Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Running on Empty

Following the new pedal install, I took a few victory laps. I took each of the kids who were still living with me on small trips to demonstrate the new-found speed. In every  case, we would howl with laughter as I stomped on the accelerator and Hapy leaped to life. Hapy became my daily driver for the rest of the Summer, and I was having so much fun I forgot about one kinda sorta really important thing: the fuel gauge still doesn't work.

That Dreaded Feeling
pretty day to run out of fuel
You know that moment. The engine misses just once, and your conscious mind doesn't even register it. But your sub-conscious does. In that moment, your sub-conscious screams, awakens your conscious mind and you think to yourself "I wonder when I last put fuel in the tank". That was me on a mid-October morning as I was making my way to work in the AM northbound rush on 170th approaching the light-rail crossing. Then it skipped again. I threw Hapy into neutral, and hoped the traffic gods would permit me to not break down straddling the crossing. They did. Turns out the traffic gods found it to be more funny for me to run dry in the intersection between 170th and Baseline.

When Push Comes To Shove
For those who don't know that intersection, it is in an area of northwest Beaverton where growth has been exploding. As is the case elsewhere, infrastructure lags construction booms, so these are heavily-traffic'd 2-lane roads. I popped on the flashers, and started pushing. As I started to cut across a lane, I noticed that Hapy was moving much easier than I thought he should be almost like he was rolling downhill and then noted that a fellow motorist had put his car in the dirt and had joined my morning workout. We got Hapy along the curb on Walker facing east just barely outside the white sideline. In typical Oregon fashion, there were no horns sounded nor obscene gestures but there were many dirty looks... until we were off the road then passing motorists returned to smiling and waving at the little microbus.

Diagnosis
in a weird twist, the power grid failed too
The verification process for running out of fuel is especially easy if you have one of those $1 clear plastic pre-filters. I put one in to extend the life of the stock TDI filter, so this was easy. Empy clear filter means I ran the tank dry. Neat. At this point, the guy who helped push went even further beyond normal and offered to drive my to a gas station. Being a diesel (and diesel isn't sold at over 1/2 the stations here), this was a more generous offer than I think he realized. I explained the situation, but he wouldn't relent, so I jumped into his mini Toyota pickup and we sped off to the Fred Meyer on 152nd.

Can't Prime
For many cars, getting a car to run after you've run it dry is somewhat obvious: you put fuel in the tank and keep the key turned to run while the fuel pump fills the lines. Or, you just sit on the starter and the mechanical fuel pump plus engine draw get it started. I've actually had success getting Hapy started this way before. Not this time. I could not get the fuel system to prime from the key. For what seems to be far too often an experience, I had to get Hapy towed home. Now, I thought I had already posted the process for how to get your fuel lines re-primed after running dry, but a search didn't bring one up. So... I guess that's today's post. Note that picture of the intersection. It was mid-morning (post-rush) and the powergrid in the surrounding area had gone down too. The signals weren't working and I snapped a picture at a rare moment when there was virtually no one around. For the most part, there were long lines going in every direction, but I digress...

Fuel First
This is obvious, but its still the first step. Grab your yellow oh-shit can. In Oregon, it must be yellow for diesel or the station attendants get wigged. I'm pretty sure its the law, kinda like you're not allowed to pump your own gasoline here, but you can pump diesel. Weird. Anyway, get it filled with a couple gallons of diesel and dump it into the tank. This should be the easy part. In my case, I spilled a bunch down the side of the bus, but that's a "me" issue.

Mity-Vac
not my engine. I swiped the image from the 'net
Next, pop the hood and find the stock (not clear) fuel filter. The rubber line that leaves the filter and heads for the supply side of the injection pump (IP) is your target. In the picture on the right, I circled it in red. Disconnect that hose at the IP (the light grey thing right next to the red circle) and attach it to the reservoir end of the mity-vac. Apply vacuum until fuel starts to appear in the reservoir. You should be able to watch the fuel first fill the clear filter and then you need to work the stock fuel filter full. Since you ran your tank dry, it is possible that there's crap in your fuel filter. If you have one of those cheapo clear filters, this is a $1 problem and takes a couple minutes to resolve. Generally speaking, if you ran dry and you have one of these, just spend the $1 and move on. If you don't have one, now is a good time to consider adding one. Once the reservoir is getting fuel, re-connect it to the IP.

Hard Lines
At this point, you have fuel in the system from the tank through to the IP. In some cases, this could be all you need to do. Have a partner jump behind the wheel and try starting (obey the glow plug idiot light). After about 15 seconds of cranking, if it doesn't start, your hard lines are not priming. Bummer. Grab a spanner (can't remember the size) and crack open the connection between the hard line and each injector while your friend hangs out in your driver seat. In the picture above, I circled the injector -to- hardline connections in blue. When you have them loose, have your partner crank the engine. One by one, each loose injector connection will bubble first air, then fuel. Once you have fuel at your first injector, your partner can stop cranking. Tighten that connection with your spanner and have your partner crank again. Like before, once the second injector connection is bubbling fuel, your partner can stop cranking, you tighten the connection and move on. By your last injector, the engine will be running.

Now make sure you have torqued the lines down according to spec. If you don't, and just tighten them enough to stop the leaking, you will lose prime again and have to do this all over again the next time you come out to start the engine. That's what happened to me....

That's it for today. It's been a busy last few months, so I've got lots of stories to tell. Not many about driving the bus, sadly, with the weather as rough as it's been in the Pacific NorthWest this winter, but there's a bunch going on. Thanks for tuning in-

2 comments:

Hal Sullivan said...

Yaay! Was beginning to think you'd dropped off the face of the planet...

PdxPaulie said...

hey thanks, Hal. So glad to hear from you too. Hope all is well.