Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 - my car year in review

Sorry for the lack of updates recently. What little time I've had I've been spending updating the Youtube page. Now that we're a few days away from 2012, I thought I'd step back and look at 2011 in review, automotive-wise.

2011 was pretty eventful, all touched off by the events of October and November 2010. As you may remember, my 1994 Subaru quit on me in mid-October 2010, which I replaced a few weeks later with a 1990 Volkswagen Jetta GL diesel.

I started 2011 driving the Jetta. After taking care of a few repair items, I figured the car would be good to go. Unfortunately, more repairs kept creeping up faster than I could take care of them. Before long, I'd overhauled the car's suspension, did a bunch of rewiring, installed carpets, replaced the thermostat, the battery, installed new CV axles, and replaced the ever-breaking alternator belt more times than I can remember. Keep in mind that I had to do all this work outside during one of the worst winters in recent memory here in Massachusetts.

I'd say the car was killing me slowly, but the fact is the Jetta was making short work of my demise. Four short months later, I threw my hands up in defeat and sold the Jetta for what I could get out of it. Thankfully, I got almost all my money back, including the parts I put into it.

I'd say that the Jetta was off the road about as often as it was actually running. I ended up driving the Vanagon to work a lot last winter and took the train a lot, too. A funny thing happened, though, while I owned the Jetta. I posted a lot of my problems with the car to Youtube, and soon realized that people were watching. I decided to continue posting videos with my next car.

In early March I sold the Jetta. Just over 24 hours later, I was behind the wheel of its replacement, a 1995 Subaru Legacy:

It soon became clear that I'd overpaid a tad for the Subaru. Although it was advertised as a private sale, the seller turned out to be a small time dealer working out of the back of a dirty shop in a dirty corner of a dirty city. Still, I was low on options and decided to buy the car. It needed as much work as if not more than the Jetta. However, there was one advantage. After driving my old Subaru for four years, I knew practically ever nut and bolt on it, and I knew that if I fixed something, it'd stay fixed. Over the course of the year, I repaired the rear brake hard lines, replaced the front CV axles, the steering rack boots, the alternator, did a full tune-up including timing belt, and a lot more.

It may sound like the car was a total lemon, but the fact is that all the work was spread out over 20,000 miles of driving on a car that had 142,000 on it when I bought it. So, all in all, not too bad. Plus, I find Subarus to be very easy to fix. Long story short, I'm happy with it. Here's a few of my repair videos from this car:




Even though the Subaru needed a lot of little repairs over the course of the year, it was driveable pretty much all the time. I was able to confine most of the work to the weekends. As such, I was able to park the Vanagon and get to some lingering items that had crept up on me. First off, I had to repair a couple of minor oil leaks that added up to one big leak. Then, I had to take care of a long list of minor bodywork items. When all was said and done, it was early September, but I was very happy with the results:

However, as soon as I started driving it again, the oil pressure monitor started going crazy. At first, I thought it was just a faulty sensor. To be sure, I plumbed in an oil pressure gauge. It turns out I was wrong, though, and a month later, the engine quit on me:

The Vanagon's death left me with something of a dilemma. The van was my backup transportation - a necessity given the amount of miles I drive. I still had the Mercedes 220D, and realized that I didn't have the time, space, or money to keep two projects. Given my long history with the van, I decided to keep it and sell the Mercedes. Of course, the Mercedes hadn't been started in nearly two years and had been sitting in the garage while I worked on it bit by bit. So, the first thing I had to do was get the 220D running so I could move the Vanagon into dry storage and then sell the Benz:

I got the van into the garage and was eventually able to sell the Mercedes. Long term, I plan to replace the van's engine with a Subaru EJ22. Short term, I plan to add another Subaru to the stable as backup transportation.

So, 2012 will likely involve a lot of content around the yet-to-be next Subaru and planning for my Vanagon engine swap. When that's all done, I'll get myself another old diesel Mercedes... eventually.

Happy New Year, everyone! Make 2012 a good one!


  1. Hey bro, I hit you up on youtube just a minute ago. Again, the 220D videos are a life saver. I love my little HP starved beater..

  2. I just found you on youtube. My husband just bought me a 1990 Jetta Diesel, and we needed to replace the alternator. He is having trouble finding a diagram of the tensioner. Do you have any videos of what the tensioner on that looks like? We can get the pulley, but not a picture of the tensioner pulley arm. Was wondering if you had anything that we could actually see, or if you could explain what it looked like to us. I saw the video where you added the bearings, and we saw the new tensioner pulley before you put it on, but need just a little more. Many thanks if you could help us-this is the last piece of the puzzle and it is keeping me in a vehicle getting only ten miles per gallon-and I drive for work daily. The difference in mileage will be a blessing for us!

    1. Unfortunately, this was all a year ago and I don't have the car anymore. In my car (I had air conditioning and power steering - there were several different belt routing setups), the alternator belt tensioner was bolted to the bottom of the alternator bracket. It should be pretty self-explanatory. Best of luck.

  3. I saw your video on the Subaru motor mount check. Have you done a replace on these before. I was wondering how much of a job this would be on an Forester Wagon. Its a 2001. I was told that you just need to remove the Exhaust and Heads. Any guess?

    1. I didn't replace them. What I thought was loose mounts was actually the beginning stages of a misfire, eventually resulting in my replacing the cylinder head on that side. But, to do that, I had to release the mounts. Shouldn't be too bad a job to replace them. You probably should use a shop manual for the job, though, to be sure.