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.