Month: April 2016

On alignment, baby

Before I do the new carburetor on the bus, which could easily turn into a more-than-one-weekend project, I wanted to finish up putting all of the new front suspension parts on the beetle, so I had a comfortable daily driver as a backup. The only two things I really had left to do were the front tie rods, ball joints, and strut cartridge inserts.

First step, the day before, spray all bolts and joints with a mix of ATF and acetone. I can’t remember who mentioned it here (kastein?) but other than Seafoam Deep Creep, it’s the best penetrant I have ever used.


I jacked up the car, and put it on some jackstands.


I have never done these jobs before all at once, so I took a chance and started with removing the balljoint bolts. 15mm.


Grabbed my cheap ebay separator


And popped applied vigorously to the balljoint.


On the first side I did, I mistakenly compressed the spring first, then tried to remove the strut top nut. Cue up 20 minutes of messing with my impact gun and vice grips before I got the top nut off.



(on the other side, I removed the nut under spring compression, which made things much easier)

With the ball joint replaced (pictures missing of install, I just kind of took pictures whenever), I disconnected the brake lines from their tabs, and started removing the strut pieces.


The passenger side strut boot was in excellent shape, all one piece.

(The driver’s side one was long since obliterated)

Going to remove the strut insert.


Uhh, I don’t think it’s supposed to be sitting in a bath of it’s own oil.


“Made in U.S.A.” So, not OEM, then?



Ugh, I didn’t really want to clean this out. I did the best I could with paper towels, and left the residue oil as a “rust protectant.”

I don’t have any pictures of the tie rod replacement, but that was the easy part, and nothing was too dramatic. Both balljoints and all four tie rod ends were worn, but not terribly so, and I maybe could have gotten away by skipping the balljoint replacement altogether. I like the security of having all new parts, and they’re really a “while you’re taking everything apart anyway” item. At only $15 each, I’d be an idiot not to replace them. Genuine Meyle parts, too.

For the driver’s side, I knew the right order to do things, so everything went much faster and more smoothly. For instance, I had to dig out a big pipe wrench to help get the strut retaining cap off (cap that holds the insert in) and by the second side I already had it next to me and adjusted, etc etc.

Strut top nut, cartridge cap, and springs removed:


New shock cartridge going in.



And spacer cap in, which centers the cartridge.


Reassembly was reverse of removal. Time for the passenger side: 3 hours. Time for the driver’s side: 45 minutes.

Afterwards, I took the beetle off to Pep Boys to get an alignment. It was later in the day, and a lot of places that I preferred were closing soon, but Pep Boys was open until 1900. I showed up at 1630, and by 1700 the car was up on the lift. Unfortunately, I left my phone in the frunk for the procedure, but here’s how I spent $90:

1710: Mechanic is seen sitting in front of my car, playing with an RC car
1730: Second mechanic has joined first mechanic. For some reason is wearing a cape made out of a trash bag. Both play with RC car.
1745: First mechanic comes in, asks me how to remove the dish plates from the wheels so he can attach laser alignment tool. I tell him the car has lug bolts, not studs, and he “suddenly remembers” he can use the holes in the wheel instead.
1800: Second mechanic is called over (he was sitting, eating a microwave meal) for questioning. Both ponder the underside of the car for 15 minutes. Might I add this is a 10-bay place and all the bays are full, and these are the only two on shift.
1815: Beetle almost rolls backwards off of ramp, everyone panics, but the ramp has those safety lips.
1825: After pondering the back axle of the car, first mechanic comes in and asks where the rear adjusters are. I tell him a front alignment is just fine, not wanting to risk anything on the rear. Mechanic clearly hasn’t seen torsion bar suspension before, either, when I mention it.
1845: First mechanic comes in, says he can’t figure out the camber or caster (lol) adjustment, asks if a toe-only adjust is okay. I tell him that’s what I wanted anyway, and chuckle to myself as he leaves. But not really, actually I’m very disappointed, but whatever.
1850: Beetle is off of lift, out for test drive.
1855: They give me car back, steering wheel is sideways.
1900 (shop is closed now): Beetle is back up, being readjusted.
1930: Beetle is back from second test drive, I go home.

I will admit, it drives straight, and the wheel is now straight. It’s always been crooked a bit, because I’m lazy, but that’s nice. However, they didn’t have a single-axle alignment price, and were horeseplaying at least 50% of the time I was waiting. And, while all of the bays were full, I was the only waiting person, and no other car was touched during the entire 2.5 hours I was there. I mean, they lifted the hood of a Chrysler 300, but didn’t do anything except for look at it and use it as a place to lean on while pondering the wonders of 45-year-old (really, 70-year-old) German technology before them. Stay the fuck away from that place.

On ultra-cleaning, baby

Working on reassembling the carburetor:






The poor goodwill find that has had to deal with all of the crud:

Still waiting on the rebuilt kit from JBUGS (ordered on the 7th, no response to emails from them since them :ohdear) to finish, then I can spend the weekend reinstalling.

Also, I was missing half of my stock coat hooks. That doesn’t matter too much to me, as I have a string across the B pillar hook places to hold up the front curtain. I want to change the string out for some nylon rope to make it easier to slide the curtain, though, and tying nylon to a screw is difficult. A 3D printer lets me kill two birds with one stone:

Stock hook.

Updated version. Basically the same thing with a hole in the side, but it has some reinforcement where I think it would crack or break.

And, for reference, the jets I found inside the carburetor:


On repairs, baby

The next step for the bus is that carburetor that FancyMike is shipping me. I can’t really drive it as-is – it’s running way too lean and I can’t figure it out right now with everything else that’s going on. I think a rebuild kit and a good cleaning, and I’ll at least be consistent side-to-side. Anyway, onwards!

This post is an intermission from the normal Bus: a Ruining feature. First, to grab your attention, a pretty cool car crash I came upon at work a few days ago. Most of you know that I’m an EMT in my day job, but I generally work what we call “interfacility” or “IF,” being a hospital to hospital ambulance, instead of a 911 ambulance. An EMT on a 911 ambulance normally doesn’t get to do too much, because they’re really just driving and assisting the paramedic (though I won’t discount how much that assist helps and requires skillful work). However, an EMT on a BLS (2x EMTs instead of 1x EMT and 1x Paramedic) ambulance gets to do a lot more, as half of the time you’re in the back taking care of patients. In theory you’ll only get BLS-level calls instead of ALS (basic life support vs advanced life support) calls, but as I work the night shift, I get a lot of shit thrown on me that should have had a medic or even a doc there hours ago, and I find it fun. However, as it’s still Interfacility, while I may get some gnarly medical patients (10 month old with asthma, 80-year-old with two broken arms and “unreported” A-fib, etc), I rarely come upon a car crash like a traditional 911 crew.

The other day, however, we were “lift assisting” another nurse crew on the way to the hospital. As in, they had a 450lb patient, and needed a few extra sets of hands to lift the patient into the ambulance. We also follow to the hospital (where there are always extra people to help lift) as courtesy, and sometimes because we have their gurney in the back of our truck (having earlier switched out our small gurney for the bariatric, or “fat person,” gurney). So, we were following this nurse crew to a hospital, when NO SHIT about 4 cars ahead of us, I see this Toyota Matrix all over the road. It was on the freeway in 80mph traffic, but with occasional gridlock every few miles. This Matrix was left and right swerving all over, and just about as I was going to say to my partner that she was going to have an accident, all lanes had to emergency stop for some heavy traffic. When this happened, the driver of the Matrix swerved left, then overcorrected right enough to cruise across three lanes (we were in the lane next to the HOV lane), hit the gravel on the shoulder, and turn around 180* right into a tree.

It was a miracle that she didn’t hit anybody in any of those three lanes, as all 3 were emergency stopping for the traffic and were already squirrely. But, the stopped cars did clear a path for us, and we booked it to the shoulder in the gap to assess the damage.





Look at that cabin intrusion. At least 15″ of it, which is insane. She hit the tree sideways at nearly full speed, at least 50mph. Had there been a passenger, they would have been dead, or at least seriously injured. For HIPAA’s sake, I can’t tell you much about the passenger herself, except for she was perfectly fine without an immediate scratch on her, though I bet two days after the fact she was feeling very sore in a few places (nobody feels injured following an accident). Our nurse/bariatric crew continued to the hospital, and we were there for the patient until her family showed up (and she refused fire’s medical care). Goddamned Toyota Matrix saved her life. Side note: I have that exact same steering wheel cover on my beetle.

Now, my weekend was much less exciting than the workweek. First was a 3-day FTX for the AZ ARNG in fucking Papago, which sucked hard. I now have PTSD about both paintball guns, and people screaming “MEDIC!” at nighttime. Anyway, the headlight for the motorcycle finally arrived, so I mocked it up with bungee cords:


Then I took some measurements from the mounting holes


And printed up a mount for it



(really need to order that PEI sheet for the rostock. I ruined my last one and a new one is like $40 for the right thickness)



BTW: that thing to the left? Lampshade. And it glows in the dark (excuse the shitty cell camera)



Will it fit?


It fits!

(I fucked up measuring the ignition cutout)

Then I went on a picture blackout, spending 4+ hours doing wiring and wiring cleanup (corroded connector replacement, etc)