Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Delayed by a major breakdown...

Apologies to anyone who's been reading in the past six weeks looking for updates on my regular projects. I really haven't touched the Vanagon or the 240D since early April. I've been busy with the Legacy.

Right around the time of my last blog post, the Legacy started running poorly and throwing a P0302 trouble code. I threw a few parts at the car, hoping it would be a simple fix (spark plugs, wires, a new coil, and finally, a fuel injector). None of this changed how the car ran, and no matter how many times I reset it, the code kept coming back.

So, after throwing money down the drain on non-returnable parts I didn't need, I did what I should have done in the first place - I ran a compression test:

The results were conclusive, showing low compression in cylinder 2 as the cause of the misfire. From the specifics of the test, it looked like a burned exhaust valve or a worn valve guide was likely the cause of the problem. So, after some brief soul-searching, I decided to go ahead and repair the car. The clearest path to that goal was replacing the cylinder head. Learning how to do that was enough without having to learn how to rebuild it myself.

I ordered a rebuilt cylinder head from F&S Auto Parts in Roxbury, CT, who I found highly recommended on several Subaru message boards. They rebuild cylinder heads to order, so I had to wait a little over a week for the part. In that time, I did something I hate to do - I commuted to work by train. Frankly, it's crowded, overpriced, uncomfortable, and the schedule is horrible. But, at least I was able to get to work.

For a while, I felt like an urban redneck. I had three cars at home, none of which I could drive. Finally, my cylinder head arrived, but not without difficulty. Let me paint a picture for you...

It was a sunny Saturday morning, around 11 AM. I was home, and, anticipating the arrival of the cylinder head, I went to look out the front door to see if the local mail carrier was on our street yet. I saw no sign of the mail truck, but found the day's mail in the mailbox, along with an attempted delivery notice indicating for my cylinder head. I needed the part, and in a panic, tried calling the post office (I got no answer). Not knowing what else to do, I started searching the neighborhood in my wife's car, looking for the mail carrier. I found a succession of trucks and carriers, none of whom were my mail carrier, but who were all helpful. Finally, one of them directed me to a street around a half mile away from my house, where I found another truck. I waited like a madman (as politely as I could) for the carrier to return. When she did, I was happy to find that she had the cylinder head, and was happy to let me have it just so long as I signed the delivery notice.

My prize in hand, I sped back to the house and started tearing into the Legacy. By the end of the day, I had the intake manifold off. By the end of the weekend, the new cylinder head was installed, but the engine wasn't buttoned-up yet. By the middle of that week, I had the car back on the road, running better than it ever had since I bought it.

So, on top of that, another weekend that I was horribly sick, and this past weekend, when I replaced a CV axle on my wife's car:
...I haven't had any time for the Vanagon.

But, I've budgeted most of the upcoming long weekend to wrench on the van. I am still planning on having it back on the road for the summer.