“Trouble in Paradise” or “My Aching Head”

(Note: the beginning of this story arc starts here, you should probably go back and read that if you haven’t already.)

(Note 2: This post was hand-written when I was in the U.P., the publish time is approximate.)

page 455

Well, the starter situation wasn’t bad, the wire that runs from the bypass relay (my addition per The Book, p. 455) to the solenoid slipped off at the relay end.  So that was easy!  Unfortunately, I noticed two new things on my drive from Black River Campground to Paradise: 1) a lack of power, and 2) a “fffttt” noise present on deceleration. Uh oh!

So I came to Paradise by way of Newberry because I know there is a parts store in Newberry; it’s where I bought my new starter in 2012. There’s also a great hardware store, plus the IGA in Newberry has everything you need, and a sewing kit, so I can patch up my shorts.  I got a compression tester at the Auto Value, MAPP gas at the Do-It Best, and a sewing kit at the IGA.  Everything I need in one town, what a country!

I made my way up to Andrus Lake, checked into my campsite, made and ate dinner, then ran a compression test.  The results aren’t great; cylinders 3 & 4 are both reading 75PSI, meanwhile 1 & 2 are grand, 125 & 135, respectively.  Well, half an engine is better than none, I guess.  Running out of daylight, I put the engine back together, put all the tools away, and packed up for the night.

Comp Test.png

This morning I made breakfast and made plans to check out the situation with the Driver’s Side cylinder head.  Since 3 & 4 are reading the exact same I have to assume that the issue is with what they have in common, the head.  Besides, it’s always the head!

If I was lucky the culprit would be a simple loose head (which happened before on the other side), and I could simply tighten it up, run the compression test again, and hope that the adjustment shored up the numbers a bit.  Of course that means popping off the valve cover and potentially tearing the valve cover gasket.  I’ll just be really careful pulling it off and hope for the best.

The gasket came out in two, distinct, oil-soaked pieces. Damn!  I rummaged around in my stuff and found a spare, slightly twisted and misshapen, and a tube of Permatex.  It’s better than nothing, I guess.  I carefully cleaned off a spot on the picnic table and set the cooler on top of the gasket to (hopefully) flatten it out while I checked out the engine.

I determined, as best I could with the tools on-hand, that the head wasn’t loose.  Now it’s hard to be 100% sure, because who takes a torque wrench camping?  (From now on, this guy!) While I had the valve cover off, I took the opportunity to check the valve train.  I broke down and used my phone to video the valves while I turned the engine, so much for staying off the grid!

The valves look fine, so I’m guessing there’s something wrong with the head.  I can picture, in my mind, a small crack forming between #3 & #4 exhaust valves.  It’s small now, but it’ll be larger by the time I get home. Or the head might be warped a bit.

It was probably that stretch of I-75, between the Kawkawlin rest area and Standish that did it.  I didn’t realize I was in 3rd gear… and going 65… for 15 miles.  Oops!  I’d be pissed off too if someone did that to me.  My poor, faithful Bus; always does what I ask, even to it’s own demise.  Let this be a lesson on absentmindedness.

I fixed my “Gene Berg” oil-temperature sensing dipstick this morning, that will give me a better feel for the engine/oil temp on my way home.  In retrospect, it would’ve warned me about 3rd gear too, had I already fixed it before I left.  If I take it slowly, switch to premium gas, and pay attention to the temperature, we should be able to make the 400ish miles home.

“Back in the Red Dog Saloon era, there was a garage in Carson City run by a sympathetic super mechanic named Muldoon.  When you were pushed into Muldoon’s, he looked and listened to your sick engine, asked how far you needed to go and how much bread you had, then he nodded his head and showed you where you could work on your engine out back. When you ran into troubles, he left his profitable highway trade to give you a hand.  You made it to where you needed to go, but God help you if you tried to drive fifty Miles further.”

“…explain to your car that these are temporary measures and that you’ll fix her when she gets you to L.A.  Then keep your promises because the burned valve was just an indication that your engine’s at the end of a wear cycle.”

How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive, 19th Ed., p. 235


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