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

that old-time religion

2010 February 25 13:26

I don't normally necessarily post about specific personal things.  I don't directly talk about where I live and where I work.  My experience yesterday having my car serviced prompts me to give props to the VW dealer where I have my car serviced.

When I bought my Volkswagon New Beetle, I knew that it was going to be inconvenient to get dealer service because the nearest dealer is in the Big City, Knoxville Tennessee.  I wanted the car badly enough I was willing to make that sacrifice.  I had an experience there yesterday that has shifted my firmly-held belief that all dealer service departments are populated entirely by lying thieving rat-bastard low-life scum.  

My service experience at Harper Volkswagen in Knoxville, Tennessee has (somewhat) instilled me with some faith that dealership service departments can be competent, reliable sources of car maintenance. 

I ended up having service done on my car over Christmas when my wife and I were out of town. I left the car at their service department and left instructions on what to work on.  One of the items I mentioned was that the wipers squeaked.  Well, apparently they replaced the wiper inserts, and they didn't squeak again.  

However, in January, I was driving in slushy conditions and I went to clean salt off the windshield with the wipers, and they wouldn't go.  They would work Ok when they were wet, but not if the windshield was at all dry.  I assumed that the dealer had adjusted something (incorrectly).  

Well, I talked to them Monday of this week, and on the phone they say "Yeah, we've had troubles with those wiper motors.  If your car is still under warranty, the replacement is covered.".   So I made a Wednesday appointment and brought the car in.  

When I handed off the keys yesterday, I repeated what was up, and he just nodded and said they'd take care of it.  I also mentioned that a few times, when the windshield wipers were running on itermittent, when the wipers parked, the instrument cluster would drop out (all the gauges drop to zero then pop back on).  He nodded, and said that the wiper motor system share a common ground wire, and that sometimes happens.  The fix is to run a separate ground wire for the instrument cluster.  It takes an hour and a half, and is also covered as a warranty repair.  So I asked them to please fix the wiper motor (assuming that was indeed the problem) but to not take the time for the instrument cluster wire; I'll just have that done when I have the next maintenance.  

The estimated time for the wiper motor repair was an hour and a half.  One hour and 40 minutes later, the service guy came into the waiting room and handed me the paperwork and said the car was outside ready to go.  The paperwork explained the diagnostics, which was basically: 

The car is a 2008 model with just a shade under 30,000 miles on it.  The factory warranty goes for 4 years and 50,000 miles.  The service department charged me nothing.  Zero balance at the bottom of the form, just the diagnostic information.  And THEY WASHED THE CAR before giving it back to me. 

Now I still have a fundamental distrust of a system where the same people who manufacture something are the only ones who can provide proper maintainence on it; it creates financial incentives to not create good products.  But I have to say that I really really like Harper Volkswagen; both their sales and service departments.  (When car-shopping last June we did stop by there and check out their new diesel Jettas.  We found their sales department keen and attentive but not pushy.)  I do also know from other channels that they treat their employees very well.  The service department isn't open on weekends, which is annoying for me but great for them.  And I know because I've scheduled service there around the holidays the owners throw a huge sit-down dinner for all the staff right around Christmas (or maybe it was Thanksgiving).  

And because I like pretty pictures of cars, here are a couple:

My vintage Beetle in the garage pushed up against the work bench because I worked on the engine over the weekend.  The car in the foreground is my wife's car; her work is delayed today.  The temp in the garage is about 40 degrees F; glad I got in a bunch of work over the weekend. 

My New Beetle (with newly working windshield wipers--yay!) out in the snow. 

on a pedestal

2010 February 24 04:16

Finishing up the engine compartment of my Beetle.  I thought I'd mention the generator pedestal.  In thinking forward, I decided to install an alternator pedestal that will still hold the generator that I'm using but I'll be able to much more easily swap in an alternator down the road. 

Here's the difference between the generator and the alterator pedestal.  The generator pedestal on the right has the area highlighted that's a cutout in the alternator pedestal on the left.


Here's a side view of a vintage VW-style alternator:

The red line shows the bottom-most part of a generator, which is a pure cylinder.  The green line shows the part of the generator that protrudes down into the space that is cut out on an  alternator pedestal.

Here's the pedestal in the car.  The part that sticks up to the right is where the oil filler assembly goes, which contains the connections to the air intake for vacuuming off the crankcase pressure and the road draft tube.


The filler assembly is held on the pedestal by a somewhat unique nut.  It's hollow in the center because that's how the oil gets inot the engine when you put it in the fill opening.

Here's the tool that's used to tighten and loosen the oil filler assembly nut.

The oil filler assembly is outlined in green.  The road draft tube is highlighted in red.

A shot down the oil fill opening.  You can clearly see the round nut that holds the oil filler in.  You can see that I added two new notches to it to make the tool grab better. 

All assembled!

Belt on, all done for the evening!

also tank prep

2010 February 23 13:27

I also worked on tank prep over the weekend.  Last year I removed and sealed my gas tank, in hopes of eliminating cruddy stuff coming from inside the tank and getting rid of gas vapors.  The sealant is great, but in the process of applying it some of it got on the outside of the tank, including the area where the tank sump seals against, as shown here:

First I scraped off the bulk of the stuff with an Xacto knife

Then I sanded the area to smooth a flat spot for the sump plug to seat against

While I was working on this, I also got into the tank with scrapers and removed the carcass of the old tank screen seal

Between the sanding and getting the bits of old cork off the inlet pipe, I ended up with a bunch of small fragments of stuff and sand and grit in the tank, that I could hear moving around.  It's like a box puzzle; you have this box with all this stuff trying to tilt it so it comes out the one hole in the bottom of the sump.  Well...after a while I decided I was doing it wrong, so I sprayed water into the tank to wash the stuff out...which meant I needed to dry the tank.  First with the shop vac

(Since this is a classy blog I will not make any jokes referencing "Mega-maid").

Then finally drying the tank in the sun by taping a (running) hair dryer on the inlet port and putting the roll of duct tape partially over the sender hole to restrict exit flow.

Stay tuned for pictures of generator/alternator pedestals.

a pipe wrench and a place to stand

2010 February 23 05:10

I spent most of the weekend working on the Beetle.  The only reason my wife didn't kick me out was the Olympics were on.

A brief summary follows:

I worked on cutting out gaskets old-school style (with an Xacto knife).  The sockets are there to provide inner-circle templates:


When I assembled the engine, I had problems with intake manifolds fitting.  Since this weekend was the first warm weather we've had in months, I collected together the manifold center sections I had and tried them all for fit.

Here's the problem.  The manifold bolts to the cylinder heads at the sides of the engine to deliver air/fuel charge.  But there's a riser tube that takes a small amount of exhaust and heats the intake manifold to act against carburetor icinng and promotes fuel vaporization.  I've highlighted the riser with green dots.  The ends of heat riser bolt to the muffler, so the manifold/heads, muffler/heads, and manifold/muffler becomes a three-way all-fits-all problem. 

In this example, the original intake manifold that came on the car, as installed above, the right head riser flange fits properly

but the left side does not.  Here you can see that it doesn't go to the correct depth


AND the screw holes don't line up

I searched for fit problems in mufflers and intake manifolds on TheSamba, and the answer was yeah, they're like that, you just bend them into place.  I found that an 18-inch pipe wrench makes a fair bending tool:

working on car (part of web site)

2010 February 06 17:15

The weather here is crappy and cold.  I could work in the garage but it would just be annoying.

I've restored a bunch of the old craigsteffen.net, though.  If you're looking for a post in the old blog with photos, the individual links don't work any more, but the monthly archive pages are back up.

I've also resumed trying to catch up on the pages about my vintage beetle.   Before, I'd been assembling the pictures and the generating the text when the pictures were done.  However, digging through and editing pictures is the sort of job that works best when you can take a big chunk of time and do it, which means that I don't get to work on it very often.  So instead, I've been typing in the text on all the pages, so that the narrative will be there, and then I can go fill in the pictures later.  The page I've been typing on most recently is the story leading up to and through the top-end rebuild of my engine, which is technically done but the car isn't back on the road yet.

in two years

2010 February 01 13:34

I don't talk a lot about football here, but 'tis the season.  The Indianapolis Colts, of whom I'm a big fan, play in their second Superbowl in recent years this coming Sunday.

Along with my morning news reading, I ran across an interesting article about  Jim Irsay, the owner of the Colts who inherited the position from his father, who had moved the team from Baltimore. 

An interesting tidbit of information that you don't often get ahead of time--the superbowl in two years, Super Bowl XLI, on February 5, 2012, will be held in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.