(Note: I’m writing this in the past tense because I didn’t actually write any of this while I was on my trip.)
Last day, headed home.
We had gotten exactly this far onto The Bridge when… *pfft*I lost all power to the engine. The radio worked, the hazard flashers worked, but I had no power to the ignition coil, the oil and alternator lights, the turn signals, the fuel injection, nothing of importance. I flipped on the hazard flashers and, thankfully, we were far enough back from the toll booth that people could go around me.
Carefully, I climbed out of the driver’s seat and ran around to the back of The Bus. I fiddled with the wires on the coil, they all looked okay and appeared connected. I ran back up to the front, flipped on the ignition switch and still had no lights. I had Emily lean over and told her “if you see either of those lights come on yell really loud!” I ran back to the back, with the key on, and fiddled with the wires some more; nothing! I ran back to the front and turned off the key. I ran to the back again and popped open the tailgate, it was there that I found a large binder clip. Back in the engine compartment, I unplugged the wire that used to go to the second “camping” battery from the relay; that had a nice slide-on terminal on one end so I plugged that onto the positive side of the coil where the wire from the key would normally connect. I fished the other end through the engine compartment, out of the way of any spinning things; the other end has a ring terminal on it, so I clamped that to the battery positive post with the binder clip and saw some sparks as I did: EUREKA! I HAVE POWER TO THE COIL! I quickly closed up the tailgate and engine compartment, ran back and jumped into the driver’s seat, and looked disappointingly at the oil and alternator lights that were still dead. I announced to Emily and Liese, “I just hot-wired the coil to the battery, I still don’t have any warning lights, lets hope that binder clip holds, we just have to go five miles!,” then I cranked the starter and drove up to the toll booth. I gave the toll booth lady $9 and said “this is for me and the car behind me,” then started to carefully drive across.
We made it to Mackinaw City and pulled off the first exit and into the first parking lot we found. I immediately un-hot-wired the ignition, dug out the technical manual (not to be confused with The Book) and found that all the systems that weren’t working (ignition, turn signals, oil and alternator lights) went through connector T8. I jacked up the back end of The Bus and started trying to trace wires.
I had some trouble tracing the wires all the way, but Liese suggested I check the fuses (and I was tired of crawling around on the ground), so I looked at the fuse diagram in the technical manual and found that fuse #11 runs all of those same systems.
Now let me tell you about Volkswagen fuses. Normal fuses are glass-enclosed which helps keep the fuse’s conductor safe from vibration and fat-fingered installers. They’re usually rated at 5, 10, 15, 20… amps.
VW fuses, on the other hand, are external-wound fuses; meaning that the actual fuse material isn’t encased in anything. This makes them highly susceptible to breakage due to vibration, age, and (of course) fat-fingered installers. Also, they’re rated at 8 and 16 amps.
Now, I know for a fact that VW put a spare fuse in slot #7, just so the haplessly unprepared owners might have some prayer of getting back on the road, should they blow a fuse. I also know that I’ve never successfully changed one of these fuses without breaking at least two of them in the process! Anyway, I oh-so-carefully removed the fuse from #11 and it was, indeed blown. Then I very, very, very cautiously pulled the fuse from #7 and, with help from Liese (who held the equalizer out of the way for me!), I very gently put it into slot #11. I turned the key on and, voilà!, the oil and alternator lights came on!
Liese and Emily put away the jack, packed up all the crap we’d removed to get to it, and off we went. Liese got to relax on the ride home in her Sultan pants…