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...