Friday, August 22, 2014

Flash gets a facelift

Last week and weekend, T and I got the front end damage on Flash (the TDI Jetta) repaired.  Today's post covers that epic.

Accident Reminder
I should probably start at the beginning.  In mid-May, T was asked by his mom to drive his brother from their house in LO to my house in Beaverton for C's lacrosse stuff and then on to his 6:PM lacrosse game in Camby.  This led to 2 hours of rush-hour rubber-band driving, terminating in the chaos of intersections around Camby High School.  It was in one of those intersections, T got into an accident with an uninsured driver resulting in damage to the left-side fender, front bumper and the corner-edge of the hood (see picture to the right, here).  We left Flash like that for the next couple of months.  After buying and then changing our minds about a parts car (See: Welcome 2dot0), I re-doubled efforts to get Flash fixed.

Steal Your Face Right off Your, uh, Head
In a 95* garage last Tuesday, I set off to remove the damaged parts from Flash.  The shop manual is helpful for things like this, but it seemed like every "first" step was to follow a series of steps elsewhere in the manual.  Once the hood is up, the front latch is removed first by releasing the spring and then placing a slotted screwdriver into the Y and rotating it.  The plastic Y will pop off the nubs attached to the metal latch so it can be pulled straight out through the front grille.  The grille simply pops out by tilting the top forward.  If you still have your lower grills, they would be removed now; mine were lost in the accident.  Now, all of the star-driver bolts holding the front fender should be visible.  Remove the star-driver bolts from the bumper-ends which attach the bumper to the inner wheel wells first.  Then, remove the 2 lower bolts through the lower grille holes.  Last, remove the star-driver bolts accessible from above.  The bumper pops right off.

All of the above is necessary to just get to the fender.  But you can't take the fender off yet.  First, you need to remove the inner wheel well.  It is held on with more star-driver screws around the outer edge and one buried deep near the front strut.  Once you've wrestled the wheel well out of your way, the fender can be removed with a standard 10mm rachet.  The 4 bolts across the top are obvious.  There are 2 more at the front, and 3 buried at the rear.  The middle one of the "rear" on Flash had body filler slathered on it, so I had to dig that away first.  We discovered the plastic parts of the headlight were broken at this point, so we removed that too.

Searching the Yard
Wednesday, T and I drove Hapy to a wrecking yard, looking for body panels.  Turns out, Jetta's don't last in the yard too long.  One had been in the yard for just over a week and the front end was gone.  The others had been there longer and were even more picked over.  We did find a 1/3 rear-seat back, though.  The latch on Flash's had broken at Home Depot months ago, and was effectively locked in place.  Removing the replacement was easy: just pitch it forward, and with a screwdriver rotate the collar near the door to expose the opening.  Then, just tilt the back towards the center of the car, freeing that end.  The center just slides out.
For T, it was his first trip to a wrecking yard, and we had a blast.  He saw a few cars he had never seen before, like a late 70's Honda CVCC that he really liked.  While we didn't get the body parts we needed, it was still a good time.

The following night (Thursday), I got a response from one of my craiglist part queries.  Since he lived in the countryside outside Vancouver, WA, we agreed to meet at the IKEA near the Portland airport.  I took both T&C with me, and we got there a little early.  So, we went into the A/C to wander and wait.  The seller ended up about an hour late, but having not been at an IKEA for years, we had an unexpected tour.  They displayed a small-house set up of 590 square feet that all three of us found very interesting.  It seemed like every wall had storage solutions on it.  I remembered IKEA having much more disposable furniture made of veneer and glue-board than we saw.  What really tripped me out was how we walked in with no agenda, no real needs or wants, but by the end, we could feel the covet creeping in.  We found ourselves genuinely shopping for furnishings, and looking for particular things.  Fortunately, we recognized it, and quickly made for the exit.  We met "bumper buy" in the parking lot, accepted his bumper and pair of headlights for the arranged amount and headed home.

GTI Headlight != TDI Headlight
On Saturday, T and I started the work on installing the headlight and bumper.  Turned out, the headlights we got were GTI headlights, and the plugs were all different.  Additionally, the physical attachment point for the main headlight in the silver-flashy plastic was different.  We cannibalized the wiring and silver-flashy from the old headlight and the clear plastic and housing from the new-to-us one.  The head-lamp plug, though, couldn't fit through the housing, so I had to cut and re-wire a little bit.

Getting Hammered
Since we only had a bumper, we needed to make some ghetto adjustments to the fender and hood to fit properly.  Using an old spare tire from the bus as an anvil, I hammered on the fender to get most of the disfigurement out.  The rubber hammer and anvil worked really well, actually.  Don't get me wrong, it still looks bad; it just fits around the headlight, bumper and hood now.  At the end, I beat on the corner of the hood to get it to fit a little better as well.

As we did final assembly, we discovered that the front driver-side bumper mount/support was damaged in the accident.  Its a $20 part, but we didn't have it.  So, we put the front end together without it, knowing we'll need to remove and re-install stuff when we get the new fender anyway.  Also, the headlight housing and plastic screen need to be caulked to keep water out.  I need to do that before the weather changes.  I don't like the idea of the fender hanging out there anyway, so if I don't get a replacement fender soon, I'll swap out the mount/support and do the caulking anyway.

That's it for today.  Have a great weekend, and, as always, thanks for following along...

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Welcome 2dot0

While searching for parts for Flash (the TDI Jetta recently wrecked by T), I found a perfect parts candidate.  Or is it more?  The one on Craigslist was a year younger, but had 192k miles on it.  A gasser with a 2-dot-slow engine, it was the GLS model with a tan leather interior and a bruise-free white exterior.  The biggest drawback: the owner believed he had blown the engine, and had left it untouched since mid-February.  Today's posting is the adventure we had with this listing / car.  Found on Thursday, I wanted to get there right away, which meant driving up the next day.

Oregon -to- Washington Friday Afternoon Traffic
First things first, the parts-car-candidate was living on the far North East corner of Vancouver, Washington.  Since I live in central Beaverton, that represented a 40 minute drive without traffic.  On Friday afternoon in the Summer, it can take considerably more time.  Like almost 3 hours one-way.  Fortunately, I drove Dude (2000 +/- Saturn) and his A/C was working fine.  Still, 3 hours of bumper-to-bumper rubber-banding traffic is hard on a clutch leg.  When I got there, the owner's wife had chosen to happy-hour with her friends, so the owner wasn't really able to focus attention on what we were doing as he had to manage little kids.  Turns out, she hadn't signed the title so it didn't matter if he wanted to do the deal or not; he couldn't.  So, after agreeing I wanted it and that he'd hold it for the weekend, I set back home into the reducing rush-hour traffic.

Haul it Home, Eventually
I got up the next morning (Saturday) and called AAA to see if I could get a tow from Vancouver.  After I was assured that the wait time would be around 30 minutes, and to call back when I was with the victim, I set off back to Vancouver.  Unlike the afternoon before, the drive this time took 40 minutes, even with a detour down Columbia Blvd. to avoid a 2-lane wreck just south of the Interstate Bridge.  I re-contacted AAA at the car and was given a 45 minute expectation.  Perfect.  The owner and I exchanged pleasantries, money and forms, then pushed the car into the street.  I climbed into Dude to wait for the tow truck.  And wait.  And wait.  After an hour, I contacted AAA to see what was going on. and I was given a revised time of another 75 minutes.  Crap.  The alternative: hire another tow company and hope AAA would reimburse it.  By the time the tow truck arrived, I had sat in front of the old owner's house for 3 hours.  I gave the tow guy directions, explained my need for food, and we set off separately.

I only stopped for about 15 minutes to eat, but that was enough of a head start for the tow truck to get to my house, drop the car and leave.  Boo was there to catch it, fortunately.  She and I pushed 2dot0 into the garage so I could consider it's engine's health.

The prior owner had told the tale of how the car had fallen into its current state.  It seems that the early February snow storm I mentioned in Front Bumper (part 2) played a major part in 2dot0's demise.  He had driven to the community college for class and had been wrestling for traction in the snow when a large white cloud of smoke came out from under the hood.  He quickly wheeled into a parking spot and killed the engine.  He figured the engine was seized and had the car towed home after the snow cleared.  Because of the weather, getting that tow was a long wait; way worse than mine.  He was unable to get the engine to hold water, so he gave up on it, bought a different car and listed it to make room in his driveway.

$40 Later
That's where we come in on Sunday.  I did the same thing he had been doing: pour a little tap water into the overflow bottle and see if/where it comes out: slightly behind the front driver's wheel.  With a bare hand feeling for where dry meets wet, I was reminded of my diagnosing issues with the cooling leaks on Hapy.  That was the moment I realized it was the same coolant flange which had stymied me with the bus for a year.  Off to O'Reilly's Boo and I went to get a replacement flange and G12 coolant.  On removal, we could see that the old flange had split at the collar almost halfway around the underside.  I put on the new flange, topped off with tap-water to verify the leak, and presto! no leak.  Now the real test: try turning it over.  It started right up, but it blew lots of smoke.  I feared a failing head putting oil into the combustion chamber.  Still, we pulled 2dot0 out of the garage and I took a test drive around the neighborhood. It ran very well.  Brakes grabbed a little bit, but the steering was sure.  The engine had some pep (for a non-turbo 2.0) and the smoke went away.

Get Legal
On Monday, 2 days after having the car hauled home with a "blown engine", Boo and I went out to dinner in 2dot0.  The following Friday (after getting insurance), I drained the water and filled the cooling system with G12 coolant and distilled water.  Then, embraced more risk with a drive down the highway to the DEQ.  We passed, though I hadn't filled the system entirely with coolant and the temp ran high on the way home.  We didn't overheat, though, and we found a shade-tree under which I was able to top-off the system safely.
This past Friday, I ran the paperwork through DMV and got Oregon plates.  Between DEQ, DMV and the parts at O'Reilly, I spent over half of what I spent on the car.  For any other purchase, that would sound really bad, but this was a $500 car.

Now what?
So, now we have another car in the stable.  The question is, "what do we do with it?".  With such a high-mile engine, top-end work is inevitable.  Maybe bottom-end too.  We decided that since it hadn't had the benefit of many miles of trust-building, it will be my 2-miles-to-work car when the weather turns rainy.  T will continue to drive the dependable TDI (Flash), and we returned Joan (really large SUV) to Boo's ex-husband.

That's it for today.  I'd heard of folks getting a really great deal on a car, but after buying and selling over 10 cars, I'd never had that kind of luck.  Until now.  The stories are real.  Since I was looking for a parts car, getting a working car wasn't on the radar, but that's what I got.  I'll post next time on how we resolved the parts we needed to get Flash looking better.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Black Sheep Family Reunion

The last weekend in July, Boo and I took a road trip to the central Oregon Coast mountain range for a multi-day music and arts festival.  This post covers the road trip and the festival.  Sorry I've been away from the blog for a bit.  It being Summer, I'm doing more, and writing less.  More content for later!

Drive to Waldport, Almost
Signs at Entrance
In another classic planning mishap, Boo had to work the morning we intended to leave for the Black Sheep Family Reunion music and art festival (BSFR).  Our destination was 3 hours by car (so 4 hours by microbus) and the gates opened at noon.  While Boo worked, I leisurely got the bus packed, and we hit the road just after noon.  Since Boo hadn't slept much the night before, she crawled into the back and napped after we passed Wilsonville.  She re-appeared between Corvallis and Philomath, joining me for the incredibly fun drive down OR-34.  The drive prior to OR-34 was typical Summer Friday freeway stuff: slow, hot and filled with impatient drivers.  The sides of the bus acted like the edges of a bubble, though, keeping that energy out, while allowing our smiles through.  OR-34 is a grapevine of switch-backs, steep climbs and drop-offs along the Alsea River.  As I drove it, I laughed with joy.  I dare to dream it in a sports car that's tuned for that kind of thing.  I imagine it would be spectacular.  We were buffeted by an older Subaru from a particularly angry pickup truck who appeared to flick chewing tobacco at us as he later passed.  Hilarious.

The BSFR was first marked with a small sign "300 feet" before the otherwise not-terribly characterized turn-off.  There was a small sign, though, and we were able to navigate it, bringing 2 others from the "main road" with us, including the older Subaru.  We climbed a narrow "this has to be the wrong" road, bore left at a "Y" which was marked with a simple arrow on a cardboard box onto a gravel road.  Holding Hapy at a 5mph lumber, we eventually happened upon a gate with a troupe of hippies hanging around.  "This must be it," Boo mused.  We were greeted with a chorus of "nice bus" comments, and a vague direction about continuing down the road to the next gate.

Camping the Glade
View of stage from bonfire
A few more turns and road dip/climbs and we suddenly were upon the festival camping.  We asked a Vanagon driver what we were supposed to do and he said "get out and join us for a beer".  LOL.  We ended up doing that later, actually, but first we met with the next clump of hippies running the place to get a camping spot.  At that second gate, we were waved to the side so the older Subaru could get by.  Turns out, the driver was the drummer for one the Friday bands (KrazyFingers, I think).  We later thanked him for running interference on the pickup, and we had a good laugh about it.  Once the Subaru was past, we were pointed to the grassy area just to our left.  "Just don't mess with my cones," he said.  We rolled over to where we were pointed and Kenny, a blonde-haired, beaded fella with a huge smile, waved us in, and helped us get level.  The rest of the weekend was spent making friends with that group of festers.  We even found Justice, a friend we made at Horning's Hideout Hootenanny over memorial Day weekend (See: So Starts Camping Season 2014).  Between acoustic guitars, bubble-making equipment and a soccer ball, the grassy glade had activity most of the weekend.

Events, Art, Food, Crafts
Black Sheep Circus
Once the pop-top was up, and the camp-couch pulled out, Boo and I grabbed a couple of beers and headed for the stage.  The main bowl was lined with craft vendors along "house-left" (left side facing the stage), food vendors at the back, circus acts practicing on "house-right" and a large installation art piece at the very front of "house-left".  There were multiple artists working on that large piece all weekend.  In the circus space, there were a variety of events happening.  Sometimes, there were jugglers or tumblers.  Other times, Kevin (neighbor from the Glade) would bring down his bubble-stuff and create massive bubbles that would float across the front of the stage.  The mixture of performance art and music was really fantastic.  I didn't know what to expect of the performance stuff, so I expected little; we were well rewarded.  The fire dancers on Saturday night (Black Sheep Circus) were really great, and, though we missed them, we heard that Circus Luminescence stole the show later that night with an interpretive performance about technology and how it's over-use is creating barriers between us rather than connecting as FB, etc promise to be.

The venue offered more than just a stage and booths.  Being located in the middle of the coastal mountains, there were many acres of trails.  Boo and I went exploring with some of our new-found friends on Saturday, missing the early acts.  Mary Sue pulled us together and gave us a walking history of the festival while Doug and Paul played botanist, identifying plants for medicinal, recreational or food purposes.  We found a second venue where another festival stage could be used.  We saw old-growth forest, small one-tent dug-out camp spots sprinkled along the trails, deep ravines.  As much as the festival was a break from day-to-day work, the exposure to deep nature was especially unexpected and resonated deeply for the next week.

Abbreviated Music Review
Jug Dealers
No music festival attendance is without some form of music review.  We honestly didn't see many of the bands.  Some were really good, like Candelaria whose lead singer gave all she had wiggling on stage and belting out in Spanish to a well-kept backing band.  Jim Lewin was a festival highlight, getting called back for an encore while the Smirkin' Merkins were a definite must-miss.  Frankly, they were just awful.  Weird, poorly executed and for an afternoon festival crowd, their lyrics were highly not kid appropriate.  If they come back next year, I'll make a point of being far far away during their performance.  Late that evening, McTuff was dialed so loud that it hurt my ears, but they were so well mixed that we could hear them perfectly back at the bus.  We sat in the dark staring at stars while their music washed over us.  They were really good.  Just loud :)

The Jug Dealers were a band in need of direction: songs arranged with the female vocal as a lead were great.  Any tunes where the guitarist led, and she was supposed to be backing vocal didn't work as well (she just overpowered the lead, making the vocal line confusing).  Last, they had an older guy on house-right either painting a picture or joining on vocals.  He simply created chaos, honestly, and made them appear more amateurish than they really are.

Drive Home
Kevin and Mary Sue bus
Boo had to work Monday morning at 8:AM, so staying for the Sunday afternoon performances wasn't really practical.  Unfortunately, that meant we were going to miss Scott Law, Ducky Pig and Brothers and Sister; three bands we were aiming for.  Ah well.  The first year is to see if the festival is a fit.  Next year, we'll get more time off so we can do it start to finish.  Our new friends lamented our early departure nearly as much as we did, and we agreed to camp the same spot next year... for the full festival.  Hapy fired up on the first try, though we drove out of the festival grounds in limp-mode.  We stopped at a siding along the Alsea River and stood in the cool water to offset the increasing heat of the day.  By the time we hit Philomath, we figured we had pushed our luck on fuel, so we stopped.  We got over 38mpg on that partial tank.  yeah, that's right.  38mpg in a VW bus.  That's more than double what I used to typically get with the old 1700.  We stopped again at the Charbonneau District rest area to cool our heels, before the final push into Portland area traffic.  Because of some driving mis-arrangements, we collected T&C on our way through the southern end of the metro area.  While a wise use of time, it didn't create the buffer between our festival mental space and our parenting one.  That transition was especially hard.

That's it for today.  Lots of things going on, so lots of material for future posts.  As always, thanks for following along,

Scarlet Fire Department :-)