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Category: Volkswagen

King Benny on the Bus

Kat riding the bus

"You should spend more time with your girlfriend, instead of that bus."

Mmm, Blood

It's not really that deep, but I thought it looked pretty cool. Was lining up some parts on the Veedub this afternoon, but my hand slipped. Dabbed on some expired (2008) liquid bandage, taped it up, and crawled underneath the bus to pry out the exhaust gaskets on the heads.

My dad walked in the garage and asked what I was doing and why I was underneath it. He said something like, ayan bulok kasi kotse mo (that's what you get for getting a shitty car). I chuckle to myself, and he says "Mag-ingat ka diyan, baka mag-earthquake" (Take care underneath, there might be an earthquake). Lima-Oscar-Lima.


The weather was incredible today, so Kat and I celebrated by taking the Vespa out on errands and caught 10,000 miles on the odometer en route to Topanga. We headed out to Lowes to pickup various stainless metric nuts and bolts for the exhaust re-install. I am still missing a few pieces, but hopefully it will come together nicely. Hopefully.

While crawling underneath the bus this afternoon, I realized that there's something wrong with the thermostat. The cable that connects it to the air control flaps is cut, and the thermostat is expanded, which I would have never known had I not spent a bazillion hours on the vee-dub forums and 16 tabs open simultaneously on Google Chrome at any given moment. Also, I have a very uneasy feeling that the air control flaps are missing. I might have to take more apart to verify it, but I think I need to take things one step at a time before I get ahead of myself. Tomorrow I am going to dremel out a frozen bolt on the muffler strap. All of this is making me nervous.

Up in Smoke

I finally got around to disassembling the exhaust system of the bus, with the intention of boiling out and refurbishing the heat exchangers. It took me two beers and a few hours of squirming underneath the bus to get the (really) tight bolts out of the way and I got the muffler and exhaust system out eventually, sans three bolts. I dropped off the pipes at this place called L&M Stripping, which will strip out the rust, gunk, and the burnt oil residue that coats the inner walls of the heater boxes that my lucky passengers are inhaling if I choose to operate the heater. Hopefully it goes well. The next stop is getting them hi-temp ceramic coated. I'm scurred of putting everything back together, especially from what I read about exhaust leaks. I don't really know my way around cars - with the Bentley guide as my bible, I just hacked at it with my socket wrench and put my faith in bahala na si Batman. Hopefully it goes well!


Vanessa is sitting in the garage on jack stands, ass in the air, without her rear wheels.

Rudy came over and hooked me up with a floor jack, and jack stands, even though I picked up a used set on Craigslist a few days ago. Since the clearance of the bus is so high, the 2-ton jack and stands I got would not even raise the bus an inch!

I got as far as removing two pieces of engine tin, and was working on loosening up some more bolts with the ratchet when the socket adapter blew out on me and essentially made me dead in the water. Not a big deal, since we already knew that I needed a 12/13mm wrench to take out the heat exchanger boxes completely anyway. Them nuts look rusted pretty tight.

I'm a complete mechanical n00b. The most exciting thing I've done is change a flat tire, second to replacing a valve cover gasket (which failed miserably and continued to drip oil on the exchangers). Somehow, I hope this would change slowly. As long as it doesn't kill me, I'm good with that. Which is also a good reason (staying alive) I'm looking over the heating system - remember kids, carbon monoxide is a silent and odorless killer!

The cashier was finishing up with a customer as I opened the door of the gas station mini-mart. "Can you turn on the air for me?", as he gave the lady her change. "I can't. I don't have a remote to turn it on.". What a liar, I thought to myself, and hung around till the lady left so I can pump some air into the soft tires of the '79 bus. "What about some tokens for the machine?", but "None" was the reply. Lie. So I look him straight in the eye and tell him "It's California law that your gas station needs to provide free air to paying customers."

Anyway, he confirms that I had indeed just pumped some gas on station 4, and hands me two tokens. That's right, beeyatch! So I smugly walk over to the air/water station, plunk in the change, and the machine whirs happily.

HEY 1979!
Vanessa's Ass.

I plug the hose into the stem valve... and nothing happens. It's broken.


Vanessa's New Rug

Paul and Kat's new living room accessory. He he he.

Pretty darn productive this weekend. Laid down the foundations and revamped Paul and Kat.com. Installed WordPress, that stuff is pretty powerful and slick! I might convert to a WP setup in the future and junk all this Blogger madness. I still need to debug against older browsers (i.e. I hate you IE 6.0), and start broadcasting our offerings of custom buttons and our upcoming 'Make Your Own Fan Club' shenanigan.

I also replaced Vanessa's valve cover gasket, to remedy the small leak on the passenger side valve cover. It was pretty exciting since it's the first time I've really opened anything of importance in the bus, even though it's just a simple gasket replacement.

Valve Cover

The mechanic used some yellow adhesive to afix the old gasket, which was an official PITA to remove. Took me some good elbow grease to get the mating surface clean and slathered on a thin coat of number 2 permatex gasket sealant to fix that puppy. While crawling under the bus my left shoulder started complaining, and I felt its weakness from last year's dislocation accident due to unwarranted hand-stand-walking in a parking lot. Ahh, the bragging rights you earn when you get old!

Spent many hours on VW forums the past few nights, to read up about Vanessa's intermittent smoke problem. My mechanic said it was being caused by all the crud on the heat exchangers, which was being burned off since hot air was now going through c/o of the alternator fan. He said it would eventually burn out, but I wanted to take matters into my own hands. I doused the right heat exchanger with Simple Green before dinner, but it seemed useless, so I came back with a toothbrush and some 409 degreaser - that stuff works wonders! Just a little dab and a scrub from the brush took out years of accumulated oil and grime, and I was kinda surprised it went down to the bare metal surface in some areas. I might add that twilight surgery is not very efficient, so I might do another session on a sunny day. Had I left that junk as is, there would have be no way for all that crap to burn out by itself. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, since the burning smoke made its way into the cabin through the heat vents and almost killed Peter Pan. Sayang.

Paul and Vanessa, April 2008. Photo by Kat :)

So I guess the yearender story is long overdue. Original plans were to take Vanessa out to Death Valley two days after Christmas, with Nickel the boy wonder in tow. Fresh from the mechanic with a brand spanky new starter and solenoid, we had unwavering confidence that the veedub would roar into life bravely after each slumber, and putter along merrily into the depths of the desert. And for the first night, it did!

It is widely known that the design of the VW type-2 Bus is most conducive to fun paced slacking rather than picking up the slack against soccer moms with 205hp Porsche SUVs on the highway. So the Vanessa Adventure Team (Paul, Kat, Nickel) found themselves two hours late, with the waning winter sunlight, outside of the park and decided to camp it out at this place called Walker Pass. Elevation: 5,000 feet. Probably not a good idea, but for all not-so-good ideas, great adventures are to be made and unforgettable stories to be told!

Hunger was averted when we barely had enough propane/butane fuel to boil water just to make two cups of noodles. Not only due to the lack of fuel, but to the damn cold.
It was literally freezing! The morning after, we discover that our water turned into a solid block of ice. Nickel's water bowl was frozen solid. All our knees were shakin'!

The pit toilets were quite interesting too. The mens pit toilet told stories of an unfortunate camper's bout with explosive diarrhea. I was curious about the women's toilet, which I would've used if it were marginally cleaner. No dinero - some (most probably heavy-set) lady missed the hole and landed a massive chunk of brownie the size of a bigmac right on the toilet hinge. I kid you not, but I reeked for a full 15 minutes after subjecting myself for a mere 15 seconds in that hellhole. Imagine what that would smell like in the heat of summer? Yumm.

The next morning, we packed our gear as fast as we could to get the hell out of there. And so Vanessa tried to wake up. And tried. And stopped trying.

We spend another half hour waiting for the sun to come out and took turns underneath the car poking fun at the starter and solenoid for it to magically cough up its troubles and grant our wishes. And, just like the randomness of winning the lottery, the engine roared into life! Crawl underneath the bus count = 1. Start the bus count = 1. As long as the crawl count was equal to, or less than the start count, we were good.

Well, as the trip progressed we eventually came up to an impressive count of 5, 5, when we were dealt with a joker card. In the outskirts of Zabriskie Point, the fuel pump started coughing up and the engine would wheeze like a suffocating fish before finally shuddering into a dead heap of metal. To make the long story short, we again played our chances fiddling with the innards and at least got the engine fired up, and running. The bus would randomly shudder through the rest of the abort journey back home, but the crew was all brave and ignored our worst-case-scenario fears of engine explosion and "by the way the fire extinguisher is expired" thoughts. What a day! Saga will be continued...

Vanessa waiting in the rain

The van has been at the mechanic lately, and I've been paying her frequent visits as I start procuring various parts (tuneup, and emission).

Some new gifts care of Diamond Auto Parts:
Spark plugs
Oil and air filters
Oil pressure switch
EGR valve
EGR filter

They start work on her tomorrow. I hope she starts to feel better, since we have a long exciting adventure waiting after Christmas :)

I've been on the road since Friday night, shuttling through different cities each day.

  • Saturday: Las Vegas, NV
    Touch-up of rental property with my brother-in-law, sister, and nieces. We brought Nickel with us, who apparently tinkled a bit on the carpet. Naughty dog!
  • Sunday: Big Bear, CA
    Went snowboarding with GP, and worked on my wipeout skills on my goofy footing. Tested the new gear I got at Skidazzle (board, boots, bindings). It might've been fatigue, but the board I thought was orange apparently turns pink under the sun. Hot!!!
  • Monday: Fremont, CA
    Took a morning Southwest flight up to see Kat, and headed to the Amtrak train station for the Coast Starlight Express train up to Oakland, and overnight (17 hours?) to Eugene.
  • Tuesday: Eugene, Oregon
    Met Kathy and Don, who graciously showed us the 1979 Volkswagen Transporter van we spotted on Craigslist. Body is really solid, a few minor issues but initial impressions were good and solid. Before they could even drop us off a Chinese restaurant to mull over the decision making, Kat and I jumped the gun and told them to head straight to the bank because their van was as good as sold! Took a break in a local pizza joint, and braved the 9 hour drive back down to NorCal. I must admit that it's very weird to process the fact that I was 9 hours north of SF, when I normally take the 6 hour commute heading north towards SF. It must've been a pretty drive, but we were blanketed by darkness and the occasional fog around the mountains.
  • Wednesday: Fremont, CA
    Now I'm knee deep in researching about DMV red tape, and knick knacks to clean up and take care of for the van. First in order is to get registration, insurance, and tune-up the engine to pass emissions. CA law is the strictest on emissions, and is required for vehicles made after 1975. I need to find a mechanic!

And so here she is, ladies and gentlemen. You can be assured that we will have more pictures of her to come :)




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