Wednesday, September 21, 2011

And fate spits in my face...

Remember my last post? Remember when I told you the Vanagon was done? Well, apparently it's not. Or is it?

Let me explain. I finally got it all back together after working on it most of the summer. I was ready to do a few touch-ups on the Legacy and the Impreza and then finally get back to working on the 220D. I am MercedesDieselGuy, after all. The W115 needs to factor into this somehow.

I took the Vanagon out for its first drive a few weeks ago. I did a 30 mile loop on a local highway, at highway speed (65 MPH). All went well.

The following weekend I was busy working on the Subaru (this would have been Sunday, September 11), and needed to go somewhere in the evening. The Subaru was coated in wet Miracle Paint, so I opted to take the Vanagon. It was a 120 mile round trip. On the way out, I didn't really have any problems. I parked the van for a few hours, went to the September 11 evening service at my church, and then headed back home around 9 PM.

Around 30 miles into the return trip, out on the MassPike, in an area where it's completely unlit... the oil pressure monitor light started blinking and buzzing. Knowing this meant serious business, I pulled over instantly and shut the engine off.

I checked the oil with the help of my flashlight. The crankcase was still full. The oil seals I'd replaced were holding and the engine was dry on top and below. Cautiously, I started the engine again. All sounded good and looked good - no more warning light. Thinking I had a possible false alarm, I decided to chance the return trip home. All went well for the next 25 miles or so, until I got to my exit. As I pulled off the Pike, the light started blinking again. I found that if I blipped the throttle, the light went out. This suggested the new sensor (replaced 200 miles previously with the oil seals) was alive and functioning, and that I had a real oil pressure problem.

As soon as I got home (under my own power, in case you were wondering), I hit Google and tried to make sense of the situation. One possible culprit was the cheap oil filter I was using (and had always used) causing a restriction and thus, a pressure drop. I did a video of me thinking out loud to help with diagnosis:

...and another:

So, I decided to try a couple of things. I ordered a couple of the correct German oil filters and decided to do another oil change, as well as plumb in an oil pressure gauge. Due to the distance from the dash to the engine, I opted for an electric gauge. It took some doing, but I did find one in my price range locally. So, last weekend, I installed it (though I do need to finish up the installation):

Without a tachometer, the test was promising, but not conclusive. So, next weekend I'll be adding a tachometer. Hopefully, I'll be able to confirm the engine is OK.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Vanagon done, other stuff, and what's next

Since my last blog post, I was actually able to finish work on the Vanagon. Overall, it shouldn't have taken this long to get it done, but life has a way of interfering with my free time. What, specifically, you ask?

First off, the Subaru's alternator failed on me:

and I fixed it:

and the bearing in the new one went bad two weeks later, necessitating another replacement:

Oh, and there was Hurricane (err... Tropical Storm, that is) Irene:

Plus there's the usual routine maintenance around the house and on the cars, as well as my day job to keep me busy.

So, this weekend, I finally got the van together and was able to take it out for a good 30 miles. I ran some fuel injector cleaner through it and it's purring like a kitten now:

I can't convey with pictures how much cleaner it is inside and out. Even before all the work, it photographed pretty well, even when dirty. You'll just need to take my word that this is actually a major improvement. The looks now approximate the way they were when I was regularly taking the Vanagon to shows years ago. Mechanically, it's pretty much there, too.

Here's a walkaround:

I'm happy. I hope to still make it to a show or two this year. Now that the van is done, I plan to take care of a few bodywork-related items on the Legacy and my wife's Impreza (rust spots). Once the Subarus are done and ready for the winter, I'm going to start back in on the Mercedes 220D.

It's been a couple of months since I touched it, and I'm eager to get back to working on it.