Thursday, March 25, 2004

The Rotting Running Bug
So I was sitting in my basement yesterday with my wife and kids and I said "I should go see if that battery in the bug is holding a charge". I also wanted to roll the engine around a little bit and get some oil splashed up on those cylinder walls.

Much to my surprise, I started the car. I wasn't really aiming too. I thought if it gave me any trouble, I wouldn't get into my 'project clothes'. Boom! It was running. My wife poked her head into the garage and yelled "it runs!". We were pretty excited. I let the car run about 5 minutes. It needed no help at all. I was able to climb out, and take a look for myself. I also snapped a picture of my engine while it was running. It probably looked like every other picture I have taken of my engine, but you can see the belt looks blurry because it's vibrating!

Then I popped the emergency brake and let the car pull it self forward in 1st, and then back in reverse. Worked flawlessly. Then I cut the engine and dumped the oil out. I think I got it just hot enough to give it a good bath inside.

I made some plans to go to the auto store. I had called them to check for valve gasket covers, and they said I had to come pay for them today, so I could pick them up tomorrow. I obliged. They were $3.50. I also picked up a set of metric "feelers" to adjust my valves, and a long neck funnel which I desperately needed for oil filling.

I called Jeremy a couple of times with no luck. It would be later that my wife got a hold of him and shared the good news that it was running really well. He couldn't wait to see it himself, so he came on over. We hadn't really planned to work on the car this particular night ... but why not! As Jeremy was on his way, I darted out to Meijer in search of a work light.

I HATE Meijer. I'm so fucking happy that they are building a Wal-Mart about a mile and a half from my house. Never will I go to that dirty, retard staffed Meijers again. Naturally I get there, and they are out of stock on the small halogen work light I needed. So I had to buy the $20 carry-all version of it. It's still a tiny halogen light, but it comes with a tripod, a clamp, and a cool pastic case. I'm not so sure it was worth $20, but it turned out to be a pretty good addition to our tool collection.

Once Jeremy arrived, we had to refill the oil and let it run again so he could hear it. He was pretty impressed. The leaking exhaust concerned him a bit. Nothing like a leaky muffler to screw up your engine compression. But the engine purred. Letting the oil out once again, we plotted our next move. Also by this time, I had made one hell of a mess on the garage floor I tried to mop up what I could. But yuck!

Floor Pans!
Jeremy was ready to dig right into the badly needed body work. The floor pans and the heater channel on the drivers side of the car had to come out (what was left of them). Thankfully he borrowed his dads jack for the job ... I think it's a 10 ton. The labels and such wore off of this beast about 20 years ago. It's quite the garage gem!

You can also see the Futon' there to the left of Jeremy. It's the most uncomfortable piece of furniture I have ever put my ass onto, this coming from a guy that things the VW spring seats are comfy! My wife wants it disposed of. I suggested we keep it for welding practice, and she suggested we make a glorified tool rack out of it! Good plan. And Jeremy's father is letting us borrow his high amperage Arc Welder. Yahoo!

We decided to jack up the car and bleed the brakes, since we never did that. It's always a good move. We really didn't have to do it because we never opened the brake like doing the drums. But I wanted to exchange some of the old brake fluid out and also get the bleeders moving again. If you let those things go for a few years, they become a lost cause and you end up buying calipers over a broken bleeder bolt. The procedure took maybe an hour. Because I bled each wheel about 5 times or so, and because we were drinking and bullshitting all the way. Per John Muirs advice (famous VW author) we did the left rear, then right rear, then right front, then left front. The idea is to start as far away from the master brake cylinder as possible, and work towards it. The brake cylinder is easily located underneath the front drivers side tire. And see if you notice what I noticed.

The brake warning light was only hooked to the rear brakes. I'm not sure how that all works. I would guess that it's one complete circuit, and so either only the back brakes work the light, or the circuit is always open, and the whole warning system is pointless. I will need to check my wiring diagram later. At any rate, when this cars engine was rebuilt, and all the wiring was re-done, you can see they put new wiring and connectors here. I think they knew what they were doing.

Now onto the body! We thought we had better get the drivers side seat out since we would not want to do excessive kicking and budging of the car once it was onto the jack stands. We had no idea of how to get the seats out. I consulted my Beetle bible and found no instructions, so it HAD to be simple. The "twenty dollar light" and it's tripod came in handy for lighting up the floor and helping us figure it out.

In the end it was very simple. You just have to dis-engage the 'teeth' holding the seat in the track, and then slide the seat forward until it derails. We had both seats out in no time, and we took this photo inbetween.

Behind the front drivers side wheel we started to uncover some of the damage that lead to the destruction of the floor pan and heater channel. Rust behind the front wheel had eaten through. Somone had patched over the hole with a body repair kit. So we started poking at it with a screwdriver, and chipping out rotten steel and bondo clumps.

Pretty nasty in there! As you can see in the photos, there is a darkened band extending from left to right above the holes. That is the patch kit. I'm sure it held up for a good couple of years. But the rust continued in all directions and rotted everything in its path. Luckily, the rust didn't continue on the other side! It looks like we will only need a single heater channel, and a single floor pan. Lucky us!

At some point I stopped and flashed a picture of my crooked wheels. These rear wheels land a little funny after jacking up and dropping the car. They straighten out in an hour from the weight of the car bearing down on them. But the first time we saw this happen working on the brakes we about shit our pants. "Did we bend the axel? WTF!".

We chipped away quite a bit of nasty stuff. We also found an aluminum patch behind the tire well that had been riveted into place. It help up well, and being aluminum, there was not a bit of rust on it. We will probably leave the patch as it, but we will definitely need a small panel to weld into place to cover the other damage. Jeremy things he might be able to get some scrap from his place of employment (a plastics and chemical company).

We realised that the running board would have to come off and it was in the way anyhow, so we started unbolting it. It was a real pain in the ass because there were about 3 different sizes of bolt and nut combinations used, and they were all rusted to each other through the body. The board itself was not in terribly bad shape and we will probably re-use it if a new one seems to expensive.

Here you can see Jeremy putting the bolts into a bind by forcing "The Motherfucker" into between the nut and bolt combo. His maneuver freed nearly all the bolts but one. The last one was a real bastard. It was badly rusted, and we were having no luck gripping what was left of the lock nut. Eventually we would get out the hacksaw and lop it off! You can see a silver streak where we exposed some fresh metal. The are underneath was badly rusted from water forming under the running board. So we're going to buff all that paint off and touch it up with paint and primer.

I took several shots of the underbody so you could see the horrible rotting of the floor pan and the heater channel. But all my pictures look like this one ...

I will take some more pictures under there once we get the new parts, the welder, and we really dig into it. There is a seam that gets welded all along the right side of the pant (to the chassis). The other side has a dozen or so bolts holding it on. I started twisting those bolts, and I was just turning them around. The heater channel that they are bolted to has turned to dust. And so we were nearing 2:00AM, and wrapped it up. I sprayed an assload of penetrating oil all over the bolts in hopes of freeing them at a later time. We washed our disgusting hands of, and I headed up to bed. I stopped and took one last photo of my shoes. I have found that it's really hard to stop working on a car long enough to change clothes. But whatever you are wearing when you do a job like this, will be ruined. Just look at these sad old Chuck T's. They have seen a finer day.

Thats all for now! This weekend Jeremy is working, and my wife and I will be celebrating our NINTH wedding anniversery. AND we have a baby sitter. I don't see much auto-work in my future. Perhaps late Sunday I will get around to adjusting my valves and replacing the gaskets.


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