Friday, April 25, 2008

Why eBay sucks

I've been selling things through theSamba and craigslist for the past month. One of the things I realized I didn't need was the pair of engine mounts I had bought in January for this project. Well, wouldn't take the return because it had been over 30 days, so I turned to eBay. Now, I had never sold on eBay before, and after this experience, I never will again.

eBay give bad advice
First, there's the listing process. "List whatever you want, and you'll get top-dollar", right? Not exactly. I set up the listing first so I wouldn't get screwed, but eBay kept insisting that I change things. First, "you shouldn't have a reserve price because it chases away bidders". Ok, remove the reserve price. Second, "offer expedited shipping to attract bidders". Ok, sounds like a good idea, only by doing this, you exclude anyone that doesn't have a PayPal account - scaring away bidders.

eBay low-balls shipping estimates
eBay encourages you to show estimated shipping so your potential buyers don't get all bent on shipping charges. Unfortunately, their estimates are much lower than reality, and you get into a row with the buyers over shipping costs because "your listing said $7.95 and you're telling me $11".

After following all of the eBay advice, my $40+shipping engine mounts were listed and I had a single bidder for the eBay suggested opening price: $0.99. I padded the shipping a couple of bucks just to make sure my guess on the weight of the package wasn't too low. My weight taken with the bathroom scale was the most fair part of the whole deal. the package weight: 6.8 pounds. My quote to the buyer: 7 pounds. Cost to ship: $13.40.

So, how did the math work out?
<40.00> - original price
<10.00> - original shipping
<50.00> - total in the hole

00.99 - auction sold
11.00 - buyer paid shipping
11.99 - total paid to me

<13.40> - actual shipping
<> - eBay price for listing
<15.40> - total cost to list/sell

<$3.41> - cost to get rid of $40 part. leading to a $53.41 total loss.

Don't sell on eBay, or, if you do, don't follow their advice. You choose what the part is worth, and set the reserve accordingly. Bear in mind, you pay eBay whether you sell it or not. Next time, I'll take the part to NAPA and leave it on a shelf. Then, I'll buy a burger for $3 and I'll still be ahead compared to using eBay.

Friday, April 11, 2008

TDI engine timing belt replaced

Last night, I had my friend (and TDI-mechanic) Justin over to go over the TDI engine with me. I would have preferred to have done this a year ago when I bought the engine, but time money and smarts were all against me then. It turns out, it didn't much matter. Today's posting will serve partly as a postcard of what was done and partly as a checklist for what remains to be done on the engine itself before its ready to install.

timing belt, inspection
We dug through the engine, looking for signs of trouble - cracks or leaks. We didn't find any. We did find a few rare casting marks, which Justin attributed to this being such an early version of the TDI engine. He was able to determine how the vehicle got hit, based on which brackets were damaged. Having seen the body, I knew he was right - that was just freaky. He determined that the car wasn't going too fast, based on the superficial damage to the engine mount that connects at the timing belt area. The valve train looked very good. He believes the valve cover had never been removed. The inner timing belt cover had been damaged, so we pulled off all the splintered material. He, then did the timing belt replacement pointing out what different things were along the way. Justin, you're a star, man.

Vacuum pump trouble
One of the parts that needs to be removed to perform the timing belt replacement is the vacuum pump. The one that was on the engine had the valve broken off. this could have happened during shipping, or it could have happened in the accident. regardless, I knew it ahead of time, and bought another one from an on-line vendor of used parts. Unfortunately, the part I was sent was full of sandy grit and needed to be dismantled and cleaned before we could use it. The one-way valve was completely gummed up. Considering the part was sold as a direct-replacement not as salvage, I was pretty disappointed with the vendor. He chose to not stand behind his part, and will not see any more of my business unless he is willing to do make up for this in some way.
Fortunately, we were able to get the pump clean with elbow grease and detergents. The timing belt replacement is practically complete. Once the engine is in the bus and start-able, the injection pump timing can be prefected, and it will be 100% done. Justin will be doing that part too.

what's left, engine-wise
So, what's left? I need to pull the intake manifold and clean the soot/gunk out. this is more muscle than brains, so I can handle it. Once removed, the EGR stuff will remain off, so I'll have to fabricate a couple of block-off plates. Why is the EGR staying off? It is a source of intake problems, my emissions aren't tested (1972 bus) and I'll be running BioDiesel anyway, so my emmissions will be significantly better than they were with the old gas-burner. I need to replace all of the vacuum lines (only a couple are bad, but why go piece-meal). I have a new glow-plug harness and glowplugs. I need an accessory belt, but a special size (no A/C, no power steering). Then, the engine should be ready to install.

Gotta go. I'll post more progress when there is some. I'll be building a shed during my limited "free" time, so this project will sit idle for a few weeks.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Paper or Plastic

For the past month, I've been tearing apart the old pancake / flat4 / type4 engine and cataloging spare parts. These have then been getting sold through theSamba and craigslist. I forget just how much time this takes. Everyone has a different question, and between bathroom scaling things and running shipping quotes on, I haven't had any time to do anything else. On the up-side, I've made close to $300 in parts, and I still have most of my engine in tact. I hoped to get enough from these parts to cover the timing-belt work that I'll be doing in a couple of weeks. That price tag is close to $600. If things keep going like this, I'll have most of that paid for by sacrificing the old engine... part by part.

So, what's with the title? I've discovered that everyone likes using plastic, or the 'net version of plastic: PayPal. I've had an account for years, but I hadn't really used it that much. For things like selling over the net, it works great. I wish more folks had accounts though, because when a buyer uses their credit card, I have to pay a 2% fee. Boo. Ah well, the money is immediately transferred to my account and I can hit the ATM and its magically paper money. It works out very well for everyone, actually, and I can use my paypal account to pay for things on the net without having to share my credit info.

Anyway, the fuel tank insides finished out very nicely. I still need to paint the outside, and finish the cleaning on the tank bay. And I have to sound insulate that area before getting the tank in. Oh, yeah, I have to buy a new hose for filling the tank as the old one was the original. The list just keeps getting longer, but this is still fun stuff. Once I get some of the Spring house stuff done (spreading mulch, starting the vegetable garden, etc), I'll be back under the bus, cleaning and insulating. I'll post some pictures when its done. I still believe the bus can be Diesel powered by Independence Day. It may be more hopeful than reasonable, but we'll see.

more later...