Thursday, June 24, 2010


I have learned a few things about the next steps on the electrical from my thread on TDIClub. I wanted to post these findings so I don't lose them (and so everything is in one place). First, I wanted to send a congratulations to Hal. Over the past few months, while I have been slowly tryingto get my bus together, he has installed a water-cooled gasser engine (VW straight 4) into his bus. This was a simpler install, but he still had many of the same challenges: radiator placement, adapter plate, some clearance issues, etc). I got an email from him the other day tellnig me that he test-started his engine. He hasn't been able to test-drive it yet, but he is very close. So, congratulations, Hal. I'm proud of ya, and you're inspiring me to keep going.

Firing the Starter
I mentioned in my last post that I extended the wire that runs from the main harness to the starter. This wire is set to 12V by the computer (ECU) when the "X" circuit is powered. This was the case on the old bus just as it is on the NewBeetle. I guess some things never change. Anyway, I need to notify the ECU that "X" needs to be powered. To facilitate this, I extended a wire from near the starter (where the original "X" wire terminates) to the ECU. This wire needs to power a pin, or somewhere in the ignition plug. I'll piece that together tomorrow.

Trigger "run" to computer (ECU)
Somehow the ECU needs to know that the main switched power has been activated. Most of the electrical system is turned on or running when the ignition switch is at this point. On the old bus, having the switch here allowed the heater blower to turn on, the windshield wipers to work and the exterior lighting. That's it. Talk about old-skool simple. With the computer system controlling everything, this is one of the more important things to communicate into the box. Like the "X", this wire needs to power a pin, or somewhere in the ignition plug.

I have taped-up a 3-wire bundle that will send this signal down to the computer on one wire, and the 12V state of the next 2 sections below on the other 2 wires. Unlike the rest of the wire bundles, this one will run inside the bus along the drivers side of the body from by the clutch pedal to the westy closet where the ECU is hiding.

Check Engine Light (CEL)
Probably the most important indicator light on the TDI engine is the Check Engine Light. This light illuminates whenever any code is thrown by the computer (ECU). In order to run safely, you need this light operational. I will be installing a small LED inside the stock bus dashpod so it is visible while driving. To power the LED, one side needs to be connected to "circuit 15" (aka switched power) which is 12V when the ignition switch is turned to "run". The other side of the LED needs to be connected to pin #43 on the ECU. When the ECU throws a code, pin 43 is grounded, lighting the LED. Otherwise, the pin is set to 12V.

Glow Plug Light
Second in importance only to the CEL, is the glow plug light. This light tells the driver when the glow plugs have satisfactorily warmed the combustion chambers. If there is a problem in the glow plug circuit, the light flashes. Next to the CEL, I will be installing an LED for this. Like the CEL, one side is powered from the switched power (15) for 12V. The other side of the LED needs to be connected to pin #41. Like the CEL, the computer (ECU) grounds the pin to send a signal, and sends 12V to turn it off.

Tomorrow is Friday which means it is early-release day. Hurrah! I should be able to get the wire bundle in and wired up. I need a pair of LED holders, and I'll have to pull the dashpod to make holes for the 2 LED's, but I'll probably wait on that until I've confirmed that the wiring works. That's it for today. Again, congrat's to Hal for getting his engine started. I hope to hear of a test drive one day very soon.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Electrical Leap

Well, the new job has this Friday afternoon concept that I'd never heard of before: Summer Hours. Basically, if you're at 40 hours (or pretty close), you can leave early on Friday afternoons - as early as noon, if you can. Now, that's my kind of company, eh? I wasn't able to leave that early, but I was still hitting the door at 3. Compared to a typical 6:PM departure, and add in the late daylight hours in a Northwestern June, I suddenly had a few hours handed to me. They weren't wasted.

Radiator Fan Wiring
First off, I figured I'd hit the radiator fans. I knew that would require the most time, or at least the most time on my back under the bus. Since the weather was accommodating, I got to it. I thought about the New Beetle fan wiring, and the fact that it needed to support an A/C condenser. I decided the heavier wire that powered the higher speed fan setting wasn't necessary, and proceeded to run the wire on the "low" setting circuit. I found that I was able to re-use wire that I had cannibalized from the harnesses for most of the wiring, using the same colored wires and thicknesses. Sweet. That includes the wires for the temperature sensor on the radiator. This picture to the right, here, sort of shows how the wiring routes along the cowling and up under the floor. After the bundling the wires with tape, I've zip-tied them into place and out of the way. In the engine compartment, I was actually able to re-use a couple body mounts for zip-ties from the old harness, so it almost looks like it was done on purpose. Some of the radiator wire zip-tying was done today (rather than yesterday) when I worked on the starter wiring.

After dawdling over coffee this morning, I dragged myself out to the bus for some more wiring fun. I started with extending a few wires to complete the battery-top fuse-block. This was a pretty simple task, just time consuming. The glow plug and fan relay wires were pretty straightforward. Rather than just extend the main electrical wire that is nestled within the main harness, I just replaced it end-to end with a new 4 AWG wire. I cut off the ends of the original and butt-spliced those ends onto the new wire. Making the splice work required crimping the splice in my vice and then shrink-wrapping with my blowtorch, so it's just as well I didn't try to extend the original.

Most of the rest of the main harness was just hanging across the rear door. I tucked it up under the rear deck where the stock wiring is, and zip-tied it into place. The switch on the starter solenoid to trigger it was extended along the underside of the deck with the main harness. So was the red/black wire at the starter (that came from the bus ignition switch) all the way into the westy closet. Last, the main ground wires were extended and mounted beside the main negative cable on the body. The picture here gives a pretty good idea of how it looks now - very few visible wires. There's just that one black-wrapped bundle hanging from the center down to the fan relay. Once the relay is mounted, it will have more slack in that bundle.

Primarily Wired
The last bit I tackled today was getting the main starter wire (2 AWG) in place. After all the main harness / bundle work above, this wasn't nearly as rough. I simply cut off the battery end about 4" from the end and butt-spliced 2 feet of new wire. The picture to the right, here, was taken before the heat-shrink wrap was torched on. The starter-end has been bolted on. The battery still does not have anything connected to the positive terminal, though. It is probably wise to leave the battery disconnected until I've finished everything.

It was a very productive couple of days. Between Friday afternoon and today, I spent over 8 hours messing with the electrical system. By the end, though, I have the main harness wired, the fuse-block wired, and the starter wired. I have a few open questions I need to resolve before I can complete the electrical.
For example, I intend to retain the stock VW bus ignition switch. To trigger all the things necessary in the new engine, I need to send a signal to the New Beetle ignition switch when the key is turned from "lock" to "run" and from "run" to "start". The New Beetle ignition has lots of wires in it, so isn't simple. I think it is just a matter of wiring a collection of plugs together through a relay to be fired by the bus ignition. While I figure out how to wire the New Beetle side of the relay, I'll dig into the bus ignition for a good spot to dip for a signal for the 2 positions. Before I route the wires, though, I'll need to consider how I'll run the wire for the glow plug and CEL (check engine light) LED's that I plan to integrate into the original VW dashpod.

That's all for now. I plan to spend Father's Day with the family (not the bus), so I probably won't make much headway before next weekend. I should have time this week to dig into the wiring diagram for the bus to spot that signal dip. Maybe I'll have time to look at the glowplug and CEL circuits to get a feel for how thick a wire I'll need to send a good signal to the dash. Happy Father's Day-

top - weird up-shot angle of radiator fan wiring along the side of the cowling
upper middle -finished wiring after tucking it away, wrapping the sole hanger and zip-tying it into place
lower middle - battery cable example of butt-splices. 1 w/tape, 1 w/o tape
bottom - wire bundles and battery primary wire mounted with zip-ties - note the wire route along the lip of the engine bay where the compartment seal used to go

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Graduation Graduation Party Party

Sorry I haven't posted in the last week. Lots of activity going on, but no bus updates. My wife did graduate, and the boys and I were joined by her mom (Marianne) for the ceremony. We had a big ol' BBQ to celebrate with friends and then this was the last week of school for the kids. I hope to get out of work a little early tomorrow and hammer on the bus this weekend. The weather has not meaningfully improved, so we're still stuck in the mid-Spring like weather (highs in the low 60's, clouds with rain, etc).

D Graduates
The event lasted about 2 hours, and most of that was calling the 770 or so names of the graduates. It was great seeing her cross the stage and get her certificate. Unfortunately, we were so far away all of our pictures turned out blurry. An unexpected highlight was the school stage band cranking out tunes before the ceremony started. They rocked out some Led Zeppelin songs and a few modern bands' stuff.

We've had lots of celebrations this past week. First, I was taken out for a welcome to your new job lunch. I love those. It seems like most places have a big party when you leave and basically say "welcome to hell" when you start. No party, just a bunch of hassle getting a computer or whatever. With the new job, though, came a welcome lunch at an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. Yummy. That was Friday, before my wife's graduation. That evening, we celebrated the graduation with a family ice cream.

Party Party
Sunday, we hosted over 65 people (including kids) to again celebrate D's graduation. I worked the grille flipping burgers and beer-soaked brats' for our friends. The weather was accommodating, staying above 60* with limited cloud-cover, and the beers were flowing. My wife and a few of the guests broke out guitars (and a flute) and sang us songs from the living room out through the bay windows. It being a school night, the party broke up to put kids to bed.

Party Party Party
Wednesday afternoon, T graduated from elementary school. The parent volunteers put together a great celebration day for the kids. They decorated the gym, created a DVD of their 7 years together at the school (tracing videos and still photos back to kindergarten), and planned a party at JJExtreme. I volunteered to chaperon, and rode the bus. Like so many adventures in my VW, the school bus broke down on the way there and we sat roadside for 30 minutes waiting for a replacement. The school bus has these auto-engage tire chains that went on and the driver couldn't get them to remove themselves. Great technology, eh? Once we got there, the kids had a ball. After about 2 hours of playing, everyone enjoyed pizza. We got everyone home safe afterwards, though the bus ride home wasn't as well behaved (albeit less, uh... interrupted) as the ride out. I guess some kids had a harder time calming down from the fun than others.

Meanwhile, I've been in near-constant meetings from day-start to day-end. I received a comment on that last post about all the meetings not being an anomaly. Becky, you're probably right. It is corporate America after all, but I really do think things will settle down. Like I said at the beginning, I hope to be cutting out of work early-ish tomorrow if all goes well, and I'll attack the remaining wiring bits. I did get the butt-splice parts in the mail, so I should be ready to roll on the primary electrical. I'm fairly sure the radiator fan circuit will fall into place as well. Just keep on keeping on, eh?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Job, New Additions

Again, I find myself without my pictures. I'll upload a few tomorrow. Today, I'll touch on my job change, my new nephew and a little progress I slipped in around the end-of-school chaos.

New Job
I mentioned in an earlier post that I interviewed for a job. Well, I was offered and I accepted it. Its been a pretty steep adjustment curve over the last few days (started Monday), but I'm sure I'll settle-in given enough time. I've had to be on conference calls twice already this week, and I have more tonight. Eek. That pretty much kills any not-work stuff, like seeing T's lacrosse games or wrenching on the bus. I think it is just because of the transition and where certain projects are in their respective time-lines. Basically, I think it will pass.

New Addition
Out of respect for my sister-in-law, I probably didn't mention that she was preggers with her second child. Well... they are now the proud parents of a 9-pound baby boy. 9 pounds! That's more than an alternator, in fact, I think its more than my turbo. hehehe... he's adorable - perfectly round head with that peach-fuzz hair. Mom is doing very well, as are my brother and their daughter.

Pluggin Along
On the bus side, I have clowned with the wiring a little bit, but my time has been very hard to come by. I did extend the wires from the main harnesses to the pedal switches. This involved creating 2 cables of AWG18 and AWG20 wire (4 wires for brake switch, 6 for accelerator) at 15 foot lengths bound together with electrical tape every 6 inches. I ran the cable under the bus along the main channel where the clutch cable goes. There are factory holes that the cable fit through, so it never hangs more than a couple of inches below the floor, and is always above the beams. The 15 feet of cable was perfect - there is some slack in the cable, but there was enough so I could operate through the westy closet to get the wires spliced in. If you find yourself doing this, note that of the accelerator wires, 2 of them look very similar - white/gray and white/skyblue. I don't know who the genius was at VW to put near-duplicate wire colors in the same circuit, but be advised.

Failed Primary
I also started on the primary electrical stuff. This was kind of a bust. I thought that the thicker wires could be soldered together to create a better electrical connection, but even with a blowtorch I couldn't get the ends of the wires hot enough to melt the solder. I bought a bunch of "butt-splice" kits online that consist of a crimp-style splice with a shrink-wrap sleeve. They should be in-hand soon, and then I'll be able to finish off the primary circuits.

Cool Fan
This leaves the radiator fan circuit. I have decided to re-use the existing relays in case I have to revert to the original fans. I just need to define how the relays will mount and run the wire. I don't think it will be much of a job. Most of my time will be spent making the wiring look pretty, and tying in the temperature sensor on the radiator.

That's it for now. My wife graduates on Friday, and her mom is back in town for another 2 week stay. I suspect my progress will not improve during that time, and having the bus in running order for Summer camping is looking pretty unlikely. Regardless, I'll keep at it and I may be surprised.

edit: added pictures.
top: brake switch wire bundle (aligned left to right as appears in switch plug)
middle: brake switch wire bundle with main harness wires in same L-to-R order
bottom: brake switch wires mated and taped

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cedar Ridge

Rather than focus on the electrical stuff this weekend, the family and I took a couple of days off on a church retreat to a place called Cedar Ridge in Vernonia, Oregon. I'll about that today and give you a break from the near-constant bus-content.

Unusual Weather
Our weather this spring has been a-typical: unseasonably cold with lots of rain. If you aren't in the Pacific NorthWest, and you haven't been watching the weather for this area, we have had record-setting monthly rain falls since March. This made for epic spring skiing at the area resorts, but misery in the valley. Our average daily temperatures have been up to 10*F below average as well. Usually, the month of May is highlighted with multiple full-sun days with temps in the upper 70's to low 80's. In recent years, May has become a dry month, giving us a respite from the spring rains before June hits. This year, I don't think we got above 75* once all month and had measurable rain almost every day. Usually, our June is a rough re-entry into rain before July arrives to dry us out. This year, we didn't get the break, and tempers are starting to show it. All the more reason to get out of town and have some fun (albeit wet).

Cedar Ridge
This camp is located just outside Vernonia on Bridge Rd above Rock Creek. The creek runs along the western border, and the site is a long rolling hillside that probably drops close to 500 feet in elevation top to bottom. They house many sports camps and Outdoor School events over a typical year, as well as spiritual retreats (including yoga camps). Unlike many other similar locations, Cedar Ridge only houses one group at a time, which makes for a much deeper community-building opportunity.

It should be noted that Cedar Ridge is the best maintained camp I've ever been to. Usually, you'll go to one of these types of places and something will be closed for repairs or the cabins have leaks or some toilet doesn't flush right, etc. I couldn't find anything like that. In fact, it became kind of a game trying to find something broken. With all the rain we've had and the steep pitch of the hillside, you would think there would be muddy ruts all over the place. Nope. Not one. In fact, the ground was practically dry between showers. Pretty amazing.

When our church has these family camps, it is a very casual affair. Folks arrive as their schedules allow on Saturday and we have our first meal at dinner. Dinner is followed by a campfire. Sunday morning, we have a brief service after breakfast, and then its off to play. With all the sports camp facilities and open outdoors, it isn't hard to find something that fits your taste. My kids usually spend nearly all of their time at the creek-side skipping stones and wading to "the islands"or exploring the forest. This year my wife led a yoga class, and I visited with friends while the boys ran around. The afternoon was dominated by the 300-foot water-slide / slip 'n' slide.

Out of respect to my fellow parishioners, I won't publish any of the pictures, but it is fun, fast and the adults usually outlast the kids. By the end, there were about 20 die-hard sliders, including maybe 5 kids. Way fun. After sliding, the kids grouped at the heated outdoor pool or joined my wife and I in a service project of pulling weeds in the labyrinth. Before dinner, we had a hillside happy hour, and after dinner we put on a no-talent show (my wife sang beautifully and I bumbled my way through a skit). Monday morning, a new group was arriving, so we enjoyed a breakfast, cleaned up and checked out. The kids, of course, needed one last visit to the creek.

I have heard that Cedar Ridge is up for sale, and that the current owners spend so much time out of the country now that they can't give it the attention they would like. This makes me sad. I sincerely hope they are able to find a buyer who really understands how unique and special Cedar Ridge really is. Our church group starts planning in February and the level of anticipation starts growing immediately. We've only been going there for a couple of years, but the level of participation and enjoyment far exceeds our prior location.

That's all I have for today. I will be getting the rest of the pop-top stuff this afternoon with my friend Gr8fulEd. My wife and I spent Monday afternoon clearing the garage, so I'll blab about that and our inevitable sale items next time.