October 16, 2003

I still can’t see how people drive over 70mph in these cars. I have a feeling I should really go through the car again, and I will do that as soon as I get back from NH next week. I don’t know how much the tires and wheels are having to do with the way the car handles, or the amount which it gets blown around in the wind. I think one of my first purchases should be new wheels and tires, and I’m opting right now for the 15×5.5 wheels so that I can get a slightly wider tire on the car. Hopefully that will aid in handling and also provide a little more stability when cornering or when driving in the wind. The last couple days have seen gusts up to 40mph, so it has been a little difficult keeping a straight track. It’s supposed to calm down today though. I sort of wish I didn’t have to rely on the car for another day. Actually, I can’t really believe it’s only another day. I really want to go through the whole thing again, tune-up, oil change, seals replaced, transmission mount fixed, etc. I guess it can wait until I get back from NH.

October 15, 2003

The trouble with UNIX is that one careless move as root can destroy so much. That’s what happened to this month’s diary. Oops. So basically I’m going to try to remember what’s been going on so I can keep track of this very busy couple of weeks.

A few months ago Tire Rack had a great deal on a set of Pirellis that I had on my Jetta. They were $50 each, so I figured I’d buy them, have them shipped up to my parents in NH (I have no space in my apartment for tires) and have them put on before winter. I made the appointment for a Saturday & took the drive up with my stepson. My wife had school on the Saturday, so we ended up taking two cars for Columbus Day weekend to get the tires done, check out the foliage and visit with my parents. Rather than take two cars back, I decided to leave the Jetta there for the week and take a train up the following week when I started my vacation. This meant I would be relying on Wilson as my daily driver for the shortened work week after Columbus Day. Scary stuff. The car passed inspection last Thursday, the 9th, and I found out I had a broken transmission mount — something that is next to impossible to get for an automatic transmission. Other than that, the brakes needed a little adjustment, and the car has been just fine for the past few days. I have noticed it’s pretty loud, and I’m sure it would feel a lot more stable with wider tires and new rims (all balanced), but overall I’ve really enjoyed driving it back and forth to work. Today was the first water-tightness test as last night we had a driving rain and today winds are up to 50mph. I didn’t know what I’d find when I got in the car today, but the interior was totally dry. Lucky me. I have no idea if the same would be true if I were driving in the rain, as I have that rust spot in the rear fender well, but I guess I’ll eventually find out. Next week I plan to finally replace the door seals with the new German ones I picked up from ISP West. But maybe I should save them if the car is staying dry as-is?

A couple weeks ago I saw an ad for a 71 Squareback on the Samba. The car was up in NH, a few miles away from my parents’ house, so my dad went to take a look at it. It was in pretty rough shape, but he eventually talked the guy into selling that car plus a pretty decent fastback for a great price. I finally got to look at them this weekend. The Squareback had been converted to dual (stock) carbs, but the Fastback still had its fuel injection. My dad got the Fastback started, but there is a pretty bad knocking sound coming from the engine, so I’m cautious about what kind of shape it’s in. The battery pan is completely rusted through on the Fastback as well, but other than that it’s very solid. The Square’s front end is completely rusted through in a bunch of places — on each side of the spare tire well, above the fenders, etc. The wiring has been shredded in many places by someone who was maybe trying to fix it, and the pans are shot. Overall, a good candidate for a parts car. I already have a few people who want various parts off it, so it will be going to a good cause. As for the Fastback, I think the plan will be to repair the battery tray for a temporary fix, then rebuild the engine next summer and drive it up to Hershey for the 2004 get-together along with Wilson.

September 21, 2003

Old Battery Ground Strap, New Strap After breaking down on the side of the road the other night, I got pushed home by a kind towtruck driver who took pity on me as I was pushing the car back home. Something’s going on with the electrical system, but I can’t seem to track it down. The generator light stays on when I’m trying to start the car. It happened about a week ago, but after double-checking some connections in the engine compartment and the under the back seat, everything seemed fine. I had to work yesterday (Saturday), but today I had some time this afternoon to go and take care of some of the electrical stuff I knew was bad, and hopefully by process of elimination I’m getting closer to the problem. I started with the battery ground strap, which was in pretty bad shape. After that, I started working on the connections at the voltage regulator, which were an absolute mess as well. Someone had “fixed” one of the wires by twisting it around a hole and had then taped it into place. I took a round connector from the electrical connection kit I got today and soldered it to the wire, then properly attached it to the regulator with FI Relay Wire to Battery + a screw. While I was there, I made sure all the other connections were solid. It was then that I discovered what could possibly have been my fuel pump relay problem. The cable from the relay behind the back seat to the battery positive terminal cable was almost sheared off at the battery side. It could hardly have been carrying any load at all it was so bad. I have to find a connector big enough to go through the bolt on the battery terminal now, and I’ll see if that corrects the fuel pump issue where it’s on all the time. Mind you, I’m not too confident withe the condition of the positive battery connector either, but the car seems to be getting plenty of juice, so I’m not quite as concerned about that for now. When I broke down the other night and realized that one of the starter cables was off and reattached it, it was disconnected a day later. So today I also went through those cables looking for corrosion and tried to tighten up the loose connections. One of the connectors, the one that goes on the top of the starter solenoid, came apart in my hands when I pulled it off the solenoid. It had been cut, and loosely taped together with some electrical tape. I took the boot off the old connector, cut and stripped the wire, then soldered a new female connector onto it. After that, I pushed the boot up and reconnected it. I’m having a hard time reading the electrical diagram on occasion, and I think this wire is only for the diagnostic computer hookup, so it wasn’t really vital anyway.

Battery Positive Connector I guess I didn’t mention that the night after I broke down at the gas station, I broke down on the side of the road a few blocks from my in-laws? Well, this is the current problem, the one I’ve described above. I just went back and realized I hadn’t mentioned that. That night, which I believe was Thursday, I replaced the other headlight as well as the rear taillight and decided to drive Wilson home. He wouldn’t have anything to do with that, and conked out on the side of the road. It really should serve me a lesson. I knew there was a lot more work to be done on him, but I just wanted to get to drive him home for a night. I suppose I could’ve broken down a long way from home, and it would’ve been towtruck time again, but luckily I hadn’t gotten far. As much as I want to enjoy driving this time of year, I am trying to be patient and if worse comes to worse, I will have to just wait through the winter. I still have two months or so to figure out what the problem is before it’s turned in for hibernation. I’m still thinking I might actually get a garage here at the apartment over the winter as we only have a few months left on our lease. It might not be a bad investment. The car would be protected for the winter and it would be out of the way if it’s another snowy and icy winter. On the other hand, it would be close by if we got a nice day and I wanted to do some work on it. I guess I’ll wait and see how everything goes.

OK, I just got an e-mail from Jim Adney to the Type 3 list where he mentioned that it’s possible that I have a 1972 wiring harness even though I have a 1971 model car. He’s totally right, and that explains why I was having such a hard time reading the electrical diagrams. The Bentley is actually wrong, as I have a July car and it says that the 1972 wiring harness started with August 1971 cars. I just looked over the diagram a bit and all the wires that I saw today are there. Very good to know that hopefully my next visit with Wilson won’t be quite so frustrating! Actually, the more I think about it, the more I’m realizing that the car not starting at all is so much more preferable to it starting once in a while and then conking out. At least now I stand a better chance of feeling the problem has been fixed once I locate it.

September 16, 2003

Tonight on the way home from work I decided to stop by and see if I could finish off the brakes on Wilson. I stopped by Auto Barn and picked up two more rear axle grease seals. I learned from the list that there isn’t much grease in there on the IRS suspension, so it’s likely it doesn’t have the same shim/O-ring combo that the swing-axle cars do. I also picked up some Mobil1 synthetic axle grease. After I took off the wheel hub again, I chipped out the old seal (well, it was really the new seal I had put in the other day), then put some grease on my finger and smeared it in the bearings and repeated this until it looked pretty full. I turned the axle a little bit and it mashed around in there pretty good. I put the new seal in, and this time I used the old seal as a buffer between the hammer and the new seal, which drove the seal in a lot better than just the hammer, and seated it nice and deep. After that, I bled the brakes all around, and decided to try to drive Wilson home for the night. Tomorrow I have to bring the Jetta to get inspected before work, and so I thought I’d just pick it up on my way through. I got a few miles down the road and decided to stop for some Arizona Green Tea to enhance the whole Zen of Wilson, and when I got back in the car it wouldn’t start. I panicked and thought, “oh great… is this what I’m going to be dealing with now? the car won’t start and who knows what’s wrong. It’s got to be something electrical, but it could be anything!” Of course, I didn’t let Wilson know how upset I was with it. I started thinking, what if this happened somewhere else and I couldn’t get home? What would I do? How do you start an automatic if, say, the battery dies? I remembered that after a long hot trip, sometimes the starter relay won’t click over. So I got out and hit the side of the relay lightly with a wrench. Still wouldn’t start. Could it be the neutral safety switch? I had power, just no starter motor. Here I was thinking I could’ve actually driven this car home before I went through it all again. What was I thinking? I called AAA to get a flatbed. They said it would be twenty minutes before the towing company would call me back to give me an estimate of when they could come pick me up. I called my wife, and then my mother-in-law to tell her I’d be coming back, so please keep the pathway to the garage open.

By this time I had also taken everything out of the back of the car to look in the engine compartment for a loose connection. I checked the fuses for a burnt fuse. Nothing. Eventually the panic subsided and I resolved myself to my failure, and actually started thinking for a few minutes. Has to be the starter. When I put the car into park, there had been a clunk, as if the transmission had moved. Could that have jarred the starter gear out of the torque converter gear? I decided to get under the car to see if I could tell if something mechanical had come loose. I didn’t have a flashlight, so I felt around. Nothing loose mechanically, at least as far as I could feel. Then I started feeling if maybe one of the wires on the starter was loose, and felt a wire with an open end. It was a slotted connector that fit onto something. I went into the gas station, bought a flashlight and went back out to check where this wire came from. It was the top wire from the starter. I put it back on, put the transmission in neutral and he started up. I called AAA to cancel the tow, and went back to the in-laws, as I had gotten a call that I left the Jetta interior light on when I was looking for the tire gauge. I was tempted to bring Wilson back home, but I figured enough adventure for one night. Besides, I noticed that my other headlight low beam was out. Guess I’ll have to pick up another one at the auto parts store next time I’m there. I think I’ll also go through the whole car again checking for loose bolts & wires, and maybe finally get around to replacing the master cylinder. Brakes are still a little mushy, at least the first time I pump them. After the first pump, they feel fine. Still, the first pump will stop the car, but I don’t want to leave it like that. I also noticed I had a taillight out, but the brake lights work, as do the directionals.

Apart from the minor breakdown (mental and physical), damn if this wasn’t fun. Just tooling around in an aircooled car, dim lights glowing from the dash, sound of the engine racing away behind me. The car feels quite heavy, and solid. The steering seems to wander a little, or it has a little more play than I’m used to, but I think that’s normal. I’ll have to ask the VW guy when I go to get Wilson inspected. Fun night. Time for bed. I really need to stop taking things so seriously, and start looking at life as more of an adventure.<

September 14, 2003

Before & After, Rear Brakes Between rain showers this weekend I had planned to do the rear brakes, including new hoses, replace the master cylinder, and bleed the system so I could take the car to work one day this week and maybe get it inspected as well. As it turns out, I only had time to do the passenger’s side rear brake. I figured it was better to take my time anyway since this was the first time I was doing it. I spent some of the time cleaning the windows as well. The paper towels were black when I was done. Amazing how much dirt had built up on the windows. I think Wilson feels a little better now.

I didn’t really have much of a problem getting the passenger side rear brakes done. It was pretty much all according to the book. It was a few hours past dark by the time I was done and I was actually going to get started on the other side, but when I pulled the drum off I saw that the grease seal had been leaking. When I thought about it for a minute, I realized that this could be the reason why there was so much oil over everything near the transmission on that side of the car. The majority of caked dirt was on the back of the backing plate, and the whole area was caked with about a half-inch of dirt. It’s possible that the grease seal failed and the grease leaked out the back (like it’s supposed to) and covered everything, then the dirt was attracted to that. I didn’t have a seal kit, so I packed up everything, spent a few more minutes examining the fuse panel to see if I could find out why fuse 1 keeps blowing, and eventually wheeled Wilson back into the garage. One other thing — those brake hardware kits from CIP1 are a waste of money for the Type 3’s. They said they’re Type 3 kits, but none of the hardware fit. The retaining springs were too long, the retaining pins too short, and I suppose I could’ve used the new upper springs, but I figured as long as I was reusing all the old hardware anyway, why not use the old springs too?

Oily Shoes The local Auto Barn had a grease seal, so I bought it and thought I’d get started on the other wheel today. When I took the old one off, there was no shim or O-ring underneath. I was a little surprised as I expected these would be like the bug axles. I have a request out to the list to see if this is how it should be. I finished up the brakes on the driver’s side and put everything away until next time. I still have to replace the rear hoses and I’m thinking that’s going to be a major pain since they’re very hard to get at. After that, I have to replace the master cylinder and then just bleed the system and I should be ready to roll. As soon as I track down that electrical issue I think I can get Wilson inspected. I also picked up a new headlight, as the left low beam is out. I was going to pick up two of the Sylvania extra life halogens, but I figured if I could save a few bucks right now, that was a good thing. My thumb is killing me right now because I accidentally hit it with the hammer while trying to get the handbrake lever pin in. I hit it lightly with the hammer and missed… My whole thumb is black. The proud scars of a Type 3 owner!