Monday, December 27, 2010

Waiting for Guffman

There's not a whole lot to post about, other than Christmas, and waiting for the shipper. Today, I'll touch on both. Though, I did hit most of the Hitchcock references in my last film-related thread, I doubt I'll be able to hit all of Christopher Guest's or Eugene Levy's, but I'll hit my favorites from the troupe (Harry Shearer, Fred Willard, etc) that appears in many of their movies.

Best in Show
Christmas was a hoot. The custom in my house has been that Christmas is all about the kids, and not at all about the adults. This held true again this year with the boys getting lots of cool new clothes, and a couple of larger things. My wife was well adorned with yoga items (and jewelry of course). My haul was exceptionally small this year, but I don't expect anything anymore, and really truly treasure watching the boys respond to things I've selected for them anyway. I wasn't disappointed. Now that I work for a company that offers employees deep discounts, I can get some pretty cool stuff for them. For at least one day, I was "the best". :)

A Mighty Wind
First, I got the hoses that I ordered from Silicone Intakes. Of the 3, I was able to install one, the 45* angled 2.75" runner that fits between the air flow meter and the air tap for the vacuum. This ties off that, but it needs clamps. Of course. Still, the raw air source has been at least defined.

Waiting for Guffman
With the clamps mentioned above, I also discovered that the 90* angled 2.5" part is right, but it will also require clamps, and a few other things. I decided that rather than nickle-and-dime any more on the induction, I mapped out what I needed and made one single buy for all of the remaining pieces. This includes clamps, but now I'm waiting for the postman again.

This is Spinal Tap
I have this whole week out-of-work, so if I had planned better, I could have made better use of this time. I would have loved to have had all of the intake stuff in hand at the beginning of the week. I learn from this to jump in and over-buy early, when you work with a retailer with a great return policy (like Silicone Intakes does). Translation: make your amp's go to 11 :)
Still, I'm taking the boys up to Mt. Hood tomorrow for a day with the aunt's, uncle's and cousins in the snow. On Wednesday, we have the extended family Christmas party-dinner thing. In between the events and the passing showers, I'll be looking at the auxiliary battery stuff. I need to get it a-fixed to the floor (under the rock'n'roll bed), grounded, and the B+ wired to the little fuse block. I'll tie the battery into the Alternator later, but having some juice flowing to the inside lights will be handy.

That's it for today. I'll post about our day on the mountain, my progress on the electrical and my in-bound package next time. If FedEx Ground is as fast as I've experienced before, I may still be able to button-down the induction before NYE. Thanks again for following along, and I'll have more later-

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bracing for the Holidaze

I mentioned over the Summer that I got a new job. I haven't really talked much about the gig, other than to complain about the hours. Looking at the job numbers, and seeing how hard some folks are having it, I'm going to stop complaining about it. I read back through some old posts, and it seems like I gripe about not having time an awful lot. Seeing how I can't really do much about it, I'm not going to do that anymore. I should be grateful to have work doing something I'm pretty good at, and I get paid regularly.

The craziness started for most folks around Thanksgiving. I have a tradition where I take my boys out shopping the Saturday before Christmas. In past years, we've gone to Macy's or Fred Meyer. This year, my brother called and asked if the boys wanted to go shopping with their 3 year old cousin around the city of Portland. It was a blast, and it gave me a great reminder of how wonderful a city Portland is. The energy... the people... we truly live in an amazing place. The boys and I found a few unusual items for "mom", visited with our uncle/brother and cousin/niece. Last, we enjoyed some fresh Thai food for lunch off one of the street-carts. Yummy.

Today, my sister and her daughter arrived from Austin. They will be staying with my folks in close-in SE Portland for a few days before heading over to her mother-in-law's place. Her husband flies in on Xmas-eve. We'll have almost the entire extended family in town this year, but with the usual extended family challenges, I don't think we'll be celebrating as a full group until the middle of next week.

Bracket Progress
With an unexpected change in the weather, we were given a few dry hours today. After cleaning up the house, and wrapping what we got yesterday, I could think about the bus guilt-free. I had spent about 30 minutes in the dark on Friday night figuring out where the inter cooler could fit, and what I would need for pressure hose. That night, I ordered a couple 90* bends and a 45* bend (for the air filter end of the operation). Today, I figured I could start working on the bracket to hold the inter-cooler in place. I know my welding skills aren't that great, and I know that welding up a simple triangular brace would have taken me days. With this in mind, I grabbed a straight 1" steel bar and headed for the rear of the bus, prepped for the worst.

In looking at the scene, I didn't need a simple triangle; this thing needed to have an angled side and one corner was further forward than the other, meaning it couldn't be a closed triangle. I took the bar and bent it most of the way back on itself, and then twisted it so the top was a few inches further forward than the rear. I test fit the idea and noticed that the top corner needed a mount point that required another 90* bend. Luck was with me, though, as the bar had a couple inches of extra material on the top. I made another small bend, and it looked right. I guess I've paid some luck-dues, because I drilled 5/8" holes, and after some twisting and tweaking, they lined up about perfectly.

Looking at the finished product, the top of the inter-cooler is a couple inches lower than I expected, but the entire unit is in the slip-stream, but not below the low-point of the engine. It should be worth noting that the radiator and the front beam are both lower than the inter cooler, as placed. A front bracket still needs to be made, but I would rather have the exhaust in first, so I know what I have to work around.

The hoses should arrive some time this next week. This sets me up to get the induction system sealed up next weekend. My hopes to have test drives before New Years Eve could still become a reality. I still don't have an exhaust, of course. This will limit how far I can test a drive, but any movement out of the driveway would be a successful drive at this point. We'll see....

top: rough-in placement of inter-cooler for hose need assessment
upper-middle: bracket in-place before attaching the cooler
lower-middle: same shot as the one above, but after the inter-cooler was attached
bottom: view from the side showing the road clearance of the inter-cooler. Consider the front bracket will raise it about an inch.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Brief post today. It was pouring rain this weekend, so I wasn't all that ready to work outside. So, I did some finish work on the rear cabinet (in my garage), and got the rear bumper installed when it lightened to a sprinkle. I'll have to remove it again to paint it, eventually, but Id rather have the bumper on the bus for the test drives.

Access Panel
As you can see from these pictures, I cut a small square access panel out of the bottom of the unit. Its about 4" square. When looking at the rear cabinet from the rear hatch (it would be on the left side), this hatch would be reachable through the bottom cubie. Under the hatch, I plan to have the original ignition, so I'll have a remote-starter capability.

OBDII Sensor
Those little metal squares will just hold the panel in place - as in keep it from falling into the spare tire-hole. In the picture that doesn't have my hand in it, you can make out where the OBDII port will poke in. Again, its in the bottom cubie, but on the forward wall. Once the engine is running right and the cabinet is re-installed, the OBDII connector will fit into that black housing. Since most, if not all, of the times I'll need to plug in a laptop I'll be looking at the engine, it seemed reasonable to place access near the engine. Still, we wouldn't want to disrupt the look of the cabinet, so its buried.

Otherwise, I got one of those Saab Blackstone inter-coolers off of eBarf. It looks good, arrived a little dirty, but the cooling surface looks larger than the stock one, and as you can see the input/output ports are both on the same end. I'll take some measurements and some side-by-side pictures with the stock one later on. I hear it may not rain tomorrow night or maybe Thursday. If the rumors hold true, I may get out there and start seeing how it can fit under the engine bay. If I can get a good strong fit, I can plan the air routes and get the silicone pipes on a truck before the Christmas shipping rush really kills package movement. We'll see.

Thanks for following along. Oh, it looks like the snow on Mt. Hood is getting really good. I may need to take another day at Meadows before Christmas... but then I definitely won't be test driving before NewYearsEve. Grr... the snow will have to wait :(

Sunday, December 5, 2010

the Wheels on the Bus

Lately, I've noticed that the once wide-array of tire choices for the bay-window bus are disappearing. When I combine this with the need to handle a lower RPM output engine than the stock one, I am starting to think about larger rims. It all started with that drive up to Mt. Hood Meadows through the snow flurries. I got to thinking about what it would be like to drive up for a day of snowboarding in the bus.

First, I got all romantic-like. Thoughts of taking a break in the bus with a propane heater running, making hot chocolate, etc. Plus, the room for 4 of us to roll up there and popping the top for head-room to stand up. Sounds great. Add in a working stove to make hot beverages or food, and it sounds frickin' great.

Then, I started thinking about how well my tires would grip. I have Saturn 720's from Les Schwab that I bought about 4 years ago. Since then, I haven't put many miles on them, but they are not M+S tires, much less snow tires. I hit the web to see what my tire options were, and that's when I had my discovery: they don't make many tires that fit my need anymore. After reading and re-reading one of my favorite bus-related websites I started looking in earnest for another wheel / tire alternative. My current thinking now, is to upgrade to 16" rims. I know the tire wells and the steering mechanism can only handle so much of an upgrade, though. I'd like to find Mercedes 16" x 6" steelies rather than the seemingly abundant 16" x 7.5" chrome rims. Rims this size would support the standard tire for a Ford Ranger, and these would fit within the tire wells.

I know this is a total non sequitur from all the other work that I need to complete. Still, just thinking about what could be helps to motivate. It also serves as a reminder of all the things left to complete. The stove doesn't work because the under-belly propane tank was never installed (though I have it). The pop-top replacement is still waiting to be installed. Of course, the bus isn't running. Lots to do, but if I can figure out a way to continue to work when the bus is parked outside and its 40* (and windy), I can get it done. Maybe I should rent someone's garage....

More next time, and I'll post pictures of the trip to Mt. Hood Meadows from work this week. UPDATE: added picture from parking lot at Meadows.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Fanning the flames of progress

Sorry I haven't posted much in a while. Honestly, there hasn't been much to post about. I have a small update on the defrost efforts, and a new revelation about the inter cooler. Last, I took my son T up to Mt. Hood Meadows for a day of snowboarding - total Fall highlight.

Fan Fun
I have the rear heater unit in-place, the switch in-place and the wiring run. After spending a few hours trying to figure out which wire should be connected to which male plug on the heater unit, I found this thread on TheSamba ( With the picture, and some logic, it totally makes sense. I made the wiring corrections, but... the resistor doesn't work anymore. Fun stuff. I got the highly-maligned symptom of the fan only blowing on the "middle" setting, which, it turns out, means the resistor is bad. So, now comes the question: do I replace the resistor with a stock replacement, or go new-style? "what's this new-style," you ask. You install a true-rheostat concept like this. For the stock-lovers out there, I've already pissed you off with this whole project, but bear with me for a sec. The true-rheostat solution is $60 where the stock solution is around $35, assuming you can find it. I haven't had any luck finding a stock resistor, but I'll be leaving the fan in this on-off configuration for now. I have a defroster, and that's all that matters at this point.

Inter not-cooling
I am unable to place the stock inter cooler within the space I have after the heater is in. I'm looking for a Saab Blackstone inter cooler instead. Why? They take up a little less space, but are reportedly more efficient. Also, the inlet and outlet are both on the same end, improving the placement choices. Assuming I find one, and have it in-hand relatively soon, I'll cover that install. I know I will need more silicone tubing, so the install will take 2 delivery cycles - one for the inter cooler, and one for the tubes. net-net, I won't be test-driving over Christmas.

Snow good to see ya
Last Sunday, my some T and I drove up to Mt Hood Meadows for some snowboarding. I've gone sliding a couple of times, but I haven't really had good conditions before. Mt. Hood had received fresh snow the night before, and we had some flurries while we were there. The result? Groomed powder runs, and some great sliding. Our first ride on the lift was just after 9:AM, and after 7-8 runs, we called it a day around 2:30. I'll upload pictures later.

With the heater troubles and the ridiculous darkness this time of year, my motivation has slipped. Its been a couple months since I heard the engine run, and that doesn't help. I'm trying to re-motivate, and get the inter cooler resolved. Once that's in, I can test-start the engine again, focus on finishing out the little bits, and take a test drive. I won't feel close to finished again until I hear that engine run again. Sigh.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Today, I got a couple of hours, so, with a steady rain and 35* work conditions, I decided to focus on something inside the bus rather than underneath it. I had a choice, either the fan control or the coolant flow valve control. I decided on the fans. I'll go into that today.

Wire Bundle
I had already bought the wire, so I figured I had all the parts for doing the fan controls. Using 14-gauge wire, I created a 3-wire cable bundle. I chose yellow-white-blue rather than the usual red/green/black combination, simply to be different. Like the wire bundle I ran for the ignition controls (link), I ran the cable through the large rear cabinet, along the outside of the low cabinet and stove/sink unit to the spare tire hole. I had drilled a small hole in the partition wall for the ignition cable, but I needed a new one for this new bundle. The wires then followed the same path along the edge of the door opening under the carpet to the A-pillar (next to the clutch pedal). The wires routed behind the fusebox and over the steering wheel support to the series of switches to the right of the ignition.

Switch a switch
My old 1972 dash controls were extremely simply by modern standards. To the right are 3 switches: dome light, wipers and hazard (left to right). The dome light switch doesn't actually do anything anymore. My dome is wired directly to the accessory battery fuse-block now, so this switch was useless. I chose to remove this switch and re-use the dash-hole for the fan control. After looking through both the Bentley and the Idiot's book, I was unable to find printed instructions for removing a switch. I went digging through my old parts and found a few old switches. By examining their construction, you can tell that the hand-knob just twists off (lefty-loosey). This leaves the stem and a round threaded silver collar sticking out of the switch body. The round silver collar also hand-twists off (lefty-loosey again), leaving a gray female collar attached to the switch body. By applying this learning, I was able to remove the dome light switch. If you have a switch that is correct for your model year, the install is the reverse of that removal. My fan switch, though, is from a Vanagon, so I had some more work to do.

Retrofitting a Switch
The Vanagon switch is much more modern. The switch housing clicks into the outer skin and the outer skin clicks into the dash. The outer skin of the fan housing does not integrate with an old bus, so I set it aside, leaving me with the switch body and the hand-knob. Unlike the older knobs, this one just slides into place and remains in place through friction. This may be useful later if I can figure out a way of re-using some of the outer skin. Anyway, to get the switch housing to hold in place like an old-style switch, you need to re-use the threaded silver collar. Since the new-style switch doesn't have anything to thread into, things get interesting. I went through my spare switches and found one that didn't work (tested with multi-meter) consistently. I cut the gray female collar off of the bad switch, filed off the rough edges and crazy-glued it to the Vanagon fan switch. I love how one sentence can summarize 30 minutes of effort and who-knows-how-much problem-solving time. With the gray collar firmly in place, I was able to wire up the switch and install it.

Wire Color Notes
As I mentioned above, I chose to use yellow / white / blue as my wire color choices for the fan controls. I'm sure a time will come when I'll have to diagnose a problem, so, for future reference, the yellow is for "low", the white is for "middle" and the blue is for "high". I striped and wired up connectors for the bundle. I tied them into the fan switch following the pattern I just mentioned. The switch still needed a power source, though so I located the B+ source for the original blower fan signal.

Once wired, the switch settled into the old dome light hole, and hand-tightened in. From the picture, it doesn't look straight-stock, but it does look pretty good. If I get all trailer-queen anal about it, I could probably find a hand-knob with a fan icon on it and figure out a way to get it to interface with the switch body. I just want it running and not have things looking half-assed or half-finished. This meets that bill. That's all I have for today. Over Thanksgiving, I'll get the heat box in, and I'll post on some changes / modifications I needed to do to get it run-ready.

top - view from the ground when I slide out from under the bus.
middle left - Vanagon switch modified with gray and silver collars.
middle right- 2 dome light switches, one after the gray collar was removed.
bottom - the fan switch installed next to the stock wiper control knob.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

heat placed, intercooler displaced

My time availability hasn't meaningfully improved since the last post. Somewhere I heard that the US is most productive (in GDP terms?) between Labor Day and Christmas. I can say that work has been distracting, but it wouldn't be fair to say that was the cause. Anyway, I have found a few hours here and there to get banging on the bus. I'll cover the highlights.

Heater Core Placed
After looking at putting the heater core inside the bus in a few locations, and trying to fit it under the floor of the cab, I have placed it in the alternate battery spot (under the spare wheel well). This location is already a little busy, with the intercooler and air filter as well as a bunch of wiring. So, this wasn't easy to get going. It still needs to be mounted. When I was working on the intercooler placement last Summer (or the Summer before..) I cut a section of tin out of the left side. To get the heater working in that space, I needed to cut the rest out of the way. The coolant lines will run from the left side of the engine, under the spare wheel well and along the body, curling back towards the right to the heater core. For a core, I'm using an old Vanagon rear-heater unit with a snorkel attached to it. The snorkel is still getting firmed up, but the mock-up worked well. Anyway, the snorkel will connect to a 4" diameter insulated flex-pipe that runs under the bus (over the axle) around the radiator to the original air line at the middle/front. Switching the fans and controlling the flow of coolant into the heater still needs to be devised.

Intercooler Displacement
Fitting the heater demonstrated that the intercooler was just in the wrong spot. As it was, getting in and out of the engine compartment on the left side was virtually impossible with it placed where it was. I found myself removing it frequently to do pretty much anything on the left side. Since the turbo an the intake are on the left side, the intercooler will stay on that side, but I'll be dropping it lower, down into the slipstream and rotating it flatter so access is much easier. Ultimately, it will operate much like the radiator does - with a puller fan placed underneath it.

Air Filter hassles
Another challenge on the left side is getting the air cleaner space to do its thing. I had something pulled together "well enough", but it wasn't game-ready. I'll need a 45* bend (another part to buy) to stitch into the set up, as the stock flex-tube is just too long to be effective. This became more obvious as the coolant lines and the flexi-hose for the heated air were introduced. Once the 45* bend arrives (still to be ordered), I'll be able to finish this off much more cleanly.

Exhaust Reroute
With the move of the heater into the engine compartment, and, more importantly, the insulated flexi-hose, the route of the exhaust has to move. The route from the turbo has been unchanged from stock, so it ran straight to the left out behind the rear tire. That was not ideal anyway, when we think about the "fresh" air we would want entering the heat system, or an open window when sitting at a red light. I was assuming I would need a custom run anyway, and now there's no question. The exhaust will route straight down, instead, and curve back to the rear along the bottom edge of the engine block. I will mock-up something so I can account for it while placing the intercooler. I don't want either the intercooler nor the engine to pick up heat from the exhaust as it passes. This will get interesting.

As you can see, things are getting more challenging, but I'm glad I'm finding these issues now rather than after a Summer of camping fun while winterizing. I'm going to focus on finishing the heat and the air filter completed first. Once they are done, I'll work on the exhaust and intercooler at the same time. I didn't mention that I did get the temperature sensor replaced, but with the different systems opened up, I can't test the engine. My plans for a holiday-season test flight may have to be pushed out. We'll see. Thanks for following along, and I'll post some pictures of this stuff when I'm on my other computer.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Baby Steps

Well, I haven't been able to get any real traction lately. I have made a couple of minor improvements, but I haven't had the engine running, and work has been very taxing.

Blue Thermometer
I have identified the missing plug for the coolant bottle. It turns out I was a little over-aggressive when I cut the harness apart and I cut that sensor out with a bunch of things I didn't need. I was able to find the brown/white ground wire and the red/purple send wire in the mass of clipped wires. I extended these two around the front side of the engine compartment to the overflow bottle, and its hooked up. Unfortunately, I am still getting a flashing blue thermometer signal on the dashpod. I tested the continuity of the bottle sensor wires all the way to the dashpod, and they are strong, so that sensor is not the problem.
After investigating this symptom a little bit on TDIClub, it appears that the ECU thinks this means there isn't any coolant or its too cold to start the engine, so it won't let me. This tells me the problem is in the coolant sensor, the wiring for that sensor or engine harness again. If time allows, I'll remove and re-seat the sensor to see if that does the trick.

Fuel Priming
In my post earlier this month (Won't Get Fueled Again) I mentioned that I had another one-way valve coming. I have added it into the mix and the fuel system seems to retain its prime now. I have tested with the MityVac, and I can get a solid flow of fuel even after it has sat for a week. The resolution: one-way valve between the tank and the fuel filter on both the supply and return sides, only allowing fuel (or air) flow in the correct direction.

In a swift move of optimism, I registered the bus. I haven't put the stickers on the tags, but I'll now be able to legally test drive it. Though a very minor thing, it feels like a diamond on the project plan - a big milestone. The possibility of actually driving it seems more real when the DMV says its legal.

That's all I have for now. Work has been very busy, and soccer season is just finishing up. When we reset our clocks next weekend, finding daylight for working on this project will be isolated to weekend days. To accommodate this, I'll be doing as many inside chores as possible during the week, to free that time. Hopefully, I'll still be able to keep some traction on this. I believe, once I have the blue light resolved, I will be able to consistently start the engine. Then, its getting the heat (read:defrost) working, getting Justin over to set the injector timing, and planning some short test drives. Thanks for following along, and for your positive words and ideas along the way.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dew Tour: Las Vegas

In a post this past August (Wine Tour, Dew Tour) I mentioned that my boys had won this crazy Nerf Dart Tag competition at the Dew Tour when they stopped in Portland. This past weekend was the Dew Tour Finals (coming to ESPN soon, I'm sure), and with it, the Nerf Dart Tag Nationals. Today's post will be all about that. No bus stuff; I haven't done a thing since ordering that part (which arrived when we were gone).

Lively Up Yourself
The Nerf folks pulled the whole travel itinerary together, and both Portland teams (8-12 and 13-17) flew together on both flights. This made for a common bond among the 8 players too.
The flight itself was actually very routine. My wife had checked us in on line 24 hours ahead of time, so within the Southwest Airlines scheme, we were in the lower end of the "B" group. So, the plane was about half full when we boarded. Fortunately, the teams were able to sit mostly together, and it was a typical raucous flight to Las Vegas. The Nerf folks met us at baggage, and shuttled us to the Hard Rock Hotel for our 3 day / 2 night mini-vacation. At this point, some of our group split off to see shows, while the rest of us hit the the Dew Tour for some shwag and then the pool (it was 86* and mid-afternoon). If you've never been to the pool at the Hard Rock, its kinda like Spring Break all the time. There's rock music cranking at one set of pools while a DJ is spinning beats at the main pool. Crazy time. Fortunately, the only pool that had a slide wasn't the pool with the half-dressed (drunken staggering) 20-somethings. The boys stayed near the slide, and so did I :)

Them Belly Full
After enjoying the pool, and connecting with Gramma Marianne, everyone was hungry. Marianne lives in Las Vegas and has done so for 20 years, so she was able to route us to the best buffet in town under Planet Hollywood. Incredible eats spanning many different cuisines. The desserts were amazing - I had a chocolate mousse pie, and we shared a crape. The boys ate like they hadn't seen food in days, and we actually welcomed the very long walk back to the car. That's one thing I forgot about Las Vegas - everything is so spread out, you have to walk, like 1/2 a mile from the hotel lobby, to your room. We fell asleep early-ish, hoping to boost energy for the competition on Saturday. Not all of our teammates had luck getting to sleep early, however.

I Shot the Sheriff
Saturday was competition day. First thing in the morning, I got a text from T that he had seen Shaun White walking through the hotel. We had many such encounters this weekend, and grabbed some pictures along the way. For example, we met Ryan Sheckler in the Bell-Hop line. Great guy, nice as can be and totally down to earth. The competition wasn't supposed to start until 2:30, and it started late. By the time they figured out the competition round-robin it was almost 3:30. Still, our team was in the first match, and they lost to the eventual champs (Salt Lake City) by 1 point. The boys got upset about some calls, but we parents tried to explain that if they had played their usual run-n-gun style, the points wouldn't have been close. They took that to heart the next 2 games and blew out Boston and Las Vegas. As they announced their last match, I could see the boys grow uneasy. The ref said "with this win, (our boys) go into the finals". Well, they tensed up, didn't play their style and lost by a less than 10 points. So, they were out of the competition, but they bounced back. Before the finals had even started, C went bull riding at the Matador booth and T was off getting shwag from the Verizon booth.

Leaving the Tour grounds, the boys were a little dejected, but a dinner of pizza and soda turned them around. The following morning, we hit the pool for one last dip, and visited Las Vegas a little bit. T rode the roller coaster at the New York - New York, and C won prizes in the arcade. Then we hopped the train over to the Luxor to see the inside of the great pyramid. Time was getting tight, so we hopped a cab back to the Hard Rock, and joined the teams for the shuttle back to the airport. The other Portland team also came in third. Oh well, we all agreed that the trip was a great prize for winning the regional, and look forward to competing again next year. The final flight was delayed on the ground for 2 hours because of lightning, and we had some turbulence in-air, but otherwise, passing through McCarran Airport was a breeze for a Sunday.

I think we all agree that it was a great trip, and the boys plan to compete again next year. They can't be on the same team, as the age grouping has pushed T and the other boys into the higher age group. Still, C will figure out another trio of boys to compete with while T finds one more shooter. That's it for now. I'll post on the bus when I actually have a few minutes to work on him.

top - The Hard Rock Guitar in front of the hotel - now my phone desktop picture :)
middle - the Nerf team enjoying their pre-contest breakfast
bottom - a huge Ozzy lithograph hanging in the Hard Rock Hotel

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Won't Get Fueled Again

In my last post, I said I finally figured out what was going on with my fuel system. I'll explain that today, though I won't have pictures of the fix as I'm still waiting for a part. Also, the vacuum system is finally finished, marking one more completed subsystem. Queue the Who: "Yeah!"

Fuel Me Once, Shame On, Shame On Me
So, I tested and re-tested trying to get fuel to travel through the lines up to the injection pump. I determined that if I put a one-way valve into the vent / return line from the filter to the tank, fuel would travel up the feed line. This was true, so I put a valve in, and I was able to get the engine to run once I primed the lines. The problem is, once the engine shuts off, and the operation sits for a while, the Injection Pump loses its prime. Huh? Wha' Happen'd?

Fuel Me Twice, Um... Uh... Won't Get Fueled Again
The fuel slowly trickles back into the tank via the feed line. I hit TDIClub, and found that the stock TDI placement has a one-way valve at the tank to prevent a loss of prime. Dumbly, I took the one-way valve from the return line and put it into the feed line. Well, this didn't work, since the return line was now plling air again. Grr... ordered another one-way valve. It'll arrive i na couple of days, and I'll slap it into place and re-prime the lines.

Fresh Air, Sucka
The last bit I completed was getting the vacuum system all sealed up. I had a posting a while back that traced the vacuum system. At that time, I didn't have the turbo line in, nor the filtered air tap. I completed the turbo line when I got the intake work done a couple of months ago, but it wasn't until this past weekend that I got the filtered air tap done. In the bits and pieces that make up my filter -to- intake, I have an AMSOIL air filter connected to a MAF body. This MAF body is connected to a short flexi-hose which connects to a second MAF body. This second body has the actual sensor in it. This real MAF is connected to a rubber 135* switchback sleeve which connects to the stock intake. The first MAF body has a diamond-shaped blockoff plate on it, and it is into this block-off plate that the vacuum nipple was inserted. The vacuum line fit easily, and is routed behind the filter -to- intake chain I just described. I don't have a good picture of this (it is under the rear cabinet), but it fits well, even with the wiring mess in that corner of the engine compartment.

I'll touch on my efforts with the heat later on. Thanks for following along-

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hitchcock'd Saturday

Friday night's post suggested that I might have some time this weekend to get something done on the bus. That proved right, so I'll hit on the detail of what I got done around a soccer game, and the usual familial chaos around here. To be clear, I love the chaos, I just wish I had a big enough garage to work in so when the chaos settles down at night I can work somewhere warm, dry and well lit. Instead, I have a cold, damp and dark spot outside. I should be grateful for that. I could not have the space to do this at all. I did so much, I'll spread the tasks across a series of posts rather than making this one ridiculously long.

Rear Window
Removing a sealed-in-place window is actually easier than you'd think. With a box-cutter, repeatedly cut the seal at a 90* angle with the glass. Once you've gotten a few cuts in, wedge the knife between the seal and the glass and cut as deep as you can. The rubber should start separating and pulling off with your fingers. Once the glass to rubber seal is breached, push out from the inside of the vehicle and grab hold on the outside. Pull the glass out and then pull the remaining rubber. The window that I was removing also had a little pop-out window in it. Once the outer seal was cut out, the metal frame for the little window could slide back towards the rear and be removed. It was this little window that was leaking - the lower post was rusted away, so even when it was closed a little water could get in. Honestly, it was this leak that prompted the purchase of the cover, the new window and the new seal.

North by North Rust
Once the old seal was out, I could see the effects of the leak.
Over time, rust has built up. Under the window is an odd body panel held on with 3 Phillips screws on the bottom and clips across the top. A couple shots of PB Blaster and the screws released. Pop-pop with a rubber mallet, and the panel was off, showing the extent of the rust. I'm not a body man by any stretch, but I try to inhibit the spread of rust when I see it. Dust, sand, re-dust, then spray with rust converter. Once the converter dries, I spray some paint and let that dry. There are some pictures here to show the before-after. The paint is not an exact match, but its close enough for now. One day I'll paint this beast for real.

The 39 Steps
While the paint was drying, I started fighting the new seal around the new-to-me glass. First, I tried simple brute force.
I had read somewhere about warming the seal in the drier, but my wife suggested using the hairdryer. This proved to be the best solution as it gave me a way to focus the heat onto the bit of glass and seal that I was trying to mate. The picture to the right here shows what I'm trying to get at. After an interesting wrestling match in my living room that included multiple implements, a gash in my palm and 2 complete re-starts, I did get the seal on.

Weather is always a concern when doing anything outside, and no where is this more true than in the Pacific Northwest after October 1st (and before July 4th). With the rainy weather starting, I was concerned that while waiting for the paint to dry the rain would come and mess things up. I got lucky, though, and the rain was only that light misty rain that we used to get a lot of (years ago), so it didn't really make it past the tree canopy. It did make everything damp, though, so the drying time ran a little long.

Getting the now-sealed window to sit into the window-hole is actually kinda easy, but doing all the things the
internet sites say to do make it challenging. Most sites recommend slobbering dish soap or KY Jelly on the seal and wrapping thin nylon rope (more like twine) around the seal a couple of times. This twine is then supposed to be slobbered with lube too. Then, the whole operation is fed into the window-hole with the rope ends dangling inside the vehicle. Without a partner, this is virtually impossible. I got dizzy trying to get it all straight, and actually bonked my head on the side of the bus before removing the twine and going brute force.

So, I got the window seated in the window hole, and whacked around the edge with my rubber mallet until the seal was pressed hard against the metal sill that runs along the inner edge of the window hole.
This sill completely encircles the inner edge except for about 1/2" on the top where the little pop-out window once was. Here's where the brute force started. If you've ever gotten those paint-can openers from the home-paint stores, one end is a great bottle opener. For this reason, I've kept a few around. The paint-can opener end is great for grabbing a window seal and pulling it over the inner sill. I reached through that 1/2" opening, grabbed the seal and pulled it over the sill. Using the paint-can opener (and a Phillips screw driver at times), I pulled the seal on over this sill all the way around. You can see the tool in the picture to the right, here. I re-hammered the seal with the rubber mallet from the outside to make sure it seated completely.

The Birds
I used simple glass-cleaner to get the new window nice an clean - removing all the different lubricants and other soaps along the way. I have used the rope trick to get my windshield in a few years ago, or should I say I watched the windshield guy do it. For a one-person operation, this takes some practice. I wouldn't encourage others to use the technique I used unless they are very careful not to damage the seal in the process. A torn seal will not keep water out, defeating the purpose of the efforts. Getting the new glass into the bus by myself took much more time than a professional would have taken, and I probably should have had someone around to help out. Next time I will.

I have identified the problem with the fuel system, and I'll talk about that in one of the next few posts. I also got under the bus a bit today and did some more thinking about how to get a heater core in there. I'll post on those thoughts soon too. Thanks for following along, and yes I know I missed "Strangers on a Train" and "The Lady Vanishes" in my Hitchcock references. Some of my references were a bit of a stretch to begin with, and adding those would have been exceptionally challenging.

Top - front top edge of window hole after removing old window. Note the notch in the inner sill.
Upper Middle - Eeew. Rust.
Middle - using the hairdryer to warm the glass and the seal.
Lower Middle - window installed-ish from the outside before the seal was pulled over the sill.
Bottom - window fully installed as viewed from the inside. Note that it is over the inner sill.

Friday, October 8, 2010

October? I hardly know her

Someone commented on the blog a while back about how if I was working in corporate America, the demands weren't going to go away. Well... she was right (dammit!). I got pulled into a production issue this week that really sapped me. Fortunately, I was able to snag a few hours last weekend before the issue popped. I'm only now able to get to posting about those hours. I'll hit those bits today, and set the stage for this weekend. I should have a few hours again this Saturday (after coaching a kids soccer game in the morning). Hopefully, it will only be a gentle rain.

Cabinet Cut up
There were 2 things I wanted to do to the cabinet before re-installing it. This took the majority of the time I had. I unplugged the OBDII connector from the plastic surround and traced around the surround to mark where to cut. I wanted the plug to be somewhat discrete, but easily accessible when approaching the bus from behind. Also, it couldn't be somewhere that dirt could easily get into it. The picture tells it much better than I could. Basically, it is in the lowest cubby in the "front" (front is front of bus) wall just above the floor.
The other thing I wanted to add was an access hatch of sorts so I could switch from driver's seat ignition to remote starting easily. This was a lot easier than the OBDII hole. Since the cabinet has been in a bus since the late 70's, the underside had some pretty obvious markings to show where the tire hole is. You can see the stains in the picture. Since the underside of the cabinet is just a few thin layers of veneer, I cut the hole with a box-cutter. I won't be installing the cabinet until after we get the injection timing and other computer-related stuff dealt with.

Buen Provecho
Maybe I didn't really "eat" the wiring spaghetti, I just moved it around a bit. But, the ignition switch and OBDII are where they need to be, the computer and relays will fit under the cabinet (in the tire hole, mostly). I did color coordinate the wiring and the ignition plug. This should make switching the wires from front to remote start much easier. There's a picture of the color / paint markings here.

Pedal Recoil
I don't have any pictures of this, but I found a spring in my parts bin that I think will fit the need to pull the accelerator pedal back upright without placing that last bit of stress on the rheostat. Hopefully, this will take the reading down to 0% when there is no pressure on the pedal. I won't know for sure until I can get a computer reading the OBDII.

I think that's all I got done last weekend. Tomorrow, I hope to look into the cabin heat a little bit, maybe replace the driver's rear window (the one the cabinet faces), and wire in the front ignition. We'll see what the weather allows.

top - masked off the OBDII hole for cutting.
upper middle - underside of cabinet showing where the access hatch was cut in. You can see the OBDII hole in the side.
lower middle - the color coordination in the book, on the wires, and the ignition block
bottom - the wires hooked into the ignition block

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Okay, so maybe that last post was premature. While I was writing it, the battery was on the 2Amp charge again. I gave it one last start try and after about 10 seconds of Rrrrr-ing, the tone changed. I concluded the fuel pressure was increasing as the engine started to sputter. Another few moments, and it started running. And running strong! I shot a 1 minute video of it running for your enjoyment.

I can't get over the weight-lifted feeling I have now. Sure, there are lots of things to get done to clean it up, but now that it runs, I can hit that list:

Cabinet Prep & Install
The rear cabinet needs a cutout for the OBDII plug for monitoring. I'd like a little door so I can work in a remote start opportunity. Once I wire-in the front ignition, I'll like the ability to start it from the back. The cab prep shouldn't take very long. Install will be easy, but first I need to deal with...

Wiring Spaghetti
The wires are not set up for an easy re-install of the rear cabinet. The wires have been pulled around a bit, and the smaller engine harness is still the borrowed one. I can resolve my bad cable independently, but its on the longer list. Still, the ignition switch will need to be re-positioned for easier reach for remote starting. Of course, I'll need to get the front ignition relay thing wired back up. Speaking of wires up front...

Accelerator Pedal Spring
The accelerator pedal switch is over 30% "on" when at rest. To offset that, I have added some slack into the pedal:switch connection, but the pedal needs a spring (or 2) to hold it in the upright position, and to help resist the temptation to rest at 30%. It needs to rest at 0%. In order to verify that I've got it right, though...

Justin Re-visit
Justin, the TDI-guru, needs to complete the timing belt work by setting the injector timing. While he's here, we can verify the accelerator pedal 0% - 100% range. When that's finished, I can move on to...

Belly Pan
The pan under the cab needs to be re-installed and seam-sealed so moisture can't get into the brake and accelerator switches.

Okay, sure, why not? I have the vanagon rear-heater, and I can't drive this time of year without some way of defogging the windscreen. This is more than just clean-up, but it will be necessary if I want to drive before next Summer without having to squiggie the inside of the windscreen.

Today's post is quite the relief. Pardon the crappy camera work. I wanted to show that it is indeed inside a VW Bus, but I probably could/should have pulled the car-cover first. Anyway, the weather changed and we've had some nice days. Unfortunately, my work load and other commitments haven't. As such, I haven't been able to try any of the things on this list this week. Maybe Saturday...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Battery of Tests

Well, its been too long since my last post, but I didn't want to post anything until I got a breakthrough. Unfortunately, I haven't had one, but I figured I'd left the blog out in the cold too long. Speaking of "out in the cold"... the weather has been a regular topic in this blog, and in conversations with fellow Pacific North-westerners all Summer. Now that Fall is officially here, most folks are expecting the rains to set in. My wife and a few of her friends are trying to stay optimistic, but I'm not betting on any more warm, dry days. This makes for a very unpleasant effort on the bus project, exacerbating my current frustrations.

Feeling Fuelly
After getting the engine to run for a few seconds here and there, I thought my troubles were to be quickly resolved. I felt that if I could get the air bubbles out of the fuel system, I could get the engine to run reliably. I moved the large stock fuel filter operation from where Hal had installed it (you can see the mount holes in the top picture there), up to near the top-hatch (see bottom picture). I figured part of the problem was that the Injection Pump was the high point of the system, so air bubbles were getting trapped in the pump. I checked my Jetta and noticed that the fuel filter was right next to the coolant bottle, so I thought, "maybe the height matters". There's a picture here to the right. I don't know if it does at this point, because the engine still doesn't start. I pulled the clear filter I put in between the tank and the stick filter as well. I thought maybe this was allowing air in, or at least giving it a place to collect. This didn't help either.

Battery of testing
With all of the attempts to start the engine, the battery keeps running down. I find that the quick 10Amp charge doesn't actually work, and I need to charge the battery on the slower 2Amp cycle. This introduces a considerable amount of lag between starts. As I write this, the battery is getting charged again. I have noticed that the primary cable running from the battery to the starter gets warm at one of the splices. I am a little concerned about that. Of course, the engine should start quite quickly under most conditions, and little current runs through there other than to start the engine.

My latest attempts have been surrounding the fuel supply again. I have routed the return line from the injection pump to a jar that's 1/2 full of diesel. As the engine start attempts are run, I can watch the fuel level move up and down, as well as watch the air bubbles appear. I'm hoping this is helping to bleed the air out. The port on the fuel filter that the return line connects to has been closed off, so no new source of air is introduced. I have not had much luck with this arrangement yet. I am starting to worry that I messed something up the last time I had it running and it got a little rough-sounding. To me, it sounded like it was running out of fuel, so I shut it off. Maybe something more worrisome happened. :(

That's it for now. If you have any ideas for why its not catching, I'd love your input. They say insanity is repeating an action with a different result expectation. With that, I'll keep trying to start this thing while trying to think of what could be the cause other than air in the fuel system.

top - where the fuel filter was mounted before. Note the clear plastic filter has some air in it.
middle - fuel filter in the Jetta.
bottom - new fuel filter location to mimic the height of the filter in the Jetta

Thursday, September 9, 2010

brakes hosed

I was able to grab a couple of hours since that last post. In that time, I replaced the front rubber flex hoses and figured out why the engine won't run for more than a few seconds.

Brakes Hosed
The front flex hoses are much easier to replace than the rears. The rear flex hoses are a good foot from the outer edge of the bus, so you really need the bus lifted to get to them. The left and right hoses aren't the same, so you need to be very careful when you purchase, and match them up during the replacement. The front hoses, by contrast, are identical and they can be reached around the tire when the bus is on the ground. The process of removal and replacement is pretty much the same for the fronts as the rears, though. First, hit the joints and the C-clips with PB Blaster. Wipe the excess off, and then disconnect the flex hose from the wheel-end using a 9/16" wrench and a flare wrench. Catch the fluid in a pan, and disconnect the C-clip. Then, disconnect the upper end and pull the C-clip. Install is the reverse, and be sure to get the C-clips in there; they are very important in holding the connections to the body, and removing any stress from the joint between the flex line and the hard lines.

Air Brakes
After the lines were replaced, I started topping off brakes fluid. Just from the flex line and the wheel cylinder replacements, the brake reservoir was nearly empty. We never want that to happen. So, I poured in some fluid and waited while the bubbles gurgled up. After a few rounds of this, I started filling, sealing the system and pumping the brakes... and then waiting for the gurgling. This removed much of the air, but I know there is more trapped deep in the brake lines. This is where true bleeding fits in. For that, I'll need a helper and the boys were both busy. In fact, I was out of time, so I'll get one of them to help me this weekend, if there's time.

Fuel Air'd
So, in the last posting, I mentioned that I couldn't get the engine to run for more than a few seconds. Since then, I haven't been able to get the engine to really catch. I discovered that fuel was not making it into the injector pump (IP) by connecting a MityVac to the supply line. After trying a few different ideas, I realized that fuel wasn't traveling from the tank to the filters. The pump wasn't able to create vacuum because the return line from the filter back to the tank was open. When I vice-gripped that line, I could get fuel. So, I'm adding a fuel check valve to that line. I doubt it will arrive before the weekend, but at least I know the resolution.

I guess that's it. The new job has kept me really busy. With the kids starting school, and soccer season beginning, free time is disappearing. I'd hoped that the bus would be running before the weather changed, but the rains have already arrived (at least 4 weeks early). It seems that if I am going to do much driving before next Summer, I will need to figure out a way of running a defroster. *sigh* I hadn't planned on doing that work until next year, but I don't want to get him running and then let him sit all winter either.

More next time...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

braking better

In my last post, I mentioned that I was working on the brakes while alternating between charging and attempting to start the bus. I have continued to do that, and now have the rear brakes completed. I'll cover that work today. I did get the engine to run for about 15 seconds, though, so that's a break-through.

Ain't Broke, Don't Fix it, but are you sure it Ain't Broke?
Brakes on these old buses are not that complicated, but they do require regualr attention, even if everything seems fine. They slowly become less responsive over time if they aren't regularly adjusted, for example. The rubber flex-hoses fail from the inside-out, so you can't see that they are slowly restricting the brake fluid. The fluid itself attracts water moisture, so it needs to be changed every few years. Many times, none of these areas are looked at. "The bus stops (eventually) when I step on the brake pedal, and its old, so I know its supposed to talk a while to completely stop", you may think. That is just dangerous thinking; waiting for a failure.

Brake Fluid
The VW Bus required DOT3 brake fluid. It needs to be bled (air bubbles removed) out of the lines when you perform your oil changes. You're gonna be there when you do your brake adjusting anyway. The old bus brake system is not perfectly sealed, no matter how well maintained it is. This allows moisture into the system, and into the fluid. This reduces its boiling point considerably which lowers its ability to stop you after a few hours of driving. So, when you're getting tired, so are your brakes. To resolve this, every 3 years, the fluid should be changed. This is done by using the same process used to bleed the brakes only much more fluid is removed at the wheel cylinder while the new stuff is fed in at the top (behind the driver seat in the '72.

Adjusting Stars
The old bus has drum brakes on the rear. This was typical in its day. These older brakes were adjusted manually - as the brake shoe wears down, the wear needs to be adjusted in the placement of the shoe against the drum. The biggest pain is knowing which way to turn the star. Follow this:

to move the shoe towards the drum (opposite direction to move away)...
right wheel front: turn down
right wheel rear: turn up
left wheel front : turn up
left wheel rear: turn down

When adjusting, have the wheel raised so you can tell when the brake shoe is against the drum (by turning it). Once you've hit that spot, crank the adjusting star the other direction 3 'clicks'. The wheel should rotate well, though there may be some dragging noise, the brake is well adjusted.

Flex-Hoses and Wheel Cylinders
The rubber lines that connect the hard lines together are rarely replaced by owners anymore. They should be replaced every 10 years or so, but that knowledge is fleeting. The work is not mentally hard, but the lines differ from year to year and wheel to wheel, so order carefully. Most hoses are held into the bus by rusty clips, and the mate point with the hard lines is usually rusty too. PB Blaster everything before you open the system. Get the flare wrench - it will protect your hard line unlike a typical open-end 11mm wrench. Replace the lines and the wheel cylinders one at a time, and do it if you don't know when it was done last. Allow yourself plenty of time.

Baby needs new shoes
I knew the rear shoes hadn't been replaced since I bought my bus 7 or 8 years ago. I did the front brakes when I re-did the front end 3 or 4 years ago. It was that job that spawned this blog, actually. Anyway, 1972 is a switch-over year for rear shoes, and my bus has the "later" model shoes. This is good, as most bay window buses have these, so they should be getting manufactured longer. Unfortunately, I had the older version on-hand, so I need to unload them. The process for replacing drum shoes is pretty well documented in the Bentley book as well as online, so in the interest of length I won't go into it here. I do encourage anyone reading this to buy new adjusting stars, the spring set and wheel cylinders if this is the first time you're doing this bus.

Well, that's it for this time. I need to replace the flex-lines on the front, get the fluid in, bleed the lines etc before the brakes are fully done, but its close. Figure another few hours. Like I said, I was able to get the engine running for about 15 seconds, but that's it. We'll see if I can get more than that. I should have a whole post celebrating that, but I'll hold off until it actually runs for a couple of minutes.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

... and we're back

I may have mentioned in my last post that I was going to be traveling for a bit, so I wouldn't be getting much done on the bus. We've returned from our 10-day visit to Milwaukee, Wisconsin with many memories, experiences and additional pounds around the middle. I'll touch on different aspects of our trip over the next few posts while I get back to work, and back to getting the bus running. This time, I'll focus on frozen custard while my taste comparisons are still fresh.

Frozen Custard
When I think of Milwaukee, the first thing I think of (after the smiling, loving faces of my wife's family) is the frozen custard. Folks in the Pacific North West don't have access to this special cold treat, and I have had a hard time explaining it. The closest I've come is this: think of the step from sherbet to ice cream, now take that same step in depth and creamy-ness and you're in custard. Very rich, very creamy, very yummy.
There are many different variants of frozen custard, and it seems to differ regionally. For example, Illinois custard isn't quite as rich, and is more "ice cream -like", according to a custard vendor I've had the opportunity to talk to Even within the city of Milwaukee, though, there are definite differences. We tried 4 different vendors, but did not coordinate a taste-off of all of them in the same place at the same time. The next time we go, though, we definitely will. Maybe there will be a few additional contestants too. :)

Kopps is the hands-down best frozen custard experience. They have 2 daily flavors (like mint chip or strawberry), and the usual vanilla and chocolate. I take my taste comparisons seriously, so I'll only rate them based on the chocolate/vanilla. Kopps chocolate is the creamiest and richest, and flat-out tastiest. Their vanilla is good, but not as good as Leon's vanilla. They have a nice water feature around which you and other patrons can sit to enjoy a giant burger, fries, onion rings or just a custard. 4 stars.

Leon's takes a close second to Kopps for their custard, but 3rd in ambiance behind Gillie's. Leon's vanilla is probably the best of the bunch, but their chocolate was over-chocolated. It almost had a Nestle-Quik thing happening to it. Maybe the kids like that better, but I like a nice balance. Leon's is the location that was the basis for "Big Al's" on the TV show Happy Days, so it deserves a nod for that. There is no seating, and the parking runs almost right into the order windows, making safety a question for the patrons (especially children who run all over the place once the word "custard" is uttered). I didn't try their sandwiches, but T had a sloppy-joe from them and liked it. "not as good as Kopps," he says.

Gillies chocolate was better than Leon's, but not quite as good as Kopps. Their vanilla was better than Kopps, but not quite as good as Leon's, so they fall into third. They have seating and a nice parking situation, though. I didn't try the food from the grille, and we didn't have their custard fresh - we picked it up on our way home, popped it into the freezer and ate it the next day. It held up well, but I think it may have affected our enjoyment. Custard is always best fresh :) Gillie's is the "original" custard stand Milwaukee, and their patronage has definitely held up. We were there around 9:30 on a Thursday evening, and they were hoppin'.

Culver's was definitely the worst. It was not much better than Dairy Queen, so it really wasn't custard. The food was mediocre and the service was lack-luster. We visited the Culver's in the Delles, so the service should have been extrodinary (the Delles being a major tourism spot in central Wisconsin). Still, we left disappointed.

We visited those 4 stores at least once during our 10 days in Wisconsin. Of them, we repeatedly visited Kopps, trying their daily flavors as well as burgers, onion rings, fries, malted shakes, etc. We really couldn't say enough good things about Kopps. The service is great, the choices favorable and the outdoor dining area the best of the 4.

That's all for this one. I wrote this on the plane home, so I haven't been able to work on the bus yet. I plan to get the wiring to the starter first and then R&R the starter. I figure if I can get the starter to spin from the driver's seat, then the R&R should be easy. Doing it the other way seems harder to test. I'll be spending my Sunday worknig on this stuff, and may have new info by the time this is posted.
More next time -

The starter wiring has been resolved, and the starter has been removed and re-installed. I have the air intake and filter installed, so all that remains on that bit is the vacuum nipple (which I need to get from the store). I will be attempting my first engine start after I post this. The next post will include pictures / explanation of the air filter, and more detail on what I did this morning.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Wine Tour, Dew Tour

I'll be brief today, since I haven't been able to touch the bus since the last post. My sister and her family were visiting last week, and that put a small crimp in that work. I'll touch on some of the visit, and a little surprise at the Dew Tour.

San Diegans Strike
My sister, her husband and 2 kids visited last week, and just left on Sunday. We were able to keep each other entertained for 6 or 7 days. More importantly, though, my kids and her kids had an opportunity to really get to know each other again (its been a couple of years). The last time we saw them it was at their place in San Diego for 2 days after we blew our vacation energy at Disneyland. This time they visited us here in Oregon. We showed them the local lake-side swim park, and had the whole extended family in for a big day-long picnic / swim-fest. Good times. I had to work (new job = no vacation time), but my wife took them around to different attractions here ranging from Oaks Park Amusement Park to Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI).

Yamhill County
I've lived in Oregon since the early 1990's, but I've never done the "wine tour" bit through Yamhill County. I've complained about the traffic snarl in Dundee like all the rest of the non-locals trying to get to the Oregon Coast down US99, but I hadn't ever stopped in Dundee. My wife and I took my sister and her husband there this past Friday. I'm not a wine drinker, so I was the designated driver. My passengers enjoyed Pino from 3 different wineries, and purchased a few bottles along the way (they really liked DePonte). We overnighted at Hotel Oregon in McMinnville, enjoyed a night of music in their main-level bar, as well as whatever was pouring behind the bar.

Dew Tour
Saturday morning, we readied ourselves, enjoyed a breakfast at the Hotel and headed home. No sooner did we arrive home than I needed to truck the boys down to the Rose Garden for the annual stop of the Dew Tour. For skateboarders and BMX-bike enthusiasts, this event is pretty amazing. Beyond the large selection of tents swinging schwag (like Nike, Powerbar, and Mountain Dew), there are the large acts. In the middle of it all, though, is the Nerf Dart Tag Battledome. This was the destination we sought when we left home. My older son competed in the Nerf Tag Tournament during last year's Dew Tour and they lost by a split second to the eventual World Championship team. They were disappointed they didn't win the Regional, but the consolation prize was a set of Nerf guns for each of the team members. Not bad. Since they didn't even know the competition existed last year before they arrived at the event, they recovered quickly and took their prizes happily.

This year, they knew about the tournament, and collected a team. Unfortunately, the age bracket tops-out at 12years old, and many of my son's friends were not eligible. T said, "how about C?" The parents were concerned that if C made a mistake, the whole team would blame him, and he'd be crushed. Still, the other guys on the team thought C was a great addition, so they went ahead with him. They learned to really appreciate that decision, and called themselves the Beta Squad.

In Round 1, C captured the flag once and shot many of the other team with his gun. Meanwhile, he was only hit once. His brother, captured the flag multiple times and also hit the other team multiple times. In the end, the won the first round easily 37-15. The second round proved much harder than the first. The opposing team shot well and had good speed, but neither team captured the flag very much. In a mostly defensive battle, the Beta Squad won again, this time by 3, 26-23. This placed them into the finals against a team that had won using heavy defense and sharp-shooting. They were much larger boys, but they didn't move as fast as the hip-less Beta Squad. In a contest that wasn't close after the first minute, the Beta Squad won the finals going away with a final score of 31-13. As the final ticks spun off the clock, they started jumping up and down realizing that they had just won a trip to Las Vegas for the Dew Tour Finals - and a chance to be crowned National Champions.

That's all for today. I'm traveling for a while, so it'll be radio-silence.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Code Free

My friend (and TDI Mechanical Guru) Justin visited last night, and we made some progress on the VAG-COM codes. We had a minor discovery with the accelerator pedal controller as well, but overall, it was a very positive few hours. That "red ball" project has moved on, and work has settled a bit. We'll see how long that lasts....

Code Free
Justin arrived before I got home from work, ready to get the bus running. He confirmed that seeing the mileage on the dashpod was a significant step, and was able to get his VAG-COM reading application on his laptop to communicate with the engine computer. He brought a 99.5 Jetta harness with him - the complete harness for the entire car. We picked through the harness and noted a single 2-plug connector that hooked the smaller engine harness with the other engine-ish harness. Connecting this did not relieve any codes, but it reminded us of the research I mentioned in the last post about all of the codes appearing on elements contained within that same harness. We took his 99.5 harness and hooked it into my engine, leaving the glow-plugs disconnected, to test this theory. VAG-COM was unable to find any error codes / faults. For the time being, I'll be leaving the 99.5 harness in-place and removing my 98 harness. I'll find the bad connectivity wire and fix it off-line. Meanwhile, this resolution brought us to the edge of being able to start the engine.

Clutch Pedal switch
For some reason that I really don't understand, VW included a switch on the clutch pedal to prevent anyone from being able to start their car with the clutch out. I suppose there were complaints about this, or maybe this is one of those Ralph Nader safety things, but I think its pretty stupid. Accidentally trying to start it in gear has its own notification system: that uncomfortable lurch followed by not starting. Anyway, this switch needs to be depressed to allow the starter to get the signal to start. In the early TDI (ALH model), the switch runs through the comfort system, which I tore out. The only signal that matters, though, is a single signal from that system to the #3 relay (number 185 printed on the top) which is the starter lockout relay. That relay takes start-switched power (50b) and routes it to the starter solenoid when 12V are applied to the relay switch from the comfort system wire. Since the send-side of the relay only has 12V when the ignition is turned to "start", the relay, the comfort system, and the clutch pedal switch are not needed... in my application. We jumpered across the relay, and got around the clutch switch problem.

Still NOT Starter-ing
After we got around the clutch pedal switch, the starter still wouldn't turn. To rule out a bad starter, we sent a test wire directly from the solenoid to the battery and proved that the motor turned. Unfortunately, we discovered that the spacer that I introduced between the adapter and the starter caused the teeth on the starter to fail to reach the flywheel. I will be removing the starter, removing the spacer and re-installing the starter. Figure 30 minutes, but unfortunate that it stood in the way. Also, this indicated that the wire running from the relay to the starter solenoid had a break in it. I will need to cut up the wiring zip-ties and find the continuity break. Since there are 2 splices, it shouldn't take long to find which splice failed.

Our last discovery was that the direct connection of the bus accelerator pedal to the throttle switch was pre-loading the throttle signal. This means that even without a foot on the pedal, the computer thought we were trying to be at about 35% (not 0%). This is because the old pedal needs some kind of pull from the old carburetor to keep the pedal upright. I will add some space between the throttle switch and the pedal and add a return spring to provide that pressure. That shouldn't take me very long, once I find a return spring.

That's it for today. There was a lot of progress, and the outlook is very bright. I won't be able to put much time in over the next few weeks for travel reasons, but I know what I have in front of me. First, fix the starter signal, R&R the starter and prove the starter can turn the motor. Then, fix the accelerator pedal bit. Once I have that, I'll re-focus on the air cleaner (AMSOIL) and air-source for the vacuum and then look for the break in the engine harness so I can give Justin's back to him. As always, thanks for following along and enjoy the rest of your summer-

TDI-FEST: Portland, OR Labor Day Weekend

Friday, August 6, 2010

Dog Days and Catching Rays

I'll admit that late July / early August isn't exactly the Dog Days of Summer, but it's pretty darn close. After that last posting, my family and I focused on a camping trip into Central Oregon, and didn't really think about the bus. I'll talk about our camping trip some and then touch on some recent discoveries that I think will be useful as I push through the VAG-COM codes.

East Lake
Since the bus isn't running, we drove my wife's Subaru on a 3 night trip to East Lake, in Central Oregon towing an open-top trailer full of stuff for 2 families. I wasn't familiar with the location, but it is 6400' above sea-level in a dormant volcano crater. This crater is so large, there are 2 lakes within it as well as a large central peak (Paulina Peak) that reaches over 6800' above sea level. if you live in the Rocky Mountains, you may remember what those first few days or weeks were like after moving there - every breath counts. I couldn't believe how quickly I'd get a head-rush, or run out of breath just walking at a NYC pace. the Lake was beautiful, and the kids loved swimming in the clear cool water. The camp sites are large (though without hookups, if you're into that) and clean. While we were there, we visited the Big Obsidian Flow, Paulina Peak and the East Lake Resort as well as tooled about on Ed's electric-motored 10' inflate-a-raft.
On a vehicular note, we got over 25 miles per gallon hauling that trailer. 2 weeks earlier, we took a 2 night trip our to the coast with one of those soft-shell things on the roof and only got 22mpg. I thought it was interesting that we could bring twice as much stuff and get better mileage just by changing the way we transported it. The trailer was a 7' x 4' U-Haul costing us $15 a day. Considering we don't have much use for a trailer, nor a place to store it, renting one was a great solution for us. We'll be doing that again, I'm sure.

VAG-COM Discoveries
If you read my last posting, you'll remember that I was able to get the main electrical systems to power up. Unfortunately, I received 6 different codes that need to be resolved for reliable running. After investigating these codes through the internets, I think I have been able to determine a pattern for 2/3 of them:

00765 - Modulating Piston Movement Sensor (G149) Intermittent
01268 - Quantity Adjuster Upper Limit (N146)
01268 - Quantity Adjuster Lower Limit (N146)
00626 - Glow Plug Indicator Open or Short to Ground Intermittent
All of these codes could be caused by a short in the harness dealing with the injection pump. When next I get a few hours, I'll start working that harness with the multi-meter and find the bad ground / short to the engine.

00522 - Engine Coolant Temp Sensor Open or Short to +
This could be a simple case of an air bubble around the sensor. Since the coolant pump hasn't actually tried to work the fluid around, there are probably lots of air pockets that need to be flushed out. Once the 4 codes above are dealt with, I think starting the engine and getting the air out will be next, and this code should disappear through that process.

00626 - Glow Plug Indicator Open or Short to Ground Intermittent
This could be one or more bad glow plugs. I remembered that I used this engine as a glow plug donor when I was trying to clear this (or a similar) code on my 2000 Jetta so it could clear DEQ. I probably took one or more of the good ones and left one or more bad ones in this engine. I'll deal with this last, after the other codes are gone. It could require a new glow plug harness, but I thought I already did that on this engine. I'll have to check my old posts :)

That's it for now. Work has been very hectic, trying to get up to speed while juggling a "red ball" project. Hopefully, things will settle a little bit now that the red-ball is over, but to that respondent's point, corporate America is always hungry for your time.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mental Notes Get Lost Too

Back when I was going through the electrical stuff, there were a few things that I didn't identify from the ETKA diagrams.  Basically, they weren't in the drawings.  If you aren't familiar with the ETKA, its a software program that has drawings of sections of VW and Audi (and a few other non-US vehicles) vehicles.  Included in the drawings, there are drawings of the wiring cables with the plugs, and even a brief description of what the plug is (or may be) connected to.  Unfortunately, some of the plugs on my harnesses are not on the drawings.  When I encountered these, I said "I'll figure that out later".  Well... later is now, for some of them.  I'll get to that along the way, but first a few things I've done over the last couple of weeks.

Prep for Starting
I figured fluids were the next logical step, assuming everything was ready to go.  After getting back from another weekend camping on the Oregon Coast, I grabbed a couple gallons of distilled water and a gallon of diesel, and headed for the bus.  The oil was pretty simple.  Since the engine orientation is the same in the bus as it is in the stock vehicle, its just a matter of pouring it in the fill hole and checking the levels.  I should need to add a little more once it has been started, since there is no oil pressured into any of the lines. Justin and I have already talked about changing the oil pretty soon after the first start anyway since the engine has sat so long.  I then used a mity-vac to force diesel into the large filter from both sides.  It didn't seem like much got in, but we'll see.  Last, coolant.  2 1.5L bottles of PentaFrost(++) G12 and 3L of distilled water.  I suspect some air pockets, so I have an extra bottle of coolant and more distilled water.  Seemed like I was ready...

Tuesday with Justin
After getting things as close as I thought I could get the bus for a test start, I reached out to Justin (TDI guru) to help me with the initial start of the bus.  He stopped in after work on Tuesday, and we set to looking at where we're at.  He seemed pretty pleased with the layout so we set to trying the electrical.  Our initial tests were very positive - the ECU (or DFI, in the wiring diagrams) didn't fry; it powered up when the ignition was switched to "run", and we were able to run VAG-COM diagnosis on it.  Unfortunately, we got a few codes, and we were unable to get the dashpod to recognize power.  I'll detail the codes below, as I am still getting those codes.  When Justin left, he said "keep looking for the cause, and when you get the dash to show you the milage when the battery is hooked up, you're ready for me".

Small Success
Justin and I worked until twilight trying to find the power break that was causing the dashpod to fail.  Today, I traced the wires from the glow plug relay and realized that they terminated in one of those plugs I couldn't find in the ETKA.  I then ran my fingers along the cable bundle from the glow plugs towards the ECU and found a corresponding 2-prong plug.  I plugged them together and re-tested what happens when the battery is tied in again.  I saw milage on the dashpod.  Sweet!  Just to satisfy curiosity I hooked up my freeware VAG-COM to see if any of the codes went away.  Nope.  Ah well... more to look into next time around.  If you recognize any pattern in the codes, please let me know.  I noticed that all of the offending sensors are in the same harness, and some of them tie together.  More when there's more...

VAG-COM error output:
01050 - Glow Plug monitor intermittent
01268 - Quantity Adjuster Upper Limit (N146)
01268 - Quantity Adjuster Lower Limit (N146)
00765 - Modulating Piston Movement Sensor (G149) Intermittent
00522 - Engine Coolant Temp Sensor Open or Short to +
00626 - Glow Plug Indicator Open or Short to Ground Intermittent

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Inch by Inch

Row by Row... gonna make that westy go.

After that last posting, I had Monday off. I was planning to drive my son T to camp, but last minute his mom chose to car-pool to camp, so I had the day with my other son, C. C spent most of the day playing outside in the neighborhood with his friends (checking in on me from time to time), so I suddenly had a bunch of time to finish things up... or so I thought.

Ignition control
After digging through the wiring diagrams and internet advice, I settled on my own way of dealing with triggering the ignition. I decided that the best way to pretend the key was turning was to connect the circuits with relays that are triggered from the original switch. To make this possible, I took apart the NewBeetle ignition switch. This is actually much easier than you'd think. 2 tiny bolts and the switch mechanism comes apart. This allowed me to test which pin showed resistance when the key was turned. From this, I drew a diagram (which was then confirmed with my friend's drawing). With 2 Radio Shack relays, I wired up the corresponding sockets in the ignition switch plug (in the main harness) so that when the bus ignition is turned to run, the "15" circuit, the lights circuit and the warning buzzer circuits are all fed power from "30". When the bus key is turned to start, the 50b circuit and the "15" are powered from the "30".

There are many many ground wires in the TDI engine stuff. Many, if not most, wire together into big bundles with ring terminals on them. Many wires, though, were cut as I removed chunks of the harness, so I had to wire these back into the mix. Also, there were the grounds for the 2 relays that I added above. I simply drilled a hole in the body inside the westy closet and threaded a bolt through from the underside (above fuel tank on driver side). The ring terminals dropped onto the bolt and I threaded a nut on top. Easy peasey.

Coolant Shmoolant
I went back to the engine bay to admire my work and mess around with the vacuum (move the ball so there's more room for the air intake) when I noticed that the bracket that I fab'd for holding the coolant bottle was broken. Me bad welder. Rather than grid it all down and re-weld it, I cut 2 new tabs from some 1" steel bar I had lying around and riveted them into place. I figured that if they start to get wobbly, I can always lay down some weld along the edges. While I had the bottle out, I decided to get the temperature sensor in the coolant-to-radiator send line rotated and tied into the electrical system. So, I did that too. Funny how just looking at something creates a few hours of work.

Now, I feel like I'm where I said I was in my last post: very close. I have ordered some intake rubber so I can tie-in the MAF (Mass Air Flow) sensor and an air filter. I thought I had an air filter solution, but it won't fit, so I'm looking at ordering a cheap import cone filter for now. We'll see. Meanwhile, I've made contact with my old friend Justin to come over for the initial firing of the engine. We should be ready for that in a couple of weeks. I figure I need some time to get the fluid in, but also to get the intake completed. I'd like to clean up the wire mess in the westy closet, but now that I have a cover for it, I doubt that will ever happen. I will at least verify the relays and fuses before I start it up though.

I'll post again when there's some thing interesting gonig on. I'm off camping tomorrow night with C, so I don't think the bus will get much of a look-see until next week.

top - the inside of the ignition switch, showing the pins
middle - my diagram for what pin corresponds to which slot in the ignition plug
bottom - the inside of the westy closet with the cover in place. the 2 wires are for the NB dashpod. There's another one (not visible in the picture) of the OBDII plug.