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.