by our stop at the SeQuential Fuels earth-friendly filling station outside Eugene (more here on the station).

Bus headway - minor update
On the bus, I have completed the tank sealing effort, and the fuel level sender has been put back in. The intake has been reattached to the engine. I have completely cleaned the fuel tank bay and the engine compartment with grease-cleaner and soapy water. The amount of gunk, dust and dirt was not as bad as I thought it would be. I think the oil leaks may have helped prevent rust too, because it is only really bad around the tail lights. I will perform some rust treatment and paint and then the fuel tank is ready to be returned to the bus. After that, the transaxle will be dropped so I can mate the engine and transaxle on the garage floor.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Benz banging. now, back to bizness

After losing most of my spare time over the last several weeks, I was able to track down the source of the weird climate controls issue with the Benz. As you may know, it started acting poorly last Summer when we drove to Lake Shasta for some fun in the sun. After a week of babying the car, it limped home. I replaced fuel filters, changed the oil, changed the air filer... nothing. I changed the fuel tank screen... little change, but no big kick. I cleaned the "banjo bolts" to no avail. That was all last Fall/Winter. We discovered that by playing with the climate controls, we could turn on the turbo. Well, kinda. So, for 6 months we drove the car with the kids in the back shouting "turn on the boost". Funny stuff, but harrowing for the driver when the boost switches didn't kick it up.

kill the button
The climate controls, like too many of the systems in the Mercedes, are driven by vacuum. When it works, its very slick. You push a button to change how you want the air toflow and the little doors inside the system slowly open or shut, gently changing the air routing to your liking. Its pretty cool when you push the defrost button and the floor vents slowly turn off while the windscreen vents slowly open. That coolness disappears when it doesn't work right, and you're just praying for the car to speed up. So, I removed the vacuum signal to the climate controls before I did anything else. Unfortunately, this removed the massive vacuum drain that "turned on the boost", so we now had a car that would barely break 45mph... ever.

the saga
So, I started spending every evening and weekend trying to get it running. First, I did a valve adjustment and changed all the filters. That didn't do anything. Then, I replaced all the boost-related tubing and found that the overboost protection valve was bad. Replaced that. Still no difference. Then, on a whim after reading about the "evils of the EGR", I removed the vacuum signal from the EGR. I figured maybe it was stuck open or something and it was gumming up everything. Maybe by removing that little door, I'd see some of the boost come back. Wrong. Suddenly, ALL of my boost came back. It was like driving a rocket! I felt the back of the seat pushing me forward like my old Camaro used to.

It seems the diaphram in the EGR went bad, and all of my vacuum was disappearing through that hole. You see, whenever the engine moves into a semi-throttle position, the EGR is supposed to open, letting in exhaust into the intake to improve emissions. When that vacuum signal was interrupted by my leaky climate control system, the boost would kick on. Now that it has been resolved, the Benz has been filled with B99, the keys returned to my wife, and I get some time back to work on Hapy.
Of course, first I have to clean the garage. Hopefully, the next post will be about dropping the transaxle to test-fit the adapter plate, clutch/pressure plate and engine. My new goal is to have the engine physically attached to the bus before the end of Summer / start of rainy season so I can roll the whole thing into the garage for Winter work.
Thanks for reading,