Archive for the ‘VW’ Category

Gone baby gone

July 6, 2008 7 comments

I am trying to simplify my life and pare down to fewer possessions.  But that isn’t always a lot of fun.  Logically, I only need (occasionally) one car, not two cars.  And if I have to choose which one to keep, then logically it should be the reliable, efficient Honda and not the temperamental antique VW that requires painful contortions for me to work on.

But the bug was a blast to drive.  I loved the way it looked, the way it handled and performed, and the attention it received everywhere it went. The way it could go practically anywhere.  The car had enthusiasm.  It was Bitchin’.

I hope the new owners Richard and Sun enjoy it.

Categories: Personal, VW

Starting up

July 3, 2008 3 comments

I have a guy coming to look at my VW tomorrow, and it hasn’t run since last October.  The concern is, no oil on moving parts.  Here’s the procedure:

  1. Spark plugs out

  2. Squirt oil into cylinders, plugs back in, wires hooked up
  3. Disconnect coil wire, crank engine until oil pressure light goes out
  4. Reconnect coil wire, start engine.  Choke on blue smoke.  But love sound of boxer engine.

Damned impressive the 8-year-old battery held its charge since last October.  But I don’t think the engine likes 9-month-old gas.

Categories: Personal, VW

My VW is for sale

August 19, 2007 6 comments

Last thing I did with the VW was begin work on the interior.  It involved quite minor lateral forces on my fingers – not much more than when I’m weightlifting or riding my bike, but my hands have been hurting more and after that I couldn’t even sign my name.  Immersion in ice water for a half hour helped a lot but didn’t help the general physical discomfort of doing body work or restoration work on the interior.  It isn’t arthritis or carpal tunnel, it’s just the latest wrinkle in fibromyalgia. 

It appears my “working on cars” days are drawing to a close.  So I’m going to buy a Honda Civic and blend in with the crowd.  Have it serviced at a garage like everyone else.  But it’s not as if I won’t have anything to do.  There’s still writing and photography, and bicycling. That should keep me out of the pool halls.

If you’re in central Illinois and thinking about getting a classic VW, drop me a line.

Categories: Personal, VW

Still got it

March 4, 2007 3 comments

Just pulling out of the gym (5 miles from home, give or take) I heard a snapping noise as I pushed in the clutch.  Had to be pretty loud for me to have heard it.  Then, no more clutch.  Hopefully it was the clutch cable but I have a feeling it was the throwout bearing.

Thing is, you can drive a manual transmission without a clutch because you still control the throttle.  Engine speed controls the transmission input shaft.  Shifting forks move gears to mesh with the lay shaft, which engages the output shaft which either is controlled by, or controls, the speed of the car depending on this and that.  So by finessing the throttle and vehicle speed, you can make the gears mesh without disengaging the engine from the input shaft.  There are brass rings called synchronizers that make this a bit easier once the car is moving, but you have to shut off the engine at red lights. 

Got home just fine, but the VW isn’t going anywhere again until I fix the clutch.  I have a sinking feeling it was the throwout bearing, which is a cheap part but the engine has to come out to replace it.  Easy enough but this is March and there is snow on the ground.

My car turned 40 this year.

Categories: Personal, VW

34pict-3 carburetor final

September 23, 2006 29 comments

UPDATE: 22 November 2008
This post has attracted a lot of comments, and I’ve added new information in the comment stream that does not appear in the main post.  The result is a bit jumbled and hard to read for reference purposes.  At this time, I am closing comments on this thread, pending a complete re-write that will integrate all information from both the main post and the comments into one.  Then I will re-open comments. 

In the meantime, please be sure to read through all the comments.
- George

This post is everything I’ve learned about the 34PICT-3 carburetor, all pulled into one place.  Warning: long post with lots of pictures.  It is intended to supplant previous posts on the subject and I will update it rather than make new posts when new information comes along.

In the early sixties, VW had a 1300 engine with single-port heads (both cylinders shared an intake port), coupled to a Solex 32PICT carburetor and a Bosch vacuum-advance distributor. (Mind you, this is my memory talking, so don’t bet the rent-money on it.) It was a very successful engine if you weren’t in a hurry, but American buyers wanted more power.  VW responded with the 1500 and then 1600 dual-port engines, for which the super-reliable 32PICT carburetor was too small.  In many stages thus was born our nemesis, the 34PICT-3 carburetor.

This larger carb was far more complicated and was almost big enough for the engine.  Really, VW should have gone with a 2bbl carb, but I was ten years old at the time so for some reason they didn’t seek me out to ask my opinion. 

I currently have a 1600 DP engine with a 34PICT-3 carb, and it has been a challenge to get it running right.  Fuels have changed (15% alcohol has less oomph per volume, so needs to be mixed differently) and modern fuels tend to clog the jets with lacquer condensates.  My car ran very badly and I was determined to correct it. 

The 34PICT-3 really needs a longer advance curve, so you can begin with a dual-advance distributor (having both a mechanical- and vacuum-advance component.)  This is broadly known as a ‘Mexican taxicab distributor’ and has a modified one they call the SVDA.  They have the advance cam reground to their own specs and specify a different timing setting that eliminates the flat-spot on the 34PICT-3.  It’s a good distributor.

Be sure to use a fuel-block (shown) to connect the vacuum outlet on the left side of the carb to the vacuum advance.  This is simply a metal tube bent in such a way as to prevent fuel from ever running down into the vacuum-advance can on the distributor and ruining the diaphram therein.

Also, get rid of your points.  Install a Pertronix or Compufire and forget about the crappy Bosch points adjusters.  (I always liked GM’s system – you could adjust the points using a dwell meter and a hex wrench with the engine running.  So simple!) 

Notice the bright red intake manifold section boots.  I think they’re made of silicone or polyurethane or something besides rubber.  They are far more resistent to cracking than the old rubber ones.

I use copper ignition wires with Bosch 1K ohm plug ends, but that’s just me.  You might do fine with fancy fiberglass-core wires.  I assume you are using the right spark plugs for your engine – the ones that came with my engine were wrong.

Next the jets in the carb need to be changed.  They are a bit lean to begin with, even assuming pure gasoline.  Your boxer engine likes the fuel mixture a bit rich.  I couldn’t find a new Solex carb, so I’m using a Bocar 34PICT-3 carb, and I installed a 130 main jet, and a 55 idle jet.  Remember on the 34PICT-3 the idle jet affects drivability and power up to about 2,000 rpm when the main jet takes over.  In other words, it’s extremely crucial for in-town driving. This helped a lot.

I think the original idle jet was a 50, but the replacement jet orifices (orifii?) were visibly larger in the new jets than the old ones.

One repeating problem I had was blown needle valves.  If you turn the carb upside down you should not be able to blow air (lips on fuel intake – do NOT use compressed air) into the float chamber.  I’d adjust the fuel pressure by stacking gaskets under the fuel pump (which is the official method from the VW service manual) but the needle valve would still go.

The symptom was that the car would run rough, smell of gas, plugs would foul, and adjusting the air idle screw would make little difference.  (This is very bad for the engine, by the way.)  Gas mileage was terrible.  I finally reckoned that the nominal fuel pressure was probably going sky-high when the engine compartment got hot.  Between the fuel pump and the filter, that’s a lot of volume to expand and alcohol has a high coefficient of expansion.  I carry a spare needle valve now – they’re only about five bucks.

The pressure solution was two-fold.  First, get all unnecessary fuel components out of the engine compartment.  You don’t want a large reservoir of fuel inside there getting hot during operation.  There is also a safety reason for this.  Once in a while the weight of the filter bouncing along on the line will work the brass fuel intake out of the carb, with flaming results.  This has never happened to me, but I have seen pictures. 

In this picture, you are looking straight down behind the left side of the engine between the oil cooler exhaust and the #3 cylinder. The steel fuel line enters the engine compartment (wrapped in an insulating cotton sleeve made from the hem of an old t-shirt) and turns upward along the front of the engine shroud, and bends across.  It is best to use a tubing bender for this operation.  Just four inches of rubber flex line remain between the steel line and the carb.  The steel line is held in place by a magnetic network cable clamp, which works great.

Notice at left there is an elaborate pass-through for the steel line through the front tin.  I enlarged the hole to accomodate a rubber sleeve around the steel line, and it is held in place by fender washers and clamps.  Maybe I am just being overly fussy, but I don’t want the sheet metal rubbing through the steel fuel line.  I don’t want it rattling, either.

I suggest two fuel filters; one under the gas tank, and one in the transmission compartment.  You don’t want any crud going in the carb.  (There is another source of jet-clogging; we’ll get to that in a minute). 

Second, regulate the fuel pressure to about 1.5 lbs/in2.  I tried one of the old Ford-type adjustable regulators, and it worked fine until it sprung a leak and blew gas all over the place.  This was corrected by retorquing the screws around the circumference but it was unnerving all the same.  Also note that the markings on the regulator are completely inaccurate.  Use a fuel-pressure gauge to adjust your pressure.

After the gas-spewing incident (and calming down, no harm was done), I got a Holly low-pressure regulator.  (Specify low-pressure: it also comes in a higher-pressure model that you don’t want.)  It is well-made and has two outputs which is nice if you ever decide to go with dual carbs.

The regulator comes with a mounting bracket which can be screwed to a firewall, and then you screw the regulator to the bracket.  I made a little secondary bracket out of some sheet metal and riveted it into the transmission well, then simply hook the regulator bracket in (with a piece of inner-tube to prevent rattling) and put a zip-tie on to hold it in place.  Anytime I want to service the regulator, I can just cut the zip-tie and slide it out.

The Holly regulator is set with a hex screw at one end opposite the intake; the farther in you screw it, the higher the pressure.  Notice in the picture how far out I had to screw it to get a low enough pressure.  Then you lock it in place with the locknut.

I gave up on mechanical fuel pumps.  It was so easy to mount an electric pump.  This one was rather cheap – someday I’ll get a totally silent rotary pump to replace it.  One nice thing about an electric pump is that it will fill your float bowl in a few seconds without having to crank the car.

In this picture you are looking up into the transmission well (with the driver’s side heater-duct removed).  The clutch lever is visible at lower-right.  At lower-left is the cheap electric fuel pump.  Fuel from the frame fuel line (large loop of flex line) enters the pump at bottom – mounted as low as possible so if I am parked pointing downhill and am low on gas the pump will ‘grab’ OK).  Then to the fuel pressure regulator at center, and out to the fuel filter at right and into the engine.  If any of these components malfunctions, they will leak fuel onto the nice, cool, non-sparky transmission rather than onto the hot, electrically sparking engine.  Not visible in this picture is a plastic mud-guard fashioned from a plastic jug and held in place by strong magnets.  The wires and hoses have been neatened up a bit since this picture was taken – I don’t like stuff flopping around, but I don’t like it held too rigidly either.

The second fuel filter is mounted in place with a ‘bracket’ consisting of a bit of plastic from a 2-litre bottle, molded with a heat-gun around a filter, and secured by two powerful magnets from an old computer hard drive.  This makes it easy to swap out the filter anytime (except for the inconvenience of crawling under the car).  I use ramps for that – they are safer than jacking up the car.

Note that with an electric pump, and with the Pertronix magnetic pickup, you don’t want to sit there with the ignition on but the engine not running for more than a few seconds.  Wire your radio accordingly.

To adjust the 34PICT-3 is different from previous models.  On earlier carbs, the adjusting screw on the throttle arm set the idle speed; on the 34PICT-3, it only sets the butterfly valve closing clearance.  You want about four thousandths of an inch clearance along the outer edge of the butterfly valve when it is in the closed position.  Do this by backing out the throttle arm screw until it just touches the lowest part of the choke cam, then turning it back in about ½ turns.  The main thing is so the butterfly valve doesn’t “stick” in the closed position.  Once this adjustment is made, you never have to set it again.

Engine running, valves adjusted, timing set: now adjust the idle speed using the great big screw on the left side of the venturi.  This is the ‘air-idle adjusting screw’ and it passes air, not fuel.  Set your idle to about 850 rpm.  Then turn the little fuel-idle adjusting screw below it clockwise until the rpm just begins to drop, then back it out about ½ to ¾ turns.  Then fine-adjust the idle with the air-idle screw again.  Repeat three or four times with the engine really warmed up to get it perfect.

A word about air cleaners.  I really like the oil-bath cleaner that VW used to use.  If you live in a volcano zone (like my brother does), it’s really the only cleaner to have and generally I just think they’re neat.  But for some reason my oil-bath cleaner wouldn’t clear my Scat powder-coated shroud – go figure; German car, Chinese shroud, 40 years apart…

Anyway I got a new Mexican VW air cleaner with a paper element and it fits perfectly.  It is an original VW part and well made but notice how it sits at a goofy angle.  I’m always wanting to straighten it out.  I still miss the oil-bath cleaner.  Damn modern innovations… 

Now on to the other cause of clogging.  I tried every gas under the sun but the jets would still clog.  A friend of mine who knows about fuels explains: modern fuels are formulated for fuel-injected engines.  The fuel is piped to an injector under tremendous pressure.  The injector is screwed into a blazing-hot cylinder head, so the fuel doesn’t evaporate until it is well clear of the injector.

Now put that same fuel in a carbureted engine.  The fuel is under zero pressure in a float bowl.  The venturi effect sucks the hot fuel through tiny jets, which are ice-cold (sometimes literally).  So in the confined space inside the jet the fuel drops 80 degrees in a fraction of a second and the additives precipitate out as lacquer just inside the jet.

My car would get to idling crappy and performing badly; I’d remove the jets and soak them in carburetor cleaner and ‘Vroooom! it would run great… for about a week. (Be sure not to neglect the tiny little trim jet just to the rear of the idle jet on the right-hand side of the carb – it has a really small opening.) Using an old product called “Seafoam” – as needed – fixed the clogging.

Heat management; notice the heat risers on the intake manifold are wrapped in fiberglass.  I want them to warm the intake manifold, not the engine compartment.  I also wrapped the muffler in fiberglass which reduces the heat in the engine compartment considerably, and I put a cotton sock (secured with bailing wire) over the oil pump filter to insulate it from the heat of the muffler and blowing off the left 2 cylinders’ fins. 

Obviously a lot of the stuff in this post is beneficial no matter what carby you have.  I’m sure there’s more and like I said, as I try new stuff, I’ll come back and update this post.  I’ll start a new fuel post only if I go to dual carbs, and there’s lots of other stuff I want to do before messing with that.

Categories: Personal, VW

Rusty bolts

September 9, 2006 1 comment

A few unsurprising surprises from today’s mechaniking session:

  • If you are doing suspension work on a 39-year-old car, squirt penetrating oil on the relevant bolts a couple times a week for three weeks prior.  You’ll be glad you did.

  • In fact, if you know you’re going to work on certain other fasteners next year, slather some grease on them now.  The grease will protect and infiltrate the fastener in the meantime.  Then do that penetrating oil thingie when the time comes, too.
  • New Japanese KYB nitrogen-filled shocks are waaaay better than worn-out Mexican VW-OEM shocks.
  • In fact, they’re better by far than any shocks I’ve ever put on a Beetle.  Wow!  I never thought they’d be worth the few extra bucks, but they are.
  • A Snap-On 3/4” deep-well socket found in a rusty toolbox in a trash pile, combined with a Plumb 6-inch extension found in the gutter while out walking one night, plus the handle to the old useless Bilstein jack, makes just about the best lug-wrench I’ve ever used.  Price is right, too.

Now to work on installing my new seats.  Finest in Malaysian seat-engineering technology (I suppose) but more importantly, a far stronger seat mount and frame than the original VW.

Update, Sunday, 10 September 2006: Seats are installed.  They will take some getting used to as it changes the interior of the car, but they are a great improvement in safety.  They have strong bolt-in mounts, double-latch sliders and recliners, a sturdy frame, and adjustable headrests. Installation took about four hours including the fact that there were some minor problems (correct bolts not included and slider latch connector wire wrong length) and I had not installed seats like these before.  And, I was working at a pretty relaxed pace.

If you have a classic VW, and you want to win restoration shows, stick with the original seats, but if you plan to drive the car, replace the seats.  Granted it isn’t the safest car in the world, but the original VW seats were exceptionally weak, snapping off the floor in even minor collisions.  This was especially dangerous if the car was rear-ended as the seat would fail the occupant would collide with the rear inside of the car.

Categories: Personal, VW

Gasoline politics and Seafoam

June 28, 2006 20 comments

There’s hardly anything luckier than running into a certifiable genius when you can’t figure out a problem.  I’d just bumped into a friend of mine at the lumberyard, and I was pickin’ his brain like meat from a crab-leg.

One of his many talents is a deep, engineering-level knowledge of everything automotive.  For example, he kept all the old cop cars running safely for the stunt scenes in the “Blues Brothers” movie remake.  He was a motor consultant to “Batman Begins”.  He knows all about fuel chemistry, all the way from the crude oil entering the refinery cracking tower to the deposits inside your car’s tailpipe.  So he was just the guy to ask about the fuel problem in my VW.  It turns out the problem is political…

Oil companies in the US have been unwilling to comply with environmental rules (because they’d have to charge an extra dime for their incredibly cheap gas) so they have not been building any new refineries.  Instead, they just cranked the old ones up to maximum capacity, so they have less control over the purity of what comes out each level of the towers.  This situation was not improved by the hurricanes that damaged the gulf coast last year, by the way.

It had not occurred to me to blame the fuel itself.  The gas you’re buying?  Well, it’s approximately what it’s supposed to be, but it varies a lot. They don’t have time for recracking when the tolerances are ‘off’.  Usually, this is fine.  The computer in your car can compensate and you generally don’t know about it.

But suppose your car ain’t got one o’ them thar computer dealies?  Suppose it was built when gas refineries were run as if the purity of the gas mattered, because cars had carburetors… say in about 1967?  And suppose it’s an air-cooled engine that runs thirty degrees hotter than the one in your car?  The fuel sits in the float bowl, getting nearly to boiling temperature.  Then it gets sucked down a little tube, through a tiny jet, and that’s where the impurities crystalize into ‘lacquer’.

This aligned neatly with my experience.  I’d take the carb out, thoroughly clean it with very agressive solvents, and the car would run great for about a day until the idle jet and idle trim jet (which are really the most important ones up to about 2300 RPM) would clog up.  My first thought was ‘plain old crud’, but my gas tank was fully reconditioned, there’s a fine brass screen, and two fuel filters inline before the carburator.  That should have caught any POC.

When this happens, I know it.  The car loses power at low RPM’s, it runs even hotter than normal, and it bucks and kicks.  It will idle either at high RPM’s or not at all.  It’s embarrassing, not to mention uneconomical, polluting, and unsafe.  It’s very bad for the engine itself.

I had tried various fuel system cleaners to dissolve the lacquer, but to no avail.  My friend recommended something called ‘Seafoam’, which is an old product that I would not have thought to use.  He said to start with 30% higher-than-recommended concentration, and to be prepared to swap out the fuel filters a week later (after all, despite the clean tank, the fuel line is 39 years old).  Then, use when needed at normal concentration.

It worked.  I spent the last few days hotrodding around town on various errands and the car idled and performed exactly the way it is supposed to.  In fact, as it never has since I built that engine.  Yea, Seafoam!

UPDATE: I have consolidated this post and all the other fuel and carburetion related posts into one: 34PICT-3 Carburetor Final.  That post will also be updated when new information comes in.

Correct jetting of 34PICT-3 carburetor
Correcting fuel pressure problems in VW type 1

Categories: Personal, VW

When you’re a Jet…

May 27, 2006 10 comments

It’s a basic truth in life; little things matter.  I just rejetted my VW carb to better account for alcohol in the gas. Both jets together probably weigh about a quarter of an ounce but it made a HUGE difference in the drivability of the car. The engine is much smoother and has a lot more power at low speeds.

Details:  It’s a Bocar 34PICT-3 carb, and I just installed a 130 main jet, and a 55 idle jet.  Remember on the 34PICT-3 the idle jet affects drivability and power up to about 2,000 rpm when the main jet takes over.  In other words, it’s extremely crucial for in-town driving.  The engine has a Brazilian 1600DP longblock with stock cam and crankshaft, standard intake manifold, and a SVDA distributer from  Electric fuel pump and separate fuel pressure regulator set and tested to 2 lbs.  The fuel pressure regulator was wildly inaccurate by the way, so be sure to actually measure the pressure and not depend on the setting.  I recommend locating all filters, pumps, and regulators outside the engine compartment.  My car has one filter under the gas tank and another above the transmission between fuel pump and regulator.  The tank has Shell regular gas in it right now (15% alcohol) but it runs the same on Citgo or Wal-Mart gas for that matter.  (Jets shown slightly enlarged for detail)

UPDATE- I have consolidated this post and all the other fuel and carburetion related posts into one: 34PICT-3 Carburetor Final.  That post will also be updated when new information comes in.

Categories: Personal, VW

OK, this VW is probably faster than mine

May 21, 2006 Comments off

While it is true that the Brazilian engine I have in my VW is used in some light aircraft, I think this guy has me beat.  (The article loads right away, but if you click on the video it takes a while)

Tip ‘o the hat to Socialist Swine for the link!  :wow:

Categories: Personal, VW

Fuel system reorganization in progress

May 7, 2006 7 comments

UPDATE- I have consolidated this post and all the other fuel and carburetion related posts into one: 34PICT-3 Carburetor Final.  As new information comes in it will be added to that post.

Diagnosing the fuel system problems in my classic VW have been like an episode of House with high drama, imminent death of the patient, and the last-minute brilliant insight.  Namely: “there was no gasohol in 1967 in this country, and gasohol boils”. 

The most noticeable effect is something called “vapor-lock” in which fuel ceases to reach the carburetor but under some conditions (namely, if boiling occurs in the pressure-side of the fuel system between the pump and needle valve) the fuel pressure can jump, overwhelming the needle valve and dumping fuel down the manifold…

Back in the ‘70’s, I had a ‘67 type 1 that never had any fuel problems.  Aside from ‘no alcohol’, why was that?  I tried to remember/visualize its engine.  Fuel line, mechanical fuel pump (prone to pressure spikes and vapor lock) and a glass-jar fuel filter with a bronze filter element and… an integrated pressure regulator!  No wonder!  With the regulator in place, the fuel pressure would never have exceeded 3 lbs even when the engine was hot.  (Man, that was a good engine)

I couldn’t find an old-style integrated filter/regulator, so I got an electric pump and a separate pressure regulator.  After some experimentation, I am reorganizing the fuel system so that fuel filter will be under the gas tank, where it’s nice and cool (and where recommends you put it anyway).  Then I’m going to put the electric fuel pump and the fuel pressure regulator in the transmission well (where it’s nice and cool) instead of in the engine compartment (where it’s very hot).  Inside the engine compartment, there’ll only be the fuel line itself, insulated from heat by a fiberglass sleeve.

I know electric fuel pumps deliver very steady pressure but the regulator is just an added precaution.

Since another friend of mine is having very similar problems with his Ghia, I assume this may in fact be a very common syndrome with carbureted, air-cooled engine cars.  So I’m documenting this thoroughly and will post the results here.

Update, 10 May:  for various reasons, the current arrangement is tank, filter #1, line to transmission well, pump, filter #2, line to engine compartment, regulator, and carburetor.  The main reason for this arrangement is that I need to calibrate the regulator as it is delivering 1.8 lbs while set to 0.5 lbs.  Once calibrated, I plan to set it to 1.5 lbs, the minimum recommended pressure for the Solex design carb.

The car is running pretty well, but I’m not celebrating yet.  And I’m always going to carry a spare needle valve!

Categories: Personal, VW