Saturday, November 26, 2011

Tank's Giving

Okay, horrible pun.  Guilty.  Still, I hope you all had a pleasant ThanksGiving holiday.  For those blessed with a 4 day work-stoppage weekend, I hope you were able to make the most of it.  I was able to celebrate White Friday with a large group of fellow non-consumers.  I'll talk about that another time so I can talk through how to put a fuel tank back into an early bay-window bus today.

Before you do anything, you need to verify that there's nothing between the rear hatch and the tank compartment.  This sounds obvious, but the tank is deeper than you may think, so you need a clear shot through.  The stock wiring harness shouldn't get in the way, but if you have any customization (like, oh, I don't know... a TDI engine instead of he flat-four), you may have some wire-dangle issues.  Solve those.  Zip-ties are your friend.  Also, if your stock engine is still in, you can slip the tank around it, but everything above the heads must come off first.  That includes the intake, carb (or FI), filters (air & fuel), etc.  Its actually easier just lowering it out of the way like I described in an earlier post.  The actual removal of the stock engine is very well covered in the Idot's Guide.  If the engine is on the shop floor, make sure you have at least 1/2 of the left-to-right space clear from the floor to ceiling of the tank compartment back to the rear hatch.

slide along right side and rotate into place
Steering the tank through the rear hatch and into place is an exercise in patience.  Enter this step knowing you will have to do it many times, and you will not be unpleasantly surprised with an entire afternoon lost to wrestling your tank in.  Before you start, set the foam seal back into position.  On my TDI-powered bus, I needed to raise the right side (using my BusDepot bus jack) so I could get past the engine on the floor.
I sent the left edge in first and routed it around the engine into place.  Get the tank partway into the tank compartment and attach the level sender wire and the ground wire.  Then, the tank can settle into place with wiggling.  Slide underneath and check that you can't see the foam seal.  If you can, you can try to move it with your fingers from below, or re-set the tank.  Neither are fun, but both work.  Using fingers from below is faster, though.  You can feel when the tank is settled into place.

Now, you can start re-connecting things.  I did them in this order: fuel filler hose, fuel vent line, fuel return line (mine re-uses one of the original vent lines), fuel feed line.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I replaced my fuel filler hose with a bent section of steel pipe from the muffler shop.  I was able to find the right size Viton hose at CarQuest, but only in straight sections.  So, I cut 2 3" collars from the hose, and I use them to abut the tank to the bent-pipe and from the bent-pipe to the filler on the side of the bus.
wire it up before final placement
Re-use your clamps only if they were in nearly-new condition.  Otherwise, they aren't that expensive, but its better that than have one fail and cause leaks.  It is a major pain swapping those clamps after everything is back in place.  Last, the hold-down straps are cinched into place.  This is a little challenging if the engine is in the engine bay, but on the floor.  Since I put a heating unit in my engine compartment, and ran the air hose forward along the left side, it really gets in the way.  Still, there's a washer and a 13mm nut (you need both).  Use a deep socket and put a vice grip on the strap so it doesn't torque as you tighten.

That's it for today.  We had a great White Friday, and I'll post about that soon, as well as the engine install headway.  Thanks for following along!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Taste of Winter

I haven't really been paying any attention to the weather beyond the Great Pacific NorthWest.  Like so many folks, I get caught up in what's happening in my life or immediately around me and just don't look up.  So, for those of you suffering with floods, power outages, freak freezes or blizzards, I hope your troubles end soon.  For those of us in the Great Pacific NorthWest, Summer switched to Fall and then to Winter rather quickly.  I'm going to talk about my trips to the mountain over the past few weeks today, and take a short break from my postings about the bus.

November Snow
view out bar window
Mt. Hood is home to as many as 6 different ski areas.  At its peak, there is a glacier providing a surface for sliding nearly all year 'round at Timberline.  Sliding on the glacier (Palmer Field), though, is really not that great, unless you like sliding on a sheet of ice pellets.  Yuck.  Still, if you want to slide in the first week of  November, you have few alternatives.  We have been fortunate, though, and the top of Mt. Hood got a bunch of snow the last week of October and the first week of November, so it wasn't all ice.  Boo and I only took a couple of lifts before they closed them for the day, but we got to try out our new passes and her new skis.

Timberline Lodge
The ski-part of the resort wasn't really open yet.  We walked through Wy-East Day Lodge on the way in, and it was still actively being remodeled.  The entire food court area was a construction zone.  So, once the lifts closed, and we took our final slide down, we visited the main lodge.  The main lodge was in the movie The Shining as its greatest claim to fame.  It was built as part of a WPA (Works Progress Administration) in 1936.  The woodwork is pretty amazing, with exposed timber structures across the ceilings.  There is a massive central smokestack serves 8 fireplaces on 2 floors.  We hit the Ram's Head bar on the upper floor, found a table by the window and watched the snow.. with a couple drinks.  Great way to end a day of sliding.

7 Days Later
Timberline Hwy
A week later, we took the boys up for a day on the mountain.  Unlike the prior week, this time the wind was so strong at the top of the mountain, Palmer Field was closed.  In fact, the only open stretch of snow (and corresponding lift) was the bunny slope between the parking lots.  Had it been mid-season, and SkiBowl was open, we would have gone there.  Instead, since the season wasn't even open yet, we played on the bunny slope.  C strove for the highest number of times around and counted 29 runs in the 2 hours we were there.  Clearly, C got very comfortable with his new skis.  T used his old board, but felt like he was back to mid-season form by the end of the day.  They shut off the lifts at 2:30 again.

Uno Mas
The following Saturday, this past weekend, Boo and I went up again.  This time, Timberline had a 54" base including over 10" of fresh powder.  Almost half of the runs were open and one of the other major resorts (Meadows) opened.  The opening of Meadows probably accounted for the light crowd at Timberline.  The snow, though, was incredible and the visibility was fantastic.  I hadn't really seen much of Timberline's runs, and even now I've only half.  Still, the sliding was amazing.  I fell a bunch of times, so I was clearly trying hard enough.  After 3 hours, my legs were burning.and I had to call uncle.  It wasn't until I het the gym yesterday that the pains finally went away.

White Friday
looking down the valley near Govt Camp
In years past, my boys and I would celebrate the Friday after Thanksgiving by going to the snow.  We call it White Friday, in a response to the Black Friday capitalism-on-steroids media circus which seems to lock-grip so many Americans.  Rather than "fighting prices", we'll be fighting gravity.  I strongly encourage you to do the same.  The crowds are smaller, the air is better and it'll probably cost you less.

Anyway, thanks for following along.  I'll follow up next time with a bus update.... and probably more stories from the snow.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pulling the Fuel Tank

Today I'll cover removing the tank from the Baywindow bus.  When I touch something that's only relevant for a TDI, I'll say as much.  Mostly, though, the process is the same.  I'm starting from after the engine has been dropped (or removed entirely).  Some steps are actually easier when the engine is still in-place versus on the shop floor but within the engine bay.  I'll call out when that's the case too, so you can plan accordingly.

Empty Tank
tank sender. note wires, bolts
This should be somewhat obvious, but I'm putting it out there anyway.  If your tank is blocked because foreign matter is in your tank, you'll need a siphon to pump it mostly dry.  I got a manual pump at Harbor Freight for $10.  They also had a bulb-style pump for $6, but that looked a little too disposable/one use only.  Your experience may disprove that, so please let me know.  This is easier when the engine is in-place and not on the shop floor in the engine bay.

Remove Fuel Feed Line
Depending on your engine, the route of your engine fuel feed line is different.  Its purpose is the same, and the time at which it is removed is as well.  Its easier to remove the thread-in fuel line attachment when the engine is not on the floor.  If you drained your tank through this line,  It was already disconnected from filters, etc.  If you siphoned, disconnect the fuel feed line from the engine-end first, draining the line as you go.  Last, place a bucket under the tank outlet and un-thread it from the tank.  A last little bit will come out of your tank.  If you have a tank from a fuel injected engine, you'll need to remove the return line too.  It ties in down below as well, and should be removed the same way.  My tank was a single-outlet style.

Remove Firewall
If you are running a gasoline engine, you should have a firewall between your fuel supply and the engine.  This is held on by screws from below.  These are hard to find and the engine has to be in-place or you'll be cursing the gods trying to get this wall out.  The top edge is also held in with screws, but these are easier to find.  I removed my firewall when I switched fuel sources, and don't use it anymore.  So, I can't remember how many screws there are.  Sorry.

Remove Tank Vent line(s)
If you're running the TDI (and don't have a fuel injected tank), one of the vent outlets is being used for the return line.  Remove this and drain it.  The true vent lines can be removed and the brass/copper tubes need to be removed as well.

Remove Fuel Filler Hose
Be very careful with this hose.  This is no longer available (NLA) from the dealer or online.  So, if you damage it or decide you need to be able to fill a different fuel (like switching from gasoline to diesel), a replacement will be a creative effort.  The hose doesn't need to be completely removed to get the tank out, but the tank-end does need to be disconnected.  I found disconnecting at the tank first to be easier than disconnecting at the filler anyway.  I had a steel pipe bent to match my filler hose by the fine folks at Meineke when I chose to replace mine when I switched to diesel.

slide out right side
Disconnect Fuel Level Sender Wires
Disconnect the fuel level sender wire from the sending unit.  It takes a thin wrist or a hooked wire to pull the signal wire from the tank compartment.  There's a mid-wire connector where you can disconnect.  Disconnect the grounding wire too.  The grounding location varies, but mine is dead-center in the compartment ceiling where the firewall is attached.

Loosen Hold Down Straps
You could have done this earlier, but removing the lines would have been harder had the tank been free-floating.  The straps are held on from below and you'd think it would be easier with the engine in, but the starter kind of blocks the right-side one.  They take a 13mm deep socket.  I suggest putting a vice-grip on the strap near the point where it passes through the base as the strap twists as it is loosened, and the vice-grip holds it firm.  The nut has a washer behind it; don't lose it.

Pull Tank
Now, the tank should separate from the floor of the tank compartment with a little wiggling.  Remember that the engine feed outlet on the bottom of the tank is the low point and that there's a foam gasket where the bottom bowl would touch the tank compartment floor.  You're going to want that when you re-install.  Rather than "store it somewhere safe" and lose it, I just leave it in the tank compartment.  Everyone has their own system, though.  The tank needs to slide out over the top of your engine (on shop floor) down the right (passenger) side of the engine bay.  Because of the height of the engine on my ATV Jack adapter, I need to raise the right side almost to the top of the Bus Depot tire jack limit.  Total non-sequitor, but if you're still using the stock jack, I encourage you to get one of those Bus Depot jacks.

If you're going to get the tank re-lined, remove the fuel level sender.  It's held on with 6 8mm bolts.  At this point, I took my tank to Mac's Radiator.  They cut holes in the bottom, bead-blasted it inside and out and then lined it.  The outside was painted with primer.  All told it took about a week and cost $200.  Once I considered the cost of materials and the number of hours as well as questioned how well I would have gotten all the gunk out, I concluded $200 was money well spent.

That's it for today.  I'll cover the re-install of the tank and engine over the next couple of posts.  I'm still not 100% done with the re-install, so that shoudl give you an idea of how busy I've been and how long this really takes.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Engine Extraction

Today, I'll cover the steps to remove my TDi engine. This may only really benefit me, but if anyone else ever does the same install, this could be helpful for them too. I know I'll refer back to this the next time I have to drop it - for the transaxle replacement anyway.

Safety first, always
Disconnect the battery. While you're looking at the electrical, disconnect the computer plug and the B+ nut on the alternator. Disconnect the ground strap from the block. Now is the best time to raise the bus so it is on jackstands too.

Fuel System
The driver for dropping the engine was to gain access to my fuel tank, which became blocked on my trip to Eugene. One last point on that: when I went to drain the tank, the clear filter was 1/2 full again. It seems that the tow sloshed the tank enough to clear the blockage. Anyway, I ran a dip tube down the overflow pipe and into the tank. Through this dip tube, I pumped the tank nearly empty. Then, I disconnected the drain and caught the rest of the fuel in a bucket. All told, I had over 5 gallons left in the tank, so the fuel gauge was reading about right (at just under 1/2 full). The return lines, vent line and stock filter were drained next. Last, the stock filter was removed from its mount and set on top of the engine. The mount was also removed.

Vacuum System
The only part of the vacuum system which needed to be removed was the vacuum ball, and even then, it was only so the fuel tank could be removed. For an engine drop, the vacuum system can remain in tact. The vacuum lines which run down the intake need to be removed from the intake, though.

After the fuel lines and electrical, the exhaust needs to come out. The exhaust is bolts to the turbo with 2 nuts and one bolt, all 13mm. The hanger on the rear was done poorly (thanks Meineke) and requires some gymnastics to get disconnected. Re-install is equally frustrating. The exhaust drops down and can be turned so it slides out pretty easily.

The air filter is mounted to the side of the bus, so the intake pipe is disconnected at the filter. Unplug the computer plug at the AFM, remove the hold-down screw for the hard-plastic pipe at the intake. On the other end, remove the bolts holding the post-turbo air pipe at the inlet. Last, disconnect the pipe leading from the turbo to the intercooler. This is the nasty little bit that kept failing on that drive to Eugene, so consider how to disassemble carefully. Once these disconnections are made, the entire intake unit should drop straight down. Rotate the pipes around and move the intercooler towards the front. The pipes will pass through and under, allowing the unit to be removed under the bumper.

Since the engine is not getting removed, just lowered, the coolant does not need to be drained. In fact, the heater core and almost all of the lines can remain in-place and untouched. The exceptions include the water bottle and bracket (so the fuel tank can pass) and the zip-ties holding the radiator runner pipes in place. These zip-ties would have tension on them as the engine dropped if they were not cut and re-zipped. Make sure the bottle is tightly capped. Set the bottle on top of the engine of on the jack cradle. Regardless of where it goes, it will need to sit below the engine for the tank to be removed, so it will get very full of fluid. If the cap it not secure, you'll make a mess. Disconnect the level sender plug and move that cable out of the way.

Disconnect the CV joints and the clutch cable. The transaxle will rise and fall with the engine, so these need to be loose. Put a small jack under the front of the transaxle and remove the nose-mount. 15mm and 16mm bolts, if memory serves.

Physical Mounts
At this point, the engine is free of anything which would impede its movement up and down a few feet. If the engine is being removed entirely, the harnesses would also need to be unplugged, the coolant drained and pipes separated. Slide an ATV jack with an engine cradle (adapter) under the engine. I looked through my old posts and I realize I never posted on how I built it. The closest I get is with this post showing a close up of it. Anyway, slide the cradle under the engine and take a touch of the weight onto it. Now, disconnect the stock mount from the tower and the engine. Once removed, the tower needs to be removed (for tank removal), and the bracket needs to be removed from the engine (so it can be lowered). Last, remove the long bolts which connect the bellhousing to the transaxle rear mount. These bolts are 13mm-15mm. Once removed, the engine should lower easily with the ATV jack and transaxle jack used in tandem.

Thanks for sitting through a somewhat dull posting about how to drop my TDI engine. This will be very useful for me in the future.  To add some value to the casual reader, here are some handy links I've used over the years: <- long time owner of '79 bus.  excellent accurate info. my usual first stop <- forums of lots of VW owners. <- dedicated old-skool VW owners site and email list. <- great genuine parts <- dealer parts at cost. limited offerings, but always good prices for all cars

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Furthur - the Return

I know its been a while and I apologize for that.  I've been covering a second job at work, so I'm basically working all the time these days.  Fortunately, a replacement has been selected, so I'll be returning to having only one job again soon.  Today, I'll talk about the adventure I had on the drive home.

out the passenger side while waiting
We rolled out of the campground earlier than I really expected - around 10.  After 3 days of late nights, music and dancing, I figured we'd sleep in later.  Since the bus doesn't have much in terms of curtains right now, the morning sun got me up pretty early.  So, after quick-charging our cell phones, slugging some coffee and grubbing some cold cereal, Ed (in Belle) and I (in Hapy) headed north through Coburn and onto I-5 North.
With my currently limited top-speed, Ed eventually grew impatient, passed and disappeared through my windscreen.  Since he had a much longer drive over to the Oregon Coast before wheeling home, I totally expected him to split.  It was shortly after we parted ways that things started to get interesting.

out the windscreen while waiting
One advantage to not having a stereo is being able to get very attuned to what your engine sounds like when its running well.  It also gives you very early clues when things are starting to go wrong.  It started with a little sputter.  Like the engine missed or something.  We kept on cruising, but now I was on high alert.  Another sputter... and then another... and then... I could hear the engine starting to die.  So, I popped it out of gear, let the engine fail and rolled slowly below the speed limit, into the breakdown lane and then eventually to a stop.  Fortunately, I found myself in a very wide breakdown area.  I had an idea of what went wrong, so I went around back to confirm.  When I broke camp, I put most of my stuff on the floor in the passenger area rather than the rear deck.  This made engine access easy.

My initial guess was proven accurate seconds after I opened the engine lid: the clear primary fuel filter I put between the tank and the stock filter was completely dry. 
Hah.  I jumped back into the driver seat and checked my milage, and I should have half a tank.  Curious.  So, I pulled the filler cap and waited for a break in traffic.  When one arrived, I rocked the bus and put my ear to the filler hole: splash-splash.  So... not fuel-less?  So, the tank has foreign matter in it blocking the outlet.  Drat!  Not something I can fix roadside, so AAA gets the call.

Towed Again
tucking him home
AAA was responsive, but I had to wait an hour while a flat-bed truck became available.  It seems I was not the only northbound microbus that got a AAA call.  Funny.  While I waited, I messed around with some of my interior electrical, and got the poptop dome light to work.  Sweet!  Anyway, Dave the driver was very careful and did a great job hoisting my bus onto his truck.  The drive back to Beaqverton was not nearly as climactic as the drive south was.  Between the completely different weather (now cloudy with spitting rain) and hte different means, I was a little down.  Dave was able to arrange his truck such that he was able to perfectly tuck the bus into his sleeping spot in my garage.

So ends the adventure of attending Furthur.  I did take a peek at the clear filter a few days after getting home and it had some fuel in it, further supporting the floaties-in-the-tank theory.  Since the return, I've taken steps to fix this, and I'll post what those steps were next time around.  As always, thanks for following along.