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.