Sunday, November 30, 2008

its in the hole!

In March of 2007, I had a post about gaining access to the engine in a 1972 VW bus. I outlined the 3 different sizes of standard openings that VW offered in their aircooled bus (and the type 3/4). After a year and a half, and a decision to swap a diesel engine into Hapy, I've put topside access into my 1972 bus. I didn't come to this decision easily (nor quickly, obviously), but now that its there, its incredible. Even if it is just a hole.

Measure, and then re-measure for good measure.
In the link above, I provided 3 possible stock-ish sizes. I liked the access idea from the typ3/4, so I took those dimensions, and made it a little smaller at 20" deep and 30" across. The hole can be expanded, if the type3/4 cover/lid becomes available. That's a decision for another day. As it is, the right side (facing front) is butted up against the support rail that runs front-to back on the right side. The front side runs along the firewall.

mark it, tape it, mark it again.
Centering the 30" on the latch, draw the lines with a T-square. 16" from center to the right is the support beam, but 15" off leaves just enough space to fit a 1" square tube in the future. 20" from the firewall leaves about 4 inches from the latch (see the picture to the right here). I'll need to weld in a support there along the backside later. Anyway, with a T-Square mark the rectangle with a pencil, over-shooting the intersections. Double check the lengths and the squared corners. Take masking tape and tape over the lines, centering the tape on the pencil lines. The tape will help keep the cuts smooth. Re-mark the lines with a sharpie so you can see them when you're working the grinder.

cut with care.
Break out your angle grinder with a cutting wheel. I bought a 4 1/2" for this job and got a DeWalt cutting wheel. Start near a corner and work one line. Stop before you get to the end and switch to another line. I did the left side then the front, then right and finally the rear. This order allowed me to climb into the bus to cut the front without stressing it. Once the lines were done, I went in through the back and finished the cross-support bar off. Finally, complete the corners, and the hole is finished.

The resulting hole needs to be filed or otherwise protected, or you'll cut yourself up on it. I'm putting that off for now. Same goes to creating a hatch. I didn't realize just how much better it was until I got back to putting the engine in and was able to see the whole thing. As it got dark, I set up a cliplight from the rear door support and it was incredible. Imagine crawling through your front grill to work on your engine for 4 years and then to finally have a hood. Wow.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Engine not in bus....

In brief, my measurements let me down again. First, my measurements for the vacuum pump and coolant flange were off. As a result, I spent the afternoon banging the engine/transaxle against the fuel tank. So, I pulled the fuel tank yesterday. Today, I set to installing the engine/transaxle again. This time, no matter how I tried, I was unable to get the transaxle mount points together. The intake and oil filler were banging against the ceiling of the engine compartment. So, what does this mean? I have to cut an access hole of some kind into that ceiling. I suspected this over a year ago, but after taking measurements over and over again, and determining it would fit, I moved on. Now, I need to get a sawzall or an angle grinder with a cutoff wheel and cut a hole in the ceiling.

Based on the measurements I took before, there should have been about an inch of space. That's what makes this so frustrating and confusing. To be fair, I've seen another TDI install in a splitty, and he put a hatch in. I guess this was inevitable. So, tomorrow, I'll be off to Harbor Freight for a cheap 4 1/2" angle grinder. Yes, I'll check craigslist first. The more important question, though, is how large a hole to cut? I have decided to cut a hole that will fit a type4 lid. I'll get a lid from the nice folks over at the DDB here in Portland at some point. I am approaching this from a "do what needs to be done to get the bus in the garage before Winter fully takes hold" perspective. I would rather move more predictably. I would rather have a firmer plan than react to problems, but that's where we are. I don't have a fuel tank solution. I don't know how big a hole I need, or how I'll fit a cover. I may have to "build a box" over the hole - some Vanagon conversions have to do that. It doesn't matter. For now, I'll be measuring and cutting a hole 2" smaller on all sides than the type4, thinking I can make it larger later, if I need to.

I'm taking all of these events as opportunities to learn something about working on the bleeding edge, and something about patience. I don't think of myself as a very patient person, but other people seem to think I am. I guess I just freak out about things on the inside. The goal hasn't moved: bus in garage asap. The limitations have been dropped, though, and that can be freeing.

I'll take pictures of the hole, and of the engine install, once its in place. I was able to see that nothing else would prevent the transaxle from mating. I take that as a great sign. Once the hole is cut, the engine/transaxle will mate, and I can roll the bus into the garage. I'll figure out a fuel tank and a hatch solution then. Thanks for reading, and I'll have more later.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Engine into bus, Part II - kinda

Well, after a few hours of huffing and puffing, I couldn't get the engine in. It seems that my measurements were a little off, and the vacuum pump and coolant flange are an issue. That's the bad news. I was able to get the engine onto the ATV jack, using a jack stand, some lumber and another jack to get it in the air enough to slide the ATV jack under. I placed a 2x4 on each of the 2 ATV runners so the engine would be more steady and then put a couple of thin,narrow boards under the right side to give the engine the tilt necessary. This set me up fo mating to the main transaxle mount at the front edge of the engine bay.

I was able to get the mountpoint within 1/2" of the mount before the vacuum pump and coolant flange hit the tank. Stupidly, I thought the jack was getting caught on something underneath it, so I pushed it a little hard and cracked the coolant flange. Great. So, I pulled the engine back, removed the flange, stuffed a clean rag into the hole and set to work again, this time watching the top end. A few hoses were dangling in the way, so it took a few tries, and some hose holding before I could see the vacuum pump hitting the tank. So, I called it a day so I could think through the options.

option 1 - "contour" the tank
This is not a pretty alternative, but it might be effective. By deadening the blow with a piece of lumber, I could hammer a concave section into the tank. This would not look pretty. I could rupture the tank. But, most important, this would take a bunch of time and still may not fit right. It could be done without pulling the tank, though.

option 2 - buy a splitty tank
The old split-window bus fuel tank held between 8 and 10 gallons of fuel (depending on the year, with the last few years having 10 gallon capacity). The bay window tank holds 15 gallons. A split-window bus (manufactured through 1967) can stil be found in the Pacific NW. In fact, people with split-window busses frequently swap their small-to-them tank for a bay window tank. I don't have the dimensions of the split window tank, but it would have to be at least an inch if not 2 inches less deep to be worth my while, fitment-wise. If I learn the dimensions, I'll post them here. The original tank is 36" wide by 11" deep by 9" high. Its not a square box for those doing the math at home and asking why am I saying the capacity isn't 15.5 gallons. Either way, if I were to go this route, I would be choosing to reduce my miles-per-fillup by 1/3. Of course, I'd also be choosing to not carry 30 pounds (5 gal @ 6 lbs per gallon), so there is a small upside.

option 3 - unhook the tank and try again
Basically, with this option, I disconnect the hold-down straps and push the tank around to see if I can make it fit with the engine. I don't think its possible, but it might be worth trying just to see how far it misses by. Regardless, I'd rather have a full inch between the engine and anything that's not the engine, so this would probably be a waste of time.

In the end, I'm going to yank the tank and mount the engine without a fuel tank. Once I know I can mount the engine, I can drop it later to get a tank in there. My biggest enemy right now is time and the weather. Here, in the Pacific NW, the darkness comes very early, making night-time work impossible. The nearly constant rain (that usually is hammering us by now. its late) makes daytime work very unpleasant when I can even find daylight hours to do bus stuff. My goal is to get the engine in the bus and the bus into the garage as quickly and as soon as possible. To meet that end, the fuel tank is coming out on Friday, and the engine is going in.

I'll post pictures once its in. I hope that will be this weekend.... after turkey. I hope you have/had a nice Thanksgiving holiday. Personally, I'm grateful for employment, a leak-free roof over my head, food in the kitchen and smiling faces when I arrive home. Everything other than that is just gravy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Engine into Bus, Part I

The engine left the garage on Sunday. It is currently sitting under the bus, where it ill sit until this Sunday. I'll hoist it into place then, but just getting it out of the garage and into position took more effort than I expected. Today's post covers those efforts.

Measure twice..
Before I did anything, I took a level and set it on top of the highest point on the engine. As you can see from the picture here, that's about 33 inches. Then, I measured how far off the ground the rear end of the bus was, to get an idea of how much higher I'd have to get the bus to fit the engine in. From the picture on the right, here, you can see that I was only at 25 1/2 inches. Simple math later, and I need over 7 inches more clearance. The fact that I really didn't have 7 inches of jack stand lift remaining didn't really matter. I was not too hip to the idea of jacking the bus that far up into the air. So, what to do?

then measure again.
I got to thinking about rolling the engine onto its side and sliding it under. Then it would just be a matter of getting it upright again. Its funny how something that sounds so simple just isn't. I measured the width of the engine (no picture) and it was around 25 inches. After double checking all the measurements, I started loading up the right side of the engine with rags for padding. Right side: side on the left when looking at it from the back of the bus. The turbo is on the left side.

skateboarding I rolled the engine and transaxle, as a unit, onto 2 skateboards. The 5 seconds it took to type that describe a 60 minute effort of roll it on, test move, get it off, repeat. The picture on the right here was posed to illustrate how the skate ultimately fit on the engine. There's a bracket on the rear of the engine that I got caught on one side of the board. That helped hold it in place. I had to jam the other end under the front of the engine with my boot while hefting the transaxle up. Heavy, man. Then, I put a second skateboard under the transaxle. Why didn't I use the ATV jack? I wanted it available to slide under the engine/transaxle unit under the bus.

ready for lifting
Once the engine/transaxle were set on the 2 skateboards, I rolled the engine out of the garage and into the driveway. With that much weight on the boards, they really don't steer, so it took a little muscling. As you can see in the picture on the right here, it just fit under the rear end. After it was under the rear beam, I wiggled the engine around until it cleared the beam, but wasn't past the transaxle mount. Then, I dropped the bus. That was a big moment. I mean the bus had been up on stands for over a year waiting for this.

A little more wriggling and the engine is upright (slight lean) and ready for lifting. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I worked it, I couldn't get the ATV jack under the engine. So, it will be more than just sliding into place. Until next weekend, though, it looks like this picture on the left. That's a big change from where we've been.

I probably won't post again until next weekend, as I don't expect to do much on the bus during the week. It is just geting too dark and too cold to work in the driveway.

Monday, November 17, 2008

project creep

Well, the weekend after the election was full of painting and other things, so the bus slid off the radar entirely. I did want to quickly follow up on that neighbor badness post, though. My wife had an unexpected encounter with him when she returned from walking the dog, and asked him directly if he called the cops on us. He sheepishly admitted it and apologized once she explained things. Simply put, we believe in free speech. We are peaceful people that wouldn't do anything to their property and over the years we've lived across the street we have never done anything to make them believe otherwise. After this was plainly explained, its over. Ahh.. I hope this puts this whole nasty thing to bed.

I am almost finished with the living room stuff. The beams and posts took 4 coats of paint - 2 primer and 2 top coat before they looked good. Since I was anticipating half as many coats, it took a lot longer than expected. But, the can lights are in, so the living room is done. I just have to switch out the lights in the front hall, and my domestic projects for the Fall are completed. Of course, the leaves don't rake themselves......

Around the painting in the living room and front hall, I was able to get some small things taken care of. I bought a section of pipe and had it bent by the guys at Meineke. I've measured where I need to make the cuts to keep it at length (less 1/4" at each end). I didn't have time to cut it yet, so its not in the bus. I was able to get a 5/16" fuel line nipple at NAPA and open up the tank nut with a hand drill to fit the nipple. Then, the nut threaded onto the tank. This leaves the return line as the last piece to be resolved within the fuel system. I'm not convinced I need to actually put a port in the fuel filler pipe/line. I should be able to Tee into the fuel supply line, but if that were the preferred method, VW would have done that. So, I'll probably drill a port into the pipe I got from Meineke. Depending on time and available light, I'll be working on this in parallel with the engine install.

Anyway, not much in terms of news and no pictures. My next post will revolve around the install of the engine. I've decided the weather will not hold up much longer, so its time to move it all indoors. Wish me luck--

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Honestly, this post is just to move that last one off the top of the stack. Now that the election is over, the vehemence that I felt last Sunday feels a week away. On the project side, I should be completing my living room efforts by Saturday night, so, if the weather works out, I may be able to get the engine in Sunday. I still need to resolve a few things, but I think I could even resolve those things after the fact.

1 - fuel filler hose
The original hose is just that: original. That means its almost 40 years old. I don't expect that rubber to stand up to any more use, much less the diesel blends that have biodiesel (BD) in them. BD eats old-style rubber quickly. I think it eats the "biodiesel-ready" rubber too, but thereis little evidence on either side of that debate.
My plan is to take the old rubber hose over to a muffler shop and have them cut/bend me a pipe in the same shape and length, save for about 1/4" on each end. Then, I'll use the rubber hose as a source of joiners between the new pipe and the old connections. That should last a while.

2 - fuel return port
The original fuel tank doesn't have a place to route fuel overflow back into the tank. Since the 1972 VW bus was a carburated engine, there wasn't a fuel rail, or any overflow fuel to route back to the tank. I could have bought a later bus tank, but there was nothing wrong with the original, and I'd rather leave as much alone as I can. Yes, I know putting a water-cooled diesel engine in kind of runs against that. Still, the less I change, the fewer decisions I have to make. Like, does a newer tank fit in the tank bay?
My solution idea is to put a port into the fuel filler pipe that I will be having fab'd by the muffler guys. It seems pretty simple to me: bore a hole in, thread a nipple into the hole, attach the return line. I need the pip first, then the nipple, but this shoudl be a pretty easy step.

3 - starter
The original starter will fit into the original opening on the transaxle. Unfortunately, it doesn't provide enough torque to start the engine. There are vendors that are willnig to sell me a "hi-torque" starter that will directly fit. Unfortunately, these "hi-torque" starters are built like crap and are known to fail soon after the check clears. The vanagon TDI folks use a TDI starter with an adapter constructed by "Westy Ventures". From my findings, though, the vanagon starter (SR87 fitting a 091 and 091/1 transaxle) has an output shaft about 1/2" longer than the old 002 transaxle starter (SR15, SR17). So, if I were to use the adapter, it would fit in the starter hole, but the gears would overshoot the flywheel by 1/2". So, I'll either need an adapter for the adapter or a custom adapter right off. I'm leaning towards a custom adapter, but I'll need to find someone capable of doing it. I have a mock-up made out of wood, so that fabrication would be a pretty easy job for someone with the tools.

I don't really need any of these bits to get the engine slammed in. In fact, I can address all of these in the warm comforts of my garage after the engine is in. I would, however, like to get the fuel filler pipe done first. It is so much easier getting that pipe on without an engine to climb over. I'll try to remember to bring the gose with my to work tomorrow. Hopefully, I'll be able to find a local-to-my-work place that will cut and bend while I wait.

More later...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Why do McCain - Palin supporters hate my 1st Amendment rights?

Ok.. that sounds a little inflamatory, but I'm not very pleased with where the neighborhood political discourse has gone. Taking down politcal signs, and calling the cops with baseless accusations is not political discourse. Those acts are the death throes of a democracy if left unchecked. This post may be another mudball thrown, but I've had enough.

If you've been reading my posts, you already know I live in a non-contested state in terms of the electoral map. Our electorates were in play 4 years ago, but this year, it seems Sen Obama has swayed so many voters, that there are no advertisements, few pollster calls, etc. In the end, that just leaves more air-time for the more local campaigns, so I think we're all ready for November 4th. In 2004, it was easy to get your hands on a Presidential candidate sign or sticker. This year, they are not nearly as plentiful. In fact, my folks went out of their way to get us a sign and a car sticker. They are not convinced the polls are right, and feel expressing your political opinion on your bumper and with a yard sign is the right thing to do. To me, it is a simple expression of our First Amendment right to freedom of expression.

So, I accepted their Obama sign and put it in a prominent place on our yard. It is very easy to see when you drive up the street, and it serves as a little reminder that the Presidential election does need your vote, regardless of the polls. Because of its location, though, one of my neighbors who does not support the Illinios Senator, is apparently upset. I'll get to that later. After our sign had been up for a few days, I found it knocked down. I set it back up. The next day, it was down again. I set it back up again. This happened so many times, I lost track.

Honestly, I figured it was neighborhood kids with nothing better to do and didn't give it a whole lot of thought.... until one of my neighbors called the police and told them that someone in my house was taking down their McCain sign. So, they sent a car over and the nice policewoman asked my wife about it while petting my dog. My wife explained that we hadn't done anything and the policewoman asked if our sign had been tampered with. "Well, yeah, sure," she said, and then explained about how often we were finding our sign down. The policewoman's face changed to a "I know what's going on" expression and said she would talk to the neighbor who filed the complaint. We went almost a week without a sign downing, and our neighbor's McCain sign had been moved to point at our house rather than at the passing cars. "That's weird," I thought, when I got home from work and saw its orientation. Whatever. If they want to declare their political leaning to the 2 voters that live in my house, that's great. On Friday, when the small-town paper had a mention of the police call in the blotter, the sign was changed to point back towards traffic. I guess they showed us. Unfortunately, the real story didn't make it into the single "sign tampering reported" reference.

Last night, we returned home from dinner at a friend's house to find our sign down again. At this point, I got upset, but I just resolved to putting it back up in the morning. My wife took one car to church early to help with something, so I had the boys. While they were putting on their shoes, I snapped this picture (the upper picture) of our sign and put it back in the ground. Then, we all piled into the car and went to services. When we returned, our sign was down again on a windless, completely still day. I have a picture of that here too (the second one). In both pictures, my neighbor's McCain sign can be seen in the background, clearly not tampered with, and in the same place - untouched.

I'm not really sure what to make of this. What makes someone so politically bent that they don't realize when they are infringing on my rights of expression? While we were expressing our freedom of religion, they chose to suppress my rights to free spech again? What message are they trying to send to our community, and what message to they think they are really suppressing? I realize they like their candidate, and, that is their right. There's a saying ( the exact words of which I don't know) that was attributed to one of our country's founders: I ma not agree with what you have to say, but I will fight by your side for your right to express it. I wholely embrace that sentiment.

Clearly, my neighbor, the McCain-Palin supporter does not. To me, this casts their campaign in a even more negative light. From the hate mongering rallys to the ad blitz of doom, this really shouldn't surprise me, but it still does. We live in a small cul-de-sac filled neighborhood that has barbeques, (Christmas) carol sign-alongs and July 4th parades. I really didn't expect this from a neighbor. I realize that neighbors are, at their root, just people who live near you. I think its more than that, and that's why this treatment is so surprising.

I can't wait for November 5th. Then, we can all take our signs down. But, now that the line has been crossed, how do we get to a point of cross-party acceptance? Can we move on from this election as a united nation, or will the hate-politics of the last 8 years truly be the lasting legacy of this Administration?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

ready to roll, when stops the rain

I know its been a few weeks, and if you're a semi-regular reader, I apologize for the absence. I been able to get a few little things done, but between the rains, kids soccer games and the remodel effort in the living room, my time has been limited. The living room work is almost done, though. I've installed a couple of banks of recessed lights, and a fader to control them. Then, there was the dining room light chandelier install, and the corresponding fader. This weekend, I have a bunch of priming to do, and I'll have finish coat painting next weekend. After that, I should be finished with the remodel-ish stuff.

Around the remodel work, I was able to get a Sunday afternoon to focus on the bus. I lost some time to cleaning out the junk that had been piled up around my workspace, but I was able to make some headway. First, I replaced the glowplugs and the glow plug harness. This was pretty easy, though the replacement harness had clips on the wires and the original wires did not. Simple wire work, really. The original glowplugs were pulled as replacements on my other TDI engine, so I knew these were bad. You can test your plugs for resistance, and they should all be within fractional ohms of each other or they will throw a code. 2 of the ones in my old engine had infinite resistance, so they were throwing a code, and caused me to fail my DEQ test a couple of years ago. I also replaced the oil dipstick tube (the bright orange thing in the picture there). Then, I got the engine/transaxle situated on the ATV jack so I can move it under the bus. I need to figure out how to support the transaxle during that move, but a skateboard should do.

Other than the glow plugs, I installed a "Van Gogh" ear onto the block where the engine mount bracket is bolted on. "What's a Van Gogh", you ask. Its this aluminum thing that bolts to the block and supports the bracket joint. Often times, the original ear on the block shears off in an accident. In fact, this ear has been known to fail just from heavy use; though that's very rare. They're available at When I decided to re-use the original mount design, I figured it would be a good idea to add some support. When I started tightening down the bolt, I discovered that the original block ear had a split in it, so it was a good decision. The picture on the left here shows it installed.

I figured out that I need to get the rear end of the bus around 30" off the ground to get the engine underneath it. That is over 6" more than I used to need to get the old engine in and out. I'll have to get creative in how I get it up that high. It is always best to use the stock jack, but the stock jack doesn't go that high. Hmm...
I'll have that resolved by next weekend - that's when I plan to get the engine in. Hopefully, the rains will stop long enough for me to do it... and that I've gotten the fuel filler hose issue resolved. I'll post on that later this week--