Thursday, December 31, 2009

Radiator shouded

First, I hope everyone had a happy healthy holiday, and I wish you the best for the new calendar year. Any NewYears resolutions? This year, I again resolve to have my bus moving under its own power by year's end. Ok, I have made that resolution pretty much every year for the last 3, but I think it might actually stick this year. I've been fortunate enough to have had the last week off (without pay). With this open time, I've been able to clear off some honey-do-list items and still get something done on the bus. Since its NewYearsEve, I thought this would probably be short-ish, but if you've read my blog you know I'm not exactly brief. This one is no exception :)

With any stretch of time off, there are going to be home projects to be completed. My house is no different. I had to move a few bookshelves (and all the books) from one floor to another, and tear down the indoor Christmas decorations. We re-arranged our bedroom a bit, but otherwise, the list was pretty short. I did have to re-clean the garage, though. It seems with all of the packages at Christmas-time, the rubbish just gets thrown into a heap in our sub-sized single-car garage. I think I ended up with 2 55-gallon drums worth of recycling out of it. Crazy.

One Fan
Once the garage was navigable again, I started poking around my shop bench. I didn't want to jump into the shrouding right away because I knew there was a hardware store stop blocking me, but I couldn't remember all the things I needed. So, I set to mounting the low-profile high-volume fan to the underside of the radiator while my coffee kicked in. The mounting instructions and hardware were perfect, and I had the fan attached without much trouble at all:
Set the fan where you want it. Make a little space with a thin nail between the fins to make room for the mounting sticks at points where holes in the fan housing align with space between the radiator runs. Then, thread through the fan housing, then through a foam spacer... through the radiator then through another foam spacers and finally through the keeper/foot. Last, cut the extra off the mounting sticks.

I set the fan to the rear, thinking I will add a second (slightly smaller) one on the front end when I get another $100 lying around. Since installing the fan is so easy, I see no reason to jump into that immediately. The wiring runs straight out the back, and consists of 2 wires, so it should be easy to wire it up. You can see from the picture on the left that the inlet/outlet is longer than the fan is thick. You can also see there's a little space between the fan and the radiator - this space is created with foam spacers to protect the radiator from the fan, and vibrations. These same spacers are on the feet on the other side.

Shrouding the Radiator
After the fan was on, I dashed to Lowes for the nuts and bolts I needed to mount the shrouding. Wrestling the shrouding onto the brackets took longer than I expected it to. In the end, I was able to get both sides bolted on. I think I'll have to do something across the underside to help hold the sides in. I was planning to re-use a furnace grate, and I think I still will. This would perform 2 functions: protect the underside of the radiator/fans and hold the sides against the radiator.

I bought about 20' of black vinyl irrigation tubing when I was at Lowes. My original thought was to use this tubing to protect the edges of the engine lid. I figured I wouldn't get cut a much, and it might help insulate the opening. I cut a slit along the tube and wrapped three sides of the "hatch door". I think it just might work. I took this idea to the radiator shrouding too. In my last post, I mentioned a concern for what happens when the radiator bounces up and hits one of the "junk tubes". Hopefully, this vinyl tubing will help reduce any bad breaks. Now that I see how it fits, I'll let it sit for a few days to get used to its positioning and then glue it into place. I'll be waiting on the hatch door until I'm ready to paint it before gluing it.

That's it for today. I hope everyone has a nice NewYearsEve.

top - vinyl tubing along the "hatch door".
top mid left - low profile fan showing standoff space.
top mid right - fan disposition: near inlet/outlet end of radiator
lower mid - shroud mount point at front left corner
lower - shroud sides done. vinyl tubing on top. note fan mounting feet.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Radiator test-fitted

Lots of stuff going on. First off, I got a request to quote from my blog, but the requester didn't leave me an email address or a way to contact him/her. If you want to quote from here, that's totally fine, but please leave a link to the original post when you do. Anyway, today's post covers the progress over the last 10 days. I got the holes drilled, the radiator test-hung and started working on the radiator cowl / shroud.

Drillin' holes
The 1972 Westfalia is a little unusual in how the underside is arranged. Unlike the later years, there are belly pans along the sides, running from front to rear wheel between the mid rails and the edges. The center section between the rails is (mostly) exposed to the floor. Within this center space is where we're playing.
After first looking at off-setting the radiator to the driver side of that middle space, I discovered that I couldn't make it fit. Between the tubes that carry the emergency cables,the clutch cable tube, the accelerator tube, etc, there's a lot of junk in there. I was only able to get it up high enough in the center, so after some wrestling, I marked spots with some chalk and bored 1/4" holes in the rear beam. The picture here shows the right side hole.

Chain of Fools
I tried to hang the radiator to the holes I drilled, but I had to reverse the brackets to make a test fit happen. I want the holes to be parallel to the floor and had initially thought that they would be much closer to the floor, but the thickness of the drill made that impossible. I discovered, after I got the brackets reversed, that I had to flip the radiator over because of junk tubes blocked access to the coolant inlet / outlets. Argh. So, now the inlet / outlet point down as does the temperature sensor on the front. This is the orientation that TurboBus uses, and he doesn't have issues with air in the system (my biggest concern with the in/out pointing down).
I was able to get the rear end suspended from the holes with the use of simple eye-hooks, and a few links of 600lb-test chain. For the front end, I was able to use a couple of holes that were already in the cross-beam. Each is next to a hole that is used by the emergency brake cables. The picture here shows the eye hook / washer / nut combination that I used. Suspended from that eye hook is 8" of chain to the front edge of the radiator bracket. The net resulting install leaves the front lip just 4" below the belly pans. That's better than I planned, in terms of clearance, but I'll be copying the TurboBus model for "scraping" air with a down-pointing lip. I think his install grabs as much air as hanging the radiator, but without the risks.
The picture to the right, here, shows the test fit hanging by the chain. I am able to move the radiator a few inches side to side and slightly front to back. In theory, this should help prevent damage to the radiator if something pops up. Since the front lip is now only 4 inches below the belly, the front beam and front axle are both lower to the ground.

Cowling Corner

After the clearance picture above was taken, I grabbed a cardboard box and started cutting a template for the cowling. It took a few times of test fitting, but I was able to make a decent template that worked for both sides. At least it seems that way. From the template, I marked cut lines on sheets of HVAC zinc-coated steel. Some quick work with some tin snips, and then back to test fitting. The picture to the right, here, shows one side cut, riveted together and in-place. I was able to get to the same point with the other side, but I didn't get a picture of it.

I'll be finishing up the cowling / shroud next. The riveted steel sides need to be bolted to the radiator brackets (bolts so they can be removed for maintenance). Then, I'll be test-fitting the radiator again. If it fits well, I'll run some kind of closed-cell foam insulation along the top of the shroud - to reduce the possibility of the edge cutting one of the junk tubes as well as reduce the air leakage over the top. After that, the cabin heater will get installed and routed, and the coolant lines will be run. Lots left to do just on the coolant system, but I can feel the wheels moving. I should get more time to work this next week. We'll see.

top - drilled hole for rear mount.
middle top - eye hooks with fender washers, lock washers and nuts for front body-side mount
middle bottom - radiator hanging on mounts
bottom - left-side shroud fab'd, in-place, ready for bolting to bracket

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

FedEx Ground -v- USPS

With the holiday shipping season upon us, this post is dedicated to a bizarre series of events I experienced while trying to ship a box of presents to my sister's family in San Diego. Ultimately, the box did make it onto a truck that is headed for California.

It all started after my wife left town. We had found the last of the gifts just before she left. I wrapped them up on Friday night and went scrounging for a box that would fit. Now, I've sold lots of bus parts over the years, and I always have a few empty boxes lying around for when I get around to selling more of the accumulated parts. Friday night, I found an empty Mirror Pond case box that was in perfect shape - no tears, no rips, and never wet. The presents slid in perfectly, so I didn't have to add any paper padding. Now, that's just dumb luck. I've never had that happen before. Anyway, by the time I got through the mayhem of single-parenting, it was 9:PM on Saturday night. FedEx is closed then, so off to the all-night USPS shipping station.

As you might expect, the Lake Grove postal station is not exactly bubbling with activity at 9:30 on a Saturday night. I didn't have any competition for the machine or drop box, so I ran the box through the process. It cost $12.50 to ship a 5 pound box via general delivery with a tracking number ($.80 extra). The shipping estimate was 6 business days. That's a little close to Christmas, but within tolerances, I figured. Besides, it wasn't going through or to snow country.

On Monday when I got home from work, the box had been left on my doorstep. A handwritten note was taped to it stating "no liquor boxes". Apparently the "P" in USPS stands for "prude". In order for me to use that box, it would either have to be cut at the seams and re-taped so the plain inside was now the outside or I would have to tape brown paper to the box so you couldn't see that it once carried beer. Sensitive much? Fine. So, I cut and taped brown paper all around the box, avoiding the 2" x 3" shipping stamp and the large white address label. It looked pretty ridiculous. This morning, I visited the same Lake Grove station. The empty office that greeted me a few days ago had been replaced with a DMV-like experience. The line of frowny-faced postal customers for the 2 glacial-paced clerks was out the door. I watched for about 15 seconds and concluded that I could pay someone else to ship this box for the amount of wages I'd lose just by standing in the line. So, off to the FedEx office I went.

The FedEx shipping center for the south side of Portland is right by the I-5 freeway on ramp where the towns of Tigard, Tualatin and Lake Grove meet. This is the ramp I take to get to work from home, so stopping at FedEx isn't going very far out of my way. The trick is to get there when they're open (8-6 weekdays, not sure about weekends). I took my brown paper ensconced box over to the counter and asked "do you require me to hide the fact that this box once held beer?". He gave me a puzzled look, so I pointed to the brown paper. "We prefer you don't wrap them". Ahh... 30 seconds filling out a form, another 45 seconds getting the box scaled and paid for, and I was out the door. No line. No frowny faces. No glacial pace. The box will arrive by this Saturday, and it cost me $11. The tracking number and guaranteed delivery were free and they recycled my brown paper.

Net net
Simply put, I won't ship anything via USPS again unless there is just no other alternative. It was cheaper and easier to ship via FedEx. I honestly don't know how the Prudal Service will be able to compete in the future. Once consumers realize that FedEx Ground is faster and cheaper, that DMV-like line will disappear.

bus-stuff: if the rain subsides tonight, I'll slide under there with a drill and start working on the radiator mounting. If not, I may do it anyway as I won't have a shot at working on him again until next week otherwise.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

tucked in, and ready

Today, I'll briefly touch on where we are with the bus, and the health of the in-laws.

Hapy Hath Moved
With the help of my 11 year old son, Hapy has moved from the driveway to his designated spot alongside the garage. Saturday morning we had a fortunate break in the weather. The cold snap gave way to thaw and the rains that tracked behind the cold hadn't started yet. My son and I took that as an opportunity to get Hapy moved. I picked up a cable winch puller (aka come-along) from Harbor Freight during the week, so we had the tools. With a trucker's chain wrapped around a fencepost and then hooked back on itself as the brace-end, I hooked the cable to the nose-end tow-hook. Moving the bus about 4 feet at a time between re-configurations, we were able to creep the bus across the sidewalk, over a step and up the incline within an hour. My son sat at the wheel, holding it steady or re-directing as needed. He also helped push from behind when the cable puller seemed to be at its max. We were able to hand push the last 5 feet or so. Now, he is out of the wind and 2 steps from the garage side door. I can route heat, light and even music pretty easily. The only thing that's missing is a carport roof. Ah well. At least its level and well-draining. I hope to get drilling on the radiator mounts this week or this weekend. I have some other commitments (it is the Holiday season after all), so getting an hour or so may be difficult.

In Law Health
Unfortunately, even after a week long visit, my wife doesn't have much in new information. We can confirm that her mother has some form of lung cancer, but we don't know what kind. They will be running a scope to see what they can see next week. Marianne hasn't been very forthcoming about her condition so far, so we are skeptical that we will get straight answers from her. We figure my wife will have to go back down there, but we are't really sure when or for how long yet.
Her brother Tom, however, has been undergoing radiation treatment for the cancer they found in his spine. He is getting some kind of care review tomorrow when he should learn how effective the radiation therapy has been. I haven't heard anything about his liver (where the doctors believe the cancer started), so I'm not sure what the treatment plan is. His prognosis is not terribly good, though.

Support System
I have discovered a few things this week with my wife away.
First, I have some amazing kids. I didn't realize just how far removed I am from their daily lives and rhythms until I'm directing all the traffic. Having been deeply embedded with them this week, I have really connected with them, especially my younger son, in a way that I really hope remains and even continues to strengthen. This picture to the right was taken during a trip to the Portland Fire Boats as a part of his Cub Scout Den field trip. That red thing is a boat-mounted water cannon from 1946. The boat is still commissioned and used on large dock/pier fires.
Second, we have some pretty great friends. When we discovered that my wife had to bail out of town, our friends lined up to watch the boys for a couple of hours each afternoon. We have had meals dropped off, cards, calls of concern and more offers to help than I have managed to count. To all of these helpers and well-wishers, I offer my most sincere thanks. If I didn't taken you up on an offer, it was helpful to just hear the words that you were there, and you were thinking of how you could lighten the load.
Last, my wife is pretty great. Heading down to visit her sick mother and brother required a vat of compassion and willingness to put up with conflict that I can't really imagine. The emotional toll of visiting hospitals, and watching her mother's energy slowly drain while negotiating with doctors, forms and insurance folks must have been incredible. Fortunately, she is coming home to a clean house with the laundry done and a fridge full of food. I hope she will be able to decompress and relax before the holidaze hits and the return trip needs to be taken.

That's it for today. I'll update the post with a picture of Hapy in his new home. I didn't take any while we were working. It was still kinda cold, and I didn't want to lose my helper. The picture at the top was from before he was moved.

top - Hapy with his coat on, before he was moved alongside the garage
bottom - 8 year old son visiting the 1946 Portland Fire Boat

Sunday, December 6, 2009

holding pattern taking hold

First, my Thanksgiving was great. I hope yours was as well. Today's post covers some highlights of that trip, a bus update and looking forward.

My family has a rare opportunity to use a friend's vacation home in Sun River, and we took some other friends with us. There was snow on the ground outside the house the whole time we were there, so the kids spent just about every waking minute outside. This left me and Mark able to watch the Lions and Dallas games as well as all that college football on Friday.
We hit Mt. Bachelor on Saturday. Although the folks back in Portland and the people we met in Sun River were saying the crowds would be unbearable, I thought it was unbelievably easy. The workers on the mountain said it was a busy day, but I don't remember waiting in a line for anything for more than a few minutes. The snow was dry and fast. I played with my younger son on the inner tube slope while my older got his first runs of the season on his snowboard. Good times.

Bus Update
On the bus front, though, there has been no progress. I was able to hit the hardware store for a bunch of washers and nuts, but I haven't had any time to focus on fabrication. Besides that, we are in the midst of a cold snap, bringing the overnight lows down into the teens and the daytime highs around freezing. Once the wind chill is added in, the temps drop down another 15 to 20 degrees. Not exactly the kind of weather I like to spend under the bus. Instead, I have spent the last 2 days clearing English Ivy and raking up the leaves in my yard. I like having the leaves gone before snow hits, and there was talk of snow for early this week. Yikes. I was able to get all of the other yard tasks completed, though, so I can move the bus once I either borrow or buy a come-along so I can pull him up the incline. I hope to do that next weekend.

My wife leaves to visit her mom and brother on Wednesday. With her departure, our Christmas becomes very uncertain. We don't know how serious either of their respective conditions are because they haven't been terribly verbose with their descriptions. Maybe they don't know either. Regardless, my wife will probably be extending her stay, and we are planning for a just-before-Christmas return at best. The kids and I will busy ourselves with Christmas decorating and such, but it won't be the same. I don't sleep very well when she's not around, so I'll probably have nights to work on the bus if the temperatures would cooperate.

I'll post more when there's something to post about. I'd like to either get the radiator mounted or the bus moved or get the shrouding constructed or some combination of those 3 things before Christmas. In theory, there is time. It is converting that to practice that always seems to trip me.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Radiator mounting planned

I was fortunate to get a couple of hours on Sunday with limited distraction, so I rolled under the bus between showers and I believe i have a plan for mounting the radiator under the bus. I ran out to Lowes, got a bunch of hardware, and started what I believe to be the final run on the brackets before installing this beast. Most of today's post will deal with that. I have no further news about Tom or Marianne. My wife will be traveling to visit with them in a few weeks, so she'll dig up what's really going on when she's there.

One of my lingering concerns about mounting a radidator under the bus is that it will be subjected to road debris abuse. Beyond just simple plastic bags, and gravel, there can be large obstacles in the road. I've seen mattresses, sheet rock, lumber, a ladder, etc, all in the last year on the Oregon highways. Add to that the ice and snow that we got last winter, where my Jetta was getting high-centered by the mid-road snow pack, and I think the concerns are justifiable. I have looked at many designs by different people, and they seem to fall into 2 categories: avoidance and strength.

The under-mount radiator designs that follow this pattern are purposely placed as flat as possible, and as close to the floor of the bus as possible. These achieve some degree of safety because the debris can't really get to them. The downside of this design is that the air can't get there naturally either so any cooling is done exclusively by fans. This puts considerable pressure on the system working correctly, leaving little margin for error for a failed fan. Some kind of fan monitoring should be used to indicate when the fans are on / off at the dashboard so the driver can know when the fan(s) has failed.

The under-mount radiator designs that follow this pattern are angled to catch the air, and have a cage of sorts around the radiator. This cage deflects debris from getting to the radiator, in theory. I would think that there is the possibility of high-centering or having the entire thing ripped off by passing debris, if the debris is something like a tree stump or some other non-movable object. These do have the benefit of naturally grabbing some air on its way by, so they can operate with some success if a fan(s) fails.

This is the pattern that I'm going to try. It is a take on the strength pattern, but allows for travel within the mounting so that the radiator mount can partially absorb, and partially avoid debris. This pattern should allow for natural air passage and the use of fans like the "strength" pattern, but with the ability to move up and down if a tree stump or other immovable object is traversed.

First, I made the bracket relatively simply - it is just a simple "c" wrapping each of the 4 mount points on the radiator. These "c" wrappers then tied into one of 3 brackets - one for the front and 1 for each of the 2 rear. The front is a basic square tube the should assist in the strength of the front bracket while partially obstructing the temperature sensor from direct contact by flying debris. I covered this in previous postings.

To these brackets, I have attached eye-hooks. These eye hooks will connect, through chain, to eye-hooks that are connected to the cross-members under the belly of the bus (the point at the cross-member will be re-enforced with some extra steel). This chain will add the flexibility to move. To prevent the radiator from bouncing up into the floor of the bus, I will add a rubber travel-stop (think snubber from the front end). I will be able to vary the depth of the angle of the front end by adding or removing chain links. I have selected chain and single-links that can handle up to 450 pounds. Anything less seemed too thin and anything more seemed excessive.

Across the front bracket, I will attach a larger round pipe (like a 16" stretch of fencepost). This will serve as a bumper that will absorb the initial contact with the immovable object and cause the front lip to bounce up - at least that's the theory. Behind the post, I'll put in a security screen style grid to prevent larger rocks from getting past and into the radiator area.

Last, surrounding the floating radiator, I will put a small cowling / shroud. This will help guide the air to the radiator and keep the rad-heated air from recirculating when at a dead stop. This shroud won't be more than a half-dozen inches tall. If it were much taller, it would prevent the movement that the chain is allowing. If I can figure out a clever way, I'll curve the shroud so it rounds off at the top. This would allow the shroud to be taller. Regardless, it needs to be removable so I can get to the chain for maintenance.

That's it for today. I was able to get started on the eye-hooks, but I ran out of bolt-nuts, and daylight. I need to stop at the hardward store for lock washers and nuts. I doubt I'll have much more time before Thanksgiving to work on Hapy. I may not get any time on him for another week, actually, so, I won't post until after the holiday. Happy Thanksgiving, and thanks for reading.

top - the rear brackets with the eye-hooks attached. The long eye-hooks will go into the thick cross member in front of the transaxle
bottom - the front bracket with the long eye-hooks attached. These will be connected via a chain to one of the shorter cross members (which will be re-enforced / backed with some steel at the mount point)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

rad brackets continue

There's not much to add this time. I didn't get much time on the project these last few days, but I was able ot get a little bit further on the radiator bracket. I also have an update on my son's H1N1.

Radiator Bracket I finished the last of the 4 separate brackets. It went together like its twin on the front. After that, I put a bit of square-tubing across the front. After taking some measurements, and messing around with Google Sketchup, I have a working model of the underside of the bus. From this, I can conclude that I will have about 5-1/2" above the frame rail to play with. If I don't want more than 5 inches of drop on the front end, that gives less than 9 inches (after removing the thickness of the radiator) of possible exposure to air flow. I'll be getting under the bus this weekend, time and weather permitting. I hope to first figure out what to mount the front end to. Then, I'll start considering how I'll do that. I have a few ideas....

Front End Tie-In Ideas
First, there's the obvious bar across the beams and a couple of vertical-ish bars coming from the front of the radiator up to that cross-bar. Figure I tie-in some kind of rubber bit to absorb the vibration and torque-action on the body.
Second, I could put shorter vertical-ish bars up from the rad and connect to a cross bar (or eye-loops) with a short stretch of cable. This would make the pitch variable, so I could experiment a little.

Where Go Fans?
I could put fans under the radiator in a pull configuration. This seems to be the common thinking for best cooling, but wouldn't any water that passes through the radiator potentially get into the motor? I'm thinking that any time the fans would be in that condition, they would probably be turning on with some regularity, but its still something to think about.
Maybe the fans go on top in a push configuration. Then, any road debris could bounce up and damage a fan. Of course, if the fans weren't there, that debris would have damaged the radiator, so there will have to be some kind of security screening to protect the top of the radiator anyway.

Shroud Cowl
The picture that I linked in an earlier posting didn't have any shrouding at all. I don't know where his bus lives, so maybe it doesn't get very hot. I think I want at least some cowling on the sides and rear to prevent rad-heated air to re-flow through. In both of the design options above there would be a vertical-ish riser at the front on both corners. I'd need something at the rear to tie into. I'll have to give that some thought. Maybe it would just be a matter of careful cutting and I could re-use the shroud mount point that I'm using for the brackets.

Cedar's H1N1
Well, Cedar finished his battle with the flu and was back at school today. He came bounding downstairs all dressed and ready to roll after over-sleeping for a school day. He made it to school only 30 minutes after the late bell. Thanks for your words of concern. We have no updates on Marianne or Tom. I'll post as we learn what's going on.

top - front rad bracket before attaching to radiator. That's a 12" ruler for perspective.
top middle - view along bracket from water sensor end of radiator.
bottom middle - bracket at water temp sensor. Note the sensor maintenance is not affected.
bottom - full view of radiator with front and rear brackets attached.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

small progress is better than none

As I look through the last year of postings, I seem to say something about not getting much done an awful lot. It makes me think that I have a hard time moving from "goal oriented" to "process oriented". I really do believe this project is all about the learning and the doing, and that the driving the bus part is just the dessert. At least, that's how I think about it when I'm actually doing something on it. When I haven't touched it in a week, I focus on the "I haven't done anything since...". I guess you can take the goal away as long as you're still in the process. Today's posting covers some small progress, a little planning, a Busaru update and a personal note. No pictures, but I'm having issues with my new phone.

Small Progress
I did manage to get the final bracket completed for the front of the radiator. I still have to cut the square tubing, and attach it to the bracket. Then, I'll be rolling back under the bus (please, no rain) to think about how I'll tie it into the bus. Like I said in a previous post, it should be easy to bolt in the rear end. The front end, however, doesn't have an obvious mount point. I'm hopeful a solution will come to me when I'm lying on my back under the bus.

A little planning
While I'm under the bus looking for a mount point, I need to think about the routing of coolant lines. I need to run lines from the engine bay to the radiator, and from the engine bay past the radiator to the front beam - where the cabin heater will be. Last, there's the thought of getting an air line from under the rear seat up to the cabin heater for recirculation. Now, I don't plan to put anything like that in now, but I don't want to design without that in mind. Otherwise, I may not be able to get air from there. Considering that is one of the coldest places in a VW Bus (yes, there's a story here), I'd like very much to make that my "cold air return".

The Busaru was sold, so if you were thinking about it, you're too late. Too bad for me, the buyer also took the winter tires and the diesel heater :( I'm glad the former owner was able to get his old project to someone that would finish it out, though. Dave put a lot of time and effort into that bus. I sincerely hope he is able to work through his difficulties and find another project soon.

On a personal note
We learned this week that my wife's brother Tom has cancer. We don't know what kind, or what his treatment options are, but we appreciate your positive thoughts for him. Just a few days before that, we had learned that my wife's mother Marianne has a lump in her lung and that my wife's estranged father had passed away. Meanwhile, her neice Becky gave birth to her first boy (she has a young girl). Through all that, my wife has managed to keep her class schedule, and everything else much more together than most would have. It has really been too much to process for all of us, so I don't have a nice pearl to tie it all together with yet. It will be a few days before we know more about either Tom's or Marianne's condition or treatment options.
Update: I just learned that my younger son, Cedar, has contracted H1N1. When it rains it pours.

That's about all I have today. I should have some time early this week to get that cross bar on the radiator. Whether I have a dry opportunity with ample lighting is another question. Maybe I'll find that pearl along the way.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

bracketing the radiator

This past Sunday, after giving the garage a quick-cleaning, I started working on the brackets for the radiator. I've spent some time researching hoses, so I'll put some of that output up here. Last, Hal is starting up his own 'water-cooled engine into a bus' project. I'll hit some of the high notes on that plan.

Radiator Brackets
I looked at the Jetta radiator that I plan to use, and decided that the best plan of attack was to use the rubber-ish holes that originally held the fan shroud in place. On this particular radiator, the shroud mounting holes are on both sides of the radiator, so I was able to fabricate "C" shaped brackets using angle braces from Ace Hardware and some flat-bar stock I have lying around.

I rolled under the bus at a point when the pouring rain slowed to a sprinkle, and took a quick survey. I should be able to attach the rear end of the radiator to the cross beam just in front of the transaxle. So, I riveted some 1/8" rivets through the angle braces and into 1/8" holed drilled into the flat-bar. I made sure I cut the flat-bar long enough to rise above the radiator and the water inlet/outlet. I haven't decided how the coolant will integrate, but I don't want my cutting the bar too short to factor into it. I should be able to bore a hole in the bar and in the beam for a thick bolt. Then, I moved to the front-end of the radiator.

The front end will be facing the on-coming air, so the brackets need to be a little different. I cut the flat-bar much shorter (3-1/2" long) and flipped the top angle brace to reduce the air interference. I had to cut a bit off the angle brace to make it fit, but the result was a small "c" shape before riveting the flat-bar. My plan is to weld / rivet some square-bar across the top of the front end of the radiator and then tie in uprights at the sides. This should provide a strong attachment point for a deflector as well as maximize the available air-flow. I should also note that the square-bar should help protect the temperature sensor from debris. The placement of this sensor definitely influenced this design.

I still have another front bracket to fabricate and I have to think through how the front end of the radiator will physically attach to the bus. Hopefully, I'll get a break in the rain when I get to that point.

Hose Research
I've spent a great deal of time trying to find a reasonably priced solution for getting the coolant from the engine to the radiator and back again. Between Goodyear, Ryder Trucks, and McMaster-Carr, I couldn't find a good source. Hal found this hose at Gates, and I think we may have a winner, if I can figure out a way of buying it retail for a reasonable price. Once we get the radiator in place, we'll know how much we need, and then I'll start peppering them with emails for product.

Hal's Waterleaker
Speaking of Hal, he's starting up his own water leaking engine into a bus project. He acquired a 1.8L gas-burner for nearly scrap-metal prices. He's still going through the engine looking for badness, but he's been able to replace most of the issues very easily. He chose a 2000 Astro Van radiator, and that may become a problem with the inlet/outlet sizing, but otherwise, I think he will have a smoother path than we've had with Hapy.
Hal's new adventure hasn't dimmed his interest nor progress with Hapy, though. He stopped by on Sunday to pick up some tools for his bus, and to grab the dog bone. He'll be working on the dog bone mount at his place where he has fancy shop tools. Hopefully, we'll have some remarkable progress in the coming weeks on that end.

So, this next week is pretty busy. I do hope to have that last front bracket finished, and the square-bar integrated so I can start thinking about how the front will be supported. I'm not sure if I'll actually have any time with the bus this weekend, but I'll certainly try.

top - one of the rear brackets before attaching to the radiator
middle - one of the rear brackets attached. Note the coolant inlet/outlet clearance
bottom - starting the front brackets. You can see the cut-down of the angle braces. That's the temperature sensor pointing down.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

no new tales to tell

I've been working on getting my daily driver running right, and dealing with non-vehicle issues, so I haven't made any real movement on the bus since the last post. I've had some musings, and a little action, though, and I'll hit that today.

I did get most of the harness plugs identified, though. I also got an email from a reader in Kentucky that will be sharing his wealth of knowledge that he accumulated doing a conversion with an ALH engine. Same engine -> same harness. Unbelievable offer from him, and I'd been a fool to not accept it. Reading someone else's notes can be hard, but harder than trying to do all the research and making your own? Knowing that a notebook's worth of detail is coming has effectively ended my foray into identifying the plugs myself. I was able to discover that the harness still has the large relays for firing the original radiator fans. That circuit may be helpful when I get to the radiator.

Radiator Locating.... Again
This seems to be the open sore spot with this project. It shouldn't come as a great surprise, though, I mean this was an air-cooled bus. Getting qualified opinions is hard, and getting flamed by purists is easy. There are a few brave folks out there, though, that have done this before, and I believe I am back in the under-belly camp. In the picture to the right, here, a member of theSamba has fitted a simple radiator concept under his bus between the frame rails. If you look closely, you can see that it has a slight pitch, but no cowling. He says that he doesn't have any overheating issues, though I can't help but wonder how the rad-heated air doesn't recirculate back into the radiator when idling at a stop light or in stop-and-go traffic. Regardless, I am going to follow this design example, and start assembling something very similar when I can get back to my usual schedule.

Cabin Heat
I've been thinking and talking to folks about the cabin heat too. Now, this is much less important, but having a means of running the defroster is important during Summer camping months too, so we can't just throw it away entirely. I'm thinking of using a flexi-hose (1/2" PEX) to get the coolant from the rear to the heater core. For a core, I have a vanagon rear-heater unit that I will be tying into the main air channel under the bus just behind the front axle. I need to determine an internal air-vent source, and I'm thinking of re-using the original Westy water vent hole in the floor right by the sliding door. I figure, I can put a simple round finned plate on the floor of the bus to pull cool air into the heat system without any new holes. Then, its just a matter of figuring out a flapper to control when to get interior or exterior air, and routing an exterior vent to a place that won't get a bunch of water in it. That can wait, for now.

Our friend Dave, who is forced to sell his Subaru-powered bay-window bus, is still soliciting offers. He has not entered this decision lightly, and needs this capital to raise a legal defense. So if you have any interest in getting into a bay-window bus that has the benefits of a water-cooled engine (read: real heat in winter), and more get-up-and-go than modern Eurovans, please reach out to him. If it makes a difference, I'll try to help by taking the snow tires or the diesel heater (or both).

That's it for today. Lots of thinking, not a lot of doing... at least on Hapy. I Diesel Purged my Jetta TDI today and changed the fuel filter. I'm hoping that will resolve the fuel economy issue I've been chasing there. Otherwise, its the usual family time conflicts: Halloween (and the assorted parties), soccer games and practices, school stuff, etc. Crazy.

More next time. Maybe I'll have made some headway on the radiator bracketing.

Monday, October 26, 2009

harnessing the harness

It should be a short post today. Its been raining quite a bit here, so there have been few opportunities to get out under the bus. Add to that the oppressing darkness and its a recipe for why this project grinds to a halt every Winter. When I was doing bus stuff this week, it was researching the huge pile of cables that I got with the engine.

Dark = no Hal
Rain + Dark = no welding + no crawling under the bus + no Hal. Pretty simple math, actually. Hal and I talked about not getting together on Sunday nights now that the dark has arrived. We're talking about a Friday afternoon, but we need a solid attack plan if I'm going to take an afternoon off from work (no work = no pay). We don't have a plan for this Friday, so it doesn't look too promising. Its possible, but we need to sketch a plan for the radiator and the dog bone if we're going to make any hay.

Tracing Pasta
I lost my Thursday night, but I still had my Sunday afternoon, even without Hal. It was wet, so I hid in the garage with my radio, my laptop, some home-made toe-tags and a huge pile of cables. I was fortunate enough to have found a copy of the ETKA (parts counter database program) a while back. This application on the laptop has proven very helpful at tracing the spaghetti. I spent 3 hours Sunday afternoon just identifying the sockets or plugs in this main harness that came with the engine. Just trying to figure out which end of the harness you had in your hand was a challenge. Then, I had to figure out why the drawing has 3 plugs in a certain spot while your harness has 4. I still have a few open questions like that.

The scrapper that sold the engine to me made 2 large cuts in the harness, and so far, they appear to have been harmless. The first big cut went to all of the interior cabin controls like the automatic door locks and power windows. On the ETKA drawing, that is one big trunk line. On the harness on my garage floor, it is a bundle of cables over 2 inches thick. I'm not sure what the other cut was for. I am most of the way through the plug/socket identification, so I should find that out soon. Once I've identified as much as I can, I'll separate out the ones that I need from the ones that I don't and start planning how I will emulate those that I need, but don't have a means of faking. The cables for the engine are complete. The cables immediately going in/out of the computer are complete. So, I think the cuts were for peripheral systems that won't concern me anyway (like taillight controls).

I need to do the following things in this order of importance. Since dark and rain are getting in the way, I'll probably revert to #4 again unless design can happen over the 'net with Hal. If I can get one block of time at home without rain, I could slide under the bus and think about coolant routing. Times like this I really wish we had a larger garage.

1) design dog bone mount - completes the physical mounting
2) design radiator solution - next major system to complete
3) plan coolant route to radiator
4) finish harness identification

More in a few days.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

and in the darkness bind them

Darkness is my new enemy. Clip lights and flashlights are only so effective for much visibility, and eventually you have to stop for the dark. In the Pacific NorthWest, like anywhere north of the 45th parallel, it is starting to get dark earlier and earlier. Daylight savings is due in a few weeks and that will effectively kill evening bus work that can't happen in the garage or with clip lights (read: welding). On Sunday, for example, it was full dark by 6:30, so we were not able to get very much done. Hemmed in by darkness, I'm not sure how I'll schedule the work into the Winter, but the momentum is too good to let up now. Today's post covers the engine mount tower install, and talking through some inter cooler placement options. Last, the untangling of the wiring harness has begun.

Tower in Hal arrived around a quarter to 5. We talked a bit about progress on his bus (and mine), and about the weather, while he got caffeinated. Once juiced, we got the freshly painted tower re-installed, and everything tightened down nicely. We even got the bumper brackets back on. Since we still have lots of rolling under the back-end ahead of us, we'll leave the bumper off. I'm not sure the blue paint was the right choice, but I didn't have enough black, so it'll do for now. We grabbed the dog bone and started thinking about how to tie that in meaningfully. Just for thinks, we bolted it onto the side of the block (see picture). I'm of the opinion that we'll want it to point the other way and we'll want to bolt both holes into the frame on the side. Either that, or we'll need to fab up some bracket on the block-side. I don't think we want to concentrate that much torque onto one bolt hole.

Inter cooler As we arranged the dog bone, we got to talking about the turbo and how the air -to- air inter-cooler was going to fit into the space. Figure, the compressed air will leave the turbo pointing almost straight down. It is 14" away from the intake manifold at the top of the engine which points straight back towards the rear. Between these 2 points, a square inter cooler must live. The preference is to have the routes as short and straight as possible. Well, the inter cooler intake will have at least a 90* bend in it, and from all my looking at it, the inter cooler output will have at least a 45* angle on it. Of course, we have to figure that putting it right next to the block will put it directly above the exhaust. Radiant heat would make the inter cooler relatively ineffective, so I'm going to have to add pipe to locate it away from the exhaust.
On my Jetta, the inter cooler appears in the front tire well. I wonder if I could cut a square section out of the rear driver-side tire well and locate the inter cooler there. It would be out of the air stream from the rad (if its under belly) and it would be removed from the radiant heat of the exhaust system. It would extend the pipes, and probably add a few more bends into the compressed air stream, though. I'll be thinking on this some more. I may have to consider messing with the turbo so the compressed air side points away from the block instead of down. I'm not sure how involved this would be.

Wiring Harness Before Hal arrived, I had spent a couple of hours thinking over the wiring harness I received with the engine. I pulled some of the other electrical components that I had, like the instrument cluster, the drive-by-wire resistor, the brake switch, etc, and started plugging them into the harness now spread across my garage floor. I'll be spending my idle time at night going through the ETKA and the Bentley to figure out what each of the plugs is for. I hope to find a smooth resolution for those bits I don't need. Some parts, I suppose, I'll have to find online, and figure out a way of tying them in. Last, there will be on-bus parts that I may want / need the computer to be aware of. I am pretty certain that I'll be retrofitting the Beetle instrument cluster into the bus dash, so I'll need a way of communicating the fuel level and directionals, and such. At some point, I am going to have to figure out where the ECU will go, and how I will extend the circuitry to the front of the bus. That'll come.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

tower finished, enter electrical

Today's post will cover our visit to the Oregon Historical Society's Native Oregonians exhibit, finishing the engine mount tower and some new discoveries on the electrical side. I usually do a couple of hours on Thursdays, but this Thursday I was totally beat, so I swapped this afternoon instead. Here's a picture of the bus with that fancy cover from BusDepot I mentioned in the last post. It has zippered doors for both front doors and on both sides for a slider (UK model has it on the other side). It works great so far. No musty smell, no water. Dandy.

Oregon Historical Society
I had a couple of hours today after returning from checking out the Oregon Historical Society's new Native Oregonians exhibit. The exhibit just opened, and there were native artists on-hand to talk about their work with museum visitors. It was very cool. We learned about how the ceremonial drums are made, and how cooking baskets are used. Of course, there was a large collection of bead work and costuming.

Finishing the Tower
When we got home from the Oregon Historical Society, I got to work on the engine mount tower that Hal has been working on. We agreed that I'd hit it with the grinder the next time I got some time. So, I ground down the "cap" that he welded on at the end of the day last Sunday. I filed on the insides of the uprights where they meet the top and bottom. Finally, I shot it with some blue paint. It should be ready for install tomorrow.

I mentioned that Hal and I got started on the drive-by-wire last week. I attached a couple of photos of the big resistor. The picture on the right is positioned as if you were looking down through the floor at the top of it. The picture on the left is how it will look from below. It is important to note that we removed more material than we had originally anticipated, so I'm not sure if there's enough left for drilling the holes for mounting. We may have to extend those small silver pieces so we have do. The thing pointing towards the top of the left-hand picture is the "rubber bit" that the accelerator pedal will connect to.

VSS - Vehicle Speed Sensor
I was fortunate enough to find a VSS manufacturer in the Netherlands that was willing to ship one to me here in the states. I got a model 391. Unfortunately, these sensors have the push-on connector and the 1972 VW Transporter has the screw-on kind. I'll be looking into replacing Hapy's speedo cable with one that has a push-on connector -or- figuring out a way of getting the screw-on bit to mate with the push-on VSS. The push-on connector was available in 1981 on the air-cooled vanagon, so it might fit the bus wheel and be long enough to get behind the dash. Time for research.

More after tomorrow's work with Hal. I'm not sure what we'll be working on, but we have the dog bone and the cooling system as well as electrical bits to deal with. I suspect we'll get the engine mount in, and then get the drive-by-wire isntalled. What comes next?

Monday, October 12, 2009


Here's the word from our friend with the Subaru powered '79:
I have tons of pictures of the conversion process. The Subey gets around 21/22 mp(US)gallon. Best was a tank that AVERAGED over 80mph and gave me 24mpg! Power is more than you'll ever need. How about 80mph in 3rd gear? Speedo will wrap in 4th. 3rd gear starts on level ground (not recommended but definitely do-able!) 2nd gear starts easy and smooth. Instant reaction / power out of corners twice as fast as you ever took them in a bus before!

The "SET" is for sale for $4,000 (any reasonable offer considered however.) The brown 1979 bus (the Busaru) was in Eastern Washington when Mt. St. Helens erupted and all double body areas filled with ash. It was okay in that dry environment - all that happened was the ash ground away any surface treatment of the metal... Once it moved to Western Washington (Seattle area) the ash took on moisture and acted as a sponge, holding it there and eventually rusting out all those areas. The grey bus is a 1974, was apparently used by the Oregon Dept. of Corrections as a body repair training vehicle. It has only a very few spots where there may be a millimeter of bondo filler, but is virtually straight. It was shot with primer only - probably 15 years ago (?) but never shot with a seal coat, so there is surface rust - meaning it has to be stripped once again before using. It is a "rolling body" with no engine or transaxle.

There is the first Subaru engine ready for rebuilding, a set of 4 Nokian Hakka snow tires, mounted, with about 1.5 winters on them (the best snow tires on Earth, bar none!) Espar diesel heater with one winter use on it, the brown bus has a 1200 Watt inverter built in for the 1000 Watt microwave oven.

I'm sure he would like to sell the whole lot to one person, but I believe he'd sell the rolling body, engine and Bussy as individuals. Other than that, though, I think that's as far as he'd go parting-out wise. Personally, I'd love the Espar diesel heater.... and those snow tires. Anyway, let me know if you're interested, and I'll put you together with him. If you want to unload the tires and the heater along the way, I'm interested in talking to you.

Just for grins, check out the "spare tire" on the nose of the brown bus. That is actually a disguised radiator. Pretty frickin' sweet.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

the wheels on the bus go round and round

We're at the end of the time period I thought we had before the weather changes. Based on the forecast, my dates may have been about right. Monday is Columbus Day, and, to me, that has signified the beginning of the rainy season in the Pacific Northwest. The weatherman says we should expect rain starting Tuesday through the end of his time horizon. Unfortunately, we're not done with everything, but that's ok. Today, we've got moving the bus, a little more welding, and dealing with drive-by-wire.

First, I haven't received any pictures of the Bussy the Busaru. I hope the owner is okay. I haven't gotten a response to my plea for pictures. I'm glad to see the level of interest in his project, though, and I'm sure that will translate into a nice sale price for him eventually.

About Face
Yesterday, I was able to get Hapy turned around by pulling him with my Jetta using a trucker's chain. Sometimes, I forget a VW bus is nearly 2 tons, so trying to push him by hand just isn't reasonable. I tried though. Boy, I tried :) I was able to rock him a bit, and get him about 12" up the slight incline of my driveway, but I could feel my muscles after that little bit. I found the tow-loop on the rear left side of the Jetta, and used the tow-loop on the front of the bus (or the rear bumper mount) to move him around. I had him facing the right way in about 15 minutes.

Hal's Tower
Hal arrived before I got home from taking the younger one to a birthday party, so he got to work on the tower. He widened the bolt holes, and got a good test fit in as I arrived. We pulled it back apart, and he welded on the cap on the "other" side / top before taking off. See the picture here for reference. You can see where the right side has a cap. Well, he welded on the cap for the left side. The weld needs some grinding, so, if I have time this week, I'll attack that.

Drive by Wire
Between the test fit and the cap weld, we looked at the drive-by-wire problem. The 1998 TDI engine (code ALH) came with an electronic throttle system called drive-by-wire. The entire engine control system is computerized. The throttle is a big fat spring-loaded resistor connected to the accelerator pedal by a pivoting bar. Between the bar and the resistor is a small rubber bit that pulls on a semi-circular metal piece that rotates the resistor. I can't find the picture that I took of the accelerator pedal housing, but its a huge (12" x 12" x 4" all told) steel bit that basically holds the pedal and this resistor in a specific position. We thought this was going to be a big deal. Once I pulled the front belly pan off, though, and we started looking at it, we weren't convinced it was going to be much of a challenge after-all.

This picture of inside the front belly pan was taken from another bus owner's website as I didn't snap a picture of mine. I'll do that and replace this picture later. I hope Jason doesn't mind. Near the top of this picture (I circled in red) is where the accelerator pedal passes through the floor. The pedal connects to a simple rotating bracket that connects to a cable. After cutting most of the original (VW Beetle) steel bracket off, we retained the part the resistor attaches to and a little bit for mounting to the underside of the bus. It seems that the hole in the "small rubber bit" is about the same diameter as the hole the bus accelerator cable connects to. With some careful placement planning, we should be able to tie the resistor action into the stock bus pedal mechanism. I'll get some pictures this week of all of this stuff.

There is chatter about putting the resistor in a place exposed to the elements. In the original placements, the resistor is inside the passenger area. I'm going to move forward with it within the belly pan. I'll seal the pan to the body and close the drain-hole.

Last, Hal and I put the bus cover on. For background, I bought this cover from BusDepot (covers category) last Spring after I saw what siting in the elements for the Winter did to Hapy's top. If its going to pour rain for the foreseeable future, I'd like to protect Hapy a little better than I did last year. That's it for today.

top - taken of an incredible sunset less than a mile from my house out the windshield.
middle - the engine mount "tower"
bottom - inside the front belly pan

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Want a watercooled '79?

A friend of mine that has helped me through some of the "where do I place the radiator" questions is in need of selling his water-cooled 1979 VW bay window bus. It is powered by a Subaru 2.2 engine. He custom fabricated a radiator shroud to look like a spare tire on the nose that looks extremely good. He also has a rebuildable Subaru 2.2 engine and another engine-less West Coast (read: low rust) '79 bus. If I had the space, I'd buy the lot. If you've been reading the posts, though, you know very well that I have a sub-sized single car garage with a small exposed driveway. I've looked for a picture of the finished bus, but I can't find one in my stash. If I can get one from the guy that's selling it, I'll post it. In the meantime, if you're interested in his bus, contact me, and I'll get the 2 of you connected. He and his bus are both in Renton, WA (outside Seattle).

I'll be getting everything out of the way for the dump run tomorow, and, hopefully, making the run Saturday. That should clear the way for shoving the bus around the driveway on Sunday. The forecast shows the rains are coming in the middle of next week, so I've just about run out of time. I'll post again after the bus has moved.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fuel done, starter done

I looked back at the post I did about a month ago (school starts) where I listed the critical things that needed to be done before the rains hit. Today, I'll check things off that list, and set the stage for the Fall.

1 - Engine Mount
Hal got the tower a little closer to completion, but the dog bone work hasn't started yet. I think he still has most of the 8 hours of work remaining. The tower was reinforced with another upright (in the middle) instead of a plate. Hal's thinking is we want direct access behind the tower, so a plate would have gotten in the way. He spent some time closing off the ends of the uprights so water doesn't get in to rust from the inside. I think its ready for paint. I shot the support bar with some black paint I had lying around. Its kinda glossy, but it doesn't really matter where its going. I'll use the same paint on the tower so it'll look like it belongs. We have the dog bone to do still. Not sure how long that will take.
Estimate: 6 hours.

2 - Fuel System
The tank was welded up and re-installed. The filter has been mounted to the side of the engine compartment. The return line was tied into the tank this afternoon, and the feed line was connected as well. I put in a primary filter from a Mercedes to reduce the filth in the main (read: expensive) TDI filter. Hopefully, this will cut down the replacement frequency a bit. All told, the fuel system is effectively finished. I will have to deal with the fuel level sender when I get to secondary electrical, but as far as dealing with the fuel itself, this is actually done.

3 - Vacuum System
The vacuum pump is in, and tied into the system. The vacuum ball is attached to the bus and tied into the system as well. The brake booster was just hooked up, but the remaining openings (waste gate, air cleaner) need to be blocked off for winter. I'll get to that later this week after work on Thursday or next weekend. No hurry on this.
Estimate: less than 1 hour.

4 - Primary Electrical
I got the starter in today. Connecting the electrical, and the hot-start relay still needs to be done later, so that estimate is the same. I need a primary positive battery cable, and I'm assuming it needs to go from the battery to the starter directly or at least somewhere near the starter anyway. There's a cable coming off the ALT that looks like it is supposed to touch the "+" of the battery too. I'll have to spend some time with the Bentley or my Jetta to see where the thick cables go.
Estimate: 2 hrs, but not needed before Winter.

5 - Coolant System
The water flange is in, but I haven't done any planning for water routing. I have to tie the oil heater/cooler into the system, but, otherwise, I should be able to go along the "stock" Mexi-bus paths. Hal found a guy in SoCal that has a legal watercooled Mexi-bus and he got a bunch of pictures. We'll see what we can get about the cooling and heating systems from those pictures. At this point, knowing how to route the water forward of the engine to the mid-section of the bus would be sufficient.

6 - "Engine holes" -or- little things
The turbo is back in, the oil cooler is back in. Basically, all I need to cover up is the intake, turbo intake/exhaust and the water system openings. Easy stuff. I got the clutch cable connected with some shims for the bowden tube I found in a box of misc hardware. We got the rear engine lid strike-plate back on, so the door closes and latches again. I need to turn the bus around (pushing) so at least the rear-end is not where the puddle forms. There's a dump run I have to do before I can put Hapy in his spot next to the garage. Fun fun fun.
Estimate: less than a day, but pushing that beast so he's facing the other way could be a real bear.

Next steps:
I'll be focused on getting Hapy turned around and the junk hauled to the dump. After the dump run, Hapy will go into his spot along the garage. The vacuum seals and the "holes" get dealt with next. Then, after some more research, I'll switch over to the water system.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Roll ready

No, not ready to roll in the 'under its own power' sense. But, Hapy is now set up enough for me to roll him off of the main driveway (where the rainwater pools) up a slight incline to a cement pad next to the garage. Sure, from the outside this sounds like a "shrug" of a post, but it is significant:

I won't lose the Winter.

Pushing Water Uphill
If you aren't familiar with Northwestern Winters, then you really haven't experienced incessant rain. I've lived in other parts of the country and when they see steady rain, it lasts for a couple/few days and everyone starts getting antcy. Here in the Great Pacific NorthWest, 2 or 3 days of steady rain could happen during the Summer drought. Steady rain here is up to 30 straight days of measurable precipitation. So, getting the bus where it won't sit where the water collects is a big deal. Next to the garage will be well drained, on the lee side of the prevailing rain direction, under a tent thing, closer to the tools, light and power in the garage, and last: a portable heater will actually warm the work-space.

I got a lot done on Sunday, and Hal nearly finished out the rear mount. Starting with his work, he was able to get the rear mount adjusted into place, and the final set of bolt holes set. The rear support bar was then removed for paint. We decided that the tower (hollow box) could be further supported / cross-membered by welding a plate onto the rear (FIF) of the tower. As I consider how that will look, I'll have to think up something interesting to paint there. Maybe a smiling sun or something non-commercially iconic. Hal also got the fuel filter bracket mounted to the right side of the engine compartment using a little bracket extension he fab'ed. We talked about integrating the fuel return line, but we didn't hit on a solution.

On my side, I did the little things under the bus to get it ready to move. This included getting the shift linkage and CV joints (axles) re-connected to transaxle. Though that sounds very little, it took me a couple of hours because the shifter and transaxle hadn't seen each other in, like, 2 years. I got a bunch of other things done before Hal arrived, like removing the masking on the turbo and reinstalling it with new gaskets. I got the vacuum ball installed (with original bracket), plumbed into vacuum system and the vacuum pump plumbed in. I still have to integrate the power brake booster, but that should be relatively straightforward. There's a picture here showing how it tucks nicely under the westy cabinet on the left side of the engine compartment.

Last, I got the water flange in. This took a little more modification, unfortunately. I had to cut off the bib on the bottom of the flange as it hits the floor of the fuel tank bay. I tried cutting just part of it off, but there really wasn't space for a hose to connect once I got it down to where the flange would fit. There was maybe 1/4", and that included that thick ring right where the flange and the bib meet. I figure I can run a short section of rubber hose to a metal line that has a bib threaded into it. I can only think of one drawback to this: the original location was at the intersection of the cabin heat circuit return and the radiator return. This would expose the oil:heat thing to the cooling benefits of both systems. My bib solution would only expose the oil:heat thing to the cooling benefits of the radiator. I'm not sure if this matters, but its worth noting.

Next up:
connecting clutch cable, shooting the paint on the support bar, installing the starter. After that, there's primary electrical, the cooling system, etc.

top - distance from fuel tank to vacuum pump. Its just over 2-1/2".
botom - vacuum system. air cleaner, waste-gate still need to be tied in.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fuel Tank solved

Progress! I have a fuel tank in the bus and the engine has been re-installed. Hapy is ready for Hal's welding work to resume on Sunday, and I'm able to move off of the fuel system for a while and focus on some other things.

Tank modification design
After proving that the below-deck boat tank wouldn't git in the fuel tank bay, I went looking for other alternatives. I heard and tried suggestions ranging from putting the boat tank under the rock-n-roll bed to hammering the original tank. I had marks on the tank from where the vacuum pump hit during install attempts and I had marked where the water flange was hitting the horizontal seam. I extended out from those end points a few inches to provide room for coolant lines and drew vertical lines on the tank. At the top, I measured a 45* angle towards the center for 5" and then drew a straight line across the top (parallel to the rear lip of the tank) for the top cut. This extra space would provide room for the vacuum pump for sure, but it also provides space for my hand to go in front of the pump and/or flange if I need to fix something later. The pictures should help illustrate this. Please contact me if you want/need more detailed measurements.

Finding a Welder
After exhausting what I felt were all other options, I found and hired a welder off of craigslist. I wasn't sure Hal wanted the work with the exploding fumes potential. Brad (the CL guy) has done other automotive welding and fabrication and wasn't at all concerned about welding on my tank. The finished job is exactly what I wanted, right down to the vent line included in the new material. I was very stoked.

Painted and Ready
I thoguht about running some Bondo onto the seams to smooth them out, but I figured I'd probably just dork it up somehow and they would eventually become rust spots instead. So, I just shot the rear of the tank with Eastwood's Tank Tone. I re-mounted the fuel level sender, soldered a ground lead with a couple of eyehooks, and it was ready for install.

Fuel Tank Install
Actually getting the tank in and out of a bus with a TDI in the engine compartment isn't brain-hard, but its body-hard. The engine needs to be lowered all the way to the ground. Then, the vacuum pump needs to be removed as it interferes with the tank install. Then, put your bus jack into the right-side (passenger) rear jack mount and raise the bus to the highest the BusDepot jack will go. The tank will slide in through the rear engine hatch from the right side, glide over the top of the engine and get rotated into the fuel tank bay. The fuel fill line took some muscling, but the vent lines were easy. Mount the ground wire to the body and then the hold down straps. I did not wire-in the level sender lead because I'm not sure how that will integrate into the main wiring. That should be easy to reach, especially now that the front edge of the tank is a few inches closer to the sender.

Engine In
Once the tank was in place, it was time to get the engine back in. Now, I still have to tighten down the fuel tank hold down straps, but getting the engine in was a bear. A few posts ago, I mentioned that I wasn't careful enough on my jack adapter alignment, so the engine came down a little crooked. This made the re-install almost as bad as the first time without the adapter. I finally got the rear transaxle bolts in though - driver side first. Now, we're ready to finish out the engine mounts come Sunday.

What's Next
I expect Hal around 5 on Sunday. With the shortening of the days, we won't have much time, but I'm optimistic that he'll be able to get the rear mount finished on Sunday. We still have the dog-bone to integrate, but there may not be enough time before darkness falls. While he works on the rear mount, I'll be getting the starter back in, and the vacuum ball installed. If time allows, I'll get the exhaust manifold/turbo re-installed and tie-in the waste-gate actuator into the vacuum system (as well as the vacuum pump). If I still have time, I'll start working on the induction side of the engine. I don't have enough detail to work on the radiator stuff yet.

I'll post after Sunday's work is done.

Monday, September 21, 2009

maintaining inertia

It's been an interesting week, but aren't they all. My concerns about available time once school started were well-warranted as I really didnt' get much wrench-time. Considering all the interrupts, tangents and distractions, I'm calling this week a win just because I was able to maintain some project inertia. I'll post more on the fuel tank solution later this week, but I touch on what's happening with the most recent twist. I have a small bit on the oil cooler and on prepping the turbo for re-install to finish out today's post. Of course, I added a picture of Mike navigating us South in sepia tones and a shot out the window along the Columbia River.

Tank Update
I was able to solicit and aggregate opinions on the diesel fuel tank under the rear seat. Now, it seems everyone agrees there's nothing legally wrong with putting the tank there, we all seem to feel the same visceral discomfort when we imagine children sitting a-top the bench during a crash. I spent time Sunday undoing everything I had done to get the WestMarine tank under the bench. Honestly, that WestMarine tank would serve very well as a water tank, and if they don't accept it as a return that's what I'll use it for. 12 gallons of water might be handy when we're off-grid camping somewhere. Regardless, I got the Westy interior back to where it was, put a bunch of accumulated tools and parts away and got to a place where Hal and I could work again.

Oil Cooler
Unfortunately, Hal hit a scheduling snag and couldn't join me, so, I redirected onto buttoning the "engine holes" back up. This consisted of cleaning the oil:water heat exchanger and remounting it. As an aside, I did some research on this "oil cooler" and it seems the TDIClub folks are very keen on this bit of equipment. This brings the oil and coolant temperatures nearly equal, so keeping the engine as a whole at "normal operating temperature" (NOT) is realized. Once external oil coolers are introduced, it is harder to reach and remain at that point, so the decision to scope-out the external cooler turns out to be a good one. The key is getting adequate cooling for the coolant via the radiator. Now, if I can figure out a way to use that external cooler to cool the transaxle oil, that would be great.

I tightened down the intake and the vacuum pump and I set to work on the exhaust / turbo. This large unit had considerable surface rust on the iron parts, so I hit it with rust converter. The turbo and the waste-gate actuator looked pretty good, so I just cleaned them with a simple cleanser. Last, I masked off the iron so I could shoot it with some engine block / exhaust manifold paint. It will look better, but I really hope this will stop the rust. Just trying to follow the simple Navy rule: if it don't move paint it.

This week, I'll be focused on the fuel tank again. As I said above, I'll post on that once it is in place. Regardless, I would like very much to have the engine back in so Hal can resume his work next Sunday. Even though we're supposed to hit an unseasonably hot 90* today, the rainy season should open in less than a month, so the pressure is on.