I call this an adventure because it was really more than a trip. A trip involves simply getting in your car, fueling up, and getting there. This is a tale of high stakes, deciet, drugs, and sleazy women…ok, maybe some of that is incorrect, but it was fairly crazy none the less. Follow along as I tell a tale which nobody(ok, probably every classic VW owner) has ever heard before. It all began on lonely dark evening in Josh and Bethany’s garage…
The evening before taking off for home I headed of to Josh and Bethany’s at 6 PM to once again abuse their hospitality and tools. There was a strange noise happening whenever I pushed my clutch in, and The Samba said it was most likely my throwout bearing. My best friend, Jordan, had flown in the previous night to drive back with me, so he came with. After we pulled the engine out we sat staring into the transmission for a moment.
The clips that hold the throwout bearing in place were gone! Ok, in that picture there is no throwout bearing either, but it was there, I promise.
We found these two lonely splinters of metal sitting on the bottom of the housing.
Seeing as I did not have any replacements, nor did Josh, we(and by we I mean Josh) started calling around trying to find someone with spare clips. Eventually Josh found some(Sean maybe? Thanks whoever you are, I owe you a drink) and Bethany stopped by and picked them up on her way home from the Chicken Run.
While we were waiting for Bethany, Josh got anal(Oops, I said Josh and anal in the same sentence!) about my coil being upside down and wanted me to turn it around. Someone had hacked a hole where the top screw goes in the shape of a square, then used a square nut sitting in the hole to hold the coil. It came out while I was unscrewing the coil. Josh wanted to put a washer or something on it to help is stay better, and in doing so he accidentally dropped it down inside the tin. So we had to take the tin off to retrieve the nut. Though it was a bummer, it was also kinda nice cause I got to see and ask questions about what I saw. We actually found 2 bolts, 3 washers, and 1 nut down there already.
As Josh was trying to get the tin back on Bethany drove up with the new clips. Apparently us three guys are retarded cause we couldn’t get the tin to sit right and she just dropped it right in the first try. Back to working on the throwout bearing. By now the time was around 8 PM. Jordan and Josh were fiddling with something on the motor while I was putting the clips in. The right clip was really loose can kept falling out. I tried to get it to clamp tighter, but eventually Josh just took a hammer to it cause it wouldn’t bend with pliers. Finally we got it all in and happy and started putting the engine back in.
We got the engine all back in happily and started hooking stuff back together when we ran into another snag. My fuel line was old and dry. We hoped to stick it back on and be good for the drive home, but it wasn’t destined to be as easy as that. The line cracked every time we tried to put it on the fuel filter.
By now it was 10 PM and not auto stores were open, so Josh started calling Pilots again. He finally got a hold of Troy who was drunk off his rear in Boise. We dressed up in our ninja costumes, hit his dog with a tranquilizer, bound and gagged his wife, then smashed our way into his garage(Ok, maybe not, but Josh was wearing a ninja suit!), took the new line and booked it back to Josh’s. Josh and Jordan did a remarkable job of changing out the line. I doubt even two ounces of gas came out of the tank before the new line was on it. Jordan heated the new line up while Josh cut the old one off. The old line came off quicker than Josh anticipated so he has a finger plugging the hole. Somehow by feel Jordan managed to slip the new line past Josh’s finger and onto the tank without spilling anymore gas.
We were happy and set to go when Bethany came out and did not like how my distributer was sitting. Turns out what I thought was a vacuum leak was really my distributer about 90 degrees off. So she twisted it till she thought it looked about right then popped the cap off to line up the notch. Turns out there was no notch. No timing marks at all actually. At this point we were committed. We tried to find Top Dead Center, but instead I think we lined up 4. After a ton of fiddling and guesswork Josh and Bethany were both inside trying to find someone awake and Googling. I think James was still up at that point and Bethany picked his brain a bit. Now it was 1 AM. While they were inside Jordan stuck his finger in the #1 spark plug hole and had me bump the ignition. Did this a whole bunch of times till he was certain he was feeling correctly being pushed out and we managed to find TDC by static timing and a finger in the spark plug hole. Of course by this time the engine was completely flooded out and it took a good 15 minutes to get it to catch and fire. Boy was that a good sound to hear. After that we rotated the distributer back and forth trying to figure out the best timing. Finally around 2 AM we decided it was pretty close and rolled it back to campus. The next morning we packed the bus up and rolled out of town.
The first decent hill we came to dropped us from 55 to 35 in a half a second it seemed. We chugged our way to the top of the hill then got out and advanced the timing a little. We did this three times before getting through the first pass. I was amazed at how much quieter and smoother the bus seemed with timing closer to where it should be. I was even able to go a lot faster. I was able to get it up to 70mph and hold it there with no issues whatsoever.
Before we left both Jordan and I had stopped by Jack-n-the-Box and ordered their largest caffienated soda to help keep us awake. We needed to pee something fierce. Stopped at a rest area and took turns using the toilet. While I was using it Jordan took the bus for a spin to feel it, and adjusted the idle a bit. While I was waiting for him I checked my tires and guess what I found. The seal on the rear passenger side is in fact blown beyond any doubt.
When Jordan came back he mentioned that it was pulling when he applied brakes. It apparently was not enough for me to noticed over the normal squirelliness of a bus. After looking at that wheel I was more than confident he was right and sure enough, when I paid attention I could feel it. And it just kept getting worse as we went. By the time we got home it looked like that tire had a fresh coat of wax on it. Didn’t have a jack or the tools to change the seal with me(but I do have a spare in the cab!) so there was nothing else to do but roll on, so we did.
Later we stopped for gas. I thought a guy there was going to have a conniption, he was so excited to see a bus. I talked to him the whole time I filled up and tried to get him a Bus Pilots card, but he had driven away by the time I found them under the mess in my dash. I hopped back in, turned the key, and nothing happened. Sure, the electrical fired up, but I was more interested in the engine roaring to life. It seems that on long trips my starter stops starting. Jordan thought maybe the starter was too hot, but after we got home it was exactly like last time. Pull out the fuse, stick it back in, up she fires. Since the gas station was on an incline I popped the clutch in second, it fired up and we rolled. A few miles down the road we stopped and ate at Burger King. As we neared the bus to leave Jordan mentioned the high gas smell and popped the decklid to find gas dripping down into the engine compartment.
Turns out the automatic shutoff at the gas station hadn’t worked properly and over filled the tank. Since I was talking to the guy and not paying attention I had not noticed. Jordan rigged up a siphon with a water bottle and a small piece of hose laying in the back of the cab.
Still no go with the key so we pushed started it and were off again.
We stopped at the Apple store in Tigard so Jordan could pick up a part for his laptop. The bus was struggling to stay running so I sat in it the entire time he was in the shop. The Apple store in Tigard is in a very crowded shopping area. There were tons of people milling about and I cruised around the parking lot for a while, but found no place to park. I almost ran over this guy and took his spot.
As we were pulling up to the light we drove up at a fairly steep angle. My parking brake does not work so I had a hard time trying to keep the bus from dying and also not run into the car behind me. I was tense there for a couple minutes as Jordan laughed at my predicament. When the light finally turned green and I could go I breathed a huge sigh of relief and joined in the laughter. What a crazy trip it had been so far.
At milepost 51 I suddenly lost power. Pulled off to the side of the freeway. So close! We only needed to go to 68 to get to our exit! We hopped out and popped the decklid hoping it was an easy fix. Turns out the coil wire came off. Jordan pushed me along the side of the freeway(in the grass!), she fired back up and we kept on truckin. As it started getting dark I got a little nervous because I do not have a license light and I have been pulled over twice in my Mazda for that reason. I was still pretty confident until a trucker came past and let me know I did not have any rear lights at all. Dang it. In a state that likes to pull you over for not having any lights I knew I would be screwed. Exit 62 came up so I got off, and between Jordan and I we were able to navigate enough back roads that whenever we saw a car we could turn down a different road and get away from it.
Finally we made it! And check it out. Didn’t even loose much oil!
The next morning after unloading I took a picture in my driveway to show y’all that I made it safe and sound.
And now she is just sitting there looking awesome in my driveway while I am driving my Mazda waiting for a couple checks to come in. Before I get her back out on the road I want to redo the brakes, and fix up the timing. I got it to turn over again, but she won’t stay running without the gas down for longer than 3 seconds.
All in all it was a good trip. Got to hang out with my best friend whom I had not seen much since leaving for school, and the privilege of driving an old school VW Bus rocked. Since we were not in much of a hurry, not that you can be with a bus, we took it easy. Our stops probably totaled about an hour and a half, and our entire trip time came out to about 13 hours. That is 13 hours bus time. My Mazda does it in 7.5 hours.
I don’t want to end by saying Mazda, so VW Bus!
2 thoughts on “2009: Adventure Home”
Great write up Ben. It sounds like you and Jordan both earned your BPA wings on that trip. Congratulations on thinking through the issues you had on the road. So many times it is something simple that we overlook (coil wire for example.) Glad you made it home. We look forward to seeing you and your bus next semester.
That was awesome.