With Wings As Eagles: Craig P. Steffen's Blog

dude, you're just draining the battery

2009 October 31 10:56

I spun the engine (with the starter) in the Beetle last night. Yay!

Here's where I started yesterday afternoon:

Now the rear engine tin is in, along with my spiffy custom aluminum patch piece:

Since there's a new piece of engine tin in front of the crank pulley, which I bent a bit to give the pulley some extra room, there's a bit of a gap between the two pieces of tin under the pulley. So I closed most of that gap with Aluminum foil tape:

Now, the goal of the evening was to get the engine enough together so that I could turn it with the starter and get the oil system primed. That doesn't strictly require the crank pulley, since the engine doesn't need cooling air. However, the crank pulley provides part of the air seal of the oil compartment and furthermore, it has a spiral groove that provides air pressure to the oil space:

So I installed the pulley.

And probably the single most important part of the getting-the-engine-set-up checklist, put oil in the thing.

And so the moment came, and I cranked the engine with the starter. Someone hearing this would think that a very dumb person was trying to start a car that just wasn't going to start, and you're just running the battery down, knock it off already. However, I just wanted to 1) get the oil pump primed and 2) get oil into the bearings and generally into the oil system. This part, at least, was successful. The first time, the oil light went out (meaning oil was being delivered under pressure by the pump) after about 6 seconds of cranking.

Since I'd very carefully packed the oil pump with vaseline to assist in priming, I was very carefully avoiding turning the engine at all until I did the initial oil start. Now that I'd done that, it was time to set the static timing:

DMM on "ohms", red lead attached to distributor wire (bottom left), black lead grounded on fuel pump.

I only ran the starter for 20 seconds at a time or so to keep from overheating it. I was very pleased by the third cranking. The oil light wnet out immediately, and it stayed off for like 5 seconds AFTER I'd stoped cranking the engine, which makes me very happy about the state of the oil pump and the bearings and such.

Here's video of it. Watch the oil light on the lower right part of the speedometer:

After all that cranking, the battery very very much wanted a recharge:

Here's how I left it:

All the hoses attached, most everything tightened down. Now that I've spun the engine, I'm going to torque the spark plugs, set the valves, and then I should be ready for a start tomorrow. Whee!


the first launching of the fourth prototype

2009 October 29 07:54

NASA's Ares-I prototype rocket launched successfully yesterday:

There's a nice you-tube video with all the telemetry drop-outs edited out.

This is the fourth such event in the history of the American space program.

The Mercury missions were flown with RedStane and Atlas rockets, which had been developed as ICBMs.

Gemini used Titan-II rockets, same thing.

The Saturn I launched the Apollo missions that took place in earth orbit. The first prototype Saturn I was launched October 27, 1961. The first stage was live, the upper stages and the spacecraft were boilerplate.

The first prototype Saturn V launched on November 9, 1967. The space program was running against John Kennedy's self-imposed deadline of the end of the decade, so it was tested in an all-up mode. The first stage was live, first time flown, the second stage was live, first time flown. The third stage was borrowed from the Saturn I, which by that time was a proven vehicle.

The first launch of the Space Transportation System, or Space Shuttle was April 12, 1981. It is the only vehicle in this line-up that was lauched for the very first time with a crew on board. Due to the Shuttle's design, the only way to launch it is a full vehicle.

And the fourth, yesterday, October 28, 2009, was the first launch of the Ares-I launch vehicle which hopefully will become the next generation of launch vehicles to carry people into orbit.


short one

2009 October 28 00:10

Worked on the Beetle a little tonight.

Here's another tool that's nice to have, a right-angle 13mm box wrench:

It reaches around the intake manifold body to get at the bolt at the back that secures the carburetor. It's a 12 point wrench, so it only has to have clearance to turn 1/12 of a turn, and it just has that much:



Here's the engine now:

Engine compartment wiring all connected, carb in, fuel hoses connected, throttle cable adjusted. To go: air cleaner, pulleys and fan belt, and the rear engine tin piece.


these go in the permanent collection

2009 October 27 19:17

The engine's in the Beetle. (Yay!)

I got the engine up and installed, and the upper engine mount bolts in on Sunday night. However, I couldn't find my 17mm combination wrench. The area around the lower mount bolts is very tight, between the transmission and the frame, so I couldn't get any of the other wrench combinations that I had in there to tighten those nuts.

While out on errands Monday, I snagged a swivel-head ratchetting 17mm combination wrench to use. It worked perfectly:

As I move closer to taking trips in the vintage Beetle, these tools will definitely go on permanent station in the tool box that goes along with it at all times:

The middle wrench is the new snazzy wratchetting 17mm. That's for the lower two and the upper right mounting nuts for the engine. The long socket extension on the right and the 17mm socket is for the upper-level engine mount bolt. The short extension and the magnetic spark plug socket is for installing and pulling spark plugs. I want to be able to do this on the road if I have to. (By the way, if you've ever used one of the never-grips-anything-correctly-rubber-washer-type spark plug socket, and then you use a magnetic one, you'll never go back.

Here's the engine as a started the evening. Wires and hoses still more or less hanging out.

I want to make sure that the generator's going to work, and determine if I need to polarize it. Instead of hauling my test battery up from the basement, I decided to do a functional test. If you have the engine running, I've read this as a test for the alternator itself (without the regulator). Bridge the "field" terminal to the generator's ground:

set the meter to measure volts at the output terminal vs. ground, and set to measure mv

And then while holding the probes with one hand, spin the pulley with the other. The generator seems to be fine; doesn't need polarization.

200 milivolts isn't much brag about, but remember, the generator is probably turning a dozen or so rpm, whereas at idle in the engine, it will be turning at least 1600 rpm. (The engine idles at around 800 rpm, and the generator/fan pulley is at least 2 to 1 from the crankshaft pulley.)


beetle engine up

2009 October 26 00:20

After 15 months, I finally got the engine back in my Beetle this evening. We had friends over for football, and the evening got busy, so I didn't to starting in or even turning the engine to get everything oiled.

However, the engine is in the engine compoartment, after a 15-month hiatus sitting in the work bench. Upper 2 mount bolts are in and tight. I lost my wrench that works for tigthening the lower studs. I also fished the t hrottle cable through the front engine tin, which is a pain to do; the throttle cable is indicated by the green arrow.

More photos and details and stuff soon, I'm going to bed now.


The rocket has a blog

2009 October 23 01:15

The Ares I-X experimental test rocket has its own blog. Of course it does. Naturally.

Today was their integrated systems test. All the rockets systems were powered up and running for a simulated launch and flight. If everything went well today, then the craft's pyrotechnics and other stuff will be connected for the real launch. I think they're scheduled for liftoff sometime on October 27.


and next, the cooler

2009 October 23 00:44

Working on assembling the Beetle engine.

I'm putting on the engine tin and last accessories. It's so much easier to put stuff on when the engine's out of the car. Here's the front of the engine, showing the newly installed breastplate tin:

This is the "front" of the engine, the part that faces the body of the car. The fat grey pipes in the lower corners of the photo deliver hot air to the body of the car for the heater. The round flywheel in the center delivers mechanical power to the transmission, and the engine flange around it is bolted to the transmission bell, which holds the engine up. I've marked the three other items where the engine interfaces with the car. The red arrow on the left is where the wire goes to power the back-up lights. In the center, marked with the purple arrow, is where the throttle cable goes. On right right, I've circled in green where the fuel enters the engine.

As you can see, instead of having a steel pipe through the hole in the tin, I've now put in a liquid pass-through. This will allow me to use hose on either side, and eliminated the possibility of the fuel pipe wearing through. In VWs without this modification, severing of the fuel pipe is a cause of fires.

I had to deal with the "Hoover Bit" today. It's a bracket and air dam around the base of the oil cooler in a "doghouse" style VW engine. (it's named for Bob Hoover, legendary VW mechanic who talked about that part a lot on the internet 10 years ago or so.)

Here's where it sits installed at the base of the oil cooler:

The problem, and I knew I was going to have to deal with it soon, is that mine had a pretty big crack in it, and the side arm part was about to break off.

So I fabricated a piece of Aluminum that will do the job of the arm and fasten under the body the other part. In face, during this process, the arm fell off. here's the final configuration installed:

The next step is to install the "fan shroud", which is the main plenum of the cooling system. Here it is, sitting on top of the engine.

As long as I'm putting together the engine and trying to make things right, I noticed that there's an awful lot of space around the oil cooler to escape (marked by the green dots). This lowers the efficiency of the oil cooler and the engine will run hotter.

So I'm going to try to fill some of this space with foam rubber. Here's a cut-apart can cozy that I'm attempting ot glue to the side of the oil cooler. The adhesive might not take, in which I'll have to think of something else. In any case, I want to wrap the oil cooler so that the only way air gets past it is through it, not around it.


for the first time for the last time

2009 October 22 07:41

Ok, at long last, my Beetle's engine is off the work bench and back on the floor, in preparation for installing it back in the car. This is the first time in like 14 months the engine hasn't been on the work bench. Still work to do before it gets re-installed, but this is a major step to getting the engine back in the car.

Here's the front of the engine, the side that faces the car. The blue thing with the wheels holding up the engine is the trolley that's designed to assist with installation, although it also makes a very handy cart.

And the back side, with the mufflers.

What I realized Tuesday was that the strap to lift the engine needs to go directly against the engine block, but the tinware I was installing would get in the way. So I had to take the tinware back off, and now that the engine is on the floor, re-install it. When I lift up the car, the engine will roll under it on the jack, and then get lifted up into position from below. So the rest of the tinware goes on now. Although not as convenient as being at work-bench height, it should be pretty easy to work on on its trolley.

Oh--and the reason for the post title. I may not ever have the whole engine up on the work bench again. I recently bought a VW transmission chassis (outer shell, not working) so that I can build an engine stand. If I ever work on the engine extensively in the future, I will do it bolted to the transmission which will be housed in a rolling cart of sorts. I will build the cart low enough that I can lift the engine onto it using the jack. So hopefully this will be the very last time that I hoist the engine from the ceiling as I did yesterday. It worked Ok, but it's a pain.


ready to fall

2009 October 21 00:36

Ok, quick one.

The Ares I-X test vehicle rolled to pad 39B this morning, so it's ready for its test flight next week. Here's thrice watching:

I'm getting the engine tin fitted. Here's the engine as I was working on it this evening, with the rear panel fitted for the final time. On the right is Pangur, supervising for the first time in a few days. She had dental work on Saturday, and she hasn't wanted to get in the car carrier to go to the garage since then, but this evening she managed it for a bit.

I realized that since some pieces of the engine tin interfere with the lifting strap, very soon I need to lift the engine down to the rolling trolley on the floor so that I can get all the other pieces put on. So cleared a bunch of stuff off the work bench and out from in front of it. Here's the workbench, and the area in front, and the blue cradle on the floor ready for the engine. Not far now!

The last thing that I need to finish on the gas tank before re-installing it is to get it re-assembled, which includes getting the drain put back in. Since the sealant was drained out of the drain hole without the drain plug in (obviously), the sealant gooped up the threads of the drain hole. So I need to do something about that.

Fortunately, when I was at Harbor Freight a week ago, I picked up just the right tool set:


NASA's new hooptie

2009 October 19 23:05

The US Mercury space program, which was designed to send a single-person spacecraft into orbit to test human's ability to function in space, had already been in space before the race to the moon became a factor in 1961. Many in the US felt that it was behind in the "space race" due to the USSR unexpectly launching Sputnik I in 1957, and the Mercury program was the result of that. When President Kennedy made the promise to put a man on the moon, the Gemini and Apollo programs were begun almost overnight. The Atlas, Saturn I and Saturn V were created as part of those programs. The Saturn V was specifically specced to be able to carry the whole launch system into orbit and then send it on its way to the moon.

Apollo was originaly going to run 20 missions total, but funding was cut so the last mission to the moon was Apollo 17. However, spacecraft were already being constructed. Three Apollo capsules were used as part of Skylab, and one was used for the Apollo-Soyuz test project.

In the middle of the 1970s, the Space Transportation System (shuttle) was designed. It first flew in 1982, if memory serves April of 1981, according to Wikipedia. The Shuttle was the product of the last of the Apollo era of NASA.

Whether the Shuttle was a good idea or not, I think it's clear that it cost far more per flight than it was ever meant to. The Shuttle is currently scheduled to cease flights in 2010, although there are proposals to extend its operational life.

However, for the first time since the mid 1970s, NASA and their contractors are in the process of bringing a new human-capable launch system on-line. The Ares launch system will be a replacement for the Shuttle and be able to carry humans into orbit. The system consists of the Ares I, which carries a small spacecraft into orbit with people on board, and the Ares-5, which is an unmanned heavy-lift vehicle which will carry larger spacecraft into orbit, perhaps to go to the moon, or Mars, or wherever.

The very first Ares-I test launch is scheduled to be later this month. The test vehicle has been assembled; late last week the flight batteries were installed and the vehicle was closed up. Tonight it's scheduled to roll out to launch pad 39-B. Launch of the test vehicle is scheduled near the end of the month.

Here are a couple of renderings of the launch of an Ares I, from the NASA web site:



The white skinny bit at the bottom, the first stage, is a solid rocket basically based on the Shuttle's Solid Rocket Boosters. The upper brown part, the second stage, is a liquid-fueled rocket that will then carry the spacecraft into orbit.

This document from NASA shows the specifics of this month's test flight. The first stage is basically a Shuttle SRB. The separation hardware is live, the second stage is "simulated", as is the spacecraft. So this is a dynamics test of the launch vehicle, with no spacecraft, but it's a big first step in the proces of comissioning a new launch vehicle and spacecraft system for the first time in 27 years.

Well, they just announced that the roll-out won't begin for another hour, and it's my bed-time, so I won't see it. I'm very much looking forward to the launch, though.

(These images were generated by NASA. They are used here according to permissions found on NASA's copyright page.)


fitting, fitting...

2009 October 19 00:02

I didn't get as much done on the beetle today as I would have liked. I'm working through getting the sheet metal parts fitted.

Here's the right rear part of the engine a couple of weeks ago

The stovepipe

is a piece that takes air that's just gone through the cylinder head (and thus it's hot) and brings it into the intake air to warm the intake if the outside air is cold.

So here's an upper view of the engine as it stands now, with the stovepipe installed and highlighted.

Here's a view of the right lower back side of the engine with the stovepipe installed. Parts are labelled with letter combinations. "C" indicates the #2 cylinder. "h" is on the right side cylinder head. "ad" is the tinware air deflector at the back of the right bank of cylinders. "sp" is the stove pipe; its entrance is just below the cylinder head. "prt" is one of the push rod tubes. And "hb" is the "heater box", which forms the lower right panel of this cooling air exhaust chamber.

The important thing here is to have everything fitted so that when I do final assembly, everything fits and is in a known state.


saw it here first

2009 October 17 00:01

So as of last night (Thursday), when I came home, for the very very first time, I parked in the outside parking spot with all four wheels of the car on pavement (please excuse the clumsy photo manipulation; the photo was taken with a 30-second exposure with light shining from the house side; it's my attempt to not have half the photo be black.) The three-wheels-in-dirt-one-wheel-in-mud issue with the car that's parted outside has been a thorn in my side for over three years, and one of my major projects to work on this summer. And now it's done-ish.



There are still three tiles left to install. However, they're not required to park the car, and I may just leave then until the spring.