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...