Month: October 2015

On minor upkeep

Today I went back under to continue to search for the rogue oil leak. Sorry if today is sparse on details, I’m still nursing the finger that I stabbed a few days ago. The tip is completely numb, except for the times it’s in terrible pain. Also, through today, I accidentally pulled one of the stitches.




While I was under there, I decided to finally change the gearbox oil.
How to remove fill bolt?


Find a bolt with a 17mm head and weld a nut onto it. I took this time to play with the “I / II” and “Min / Max” settings. I think Min/Max is amperage and I / II is voltage, but I’m not sure. There was no manual.






By the end I think I got it dailed in for nut/bolt welding. High amperage, low voltage, low wire speed. Or the nut/bolt simply heated up enough that the shitwelder could actually get some penetration. I’m still having fun with it. Don’t know why I have so many pictures of the one bolt though.

I also lost my gear oil pump, so whatevs:


Oil that came out had very, very fine consistent bronzeish glitter throughout. So fine it didn’t really look like glitter, but more it changed the color of the oil. No big chunks though, and it smelled terrible.

On broken thermostats

I thought that the thermostat on the bus was in good working order, as it collapsed when cold and expanded when hot. So, I brought it inside to clean it up, as it was covered in grime. After a gentle cleaning with dish detergent and a sponge, I tested it by putting it in some hot, but not boiling, water. The thermostat expanded probably 60% of the way, then a stream of bubbles from inside one of the “folds” started. I cooled it under some cool water, and it shrunk back down, but there was a distinct sloshing inside. So, I did the test a second time, and it failed fully, never shrinking back down when cool. I think the only thing keeping it functional the past few years was the coating of grime clogging up a pinhole leak.

New thermostats are north of $120. New-style thermostats, while they have a higher opening temp, are around $30.

Sssssshhh don’t tell the people on TheSamba


(“Mexican” [really, Brazilian] thermostat adapted for bus use)

E: yes that’s coat hanger wire.

On I don’t even know.

Okay, so this ordeal started with me trying to take the bus to work. As a preface, I know the bus had a stock 2.5PSI oil pressure sender, and the replacement VDO 360009 pressure sender has a 6.5 psi oil light trigger, as well as the gauge pole. As I drove to work, I decided to take the freeway, just to “test” the bus. Well, the bus failed, as about ten miles into the drive I noticed that the oil pressure, even when revving, was quite low, maybe 20 psi or so max. So, I pulled over into an offramp and side street and checked the oil level.

From what I could see, the stick was nearly dry. So, I dumped in about 3 quarts of oil. This was, however, too much, as I guess the bus takes 2.78 quarts from empty. Checking the stick, it was a little over full. “No big deal,” I thought to myself, and started the drive back home to swap out for the beetle to finish my drive to work.

(Side note: after any work where I open the engine, like the oil cooler replacement I did in the last few posts, I leave for work about 1.5 hours early. It’s only an 18 mile drive, but it can take 45 minutes over surface streets, and I want a buffer zone in case this exact scenario happens)

After starting the bus back up and rolling out to surface streets to go home, it started smoking badly. Really badly. So badly that somebody called the fire department on me. I pulled over thinking that the fire truck was passing, but it turns out they were waiting for me to stop so they could put out what they thought was a fire. I can’t really describe how thick the white smoke was; on the freeway (I tried to hop on the 143 north to skip a few miles of surface streets) it clogged up a full 3 lanes of traffic. People who were turning onto the street behind me were pulling over because they couldn’t see. Children were crying, women were screaming, and husbands were grabbing their guns, because when I passed it was as if one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse was passing, bring a butt of pestilence and death behind them.

That day started off a sunny day. Around noon, it became a butty day in Phoenix, which is rare enough, because…Phoenix. Little does the general populace know that my butts were not from water vapor condensing into rain, but from instead a 1973 VW bus with an overfilled oil pan.

I trundled my way back home, and eventually took pictures of the damage:




No good pictures of the engine, but imagine both sides, and the front and back (but not the top) covered in oil.

After this, my friend, who lives in the San Tan/Queen Creek valley, offered to let me use his garage for the weekend. He also offered to use his AAA towing plus package to have it towed to his place, so we called AAA.

As the gentleman, who was one of the coolest people I have ever met, BTW, loaded the bus, I got to snap some pictures of the real rust problem spots:







Good thing I have replacement panels for most of that.

The bus got loaded, and he went on his way:


We saw him on the drive over:


(coolest motherfucker in existence — rolled his own cigs and everything)

And then waited for him to arrive

The bus’s home for the following three days:

It took us maybe 90 minutes to drop the engine, which is pretty good for a first time attempt. We didn’t have the correct tools, like a motorcycle or flatbed jack, but we made it work.

I’m squinting because I’m staring DIRECTLY INTO THE SUN
Also, Freiberger is right; flip flops are the best mechanic’s shoes.





Now, my friend’s next door neighbor is one of those guys that makes “custom” choppers and always has some project or another that involves a small-block Chevy engine going on, and he saw us pulling the engine out from under the bus on a piece of plywood. I guess he took pity or something, because he came over and told us to borrow his engine hoist for the night. I’m not one to complain, and I don’t own one myself, so…we did.

Now, I’m going to tell you, I spent probably eight hours pulling this thing apart, re-torquing things, and cleaning it up. For all of my life, I COULD NOT find the source of the oil leak. I took off tins, checked bolts, checked seals, and nothing was readily apparent. After staying up until 0300 with it on the hoist, spinning it back and forth, I gave up and reassembled it.



I did to things like remove the flywheel and clutch and check the seal, but everything back there was good.

The following day, we reinstalled the engine, which was maybe an hour long endeavor. Because we didn’t have a flatbed jack, we alternated between jacking the engine up, and hanging it from ratchet straps wrapped around a piece of 2×4 run across the engine access cover. It worked well enough.

I don’t have any pictures, but what followed was maybe a four-hour-long journey to and from the local O’reilly’s store, getting engine oil, checking where leaks were from, and generally just running the engine and checking oil levels before and after to see if they dropped.

With the oil I had in there, which had been changed just a week or two prior, the engine smoked really badly out of the tailpipe. We went and changed it for some Rotella T 15w40, along with one of those pints of STP, and nearly all smoking stopped. It still smokes a little bit on deceleration, when the engine is overrunning the carburetor, so I think the rings are fuckered. I shudder to imagine what a compression test would reveal. I mean, this engine brought me down from Portland, but then I proceeded to start it up with a 75% gasoline/oil mixture for a few minutes, then nearly (maybe?) run it out of oil, proceeded by running it with way too much oil and smoking the shit out of everybody. A few bad rings and bad bearings are the least the engine could punish me with after such transgressions.

But, after all of this, the engine was back in, and I was able to go home. But, we decided to tackle another two-man project, then windshield rust. Bay window buses are notorious for rusting along the bottom of the windshield, as the seal will run water down into that area, and the geometry just allows it to sit there forever. I had a new seal on hand, and an exacto knife, so we pressed ahead.

I had seen the rust expansion underneath the rubber seal since I picked this bus up, and thought I would have to cut out and weld in a replacement panel. When we first pulled the windshield, it looked like I had predicted correctly:




However, poking with a screwdriver, and an awl, revealed that the metal was not at all fully porous, and still pretty thick. So, this was just really bad surface rust. I broke out the angle grinder and flap wheels, and went to work:

The sill cleaned up beautifully. It only took maybe 30 minutes to grind all around to ensure that there was no real rust left, so we taped it up in preparation for paint:

I didn’t have much paint on hand, but some grey matte weld-through primer seemed good enough. I know that primer generally attracts water, so after it dried, I did my best and waxed the painted area. It’s not the greatest solution, but maybe it’ll buy me some time.





What followed after this was a nearly two-day long ordeal of getting the Brazilian rubber seal around the window, and then installing the window into the bus. Halfway through we went to the local store and bought some paracord, and soaked the paracord in a lubricant. We then wrapped the cord twice around the rubber seal groove. About an hour total of flat-palm pounding and pulling the windshield into the gap, and we pulled the cord to pull the rubber seal around the metal.

Even after that, it took quite a bit of pounding some more to get the windshield fully centered vertically and set into the groove. I don’t know if the bus simply isn’t the shape it was when it left the factory, of if there was some sort of defect in our windshield or seal, but this was, by far, the most difficult part of anything we did that weekend.





Then, as I said earlier, I drove it home. I just made it back, and am letting the engine cool. I need to get a new foam engine seal, so I ran with the tailgate open slightly to get some air circulation. Without the foam seal, there’s maybe a half-inch gap around the engine tins, and hot air gets sucked right back up into the engine, which is not good. Normally even after a run I can grab the dipstick easily, but getting back just now it was a bit too hot to even do that, so it’s cooling.

E: aaand the pictures are broken? I’ll see what’s up with that. Seems like an imgur error, in the meantime you can click the picture links.

On modernizing

Now, the cupholder I have seems to have been designed for an older time, when cups were a reasonable size and didn’t hold more than 24 oz of liquid. However, this is TYOOL 2015 and if you’re not driving around with a QT/Chevron/7-Eleven 64 ounce beverage of your choosing, then you’re not American. This presented a problem, but again, cheap ABS plastic comes to the rescue.

The hole in the bottom of the cupholder is too small to nicely hold any large cups, and I don’t have any hole saws big enough to enlarge it:

So, I did what any sane person would do, and break out the calipers:

Yes, I made a custom-fit adapter. Works on both cans, tallboys, and those large Circle-K/QT cups:

With locating pegs so it doesn’t spin around:

The white stuff on the rim is ABS glue used to stick the print to the bed. I can either scrape it off, or leave it as-is. Meh.

As a bonus, they’re removable and washable.

On oil cooling

New cooler day!


The old cooler, with my attempts at stemming leaks. I actually didn’t see any leaks from the seals, but I’m hoping it’s something like the cooler was split in a way that only showed under pressure or something.

The new cooler:

Where it’s going to live:

I never noticed fresh oil from this area, but it looks like this car ran quite awhile with a stray spark plug on the cooler, as people can drop them on the barrels and removing them requires removing the entire shroud, so they’ll leave them there and sometimes they roll over on top of the oil cooler and get compressed down by vibration and the thermostat dampers over the years until they wear through the finning.
It’s like that scene in Rugrats when they get the grandpa a new mattress and his old mattress has an imprint of his body

Right behind the LH cylinders

Every time I look at how I chewed up the tin for the pressure switch I cringe, but a surprisingly small amount of air leaks out of there:

Jut a little brush of Aviation Form-A-Gasket (I love the smell of this stuff, seriously)

Installed (blurry, sorry), and since it’s only torqued to 5 ft-lbs, I put a tiny bit of form-a-gasket on the outside of the nuts. It gums up a little, but won’t chew up threads if you try to remove it without heating like loctite. Also, I could not find my loctite.

Aaaand then I remembered that I bought a pressure washer awhile ago, and decided to try it out for what I actually bought it for.

LH cylinders:

RH cylinders:
(you can see how I started to wash the outside, there’s that clean zone)

Previously crusty fan:

Fan shroud rear (rear of car)

After the pressure washing, of which I don’t have many pictures because it is a wet process and I like my shitty phone, I tackled some cracks and holes in the muffler





OG german VW

And then we skip ahead 30 minutes, where I found a can of orange spray paint left over from painting the beetle, and decided to go to town. First I marked my welder, as it is a clone of all of the millions of Chinese clones, then things got out of hand:





And then it got dark but I did put it all back together. I drove it to the grocery store and smoked out all of the cars behind me for three miles, because the orange paint is not exhaust paint and it burned up. No picture, but I promise you it still looks better than it did.

On cupholder installations

I just got back in from finishing its installation:




It is wired directly (fused, of course) to only the second battery. When it is on and doing nothing, the LED there pulls 68 mA. I think it would be useful to have a 12V plug and USB charger that didn’t risk the starting battery.

Also, it seems like the camera on my phone is getting worse. I may have to switch to some old telephone to use for photos. I think I have my Sprint Galaxy SII kicking around somewhere. But, that notwithstanding, I also installed all but one of the panels:




The remaining panel is the one in front of the driver’s side rear wheel rocker area, as I have to cut that panel out and weld the new one in, so there’s no reason to install the plastic just yet. Welding will probably be done next week, unless it rains again.