Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Early Bay Windshield Washer mod (part 1)

All bus content today. I'm going to go over how to modify the early bay-window bus windshield washer system from the original air-pressure system to one using a more modern pump. Well, this got really long, so I'm splitting it up into multiple posts instead.

Original Set-Up
For starters, we'll reference the picture on the RAtwell site (re-posted here). Although the system in the picture is for a later bay, most of this is the same for the early bus. The biggest difference is in the valve in the lower left corner. The late-bay windshield wipers and washer controls are on a stalk attached to the steering column. The early-bay controls are a switch contraption on the dashboard next to the hazard light switch. It is round, and the user twists the knob to turn on the wipers... and pushes a button in the center of the switch to activate the valve.
thx RAtwell. you're amazing
The valve allows pressurized water, air, soap through the lines from the bottle out to the nozzles on the front of the bus. The bottle on the far right sits just in front of the front passenger's foot-well. The long hose runs out the bottom of the tank and ties into the valve I just described. The short hose that looks like its coming out of the top of the bottle is, again, a little different from the early-bus, but the purpose is the same: connect a bicycle pump to that so you can pressurize the tank, and, accordingly, the system.  In the early bus, the air hose attaches to the tank like the other hose does on the bottom of the tank: press onto a nipple and them cinch it down with a plastic threaded nut.

So, with that orientation, you can probably imagine how well the system works or doesn't work after 40 years of recurring owner neglect. On my bus, the rubber lines had been cut out or at least cut up so pumping the tank just sprayed its contents all over the electrical a behind the dash. Fun. The tank doesn't usually fail, but the valves can. Or so I've been told. There are a few changes to modernize the system.

Scope of Mod
McMaster switch
First and most important is how to incorporate an electrical switch without disrupting the original dash or spirit of operation? The original button should remain with magic behind it so it at least looks the same. To work, you need a SPST (single pole, single throw) NO (normal-open) biased (push-on, release-off) switch. The switch in the door is kind of like this except it's NC (normal-closed) and creates a circuit when the button pops out. I spent quite a bit of time researching this, and what kinds of switches were readily available. You can get a cheap one, or even a set of 2 or 4 from RadioShack.

They will eventually fail, and "eventually" may not be that far off based on how much current they can handle. I was concerned with how hardy these switches are, especially with how hard the switch will be to get to once installed. Instead, I paid as much for one McMaster-Carr switch as 4 RadioShack ones. This is why I didn't solder wires and instead used insulated connectors: I didn't want to fry the switch with a soldering iron.
washer pump 1J5 955 651

Second, if we want the VW to remain totally a VW, we should use a VW pump. That's actually pretty easy, and yes, I know I have already angered the purists with my bus, but this modification shouldn't be verboten by them, IMHO. Anyway, I got a pump that fits a modern VW (part #1J5 955 651). The vanagon pump has larger more common pins for the electrical side, so it might be a better, easier bit for electrical. I had the modern pump on-hand, so there ya go. The rest of the system remains the same. The rubber hoses are replaced, the nozzles replaced. This includes the air-pressure hose; replace it with a basic hose and point the open end up behind the glove box for an air source.

Parts List
So, before we start doing, we need some parts. The pump, the switch and the nozzles may need to be ordered. Its possible that the pump and nozzles are available locally, but at the very least the switch will need to be ordered. I got my nozzles at the local VW parts shop (DIP). Part numbers (in parenthesis)

Washer pump (1J5-955-651) or you could use one from a vanagon (431-955-651)
2-pin plug (1J0 973 702 should work) if you used the same pump as I did
McMaster-Carr SPST/NO 12V switch (7397K25) link here
3 Phillips-head screws. not bolts.
6' rubber washer hose
3/4" x 10' polypropylene strap. you'll only use about a foot of it
2 washer nozzles (211-955-993)
Some insulated electrical connectors (1 ring for ground, 2 tiny female for the switch and 2 standard female for the pump if you used a vanagon pump)

That's it for today.  Doing the whole job in one post was just too much.  I hope everyone had a hapy, healthy and restful holiday season. Have a safe and wonderful new year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Electrical. How (not) fun

I know its been a few weeks. Like so many folks, time disappears around Thanksgiving and it doesn't really re-appear until after New Years Eve. I've been in that time warp, but I have been thinking bus-y thoughts.

Well, that's Interesting

I've spent a few hours in front of televised football, Bentley wiring diagram in hand, trying to figure out the electrical system. I have this very odd electrical behavior I'm trying to chase down.  It all started again when I put the replacement battery in. I shook something loose, and now, when the running light is on, I can't shut off the engine with the key. Turn the key back to run, shut off the lights and then turn the key? Shuts off. The last time this happened, I removed the ground wire for the rear light from the tab and re-attached it. Problem went away. This time? No such luck. The brake warning system light is also illuminated when the running lights are on, so I figured it had something to do with the rear bulb again. I've removed and replaced the bulb, but no luck. The symptom persists. This brings me to my football, Bentley and head-scratching.

Wiring Mess
In looking at the Bentley, the wiring diagram for the brake warning light is pretty simple, but it connects to a few things I wouldn't have expected, like the generator warning system. I concluded that the brake warning light would be on all the time if it wasn't semi-controlled by the generator, so after some thought, that makes sense. Still, I don't have that generator hooked up, so maybe one end of that wire got itself grounded or something. Knowing the holiday break was coming, I concluded that it was finally time, after 10 years of ownership, to pull the face off the dashboard and clean up the wiring. It's actually very easy, like so many things, to take the dashboard apart. 4 Phillips-head screws (2 on each end) hold it on. Before you start removing them, though, detach the speedometer cable. On the old bus, its a right-hand thread-in type. Vanagons have a different set up.

My bus doesn't have the little plastic tips on the "climate" control levers anymore, so I didn't have to remove those. If you have these little tips, be careful; they break easily. Once the screws are out, the face lifts off. Tilt it towards you, so the top slips under the steering wheel. You can do quite a bit of wiring without having to remove the steering wheel, but first, marvel at the dusty, dirty electrical mess behind that dash. Wow.

Enter Winter Break
My employer likes to shut the offices down for the last 2 weeks of the calendar year. They have concluded that many folks take that time off anyway, so why heat a building that only has a handful of people in it? Makes sense. So, I'm lining up work for the break. I'm starting with the wiring. I've spent a few hours figuring out which wires I don't need anymore because of my different engine. I still haven't figured out the weird short in the tail light, and now I have new electrical demons to chase (see picture). The wiring behind the dash is long overdue for some love, and the fuse-box hasn't been attached to the bus frame since I bought it. Yikes. Add in the tail light, and I've got a bit of work ahead.

Plus, I've been wanting a windshield washer, and I haven't had one since I bought the bus. RAtwell lightly describes a way of installing a more modern washer (from the air-pressure model of the bus), but he has a '79. The washer valve is completely different in a '79, so this becomes a greater engineering challenge. Bring it!

Last, I found some headliner material for cheap. The ceiling of the bus is Baltic Birch that was painted white, and looks awful. I thought the foam/felt could absorb a little ambient noise and make the interior a little nicer looking. We'll see if I have the time.

That's it for today. I have already started some of the engineering work around the washer. I'll post on that progress, as well as all the other things I started sine my last post as we enter the new year. Have a great holiday season, and as always, thanks for following along-

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thinking Big from Thinking Small

It's been a quiet month , postings-wise, but busy out in the world.  Work for both me and Boo has been quite heavy.  So, I've found myself doing much more of the usual domestic stuff while her seemingly endless days of long hours continue.  Additionally, I recently endured another round of legal fun with my ex-, so I have had lots of time force-focused on what I'd call small-ball.  Get through the day stuff.  It helped me recognize that by spending so much time in the deep detail, you really can't get out above it to see the larger picture without some effort.  Today's musings are along those lines.

Small Ball
What is thinking small?  I think that's perhaps the most important question followed by "how do you recognize when you're blocked in by it?"  Thinking small comes in all shapes.  I've had it happen when I'm working on a very fine point on the bus, like fixing the coolant leak.  While that thing plagued me, I couldn't get out of it enough to see the bigger project and plan things out.  As a result, after I fixed the leak I languished for a few weeks trying to figure out what was next.  The past 3 weeks, I've been focused on personal budgets, domestics, day-to-day work and the upcoming legal event.  Each of these presented the opportunity to think both big and small, but the pressure and fatigue had me down in the weeds.  My focus was picking up dishes or running a load of laundry.  Really small stuff.

Spotting It
How do you know you're thinking small?  Consider the time horizon of whatever you're focusing on.  Does it vary?  Or, have you rutted into a fixed and shorter time period?  Consider the scope of the issues you're thinking about.  Are the different things varied in size?  Or, are they all somewhat the same size?  The less the time horizon and scope vary, the more you'll find yourself in a shrinking space.  Without recognizing it and making an adjustment, you'll only be thinking small.  Bigger plans won't come to you inspired.  Instead, you'll be deep focusing on tiny details.  While going deep into details sometimes necessary, being there all the time traps you from greater ideas.

Changing It
Sometimes, the event you're high-centering on has a fixed point-in-time, like my legal hearing.  Once it passes, the Small Ball passes with it.  Other times, the thing you're focused on has to complete before your mind can let it go.  That was the case with my coolant leak problem.  But, can you force yourself out of the deep?  Yes, you can; there are lots of ways.  My favorite is going to a travel website and pretend to plan a trip a few weeks or months out or trolling JamBase for a concert a few weeks out.  By looking that far ahead, you trigger yourself to force your mind into a different time horizon.  Spend at least 15 minutes in this different time horizon.

It was this kind of thinking that got the TDI-into-a-bus project started in the first place.  I had spent so much time deep into the effort of getting my center-mount Weber carb to operate well at or below dew-point that I couldn't see the rest of the bus project.  I poked around for different power ideas, read some bulletin boards, and started to get my mind out of the deep detail.  Then, I totally switched it up and did a bunch of research on cob housing, and that flipped the switch.  I needed to poke around for different power answers first: force the mind to change the scope horizon.  Then, break free of the small with a completely different exploration at a high level, like cheap DIY housing with available-on-premises materials.

While I needed a day to emotionally recover from the hearing, I spent part of the next day researching heating solutions on the bus.  Just like that, I'm able to think big again.  Now, I'm asking myself what could camping season look like next summer?  If I can get a diesel heater integrated into the bus, could camping season start in April?  or even earlier?  What would the interior look like if I put a soft headliner in?  What if all of the seats were covered with the same fabric?  What about the exterior paint?  For some, this is still thinking small, and I totally get that.  For having started so deep, projecting work out beyond the next couple of days... thinking about things that could take a few weeks is a big step.

That's about it for today.  I'll keep stretching to consider bigger targets.  Maybe I'll resurrect that idea about a mountain cabin.  That was often a very effective tool to pull me back out of the weeds and consider life and my place in the world differently.  Thanks for following along, and now that I'm out of the depths, I might have something to post about again before the month is up.

Saturday, November 1, 2014


Somehow, I've managed to work my way to 300 posts over the last 7 years.  Rather than a real-content post today, I'm going to reflect back kind of like when TV shows do a "best of" episode.  Frankly, I hate it when TV shows do that, and promptly switch the channel when they do, so my following that model is actually kinda funny.

0 - 100: The Start of Many Things
Ranging from January of 2007 to September of 2009, my first 100 posts ran the gamut of topics.  That's probably true of any cross-section.  In looking at what was happening with the bus, the blog starts with him running the original type4 engine, but I soon started the TDI work.  Early posts ranting on some old air-cooled vehicle abuses like removing the cooling system shifted to engine options and then to solving the install of a water-cooled plant into an air-cooled body.  Deciding on the engine was recorded on April 13th, 2007 (see Engine Decided) and a year later, the engine was still sitting on my garage floor, a failed first attempt on both the fuel tank relining and the engine mount had slowed me.  That winter was spent getting the engine and transaxle to mate for the first time (see first and second attempts).  I broke an adapter plate, and my spirit over that winter.  It took going on the road to see the Dead and starting the separation from my ex-wife to get the project going again in early 2009.  The first 100 posts ended with the new rear engine mount being fabricated, the starter adapter solved (see starter adapter corrected...), the vacuum completed (see what's that soft sucking sound) and the fuel fill set up.

101-200: Transitions
Starting in September of 2009, this block of 100 posts carried through late July of 2011.  I started this period sleeping in a spare room at my now ex-wife's house and ended this period completing a divorce and living in a townhouse apartment.  Still, the middle section of 100 posts started with the same urgency which the first 100 had at the end, in terms of bus work.  The fall of 2009 included the fuel tank (see Fuel Tank Solved) shape / vacuum pump issue, buttoning up the turbo, vacuum, starter, CV joints and moving the bus off the mud and onto concrete for winter work.  Over the Winter, the radiator/cooling was addressed (see Radiator test-fitted, shrouded and Installed) and the bus project really started to roll.  The hatch was finished, intake routed, electrical, clearing codes, finishing the coolant routing, primary electrical, etc.  By December of 2010, my ex- and I had decided to call it quits.  I spent January through March staying on my parent's couch trying to get the bus into a will-travel-under-own-power state before the divorce finalized.  I was able to get him running-ish, and had a muffler installed by Meineke (see Exhausted) during that working-remotely period.  By April, I had a townhouse-style apartment with a dedicated garage space and focused a considerable amount of free time into the bus' interior.  I swapped out the fridge for storage, applied more sound killer, installed an accessory battery and fuseblock (see fused) and ended the late July with installing a Riviera pop-top in place of the original ripped-up Westy top.

201 - 300: Moving
Picking up in late July of 2011, the final 300 posts carry us to today (early November 2014).  I started this period as a divorced father of 2 boys and an old bus, and I now conclude this period remarried father of 4 boys and an old bus.  We moved out of the townhouse apartment when they raised my rent past the point I could afford, and into Boo's condo.  From the condo, we moved into the house we've been in for 18 months now.  Frequency of posts dropped during that housing change and life settled into a very different pattern of family play versus self mechanic'ing.  This period, though, marks the time when the bus went from stationary project to daily driver.  In August, we camped in him for the first time in years (see One Small Step for Van).  Later that Fall, we hit the road to Eugene for Furthur but needed a tow home.  Like I've said before, the journey is the destination, and we had to pull the tank to get re-lined.

I returned the original engine harness to service, and struggled with coolant leaks while trying to keep him on the road.  I discovered a new love of snowboarding, and bonded with a new family at Mt. Hood.  The bus underwent more transformations as well.  He has a middle row bench seat (see Vanagon Seat Install, no longer has a grossly underused kitchenette (see Enter Summer, exist posting) and has a rebuilt jalousie window (see parts one and two).  I dropped his engine 3 times in this stretch of posts, twice having to separate the engine and transaxle.  Both of his bumpers have been hammered straight-ish and painted to an almost good-looking state (see front 1,2,3,4 and rear) and he now sports door cards as well as cards for most of the interior.  The ceiling doesn't sag anymore.  This past Summer, we had 3 flawless road trips to Nye Beack on the Oregon coast, Horning's Hideout and to the Black Sheep Family Reunion.

So, What's Next?
I guess that's always the question when you don't draw a map ahead of time.  I honestly don't know.  Frankly, I couldn't have drawn a map to this point and I wouldn't have ended up here if I'd tried to.  I look forward to many sights like the one below, simply driving the posted speed and enjoying the sights out the front windscreen.  As before and always, thanks for following along.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Peanut Butter (no Jelly) Time

No, I won't post that dancing banana video from a few years back, but I will reflect on a valuable use for peanut butter that I didn't expect.

That's Nasty
old pic from 2011 but
check the nasty back-end
When driving along, the air directly behind the vehicle creates a vacuum.  Car designers have worked all kinds of miracles in that area over the years, but with the old loaf-of-bread shaped VW bus, the vacuum is quite significant.  I've heard of water-cooled transplant failures caused because the builder put a radiator where the engine hatch is.  The vacuum made the radiator useless, unless the builder had the fans suck air in from behind, sort of leveraging the vacuum.  Even then, those installs look pretty atrocious and would pull all kinds of crap into the radiator fins, but I digress.  The vacuum grabs up water, road grime, dripping oil... and splats it on the rear bumper, engine hatch and rear hatch.  Over time, it gets pretty grimy.

In my bus' case, it was worse.  I mentioned the transaxle gear oil leak in previous posts.  That was bad.  On top of that, for a few years I was running the original tail lights and the old housings failed.  I was broke, so I held the tail lights on with duct tape.  Yes, the bus looked horribly ghetto.  I scored a pair of new (but not China-crap) housings from the BusDepot when they were on sale a few years ago, and replaced them.  I did not, however, clean up the old duct tape sticky residue left behind by the tape.

For the Greatest Shine You Ever Tasted (from the SNL Shimmer skit)
While cleaning out the garage, Boo came out from playing in the garden and started asking about the nasty back end of the bus.  We realized that once the newly painted bumper is put on, it will look even worse.  She ducked inside, and I went back to the garage.  A couple minutes later, she had returned with a fist of paper towels and a teaspoon of peanut butter.  "Hungry?" I asked.  "No, haven't you ever done this before?" she replied, and then proceeded to put a dab of peanut butter on the nasty duct tape.  "uh... what... are.. you..," was as far as I got as a response before I saw one of the 4 tacky squares which had been left behind by the duct tape had disappeared.  In a few minutes, all 4 of the big black marks were gone.  I was converted.  I left the garage in its not-yet-organized state and grabbed some peanut butter.  I polished the whole rear end with that magical stuff.  It acted like a cleanser-wax, cleaning the oil and grime while leaving a shine (presumably from the oils in the peanut butter).  Of course, there are probably lots of little peanut bits in there which would trash an otherwise nice paint job.  For original paint, complete with rust, patina and grease-finger prints, it is magic.

For kicks, I peanut oiled all of the little rust spots I had.  The petina-style rust didn't seem very affected.  Rather than a dull spot, it shined like the paint, but otherwise, it was about the same.  The rust which was a little deeper into the steel, though, did react differently.  The rust closest to the paint was unaffected, but as I moved more than a couple MM away from the paint edge, the rust turned silver.  Trippy.  I'll re-check those spots in a couple of days to see if that lasted or was just because the peanut butter picked up some of the body color and it simply attached to the rust a little bit.  Regardless, the experimenting was fun.

Like so may other times, I didn't take many pictures beforehand, but I do have one here of the back after it was cleaned.  Wow.  And there's a shine to it now.  Yes, the paint is still atrocious, but that's part of the ongoing work-in-progress.  The journey is the destination.

Of course, it rained all night the next night.  It will be interesting to see how long a peanut oil wax job will last in a NorthWest autumn (read: nearly constant rain or mist in the air).  Today, it really looks great.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ceiling Sag No More

Quick post today.

Well, That's Ugly
I recently realized that I've owned this bus for more than 11 years.  Wow.  Where did the time go?  A few years after I bought it, I decided that the 1972 Westy interior was a safety hazard for my (then quite young) boys.  I played this scenario out in my head where we got in a wreck and the boys, while unharmed, couldn't reach the sliding door handle behind the sink/icebox unit.  This lead to removing the sink/icebox, and, eventually, removing the entire early interior, replacing it with one from 1979.  Now, the 1979 interior assumed that the ceiling over the rear section of the bus was flat, whereas the 1972 ceiling was rounded.  Because of the difference, I couldn't install the '79 headbanger closet.  The 1972 storage shelf assumed that the closet was on the right side, so I couldn't reuse that either.  So, the net result was no shelf, and the ceiling was left bare... and unsupported.  Fast forward 5-8 years and the Baltic Birch sheet no longer clings to the upper steel sheet like it used to.  Quite the contrary, it droops pretty badly.

Now, That's Better
The solution was really quite simple: sheet metal screws.  I had put one in the center at the very rear a while ago, but that just held off the inevitable.  I used that as a starting point, running a sheet metal screw up into the ceiling, through the ceiling steel sheet a foot apart, front to back.  I set a screw on either side about a foot to each side as well.  While this isn't a final state either, it no longer sags.

Ideas on Final State
I've thought about what the interior of the bus should look like, and I've trolled around the internet a little bit looking for ideas.  I think it comes down to 2 options: buy automotive headliner material in bulk and install it with epoxy/glue -or- do something custom.  I think by now, you know I'll do something custom, its just a question of what.  To give the headliner a fair shake, though, it is the right material for the job, it's anti-microbial, non-flammable (even flame retardant) and comes in a variety of colors and textures.  My challenge is how it adheres to the Baltic Birch.  If it requires solely epoxy, gravity will be its undoing.  Sending staples through it to help hold it in place will ruin it.  Hmm.. more thought and research needed.

That's all for now.  As always, thanks for following along-

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rear Bumper Clean-up

On the drive to the coast for the family gathering for Independence Day, I realized that something in the drive-train was leaking oil.  Drips would hit the air turbulence under the bus, atomize, and the resulting mist would get caught in the vacuum behind the moving bus.  Within the vacuum, it would splatter against the rear of the bus; especially the rear bumper.  Over the last few posts, I explained how I solved the leaking oil (it was a bad input shaft seal, damaged by a faulty oil slinger, which was either damaged because I didn't have a pilot bearing in my flywheel or because AA transaxle used an old bell-housing).  Now that the oil leak is solved, I can focus on the last thing I wanted done before the Fall (see Setting and Re-setting Expectations): cleaned up and painted rear bumper.  Today's post covers the start of that journey.

The Missing and the Modesty Skirt
scrub clean first
Like the bolts holding the front bumper on, the square-lock bolts holding the rear bumper are in pretty bad shape.  Rusty.  Painted over with what looks like interior paint.  Missing.  I'll need at least 3 replacements when I'm all done.  At some point during the engine swap project, I removed the splash pans from either end of the rear bumper.  I'm sure that was a good idea at the time, and it gave me the opportunity to troll through my garage looking for them in my boxes of parts.  Like a trip down memory lane, it took longer than it should have, but I found them.  I set them aside and removed the modesty skirt from the bottom of the bumper.  I don't know why the bus has one of these; and I don't see any on the handful of buses I regularly see.  Maybe 1972 was an especially shy year for cars.  Anyway, I hammered it semi-straight-ish.  Then, I taped the front, bottom and sides and put it with the splash pans.  On a sunny day, I spray painted the pans and the unmasked front of the modesty skirt with rubberized undercoating.  Once dry, I removed the tape from the modesty skirt so rest of it could be painted white like the main bumper.

Sanding and Banging
Unlike the front bumper which had 3 distinct pieces, the rear bumper is a long stretch of curved steel.  The curves run top to bottom as well as curl in on the ends.  This made banging it straight more challenging.  Again, like with the front bumper, I aimed for 'good enough for camping kwality' in my bodywork.  Unlike the front bumper, the rear had a couple of very old bumper stickers on it and when they were removed, they took a couple coats of crappy paint with them.  This led to some unwelcome contours I tried to solve with 150-grit sand paper.  I learned along the way that the sand paper could help me identify minor dings by bringing up a lower level of paint around an area.  It was with this technique that I discovered that the bolt holes were centered on dimples the size of US quarters.  Some more banging with the hammer got them flat.

Paint, Wet Sand
Once I declared "good enough" on the cyclical sand, hammer, sand process, I pulled out the white Rustoleum I used on the front bumper.  It's been about a year since I did that front bumper, so its time to review how it is holding up.  To be fair, the bus hasn't seen many miles (probably less than a thousand) since it was done, but it has been outside in my driveway where the kids are playing when it wasn't driving to music festivals.  The bumper looks good, and I mean really good.  No rust staining, no blemishes, no cracks or chips.  I applied straight Rustoleum with a foam brush inside and out and set it to dry.  The next morning, it was totally dry.  Total drying time was over 12 hours, but some ranters on the interweb claim it takes forever for this paint to dry.  False.  Just apply it properly: spread a thin coat always keeping a wet edge by brushing into the already painted surface.

After the paint set up, I could see large sections where the paint underneath had been pulled away by bumper stickers.  In a real body shop, they'd probably strip the whole bumper down.  I thought about that.  In a cheap-o body shop, they'd fill with Bondo.  I thought I could experiment with spackle, since that was what I had, and see how it behaves over time.  Worst case, it looks like crap and I strip the bumper down later.  Big deal.  First, I wet-sanded the paint.  I needed to do it anyway, and I figured that would give some teeth for the spackle.  So, with a basic putty knife and a small tub of spackle, I smeared paste over the bigger spots, and some small ones.  I slipped inside and watched some football for a couple hours while it dried and then cuffed the spackle down with 150-grit sandpaper.

More Paint
Once smooth, I wiped the bumper down with a damp paper towel and applied a second coat of white Rustoleum.  Same method, similar results.  This time, though, you could tell where the spackle spots were because the white paint wasn't shiny in those spots.  At this point, I figured I probably should have done something else, but I just plowed ahead: wet sand with 320 grit, another coat of paint, more 320 grit wet sanding.  This time, you really can't tell where the spackle is, but I wasn't 100% sold.  SO, I decided to wait a week and look again next weekend to see if another coat of paint would be needed, would help, or if I'd just be throwing product at a bad idea.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Back Together, Test Drive

In my last posts, I covered the hazardous re-assembly of the engine-to-transaxle and the install of the combined unit at 15*.  Today, completes that journey.  In order to do the re-assembly as quickly as possible, I tried doing it a little differently.  I usually do system by system.  This time, I did it based on where I was and did everything I could before I moved.  I'm not sure I'll do that again, but it was interesting.  I cleaned every part with brake cleaner before installing it.  It made a world of difference, and I'll do that every time now.  Handling a clean part is just so much better than the oily, greasy alternative.

Lower Right Rear
Starting below the right side of the engine, there are a few things to do, starting with the CV joint.  I place a jack under the lower shock-absorber mount and lift until the tire just barely leaves the ground.  Then, with 6 new Allen-head bolts (one striped last time), attach the CV joint to the side of the transaxle and drop the tire back onto the ground.  At the front of the transaxle on the right side, is the ground strap.  It requires a 13mm socket.  Install the starter.  It requires a 17mm socket (need to verify) for the 2 bolts plus a 13mm for the B+ cable from the battery.  Plug in the trigger signal wire to the starter.  Connect the B+ wire to the Atlernator and plug in the sensor wires.  Double check all the other visible sensor wires (like on the cooling system) are plugged in.  Last, zip-tie the cooling pipes up out of the way from the axle.

Put in the rear support bar.  Don't forget to put the rear bumper mounts back in when you do the bar; they use the same bolts.  Install the support tower and the rear engine-frame mount.  If you get this far and the mount isn't lining up, check the support bar install.  If the mount and tower are on different angles, you probably mated the engine to the transaxle at something other than 15*.  Go back one posting :)  Once the rear mount is in, hook up the exhaust.  The muffler pipe has a hook that fits onto the rubber mount which is hanging off the right side of the rear support bar.  Once hanging, it should fit with enough room to maneuver the rest of the pipe without it hitting the ground nor the bus and no jacking required.

The exhaust-to-turbo mating has a gasket and 3 13mm nut/bolts.  One mount is a stud coming out of the turbo.  Because of the design, at least one of the 13mm needs to be tightened with a wrench instead of a socket.  Next comes the intake system.  Start with the non-charged air pipe from the air cleaner to the turbo.  This is held on with 10mm bolts, and most of the work is from above rather than through the rear hatch.  Next, the charged-air plumbing with the intercooler is most easily installed as a unit.  Slide the turbo-end on first, then set the intercooler and complete the system to the intake last.  The pipe clamps are a combination of slotted-screwdriver and 10mm socket.  The intercooler is held in place with bailing wire (yes, bailing wire) looped between the mounting hole on the intercooler and the open loop in the engine mount attached to the engine.  This allows for the vibration of the entire system to resonate as one.  Route the vacuum to the turbo and snap it into the channels on the plastic tubes.

Lower Left Rear
Shifting back under the bus, repeat the CV joint process for the left side.  Verify what's been done thus far from the new perspective: the turbo plumbing, the air system, the vacuum.  Hook up the bowden tube and the clutch cable to the clutch activation arm.  If you run out of adjustment threads, you need some head-washers (I used 4) between the bowden tube and the mount it slides into.  That mount is held on with 2 13mm bolts.

Lower Middle
Mount the nose of the transaxle.  Plug in the reverse wires for the reverse light switch.  Don't brain yourself on the radiator.  Thread the short hollow tube to connect the gear selector at the front of the transaxle to the long gear shift tube coming from the front of the bus.  Zip-tie the tube into place.  I'm sure that last line will upset some purists (as if the whole project hasn't already), but the original bolt/nut solution falls out; the zip-tie doesn't.

From Above
There's little left now.  Mount the coolant overflow bottle, verifing the top coolant line runs where it's suppoed to.  Plug the sensor into the bottle.  Note the coolant level, and come back and check again if its not spot-on.  Verify the vacuum bulb is set and tight.  Put the fuel filter into it's mount and tighten it down, making sure that the lines run properly.  I have a cheap $1 clear filter in front of the spendy stock filter to extend its life, but it also shows me that fuel is getting that far.  I check that for a fuel level at this point.

All Over
Last, the battery is hooked back up.  Before that, all of the electrical connections, including all sensor plugs should be double checked.  This is where the "do everything you can see" model falls apart.  By doing it one system at a time, you know everything was done.  By working zonally, you don't really know for sure without checking system by system.  At that point, you may as well have just done it that way.

This is the part everyone wants to jump to: grabbing the keys and giving a test fire.  The first time I tried this time around, I got nothing: I'd failed to hook up the battery.  Once resolved, he started right up.  I applied the clutch and shifted through the gears.  Nice and smooth.  Seatbelt on, and on the road to test.  There was less noise than I remembered.  The gears shifted easily up through 3rd (never got to  4th), and the bus felt peppy.  Overall, it was a great, albeit short, drive.  I declare the bus road-worthy again.  By the way, there wasn't a single drop of oil on the transaxle nor engine after the test drive and cool-down.  Success!

Thanks for following along.  Next time, I look at the ceiling of the bus and/or knocking the dents out of and painting the rear bumper.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

This End Up

When I first constructed the engine cradle, it wasn't really designed to be used a bunch of times.  I never thought that far ahead.  Today's post covers what happened when a hot and bothered shade-tree mechanic experiences a failure with a critical tool... after first losing his patience.  I got so caught up in solving the problems that I failed to take any pictures.  So sorry!

Engine Husbandry
A couple of years ago, I mated the transaxle to the engine under cover of the bus in my real estate agent's drive way (See Transaxle Transition).  I figured, "if I could do it in MS' drive way, I can certainly do it in mine."  Sure.  Like before, I removed the mating studs first.  Unlike before, I had the pilot bearing in the flywheel, so the mating was much harder.  With a small wheeled 2-ton jack holding the transaxle up, I was not able to maneuver the input shaft through the pressure-plate, clutch and flywheel.  Instead, I did what my old wrestling coach once described to me.  I put the transaxle on my belly/chest and heaved it on, twisting it until the splines of the clutch fit into the input shaft, and then slid it home.  I slid myself out from under the transaxle and slid the jack into my place to hold it together.  I don't want to do that again.  One more reason to cut a removal valence into the rear apron.

With the transaxle and engine mostly mated, I rotated the transaxle such that the stud holes lined up, and slid the bolts in.  At the time, I'd forgotten that the adapter plate had 3 settings: 0*, 15* and 50*.  I nutted the studs down, and rather than take my winnings and going home, I doubled down and tried to get the bell-housing mounts set before calling it a day.  The driver side is easier to get to, so I started there, and after 10 minutes of up/down with the jack, I was able to slide it through the hole, the mickey-mouse mounting ear and against the nut.  Then the trouble started.  I couldn't get it all the way through to the nut, nor could I get the other bolt started at all.  Jack up, jack down.  Shake engine.  Repeat.  30 minutes.  40 minutes Nothing worked.  On one of my attempts, the engine shifted on the cradle.  Instead of leaning over to the left, it was leaning over to the right, and partway off the cradle.  The cradle was also showing signs of weakness, with it separating in a few places.

Is It Bleeding?
At this point, I kind of freaked out, but it got worse.  I reached in through my home-made top-side engine hatch to pull on the driver side mounting bolt.  Rather than grab the bolt, my head hit the hinge.  Hard.  Sudden pain and blood ensued.  Instinctively, I slapped my hand against the gash.  Ordinarily, that would have been good; pressure on the wound and all that.  My hand, though, was wrapped in a grease/oil covered glove, so the cut now had oil and grease in it.  Fortunately, Boo was gardening near by, heard my curses and came over to see what was going on.  She snapped into nurse-mode, cleaning it out with various potions and butterfly taping the gash closed.  Once calmed back down, I went back out to survey the wreckage.  The engine was shifted clockwise by a couple hours, and from underneath, it was clear the transaxle wan't in-line with the centerline of the bus anymore.  I resolved to simply get the one bolt out and call it a day.  20 minutes later, the whole operation was sitting on the ATV jack and cradle, though woefully mis-aligned and partly rolled over.  I cracked a beer and left it for the night.

Getting the engine/transaxle upright was a series of "how about this?" ideas.  I had the cradle and jack somewhat square under the engine, but simply tugging on the engine didn't really budge it.  I tried nutting-down the nose of the transaxle, but that didn't work.  I placed a steel bar across the top of the engine hatch and used load-lock webbed hooks to attach the engine to the bar.  I then slowly lowered the jack.  The engine shifted.  I moved the jack, supporting it in its new orientation.  I used the other jack under the cooling fins on the right side of the transaxle to help it rotate.  I changed the ATV jack so it was perpendicular to the engine.  This proved to be most effective: leveraging the steel bar/hook and the secondary jack, I settled the engine onto the ATV jack.  Then, while pushing the base of the oil pan with my foot, I pushed down on the turbo.  The engine rotated while the ATV jack moved to the right.
After a series of similar moves, the mickey-mouse ears seemed aligned with the holes in the mount.

Engine, Meet Hatch Lid
Once the engine was upright, I slid under the bus and got the passenger-side bolt in.  Note for my future self: always start on this (passenger, right) side.  If the engine flops over again, better that it flop onto the turbo-side: you can put a jack there.  There's no good spot to set a jack on the right side.  After about 15 minutes, I had the bolts in, and tightened down.  Probably a personal record.  Once in, I thought the engine looked a little funny.  The intake felt high and the oil pan appeared to be pointed at the ground instead of slightly to the right.  My fears were confirmed when I set the engine hatch on top of the intake.  Drat.  now we know that the 0* adapter plate configuration would not have fit.

After all that, I wasn't going to start all over again.  Instead, I thought I'd try rotating the engine 15* by removing the transaxle mounting studs.  Since I'd already installed the starter, that had to come out first.  Then, I re-supported the engine with the cradle/ATV jack, set the steel bar with the hooks and removed the 4 studs.  I repeated the pushing on the oil pan, intake and turbo like I did before.  The engine shifted somewhat quickly into an almost-there position.  I had to do the final little bit while laying alongside the left side of the engine.  This was arguably pretty hazardous.  I slipped the lower left stud through the transaxle and pulled down on the turbo while wiggling the stud.  The engine needed to shift about 1/4", but it sure felt dicey.  Once the first one was in, I knew it was aligned, so I slid the upper left stud in and dashed around the right side and did the starter-stud and lower right studs.  Once nutted and torqued, I dropped the ATV jack, and re-set it with the cradle.

It was a crazy couple of days getting the transaxle and engine roughed back in.  I still had the transaxle nose-mount, CV joints, rear engine mount and all of the accessories to do.  I'll post on that later.  Fortunately, there was virtually no more drama after I got the central mount done.
Thanks for following along,

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Snap Ring Pliers review

I don't usually review tools.  Usually, I research a bunch and then pick whatever the interweb tells me to buy.  I wasn't able to get a good direction from the web for Snap Ring Pliers, so I bought a couple pairs and experimented.  Today's brief post summarizes those experiments.

Why Bother?
In my previous post, I talked about solving a leaking oil seal.  Some of my research on that issue pointed me to believe that the input shaft was loose and needed to be removed and re-installed.  To do that, a circlip needs to be backed off so a thick lock-ring can be pulled back (see picture to the right. The input shaft rises from the center of the picture to the left).  Then, the input shaft can be threaded off the reverse gear.  First step in that process requires a pair of Snap Ring Pliers.

Some things about the old Volksies are very well documented on the web.  Arguably, some are over documented.  If you want to know what kind of oil to run, for example, you can go through literally hundreds of opinions.  Tires are equally well-opinion'd.  Getting something as simple as the size of the tip needed to remove the circlip on the input shaft, however, can sometimes prove impossible.  Hours of searching netted no useful information.  The size is 0.07 (US), by the way.  This is the largest size available in the standard multi-tip Snap Ring Pliers sets, and individual pliers with fixed-size tips can be found.

boink! tip fail.
Off to the friendly local auto parts store (FLAPS), I went to find a pair that would work.  Since I'm only really doing this once, I didn't want a spendy pair, just some that would do the job.  So, I tried the tip-adjustable set available at NAPA.  Using the largest tip (0.07), I was unable to open the circlip wide enough to get the circlip out of its seating channel without the tip failing.  The tips are held on with small Phillips head bolts pressing a removable plate against the plier arm.  The removable plate is slightly bent, presumably to best fit the tip on, but the engineering is flawed such that the final bit of torque needed to hold the tip is robbed from you by the curve of the plate.  Neat.  I tried to undermine that torque-robbery by jamming a finish nail under the plate on the opposite side of the bolt, increasing the torque on the tip.  That didn't work either.

mod no worky
Net-result: not good for this job.  Maybe, if the circlip you need to remove requires less than 10 foot-pounds of torque it would suffice, but for real automotive situations, its junk.

After setting the NAPA pliers aside, I hit Home Depot looking for a pair of Husky one-size-only 0.07 Snap Ring Pliers.  While their web site showed that they were in stock at the store (for $13), neither I nor the clerk could find them.  I'd love to review them, but instead I offer just a head-shaking at Home Depot.  Either offer the product or don't; don't post it on your web site if you don't have it.  Boo.

Channel Lock
Channel Lock works!
Home Depot did have Channel Lock 927 Snap Ring Pliers (for, like $23).  These are multi-tip pliers like the NAPA ones, but are clearly better made.  They are much heavier.  They have a flip-switch to set inner or outer ring direction.  Oh, they're made in the US, so somewhere my countryman benefited from my buying them, so that's nice.  But do they work for this?  Why, yes, they do.  Unlike the NAPA pair, the ring easily opened up enough to slip out of the channel and out of the way.  Like the NAPA, Channel Lock 927's are sold with a collection of smaller tips, and are delivered with the largest (0.07) already installed.  This made the test easy, removing the possibility of me putting the tips in wrong.  I didn't bother removing and re-installing to see how bad it was, but the engineering is very different.  Unlike the NAPA which has a plate screwed on, leveraging the friction created to hold the tip in place, the Channel Lock has a hole in the plier arm to slide the tip into.  The securing bolt simply prevents the tip from falling out, so the arms need to be able to support far less torque.  The arms are much thicker too, implying that they can handle far more pressure than the NAPA tool could.

In the end, I didn't need to remove and re-install my input shaft.  After I installed the oil slinger and input shaft seal (see: Transaxle Re-Assembled), I re-tested the wiggle in the input shaft.  It barely moved.  I concluded that the input shaft was appropriately loose, and some additional digging into theSamba verified that conclusion.  I'm keeping the Channel Lock's with the car tools, and returning the NAPA's.

That's it for today.  I'm working on a post summarizing the engine-trans re-mating as well as the adventure of raising the engine-tranny unit back into the bus.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Transaxle Re-assembled

Last weekend, I got the transaxle put back together and back into the bus.  Fast sentence to write.  Lots of effort to do.  Today covers the first half of that 'effort to do': getting the transaxle ready.

Slinging Oil
slinger by hole in bell housing
where it's supposed to be attached
The bellhousing for the 002 and 091 transaxles are supposed to have this ringed collar around the input shaft to help guide the hypoid oil away from the input shaft seal and back towards the gears.  There are a few names for this bit, but the boards call it an "Oil Slinger".  According to the Bentley, this was supposed to be a non-repair item that was pressed into the bellhousing with a 4-ton press.  If it separates, you get a new bellhousing or re-press it in.  Well, the VW world has discovered that's not exactly right anymore.  Instead, you create a rough edge on the inner edge and along the rear (engine side) of the bellhousing.  I used a chisel and a file for this.  Then, rough up the lip and outside of the slinger near the lip.  Peanut butter the edge with JB Weld and press it into place by hand.  I treated the excess like caulking, and ran a gloved finger along the edges, pressing it in and making the edge clean.  Last, hold it firm with a simple weight and gravity.  Once its cured (18 hours), its ready.

Install Input Shaft Seal
roughed up edges
This was actually quite simple.  Lightly brush the inner and outer edge with hypoid oil.  Set into place by hand, and press it enough by hand so it sits still.  Find a short section of 3/4" PVC pipe (I used a 3/4" - 1/2" T from Home Depot).  With a rubber mallet, smack the seal until it seats flush with the face of the bellhousing.

Into One Piece
When the transaxle was built by AA Transaxle in Seattle, the bellhousing was sealed to the transaxle body with what looked like clear silicone caulking.  Not a fan.  I scraped all that out and instead ran hi-temp form-a-gasket along all of the mating surfaces.  Once it becomes tacky, set the 2 sides together and set the bolts in.  Rubber mallet the bellhousing into place and finger-tighten the bolts.  Following the jump-the-center torquing process, set them to 18ft-pounds (if memory serves. check the Bentley).

Topped Off and Ready
slinger with JB Weld
Before I put the bellhousing on, I made sure the oil drain plug could be loosened.  I had vaguely remembered that it was frozen in-place.  I was right.  After some hard torquing, I got the nut out.  I cleaned off the tiny metal filings off the attached magnetized rod, cleaned the threads and re-seated it.
Once the transaxle and bellhousing were one piece again, you need to give the form-a-gasket time to cure.  I gave it 24 hours and then opened up the fill hole.  It took all the gear oil I had on hand, and was still a touch low.  I'll need a fresh bottle to top it off before I take much of a test drive.  Remember, the tranny is full when oil spills out of the fill-hole when the tranny is on level ground.

That's it for today.  The tranny looks good, the input shaft has almost 0 wiggle to it and the seal / form-a-gasket are holding oil.  Hazah!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Bearing Bang On

As the leaves start to change color, and the sunsets arrive sooner each day, the pressure to beat the rains increases.  Accordingly, I have spent the last 2 evenings trying to get the bus back together.  A quick update today, recognizing there will be great progress over the weekend.

note the band on the
inside-left making it thicker
than original bus bearing
Wednesday, I had about 45 minutes between the time I got home and the time I needed to pickup C from soccer practice down by his mom's house.  I figured that wasn't enough time to get the pilot bearing in, but I'd just see how far I could go.  I was pretty fortunate, actually.  The 13mm bolts loosened pretty easily.  I held the clutch in place with a thick bolt slid through the pressure place and clutch center hole, and removed the 2 as a single unit, noting the position of the pressure plate on the flywheel.  The flywheel looked and felt abrasion-free.  a wipe with a paper towel brought it to a scuff-less shine.  Since it has been less than a thousand miles since I swapped tranny's and less than 2 thousand since I put on the clutch, I expected nothing less.  I looked at the clutch face next.  It still looked new, so I switched to installing the bearing.

Bearing Bang On
About this time, T was messing around on his skateboard, so I asked him to hand me the pilot bearing I'd picked up earlier ('98-'02 Jetta/Golf/Beetle 1.8T bearing).  Unlike the original bus bearing, this one delivers pre-packed with a yellow-ish grease.  For the first few millimeters, it slid in, and then required some setting after that.  I used a ratchet extension against the bearing and a lightly-tapping framing hammer, (following a figure-8 patterns) to slowly set the bearing flush with the flywheel.  I did a quick time-check and had about 15 minutes left.

I grabbed the extra input-shaft I have lying around for my clutch alignment effort.  I aligned the clutch/pressure plate such as they were when I removed them and loosely fingered in the bolts.  Unlike the first time I did this 2 years ago, the input shaft slid in tightly.  There was very little wiggle for the clutch, helping me understand how much wiggle there used to be without the pilot bearing.  Everything held firm, and I finger-tightened the bolts.  Following the jump-the-center torquing model, I first tightened with the socket in my fingers, then a short ratchet and finally my torque wrench (set to 18ppi).

After a quick tool put-away, wash-up and change, I headed south to collect C from soccer practice.  I arrived as practice was ending.  Perfect timing, and now we're one small step closer to having the bus in one piece again.  That's it for today.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Engine Drop Thoughts

Over Labor Day weekend 2012, I dropped and re-installed the TDI engine so I could swap transaxles.  I had bought a newly rebuilt one from AA Transaxle in Seattle (See Transaxle Transition).  This Labor Day weekend (2014), I dropped the engine again to remove that transaxle so I could replace the input shaft seal.  In both cases, I leveraged the notes I made in 2011 when I removed and re-installed the fuel tank (see Engine Extraction).

In preparation for the drop, I re-read the notes and realized that I didn't explicitly state whether the bus had to be put on stands for the engine drop.  So, I thought I'd try it this time with the bus on the ground.  It can be done.  Once the engine is down, unless you're going to work on it right there, you still need to lift the bus to get the engine or transaxle out.  Admittedly, you only need to jack-up the passenger side so the transaxle can slide out, but still, its worth noting.  To get the engine out, it is a big hairy deal.

I am seriously considering changing the rear-end to have a removable valence like the early bay and the split-window buses.  Consider, I have a thick steel bar running across the rear from frame-to-frame, holding the engine.  This is creating increased stiffness at the rear, which (reportedly) was the motivation to eliminate the removable valence.  My thinking is that if I can remove the valence, I could lower and remove the engine/transaxle as one unit without having to lift the bus 3+ feet into the air or parking over a ditch (yes, I did that to install it the first time).

The transaxle is still on the ground in my garage, and the engine is still on the ground (on the ATV jack) under the bus.  I have pulled together all the bits and parts I need to fix the leak and re-install, and I hope to start some of that before the weekend.  For my own future reference, here are a couple fruitful notes on parts:

The pilot bearing for the KEP flywheel (all 200mm clutch adaptions): '99-'03 VW (Jetta, Golf, Beetle) 1.8 Turbo bearing
The stud / mounting bolts from the transaxle to the adapter are 3/8", standard (not fine) right-hand threaded.
The Circlip which holds the input shaft tight to the reverse gear is part number 004 311 317.

That's it for this time.  Hopefully, I'll be able to get under the bus tonight or tomorrow night to get the clutch/pressure plate off so I can seat the pilot bearing.  As always, thanks for following along-

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Removing an Input Shaft Seal

I have a bigger post in the works for the engine drop, transaxle input shaft seal replacement, etc.  For now, I have the engine lowered onto an ATV jack, and the transaxle in pieces on my garage floor.  I removed the old input shaft seal in a unique way.  Everywhere I looked, the advice was to get a seal removal tool, hammer it into the rubber seal and pry away.  I did something else, and that's what I cover in today's post.

Identify the Seal as the Problem
After separating the engine from the transaxle, and before moving the transaxle into a clean location, look at the inside of your bellhousing.  Does it have a bunch of oil residue lining it?  Maybe a small pool of oil?  Dip your finger in it and sniff it.  Does it smell like your engine oil?  Does it look like engine oil?  Lighter color?  Maybe slightly different smell too?  Yep, you have a leaking input shaft seal.  Now, remove the throw-out bearing like everyone says.  If you have the sleeve behind it, remove that too, exposing the input shaft seal.  Look at the seal.  Wiggle the input shaft a little bit.  Does the seal cling to the shaft or do gaps appear?  Is the seal smooth or does it have a pinch in it?  Mine had 2 small pinches along the outer edge and the shaft did not cling to the seal.

Removing an Input Shaft Seal
This is the point where everyone else says to remove the seal the brute-force way.  For some transaxles (those without a seal housing), it may be the right method.  I took a different tack.  Remove the bellhousing.  Its held on with 13mm bolts.  3 on each side inside the bellhousing and 2 on the bottom.  With a rubber mallet, lightly smack the bellhousing to free it from the transaxle body.  Mine had been silicone sealed but the seal didn't hold up much.  Place the bellhousing engine-side down on top of a shop towel.  Pointing up, you will see the seal housing.  Smack it with the rubber mallet and out pops the input shaft seal.  Easy peasey.  EDIT: Through further research, I believe the housing should not separate from the bell housing.  If you were able to get your seal out this way, by lightly tapping on the housing (like I did), you have a new problem: how to get the "housing" (some call it an oil-slinger) re-attached to the bell housing so that it doesn't re-free itself.  I'll post a picture of what my driveshaft looks like after less than 2 thousand miles like this.  I am assuming it wasn't like this when I got the transaxle from AA. End EDIT.

New Seal, Torn Seal
I have been unable to successfully get a seal back into the transaxle, to the point where I tore the only replacement I had.  All of the advice on the interweb seems to exclude transaxles with a seal housing, making their "slip it over the input shaft and drive it in by alternating sides" unusable.  I have tried setting the housing first, but that hasn't worked.  I got close, though, using a 13mm socket to press the seal.  I made the mistake of trying a larger socket and tore the seal.  I need to hit Discount Import Parts (DIP) for another one.  Once I get the seal onto the housing and into the transaxle, I'll close the loop on how I did it.

That's it for today.  I picked up a pilot bearing and a replacement mounting stud for transaxle re-install at the local FLAPS during lunch today.  They didn't have a suitable input shaft seal.  Off to DIP when the next opportunity presents itself.  Thanks for following along, and Hapy Birthday, C!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Drinky drinky, not wet and sticky

After 10 years of owning Flash (silver Jetta), I have finally replaced the broken drink cup holder for the front seats.  It was broken when I bought the car, and I didn't think much of it.  Looking back, I'm amazed at how used to not having a real drink-holder I became over such a long period of time.

Drink Cup Management the Broken-Holder Way
We would jam hard-sided cups between the driver seat and the e-brake handle.  I'm sure that put unwanted pressure on the handle, and it was then unavailable as an emergency brake because there was a cup jammed in there making it harder to grab the handle.  Sometimes, I'd fit a cup between the driver seat and the door.  If the cup was slickery, it would topple over and slide to the base of the seat belt, spilling contents under the seat.  Fantastic.  Lastly, I'd drive, juggling it from hand to hand or parking it between my legs.  Memories of that Seinfeld episode with Kramer and the hot coffee.  Ye-ouch.

Old Holder
old holder in pieces on the ground
The original 1999.5 to 2002 cup holder was poorly designed (sorry German designer, but its true).  It had multiple weak points that couldn't stand up to American drink sizes.  In my case, the slider mechanism broke where the plastic holder met the thin steel.  If you set a light drink in it, it would appear to be capable of holding it until you started driving uphill or accelerated quickly.  Then, the holder would take flight, bathing your shifting arm with beverage.

New Holder
In 2002/2003, VW designed a new, more sturdy cup holder.  Rather than 2 fixed diameter holes, the new design has spring-arms which flip outward to accommodate varied cup sizes.  It is also much stronger at the slider with thicker metal and thicker plastic, making the joint-point much beefier.  I got mine from AARodriguez operating as FixMyVW.  I doubt it will hold one of those ridiculous super slurpy cups from 7-11, but it holds a standard tall-coffee just fine.  After installing, we tried a full quart bottle of Dad's root beer.  It strained, so we pulled the bottle back out.  It grips a can very well, almost too well.  I was unable to quickly free a can of coffee energy drink, creating a small spill.  Basic drive-thru paper cups, however, are ideal for this new holder.  The arm will flip back with the back of your pinky or the base of the cup while you place the cup in the holder.  It doesn't over-grip on the waxy-paper cup, so it pulls out easily too.  Have I over-rev'd on the cup holder yet?  :)

Extraction / Install
Both cup holders are held in place the same way.  There are 2 small metal tangs on either side close to the cabin-end of the holder.  With a thin slotted-screwdriver on each side, press the metal tangs towards the center while pulling on the holder.  You may need a partner.  In Flash's case, the holder was so mangled, only one of the tangs was holding on, so I was able to free it by myself.  Clean the slot with some window cleaner or something.  This will be the one time in years you'll have this cavity open.  Installation is simply slide the new holder in until the tangs click-in.

I've had the great pleasure of hosting 2 nephews and a niece from Montana (the MT3) over the last 2 weeks.  It was a crazy time, but now we miss them terribly.  It did distract us from the approaching school season, though, so now we're scrambling to get kids ready for school, soccer and all the other things that seem to arrive with Labor Day's passing.  Before I know it, it'll be snow-season again.

Lastly, this past weekend, I officially took the bus off the road to replace the transmission input-shaft seal.  I haven't decided if I'll do anything else before returning him to service, but I've thought a lot about addressing the electrical short in the dash.  I'll post an updated "how to drop the TDI engine" complete with what tools are needed for each step soon.

That's it for today.  As always, thanks for following along.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Flash gets a facelift

Last week and weekend, T and I got the front end damage on Flash (the TDI Jetta) repaired.  Today's post covers that epic.

Accident Reminder
I should probably start at the beginning.  In mid-May, T was asked by his mom to drive his brother from their house in LO to my house in Beaverton for C's lacrosse stuff and then on to his 6:PM lacrosse game in Camby.  This led to 2 hours of rush-hour rubber-band driving, terminating in the chaos of intersections around Camby High School.  It was in one of those intersections, T got into an accident with an uninsured driver resulting in damage to the left-side fender, front bumper and the corner-edge of the hood (see picture to the right, here).  We left Flash like that for the next couple of months.  After buying and then changing our minds about a parts car (See: Welcome 2dot0), I re-doubled efforts to get Flash fixed.

Steal Your Face Right off Your, uh, Head
In a 95* garage last Tuesday, I set off to remove the damaged parts from Flash.  The shop manual is helpful for things like this, but it seemed like every "first" step was to follow a series of steps elsewhere in the manual.  Once the hood is up, the front latch is removed first by releasing the spring and then placing a slotted screwdriver into the Y and rotating it.  The plastic Y will pop off the nubs attached to the metal latch so it can be pulled straight out through the front grille.  The grille simply pops out by tilting the top forward.  If you still have your lower grills, they would be removed now; mine were lost in the accident.  Now, all of the star-driver bolts holding the front fender should be visible.  Remove the star-driver bolts from the bumper-ends which attach the bumper to the inner wheel wells first.  Then, remove the 2 lower bolts through the lower grille holes.  Last, remove the star-driver bolts accessible from above.  The bumper pops right off.

All of the above is necessary to just get to the fender.  But you can't take the fender off yet.  First, you need to remove the inner wheel well.  It is held on with more star-driver screws around the outer edge and one buried deep near the front strut.  Once you've wrestled the wheel well out of your way, the fender can be removed with a standard 10mm rachet.  The 4 bolts across the top are obvious.  There are 2 more at the front, and 3 buried at the rear.  The middle one of the "rear" on Flash had body filler slathered on it, so I had to dig that away first.  We discovered the plastic parts of the headlight were broken at this point, so we removed that too.

Searching the Yard
Wednesday, T and I drove Hapy to a wrecking yard, looking for body panels.  Turns out, Jetta's don't last in the yard too long.  One had been in the yard for just over a week and the front end was gone.  The others had been there longer and were even more picked over.  We did find a 1/3 rear-seat back, though.  The latch on Flash's had broken at Home Depot months ago, and was effectively locked in place.  Removing the replacement was easy: just pitch it forward, and with a screwdriver rotate the collar near the door to expose the opening.  Then, just tilt the back towards the center of the car, freeing that end.  The center just slides out.
For T, it was his first trip to a wrecking yard, and we had a blast.  He saw a few cars he had never seen before, like a late 70's Honda CVCC that he really liked.  While we didn't get the body parts we needed, it was still a good time.

The following night (Thursday), I got a response from one of my craiglist part queries.  Since he lived in the countryside outside Vancouver, WA, we agreed to meet at the IKEA near the Portland airport.  I took both T&C with me, and we got there a little early.  So, we went into the A/C to wander and wait.  The seller ended up about an hour late, but having not been at an IKEA for years, we had an unexpected tour.  They displayed a small-house set up of 590 square feet that all three of us found very interesting.  It seemed like every wall had storage solutions on it.  I remembered IKEA having much more disposable furniture made of veneer and glue-board than we saw.  What really tripped me out was how we walked in with no agenda, no real needs or wants, but by the end, we could feel the covet creeping in.  We found ourselves genuinely shopping for furnishings, and looking for particular things.  Fortunately, we recognized it, and quickly made for the exit.  We met "bumper buy" in the parking lot, accepted his bumper and pair of headlights for the arranged amount and headed home.

GTI Headlight != TDI Headlight
On Saturday, T and I started the work on installing the headlight and bumper.  Turned out, the headlights we got were GTI headlights, and the plugs were all different.  Additionally, the physical attachment point for the main headlight in the silver-flashy plastic was different.  We cannibalized the wiring and silver-flashy from the old headlight and the clear plastic and housing from the new-to-us one.  The head-lamp plug, though, couldn't fit through the housing, so I had to cut and re-wire a little bit.

Getting Hammered
Since we only had a bumper, we needed to make some ghetto adjustments to the fender and hood to fit properly.  Using an old spare tire from the bus as an anvil, I hammered on the fender to get most of the disfigurement out.  The rubber hammer and anvil worked really well, actually.  Don't get me wrong, it still looks bad; it just fits around the headlight, bumper and hood now.  At the end, I beat on the corner of the hood to get it to fit a little better as well.

As we did final assembly, we discovered that the front driver-side bumper mount/support was damaged in the accident.  Its a $20 part, but we didn't have it.  So, we put the front end together without it, knowing we'll need to remove and re-install stuff when we get the new fender anyway.  Also, the headlight housing and plastic screen need to be caulked to keep water out.  I need to do that before the weather changes.  I don't like the idea of the fender hanging out there anyway, so if I don't get a replacement fender soon, I'll swap out the mount/support and do the caulking anyway.

That's it for today.  Have a great weekend, and, as always, thanks for following along...