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.