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

may be a light at the end of the tunnel

2010 March 28 22:39

I'm going to have to take back a few things from my last post about my vintage beetle.  The fuel pipe through the center of the body is fine.  The fuel tank is fine, as is its strainer.  The car wasn't getting gas because there was apparently a kink in the hose that attaches to the bottom of the tank and comes out down underneath the car.

I checked all kinds of causes, then realized that fuel wasn't coming out of the hose from the tank.  I lifted the tank up, and I got fuel again.  Apparently the hose was pinched or twisted in such a way that it blocked the fuel from flowing.  I don't know why fuel flowed and then not, but the mystery is solve.  

The tank lifted partway out and setting in a piece of wood

My solution was quick and dirty, and I think effective Here's a view into the cavity below the tank.  The green arrow points to the round hole where I think the fuel hose is supposed to go.  But I couldn't make it work.  I took the hose down into the between-wheels cavity by a different route, a structural hole nearer the right wheel (red arrow).

Everthing all back together right below the tank; I have a clamp on the fuel line while I'm checking all the connections again.  I got that clamp at the "Axeman" store in Minneapolis.  They're awesome for quickly clamping fuel hoses!  

The engine running from its own fuel tank for the first time since July 2008.  Yay!

The fuel gauge with less than 4 but more than 2 gallons of gas in the tank.  

Lots remains to be done:

Although I was finally able to get a stable idle, the engine ran like crap, with a very unstable idle.  The carb, even having had the throttle shaft rebushed, leaked significantly around the throttle shaft.  The engine didn't respond at all well to the tuning screws on the left side of the carb.  And I could entirely cover the openings to the air cleaner and the car ran faster (a sure sign of air intake leaks).  

The fuel vent system is still decomissioned.  

And then I need to deal with stuff like the brakes, which need fluid replaced, bleeding, and adjusting.

"No Hyperdrive?" "It's not my fault!"

2010 March 28 15:11

The engine's in my vintage beetle.  It's working and running fine (aside from there being no gasoline in it).

The fuel tank is in, it's in great condition.  It seals really well, which tells me that it wasn't sealing at all well before.  Which is good news.  The sealing process went very well and all the expansion chambers and vapor lines and stuff in the front of the car are sealed and working well.

HOWEVER...There are now two other problems with the car.  

1)  First, the vent problem.  I suspect, now, that the vent system (that allows gasoline vapors from the fuel tank in the front to escape to be absorbed in a charcoal canister at the back) has been blocked in the car for a long time.  The tank and expansion chambers in the front leaked enough that the tank never pressurized, so I didn't notice the vents not working (although I did notice the slight gas smell, which is what this is all about).  (In fact, some of the leaks in the front system were probably initially caused by the vents becoming blocked).  

Between the expansion chamber outlet vent at the right front port of the gas expansion chamber (just above the glove box), there are four sections of metal vent line that eventually connect to the charcoal canister in the back of the right rear fender.  One metal line goes across the top of the luggage compartment to the left side, right over the fuse box (for those of you who work on vintage beetles, this is the one that's always getting in the way when you're working on the air box at the top of the luggage compartment).  Then a flexible line runs down the left side of the luggage compartment and disappears under the edge of the gas tank.  Somewhere down there it connects to another rigid line that ends up under the back of the right front fender.  A very small fuel hose there makes the right-angle turn to join the rigid line that runs the length of the body to the front of the right rear fender. There's another short hose there that joins the last rigid line that arches inside the fender body and ends up close to the charcoal canister.

Working from back to front: the line that runs over the rear fender has a blockage near the front of the fender; this one should be easy to fix.  The blockage is probably in some of the right angle turns as the line makes the transition to horizontal under the body.  At the worst, I can cut the line inside the fender and run a slightly longer hose.

The horizontal line that runs through the body is clear (yay!).

There's a blockage somewhere the front two metal lines, or perhaps in the fairly long flexible line that joins them.  I haven't tracked those down yet.

2) The second problem, which just cropped up today: The fuel delivery line that runs through the tunnel appears to be blocked.  Argh, and also bugger.  The irritating thing is that it's probably entirely my fault.  The key thing about gasoline is that it's fairly volatile and fairly chemically reactive.  It's only stable for a few months before it starts to break down; it breaks down much more quickly when it's exposed to oxygen.  The three winters the car sat, the fuel tube through the center of the car wasn't a problem...but that's because in all previous instances, that fuel tube was full of fuel and thus didn't have any contact to the outside air.  

Unfortunately, when I drained and pulled the fuel tank (in July or something this last year) I left the fuel tube plugged at the back, but when I disconnected the tank in the front, I left the tube open to the air.  Which meant that starting in July, and going through a couple of weeks ago when I hooked the fuel system back up, that the worst-case scenario existed--a chamber, plugged at one end and open at the other, filled with non-stabilized gasoline.  That meant that it would cycle air in and out as the temperature changed, bringing fresh oxygen, and allowing the more volatile parts of the gasoline to evaporate, leaving behind the cruddy stuff that was then free to oxidize and get nasty and stick to the insides of the fuel tube.

So now I'm reaping the rewards for that carelessness.  I now have a car that runs, a fuel tank that holds fuel, but no way to get gas to the engine.  Enough fuel got through that I was able to start and run the engine, but then apparently it blocked.  Because I vaguely knew that the tunnel fuel tube would be a problem, I put fuel system cleaner in the gasoline that I was putting in the car.  There may have been a partial blockage, and the cleaner dislodged enough cruddy stuff that it all piled together and got stock farther downstream at a partial blockage.  Or something like that.  

So on a weekend that I was planning to be recommissioning the car and possibly driving it a little on the road...I'm fixing things again.

fuel tank in

2010 March 27 05:18

Fuel tank is in my vintage beetle.  It seals really well, which is good.  I now know that it didn't before.  I also know that the venting system is blocked.  :-(

Tank in:


Fuel filter installed in front (and all new hoses)

And another at the back, between the tunnel hard line and the engine.

The Superbeetle fuel level sender has two floats, and is kind of tricky to get in through its hole in the tank, but after a little fiddling, I got it.

The engine all ready to go! 

never done, but running at least

2010 March 26 12:35

I've said it before, and I'll say it again--a vintage car is never, NEVER done.  You may think it's done, but then you'll find something else that needs to be fixed or something else that needs to be done or something else that breaks. 

Sunday night, I had the new carburetor assembled.  Which was a temporary situation, as it turned out.   Later in the week, I went to re-assemble it, the rear stud just turned out of the carb body.  What's more, it turns out that the hole was pretty much stripped out.  So I ended up having to enlarge the strip out the hole completely

and remove enough material for this other (unused) vacuum flange 

that I could get the stud and a nut in there.  

Here's a nut and the stud, assembled as it if was a bolt.  Note that this is the first time I've ever used red Lock-tight.  

Which, finally, installed in a reasonable manner.  The improvised bolt/stud is highlighted.


Now on to finishing the fuel system.  One thing you rarely get to do is see the level of the gas gauge when there is NO fuel in the tank.  Here's mine.  First, the resting point of the gauge with the ignition off:

You can just see the needle over to the left.

And here's the gauge with the ignition having been on for a minute or two.  Right on the line!

  Keep in mind, there is only air in the tank at this point, so this is the very very lowest that the gauge can ever read when it's active.  

Oh, and the car starts now, taking fuel from its own tank.  Getting the tank venting correct is the subject of a (hopefully soon) future blog post.

sleep now, but...

2010 March 22 05:40

It's time to sleep now.  But for those very few of you who are interested in the latest...

The fuel system is all put together on my vintage beetle.  I ran out of hose clamps.  

I have a carb ready to go in the car to start it.  At this point in the project, if this was being shown as a movie,  the background soundtrack would be something like "Thus Spake Zarathustra".

So engine start with fuel being drawn from the car's own tank in the next few days. 

where were we?

2010 March 02 04:47

Over this winter I've been trying to finish things up on my Beetle.  I'd had the engine out for top-end repairs, which ended up forcing the issue of getting an intake manifold that was in reasonable shape and fit.  That's done, and the engine is together with the exception of some of the cooling tin around the back of the engine, and the carb and air cleaner.

And I had the gas tank out to clean and seal it.  That's done, now it's just a matter of getting it back in and  getting all the tank vent stuff connected up right.  Recently, I finally put a new screen in the tank over the outlet

and the sump plug is finally in, hopefully for quite some time.


I've had some problems with the stock air cleaner on the car, which I'm going to go into some other time when I can post pics.  I've also had problems with carburetors.  They tend to be worn and leak around the throttle shaft.  I did score a really nice one on ebay, that's been all polished up and cleaned.  During the olympics Saturday, I set up in the living room to use a dial indicator to measure the slop in the shaft of a known good carburetor and the nice shiny one.  

Well--the shiny carb had a slop in the throttle shaft of like .010, or ten thousanths.  It had more slop than the carb that the car came with, which definitely leaks air around that shaft.   

SO--I'm sending those two carbs off to get refurbished.  And meanwhile, I'm finishing the fuel line re-installation.  If I finish with the other stuff and want to run the car, I'll put on the carburetor I'd been running it with before.  It's fine, but I won't worry about adjusting too finely because it's going to hunt at idle somewhat because of the air leak.  

So far, I have a good record having the car ready for the spring:

In the spring of 2007, I had the car back together from replacing the starter.

Spring 2008, I had the wheels all back together from doing the wheel bearings and replacing the brakes and drums.

Spring 2009 was the bad year; I was putting the engine back together in January of February, and I discovered the cylinder had a big crack around it.  

So I'm hoping that by the time the weather's nice and the salt's been washed off the road, the car will be ready to travel.