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Can’t take my foot off the gas

April 9, 2006 4 comments

Of course I had a long list of things to do in this vacation and didn’t get most of them done.  I’m jittery with vacations – it takes me a week before I get the first day of real rest.

But I did work on my old VW.  I hooked up the radio, with some old computer speakers (long-term plans include some rather fantastic Blaupunkt speakers I got second-hand, but that entails building a rear deck over the back-seat well).  At least the car has tunes.

Having had endless problems with the mechanical fuel pump – odd because I drove all over the country with them back in the day – I installed an electric fuel pump.  There was something wrong with my German carby so I put in the Mexican spare.  It runs well but leaks, which is bad for all the obvious reasons and some not so obvious.

So this evening as the sun was going down I went down to the office to swap out the offsite backup drive (I use a pair of 260gb USB’s for that) but instead of just driving home, I headed out the West side of town.  The blacktop narrowed as I just kept driving, past farms and rural churches and agricultural jobbers.  I hadn’t been out that road before but the desire to drive on was strong and before I knew it I was 15 miles from town…

Navigating in central Illinois is no great trick.  If you were driving West, you can turn around and drive back East.  Or if you prefer, you can turn North, go a couple miles, and turn East, so you’ll see different farms, rural churches, and jobbers, which is what I did this evening.  The road may curve a bit this way or that, and it may join up with another road, but there’s no getting turned around.

After wiring up the radio, I turned it off because the music of the boxer engine behind me had me in a reflective mood.  It’s hard to explain why I like old Beetles so much, but the short answer is that they are so mechanical.  The steering wheel is connected to an unpowered steering box, which connects to the wheels.  When you step on the gas, you’re pulling a steel cable that pulls the throttle lever on the carburetor behind you.  There’s no power brakes; if you want more braking force, it’s up to you.  The dashboard controls consist of the ignition switch, lights, wipers, emergency flashers and radio – that’s it.  Gauges?  Speedometer and gas guage.  (Older ones just had a spedometer).  Want the window down?  Turn the crank.

Modern cars go to great length to insulate the driver from any connection to the machine.  Everything is power-driven, sound-insulated, and computer-controlled.  You can’t hear it, and you can’t really feel it.  It’s like being in an isolation tank.

Finally I came upon the Farm & Fleet store, as I knew I would, and stopped in to buy some things.  And then drove home.

The car is running about like it is supposed to, but my next trip should be to the tire store to replace the 25-year-old Michelin radials.  And, I need to replace the seats.  Although they are very comfortable, classic VW seats are notoriously unsafe.  Several companies make far superior replacements that bolt more securely to the frame.

And there’s body work, electrical work… I just realized my car will turn 40 next year.

This summer, the Mrs. and I will take a trip down to Southern Illinois, along the blacktop and gravel roads.  I’m looking forward to it.

UPDATE- see also: 34PICT-3 Carburetor Final.  That post will also be updated when new information comes in.

Categories: Personal, VW

Das Bug

November 7, 2005 3 comments

In response to several requests for an update, here’s the current status of my Bug. 

Exactly one year has passed since installing the new engine, and I’ve driven the car only about 700 miles in that time trying to track down an overheating problem and lack of power.  It is in the nature of troubleshooting that multiple variables can complicate the goal, and in this case there were several; wrong spark plugs (thanks to Jay, Les’ dad, for that suggestion), fuel-pump pressure too high, a sticky float valve, problems with the gas itself (darned if it didn’t turn out my saurkraut sled runs much better on Wal-Mart gas than either Shell or Mobil), heat-riser tube too cold, an exhaust leak, and a flaky ground.

Find one problem?  Easy.  Find two?  Only slightly harder.  Diagnose seven at once?  Not so easy.  The longblock was brand new, but all the external components came from various sources and the mechanic who put them together is a little rusty.  (All my Bugs ran great back in the day.  Honest!)

But this evening I took it out for a spin and it ran strong and relatively smooth so I know I’m closing in on that perfect balance.  Now I need to get better preheating airflow (the original air cleaner doesn’t fit the new engine, so the Scat air cleaner will require some modification.  But it has that “I’m a boxer-type engine, now get out of my way!” – type enthusiasm I was looking for originally.

Other items on the agenda are repairing the wiper motor (one on order), new tires, and next year some body work, a paint job, and possibly a new transmission.

And a speaker system and some guages (voltmeter, tach, and oil temp).  And possibly new seats.  A front-disk-brake kit.  Blue neon lights under carbon-fibre running boards.  Interior LED lighting array.  Dual carbs.  Delco HEI ignition.  Monza exhaust.  Alloy wheels…

Now if anyone is wondering just how crazy you have to be to make a daily driver out of a 38-year-old car, well…

Categories: Personal, VW

“Two sparks forward…”

May 29, 2005 10 comments

… and one spark back.  MrsDoF is out of town, so my son and I are batching it this weekend.  He (possessing an actual social life) is busy, so I’m pretty footloose and fancy-free.

Hah!  Time to work on my Bug.  This 1967 sculpture of a car is a long-running joke, whose punch line may become less useful if I ever get it running satisfactorily.  Which is to say, as I remember how the ‘67 I had in college ran.

Yesterday and today I installed a Pertronix magnetic pickup in the distributor, eliminating the “points and condensor” that used to keep mechanics in boat payments.

Getting a classic bug running well today is a bit more challenging than it used to be due to the limited availability of vacuum-advance distributors among other variables. (Most VW parts places sell a Bosch 009 centrifugal-advance, which is fine for industrial applications like compressors or generators that use the VW engine, but not so good for, well, cars.)

Add to this the problem that gasoline now contains up to 15% alcohol, which isn’t a great match for the 34PICT-3 carburetor that VW used with the “late-model” 1600cc engine.  So there’s lots of urban legend and lore about getting smooth response.

I am using Aircooled.net‘s SVDA distributor and a beautiful NEW German 34PICT-3 carburetor, both set to specifications, and result is great… sort of.

At the moment the car is running smoothly and strongly – actually better than it has since I dove headlong into this crazy project.  But it’s hot.  The engine is really toasty after only short periods of running.  Last night it died on me, possibly from heat-induced vapor-lock.

The timing is 30 degrees max with the vacuum hose plugged (which is to say, centrifugal only).  It maxes out at about 40 degrees (!) at 3000 rpm with the vacuum connected, which seems like a lot but according to Aircooled, that’s about right. 

There’s no “flat spot” of power-loss on throttle application, which is the problem the SVDA distributor is supposed to address.  It’s really very nice!  So why is it running so hot?

Could be the gas.  The tank is full of gas that (I now realize) is 8 months old and may not be fully burning before it leaves the ignition chamber.  I’m going to add some StaBil to it (which I should have done last Fall) to see if that helps. (Update: I drained out the gas and replaced it with fresh premium, and the engine stopped dying but is still really hot.  Anyone know what to do with 10 gallons of old gas?)

On another note, if you’re running a classic VW, get one of these laser-engraved pully wheels.  It makes setting the timing SO much easier.  No more guessing which type of pully wheel you have, and how far around the (unmarked) pully is 30 degrees.  There are enough variables to driving a 37-year-old car; don’t add guesswork to them.

By the way, the pully wheel in this picture was spinning at 850 rpm when this picture was taken.  That’s about 14 revolutions per second!  The pully wheel is about 6.75 inches across, which is about 21 inches around for an edge surface speed of 25 feet per second, or roughly 17 miles per hour.  Yet it rendered sharply because this is a flash picture.  My little digital camera has a tiny flash which equals a very short duration.

(I rounded those figures starting with the estimate of the pully wheel diameter, so you calculator people just put those extra decimal places back where you got ‘em.)

Categories: Personal, VW

Deeply annoying

April 9, 2005 5 comments

Last fall, I was reading the instructions for an ignition upgrade kit for my ‘67 VW.  “Interesting,” I thought, “this will be my first project in the spring when it’s warm enough to work on the bug. 

I carefully folded the instructions, put them back into the box (which is slightly larger than a deck of cards) and put it somewhere where I’d be sure to find it.

Today is a beautiful day – warm, breezy, hazy sky for good VW-project light.  And I’m tired of messin’ with high technology…  time to go find that upgrade part for the Beetle.

Let’s see, what would a logical place be?  With the rest of my VW parts?  In my toolbox?  In the glovebox in my VW?  Hanging on a hook at eye level in front of my workbench?  How about about “none of the above?”

My present self is never very good at anticipating how my future self will think.

Apparently I put the part someplace even more logical than that, but I don’t know what that would be.

Categories: Personal, VW

It’s Aliiiiiiive!!!

November 7, 2004 3 comments

This seems to be my weekend for getting things working.  I got the new engine into my ‘67 Beetle (with some helpful suggestions from online friends) and was ready for a test this morning.  This was a high-anxiety event since the last engine I bought turned out to be a total bust – two years of expense and frustration with no satisfaction from the manufacturer.  So having to buy another new engine was a real dent to my self-esteem. I bought some gas, poured it in the tank, filled the carburetor float bowl, and turned the key.

Right away I knew something was wrong.  It sounded rough, it bucked and the exhause pulses were uneven.  I revved it up to 2000 RPM but this was NOT a happy engine.  I shut it down, uttering some words that would have gotten me in big trouble with the FCC if I’d been “on the air.”

Static-check the timing… 3 degrees BTDC… close enough.  Vacuum hose connected… check.  Start tracing the ignition wires; let’s see, firing order 1,4,3,2… starting at the distributor.  #1, back behind the carb and generator pedestal, over the heater ducts, and a turn toward the rear of the car… Hah!  The right-hand ignition wires were switched!

A quick switch and try again – voila!  The engine hummed to life.  I stuffed a rag under the throttle lever, raising it to 2000 RPM and let it run for 20 minutes while I cleaned the windshield and aired up the tires.  During that time it increased to 2200 RPM as the new engine loosened up.  I must say right now aircooled.net is pretty high up my list.  Everything I’ve bought from them so far has been good, now including this engine.

My son and I went out to set the rings.  Put in some more gas, country road, accelerating and decelerating repeatedly… it ran just fine.  I drove out to the country, my son drove it home.  We pulled up in front of the house.  MrsDOF came out and scowled at us: “Don’t park there!  You’re right across the street from that other car!”

Well, so much for personal triumph. Back to reality.

Categories: Personal, VW

I resisted temptation today

October 31, 2004 Comments off

Sunday, October 31, 2004
I resisted temptation today

It was all about listening to that voice of caution, of avoiding the unknown hazard that I was just too tired to anticipate. Here’s what happened:

I just finished bolting the new engine into my 1967 VW beetle. Originally I had hoped to do it the first week of September but a broken shoulder changed my plans. Now, I’d carefully wrestled a 260lb engine into the car without using my right arm, a 2-hour job expanded to 12 hours. Today is a Sunday, with beautiful warm weather. Tomorrow is expected to be cold and wet. Winter is coming. It was 2:00 pm. Most of the systems were hooked up: exhaust, clutch, fuel, generator, heater controls. After months of frustrating delays I could conceivably set the timing, tighten the plugs, and beat winter with a test drive.

But, I didn’t. Why?

Just this: I’m tired and not thinking straight. It’s a 37-year-old German car with a new Brazilian engine, and external engine parts from Austria, Mexico, China, Taiwan, Germany, and the US. Many things had to be custom-fitted together. I got oil in, got the valves adjusted… but did I do everything? Is it ready?

I thought about The Kee Bird, a wrecked WWII airplane lovingly restored on a frozen lake up in the Arctic, with the plan of flying it out. There were delays, lots of problem, and finally they were under time pressure as winter approached. After a quick check, they fired up the engines and tried to take off. But they were tired, not thinking staight and overlooked one detail – an internal generator or something – and had to jump for their lives as the beautiful plane burned to aluminum cinders.

So I rolled the car back under cover, and waited. This weekend will be the next time I might be able to work on it (if it isn’t too cold.) I have all week to assemble a detailed list to make sure I don’t drive off in a car that is not safe or ready. Hopefully there will be a few more warm days to get the car ready for cold weather. With luck, I’ll enjoy driving it all winter; if not, I’ll enjoy driving it in the spring. Either way, I’m pretty sure I won’t regret waiting.
  ΒΆ 8:34 PM
Comments:
Wrestling a VW engine? No way! Two words: Transmission jack! You can rent one from many automotive stores or renatl places. The jack is adjustable for height and tilt in fore and aft and side to side axes. Makes quick work. I speak from a history as the owner of two beetles and two vans in my past…
# posted by mostly cajun : 6:25 PM

Good idea – next time (hopefully a long time in the future!) I will give that a try. The tilt-axis sounds like it would help a lot.
# posted by decrepitoldfool : 8:10 PM
 

Categories: Personal, VW