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.

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