Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Oh Crud, I Broke a Stud

It's been a busy month of moving and trying to wrestle a clutch into T's Subaru, so I haven't had many adventures worth documenting. Since T's Subbie is on ramps with a transmission sitting in front of it, he is driving my car, so I've been daily-driving the bus. It's really been great, with a few little hassles. Today is about those hassles.

Shake Much? Funky Clutch
Have you ever been pulling away from a stoplight and a semi-truck next to you starts shaking like there's no tomorrow as it pulls away from dead stop? That happens when something has been introduced onto the clutch or flywheel or pressure plate causing the clutch to not completely grab correctly. When I last pulled out the transmission (Transaxle Re-Assembled) in the Fall of 2014 I must not have completely cleaned either the flywheel or the pressure plate. MAybe I got a greasy finger on the clutch disk. The bus shudders as I pull away from dead stop now.. especially when it's cold. I'll probably have premature wear-out on my stage-one clutch as a result. Grr. The shaking, though, brings about it's own troubles.

No Power Rush Hour
I was on my way home from work a couple of weeks ago when suddenly and unexpectedly the engine stopped running. Turning the key had no effect. Since I was coasting to a stop at a pretty major intersection, I let the bus roll into the bike/breakdown lane and slipped out the slider door. I popped open the rear gate and looked at the wiring that ties my ignition key to the TDI harness. Knowing that there was probably an issue there, I pulled the pins out of the TDI ignition plug and popped in the original plastic plug. The engine fired up with the turn of a screwdriver, demonstrating that my remote starter was working. Back in business, I climbed back into the driver seat and motored around the corner, only to have the ECU drop into "limp mode". I fixed the "no power" by re-wiring the relays and wiring around the TDI harness ignition switch while taking a break from the moving fun. The root cause was one of the wires had freed itself from what it was plugged into. I blame the shaking mentioned above.

The computer needs to get a clean signal from the drive-by-wire accelerator potentiometer (usually called a "pot"). In the bus, this pot is attached to the underside of the cab and controlled by the stock accelerator pedal. The wire bundle running back to the computer is probably 15 feet long. In the original donor car, the wire bundle was about 4 inches long. If you add all that extra wire, there is additional resistance which can get in the way of that clean signal. When this happens, the computer drops into "limp mode", bringing the engine with it. Limp mode pins the engine speed at 1200RPM. While frustrating, the limp mode can be cleared simply by shutting off and restarting the engine. When this happened in the Rush Hour example above, I had to get off the road to shut down and restart because the "ignition" was 10 feet behind the driver seat.

4 out of 5 Recommended
Last March, I posted about getting some new wheels for the bus. They look great, but they are thicker than the stock wheels. Since the tires I had on the bus were 12 years old, I couldn't safely go back to the old tires, but the studs don't stick out far enough for the lug nut to get all the way on with stud sticking out the other end of the nut. I pulled a classic prior-owner-worthy fail in not double-checking the 94 foot-pound torque on the nuts, and then threw 2 nuts off the rear right wheel before noticing a "wub wub wub" noise. I pulled a lug nut from the other rear wheel to get 4-a-side, but one of the studs broke off and won't thread a nut anymore. The internet is not consistent about driving on 4 nuts when the vehicle delivered with 5. I've been doing it for a little while now, and I check my torque while looking for fluid drips.

Some of these hassles represent work I need to perform. Okay, most of them do. I have replacement wheel hubs on the way from Ken at TheBusCo and I already have the over-length studs I mentioned in my post about wheels (see Wheels, Studs, Chrome and Backspace) so I'm going to start preparing for that work. It could mushroom into more things since the rear suspension and brakes haven't gotten the deserved love in a while.

That's it for now. I'm in the process of getting T's car back together and him through high school graduation before I tear into solving some of the bus' issues. Thanks, as always, for following along..

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Move Again

It's been a couple of weeks since my last post. It's been a crazy few weeks of moving. I'm not going to bore you with lots of details, but today's post is basically about moving.

The Set Up
broken light fixture
I've been renting a 4 bedroom house for 3 years. You've seen it in the pictures. There's the house in the background of the picture of Hapy the wonderbus in the upper right corner of this blog, for example. We love that house. Last Fall, our next-door neighbor unexpectedly died. Boo was out working in the yard when her brother (who was managing the estate, we'll call him G) came by the house to check in on things. She simply asked him what they were going to do with the house. That seemingly innocent question lead to a series of events that ended with us moving.

Two Men at a Kitchen Table
G told Boo that the estate was going to sell the house. Huh. Boo told me, and we had a quick conversation about it. Within a couple of days, I fired off a text to G saying that we'd buy it. So, in mid-February, G and I sit down at the kitchen table of his sister's house and talked through the deal. Within minutes we had the basis of a deal, we shook hands with an agreement to meet in a few days to sign a formal offer, etc. A few days later, we met again, signed the formal offer and I handed him a check for the title company for earnest money. I called a mortgage guy I know and started up the finance paperwork. Two weeks ago, things finalized, and just like that we own a house.

Fix. Paint. Repeat.
floor refinishing
So, I mentioned that the sister died in the Fall, and that we bought the place in mid-April. Over the course of those months, the house was effectively abandoned. This lead to lots of things that needed to get fixed before it could be occupied. Word to the wise when you buy an abandoned house: no matter how good it looks, there are lots of things to fix anyway. We had evidence of critters in the crawlspace. The temperature in the house was allowed to fall below 50* for too long so the wood floors had curled. And then there's the usual paint refreshing. All told, I spent more money than I'd like to mention and more hours than I can count getting the place ready. There remains lots of painting left, of course, but the main use public rooms were ready.

Boxes? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Boxes, Man
railing removed
The only thing that's worse than moving across town is moving next door. "Now wait a minute.." you may start saying, "it should be easier". I know, right? No truck, no back and forth trips with your car(s). It should be fall-off-a-truck simple. And that's why it isn't. Everyone looked at the move like it would be some crazy simple move where we'd just pull things off shelves and put them back onto shelves in the other house. It doesn't work that way, at least not easily. 2 days before the move, I was starting to grow uneasy. Nothing had really been done to prepare for the move, so over the course of those 2 days I packed up and moved as much of the garage as I could. It still left about a 1/2 day worth of multi-person moving. By move day, I had staged a bunch of stuff into the front room of the old house, and we had drafted an army to help us. Unfortunately, like the retreating Iraqi army during the first Gulf War, our army disappeared at the first sign of moving. We dropped from about 10 people to 6, eliminating our gang-tackle move plan we had.

Wheels Good. Ruts Bad
roofing material = pathway
One advantage to moving next door, actually, is the short-ish walk. In this case, I made the walk much shorter by removing a railing on the old front porch, putting down roofing material as a walkway across the grass and then suspending a tarp overhead between the houses. This kept us out of the shifting weather all day. There was a 6" drop off the front porch, though, so every mover needed to remember to watch that first step (it's a doozy), and some of the wheeled items needed to go driveway to driveway instead. By late morning, we had pretty much moved the upstairs. We took a break and then attacked the things I had staged in the front room. This included bed frames and such from upstairs. By lunch, most of the biggest items, including the upright (not a Spinet) piano. At this point, we received a new army member to help with the kitchen. She was great, but it was in the kitchen where things started to break down.

20% Is Actually a Big Number
rain resistant move
About this time, we started to realize just how much smaller our new house was. I started to run some numbers. We were in a house that was just under 2000 square feet. For us, having moved in from a 800 square foot condo, it was huge. We were moving into a 1600 square foot house. 400 square feet smaller? No big deal. Except that 400 square feet was 20% of our overall footprint before. We had 20% too much stuff! And, there were belongings that were not cleared out by the estate so the house wasn't exactly empty. At no point was this more painfully obvious than in the kitchen. We got everything over, eventually, but there are still more things to put away than are stowed.

We are still living in a sea of boxes and piles. But we're working on it. This weekend, I'll be plowing through some of it. After two weeks of working through it, I don't set goals anymore. Funny how after years of trying to resist the urge to set goals with the bus, I've managed to back into it with a new house.
As always, thanks for following along. More car stuff next time-