Thursday, July 10, 2008

Engine Adventure Phase 2

I started on my homework that Curtis left me this week. He didn't tell me you have to take the WHOLE FREAKING CAR APART to replace those two $3 boots. But it has been a learning experience. I have now taken it apart twice, so I'm getting better at it.

First attempt. I went to my favorite import parts store and bought new pulleys, a new belt, and two bright red urethane boots for the manifold. I started by removing the crankshaft pulley. In theory, you can remove the bolt, then use a screwdriver to pry the wheel off. I actually had to go on-line and ask a friend how to loosen the bolt because the wheel spins when you try to turn the bolt. When in doubt, use a hammer - that was the solution. Got the bolt off, and spent an hour with a screwdriver and the trusty hammer with no luck. So back to the parts store to buy a pulley puller. Should have just gotten one up front, it makes it very easy to remove the pulley. The generator pulley is a piece of cake, that came off in no time.

After that, I decided to go after the boots before I put the pulleys back on. That was the only good idea I've had so far. I have three instruction manuals, and I read all three. I kept trying to find instructions that did not include "remove the carburetor", "remove the hood", "unhook the spark plug wires" or "remove the fan housing". They all said the same thing. Rats. So I removed the hood (easy), unhooked the gas line to the carburetor (getting scary), unhooked the spark plug wires and removed the distributor cap (yikes, don't know how those go back on), removed the carburetor (now I have a big pile of stuff, bolts and nuts), removed the ignition coil (not bad), unhooked the strap that holds the generator, and just stared at the fan housing for a while. Supposedly it is held down by 3 bolts. I searched for those bolts. No bolts. Finally, as a last resort I just lifted up to see if I could feel where it was held down. To my amazement it lifted up - I guess the nimrod who had the car before me didn't bolt it down. It was tough to pull out, but I managed to force the fan housing out of the engine compartment and lay it on the ground.

So now I can see the intake manifold and those blasted boots. I have since learned that it is held in place by 4 nuts and 4 bolts , 6 that are easily reached and 2 that are impossible to reach. I got the 4 bolts and 2 nuts I could reach. Then I spent another 2 hours working on the last two nuts. The space was too small for a regular rachet. The nuts are underneath the ends of the intake manifold so you can't use an extension. I bought a racheting wrench and a hinged socket - neither fit in the space. I finally managed to get one out using the socket in my hand, and asked my husband to get the other one out. I don't know how he did it, but the shrouds were pretty tore up. He and I both dropped our difficult nuts into the area where the spark plugs are. So we wasted another half hour with pliers and duct tape trying to retrieve our precious nuts.

Yippee! The manifold is off, I replaced the boots and gaskets under the ends of the intake manifold. Now time to start putting everything back together. I actually did better putting the tough nuts on than taking them off. The bolts were a different story. You see my car is old, and many parts are rusty. Bolts 1, 2 and 3 went on fine. Bolt 4 broke off in the screw hole as I was tightening it. Rats again. Time to find my husband. He only broke two drill bits drilling it out. In the meantime, I went to the hardware store and found four shiny new bolts and washers - I wasn't taking any chances.

Okay, intake manifold in place, now all I have to do is put the big pile of parts back in the car. It's reverse order, so the fan housing goes first. I wasted a day on this. There is a little chute in the front of the fan housing called a "dog house tin something". It's really in the way when you try to remove or install the housing. As I was forcing the housing back in place, the dog house thingy popped off. I went ahead and put the ignition coil, carburetor, etc. back in the car and hooked everything up. The next morning I went to my favorite parts store and asked if that part was really necessary - rats rats rats he told me it was. He told me, there are no unnecessary parts on a Beetle. So a very unhappy wannabe mechanic trudged back home and took the whole blasted thing apart again.

The dog house thingy was kind of bent up so I used my favorite hammer and banged the edge flat on the cement. I then wasted a lot of time trying to hook it onto a hinge that swings vents open and closed. It looked like it might go there, because there were clips on either side of the center post that would have been perfect to hold the thingy. It didn't go there. I happened to notice there was a loose piece of shroud in the general area where the dog house thingy attached to the fan housing. It was held on by only one bolt, so I removed the bolt. Voila! Underneath was a bolt that held the dog house thingy on. And the beauty of it was, you could reach that place after you drop the fan housing into the car. I wish I had known that before I wrestled that monstrosity out of and into the car twice the hard way. 3 minutes later, the fan housing was installed complete with dog house thingy. I then spent another hour threading the accelerator cable through the fan housing. There must be an easier way to do that. (picture of bruises on my arm from reaching behind the fan housing for an hour)

Once that was in, I fastened down the generator, installed the carburetor, attached the ignition coil, attached all the electrical wires, put back the distributor cap, and then pulled out my book to see what to do about the spark plug wires. There was a little diagram showing which spark plug was which number. However the book said "the wire for plug 1 is at the rear of the engine and then count counterclockwise from there". So is the rear the rear of the car, or is the rear the opposite side from where I'm standing?????? I assumed, based on other stuff in the book it is the rear of the car. I don't know if I was right yet.

With everything together, I put my pulleys and belt on and waited for my husband to get home. I wasn't about to start the car without someone to help in case of catastrophe. Once he arrived, we decided I should start the car and he should watch. I turned the key - and there was a horrible grinding sound and it did not start. After some investigation we determined the pulley is rubbing against the shroud and the belt is too loose (no spacers, still too loose). I also had attached a ground wire to something that was not fully attached to the car. First things first, the pulley cannot rub against the car. I noticed some pieces of shroud were sticking out, so I bent those back. It still rubbed. After much consternation and investigation, I figured out my new pulley is a little deeper than my old pulley - I had bought the special one. I went back to the parts store and got a stock pulley and based on the owner's recommendation, a shorter belt. I started to install the pulley, and it wouldn't go all the way on. So I pulled out my trusty pulley puller and removed it so I could add more WD-40. I obviously overtightened the bolt on my pulley puller, because now it is stuck on my pulley wheel. (picture of pulley puller on pulley) Rats. I have tried my wrench, rachet and hammer. None work, and I think I have a hernia. So I'm waiting for my husband to get home, I need brute strength. Or I need a pulley puller puller. I can't finish the story yet, but maybe the new pulley will have enough clearance. But will fixing the ground wire be enough for the car to start? And if it starts, will it catch on fire? If not, will it idle? And finally, will I ever remember to buy GoJo at the store, my fingernails are black.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Finally Working on the Engine

My nephew came into town for the July 4th weekend. He knows a lot about cars, so he "helped" me get started on the engine. By helped, I mean I bought the parts and he did the work.

Let's backtrack a few weeks. My husband decided he wanted to drive the Beetle to work instead of his truck. He jumped in, started it up, and started down the driveway. The neighbor flagged him down because it was spewing gasoline everywhere. I had a busted fuel line. So I knew we needed new fuel lines before he could drive it.
Fastforward to July 4th weekend. My son and nephew were bored, so they offered to replace the fuel lines for me. Easy enough, but Curtis knows quite a bit about cars. He told me we also needed to replace the ignition coil, fuel pump, rebuild the carburetor, change the oil and adjust the valves. I knew some of that had to be done. I didn't even know what the other stuff was. Curtis was a good sport. We rode around to parts stores, gathered up what we needed, and he fixed the car while my son and I watched. He did, however, point out and name the parts as he was going, and answered all of my dumb questions.
When he finished, he was working on the timing and told me I had a vaccuum leak. He pointed out two boots on the intake manifold that were cracked and needed replacing. He also pointed out that the crankshaft pulley was wobbly and needed to be replaced. I had a visual and a goal, so I figured I could try to do that on my own. He left town with the choke pretty tight, but the car running and idling very well.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

More Car Updates

Another busy week in the driveway. My son got his dream car this week. It took a lot of research and a lot of mediation, but we finally came to agreement and found the right car at a great price. We got him a 2004 Volkswagen GTI, 1.8L Turbo. It's red with black leather interior and a 5 speed manual transmission.

We traded in the Durango to buy the car. Once we found the GTI, Richard and I worked until after 11:00 pm finishing the installation of his old radio and speakers, pulling the wiring from the new stereo, and replacing all of the trim. It only took a couple of hours, but we were hoping it would improve the trade-in. We ended up getting the same amount CarMax offered, but at least we got the tax offset.
He has practiced dilligently since he got the car on Thursday and seems to have mastered driving the stick shift. I was even pleased that once he got past the first day, he now seems to be trying to drive the speed limit. That was my biggest concern because he likes to drive fast, and this car will go fast.

While we were waiting at the dealership for the boys to test drive the GTI, my daughter and I had time to kill.
She has been pestering me to get a perm. She finally broke me at the dealership while we were waiting. I made her sign a contract promising that she would not cry or complain when the perm turned out terrible. My sister also pointed out that this is perfect timing so she can start 8th grade and take her 8th grade pictures with a bad perm. But she'll still have time for it to grow out before high school. My daughter wasn't thrilled with these comments. She doesn't believe that everyone else could be right, or that everyone else went through this at about her age. We'll hope for the best, but I'm prepared for the worst.

I also ordered my new car on Tuesday. It's a red 2007 Mini Cooper S with a white top, white racing stripes and a moon roof. I drove the automatic also, but decided to go with the 6 speed manual transmission. I was originally going to buy the Cooper, but I made the mistake of driving the Cooper S while I was waiting to place my order. Once I drove it I was hooked. I guess after the Boxster, I needed the bigger engine.
I did drive some errands in my Beetle this weekend. Fortunately, it is still NOT popping out of first gear when I drive. So I'm hopeful it was just the shift plate, and not the transmission. I still need to replace the window tracks and fix the windshield wipers. But we're leaving for a week of vacation next Saturday so that will have to wait until we get back.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Non-Beetle Activities Lately

I haven't posted for a while because there hasn't been a lot of Bug related activity for the last week. I did manage to get my key blanks cut, so now I have 3 keys for the Bug. And, when we installed the carpet we obviously didn't get the stick shift aligned correctly because it started popping out of first gear. My son and I realigned the shift plate and stick shift, and the popping out of gear problem stopped.

This is what I have been doing . .

My son had his first fender bender this week. Dented up his front bumper. After the accident we heard a grinding sound when it turned. We thought it was the bearing, so we brought it to the local repair shop where we get our tires done. They replaced the bearing but the sound didn't go away. Turns out, the bumper was rubbing against the tire when we turned, and the bearing didn't need to be replaced. So now we are fighting with the repair place for fixing something that wasn't broken, and trying to find a new bumper.

I have been looking at cars, and I think I am going to trade in the Boxster for a car that has more storage room and gets better gas mileage. Since the car I want can drive on the snow, that now frees up my son to sell the Durango and get a car. So he and I have both been doing legwork getting ready to sell our cars, and buy new cars.

We both went to Car Max and got quotes to sell our cars. Rumor had it they would offer more than a regular dealer would offer on a trade-in. They low-balled both of us, so those rumors are not true. They undershot the trade-in on my Boxster by $3500.
Of course we had great fun at Car Max with my Boxster. A while back I hit a tire tread on the interstate, and dented the front of the car. My husband put a deflated basketball in the front, and inflated it to pop out the dent. Unfortunately, with the dent popped out, we couldn't remove the basketball and it has been there ever since. My son took some pictures as three of them looked at the front of my car trying to figure out what the heck was in there.

Since we don't want to let Car Max buy the Durango, we also have to re-install the original stereo system. So far we have completed the radio, amp, and speakers in 1 of 4 doors. My son had previously installed a really loud stereo, which promptly blew out all of his new speakers. So he hasn't had a radio that works for a while. At least for the short term he can listen to the radio at a reasonable volume until we sell the car. We also need to find a new bumper. Hopefully with these obvious issues fixed, we can get a reasonable price for the truck, and he can get a nice sedan that gets good gas mileage to use until he gets out of school.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Seats are Done

For a change of pace, I started my day with a trip to Lowes and AutoZone. The vent covers needed screws smaller than #8 so I purchased a small bag of #4's and #6's. I also stopped by AutoZone and picked up a small rubber mat for the battery.

Finally it was time to put everything together. I was miraculously able to find the screw holes for the vent covers, they were definitely #6 screws. Still need to do some work on the driver's side vent, I think the carpet is keeping it from fitting all the way into the opening.

I laid the rubber mat over the battery and used the strap from the marine battery box to hold it in place. Dug through my big box of stuff and found the screws and rear seat belts. Those went in fairly easily.

Next the rear side panels. These don't appear to be too difficult, but it's very hard to get all 6 pegs lined up exactly right. After much trial and error, I was able to get them attached. Only broke one peg in the process (I had extras so I just replaced it).

Then I turned my attention to the rear seat. There is a metal bar that sits over the kick panels, and supports the back bench. First I dug out my new kick panels. You have to cut a hole in each for the rear heater ducts. After cutting the hole, the panels looked really bad. So I pulled out the old kick panels and realized there were plastic rings that fit in the holes. I switched them out and the panels looked good again.

I set the kick panels in place and started to attach the metal support bar. The screws have never really fit right. I dug through all of my stuff and couldn't find the right sized screws. So I grabbed my son and headed out for a second trip to Lowes to find smaller screws. The existing screws were 1/4", so we bought some #10's and #12's just to be sure. The 12's did the trick.

With the rear bar in, we installed the back rest, then popped in the bench. I think the bench is supposed to drop down behind the metal bar - but it didn't want to do that. So it's sitting very sungly on top of the metal bar. The front retractable seat belts hold it in pretty well, and I doubt we'll have many backseat passengers. So I'm happy with it.

With the back completed, I had to upholster the driver's side front seat. Same process as the other front seat, but at least none of the spikes broke this time. Seats are done, everything is installed. I held off on the door panels because I have new window tracks to install. No point going through the pain of lining up all those pegs twice. So next weekend will be the windows, and hopefully I can figure out what's going on with the windshield wipers.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Installing the Carpet

I put in the rest of the carpet today. My son helped a lot, which was great because some of the front pieces are fairly large. I started by installing the sound proofing kit. It's a black rubber-like material that is glued to the floor before the carpet is installed. It wasn't difficult to lay, but it was kind of messy. The black stuff got all over my brush, and all over my hands.

After that was complete, my son and I made our daily trip to Lowes to get more brushes and contact cement. We stopped by the locksmith to see if we could get the new keys cut, but they were closed this week. We also stopped by O'Reilly Auto Parts to see if we could get a rubber mat or something to cover the battery. They did have a marine battery box. My son said it was too big, but I bought it anyway to try it out. He was right, it was too big. So we'll be getting a rubber mat in the morning and using the strap from the box to hold it onto the battery.

With the errands done, I felt like the sound-proofing was dry enough for me to install the carpet. The first couple of pieces are the strips that go just inside the door sills. They are also the most difficult because there is a small rubber lip that has to slip onto the metal strip inside the door. After much maneuvering, I was able to get the strip attached. From there it was just a matter of glue, then carefully laying the carpet so it was smooth. I'm glad my son was there to help because it is hard to work with the larger pieces alone. We did have to pull up and move two pieces because I didn't have them placed exactly right, and there was a gap between pieces under the footwell. Otherwise, the carpet laying went great.

I still need to install the vent covers. I glued the first door sill piece down without marking the screw holes. I was smarter with the second one, but as we learned with the rear seat I'm not very good at finding holes with carpet over them. That will be a job for tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Beetle seats - again

Fun July 4th with a lot of progress today. I decided to start in the back and work my way forward today. We stripped out the carpet from the cargo area, and put in the new carpet. This was my first adventure with the contact cement, and it works much better than I expected. However I am glad I started in the back. The carpet is a little wrinkly around the edges in some places. Once you make contact with the contact cement, you can't really slide the carpet around. After the first couple of pieces I think we've improved a lot, and the front will look much better than the back (although the back doesn't look bad).

After we finished the rear cargo area my son wanted to take the car for a drive, so we popped the newly upholstered passenger seat into the car. It made a nice picture showing the old vs new upholstery. He and his friend drove the car around all afternoon. I checked right after lunch, and found out one of the air hoses became detached and was causing problems with the car's acceleration. They had stopped and reattached the air hose and the car started driving correctly again. About an hour later he called again and the car was sputtering. He said there was oil all over the engine. I suggested he check for leaks, and check the oil bath air cleaner because I was worried it had been overfilled. When I got home, the car and my son were gone again. The old oil bath air cleaner was sitting in the driveway, the empty packaging for the regular air filter we had purchased was laying on the floor in the garage. So I figured he had installed the air filter and all was well again. Later reports confirmed this.

While my son was off enjoying the car, I decided to tackle the bench part of the rear seat, and apply the carpet to the backrest. Stripping the old upholstery was no problem, but once I got the frame cleaned off I found a cross-bar that had become detached and a broken spring. I called my ever dependable brother-in-law and asked him to weld the frame for me. He wasn't too busy so I put the frame in the back of the van and headed over to his house. The welding was done in short order. With a fixed frame in hand, the upholstery on the bench was completed with no problems.

Obviously I created bad karma by feeling too confident since things were going so well. All I had left was to apply the carpet to the back panel of the rear seat back-rest. I pulled out my carpet pieces to lay out on the back panel. That's when I realized I did not have the correct back panel for the seat. Time for my daily trip to Lowes. I bought a 4' x 2' piece of luaun and a small jigsaw. Figured, I didn't have any choice but to make a panel. I laid the carpet out on the wood and traced the outline in pencil. My husband came out while I was trying to cut with the jigsaw. Obviously I was doing something that made him nervous because he took over and cut out the pattern for me. He stayed out long enough for me to find the screw holes and mark the board. Then he took the drill and drilled the holes for me as well. I guess me and power tools are not a good combination. We attached the board to the seat just to make sure the holes lined up properly. A little glue and the carpet was attached. The only remaining problem was the small flap of carpet that gets attached at the bottom of the seat. A piece of the bottom frame was missing as well, so we contacted my brother-in-law again and borrowed his staple gun. And once again my husband did the actual stapling with the pneumatic tool. I hammered down the ends of the staples, attached the board to the seat, and I think we are ready to install the rear seat!