Saturday, January 30, 2010


Today's post covers a few things. First, I ordered some more hose, and spent more cycles thinking on the cooling system. Then, today, I did some time under the rear end working on the exhaust. On to the post...

Cooling off on cooling
After dwelling on the radiator and other aspects of the cooling system for most of the Winter, I've grown tired of that part of the project. It's pretty close to done, but there are a few holes left.
First, I need to find a pair of 90* 1-1/4" elbows and a short (say 1') stretch of straight 1-1/4" coolant rubber. I'd like to get a more dramatic bend at the radiator, and those parts are needed for that. I haven't been able to find a local source for the 90* bends, so I may have to order online for those :(
Second, I have the cabin heat circuit. I'd going to punt that whole system into next Summer. So, in order to tie that off, I need to get some things done anyway. For example, I am running the ALH engine "without glow plug heater", so the hose that runs from that flange is different (hose p/n is 1C0121157A). For some reason, VW thought it would be a good idea to have the flange just a little fatter than the hoses, so you need a VW hose that has a fat end on it. There's a picture of it on the left here. That hose ties into a plastic "T" that routes to the cabin heater and to the fill bottle. I plan to do everything except the cabin heat, but I need a closed system.
Since I need those parts, I'm moving on from the cooling system for now. I'll get back to those later.

Not Exhausting
When I bought this engine, I got the old exhaust run with it. I was sent the catalytic converter, a long stretch of pipes, one of those flex things, etc. Handy stuff. I didn't get a muffler, but I found a guy that was unloading one of those soup-can mufflers on craigslist for $10. Love cl. It had a short stretch of bent pipe on it.
So, today, I got under the bus to think through how it route the exhaust. The section of pipe from the turbo was about 6" of bendy pipe connected to a flexi-pipe, and then another short section of pipe that was then connected to the cat. I cut-off and sold the cat a while back, but I kept the rest of it. I hung the remaining pipe onto the turbo and discovered that it ran straight under the driver-side frame. I put the rear bumper in its approximate location, and lined things up. I discovered that I had all the necessary pipe in-hand; I just needed to cut it into pieces, clean them up a bit and line it up. In the end, I was able to align things so the exhaust line will run from the turbo straight to the bottom of the left wall and turn to the rear. Immediately after the turn, it will enter the muffler. The tip will be just past the bottom edge of the bumper, and about an inch below. I should have taken a picture in-place, but the picture to the right, here, shows where we're at. I cut up the pipe, fitted it together, sharpie'd lines for alignment, and pulled it down. I was able to break out the welder and tack-weld the flexi-pipe to the bend, but I couldn't get the muffler to weld to the bend. Its probably user-error. I'm looking forward to Hal's next visit so this can be finished up. In the meantime, I know where the muffler and exhaust lines will be, so I can move on to other things.

I should have some more time tomorrow. So, I'm going to hit the induction / intake side. I have all of the old plastic tubing from the original install of this engine, so I may be able to just juggle those into a usable system. The exhaust is nearly done, the coolant system is nearly done, and, if all goes well tomorrow, the intake side will be well under way.

More next time...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cabin Heat, flexible lines

Tonight, I'll cover some thoughts about how to heat the inside of the bus and the coolant line routing I did this afternoon. My wife took a quick week in Las Vegas, so I have an update on Marianne and Tom.

Cabin Fever
First, I thought about putting the heating unit under the main belly of the bus. I went through the trouble of reversing the heater core, and re-mounting it. But, once I got under the bus, I discovered that I couldn't put it where I wanted to as it would block 1/2 the entrance to the radiator. Oi. One more example of avoiding sliding under the bus and it costing me in wasted time.

Then, my thinking switched to putting the heater unit (rear heater unit from a vanagon) under the front belly pan. The front pan hangs over 8" below the floor of the bus, and there is sufficient space width-wise to fit the heating unit (needs 13"). Reference the picture to the right...The heater unit could sit with the square foam side pressed up against the floor. The original heater tube in this location will be removed so the air that is forced by the fan will go up through the tube into the bus cab. I had intended to connect the entry side of the fan to the original ducting. I realized that once the belly pan was re-attached with a sealing foam, I won't have to fit the ducting together. The vacuum created by the fan will be filled by the open ducting anyway. In the picture to the left, you can see a HVAC collar has been attached to the fan inlet. If necessary, I can hard-route the old ducting into the fan.

One bit to note in this picture would be the black section along the bottom of the pictures. That is from the original cowl and it forces all of the fan air through the core. If it is left off, air can easily flow around the core, and the heat would be incomplete. The opening is 4" by 9". That's almost the size of a standard floor vent (4x10), which has me questioning whether I should go with the housing-against-the-floor plan. I could get a floor register and connect a bend up to the floor. I think that would allow better flow into the cabin, and would allow me to hang the unit from the floor instead of from the front.

Regardless, I am going to suspend the work on cabin heat for now. The wish is Operable This Summer. I won't need cabin heat in July and August. I can deal with the heat after that.

Coolant Lines
I got the rubber hoses earlier this week. With the copper pipe stringing the rubber sections together, I was able to create 2 long lines. I threaded the lines, one at a time, from the engine bay, over the right-rear axle, under the rear beam to the radiator. I connected the ends to the radiator and the engine flanges, but I'm not sure it's "done". The hoses do bend and flex, but they don't seem to want to hold much of a bend. I think they are designed for a single bend that's not terribly complicated. The bend at the radiator isn't holding tight, making the hose the low-point. I'm going to add a 90* bend of copper pipe at the radiator. That will raise the hose so it is no longer the lowest point on the bus.

I am still concerned about the lack of a bleeder at the radiator high-point, but I'll worry about that later. Also, I'll abandon the cabin heat for now and button up the coolant system. For the lines that should route to/from the heater core, I'll just tie them together in the engine compartment for now.

Marianne and Tom
My wife got back from Las Vegas on Tuesday after spending the prior week helping her brother Tom and mom (Marianne) again. We learned that Tom had lost consciousness a week ago, and was going back into the hospital. My wife flew down the next day. While she was down there, she helped Tom get hospice care started, move into a new apartment, and get somewhat settled. Her mom had another CAT scan to gauge the growth of her tumors and got the results back from her biopsy - she has a multi-cell cancer that is somewhat aggressive. My wife was the emotional anchor while she was there, and really seemed to help life their spirits. It seemed very exhausting for her, though, so we're glad she's home.

I won't have time tomorrow, nor do I expect to have much time during the week next week. I had hoped to have more on the weekends in January, but that's how it goes. Anyway, the coolant system will be done soon enough. After that, I'll either be moving back to the electrical or the air induction system.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Another small step

Sleep-overs. Single-parenting. Play dates. That's been the bulk of my time for the last week. I have been able to get a few hours here and there around the helicopter parenting, though. I made a little headway on the main coolant lines to the radiator, but, first, some research on galvanization. Like much of my forward progress, I can't seem to move forward without first wasting a day or so with a wrong path. I think that's part of the process, but the distillation of the completed work never fully reflects the amount of time spent doing it wrong a few times first.

Galvanization / Electrolysis
I did some research on galvanization / electrolysis and what affects different metals pose within a cooling system. Basically, if there is an electrical charge within the cooling fluid the weakest metal will start to pit. The electrical charge could be caused by static charge build up within the radiator core because of passing charged particles passing through. Think of how a balloon increases its static charge just from rubbing against clothing. To offset this charge, it is a good idea to ground the radiator core. I'll be doing this. Another cause can be from a bad ground elsewhere in the system, but either case is aggravated with the use of tap water. When you reduce your coolant, use de-ionized water (best) or distilled water (better). Some folks use a lead fishing weight that is routed to ground as an anode - sacrificial metal so the rest of the cooling system isn't compromised due to a low electrical charge. The route to ground can be as simple as hanging the weight in the overflow tank with copper wire that passes through the cap to a good ground.

Coolant Lines
With the galvanization info, I hit Lowes and bought 24" of copper tubing. I brought the old coolant flange that I had cut up so I could size the pipe, and found a 1" pipe actually fit better than a 1-1/4". I thought that was a little strange. I guess I'll see how the rubber coolant lines fit when they arrive. I grabbed a dozen hose clamps while I was there. With the pipe in-hand, I slid under the bus and thought about the route.

Point "C" was the underside of a greased round beam, not the square-ish frame part I thought I remembered. This changed the plan a little bit. I lost some time trying to fabricate a hanger, but I decided that I could use a short section of copper pipe as a connector instead. I can run the lines over the top of the beam so I don't need a hanger to hold that connection in place. I cut 2 2-1/2" pieces of pipe (pictured) and moved on to focus on the firewall ("D")....

Point "D" is a curved section of frame that is between 2 and 3-1/2" thick with the thinnest part at the lowest point. Using 1" 2-hole pipe straps mounts and a stretch of flashing, I fab'd a basic hanger that can fit into the curve. The pipe lengths are 5-1/2" long. I'll have to trim it a little bit still, and I'd be happier with a stretch of rubber between the pipes and the straps to protect against rub-through. Of course, I haven't put the mount holes in yet, but that should be pretty easy once the rubber hose has arrived. I'll need to lay out the lines and see exactly where the hanger needs to be first.

That's all I have today. Next time, I'll flap about the cabin heater bits I've been working on.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Coolant lines ordered

I've been slammed at work, and it doesn't look like its going to let up any time soon. Additionally, my wife suddenly departed for Las Vegas, so I'm single-parenting for the next week or so. So, I'm going to keep this short. In the previous post, I laid out the rubber hose lengths I need. I ordered the hose from an online vendor. I also have an update on my brother-in-law and mother-in-law. Last, some chatter about identifying when your turbo is about to fail.

After some research, I found Goodyear offers a smooth-on-the-inside corregated-on-the-outside flexible hose that holds its bends because the corregation has wire in it. Since I need to run a 90* angle off of the radiator, an offset under the beam, over the axle and under the firewall, and then another series of 90* bends to get to the engine in/outlets, flexible hose seemed the wisest choice. I could fabricate something with copper or aluminum lines that I sweat together, but I think this is a much better idea, and it will probably be lighter as well as easier to maintain. Details about the Goodyear hoses I used can be found here. In case the link fails at some point in the future, the capsule about the hoses is below.
I hope the hoses arrive before the weekend, but I'm not terribly optimistic. I bought them from, and they ship using UPS Ground which can be fast, but the parts are coming from Michigan (I think), so with the Winter weather it may be a while.
I need to construct the hangers anyway (at location "C" and "D") to join the different rubber lines together anyway, so I'll be doing that work this weekend. The hangers will perform 2 purposes: 1 - hold the line up against the body at the 2 key transition points and 2 - butt together 2 segments of flexible line.
Goodyear Flexible Radiator Hose
Designed for radiator hose applications where a molded radiator hose is not available. Flexible radiator hose has a corrugated cover that easily bends to replicate the original equipment coolant hose. Flexible radiator hose maintains full flow and resists collapse with a wire insert. Hose is designed to be used with automotive coolants.

Marianne and Tom
Tom's health took a turn for the worse in the last few days. He is now back at the VA Hospital in Las Vegas dealing with dehydration. This could just be a complication of the medications, but it could also be a harbinger of renal failure. My wife immediately dropped her classes and booked a flight down to Las Vegas. She left today. Her mom, meanwhile, has had her cancer type determined as adeno multi-cell cancer. It is a multi-cell version of lung cancer that is not as aggressive as some other types, but still aggressive. They have determined a treatment plan, though my wife will be conferring with the doctors. I haven't gotten word from my wife since she traveled to Las Vegas, so my next posting may have more details.

Turbo Fail
I've been following a thread on TDIClub about someone who had their turbo fail in such a way that the engine's cylinders were swamped with oil. Apparently, when these turbos fail, oil blows through the intake and gets into the combustion chamber. They also scream like nothing else as they are approaching their final days, but when they finally fail it blows oil. Since the diesel engine operates on a much higher pressure principle, you can imagine what happens to your bottom end when a chamber that is supposed to be filled with vapor is suddenly filled with fluid. BOOM BOOM BOOM there goes your connecting rod. It was suggested that monitoring the turbo could be done with a turbo speed sensor (Garrett makes one for about $360). I emailed with a company that build custom diesel installations that used the speed sensors and they decided that they were overly expensive and not well-tailored to the task. How do you avoid an ugly turbo failure? Check the play in your turbo during your regular maintenance (oil changes). If you're especially nervous about it, get a boost gauge.

More next time.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Radiator Installed

Yes, you read that right. The radiator is in. I had a couple of hours today between chasing kids from a sleepover and a pinewood derby car building event with my son's cub scout den. So, I popped another fan on the radiator, made a minor alteration to the cowling, got the rad installed under the bus and took measurements for the coolant lines.

Two fans
I mentioned in an earlier post that I had planned on getting another fan eventually. Well, eventually became immediately when I thought about the prospect of putting the radiator in only to have to remove it to put in the second fan. That seemed penny-wise but time-stupid. So, I contacted Absolute Radiator for a 11" Maradyne fan to match the 12" Maradyne fan I already had. Between the 2 fans, I'll have 2265CFM (1155 for the 12" + 1100 for the 11") of air-pulling power. I have to think though the electrical requirements (7.4amp for the 11", 7.7amp for the 12"), but I have the fan relays from the electrical harness I got with the engine, so I may be able to just use those relays (with some new fuses). In the pictures to the right here you can see the foam spacers and the lock nuts. Like the front side, where there is a foam spacer between the radiator core and the fans, these foam spacers should be on the lock-nut side too to protect the core.

Cowling Final Alteration
After adding the second fan, I made a sight modification to the cowling to hold the sides together. I had intended to add the grate from my old furnace, but its heavy, oversized for the job, and I think it would have partially blocked the airflow. The simple strap will hold the sides together. It won't protect the fans from debris bouncing up from the pavement, of course. I'll worry about that later (I hope those aren't famous last words).

Radiator Install
The rear end of the "final" install was as easy as the test install. The chains hooked up very easily. The front end was a different matter. The passenger side went up fine, but the driver side wouldn't go all the way in. Near the rear, the cowling got hung up and the front corner got caught as well. Turned out the front corner was the hang-up. A little bending, and it fit. In the picture to the right, you can see what the ground clearance is like: 9-1/2"

Coolant Lines
Using a length of leftover vinyl tubing, I set to measuring the distance from the radiator inlet / outlet to the engine inlet / outlet. For reference, I'm considering the inlet on the driver side of the radiator point "A" and the outlet on the passenger side point "B". I drew a chalk line on the underside of the rear beam (point "C") and another line on the curved sidewall ("D") where the transaxle passes into the engine compartment. The Bentley guide for the ALH engine shows that the flange on the head is the outlet ("E") and that routes directly to the "top" of the radiator. The flange on the block where the thermostat is ("F") is the coolant inlet that routes to the "bottom" of the radiator. The drawing on the right here should help that make sense. The measurements follow. I'll be searching online for flexible hoses that will meet these requirements. I know Goodyear makes lines that would work, so I think it will just be a matter of selecting the closest ones size-wise, and finding an online vendor. I haven't been able to find a local source with the variety I need.

incremental lengths:
A to C: 24"
B to C: 19-1/2"
C to D: 24"
D to E: 18-1/2"
D to F: 20-12"

net total lengths:
A to E: 66-12"
B to F: 64"

That's it for now. Next up I think is getting the coolant lines and hooking them up. I should probably get looking into the cabin heat lines and the overflow bottle too. I need to think on the electrical for the fans and getting the sensor into the computer network. Seems like there's always a "next"...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

GPS in a motionless bus

In an earlier post, I mentioned driving to NorCal to see the Dead in my friend's '73 bus. Among the highlights of that trip were the electronic gadgetry that he brought along. Between the MP3 player and the satellite radio to keep us forever surrounded with bootleg live-Dead (or Jerry Band), he had a GPS.

I have to say first seeing a GPS unit attached to the windscreen of that old aircooled bus seemed anachronistic, but I quickly found myself marveling in its glow. Simple things like "where's In'n'Out Burger" in some strange town we were passing through on I-5 were easily answered (there isn't one until Redding). Even watching our estimated time of arrival slowly move further out as we were unable to keep up with the speed limit was strangely satisfying.

When my wife joined us for the second run to see the Dead, she, too, saw the benefits of knowing what lay ahead. We were able to easily find a grocery store, for example, for the weekend camping at the Gorge. (aside) Which reminds me, I don't know if it was the cooking outdoors, or the music, or all the militant vegetarians camping in the lot, but there was something about having seasoned meat in bite-sized chunks that was exceptionally tasty that weekend. I remember sitting inside the Amphitheater during the set break and getting asked by Mike "meat snack? hehehe". Total highlight :) But I digress (/aside). This Christmas, my wife threw down and got me a Garmin 265WT GPS. No sooner than she gave it to me she started wondering if she should have buyer's remorse. I couldn't find a good comparator web site (cnet filtering was unworkable), and she said the other one she was looking at (that many user responses said was "better") was a Magellan 1424.

I looked at the specs for the 2, and I think the Garmin wins hands-down. The Garmin has free lifetime traffic, bluetooth support for handsfree speakerphone, and all the guidance stuff that Magellan has. I couldn't find a single thing the Magellan brought to the table as unique functionality. The real test was using the thing, though. Monday morning brought all of us back to the regular work-week. As one would expect in NW Oregon, it was raining, and traffic was heavy. No sooner did I get on I-5 than the GPS popped up with "traffic ahead" with a little flashing red car icon in the upper left corner. I fingered the icon, and it showed the freeway and the intersecting ones with colored lines to indicate where the traffic was bad. Eyes on the road! Ok, snap back to the 50mph traffic, and the voice pops again with some other warning like "traffic stopped 2 miles ahead". I glance at the GPS and see the color of the freeway ahead is red. Back on the road, I started to see taillights light up. I worked over to an exit ramp and started working surface streets. At the first red light, I zoomed out until I could see a really long stretch of freeway and I could see that the traffic snarl was miles long. I was able to detour and get back on the freeway after the tie-up. I found out afterward that the snarl was a multi-car wreck that delayed traffic for over an hour. It delayed me less than 15 minutes when I add in the time of driving surface streets instead of freeway.

When I think of the advantages of knowing where you are, it is hard to imagine why I would travel without one. Then, I remember that part of the joy of the journey is not knowing what's around the next corner - not knowing what lay ahead. If we already know all that there is to see, will we still look? How much more focus do we really need on the destination? Personally, I find I have to exert more effort than ever to recognize the value of the journey, to remember the process is the goal. I am very grateful for the live traffic alerts, and being able to find out if there's a public restroom within the next few miles. I hope that I can gain the restraint to otherwise ignore the shiny object on the dash and enjoy the vistas beyond the windscreen. More next time -

Monday, January 4, 2010

Craftsman 'lifetime' warranty

I did actually get under the bus since the last post, but I gotta vent about how cheap Craftsman tools have become. The tools that I use were a Christmas gift in the mid-80's. My parents recognized I had some special affinity for tools at an early age. See, when I was about 10 I took their stereo equipment apart to figure out how it worked. I got it all back together again, and it still worked, but I'm not sure I learned much from it. What I did discover, though, was that a pioneer stereo will still work even if you leave a few screws out of it :)

So, when I hit 15, they gave me a set of Craftsman tools and one of those 3-drawer tool boxes. The set had crescents and ratchets (mini's, 3/8" and 1/2" sockets both metric and American). I've used them on every car I've owned from the rust-bucket '74 Camaro I unwisely bought when I was 16 to my current Jetta and the microbus. I love those tools, and the set is practically complete. Considering the number of moves, the number of cars, and friends I've had, that's quite a feat. About a year ago, my mini ratchets broke. I had 2, suddenly, I had none.

So, last week while my office was closed, I took my broken ratchets to Sears for rebuild / replacement. The guy behind the tools counter took a look at my ratchets and only accepted one of them as Craftsman. He could have been right, but I've never bought ratchets, so I think he just didn't know what he was looking at. He brought over a replacement ratchet for the one he thought was Craftsman - the one with the word clearly written on it. The replacement was nothing like the original except for the square bit. The switch is plastic. The ratcheting mechanism was plastic. I wasn't even sure the handle wasn't chromed plastic. I asked him if he had any rebuilt ones like the one I had. He said, "no, we haven't had anything that old in a long time". Great. "Do you have a rebuilding kit I could have instead of that (pointing at the plastic crap)," I asked. The tool guy looked puzzled and said no. I asked for my ratchets back and told him to forget it.
On leaving the store, my wife didn't initially understand. The wrench they were trying to pawn-off on me was a $6.99 wrench. My original wrench is worth more than that when broken. I'd rather rebuild the wrench at my own cost ($9 for a rebuild kit off the internet) than have a plastic piece of junk that will fail on me when I can't afford to be without a functioning tool.

On the bus, I slid underneath with some steel pipe on Sunday afternoon and thought about the routing of the coolant. At this point, I think I'll run it under the rear beam, and up over the right axle (but under and to the right side of the starter). Then, it should appear close to where the oil cooler and fuel filter are. It should be pretty straightforward to tie into the block and header in/outlets. All told, that would be 6 90* bends, 4 45* bends and a couple of straight joiners in rubber. It would be 6 straight sections of steel pipe. I need to find a rubber source that won't crush the budget. Maybe a visit to CarQuest would be worthwhile. I'll also have to think about fitting in a bleeder on each side of the radiator since there will be a high-point within the radiator otherwise. Or do I entertain the idea of flipping the rad over again? Eeee..... Can a bleeder be added directly to the plastic tank on the radiator? Hmm...

That's it for today...