Tuesday, August 29, 2017

MGB - floor pans (Part 3)

Continuing the effort of replacing the floor pans. In Part 1, I talked through decisions about parts and methods. In Part 2, we removed the old pans. Today, we focus on prepping the new pans and getting them welded in.

paint from below, p-side
Remember that the original pans were spot-welded to the rails. This was done at the factory where very long spot-welder arms are available and things like the doors, dashboard, etc aren't yet installed, so there are fewer obstacles. Even with some crazy-long spot welder extension arms, you will not be able to avoid another solution for some of the mounting locations. Your options: seam weld from below or plug weld from above. At least on the right side, the wires, tubes and cable make a seam-weld from below option very difficult. Most do-at-home folks go the plug-weld route. The folks at British Auto Works in North Plains run seam welds around the outer edge from above, but plug weld the inner frame rails. If you're going to do this, they recommend running beads that are about an inch long and space them every couple of inches to prevent warping. It will hold at least as well, if not better, than plug welding the whole thing.

p-side pan prep
The passenger floor fit like it was supposed to fit. It literally dropped right into place. It wouldn't shift too much side to side or front to back, but my hammer/chisel work bent some of the edge along the transmission tunnel, so I had to work the metal back into shape. Once the floor was stable (no wobble or weird clunks from my stepping on it), it was ready to go. The driver (left) side, however, did not fit right. The front right corner on the pan assumed the floor had a squared-off point to it, but my floor had a rounded edge. I had to bend the corner of the pan to test fit and then cut it off with my grinder for welding it in. It would not naturally sit flat either, so I had to be extra careful as I did my first few welds to get the floor to hold flat. You may experience a similar situation, even with the OEM pans. We know the aftermarket ones don't fit without cutting, so be advised.

What's a "Plug Weld"?
A plug weld is performed by drilling a hole through one material, setting that on top of a second piece of material and welding the two pieces together through the hole. In our case, we are making 1/4" holes in the new flooring. The weld is formed by setting the MIG wire into the center of the plug hole, pulling the trigger to start forming a puddle and then extending the puddle into the floor after the puddle has started to grab into the frame rail. Before we can weld, we need to poke holes in the floor, but where? I tried 2 methods. I'll explain them next.

Option 1 - Paint and Measure
Once the frame rails are clean, you just can't help yourself. You just have to drop the new floor on there and admire how nice it looks. It looks so pretty. Looking at the passenger-side pan sitting there, I wanted an easy way to spot the holes. I fiddled with the pan to make sure it was exactly where I wanted it and then set some tool boxes on top so it held still and firm on the rails. Then, I grabbed a can of white spray paint, slid underneath and spray-painted the edges of the frame rails where they met the underside of the new pan. When I lifted the pan off the rails, there were clear white lines showing where the frame rails were. I ran blue tape along those edges and marked drill holes every inch or so with a sharpie. The p-side prep picture on the right shows what the prepared pan looked like.

Option 2 - Use Old Flooring
using old floor, d-side
When I removed the driver (left) side floor pan edges, I didn't crumple them up as I went. Instead, I would separate a section and then cut it free with tin-snips when the trim started getting in the way. Once all of them were free, I arranged them on the ground with the larger sections I had cut out earlier. With the puzzle so completed, I could see where the old spot welds were. So, I arranged the puzzle onto the bottom of the new pan, and shot spray-paint through the taped-on floor-pan edges. When I removed the old edges, I had dots showing me where to drill the plug-weld holes.

Drill Baby Drill
Regardless of which method you choose, drilling the plug holes is a two-step process. First you drill a pilot hole and then you drill out to 1/4". I suppose a step-bit would work so that would be only one drill effort. Similar to cutting out the spot welds, this is time consuming. I understand why British Auto Works (and probably most other shops) reduce costs by seam welding the outer edges. For that reason, I drilled plug welds into the floor to correspond to the inner frame rails, and only a few around the outer edge of the p-side pan. My paint-from-below method worked pretty well, though my alignment slipped a little bit and I had a few holes that didn't align with the rail.

On the driver (left) side, I chose to plug weld the whole thing, so that meant more drilling on that pan. The holes I produced with Option 2 were an exact match. They aligned on the rails perfectly. Unfortunately, the holes that cut all the way through the frame rail were now completely exposed as well. The drilling out of a single pan took me 2-3 hours and overall there really wasn't that much of a difference in time between the two sides, even though there were far fewer holes on the p-side. That doesn't math-out logically, but that's what happened. The all-in time at this point is over 14 hours and no pans are welded in yet.

Plug Welding
If the grinding was the best part of Part 2, then the welding was the best part of Part 3. I borrowed a 110V Lincoln MIG welder from my wife's sister's boyfriend, and bought a small 20# tank of "steel mix" gas for the project (cost me $100 for the tank plus gas-fill on craigslist). I've heard these small tanks have 6-8 hours of gas in them, so that should be enough for multiple pan replacement projects. Once I had the passenger side ready to weld, I hosted my wife's sister and her boyfriend for a welding party. The plan was simple: he shows us how to weld, and I keep a fresh beer in his hand. It worked out well for everyone. While he got the welder set up, he taught us with welding scraps from the old torn-out floor. This gave us opportunity to work on pieces that didn't matter, but were the right thickness and material. We ran the temp / voltage as high as it would go (D) and the feed set pretty fast too (just below 9). Because if the thickness of the rails, the high-voltage setting makes sense. For other work, like repairing the rear bulkhead the previous owner cut a big hole in, I'll need to bring the temp way down. Before we were done for the evening, the passenger pan was in, and 3 of us learned how to MIG weld, including my wife's sister. Very fun.

During the actual weld-in, we had setbacks, of course, like some burn-through of the pan when we novices tried to run a bead, or small fires from grease or paint catching fire from the welding. Not to worry, though, they were small enough to blow out. Still, the decision to weld on the driveway rather than the standard low-ceiling garage turned out to be a good idea. We tested a few of the welds just for curiosity sake by banging on them with a hammer and trying to separate the panel with pressure from below. No dice.

I've gone back and forth about grinding down the plug-weld humps. I know the floor is going to be covered with sound reducer, a carpet pad and then carpeting, so no one would ever really see them. At this point, though, I'm trying to get the car on the road before the weather turns, so maybe I'll grind the humps down under a canopy once the weather changes this fall. Or I may just leave them alone, and focus energy on value-adding efforts, which grinding down weld-humps in an area no one will ever see... frankly isn't.

That's it for today. My final steps are seam-sealing the floor edges, and getting some paint or undercoating on the steel pans. That work may not be interesting enough to warrant a post. After that's done, I am going to focus on getting the fuel system and master cylinders re-installed. Expect posts on those efforts soon. As always, thanks for following along.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

MGB - floor pans (Part 2)

Today we continue the saga of replacing the floor pans in the MGB. In Part 1 (See MGB - floor pans Part 1), we identified the issue, and made decisions on parts and a method. Today, we get into removing the old pans.

Get Safe
$15 at Harbor Freight
This could be a euphemism for something else, but in this case, it is exactly what it says: safety first. You are going to be cutting and then welding steel. This throws lots of sparks. Your car runs on gasoline which is designed to explode when a vapor meets a spark. When you put these together, my best advice is to remove the fuel system entirely and then wait a couple of days to let the fumes leave the remaining lines. That's what I did, and I'll post on that later. Consider too, that the cutoff wheel throws dirt and dust everywhere so wear eye protection at least. I use a face shield, long sleeves, and denim pants to protest myself. And yes that gets hot in the summer when you're working in the sun on your driveway.

Clear Your Paths
Under the right (passenger in the US) side floor, there are small pipes and cables that you don't want to set your cutoff wheel into. These pipes and cables are held to the floor underside with nuts and brackets, and further held into place with some rubber bits. Remove the nuts and the brackets and pull the rubber bits out. Toss all of it into a ziplock and mark it as part of the right floor. You'll want them later. Let the cables and pipes hang as far out of the way as possible. Among these is the fuel feed line, the vapor line and the main power supply from the battery. All super important.

blue tape the cut lines
I had the brake and clutch pedals already removed from my efforts on the master cylinders (post on that coming). I chose to remove the accelerator pedal as well to improve my access. Since it is held on with a bolt and the cable is held on with a pin, this removal is very easy. Now that my floor has been removed, I couldn't imagine how much harder this would have been with them still in place. Mental picture: you're lying down on the door frame, hips-to-feet sprawled out through the driver-door, with your arms extended into the foot-well with a grinder spinning a cut-off wheel at 11,000 RPM. Getting the cuts right without accidentally catching the underside of the brake pedal sounds virtually impossible. I highly recommend removing the pedals, if you can.

Mark the Spot
Before you grab your grinder, you need to find the frame sections underneath. On the right (passenger) side, I followed instructions I found online, where I drilled holes at the corners of various support structures. I then connected those dots with blue painters tape and then drew on those lines with a sharpie so I had clear lines to follow. This did work, but for the left (driver in the US) side, I thought I could do it with fewer steps. The first step is the same: with one had under the car and the other resting on the top of the floor, tap with your bottom hand at the corners of the beams. Feel for the tapping with your top hand, and keep circling in on the spot by tapping until you know exactly where the spot is. Mark it with a sharpie. On the right side, I drilled a hole. On the left, I just marked it and moved on. I ultimately found that the drilling was unnecessary. There are 2 main under-floor rails, one runs from the transmission hump to the edge under the front seat mounts. The other runs from that cross rail between the legs to the front. In the US model, imagine a rail running straight at the brake pedal. These rails are about 2 inches wide, but there is only about 1/2" lip that it spot-welded to.
not-so-fun part

Measure Twice, Cut Once
This phrase has been made famous by arm-chair trades-persons dating back to the stone cutters in Egypt. Still, its a good practice. Double check your marked lines to make sure that you didn't draw a line through a section of frame. Also consider if your cut-path will send you through any of the cables or pipes you moved aside earlier. Cutting through a fuel line, even if it's empty, really sucks. Yes, I did and I'll explain how I fixed it later. Along the rear edge, there are two heavier sections in the corners that are not to be cut out. They create structural stability and should only be removed it they are not doing that job. My bar had a pretty rusty floor, but those sections were fine. Make sure your cut lines take these sections into account.

The Fun Part
The floor is cut out in 3 or 4 sections, separated by the frame rails. Cut the rear out first. The rear section comes out as one large, nearly square piece, and the steel cuts pretty quickly once you get started. With the rear cut and pulled out of the way, you can see the cable, etc on the right side. Next, I cut the outer of the two forward sections. Again, this allowed me to avoid the cables, etc on the right (passenger) side. Last, I cut the inner section, and it was all pretty clean except I nicked the fuel line for about an inch, leaving a nice gash in the metal fuel line. At this point, I was glad I'd pulled the fuel tank, and let the system sit for a week or so.

The Bit
spot weld cutter
With the main sections of the floor out of the way, it feels like you're really on your way. That's until you start to understand what comes next. The floor was attached to the rails at the factory with a big spot-welder, placing a weld every inch or so along both rails and around the outer edge. Those spot welds are what is holding that last inch of steel to the car. I have read where some folks (who are far more skilled with a grinder than I) were able to cut these sections off without any other tool. High praise to them. I am no way skilled enough for that, so I went the more labor-intensive route.

Hit Harbor Freight and buy at least 2 spot-weld cutting bits. They are small, fit in your drill, like a regular drill bit, but they are designed to cut spot welds. The shiny, silver point in the center of the bit is set into the center of the weld, and then you run the drill at a slow speed to cut the sheet metal around the weld. This allows the rest of the sheet metal to rise from the rail. Each bit is reverse-able, so as you burn out the teeth, you can pop it into a vice, loosen it with a 1/4" spanner, flip the bit and tighten. One bit lasts twice as long... which still isn't that long if you run your drill too fast.

So, now that you understand the weld-cutter, slap a grinding wheel or wire wheel onto your grinder and grind on the remaining bits of floor so you can find the spot welds. Between rust, paint and black-tar seam-sealer, you may have to grind a bit to find the spot welds. If you can't find them all or you don't want to grind to find them, there is an alternative; you just need to be willing to use a framing hammer and chisel.

The Not-So-Fun Part
cleaned up
With your spot weld cutter in your drill, and a framing hammer / chisel nearby, pick a spot to start. I went with the easiest to get to: the rear section. The spot welds are easier to find back here too. Pick a spot weld, cut it out (slowly on the drill!). If the metal didn't make a "ting" noise while cutting, it may not be completely free. Given time you'll get the hang of it where you're not cutting too deep (through the frame) nor too shallow (and leaving the metal well attached). If the metal didn't separate, get under the metal edge with your chisel and give it a couple of smacks with the hammer. Eventually, the floor and rail will separate. Now do that about 120 times. Per side. I spent about 4 hours per side doing this, so be prepared. Now, I do things slower than lots of people, so maybe you'll be a lot faster.

As you remove flooring, the remnant will start to flop around. On my first (right/passenger) side, I just crumpled the metal out of my way. While this worked, I found that by cutting strips in straight sections (using tin snips) was more effective. And, ff you set them aside with the larger sections of floor you cut out, you can re-create the shape of the floor later.

Clean It Up
temporary protective paint
Once all of the spot-welded in bits of floor have been removed from the rails, you're ready to clean up. First, look at what you've done. There is a pile of twisted sheet metal lying on the ground next to your car. The rails have some holes drilled through (I know mine sure did). The rails have like 100 little circles of flooring still attached, there's some rusty spots, some paint, and probably some seam sealer. All of that needs to be taken down to bare metal for welding. Grab your grinder, put in a good grinding wheel and get after it. To me, this was the most satisfying part of the process to this point: Simply grinding away the ugly and leaving a nice clean shiny rail. Once the weld points are nice and clean, I switched over to a wire wheel and removed all of the surface rust I could find in the foot well, along the transmission tunnel and the rear, effectively grinding away all of the rust in the seating tub.

Since I was not going to be working on the project for a while, I shot the cleaned up space (including the rails) with primer and some orange Rustoleum so I wouldn't have new rust appear while I was away. This meant I got to grind that paint off later, but if you're not going to jump right into welding, I'd encourage you to consider the same.

That's it for today. More next time. Thanks, as always, for following along-

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

MGB - floor pans (Part 1)

Today's post is the first of a series dedicated to the removal and replacement of the floor pans in my MGB. This process would be the same for any car whose floors are not a critical part of the structure. I believe most cars fit that description, but I'm sure there are some unibody cars out there which have particular demands on the floors requiring a little more expertise. On that note, let's be very clear: I have zero prior welding experience. Nada. Zip. I've tried to play with a stick welder and was unable to strike a spark without getting the stick stuck to the target material. After a few hours of that frustration, I gave up, put the welder under my workbench and moved on. Until now.

The Patient
right side floor - before
I have posted quite a bit about the journey with this little British car since I acquired it late last Summer. After a spirited drive home with no seatbelts, no brake lights and little understanding of how it operated, I've made many improvements:
  • brakes (link)
  • fuse box (link)
  • master cylinder / pedal box removal (link)
  • engine mounts (link)
  • rebuilt the front suspension (link 1, 2, 3, 4) including front wheel bearings, etc
  • new seat belts, rear suspension rebound straps, fixed the brake lights (no links)
While working on the front suspension, I had a volunteer in K2 ask if he could help out. I wasn't in a spot where unskilled hands were really a help, so I asked him to start removing the interior. The carpets smelled bad and were pretty worn, so I'd intended on at least getting the smelly stuff out and putting in a temporary solution until I had the cash to do the interior well. That is where this story begins.

left side floor - before
With a 1/2" spanner and a small ratchet, K2 was able to remove the 4 bolts which hold in the passenger seat and pop them into a ziplock baggie. We pulled the seat, and set it on the floor. I left K2 to the carpet and I returned to the suspension. K2 did a great job pulling the carpet free from the floor, and the transmission tunnel. The floor looked fair, with surface rust, but half of it was covered by the original sound deadener. We split the task of hammering that out with a chisel so we could evaluate what lay beneath. There were some rusty spots as you can see in the upper picture, but only pin-holes through.
Prognosis: fair, but will require some work to have them sealed up. Replacement suggested.

With the limited space in the garage, K2 had to perform some gymnastics to get after the bolts holding the driver seat in, but once removed, he made quick work of the carpet and we cleared the sound deadener much faster as well. Unfortunately, as "okay-ish" as the passenger floor was, the driver floor was pretty bad. There were multiple small holes and the sound deadener came out so easily because of the heavy rust underneath it. Upon further examination, the floor around one of the nuts for the seat had cracks in it.
Prognosis: This floor was toast. Replacement required.

Decision made: we'll replace both pans, one at a time, and hopefully have the MG road-able before the next rainy season starts.

aftermarket pan
When it comes to the floor, there are OEM and aftermarket floor pans. The OEM cost about twice as much, but they have all of the little things that make them easier to work with. They have the nuts for the seat-bolts already installed, and the reinforcements to the floor around them. There are various little threaded studs on the underside that are on the OEM pans. Last, of course, they are heavy British steel. The aftermarket pans do not have most of the fasteners attached, are made with thinner (not British) steel and they reportedly have an extra lip around the edge that needs to be cut off. Based on the pictures, it looks like the aftermarket pans also lack the drains. neat. I chose the OEM pans, and ordered a set through my local MG specialty shop: British Auto Works in North Plains.

Weld or Glue
OEM pan
There is a whole religious war about using a structural glue to attach floors, or other "non-structural" panels. The glue argument goes "modern cars are glued together, and the new glues are far better than anything they had back then so the manufacturers would have used them if they'd had them". Sounds reasonable. The weld counter-argument goes "modern cars are CAD designed with things like cost of materials and time/effort factored into the engineering so the glue is part of the engineering work, the crash testing, etc so gluing anything that isn't purely cosmetic on a non-glue car is a bad idea". This also sounds reasonable. I decided that I'd err on the side of caution and learn how to MIG weld on these floors. I have always wanted to learn how and while floors may not be structural, my seat is bolted to it, so it feels a little more important than, say, a rear spoiler. With this in mind, I reached out to my wife's sister's boyfriend to borrow a welder, and some welding instruction. But, before we get too far down that path, we need to remove the old. We'll get to that next time.

That's it for today's appetizer of a post. More to come on this topic for sure. Thanks for following along.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Almost Frog Lake (Part 2)

Today's post is a continuation of Part 1, but this time I actually get to the ill-fated trip up Mount Hood, vagabonding, and Boo's saving the day. In the last post, I had packed the bus mid-week for our weekend camping trip. We usually do this the evening before, but one of my old friends was getting married that Thursday, so we went a different route. In summary, we had a yard sale over the weekend, then the purchasing / flush fill of the coolant on Monday/Tuesday, packing Wednesday and a wedding on Thursday leading up to the departure on Friday. Timing was tight. Now, on to the adventure-

Up Hill, Up Temps
We hit the road for what was to be a weekend of camping lake-side in the Oregon Cascades. With visions of hiking and floating in a paddle-boat driving us on, we headed west out of Beaverton shortly after 6. We knew we had at least 3 hours before darkness hit, so we drove at a relatively easy pace over the Sellwood Bridge, over OR224 to OR212 to US26. We came upon another bus on the OR224: a nice blue and white 2-tone which the driver had just purchased. He had a flat, and AAA on the way to help, so after exchanging pleasantries, he waved us on. Along the way, the bus temps were staying around 185*, the point where the thermostat opens. But, as we climbed more hills, the temps started rising. We stopped at the Subway for a quick dinner in Sandy and to let the bus cool off before returning to US26. By the time we hit ZigZag, I was genuinely concerned, pulling over periodically to let things cool off. As we passed through Rhododendron our temp was approaching critical, so I pulled into the breakdown / chain-up lane between forest service roads (FR) 24 and 26. With the engine idling, the fans blowing, heat fans on, the temp kept climbing. We passed 206* for the first time, and before I could kill the engine, steam started venting out through the overflow bottle. I turned off the key, the engine stopped and steam eventually stopped venting, but not before a large puddle had appeared under the passenger side rear-end of the bus. We were stuck: never add coolant to a hot motor; the engine needs to cool to ambient temperature or you could crack your block.

WildWood Recreation Area
I was in a form of shock, self-loathing for not doing the job "right", maybe using the wrong coolant or not getting the coolant-to-water concentration right.... but Boo leaped into action. The sun was dropping, and we needed to get off the road or deal with authorities. She scouted FR26, about 100 feet ahead of us, and spotted a clearing just off the road. With an apology to Hapy, I started him up and crept to the turn-out and nosed him into the clearing. While off the road, we were still very visible, so Boo started off down FR26, and returned with a big smile on her face. She found a driveway off to the left, leading to a private property which had been triple padlocked with a barrier, but the barrier was 20 feet off the road into the forest. The entryway was flat, and the locks were well-rusted, telling us that not only was no one home, no one was probably coming tonight either. We moved Hapy, noting an "if you see suspicious activity call the sheriff at..." sign, and while darkness closed in, we put up our curtains... only to discover that when we let K2 use the bus as a tent the night before the yardsale, he had left the cabin lights on, draining the auxiliary battery dead. The day had cratered. Boo, though, was incredible. She pulled out a couple of camping chairs, a couple of beers from the cooler and our leftover Subway sandwiches and served a picnic in the dark. Day saved. No sooner did we put everything away than we saw headlights on FR26.

Solving and Slipping Out
WildWood Recreation Area
Fortunately, the headlights turned to the right and went to a different cabin. We chose to settle down and get as much sleep as we could, expecting to hear a tap-tap-tap of a Sheriff's flashlight on the side of the bus to awaken us before dawn. That didn't happen. In fact, we slept for 9 hours and awoke to birds chirping at a post-dawn sun. I peeked out the window and saw a man walking his dog, and he had a "what's that?" look on his face. Recognizing the man would probably call the Sheriff, we started moving rather quickly. I had a full liter of 100% G12 under the bed, so I pushed the bedding out of the way of my self-cut engine hatch and poured it into the overflow bottle. Luck was on our side as the coolant filled the overflow bottle to the "full" mark, telling me also that we didn't lose that much coolant in the prior evenings debacle. With the bottle full, we packed up for travel and fired Hapy's engine. He started without delay and hummed like nothing ever happened. Recognizing that were were still literally in the woods, we quickly checked that the space looked as we found it and drove to US26. As soon as we were on the public road, we headed for the chain-up area about 100' downhill. With Boo's foot on the brake, I went around back and checked everything. The coolant level had dropped a little bit, but it was still closer to full than fill.

ZigZag and WildWood
Rather than continue to drive away from civilization up to Frog Lake, we chose, instead to lollygag our way back out of the mountains, stopping first at the ZigZag Cafe. Boo and I had driven past the ZigZag Cafe for years before first stopping in a couple of years ago. Since then, we try to include a meal there when we're up at the mountain. It is a mom and pop place where the owners cook and serve some great food. You just need to wait for it. We whiled away our morning, sipping coffee, watching the trickle of the ZigZag River out the window and enjoying an easy brunch. Deciding that we still didn't have great confidence in the cooling system, we continued downhill. Just west of Welches, there is another spot we've driven past for years, but never visited: WildWood Recreation Area. Wildwood sits on the Sandy river with many riverside picnic areas, a group shelter and, apparently, very few visitors.

We turned a weekend camp into a day at the river, selecting food, drinks, and materials for a riverside hang out. We sat in the river and talked, snacked, and relaxed. We encountered only the camp hosts, a young family (who also had a VW bus in their yard) and a tourist from Singapore. The tourist was looking for natural sights so we talked about some of the wonders of Oregon, encouraged a visit to the coast and learned about Singapore. All in, we visited for about 20 minutes, but it really resonated for us.

We had decided that driving up to the camp site was probably a lost cause; someone else probably found the reserved, but unclaimed spot and nabbed it. Besides, we still weren't 100% sure our cooling issues were behind us. So, as the afternoon shifted to evening, we packed up into the bus and nosed towards home. Now, the drive "down" from Mount Hood isn't all downhill. Most of it is, but there is a stretch between Brightwood and Sandy just past the Ivy Bear Restaurant where there is a long uphill pull. That was our first real test. By the time we got there, we were running at 185* (our Normal Operating Temp with the thermostat we have). As we started climbing the hill, the temp didn't really move, so I pushed the speed a little bit, trying to stress the system. That did it. A little bit. The temp rose into the low 190's, but stabilized at 194 the rest of the way up. Once we crested the hill and leveled off, the temp dropped right back down to 185 and then 183 (thermostat closed). Hazah!

There are 2 more meaningful hill-climbs on the way home after that one. The first is leaving Boring heading west towards Clackamas and the other is on I-205 between Oregon City and West Linn. The first, we took from a dead stop at the intersection across the street from the Timber Pub and Grub. We stayed in the slower-traffic lane, but held at speed the whole way and didn't see our temp get above the new high-point of 194*. For the second, we were at highway speed (60mph in the bus) and would have maintained speed except for a slow moving heavily-laden semi-truck in the right lane. Regardless, our temp wasn't a factor, and it appears that our cooling issue has been solved.

Since this ill-fated trip, the bus hasn't seen much action. I have been focused on getting the little convertible MGB into road-ready shape before the nice weather ends. My next few posts will probably be focused on that work. I hope to isolate another weekend day for a day at a park with the family in Hapy. We have plenty of water-side parks here, so it's just a matter of circling the day on the calendar and doing it.

That's it for today. Thanks again for following along-

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Almost Frog Lake (Part 1)

Today's post is about our ill-fated trip up Mount Hood, vagabonding, and Boo's saving the day. This post got pretty long, so I'm going to cut it up into pieces. This one covers my efforts to resolve the coolant issue we encountered on the way home from 4Peaks.

The Set-Up
After 4Peaks, we had a hectic week of preparing for a huge yard sale. Last Spring, Boo and I moved one house over (See Move Again), and in so doing, reduced our living space by 20%. We didn't reduce our stuff, so after a year of consolidating, shifting and GoodWill'ing, we still had a major purge. The week after 4Peaks was the final lead-up to that purge with the yard sale acting as the culmination. The yard sale was very successful, but it was held on 2 of the hottest days of our Summer: 105*F both days (Fri and Sat June 23/24). We were cooked and after having had a hot and dry end to the festival, we wanted a cool, relaxing camping experience.

The Fourth
The following weekend, however, was US Independence Day weekend. Finding a camping spot that weekend is nearly impossible, but I found one on the east face of Mt Hood at a place called Frog Lake. Based on the pictures, it looked amazing. It's called Frog Lake because you can hear the frogs at night. Neat. I was able to secure us two nights, Friday June 30th and Saturday, July 1st. I just needed to solve the cooling issue in Hapy before we left.

G12 compatible coolants
Recall from the 4Peaks Road Report (link here) I had cooling issues on our way home. I concluded that I committed the cardinal coolant sin of mixing my coolants types. Bad bus owner. When you mix coolant types, a few different bad things can happen. The nasty brown color is your first tip that things have gone awry. In terms of real impacts, it could be something as simple as the coolants bond to one another. Under a microscope, the coolant will bead-up, rendering it useless. I've read that it can leave salt residues as well. That really sounds bad.

Or, one or both of the two coolants can bond to various parts of your cooling system, basically putting a coating on things, reducing the remaining coolant's ability to pull heat out of the engine or to set it free through the radiator. If it is bad enough, you may need to tear your engine apart to clean out the badness. Before anything gets that drastic, though, try this first: smack yourself in the forehead for not buying the right (and probably only a few bucks more) coolant. This is best performed with an open hand, but if you're really feeling stupid, a 13mm spanner will wake you right up. After the next paragraph, and the adventure in the second half of this story, I clearly need to use the spanner.

Ok, seriously, to remedy, you need to drain the system, flush it with water and then run a flush chemical through to get any bad buildup off the insides of your cooling system as well as to trap and wash away any funky coolant. Then, follow your manufacturer's instruction for what kind of coolant to use. In the TDI, this should be G12. Or is it "used to be before G12 was superceded by G12+ and then G12++"? In my confusion, I sat on the floor at the local parts store, digging through internet sites and posts looking for a safe coolant. Turns out, G40 is the most current super-coolant for german engines. The jug clearly listed VW and the typical internet boards agree that G40 is compatible with G12, G12+ and G12++. The picture here is from one of those boards (thanks TDIClub, you're an amazing resource!). I got a gallon of Zerex G40 50/50, some Prestone flush and headed home. In the interests of transparency, my VW-specific parts place is only open during business hours during the week, and I don't have any time-off from my new job yet. So, before you ask... "no, I couldn't get the right G12 pink coolant".

The Doing
After work, I pulled out the large catch-pan, slid it under the radiator and loosened one of the radiator input hoses. I drained out the yucky-brown, and then disconnected a few other hoses and bleeders to get as much of the old stuff out as I could. I then re-connected everything, poured in the chem-flush and topped with water. The instructions say to then run the engine with the heater wide open until it has been at Normal Operating Temperature (NOT) for 15 minutes. This posed a problem.

The TDI wouldn't get to NOT just idling in the driveway, and I wasn't comfortable driving around so I arrived at a different idea: If the NOT direction is simply so the thermostat opens, why not remove the thermostat instead? Sure, the chemical might work a little better at 190* versus 170*, but is it really that much better? I'm sure some chemical engineer could explain. I plowed ahead and removed the thermostat housing, removed the thermostat and re-installed the housing. Now, flush/water would pass through the radiator, effectively cleansing the whole system. After running the engine for 20 minutes, I repeated my draining efforts. I also ran water into the various openings from a garden hose, forcing the flush and any remaining yucky out. Once the dripping stopped, I re-connected everything (including returning the thermostat to the housing) and reached for the G40. I poured in as much as the system would take. It seemed like less than I expected, but I wasn't really sure how much it would take, since my coolant lines aren't exactly stock. With a shrug, I buttoned everything up, and packed for camping. In the back of my mind, I wasn't really sure the problem was fully solved, but I was out of time and considered that I would just drive easy and watch the temp gauge.

That's it for today.