Sunday, March 21, 2004

The Beetle Has Landed
Friday was THE day. It required far more planning than anyone anticipated. We were on hold with making plans until we heard back from Pat, who owned the garage that housed the Bug. He was in New Hampshire until Wednesday. Thankfully, he contacted me as soon as he returned into town. Then we had to get a hold of U-Haul and reserve a trailer for Friday. Naturally, that was a pain in the ass. They must have asked for my vehicle information about 20 times. Make that 40 times. I kept having to tell them what vehicle would do the hauling, and what was going on the auto-transport trailer. So a reservation was set for Friday between 3 and 4.

Friday we had Rob come over to watch the kids, and then my wife and I hopped into my friend Jeremy's GMC Envoy and set off to U-Haul. Once there, we had retard wait for us at the counter. I'm not sure if she was "new there", or just plain helpless. But we spent a good 20 minutes staring at her, while she stared into space. I guess the hook-up guy was running around trying to figure out how to connect the auto-transport wiring to Jeremy's Envoy. The 2004 Envoy has some new wiring type that they couldn't match. Eventually this little guy comes into to talk to us and he is juggling three different wiring adapters. He tells us that if he had a fourth one, he could get this figured out. Otherwise, it was a no-go. One of the more competent employees overheard all of this, and interupted. She says "no! no! no! - drive down to the U-Haul self storage around the corner, and they have an adapter that will fit". So we did. We drove a mile down the road, and here was a U-Haul center that didn't even have trailers. But they did have the adapter we needed, and Jeremy spent $15 on it. Which was very nice. I offered to buy it, but his point was "what would you do with it?". So he bought it in hopes he will someday get to use it again.

Now that we were back to U-Haul, we had them hook up the trailer. It was gigantic. We theorized that we could probably fit two Beetles onto it. I think we were right.

On the way, I called Pat to let him know that we were only about a half an hour away. But it turned out to be more like 1 hour away thanks to Friday rush hour traffic. Once there, we found out that backing a gigantic trailer down a VERY narrow winding driveway would be dificult. So we parked the Envoy in the street, and ended up pushing the Beetle down the driveway, and muscling it up onto the transport. It was tough.

The Beetle seemed locked into place. Most likely, the emergency break had rusted in place. When I popped it, I didnt feel much pull-back tension. This had happened on my old bug, and short of taking the rear wheels off we would not be able to dis-assemble it. With some pushing and shoving, it finally broke lose. We were actually scooting the car without the rear tires rotating at first. Talk about a lightweight car! Once it got rolling, it was cakework to get it into the street. Pushing it onto the lift proved to be a bit dificult. And for a moment, I thought Jeremy and my wife were going to get run over. Hopping away from the wheel and lending a third hand, we were just able to roll it onto the lift.

The ride home was an easy one. Jeremy took it really slow, and we all watched the Bug on the back praying that nothing would go wrong in the transport. Once back, we decided to park the Envoy in the street, drop the Bug off the transport, and then shove it into the garage.

And so the bug was home. And it was getting late. We decided to celebrate. We drank beer, we ate pizza, and we watched a movie. Then we drank more beer. We looked at the car. Then we went to bed. No work was performed yet.

In the morning we got right to work. I climbed into my zip up monkey suit and got started on the bizarre wiring mess in the 'trunk' (up front). I also took some 'before' pictures of the bug. The lighting in the pictures is awful because it was storming really badly outside, and the garage door was completely closed.

You can click on those pictures above, and then see bigger versions!

So here is my wiring mess, if you can see it. It looks as if the air intake for the defroster was removed in order to put in a cheap radio/cassette stereo. The wiring was done very poorly. Basically, the radio was wired directly to the battery (not the ignition). This is how my old bug was wired (poorly). So you would have to remember to turn the radio off or you would kill your battery. I wasn't going to stand for that! The deeper I poked into the radio wiring, the more destruction I un-covered. Whoever had wired the radio wasn't interested in keeping things nice. The wires were twisted together, and then duct-taped.

I spent the next few hours re-wiring, soldering, and correctly reinstalling the defroster. Meanwhile, Jeremy and Rotary headed off to the auto-part store for some supplies. We had been compiling a list of some things we needed. And at some point I decided to start recording it all on a white-board.

After finishing the wiring, I was waiting on parts. So I decided to remove the oil pan, and clean the oil screen. Bugs don't have an "oil filter" that you dispose of. Instead you have a screen that catches metal fragments of sizable chunks. The engine only holds about 3 1/2 quarts of oil. So maintaining CLEAN and proper oil levels is extremely important to a bug. The screen had nothing unusual in it, and there was no oil in the engine to speak of. It had slowly leaked out of somewhere all over the previous owners garage floor. Yucky.

I also noticed a lot of sticky oil leakage that had built up on these "caps". It looks like I could pop these off and probably expose the rocker arms. The gaskets on both sides are GONE! But I left them alone for now. It could be a can of worms, and I should buy new gaskets before scraping these old ones off.

To keep the kids busy, I had let them get their scooters out and roll around in the garage. The sun had come out, and I was able to pull up the garage door. It was also suprisingly warm! A good day to be under a car. I made them stop running back and forth and pose for a photo. And what a photo! My daughter has been very excited about the car. She calls it "the bug car".

With the bright sun, I decided to take another picture of my engine so that you can see how clean and neat it is. Honestly, I have never seen a bug this clean that was actually driven daily.

I also took a picture of the growing trash pile. It doesn't looks like much now, but we haven't really gotten started. I would later start using an old pastic sled as a large open waste basket. What you see here is the old trim that was peeled off the car and replaced. But for whatever reason, the old trim was stuffed into the trunk in a knotted pile.

Once Jeremy and Rotary got back, we brought all the goodies into the garage. And goodies! Jeremy sprung for all sorts of great gear. Jack stands, new plugs, a case of oil, some new tools, and two really large containers. For what you might ask? Well we had done a lot of drinking, and Rotary didnt like us coming in and out of the house to use the bathroom. You understand.

I'm kidding!! What you see here is 5 year old artifact gasoline. It's very dark in color, and pretty strong smelling. I'm sure it's highly explosive, so we were careful to put away anything that might create a spark, and extinguished all cigarettes. Using a siphon that Jeremy bought, we drained all the gasoline we could out of the engine. It totaled somewhere around 5 gallons. What do you do with old gasoline? We would figure that out later. For now, we kept on working.

Jeremy made the mistake of asking about the brakes. All we really knew about them is that they were rusty and at least partly worn. Getting into a brake job on an old car car turn into a nightmare really fast. Sometimes you end up buying new calipers, rotors, etc. and spending a small fortune. I was not interested in opening the can of worms. Jeremy pushed forward offering to purchase whatever might be required to complete the job. How could I say no? We dug in and pulled a few wheels off. At this point, the car was off the ground on jack stands.

Ugh! Thats rusty! We found that both the front and rear brakes were "drum" style (opposed to disc). Jeremy and I both have put drum brakes on many vehicles and it's become old hat. Yet, we know what a pain it can be. Getting the actual rotors off would also become dificult. I consulted my bible! In the passenger seat of the car was left an old book titled "How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive". I had a copy of this about 10 years ago, that I left in my dead car. It's a fantastic book, with amazing illustrations. It puts all the Haynes manuals to shame. We definitely needed new brake pads, and probably some other parts too. So it would be back to the auto part store for more supplies. Jeremy and Rotary headed off, and I continued to work on other areas of the car and take some pictures.

Here is a picture of antifreeze. Jeremy bought it for the bug. I guess in all the excitement of getting new parts, he forgot that Beetles are air-cooled. Hah! Anyhow, we need antifreeze for my Honda, so I'm keeping it anyway!!

Here we are later putting on new front brakes. Jeremy is kneeling down here comparing the old pads to the new ones to make sure everything lines up properly. All the required tools are spread out. A bud light, flashlight, some high performance grease (for the bearings), many pairs of pliers and such, a grease rag (we used about 4), and probably one of the strangest tools you will see ... a gear puller. The gear puller can grip a rotor from either side, while push toward the center with a pointy bolt-like thing. It was a HUGE help on the rear brakes. And although it retailed at $30, Jeremy was quick to point out that it was indeed a life-time tool.

Here you can see Jeremy putting the gear puller into action. The brakes were rusted pretty solid, and the pressure held the rotor pretty tight. We bent a few parts (namely the old pads), but the rubber mallet put everything back into shape.

You will also notice that Jeremy has quite the breaker bar. This tool alone was $20, which sounded like a bargain to me. It was about three feet long, and it gave a lot of torque on the rear wheel nuts. The alternative method to removing the nuts is to use a shorter breaker bar, and then slip a pipe over the handle end to get more leverage. In John Muir's Bug book he refers to it as "a cheater pipe".

We worked late into the evening and eventually early into the morning. Around midnight we did take a break to go get dinner. White Castle was about all that was open, and nobody seemed to mind slamming down a few sliders and beer. Then, it was back to work. Rotary watched Jeremy and I struggle with a rotor, and then snuck off to bed. We probably should have quit because of the noise we were making. Some parts has rusted solid, so we did a lot of banging with a rubber mallet and a large flat-head screwdriver that we have nicknamed "The Motherfucker". This screwdriver is legendary.

Although I am not really sure where it came from, it is the only Snap-On brand tool in my arsenal. We once used this screwdriver as a chisel, and broke lose the engine block of a 1965 AMC Rambler. Where other screwdrivers let us down, The Motherfucker prevailed. We have snapped the tip off of many screwdrivers over the years. We could fill a bucket with all the Craftsman tools we have busted. But not The Motherfucker.

Nearing five in the morning, we were done, and we lowered the car off the jack stands. It was a long job, but I was glad we did the breaks. Jeremy's suspicions were right. They were in awful shape. The brakes wore very un-evenly around the car. Another year or two and some of those parts would have rusted solid for eternity. After some cleaning up, and a beer, it was quitting time.

Jeremy decided to go home so he could catch a shower, a change of clothes, and his own bed. I peeled off my horribly stained and oil soaked outfit and climbed into bed.

Throughout the day, we had done just about all we need to do with the car aside from the body work. Whether we can get the engine running or not remains to be seen. We have some carb' cleaner, and some starter fluid if we run into trouble. But it's gotten pretty cold for garage work today. Parhaps later this evening we will brave the un-heated garage for more fun.

Now today is my day for doing some small projects like fixing the vacuum cleaner that Rotary has been asking me to repair for about two weeks now. And maybe, just maybe, I will try to get some sleep tonight. I'm beat!

Thank you for allowing me to share the great Bug diaries with you. Next episode, THE ENGINE!

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