Monday, January 12, 2009

Insurance Update

Repairs on the Blue Meanie are just about wrapped up. This Wednesday I will be bringing it in to have the lower front fender and air charge (intercooler) shroud replaced.

I'm convinced there is an exhaust leak, which affects the turbocharger. Several times, I have noticed exhaust at the front passenger side of the vehicle immediately following a cold start. I also have not been able to hear the familiar whir and whistle of the turbocharger spooling up. Unfortunately, I don't have the tools necessary to check for vacuum leaks. This one will have to be left up to the shop. That's just as well, since it will end up being part of the insurance claim.

I still haven't been able to work on Casper, but I may have an opportunity this evening. Once the fuel injectors are rebuilt, my cold starting issues should go away. Following that, I think I will go ahead with the installation of a coolant heater.

Speaking of coolant heaters, I was finally able to finish the install for the Meanie. It sure is tight under the hood, but it does fit. I haven't yet hook it up, but I will likely take care of that this evening, as well.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Doh! A deer! A female deer!

On December 8th, Linnea ran over a dead deer in the Meanie. In the name of expediency, I shuffled the repair work off to a shop. Lessons:
  1. With one exception, I could have completed the work faster.
  2. Get an exceptionally good look at the damage before bringing it in to a shop - you should know more about your car than they do.
  3. Get an exceptionally good look at the completed repairs. In my case, they accidentally broke another non-vital part during repairs. Now they'll be paying to replace it.
  4. The automotive bailout is 100% lame. My rental was a 2008 Dodge Caliber, and it was terrible. I'd take our 2002 VW New Beetle or 1989 Audi 200TQ over it any day.
We're insured through State Farm, and I must admit they are on the ball. I'd asked the owner of a body shop to rate insurance companies for me once, and he placed State Farm at the very top. Progressive was at the very bottom.

In other news, I've decided to give the fuel injectors in the Audi a thorough going over. The parts cost $85 (rebuilt injectors would cost ~$250), and should arrive within the next few days.

The Audi was starting very hard in cold weather, and I found a reasonable explanation: carbon build-up on the injectors occurs over time (19 years in my case) and begins to act like a sponge. This behavior is more evident in cold weather. I would crank the starter for a while, flutter the gas pedal, and eventually give up. Returning to the problem 30-45 minutes later, the car would roar to a start with one turn of the key, choke, then die. The fuel which had been absorbed by the carbon deposits had vaporized in that amount of time, filling each cylinder. However, since the fuel delivery issue hadn't been addressed I'd be back where I started.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Great Success!

After many hours of wrestling with the stubborn heater box, I was able to extract it and get to the actual repairs. Popping in a new blower motor and heater core only ended up taking about 15 minutes, and most of that time spent on realigning the flaps to close the heater box.

Everything tested out fine. The blower motor kicked on nice and strong right away. Heat started pumping out as soon as the engine started warming up. Nice! However, before I can truly say I'm done I should really flush the coolant and refill the whole system for the new winter season.

Putting everything back together should go fast, and usually does. I think it took me about 1/3 the time to put things back together compared to the amount of time it took me to take it all apart.

One advantage to performing your own repairs is finding out what other people screwed up in the past. It's also really frustrating. I found electrical connectors that had been left disconnected, lights left out of their sockets, vents not properly connected, etc. Just by taking the time to work on this particular problem I was also able to:

  • reconnect the controls for the passenger seat heater
  • reinstall the ashtray light
  • reinstall the lighter light
  • optimize the routing of electrical cabling - it was a rats nest
  • properly install the trim paneling
  • properly connect two air vents
  • properly install the boot for the gear shifter
I'm also better set up to tackle some other nagging issues. Now I know how to remove the trim to gain access to a defective switch which tells me my parking brake is permanently engaged, how to access the wiring for the stereo, how to replace my windshield wipers, etc.

The biggest downside to performing your own repairs is knowing when you cut corners. I didn't have enough rubber foam for the heater core installation, so it's not tightly fit. I should have sealed some components with silicon sealant, but I didn't have any on hand. I should have flushed the system right away, but I just wanted to call it quits for the night.

The most important lesson I've learned this time is to pay close attention to whether or not electrical components should be reconnected prior to reinstalling them. I failed to hook the windshield wipers up, thinking I would still have enough space afterwards. I ended up having to pull them back off. Thankfully, I was only set back 5-10 minutes.

With all the work completed, it's worthy to note that the cold outside is so much better when it's warm inside.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Blower Motor and Heater Core

Winter is setting in, and I'd like to meet the cold with a little heat. Problem is, Casper's blower motor went out last spring.

I put off buying new parts until the weather began to turn. Once it was cold enough for my windows to be frosting over in the morning, it was evident enough that the $140 for a new blower motor and heater core would have to be forked. Over.

So why a new heater core? Well, getting to the blower motor inside the heater box on Casper is pain enough that the heater core may as well be replaced at the same time. It's going to burst eventually, so why not take care of it early on? That's better than having coolant seep into the foot wells. Thankfully, a heater core for Casper was only ~$35.

Today I spent several hours in pre-repair dismantling. The water box cover (don't ask me why they gave it such a nonsensical name), the windshield wiper assembly, the center console, and a few other pieces needed to be removed. For those, I was very glad to have the Bentley repair manual for my car. For the next steps, however... Let's just say that the four-inch thick manual was worthless.

In my past reading regarding this procedure, I had run across the SJM Autotechnik website, run by a helpful man named Scott who also posts on the Audi World forums. He lays out the information in a manner vastly superior to the Bentley repair manual on a page devoted to the disassembly of the heater box.

I ran out of time to finish on Sunday, but thankfully I have all day Monday. I have no choice but to be finished before Tuesday, as I need my car to get to work! I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Warranties and Helping Friends

Whew, close call.

The passenger side window regulator just busted in the Beetle. Thankfully, the window regulators are still warrantied until January 4th, 2009. Now I need to call up VW and arrange warranty services. Methinks I will need to set aside a day to drive the car to the authorized dealership in Fargo.

In other news, I (somewhat) helped a friend troubleshoot his car problem today. His 1999 Chevy Blazer started once and quickly died. He wasn't quite sure where to start, which surprised me since he's an authentic North Dakota farm boy. I took charge and asked him to pop the hood.

Oh. My. God. There is no space under the hood of a Blazer! There's more room under the hood of my Audi!

That said, I could access the fuse relay box and one spark plug wire, which was all I figured was necessary for diagnosis. We swapped around the fuel pump relay with a matching relay for the horn, and the relay itself checked out fine. A socket set was handy so I attempted to pull a spark plug out to test for spark. A note for anyone unfortunate enough to own one of these disasters: forget about it. You cannot remove your spark plugs unless you possess gear you simply have no way of possessing as a mere mortal home auto mechanic.

Plan B was to remove a spark plug from a different car. Three cars later (Outback, Cutlass Sierra, and a Tempo, I think...) I was finally able to (barely) remove a spark plug for testing. We got everything set up, and sure enough there was spark. That pretty well narrows the problem down.

Before jumping into all this testing the first thing I had noticed was the lack of a hum indicating the fuel pump was doing pumping of any kind. I noted this at the start, but my observation was treated with about as much respect as dirt. Now we'd officially narrowed the problem down to one of two things: the wiring to the pump or the pump itself.

I was happy. I was right.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

That Durned Under Body Cover

The under body cover on the Meanie dropped again. This time one of the screw holes stretched and snapped. I've e-mailed the seller with pictures, and hopefully will be sending it back for a refund.

I had considered requesting a replacement, but Gary had a better idea: make one out of aluminum. The cost for the sheet aluminum will be less than the cost for the after-market cover. As an added bonus, it should be much lighter. Oh yeah, it will also hold its form much better, unlike the old one which sagged.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

One More Time

I called up a local VW dealership late in the winter and purchased a TDI badge for a Jetta to apply to the Blue Meanie. The vanity plate "MEANIE" was not available, nor was "TDI". I was shocked when the DMV informed me "DIESEL" was not yet taken.