Thursday, December 12, 2013

Jalousie Window rebuild (part 2)

In my last posting, I detailed some or most of the dis-assembly of a jalousie (jealous) window.  Today, I'll cover the rest of the tear-down and the re-assembly.  Fun stuff.

Removing the Rubber
Some of the old seals are, quite frankly, brutal to get out.  In particular, the seals that run along the drip-edge on the top and the bottom edge are especially nasty.  I described hammering on the top (drip edge) seal with a chisel in my last post.  The bottom edge was more accessible, but the old seal had really attached itself.  I spent literally 4+ hours getting that seal out.  In fact, from the opening kick through the final score of the SF 49ers - Seattle Seahawk game I was working on that seal (plus over an hour the day before).  Ok, enough complaining.  Just be advised that some seals are just challenging.  The best tools are a putty knife, a thin-blade screwdriver and a small hammer to smack on the handles and drive the seal out.

New Seals
The rebuild kit (kit URL) from Wolfsberg West contains 4 types of seals: the grey outer seal, the drip-edge, the glass-to-metal u-shaped seals and a long spool of a "T"-shaped seal for all the openings.  I skipped the u-shaped ones, because those seals are completely fine on mine.  The glass frames separate the same way as the main frames: Phillip's head bolts from top & bottom at each end.  I found installing the seals to be similarly easy for some, hard for others.  Oddly enough, the ones which were easy to get out were the hardest to put in and vice-versa.  The drip-edge and bottom "T" seal were easy: start at one end, thread it in to start and then pull with a pair of needle-nose pliers.  For orientation of the "T" shaped seals, the flat half should be on the inner-side of the opening and the stripped edge should be on the outer-side.  To install the "T" seals on the sides, you will need to fiddle the louvers up and down while feeding the seal through.  I found a putty knife was a useful way of creating a tiny space between the louver arm and the seal channel so I could slide the seal through.

New Cranks

Before putting the window back together, the new crank mechanism needs to be installed.  I hit the hardware store on the way home from work and picked up 2-pairs of fastener sets: 4mm*20mm bolt, 4mm locknut, 2 washers.  These fit perfectly through the crank-control and the window side.  There are 4 holes in the control, but only 3 in the window frame.  Use the 2 which are diagonal from each other.  Otherwise, the bolt
head will interrupt the operation of the crank.  Orient the bolt so the nut is on the outside of the window for the same reason.  Put on the crank handle and tighten it down.  Rotate the handle (moving the controller) all the way open.p

Putting The Crank Back Together
Okay, so the seals are in, the metal polished (sorta) and the glass has been cleaned.  We're ready to put it all back together again.  First, grab the louver control arm.  It needs to have the 2 little tabs that look like old can pull tabs put back on the arm, if they aren't already.  They need to point the same way.  Take the rod and fit it into the crank / controller thing such that the pull-tab looking thing points towards the outside of the window and upwards.  Push the louvers up as if the window was all the way open.  Now, pull the C-clip off the louver control arm, slide the pull-tab thing onto the end and return the C-clip.  Repeat the process on the other end of the control arm.  I may be overly laboring this description, but this is key to getting your window to work right.  Once the louvers are connected, assemble the lower half of the window.

Window Assembly
At this point, you have a control rod barely holding 2 louver control parts together.  Grab the lower window frame and set it into place, lining up the outer window edges.  The screw holes and channels should line right up.  Thread in the 4 screws, checking the alignment along the way.  Before you torque them all the way down, check the movement of the louvers with the crank handle.  Next, start installing the glass panes from bottom to top.  These should fit right in, bolting in 2 bolts at each end.  I found it was easier to do the bolt further from the hinge first.  Once its most of the way in, start the bolt near the hinge.  After the top pane is in, crank the window closed and then install the top of the frame.  The drip-edge rubber, at least in my case, really wants to flop under the top glass pane.  So, check that as you thread in the screws, and then tighten them down.  Now, the window is back in one piece.  Next step: re-install.  I have some painting to do first (if the weather ever gets above freezing again), so it may be a while before I post that part.

That's it for today.  Thanks for following along!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Jalousie Window rebuild (part 1)

lower screws, grubby
frame, rusty rivets
Like the title says, and like I threatened in my last posting, I've decided to tackle rebuilding at least one of my jalousie (jealous, louvered) windows.  Today's posting focuses on the teardown, as that's as far as I've gotten to date.  If you've visited Richard Atwell's web site, he describes this as one of the most time-consuming projects you could go after.  As my 12 year old sons would say "challenge accepted" :)

Out Comes the Window
The removal of the jalousie window is actually somewhat well described in the Bentley manual covering the body.  The drawing in the Bentley shows a rubber seal on the inside, but my bus didn't have one, and I haven't been able to source one.  The window is held to the body by ~20 Phillip's head screws threaded from the inside.  You need to remove the curtain and the screen first.  The screen is removed by sliding it upwards a few centimeters and then pulling it slightly away from the frame as you pull down.  The window is tilted slightly towards the inside of the bus at the top, so you can remove all of the screws without the window naturally falling out.  Still, its wise to keep a hand on it from the outside.  Once the screws are out, the window should easily lift out of the opening, bringing the grey outer seal with it.  Put the screws in a zip-lock baggy and label it.  It will be a while before you're back to re-install it.

Break the Seal
window panes held on
with 2 Phillips
Pull the grey seal off the frame of the window.  Note how the seal sits around the inner edge.  I didn't take a picture on the way off (though I should have), but I'll photo it on the way back on.  Getting that edge right will be key to seating the seal correctly (read: keep water and wind out).  I expect that to be much harder to do than it was to type.  Once the seal has been removed, clean the window, frame and all.  I soaked mine in my bathtub with some dish-soap (while I sanded the opening in the bus for painting later) and then scrubbed on it.  Once clean(ish) and dry, take the window to a cleared area where it will remain for the rebuild.

Start with the end of the window that doesn't have the crank.  There are 4 Phillips head screws holding the side panel on: 2 from below and 2 from the top.  These can get stuck, so you may need some PB Blaster to get them loose.  I had all but one come free by hand.  That last one I needed to bang on with a rubber mallet to get free.  Set the parts down relative to where they were so you don't lose track of them.  Screws in a baggy.  Label it.  Once the sides have been removed, remove the glass frames from the louver mechanism.  Each pane is held in with 2 Phillips head bolts on each end.  Working one side at a time, remove the one closest to the hinge first.  Mark the windows top-middle-bottom in some way and set them aside.  We'll get to those later.
windows separated
from louver mechanism
Last, if your window has not been opening / closing properly or if it doesn't hold open/closed, now is the perfect time to replace the crank mechanism.  I ordered a pair of these so my windows will operate like brand new when I'm done.  If you want to change your window so they both open from the front end of your bus, the Pelland folks offer a left-handed one too, so you can mix and match.  Getting the old cranks out requires cutting the old rivets with a hacksaw (the way I did it) or drilling them out.  Either way works.

Removing the Seals
Some of the seals are easy to remove.  For example, the seal that runs behind the louver mechanism slides right out.  The top-side seal that has a little overhang, however, is a real bugger.  Atwell mentions this one too.  There's a little nub or bump within the channel at either end that prevents the seal from sliding out.  I had to manhandle the channel with a chisel to get the seal free.  In retrospect, I should have checked to make sure I took out the nub at the front (front is front) of the window.  My thinking is that way simple airflow past the moving bus wouldn't cause sliding of the seal.

Clean and Polish
crank assembly
If your windows look anything like mine do in the pictures (or worse), there will not be a better time to clean them up a bit.  As RAtwell describes on his website, some of the corners have a black goop that helped create a seal.  This stuff chips off with a putty knife.  Once cleared, the windows clean up very nicely with simple steel wool, elbow grease and some basic cleanser.  I used a general use Armor-All, though it left a slight haze that I needed to buff off with paper towels.  I haven't resolved how I'll keep it looking nice, but the clean-up is tiring.  I have spent a few hours on this clean-up already and I've only done the side panels and the top, leaving the bottom, the louver control bar, the glass frames and the screen frame.  All told, I expect close to 10 hours of manual steel-wooling on a single window.

Thanks about it for today.  For those of you in the US, I wish you a Hapy Thanksgiving.  To everyone, I wish you a relaxing White Friday; may you spend it playing with your friends and family.  More next time..

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Steering a Shed

So, as the weather starts to feel more like winter, thoughts of playing in the snow start to happen more often.  Today's post is more musings of getting the bus snow-worthy.  First, adjusting the steering-

Point, Re-point & Hope (not shoot)
When I drive the Jetta, the steering is tight.  So responsive.  I could drive with one finger on my left hand, leaving my right free to change stations on the radio or change gears.  In the bus, the steering has been, shall we say, a little more active.  With a 40+ year old system (and the fact that the technology is at least as many years old), it has gotten progressively looser.  On the drive back from Eugene, Boo commented on how active the driving was.  So, yesterday, we looked into what was going on.

Diagnose, and Re-Diagnose
steering box adjustment screw
center bottom of pic
Recall that this whole blog started because I couldn't find instructions for re-assembling my front end other than "install is the reverse" at the end of a tear-down procedure.  Knowing that the ball joints were good, I feared other gremlins in the mix.  So, with Boo behind the wheel and me on my back under the front end, we diagnosed the steering system.  There was no unexpected movement with any of the links, so, that means its the steering box.  The 68-72 steering box is no longer available (NLA) new, and even some of the parts to rebuild it aren't made anymore.  The best hope is to find a quality rebuild ($400+ plus core deposit) or take a plunge into adapting a 73-79 TRW box.  Hmm.. Turns out, there's an adjustment screw on that box.  The Bentley manual describes a relatively simple 2-person process for adjusting the box.  Simply put, if there's no resistance as you pass through the center-point of your wheel range (and all other system components come back "ok"), the box is loose and needs adjusting.  Verify that it's mounted to the body.  Seems obvious, but if its not torqued down, that could be the problem.  For the adjustment, shoot the adjustment screw and locknut with PB Blaster.  Loosen the locknut (19mm), turn the screw a 1/4 turn (to the right) and re-lock it.  Re-test.  After doing this a few times, and even adjusting it to the left a few times, you'll get a feel for how the steering wheel responds as it moves from post to post.  There should be slight resistance through the centerpoint of the turn.  If you think you have it, take a short controlled, low-speed test-drive.  Move the wheel from post to post as part of the drive (take 3-point turns; that's what I did).  It might take a few tries.  If you can't get it right, you may have missed another participant part of the system that needs to be addressed.

Leaky Injector
When the bus couldn't start the other day, I noticed a small dark wet mark underneath it.  Knowing that it hadn't been run in a few weeks, I knew there were few things that could account for a still-wet mark.  Any pressure in the coolant system would have vented within a few minutes after shutting off the engine.  Same goes for oil pressure.  That left the fuel system.  Sure enough, the dark mark was being made by fuel leaking from the injector closest to the rear of the bus and picking up oil as it was pulled by gravity.  Simply loosening the hard line and re-torquing it, we well as re-setting the low-pressure return lines should have solved that.  I'll be looking for leaks after work tomorrow.

Winter Approach-eth
jalousie pic from German Supply
So, driving the old bus in winter is like driving around in your old steel shed.  Drafty and cold.  With the new coolant-powered heat, there's real defrosting and heat at the drivers feet, but that does little for everyone else.  The jalousie (jealous) windows are especially horrible for passengers in Winter.  There are rebuilding kits where all of the rubber and felt can be replaced.  I need to do that.  The bus lacks door cards and an inner wall on the driver's side.  Those need to be resolved too.  Then there's the accessory battery to run the lights, no radio, etc.  I do have studded snow tires, though.  I have decided to pull the bus out of operation (once the steering is solved) so I can put in cards and rebuild the 2 windows.

So, I guess that means there will be a few more construction posts before there are any pictures from SkiBowl through my bus windscreen.  Thanks for following along.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Flash Lives!

Since the trip to WA, the Jetta (Flash) has sat where the tow truck dropped him.  Today's post is about my successful efforts to get him operational.  I did want to update on the MPG we got on the Eugene run: a few tenths over 30 MPG burning around 7.5 gallons door to door.  We probably could have done better had we not been cruising over 65mph on the way down.  Still, that's almost twice the miles per gallon (used to get ~16), a more responsive throttle, more power and, of course, non-explosive made-in-the-US bio-fuel.  Sweet.
Now, about that Jetta with the electrical failure...

Get Back to Base-line
Before you can diagnose anything electrical, the battery needs to be at operating voltage first.  I've gotten so much mileage out of my battery charger.  It is the one non-tool appliance I simply couldn't be without.  After charging overnight, and holding charge for a few days, I felt confident the battery was not the problem.  Moving on to the next likely suspect...

Verify Wires
Old Alt on left. New on Right
So, if you think your Alternator is bad, its wise to first make sure that its not simply a case of the alternator not getting the message to generate power.  On the original engine in the bus, an external voltage regulator would figure this out.  By simple comparing the voltage on the battery against a target 12V, the voltage regulator tells the alternator to produce juice until the battery is at 12V, and then it dumps the power.  So simple.  In the modern engine, determining whether power is needed doesn't fall on the voltage regulator.  There's a computer involved now, so the new alternators have an additional plug on the back.  Tapped into that plug is a 2-wire clip-in.  With the key tuned to the "run" position, both of the wires should register voltage above 5V.  In my case, both wires showed 11V, so the risk of damaged wires under the battery (there's a junction there that can get damaged) was averted.  As "easy" as a wiring problem may sound, knowing its the alternator was actually a relief.  I've found that re-wiring stuff is error prone.

Access the Alternator
Serpentine belt path in TDI
It isn't exactly easy to get an Alternator off of a TDI engine.  The old aircooled bus engine was, though: 2 bolts, a single dedicated belt and a backing plate.  The only hassle with that set up was the small rubber "hose" that routed cooling air into the alternator.  It was easy to tear, hard to get to and difficult to source.  The new TDI engine is another whole deal.  I followed this process over the course of 2 days: one to remove and one to install, spending about 3 hours each.  While the process is correct, the poor visibility into the area where all the bolts are makes it harder than it reads.  I found looking at the engine in the bus was useful for showing me were the bolt-heads were.  Funny, I thought having 2 of the exact same engine would make it easier to work on the bus.  Lately, the opposite has been more the case.  Remember, when playing with electrical, disconnect the battery once you start taking stuff apart.  Creating an electrical short with those thick wires can go very badly.

Autumn approaches.
taken on Nike campus
Between the removal of the old alternator and getting the new one, Boo and I caught Dark Star Orchestra at the Crystal Ballroom.  They started strong with a "Music Never Stopped" -> "Going Down the Road" -> "Good Lovin", but the crowd energy didn't reflect the energy coming from the stage after that.  Maybe it was the "Mission in the Rain", but after the first 3 songs, the crowd energy turned negative.  I don't mean bad, I mean polarity: negative.  On a whole, more people were pulling energy from the scene than were feeding into it.  Boo and I left early, during the segue from space into Unbroken Chain.  I haven't left early since Jerry died, and even then it was just bailing on encores to get coolers of beer ready for the post-show sales.  I don't think that's DSO's fault; I put that on the Portland crowd, though DSO was crowd-detached too.  Some of this is their fault, but I think they picked up on the same thing we did.  Too many hipsters sucking all the groovy out of the room and not enough hippies to put it back.  Polarity Negative.
While I'm glad DSO has a new full-time dedicated bass player, he's just okay.  Skip seems nice enough, but he doesn't approach the instrument like Phil Lesh does, remaining on the root of the chords most of the time, and only putting in the fills that have been baked into the original songs.  Come on, Skip!  Bring that creative side to the masses!
EMPI replacement ignition lock

That's about all I have for today.  After monitoring the serpentine belt, I changed the oil & filter, and Boo and I took a test drive to dinner.  The Jetta is back to operational.
Next, I'll be looking at the ignition lock on the bus.  The original has a lockout bit that has become increasingly temper-mental.  Replacing it requires removing the steering wheel, tearing down the steering column, and then some careful surgery on a work bench.  Should be time-consuming, but well worth the effort.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Tale of Two Trips

Since I last posted, Furthur announced they wouldn't tour in 2014.  Within a week of that announcement, VW Brasil announced they would stop production of the VW Kombi (bay-window bus) at the end of 2013.  While seemingly unrelated, for those who drive VW buses around the country to see music, this was quite the double blow.  The day after the VW Brasil announcement, I bought a pair of tickets to see Furthur at Marymoor Park east of Seattle to compliment the pair I already had for the following night in Eugene.  Today's post covers the 3-day adventure.

Getting Out of Dodge
Tuesday is a typical workday for me and the Marymoor venue is 3.5 hours from home with good traffic.  Since the show started at 6,  We had to leave by 2 to have any hope of seeing it start.  I'd written off the lot scene.  Work was, well, work, so I didn't actually get Boo and start driving north until almost 3.  With the compressed timeline, we left the bus at home and took the more consistently reliable Jetta.  As speed limits rose, the rain intensified.  We rolled music off my iToy to keep the mood calm.  Outside Fort Lewis, emergency vehicles were on maneuvers, jamming up traffic in both directions without any actual accident scene.  Lost 20 minutes.  We hit Olympia by 5 and the rush hour traffic that usually arrives with evening.  The Jetta handled well, drove fast, and we found the venue with very little trouble.  We arrived less than 30 minutes late, only missing the first song entirely.  We heard the second while parking and the third while walking to the gate.

Marymoor Map
We met our friend Grateful Ed just inside the gate.  He'd driven up much earlier in the day at a much less frantic pace.  Being a park, he was able to settle before 2, fell into a photo shoot for REI and pre-func'd with some heads from WA.  He'd landed us a spot less than 40 feet from the stage, and led us in to a nice 1/2-Step.  As a location to see music, Marymoor is fantastic.  It is one large flat lawn with a small berm ringing the outer edge.  On the other side of the berm are food carts (though the food options were weird and lines non-moving), beverage gardens (no line) and the restrooms.  Aisles through the lawn are painted: no railings, fences or concrete.  I'll absolutely go back for more shows there.  I just wish they'd have some back-to-back nights and a place to overnight camp nearby (EDIT: found a place: Vasa Park Resort).  The crowd was older and small.  We didn't see any wookies either, so we figured that the folks traveling with the band skipped this show and we'd meet them in Eugene.  The show was good, the second set really good with a foreshadowing "Goin' Down the road Feelin' Bad" encore.

Let the Real Adventure Begin
Since Boo and I hadn't eaten since lunch, and it was almost midnight as we left the lot, we concluded we should grab some eats before heading back to Oregon.  A Denny's stop with Ed later, we're ready to go.  Boo and I had been having some sporadic battery issues with the Jetta around town, with the battery light popping on after starting.  After driving for a bit, the light would go out, so we didn't pay it much heed.  I figured the alternator was failing, and had it tested.  "All good," says the mechanic.  I tossed the car-battery charger into the backseat anyway.  So, as Boo drove us through that construction zone between Seattle and Tacoma, we started to get some weird idiot lights firing.  The battery light was already lit, but the ABS light started to flash and the radio started to cut out.  We turned off the radio, but the ABS light stayed on steady.  The air-bag light then lit up.... then the dashboard lights started to dim... the blinkers stopped working.... the headlights turned off... Within a couple minutes we went from safely following Ed down the I-5 to completely failing electrical system.  We couldn't raise Ed on the phone, so we douche-dived the first exit we came upon: Tillicum, WA, and rolled into the Chevron.  While the engine idled, I spotted an electrical outlet on the side of the building.  We hooked up the battery charger and watch the idiot lights turn off one by one.  Boo asked (and was denied) to use the Chevron bathroom and got us a water.  After 15 minutes of charging (1:50AM), we figured we'd gotten enough juice to get going again, but we had the failures cascade again before we made the freeway on-ramp.  We were lucky enough to get back to the Chevron before the engine died.

from Google maps
Sitting in the middle of the Chevron lot in the wee-hours of the morning was surreal.  An older boy / young man was peddling a bike through the lot and helped us push it into a parking spot.  He then asked for a smoke and rode on.  I called in AAA for a tow home, and learned than my membership got 100 free miles.  The remaining 40 were my problem, but the driver would be there within an hour.  Once we got the immediate problem resolved, Boo and I looked around at where we'd landed.  Sketch.  Very Sketch.  Cyclone fencing, closed businesses and boarded up cheap apartments.  Sweet.  We saw the Taco Bell and McDonald's down the street had their lights on, so we walked down there to sit and wait.  Neither business was open, and we concluded they left the dining room lights on to reduce break-ins.  On the walk and wile waiting in the car, we got a more intense sense of how sketchy the area was.  The young guy on the bike kept re-appearing, clearly following a route from one location to another.  A a light blue cab stopped at the Chevron multiple times (though that could have been innocent enough).  And a young woman all dressed in black appeared multiple times, dashing from one boarded up location to another.

The flatbed tow truck arrived shortly after 2:30AM, driven by a guy with a long chin-strap beard that ended flat (like ZZ-Top).  He reminded me of a gnome with a plumber's crack.  While hooking up the car, he admitted that he'd worked until midnight, had worked the night before, and had very little sleep.  We climbed into the cab, and Boo told him that we needed first to stop at a restroom.  The driver flipped a U-turn, led her into the Chevron and got the clerks to let her use the restroom.  Apparently, they don't let customers use the restroom because they've been robbed so many times.  Awesome.  With thoughts of "lets get the hell out of here", our gnome wheeled to the freeway and we nosed south.  The truck was bouncy, the bench seat nearly as hard as a bleecher, but fatigue finally caught up to me.  I was awakened by a few big bumps, as was our gnome-driver at least once, motivating Boo to stay awake, chatting him up so he didn't fall asleep.  Her sacrifice meant I could sleep (we thought she'd sleep on the drive to Eugene), and I didn't awaken for good until we were on the Freemont Bridge watching dawn break over downtown Portland.  The Jetta was tucked away on the driveway at 6:AM, and after refusing a cup of coffee, the driver-gnome took my $160 for the 40 miles of towing and headed back to Washington.

Boo hadn't slept for more than 15 minutes, and I'd gotten about 2 hours of rough sleep, so we decided to take a nap or a few hours before thinking about Eugene.  At 9, we hosed off, scarfed some instant oatmeal, and started loading the bus.  Since we were going to overnight in Boo's sister's driveway, we didn't need much camping gear, just sleeping bags and food.  We'd agreed to meet at Grateful Ed's at 11:30, and we arrived a few minutes early.  Hapy (the wonderbus) needed to get his gears warmed up, but once we got to operating temperature, he handled great.  I'd driven him to work and back a few times last week to get some confidence up and to confirm that the leak was solved.  Once Mayhem arrived at Grateful Ed's, we started the carabus south, taking turns leading.  Hapy can cruise at 60mph with the RPM's just under 3k.  We discovered that pushing the RPM's above 3k increases the noise significantly, so 60mph became the standard cruising speed.  Because of the late start, we drove straight to the Cuthbert Ampitheater parking lot, agreeing to meet Boo's sister and husband there.  We arrived just after 3, and got a prime parking spot along the main strip (parked with sliders facing each other), but not on Shakedown Street.  We did not see many other old buses, but the few we did see were close by.  Again, we leveraged the removable middle seat as a lot couch, creating seating for all 6 of us easily.  I'm really loving that.  On the whole drive, Hapy's temperature never hit 190*, and stayed at 185* almost the entire time, only climbing above after pulling uphill.  He handled very well, making the drive to Eugene the highlight thus far.

Furthur farewell
The Cuthbert Ampitheater, unlike the Marymoor, is almost completely pitched ground.  The front now has reserved seats, but the concrete is not flat.  Behind the seats is a narrow non-flat grass area where seats are not allowed, backed by a 18" drop-off down to a cement walkway.  Behind the walkway is the steeper lawn where low beach chairs are allowed.  Simply standing on that grass wears on your muscles like running downhill.  Now, try dancing for 3 hours.  Yeah, that can hurt, but its worth it when the show is smokin'.  They started with a Brother Esau, and kept it funky throughout.  The crowd included many more of the usual road-warriors, supporting our thoughts about them skipping WA.  It also included many of the Oregon old-guard 60's-era hippies.  We sat next to a couple who drove in from the coast, for example, who had been seeing forms of the Dead since the mid-60's.  Ken Babbs was there.  Very cool when you contrast that with the kids dancing on the walkway who were born after Jerry died.  Unlike 2 years ago, the scene in the lot after the show was much more calm.  The staffers weren't trying to cowboy the concert-goers out of the lot 20 minutes after the last note was played.  There were tour-heads swinging beer, T-shirts, posters and coasters.  For the first time since the 90's, I heard a nitro tank filling balloons.  

Belle heading home
Boo, her sister, Grateful Ed, Mayhem and I skipped the after-party, but Boo's sister's husband went and closed The Cooler.  The band played until almost 2:AM.  If we'd gotten more sleep over the prior couple of days, maybe we would have gone too.  Instead, we tipped a couple beers, played with Boo's sister's dog and visited in the comfort of the old hippie Dr. Seuss house.  We grabbed breakfast at Brail's and headed north.  Hapy again, drove like a dream.  This time, Ed led the carabus (see picture at right), setting a slightly slower pace to help keep his temperatures down.  That also lowered the noise in my bus a little bit, making the drive all the more pleasant.  We got home a little after 2, making the entire Eugene run, including to/from the venue, Boo's sister's house, grocery stops, etc on less than one tank of diesel.  I'll know my actual mileage when I fill again, but I figure I drove 250 miles and I put in just under 10 gallons before leaving home.

As always, thanks for following along.  The long trip with the bus has helped me understand what needs to be looked at next (adjust shifting linkage, headliner, deep-cycle battery charger, tighten steering, better seal for engine hatch, fuel gauge, painting the exterior...).  The journey is the destination.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Rack 'em, Snow Bum

Sure, I know its August.  Yep, most folks are taking vacations or at the least thinking about the sweltering heat.  Even here in usually-temperate Oregon, the humidity has been over 65% (which is downright humid for these parts in August).  Sweaty.  It reminds me of my old lawn-mowing days in upstate New York with 80%+ humidity, 80*+ temps.  To combat the weight of the dog-day heat, I think cool thoughts.  T and I will talk about the drop into the bowl on the Thunder run at Timberline or Ski Bowl's Lower Surprise trail.  It's funny how talking about losing an edge and cartwheeling downhill in deep powder can cool you off.  I spent yesterday afternoon in my 90* garage building a ski/board rack for the bus.  I'll detail that today.  Stay cool my friends.  2013-2014 Fusion season passes go on sale in less than 3 weeks (Sept 3rd!).

Starting with What?
thinking about it
The bus was a 1972 Westy when I first bought it.  It ran a 1700CC air-cooled non-original engine with a Weber 32/36 Progressive carb, 009 dizzy and a worthless heat-exchanger exhaust (65HP, 18mpg @best).  It had the original 1972 Westvalia interior and canvas bellowed pop-top.  Today, it runs a 1.9L TDI from a 1998 New Beetle (90+HP, 30mpg).  Inside, it has the rock-n-roll bed, rear closet and refer cabinet from a '79 Westy plus a middle row seat from a Vanagon.  Up top, it has a 1972 Riviera (straight up) poptop and bed.  That may sound crowded inside, and it can be.  Since I've been working on the engine, I have had the rear closet (left side with a front-facing door and cubicles at the rear) out of the bus and sitting in the garage.  This leaves the engine electronics, which sit in the spare wheel well, exposed.  I have a solution for that, but that's for another day.  Anyway, I started looking at the 14" gap between the left side wall and the middle row / rear seat, thinking.... "couldn't we put our ski stuff there?"....

Think, Measure, Think
aligning the rails
I started simply by setting a shoe box on top of the refer cabinet and putting my snowboard on top.  Surely I could make something work there.  I grabbed a set of skis and held them above.  "Yep, I should be able to make 3 racks, each holding either 2 boards or 2 sets of ski's," I thought.  The racks need to be far enough apart so snowboard bindings fit between them, but close enough together so our youngest ski's fit.  That last part proved too much, but he needs new planks anyway, so it should all work out.  Holding the ski's in the air, I made pencil marks on the wall to give me a sense as to where the rails should sit.
I wanted the rack to have some give, so I chose to connect the rails to the side supports with hinges rather than angle braces.  On the other end, I thumb-screwed eye-hooks so we could pull one-to-all of the racks upwards, suspended from another eye-hook in the ceiling by a length of chain.  I haven't completed that part yet.  Last, the equipment needs to stay put.  To address that, I replaced one hinge wood-screw on each rail with a eye-hook bolt run through to the bottom.  On each rail, a 12" bungee is attached from hinge eye-hook to rail-end eye-hook.  I am waiting for the arrival of some bath-tub tread material that I will apply to the rails to make it complete.
parts list

Material List
2 6' lengths of 1x3 cedar for the side supports and rails.
3 packs of 2" utility hinges (2 in each pack)
3 packs of #8-32 x 1-5/8" eye-bolts (2 in each pack)
3 packs of #208 Screw Eyes (2 in each pack) - for rail ends
1 pack of #206 Screw Eyes (2 in pack) - for ceiling
1 8-pack of mini bungee's
some #10 washers

Cuts and Drills
I started with a clean-up cuts on the ends of the cedar.  Lumber yards don't make perfect square cuts, so this is always a good idea.  I cut 2 24" long pieces for the supports and 6 12" long pieces for the rails.  I set one of the supports against the sidewall to consider rail placement.  To make it simple, I pressed the support against the headliner support.  I transferred the pencil marks on the wall to the support. Recognizing that we need 9" between each rail (our tallest binding was 4-1/2"), I lined up the rails 9" apart, adjusting the pencil marks.  Once I had a plan, I set the support back against the wall, held the rails up to see how it would feel.  Then, I pre-drilled the holes for the hinges (making one on each rail large enough for the eye-bolt) and assembled.  I also pre-drilled holes at the top and bottom for wall-mounting.

testing installation
Once the rack was put together, I wanted to see it in-place.  I discovered that the bottom rail was so low that I had to remove the eye-bolt so the hinge would open enough for me to access the mounting holes.  Hmm.. opportunity for model improvement.. I pre-drilled one hole in the wall and mounted the rack with a 1" sheet metal screw.  This held the rack in place so I could pre-drill the remaining holes without the rack slipping.
A test installation wouldn't be complete without filling it with snow equipment.  I put 2 boards (mine and T's) on the bottom rack, 2 sets of ski's (K's and C's) and Boo's set on the top rack.  K2 gets new-to-us ski's this year, so I left his off.  With the bungee's, the equipment sits well.  I will apply bathtub treads to help hold things in place, but it looks like the passengers will be comfortable and safe, and the equipment a-fixed.

That's it for today.  I still have some clean-up to do, but in just 4 hours this went from concept to installed.  We may use the racks as garage wall-mounts too.  Each one attaches with 4 screws.  Neat.  More next time, and thanks for following along-

Monday, August 12, 2013

bum buh NAH!

In my last post, I talked about getting the coolant to stop dripping.  Today, I'll briefly cover the test flight.

rare August rain approaches
Sometimes, when you put a project back together, you almost know it isn't right.  The re-assembly seems to take a little longer, parts don't fit together as easily.  Its almost like the repair gods are trying to tell you "don't bother, you got it wrong", but we press on.  Other times, the re-assembly is flawless.  The hoses just line up, the parts simply click together.  The re-assembly of the bus after trying to fix the coolant leak ran the spectrum.  I got to where I couldn't trust the re-assembly ease as a barometer for when my repair was crap.  So, this time, when everything just fit (I didn't drop any fasteners, and the engine started on the first touch with the key, etc ), I didn't trust that nodding, "oh yeah" feeling.

Taking Flight
I didn't drive very far.  In fact, I didn't actually leave the neighborhood.  Amid cheers from the boys, I drove out the driveway, and down to the end of the street, turned around and backed back into the driveway.  All told, including just letting the engine idle, it took me 15 minutes or less.  The engine didn't get up to normal operating temperature, but in the past it didn't need to for the stream of coolant to appear behind the bus as I drove.  This time.. there wasn't a stream.  There were no well-spaced drips.  There was nothing but dry pavement... and more cheers.  This time from me.  "bum buh NAH!"  we have success!

Bath Time
So, after so many months of not operating, the boys wanted to give Hapy a bath.  We played with the hose and some soapy water and then let Hapy sit in the sun drying for the afternoon.  All the windows were open, the pop-top open and they clambered around inside like they were half their current ages again.  There are few things like a microbus for a fort when you're a kid.

So that's really it for today.  I plan to drive Hapy to work a couple/few times this week (with the life-raft bike in the back just in case) to verify the cooling.  I'm very optimistic.  He hasn't been this dry since I first installed the engine with Justin's engine harness.  The boys are already talking about taking the bus to the mountain this winter.  Fortunes can turn that way, I guess.  I suppose I should start thinking about how we should carry skis and snowboards next :)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Holding water... holding my breath

Hey folks.  I may have solved the coolant leak problem, so I'll focus on that.  We've had some family events over the Summer (as have you, I hope), and I'll touch on some of that too.  Rockin' on...

Planning the Cut
cooling diagram for reference
In my last post, I concluded that the hard line that runs across the top of the bell housing was the cause of all of my leaking problems.  I was convinced that it much be the cause.  So, I removed some parts of the intake and the vacuum ball to gain access to the pipe.  As I did, I found that there appeared to be a leak at the coolant flange.  "Ay carumba," I cried, believing that yet again it was the coolant temperature sensor leaking.  With careful inspection using my dry fingers, I was able to prove that it wasn't the sensor, but it was the flange itself.  Curious.  I removed the flange, covered the o-ring with high-temp sealant (red Lock-tite product) and re-connected everything.  It failed to hold, but the water leak pattern was the same, leading me to believe that I'd found the actual problem.  Next stop: new o-ring.

By the time I'd realized it was the flange-to-head connection, it was the middle of last week.  On Friday morning, I hopped on the phone wit the fine folks at the FLAPS (Friendly Local Auto Parts Store): Discount Import Parts (DIP).  Gotta love those acronyms.  The guy on the phone mis-heard me, and pulled an entire outlet flange.  So, wen I arrived to get my o-ring, there was a little confusion.  He pointed out that the flange will warp sometimes, and they had a 100% return policy for un-installed parts.  Figuring it was a worthwhile $10 risk abatement to just take the flange, I took it.  And a couple o-rings.  And another temperature sensor o-ring.  And some high-temp gasket sealant.  And a couple bottle of coolant.  Simply put, it was a project in a bag.

Add a Flange, drop the Reverb
Old flange. rocked left to right. 
With the old flange in hand, I was able to compare what a new one was like.  Posted on the right are hard-to-discern pictures of the old and new flanges.  When the new flange is pressed against something flat (in this case a piece of finished furniture), it is perfectly flat.  The old flange rocks from corner to corner: the corners which don't have bolt-holes.  This told me that once tightened down all the way, coolant could escape through a neighboring corner.... just like it did.

Now, for the easy part.  I made the same modification to the new flange as I did to the old one: cut off the outlet which lead to the oil-cooler and sent a short bolt through the hole, sealing it off.  This is necessary because of the proximity of the flange to the frame in the bus.  I took the high-temp gasket stuff and put a thin bead on top of the o-ring, and let it sit (per instructions) for 15 minutes.  A few minutes of re-assembly later (new coolant temp o-ring, fully seat the temp sensor, new C-clip) and the flange was ready.  It bolts on easily, once the holes line up :)  The hoses slid back on, the clamps seated well, and all things appeared right.  Finally, you have to be patient for 24 hours while the gasket stuff completely dries.  It doesn't specify it on the tube, so in an emergency situation, it may not be necessary.  Still, I didn't want to go this far and have that be a problem.

New flange. no movement.
Anyway, this morning, I poured a bottle of water into the overflow bottle and listened.  Glug glug glug went the air bubbles through the top of the overflow bottle.  They got quieter to a tick-tick-tick sound, to silence.  Straining to hear the "sss" sound of a leak, or the "bloop" of a water droplet landing in the catch-pan, I still heard nothing.  The water appeared to ave leveled off just under the fill line.  I squeezed the rubber hose leading from the flange down to the oil cooler and radiator... no leak, just a little more air released.  Hmm... I seem to have fixed it!

Graduation Congratulation
After attaching the flange yesterday, I spent the afternoon with my family (including Boo, T & C) celebrating my sister-in-law's graduation from a Master's program.  For 5-1/2 years she worked through first completing her bachelor's degree and then a master's so she could have her dream job: teaching nursing.  She started working that dream job a few months ago, so now, with paper in hand, she's reached her goal.  Emotional speeches and a slab of chocolate cake later, we all recognize just how much effort it took.  Congratulations, J.  Your impact on the health and well-being of thousands of patients will be monumental through your demonstration of providing care from a place of respect and love.

That's it for now.  I have about an hour of buttoning-up left on the bus and then we'll be ready to test drive.  If he holds, then we can start looking at what's next.  Maybe, we'll just enjoy him as-is for a while and try to wedge some camping in before school starts up again.  Regardless, thanks for following along...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Back from having fallen off the edge

So, yeah, its been 4 months of silence.  Now, I'm back in a somewhat stable space again, and I can take on the bus and the blog.  I didn't exactly fall off the edge of the Earth, but it probably seemed that way.  4 months ago, I wrote about a theory about the leak, but I wasn't able to really test that theory until today.  I'll touch on that and provide a whirlwind tour of my last 4 months.  First, the leak....

Dude, You Crushed It
ALH TDI cooling diagram
As you may remember, I've been suffering some coolant leak problems since I swapped Justin's engine harness out for mine.  We thought it was the coolant temperature sensor.  At this point, I think that actually was the original leak source.  I actually got it fixed last Labor Day when I last pulled the engine to trade out the old tranny for the new high-geared one.  Unfortunately, I believe that was when I damaged the coolant hard line that runs over the top of the bell-housing (part #11 in drawing).  In a stock install, this line is not in harm's way at all.  In fact, I'm not sure why they did that rather than just use rubber lines with junctions, but there was probably a penny saved in there somewhere.  Anyway,  In the bus, this hard line runs very close to the frame to which the trans-axle is mounted.  Adding insult to injury, the hard line has a bracket as part of it which needs to be attached to the front of the block,sharing a bolt through the outlet flange.  Its not obvious in the picture, but its the bolt that is referenced just above the #12 in the picture.  Anyway, it wasn't connected, so I thought the leak was being caused by that not being connected, and the lines allowed to flop around.  It's possible the hard line damage was caused by this.  Its also possible that I crushed the line, popping a little hole in it, when I did that Labor Day install.  Groovy.
Boo has to work tomorrow morning, so I'll start attacking the problem.  I plan to drain the coolant down below that level (assuming the leak hasn't done it for me), cut the hard line above the junctions and route rubber in its place.  I'll need to prevent the rubber from rubbing against things, but after examining the coolant schematic, there just isn't another explanation for why its leaking now.  The #20 and related bits are gone, replaced instead with just a simple heater circuit.  Hmm..

Move ah move ah
Shortly after that last post, Boo and I had finally had it with the condo, the idiots on the HOA board and the self-serving nature that same board spent the budget.  The last straw was after we attended a board meeting about nonsense, but the published minutes described decisions which were never discussed.  Crazy.  Representative government my ass.  So, we hit the rental papers, found and landed a house within a couple weeks.  The current occupants weren't ready to leave for a few weeks, but that gave us the time to rapid-pack 2 families worth of stuff while trying to helicopter boys to lacrosse practices and such.  It was a good time Spring.  We moved in early May.  Immediately following the move-in, we set our eyes on getting the condo ready for someone else.  We followed the Navy axiom of "if it moves, oil it; if it doesn't, paint it".  Needless to say, we pushed 1080 square feet of paint, replaced a ton of broken or worn down stuff, etc.  To be totally fair, 95% of the work was done by Boo.  W(Sh)e finished on Wednesday.  It looks amazing.  Now, we can really address the sea of boxes stacked up in our living room.
On move day, the garage (like any move) became the default staging area for stuff when we started running out of time.  After a Saturday of digging, I had room for the bus.  I am still digging out, but I was able to crack into the bus today.  I don't know where most of my parts or tools are, exactly, but that won't stop me from getting in there with a saw anyway.

That's it for today.  Now that we've moved, school's ended, the condo is done, etc, I expect I'll be back to updating more often.  Its nice to be back for sure.  Tomorrow, I'll get that hard line cut out of the deal and see if I can get a test drive in this next week...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Musings over an Open Engine

This week is Spring Break in Oregon.  I was fortunate enough to get the week off and my boys, so its been a week of play.  I'll post on our fun later on.  I do have a theory on the leaking bus, so I'm focusing on that today.  You see, I went out there to look at the engine with the access hatch open while sipping my morning coffee today....

Coolant Flange... What?
I installed a TDI engine from a manual-transmission'd NewBeetle into my '72 bus.  The manual transmission-mated engine has a weird flange coming off the head that includes some coolant warm-up plugs.  When this engine is mated to a bus transmission, and put into a bus frame, that weird flange really sticks into the fuel tank.  I solved that issue by swapping that flange with one from an auto-tranny engine.  I don't know why they're so different, but the 3 main connectors are there: one to route to the oil cooler, one to route to the heater and one to route to the radiator.  Also, there's the coolant temp sensor.  I have droned on and on about the temperature sensor.  I still think there's something wrong there, but I'll leave that for now.

Not It
I modified the auto-tranny coolant flange.  Even with the shorter imposition into the fuel tank, the outlet for the oil cooler banged into the bus frame.  So, I cut that one off, leaving a little material on the end.  I screwed a bolt into the hole and sealed it with RTV.  One might think that's where the leak is... but its not.  That spot has been bone-dry since day one.  In a recent post, I talked about tightening the flange to the head.  That is still rock-solid, so that isn't a leak source.  There's an outlet to the radiator.  That one is pretty big, and the route of the line takes a 90* turn towards the ground, and would usually route straight to the radiator.  In my set up, it hits a "T" where a small off-shoot goes to the oil cooler.  Leak site?  Nope.  The last outlet, though, may be our culprit.

Dumb Engineer Meet Unobservant Shade-Tree Mechanic
The outlet that routes to the heater is really nothing special.  It points straight out to the left (driver-side) and a hose runs to the heater core in the auxiliary battery area. What does make this outlet interesting is that there's no clamp holding it to the flange.  *face palm*  There is a clamp there, but its one of those awful new VW style ones that require a funky tool to open and close them.  I'm sure VW engineers had their reasons for creating these clamps, but I'll take a simple screw-based clamp over one of those things any day.  Anyways, I don't have that funky cable-driven hose clamp tool, and I apparently never got around to solving this clamp issue.  Tomorrow, I'll hit NAPA or similar and buy a clamp that fits.

If that clamp was the problem, this will serve as one more example of why you should do the job right the first time.  If you do "enough for now", "for now" will be just as short-lived as it sounds.  Thanks for listening-

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Couldn't Stand the Weather

Car stuff today.  Brief?  Is it ever?.  Complains about no garage?  No, actually.  I have to remind myself that owning cars that are over 10 years old with more than 150k miles on them requires owner responsibility.  In that spirit, no complaints; just doing.

Silence Canyon at the pull-out.
Note the snow line in the trees
Cold Shot
While I was getting Flash back from Johnny, he pointed out that the he (Flash) still didn't want to start first thing in the morning.  I thought it had something to do with the vacuum lines.  So, I spent the beautiful Saturday afternoon re-running the vacuum lines.  Some folks may not see that as a perfect Saturday, but it was in the low 60's (F), sunny and the birds were out.  I have evidence of that last part on the side of Flash, but I digress.  Some of the vacuum lines were original.  Yikes.  Most seemed okay, but I replaced them anyway.  I needed about 8 feet of 3mm and 7 feet of 5mm line to do the job.  I have a few extra feet of the 3mm after over-buying.  Anyway, the cold-start trouble persists, so I'll be hitting the interweb (read:TDIClub) for clues.  No codes, no smoke (except on that cold start) and Flash runs fantastically otherwise.

Couldn't Stand the Weather
Sunday (today) was a day for the bus, and a change in the weather.  I mean that both ways.  The clouds rolled back in, dropping spittle-rain this morning.  After running T over to a youth group meeting in Flash, I decided I'd give the bus a go for the pick-up trip.  Remember, that I hadn't taken a test drive to verify whether I'd actually fixed the leak, but I felt pretty confident that I'd nailed it.  He started on the first try.  No real hesitations, but he was chilly.  The drive over was an exercise in getting the gears all slippery.  Shifting was stiff and he wanted to pop out of second.  I sat with the engine running in the parking lot while waiting for T to appear.  He was out of sight, but apparently heard the rumbly rumbly and tore around the corner, beaming.  e knew exactly what I was driving.  As we pulled out of the parking lot, he asked, "how's he driving?".  I responded with driving the bus like I stole him (well, as much as you can with a microbus).  "Zippy," T said.  At this point, the engine temp finally got high enough to trigger the thermostat and allow coolant to really move through the flange and into the radiator.  The temp climbed to 196* and crawled back down.  It see-sawed from 188* to 194* from then on during the drive home.  We stopped to look at the house we had tried to short-sale purchase last Summer.  We saw a puddle forming under the bus and knew then that the "fix" wasn't.  Back to the condo we went, a little dejected after such a promising start.

germane to nothing, it's a Nutria 
When the House is a-Rockin' Don't Bother Knockin'
As we pulled into the parking lot of the condo complex, I noticed the neighbor walking towards our parking spot.  Now, this neighbor isn't one of the condo folks.  He lives in a house that shares the property line.  In front of his house are parked many cars (some volksies).  They split and sell firewood.  They build and sell picnic tables.  There are always one or two folks out front, and a radio is always playing alternative radio.  Modern hippies?  Maybe.  Anyway, one of the guys who live there walked over and asked if we (T & I) could solve a debate.  Apparently, they heard me drive off, and that sparked a whole debate about whether it had a diesel in it or if it was just tuned crazy.  Big smile.  I pushed back the matress and the engine hatch I cut and watched is eyes bug-out.  LOL.  Made my day. Apparently, he and a bunch of folks he knows are mechanics and they specialize on VW's.... mostly the older ones, but they work at a shop I know if (omitted to protect everybody).  I encouraged any one of them to stop on by if they wanna see the crazy TDI-powered microbus.  I added, "if they wanna elp figure out the coolant leak, I live right there (pointing)".  :-D  I'm no dummy, and I'm tired of trying to isolate the leak.

That's it for today.  I'll revisit the leak next weekend.  Hopefully, I'll have a few extra pairs of hands around, even if they're just there to talk and point and drink beers.  To avoid the questions, I spotted that Nutria in the picture on my way into work as I passed a water hazard / green space.  If you've never seen one before, it was big, like a 16" long body plus a nearly 10" tail, nibbling on the grass.  Sometimes Mother Nature is just plain weird.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

That Familiar Feel of Snow

You may be happy to know that my blog hasn't been the only thing I've neglected over the last couple of months.  Today, for the first time in over a month, the family and I hit Mount Hood.  I'll touch on that and the latest page in the saga of my Jetta.  No bus news today.  I was going to test drive him this weekend, but I focused on other things instead.  If I have a dry and uneventful morning this week, I'll drive him to work as a test flight.

Flash Lives
Poor Man's Ramp
First, some context.  The symptoms were simple: little power, hard starting, seemingly no turbo and black exhaust.  For codes, I was getting a P1556: low or inconsistent boost.  Yep, the turbo wasn't kicking in properly.  Now, based on the days when the turbo wasn't kicking in on the bus, I knew the sound of a turbo firing up, but not boosting.  That was the sound I was hearing.  On Saturday, I prepared to get the Jetta (Flash) operating right.  Since I'm without a place to work on it, I set up on the street, using the poor-boy's ramp: the curb.  Once the engine is running, crank the wheel all the way so that the back of the front tire is facing the curb.  Then back-up.  Simple.  I slid under Flash and verified the connections from the turbo to the intercooler were good.  From the top-side, though, things were sideways.  The hard-pipe coming out of the intercooler was loose and grinding against the coolant pump.  We have our problem.  I drove it to Johnny, showed him the evidence, and he fixed it.  He did my rear brake pads too, and didn't charge me for either.  Thanks, Johnny.  Flash runs awesome.  Now, I need a pair of tires, and he's ready for another 40k+ miles.

C resting mid-Molly's
I hit Timberline with my boys and Boo today.  She couldn't slide, needing to grade student work unfortunately.  Turned out C had left his boots at his mom's house anyway, so he went in Boo's (they have the same size feet).  The snow was hard-packed with about 1/2 an inch of puff on top.  It was fast, but the crashes were painful.  I only spilled a couple of times (once on my helmet-protected skull, trying to follow C off a jump).  It really was what my mood needed, though.  There is nothing like a day of playing with your kids.

I Know that Feeling
We left the mountain in a bit of a rush.  T & C were due back at their mom's, so they left in the lead car while Boo and I arranged the ski equipment into the larger carry-car.  As we made our way off the mountain, we discovered an ice-patch.  Ahh... I haven't lost traction on slide-y stuff in years.  Funny how the old skills kick in, though.  Total calm, turn into the skid and lightly tap the brakes.  We righted our descent.  No side-rail impacts, no nerves even, really.  Oddly enough, the car behind us didn't hit the ice, nor were they deterred in their close traveling distance.  Bah!

That's it for tonight.  Have a great week, and thanks for following along.  I'll try to get back to this posting with a couple pictures...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

What Ever Happened to the Courtesy Wave?

I'll be brief today.  I've been working some crazy hours, and I haven't had my usual sled for almost three weeks, so its been a bit of an awful February.  Here we go...

Flash Returns
So, I got my car back from the mechanic that my wife usually uses.  Her family goes to him, and with Justin unavailable, I thought I'd try him.  In my last post, I lamented all the stuff I had to pay for, but he gave me a fair deal.  Unfortunately, when I got the car back, the turbo doesn't turn on anymore.  I think its a simple case of a vacuum line failing or the N75 going bad.  It just seemed peculiar to me that the turbo was working fine when Flash went into the shop, but now (many dollars later), I still have to do something on it.  Grr...

Traffic Patterns
Over the years, I've driven lots of miles.  From following the Dead around parts of the country, to delivering pizzas to basic commuting, I've driven many miles.  I'll make jokes about how I learned to drive in NY, and that meant you only needed 2 fingers: a middle one to communicate visually and one for the horn.  There's a spark of truth in that, though.  There is a whole means of communicating through your horn that many drivers don't understand.  There's the "hey buddy" short toot, the "wake up" long blast and the repeated medium-length "you're an idiot" honks.  All I hear anymore are the one-shot medium length "I'm pissed because I think you invaded my personal space" honks.  Boo.  Learn more.

Hand Waving
Take away the middle-finger-for-communicating joke, and there are many ways to communicate with just hand gestures.  We "palms up" to show no-harm-meant and wave someone in front of us with varied degrees of condescension: the holier-than-thou single waft over the wheel, the frantic I'm-in-a-big-hurry waving, even a frowny faced one-wave come-hither.  They all effectively say the same thing: I'm letting you in, but I really don't have to.  What has all but disappeared, though, is the response once they have gotten in front: the in-front-of-the-cabin-rear-view-mirror big-arm wave of thanks.  This is perhaps the biggest indication of traffic politeness decay.  When traffic merges, and you slide into a spot that barely fits, you big-arm wave.  Most drivers will give you about 2 seconds to do so before they retort with tailgating, headlight flashes or the poorly-spoken "you're an idiot" medium length honk.  Please make the extra effort and help calm everybody down.  Its not a race...

That's about it for today.  I think I found the true source of the leak on the bus a couple of weeks ago.  I'll post on that individually later.  Thanks for following along...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

How Diesel Gets Expensive

No, I'm not going to talk about the geo-political influences on fuel prices, or about the cost of additives or start a flame about US government underwriting of our fuel-driven economy.  Oops, maybe I just did.  I'm talking about how even with a low cost of ownership, sometimes, you still have to fork out a bunch of cash to keep your old diesel-burner on the road.  I'm having one of those realizations now.

Cost per Mile
Car-heads talk about cost-per-mile when referring to their cars.  Its an "easy" way to compare your '85 Toyota pickup to your friend's '06 Nissan Skyline.  I quote easy because everyone needs to calculate it the same way, and that's not easy to do.  In concept, you take everything you spend on the car and divide that by the miles.  Simple.  Cost per mile.  If you have a black car and you live in a dusty climate, you probably wash that car all the time.  That should be part of your calculation, arguably, but if you wash it yourself at home, how do you price the water you use?  This is were it gets blurry, but this is all one long digression.  I call out the cost per mile because that was one of the key reasons I bought the Jetta TDI in the first place.  Promises of 50 mpg, and running at a low cost to 250k miles rang in my head.  So, 8 years ago I bought Flash, a 2000 Jetta TDI.  Since then, I've spent little, and drove him tons.  Its been a very low cost per mile, not that I bothered calculating it.  I might after this...

Drip Drip Drip
TDI Injection Pump.
re-man: $1000
Since moving in with, and then marrying Boo, Flash has been driven more by others than by me.  This has left me a little blind to the steady deterioration of things.  A few weeks ago, I noticed that there was a diesel fuel smell and a corresponding leak near the injection pump (IP).  "Well, that's not good," I thought, and looked up some solutions.  The TDIClub had a many postings on this issue, and there are even YouTube videos of guys doing in-situ re-gasketing of an injection pump.  "wow, that's neat".  Of course, no garage, tools in storage and an ever-watchful home-owners association at the condo complex had my hands tied.  My job had me really busy, and I wasn't driving him, so I wasn't thinking about the problem every day.  Boo (the regular driver) started complaining of headaches and I didn't immediately realize that it was fumes from the leak that was causing them.  She hasn't driven him in a few days and the headaches seem to have passed, so I think we may have found cause.  It wasn't until K drove him and told me after that the temperature warning light had started flashing and a buzzer was going off that I remembered Flash was ill.  Simple rule: when your idiot lights start to flash and warning buzzers go off, pull over and turn the engine off.

So that's the Sound of Money Pouring out of my Wallet
Diesel Injector
Set of 4: $1000
The temp flashing red and buzzer mean the coolant bottle is empty, threatening the consistent cooling of your engine.  Basically, the water level is low enough that your head is no longer getting cooled.  Badness will ensue.  I filled the bottle, started the engine, and filled it again.  And again.  Yikes, he was low.  Wile the engine was running, I could see drips under the engine, so I scheduled time with Boo's mechanic.  Justin (my friend and TDI guru) is working on other things these days, so I went another direction.  Johnny is a good man, knows diesels (knows gassers better), and wants my car to last a long time, just like I do.  He works on Boo's car, Boo's mom's and friends' cars too, so he's a good egg.  He looked Flash over, and concluded that the diesel leak at the injector pump lead to the premature aging of the coolant line that runs beneath it, eventually putting a hole in the line.  Others are similarly threatened.  Cost for the hose: $200 (w/labor, new coolant, etc), but solving the leaking IP was another story.  He conferred with a fellow VW mechanic and they agreed that at over 150k miles on the original IP, it was probably at its end-state.  Removing the IP includes removing the timing belt, so our simple hose leak had now blossomed into a $1.2k or more job (as we're doing a timing belt replacement now, too).  The IP was sent to Diesel Fuel Injection Service for a look-see.  The important steel bits inside were all okay, but they are going to re-man it anyway with Viton (Bio-Diesel tolerant) seals moving it to better-than-new condition.  Before Johnny sent it to them, we talked about verifying the health of the injectors too.  Why bother getting the pump right, if your injectors are fouled.... Yep, 3 of the 4 were bad or really bad, and the 4th one was leaky.  Neat.  Add another $600 to the job to get all four rebuilt with good German Bosch pintles and other bits.

(Not) Bringing it Home
Added to the costs of the work are things like living without a car for almost 2 weeks.  Yes, that's right.  The IP and injectors need to be rebuilt, and that kind of craftsmanship can't be rushed.  Some of the parts need to be sourced from the East Coast, etc.  So, added to the trauma of not having a car are little things like looking for a rental, bumming rides, cancelling events and asking your MIL to borrow her car.  Its been a de-lightful week.  Flash will be back next Saturday, and his throttle response should be better than it was the day I bought him (used).  Johnny is going to clean-up and match my glowplugs to rid a code, wrapping up the work for around $2200.  Considering a re-man IP runs $1k and new injectors do too, a timing belt job usually runs over $600 and the original hose leak is getting done, its a more-than-fair deal.  Still hurts like mad, though.  Consider that the front end still clunks, and I'm pretty sure the struts need replacing, but that will have to wait until after taxes.  Sigh.  How long til Summer?

Remember: Get and Use Stanadyne in your semi-modern (pre-2006) diesel engine'd cars and trucks.  Since the US pumps have low-sulfer fuel in them, older systems require lubrication through a fuel additive.  Omitting a lubricant will shorten the life of your system, and you will have a $2k problem to solve.  Just like I did.

Monday, January 21, 2013


Happy New Year.  It has been a whirlwind month since I last wrote.  I'll hit the highlights.  There will be NO BUS CONTENT.

SkiBowl Waming Hut
I've mentioned "Boo" over the last year and a half when I flap about personal / non-bus stuff.  We got married in the snow on Mount Hood in late December.  Members of both of our families made the trek to SkiBowl, and stood with us in the snow for a brief ceremony among the trees and flurries.  Boo and I took a run down Mid- and Lower Reynolds with T shooting with a Go-Pro camera.  Then we met the rest of the family for drinks at Beer Stube.  The rest of the day was a mix of playing in the snow and visiting family.  We rented a cabin for the days on either side of "vow day", so while our parents, etc, headed back to the valley, we were 10 minutes from "home".

Saturday Night's Alright for Partying
Yeah, I know the song is a little different.  We threw a reception on the last Saturday of December to celebrate the vows we spoke 2 days earlier.  We were joined by around 85 friends and family, ate Chinese drank Stella and wine, etc.  Good times.  It seems that most of our friends who have kids have little ones, and the party broke up by 11.  Just as well, though, as Boo and I had a morning flight to SF the next day.

If You're Going to San Francisco
Lers Ros
After a night of celebrating, rising before dawn was not exactly easy.  Neither Boo nor I had really unpacked from the mountain, and we had little interest in really dedicating to packing for a few days in SF.  A creaky rise followed by a frigid drive, had us waiting for the long-term parking shuttle as pre-dawn turned to dawn.  We breezed through security, grabbed coffees at the old Coffee People inside the terminal and hit the gate with 15 minutes to spare.  Ahh... The flight was uneventful, and we found the folks at Oakland International to be very friendly and helpful.  We took the shuttle to Oakland Coliseum, and picked up BART....  12 hours after our party ended, we were checked into our hotel.  Things turned interesting at this point.

The hotel (Hotel Renoir) is over 100 years old and sits right on Market Street between the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium and the Warfield Theater in Tenderloin.  The hotel had recently undergone a renovation, but it appeared to exclude the heat system.  For the 4 days we were in the hotel, we were on our own for late December / early January... during a unusually cold snap.  Hotel management did comp us free breakfasts for the 1st and 2nd, though.  We napped, checked the view from the roof and then walked to Walgreen's and bought a space heater :)  Problem solved.  We grabbed dinner at a fantastic Thai place (Lers Ros) and walked a bit of Tenderloin to get some bearings, including a walk-past of the Civic Auditorium to see what the lines and crowd were like to anticipate NewYears.  It was not impressive.  Lots of drug scene, and not much in terms of quality wares being sold.  The line was ridiculously long too.  Hmm...

New Years Day
Renoir Hotel
The first morning in SF was again clear and cold.  We set out on a day-long walk that took us from Market to Japantown, the Painted Ladies, Haight-Ashbury and back again.  We grabbed some quick eats and hit the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium for Furthur.  We thought the doors opened at 7:30, but that was wen the band was supposed to start.  Clueless, we simply walked up and through the doors into the venue (no line), and headed for the mezzanine.  We set up in a standing-only spot in the walkway, dead center, behind the handicapped zone.  No sooner had we chosen our spot, the lights dimmed, Bob, Phil and friends it the stage and the show started.  The sound was perfect, dancing roomy and the neighbors welcoming.  We celebrated both our new marriage and NewYears with 10+k friends.  The band played until nearly 2, and we didn't get back to the hotel 2 blocks away until after 3.
We spent the better part of NewYears Day sleeping and watching football.  That evening, we had been given a gift of cocktails at "Top of the Mark" (TotM).  Not thinking about the effect of SF hills on legs that spent the prior night dancing for 5 hours, we set off on foot up Russian Hill (I think).  Nearly sweating upon arrival at TotM, the view and the treatment were amazing.  We sat, sipping champagne, watching the shadows stretch from the setting sun across the Bay.  Again, we set off on foot, through the Financial District to the Esplanade, and then along the warfs to Pier 39 for dinner.
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

I don't know how much we walked in SF, but I'm sure it was multiple miles.  Our last morning was a flash of checking out, BART'ing and bus'ing back to Oakland International.  We absolutely loved SF, and decided right then that we'd adopt the 49ers.  We also discovered we can travel together... we roll and press on the same things.  That's it for now.