Friday, July 31, 2009


Ok, I didn't complete the story of the trip into the Gorge to see the Dead. I'll hit that in this post with a small update on the bus progress. See WALSTIB - 6 for the previous chapter.

The show the night before lasted until after Midnight, and we weren't walking throguh Shakedown Street until after 12:30AM. Even then, the place was bumpin' with vendors and concert-goers. The guy with the PA system was crankin' out a mid 70's Scarlet Begonias, and the foot traffic was kicking up a thin fog of dust. As we noticed all weekend, the vending was very light in terms of variety. It seemed like everyone was selling the same cheap glass pipes and nothing else. We couldn't find anyone selling friendship bracelets on cardboard sheets or good home-made 'dyes. Overall, it was pretty disappointing as a consumer. So, we hit the bus and had beers with our Canadian friends.

The following morning, we were greeted by the smells of breakfast instead of the yells from the Idiots of Yak. The guy a couple of cars away was whipping up pancakes and sausages with OJ for $5 a plate. We figured that was easier than going through the hassle ourselves, so we grabbed some breakfast and made coffee. By the time we finished eating, the lot was on the move. Some cars had already left and most of the remaining were packing up. We did the same and were moving by 10. The lot had only one official exit, so it was pretty jammed up, but we discovered a break in the fence that allowed us to go around the line of cars, so we were out of the lot in uunder 15 minutes. After filling the tank, and checking the oil, we hit the freeway.

We stopped at the same rest area where we met the Canadians for one last pit stop. It was just after leaving that rest area that we had our first mechanical mishap. The engine started firing inconsistently and within a few minutes stopped firing altogether. Rolling in the breakdown lane, we coasted to a stop under a mid-day sun. We quickly diagnosed the coil as bad, so we grabbed a replacement from the parts bin. I noted to Ed that the replacement coil wasn't a hi-fire coil, so we should probably think about swapping out the dizzy at the next convenient stopping point. Belle gave us the signal that we needed to do something quickly by acting up again. We weren't near any ramps, so we pulled over under an overpass. We pulled the dizzy, blocked the vacuum port on the centermount Weber (32/36 progressive) and put in the old 009. During this roadside stop, we saw many buses and vanagons pass. Many honked horns and more than a couple stopped to see if they could help. Even Washington Highway Patrol visited us. While Mike watched for out of control drivers to our rear, Ed and I took turns wrestling the dizzy in. We took the opportunity to eat lunch and then got back on our way.

Just before we crossed over the Columbia River, we stopped at Stonehenge. I didn't know the place existed, but a few other Deadheads did. We pulled up to the sound of a drum circle, and found 3 drummers playing for a couple of dancers in the center of Stonehenge. That was pretty cool. We visited the now-out-of-business visitor's store and found those elusive friendship bracelets. We bought a bunch and some other gifts and headed home.

bus update:
very little progress this week. It has been over 100*, setting record temperatures throughout the Pacific NorthWest. When I get home from work, I've been taking the kids to the pool in attempt to keep cool. So, I haven't done a thing. I'll be getting a few last items for the fuel system tonight on my way home. I should be finishing that out tomorrow or Sunday. On Sunday, Hal will be back to work on the mounts. If there is time, we will be looking into radiator placement.

top - leaving the Gorge.
middle - Mike keeping us safe
bottom - Belle at Stonehenge

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Camp cancelled, work progressed instead

The day before we were going to leave for Central Oregon, we found out that our reservations had been canceled because of "bear activity". So, while our friends (Belle's owners) tried to find another place to camp, my wife started to suffer through some kind of sinus thing. We packed for the trip, loaded the car and hoped for the best. Our friends found another spot, and called us with the details, and we shared our bad news. Thursday morning, we couldn't go; she was still sick. Friday morning, we couldn't go for the same reason, so we ended up canceling the whole trip. Our friends went, though we haven't heard from them since we called with the bad news, I'm sure they had fun. I already had the 2 days off from work, so between running for tea, making meals, yard work projects and helicoptering the kids around, I got some things done on the bus. Details follow...

Starters for starters
I took the starter to a rebuilder on the SE side (All Battery & Electric) to have the starter I was given by Justin the TDI guru. The starter tested fine, but I noted one thing: the sprocket on the starter pops out about 3/8" when 12V is applied. I thought this was especially interesting since the adapter allows the starter sprocket to mesh with the flywheel when it is not energized. This makes me think that the starter will introduce some drag on the drivetrain that is not typical. I'm going to look into making a 3/8" standoff. I think a piece of pipe for the starter and a couple of nuts on the bolts would do it. Since the starter didn't require a rebuild, I'll be returning the starter to Justin and start shopping for a starter. The rebuild was estimated at $60 to $160 depending on how "toast" it was.

tanks for nuttin
I thought I'd drop the engine, slap in the fuel tank, and get the engine back in on Friday. This would be my first attempt with the ATV jack adapter that I built. The adapter worked beautifully. I was able to set it without a great deal of guessing, and I had complete control of the engine at-pitch. Dropping and raising the engine is now very easy, and I can drop / re-install within 45 minutes by myself. Unfortunately, the engine is still much taller than the old engine, so the rear end of the bus must be raised considerably to get the engine completely free of the bus. Anyway, in order to get the tank in, I had to raise the right side with the BusDepot jack all the way to its highest setting. Once the tank was threaded in, the engine wouldn't go in because of the vacuum pump and the hot coolant exit flange (even the smaller non-US manual version).

So, I dropped the engine again. After giving it considerable thought, I've decided to remove the vacuum pump, and put a block-off plate in its place. I'll be selling the pump to pay for a Cummins electric vacuum pump. For the flange, I am not sure what to do. I had a spare and I cut it up to see how bad the clearances are. The RTV is still setting, so I'll post on that another time. I replaced the thermostat and the pipe that goes with it this morning. I figured it might be a good time to get it done.

Completely tank'd
Since I've decided to keep the original tank and figure out how to fit the engine around it, I had some tasks left. I reconnected the side vents with some fuel line and clamps. The original fuel filler vent was mostly steel, but it used a no longer available (NLA) rubber hose. So, I replaced the whole stretch with a single rubber hose. I grounded the fuel level sensor and strapped the tank down. All that's left is threading in the nipple at the bottom and tying in a "Y" for the return line.

I popped the engine back in this morning. Hal and I will attack the mounts again next Sunday. Hopefully, we'll fab a vacuum pump block-off plate. I'll look into the water flange viability before then. Not sure if I'll make any real movement this week, but I hope to get the "Y" to finish off the fuel delivery and try the flange.

Pictures (from top):
1 - the current state of the engine. No vacuum pump, no water outlet. holes stuffed with rags.

2 - engine in with tank before tank was strapped down, and before the problems were discovered.

3 - engine on the adapter. works better than expected.

4 - finger showing where the badness is with the vacuum pump.

5 - my hacked-down flange after I removed 3/4" of pipe from the mount point to the pipe. I RTV'd the parts together to see if a flange like this would work. Unless something unexpected happens, this is not the permanent solution.

Monday, July 20, 2009

starter adapter corrected, mounts again

On Sunday, Hal dropped by for another round of "let's get this bus going". He brought with him an upper starter bolt, a bunch of steel and some more ideas for mounting this engine. So, while he worked on engine brackets I worked on getting the starter mounted.

During the week, we talked about using a pair of Passat engine brackets to attach the sides of the block to something. Hal had performed some research and it seems the Brit's do these kinds of adaptations more than the Americans. They depend more heavily on the side mounts than on the mount surrounding the timing belt. Since the Passat and the Audi A4 mounted 4 cylinder engines longitudinally (front-to-back, not side-to-side), these models had brackets we should be able to use. Hal found a local guy on a chatboard that was selling a pair, so we connected for a purchase. I overpaid, and he denies it ($75 for the brackets, $20 for his soul), but we got what we believed to be brackets that work. It turns out that the Beetle TDI has a unique turbo that is a part of the exhaust manifold. When we consider where the turbo lives in a Beetle (close to the firewall), we conclude that this unique manifold/turbo combination was a space-savings effort. Unfortunately, it makes using the left (driver's side) bracket impossible. We will use it as a template for a flat-steel bracket, and then I'll sell the VW one. For a fair (my soul can't be bought for $20) price. The passenger side bracket doesn't fit very well either. Hal is going to work on some kind of adaptation because that side of the engine has considerable contouring and fabricating one from scratch would actually take more time, and would probably be harder.

Start and stop
Hal brought a hex-driver upper starter bolt with him. So, while he wrangled the brackets, I worked on getting the starter in. The upper bolt turned out to be about a nut-thickness too long (it wasn't a VW starter bolt, it was one he got at the hardware store), so we cut a short section off. Once I got the adapter on, we noted that the adapter wasn't sitting flush. The lower corner was hung up on the transaxle. Time to grind. I had completely cleaned the outside of the transaxle when it was dropped back at the beginning of this project. This meant that I could dab som axle grease around where the adapter was hanging and use the grease to tell me where it was binding. Simple process: dab grease, attempt to attach adapter, wiggle adapter, remove and grind down where the grease marks are, repeat. After removing about 1/4" of aluminum along one edge, the adapter settled in. I tightened it down and fed the starter in. I could feel the splines of the starter gear engaging with the flywheel as I settled it into place. I bolted down the lower bolt and feel-fed the upper bolt in after the lower was tight. Using a 17mm socket with an extension, I was able to tighten down the starter. The TDI starter will now start this bus. I have since removed that starter (as it is a rebuild candidate) and I'll be calling around today to find a good local shop to rebuild it. I don't have much confidence in those $99 specials on the 'net for a TDI starter. I'd rather spend $99 locally to get the original rebuilt.

Well, we go camping next weekend, and Hal will be taking next weekend to do other things. If the starter is ready, I'll mount that up. If not, I'll probably focus on the hole where the engine lid will eventually go. Again, I don't want to move the engine until after the mount work is done. More later...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

starter follow-up

First, the westyventures auto-tranny adapter fits perfectly for the 002 (early bay manual) transaxle. I was able to slide the adapter into place, and physically connect the starter to the adapter. It seemed like everything lined up, gears-wise, but it was hard to tell from underneath. I am going to have another go at it before final connection to make sure.

There are a couple of things to note. On the original bay window bus, the upper starter bolt runs from inside the engine compartment through a tab on the block, through the bellhousing and out to the starter. On the engine compartment end, it has what's called a captive nut which is a semi-circular end that hangs up against the block so it doesn't turn when you're putting the nut on the other end. This works great for the original starter. It doesn't work at all for the adapter. The adapter has a small counter-sink hole, but it isn't large enough for a full-sized nut. The counter-sink was designed for the vanagon upper bolt which is an Allen-head bolt that runs from the starter side through the bellhousing.

If you are going to use this adapter with a TDI starter on an original 002 with an aircooled engine, you will need a vanagon upper starter bolt (over-length) and a fitting nut. The bolt will go in from the starter side through to the engine compartment and the nut will thread on from that side.

In my case, where I'm using an a Kennedy adapter to mate a TDI engine to the 002, there isn't a captive nut. Instead, there is a stud threaded into the adapter. I covered some of this in this post from last Summer. To make the adapter fit, the stud needs to be pulled and replaced with a vanagon-style Allen-head bolt. I didn't have one handy, so I'll be finishing this when I do.

My sister and nephew are visiting from SoCal this week, and my other sister (with family) will be visiting next week. Add a camping trip at the end, and not much progress will be made for a little while. I hope to have some idle moments to start filing the sharp edge of the hole where the engine lid will go. This is lower priority than lots of other things, but with the engine mount work in mid-stream, I don't want to move it or otherwise get something started that would slow that progress one minute. I probably won't post again until I get back from Lake Billy Chinook unless some news breaks.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Start me up..

Brief update today. The weather is finally getting nice after a dreary morning, so I want to get out into it. I finally have some traction on the starter effort, so today's post will cover that.

The 1972 VW Bus ran a 002 transaxle. This is the transaxle (transmission + differential) that appeared on the bay window bus through 1975. After 1975, they switched the bellhousing (and a bunch of other things) and those transaxles are known as a 091. Once production was stopped on the bay window bus, and the vanagon was produced, the transaxle was switched to a side-shift and the number was changed to 091/1. The bellhousing, though, wasn't meaningfully changed for the starter. started fabricating an adapter to allow a starter from a manual tranny TDI to bolt up to a 091 (or 091/1) transaxle a couple of years ago. This was great news for the wider TDI conversion community. What about the auto-transmission folks? Well, about 6 months ago, westyventures (Karl) stsrted fabricating an adapter for the auto-tranny as well. Much rejoicing for the vanagon folks.

The challenge
The 091 and the 091/1 bellhousings required a starter that projected about 1/4" less deep into the bellhousing as the 002 starter. This is why the 091 starter and the 002 starter are not interchangable. The 002 starter would overshoot the flywheel by 1/4". When someone wants to swap bellhousings between these transaxles, that 1/4" affects both the output shaft and the starter. Since the vanagon and the late bay have the same starter requirement, and most TDI conversions are vanagons, most off-the-shelf adapters don't fit the early bay.

The discovery
I got the specifics from Karl ( for his adapters. After running some math and threading with Karl about his products, we made a discovery. The requirement for starter alignment in an auto-tranny vanagon is almost exactly the same as the requirement in an early (002) bay window manual tranny. That 1/4" was accounted for with the auto-tranny adapter. I ordered one, and I'll be test fitting tomorrow.

My numbers
short: 1.5625
long: 2.25

short: 0.8125
long: 1.25

auto adapter: 0.83 ->
short: 1.5625 - .83 = 0.7325
long: 2.25 - .83 = 1.32

short: 0.08
long: 0.07

short = distance from bolt plate to near edge of sprocket
long = distance from bolt plate to far edge of sprocket

top: TDI manual starter on the left, 002 starter on the right. Note the difference between the 2 starters in terms of depth from bolt surface to sprocket.

middle: TDI starter with a westyventures auto adapter.

bottom: TDI starter on the left (with adapter), 002 starter on the right. See how the sprockets are almost exactly aligned now.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

mount re-started

Hal (the VW friend I mentioned in the last post) get a big jump on the rear engine mount last night. Here's a picture of him working the hand-grinder. His design is really very nice. There's a rectangular bar running across the rear of the engine bay from frame rail to frame rail. That mother is heavy. It is welded to 2" angles that were cut and drilled to re-use the bolt-holes that the bumper bracket threads through. As a result, there are no new holes, no cutting of the bus. The mounting bar has slots instead of round holes so there is some flexibility for mounting. The bar floats about an inch in front of the rear apron. This weekend, he'll finish by fab'ing a tower on the bar to get up to the stock TDI engine mount.

I pretty much stayed out of the way, and held stuff when an extra hand was needed. Otherwise, I popped a rivet onto the triangular pop-out driver's window, and messed with the luggage rack. Like I said before, that thing was dirty, and the bars nasty. They all had some surface rust, so I sanded them down, did a Naval Jelly treatment and shot them with Eastwood's Tank Tone product. It was the only gray or silver paint I had, and I figured the high zinc content wouldn't hurt. I'll push a picture of the painted bars, but in the meantime, here's a picture of a pre-sanded (the 2 on the left) and a post sanded bar (the one on the right).

I don't expect to make any additional headway until Friday. I still have a garage full of stuff that didn't go during the garage sale. Apparently, the Salvation Army won't tell you when they're coming, and so unless you wait around all day, you miss them. Great. I guess I'll be hauling that stuff down to Goodwill so I can get to my ATV Jack. I need / want to get the fuel tank in and he engine back in place before we finish the mount work, but I'm starting to think that may not happen. More next time,

Monday, July 6, 2009

rad moves again

The momentum on the bus has improved considerably lately. In my past post, I mentioned that the radiator was going to move up into the luggage rack like the roadcow. I really didn't love that, but I was becoming resigned to it. I pulled the luggage rack off the last weekend of June to prep for welding up a radiator support. I didn't realize how dirty it got up under there. Eeek.

It is removed with a simple phillips screwdriver. There are 3 screws that run through the rear of the rack, through a rubber foot and into the steel top. One of mine broke off, and the other 2 were badly eaten by rust, so I bought some replacements at Lowes. The front is held down on the front lip by 2 screws and 2 bolts. All 4 are phillips heads, and the 2 bolts ( the middle 2) have a 10mm nut on the bottom. These can be reached between the ceiling wood skin and the steel top. It takes a thin wrist, but a rachet fits.

With the rack off, I was able to really sweep off the roof. There were years of built up crap on there. I still need to go back at it with a strong cleanser. Anyway, I hit the luggage rack with soft-scrub w/bleach and a stiff brush. Three times around on the outside and once around on the inside was enough to get it pretty nice. In the process all but 2 of the metal racks fell out. Upon deeper examination, many of them had their rivets replaced with screws or bolts by previous owners. I resolved to remove the rest of the racks, rust treat and paint them before re-assembling. After all this, I'm not going to put the radiator up there.

"What?" you ask. Yeah, well.. I had a friend over that works on more than just a few VW's, and he was convinced we could fit one in the engine compartment. His thinking is that no matter where you try to hide a radiator, it won't get sufficient air flow unless its on the nose. Figure, we're pushing a loaf of bread through space so there is considerable disruption of the air. To think that it will hug the bus in any way, in retrospect, isn't really thinking it through. As a result, any placement would require fans running most of the time when the radiator is on a cooling cycle, so we might as well plan for no air flow. This lead us to the engine compartment idea. Now, this isn't new either. I know a guy that's running a naturally aspirated (NA) / non turbo diesel powered '73 bus that has radiators inside the engine compartment. Turns out, my friend was right, there are a number of radiators that fit in there. Just the '98 Jetta TDI radiator that I have doesn't. I'll be acquiring a different rad and selling off the old one.

The picture is from the Astoria waterfront.
We'll be welding engine mounts tomorrow. We'll make design decisions on the radiator as well. Plus, there is news on the starter front, and the ATV jack adapter. Last, I need to finish the story of the Dead in the Gorge too. Next time will be sooner,