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.