Friday, July 29, 2016

Another Tow

In my last post, I lamented a little bit at the end about dropping into a version of limp mode (1200 rpm symptom) and sporadic misses. Today's post covers the start of what I did to resolve it. I split it into two posts because I tend to get wordy.

Muir's Divination
If you haven't read How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive by John Muir, you absolutely should, even if you don't own an old Volksie. His tone and humor can still be felt on some VW boards and the YahooGroup member mail. Somewhere in his book, he writes about the promises we make to our cars of future repairs, if he-she-it just gets us home. Old VW's seem to have a soul, and they respond to those promises (sometimes) with safe passage home. The return trip from 4Peaks was one of those moments. About the time I was re-starting the engine to reset the engine from the 1200 RPM symptom every 50 feet, I promised Hapy that I'd get him fixed before I drove him again. He just needed to get us home. Like a good soldier, Hapy settled down and took us home with little trouble. Since my usual sled (Flash, the TDI Jetta) was still being driven by my 18 year old son while he completed the repair on his car (subaru clutch job), I reneg'd on my promise to Hapy and drove him to work the next day. It was under 3 miles, but it was still breaking the promise. Hapy let me know how he felt when I went to leave work at the end of the day.

Repo-Style Tow
Hapy would start and drop immediately into the 1200 RPM symptom from the first start after work. By the way, I'm not calling it limp mode anymore since "limp mode" is actually a different condition. I was able to get positioned in a parking lot that allowed for a tow truck to get at the bus while also in the shade (90*+ day), and waited for AAA to send the usual flatbed. What arrived instead was what I'd call a repo-truck. It was small and had a relatively non-descript towing rig attached to the rear. As it pulled in, the tow rig looked like a large iron cross jutting up from his rear bumper. When lowered, the cross would abut against whatever tires it could and then latch around from the other side. All told, this truck was able to snatch a car in under a minute. The driver slapped on the safety straps, and magnetic marker lights and we were on our way inside 5 minutes after he arrived.

On the route home, the driver shared that this was his first boost of the day and that he was heading over to the Hillsboro Hops field for opening day next. Apparently, lots of folks park illegally at that park, so he spends a few hours at every game snatching illegal parkers and hauling them a few miles away to impound. Not exactly my definition of a dream job. He was able to drop Hapy in the "fixit spot" at the end of our long driveway, though (see picture).

Un-Rat's Nesting
in process
My friend Justin will probably be the first to agree that the wiring I didn't do when I did the TDI install was long overdue for a cleanup. I did what Agile tells us to do: the very minimum to achieve the desired end state. When conditions indicate that things need to be redone, do it then. Well, with the 1200 RPM symptom and the other codes getting thrown, I think it was time. Or past time. So, circuit by circuit, I removed unnecessary wiring. I started with plugs in the rat's nest that weren't plugged into anything and tracing those wires to their termination at the fuse box, ECU or a junction. Then, I pulled the unneeded plugs and wires from within the engine bay the same way. This required significant unwrapping of cables and subsequent re-wrapping for cleanliness. Last, I dug into the fuse box. This last step could have been my first. By verifying circuits at the fuse against the fuse diagram in the Bentley, I eliminated more wire than I retained. In the process, I discovered a possible root cause: I had one main ground, and it had started to shake loose. By removing so much wire, I was able to reduce how many brown wires connected into that ground as well. The end result looks much better, but the relay frames and the fuse box still need to be attached to the body. And, the 1200 RPM symptom didn't go away. Drat.

I decided that the cause of the 1200 RPM symptom wasn't in the wiring nearest the computer. So, it must be the wiring or the potentiometer at the pedal. In the next post, I'll dig into what I found and how I fixed it.

As always, thanks for following along..

Friday, July 8, 2016

4Peaks 2016

Today's post is dedicated to the road trip to Central Oregon for the last 4Peaks Music Festival to be held at the Rockin' A Ranch.

The Going
I had taken the travel day off, with this hope that we could get out of town earlier than we had last year. We did, and we arrived earlier, but not without having a few adventures along the way. The night prior, I drove from work to the mega-market to get food supplies for the trip. Out of nowhere, a large crow dive-bombed Hapy, taking out his front driver's side turn signal. Knowing that we were going to see some rain, we set a course out of town past Discount Import Parts for a replacement lens. They didn't have the bolts to mount them, but Orchard's across the street had something suitable (10-24 X 2" Phillips Round HD Machine Screw).

We headed out of town before 4, but the weekend rush hour had already started. In classic Oregon form, there was a 45 minute backup heading South because of an accident on the north-bound side of the freeway. Traffic lightened up around Wilsonville, and Hapy drove like a champ the rest of I-5. We left the speedy folks behind and turned east on OR-22. Traffic fell away soon after we passed the jail, and we entered the forest and foothills
of the Cascades. Detroit Lake looked much fuller this year versus last year and we hit steady rain after leaving Idanha. By the time we passed Hoo Doo Ski resort, though, the rain had stopped and the cold air was noticeable. I still haven't put in the door seals, so the windwhip is loud (and cold sometimes). The heater was blowing warm air, though, so Boo was able to wrap a blanket around her floor vent to keep herself warm. We arrived before nightfall, but the place was much more populated than the year before. I guess word got out about how great waking up there on the first full day is.

The Scene
The parking folks helped us find a relatively flat spot, and with the use of a 6x10 block of lumber we nicked at the NW String Summit last summer, we were able to get Hapy's rear end pretty level. While meeting neighbors, we set up our now-usual festival spread: camp couch, rug.. but we had some new things this year. We brought the 10x10 popup canopy that we got on the way home from Montana last summer, and set up a fancy BBQ that my dad gave us. We filled our large Coleman 5 gallon water dispenser too. All of these things, when added to the camp table, multiple coolers, etc made for a pretty crowded space. We had spots of rain all weekend, so moving things around took on more meaning. Some things, like the water dispenser, could sit in the rain. Others, like the BBQ, fit under the bus when not in use. The old BusDepot canopy, however, was no longer water-resistant, so it will be landfill-bound soon. In the picture below, you can see how we resolved to use it solely as a bridge between the bus and the pop-up. Even in that way, it didn't work too well. Still, by the last day, we had our systems running smoothly, and there was room to sit and watch the rain.

rain-adjusted, Hapy @sunset
The main festival area was very similar to last year, but there were more vendors. Down in the gully, they had added a coffee stand and a tea-yurt for sitting with your beverage and a few friends. Boo and I liked that addition very much. Of the vendors up above, I didn't recognize many from before, but then we really didn't do the vendor scene last year. Boo found a pair of sandals that are crazy-comfy and hand made. Karen, the booth owner, had been at 4Peaks for years. We spent a bunch of time with a couple different folks, a printed drawing booth owner and a teacher-turned-potter. Both were very open to talking about things and weren't in any rush to end conversations or push sales. So mellow and kind.

After walking the scene for a bit on Friday morning, we could hear the main stage fire up with JED. From our camping spot, we could hear the main stage very well and chose to stay with Hapy more than at the main stage. As Boo puts it, "I think we're the only people we know who go to music festivals to get rest".

The Bands
raging into the rain
Mid-afternoon Friday, we heard a band starting to get their mix before kicking off their set, and Boo and I stood straight up. Their sound was amazing. We were pulled to the main stage like the didgeridoo pulled us down the bowl at our first Hootenanny. We were pulled all the way to the front of the stage, and then the skies opened up. It poured rain, and the band kept wailing. The harder it rained, the harder they played and the harder the crowd danced. It was some kind of energy feedback loop happening, and we all just rode it. For their second to last song, they pulled the horn player from JED up on stage with them... and then they jumped into the pit between the stage and the crowd. And then raged into the rain, blowing the crowd away. The Stone Foxes. Best Band of 4Peaks 2016. We decided we're going to McMinnville for their August music festival simply because Stone Foxes will be there.

Stone Foxes at 4Peaks 2016
Semi-spent from the Stone Foxes, we got a smoothie and walked vendors while the stage switched over for the Jeff Austin Band. We didn't stay for more than a couple of songs, hitting Hapy for food and rest in anticipation of the highly hyped Poor Man's Whiskey show in the Side Stage tent at 10. They were good, but it didn't seem like they had put much thought into their set list. Their songs seemed all over the place in terms of tempo and emotion, leaving the crowd genuinely confused. The songs they hit, they hit well. Most of the rest of the set was kinda all over the place. We left before they finished.

On Saturday, we heard (and liked) Della Mae from the bus while we did morning dishes and later watched Robben Ford and Poor Man's Whiskey on the main stage. After Poor Man's Whiskey, we listened to Chris Robinson while eating candy under a blanket and looking up at the stars (the clouds had rolled off).

Sunday morning, we visited the Side Stage tent, not wanting the festival to be over. We were treated to the Students of String Theory: kids playing some classic, and some modern songs on acoustic guitar and fiddle while singing. They were fantastic.

The Return
home bound
Sunday was the only sunny day, so lots of folks took their time leaving. We did too. as we packed up, we saw many of our fellow festers leaving by a different direction than we had come in. Thinking that they knew something, we fired up the google maps app and turned the same way out of the Rockin' A Ranch. The Google map was wrong and we found ourselves on a gravel road marked "Private". Awesome. From now on, I'm using Waze. Not too proud, I asked a couple who were leading their horses back onto their trailer, and received viable directions. A few twists and tuns later, and we were having a Dundee-like experience crawling through Sisters. Just like the year before, the drive out of the festival ground had shaken a fan wire loose, so we pulled off at the same viewing spot as the year before and fixed the wire. After that, the drive through the Cascades was fantastic. The day was beautiful and traffic light, allowing us to really enjoy the drive, until we arrived at I-5. There had been multiple accidents and rubber-necking opportunities like the drive out of town, so we found ourselves nudging along for about 45 minutes. During that stretch, Hapy would drop into the 1200RPM "limp mode" often. Additionally, the engine would act like there was a sporadic miss. We got home through promises of repair (like John Muir used to muse about in his Complete Idiot book).

That's it for today. Lots of repair adventures to follow. Like always, when I'm not posting, its because I'm out in the world, creating future content :) Thanks for following along-