Wednesday, December 20, 2006

VW - TULZ Part Three

TULZ – Part Three

What do you want to do with your Volkswagen? Fix it up? (whatever that means..) Paint it? Build a new engine?

Go on, make a list. Define your car in terms of the things you want it to be or that you want to do with it. Put the thing you consider most important at the top of the list then work your way down.

(WARNING: #1- 'Bitchin' Sound System' gets you an F for the course :-)

A fancy name for making this list is 'Prioritization.' It's what you gotta do to maximize the effectiveness of your limited resources. But that ain't all. It is also a sly way to introduce you to the 'Divide & Conquer' concept of automotive management in which we first decide what has to be done then break the task down into doable bites that match your resources. In this case, 'resources' means your skills, tools, time and the availability of working space.

Whatcha wanna bet your list is not the same as everyone else's list? See, that's a bit of a problem for me, because if I'm going to be telling you about how to maintain your Volkswagen I need to lay out a plan; I need to prioritize my time & work. But what if the most important thing you need to do is fix a broken window… and I don't get to that until Part Eighty-seven or whatever. Odds are, you'll be long gone and I'm sitting here boring everyone to tears.

So I'm not going to do things that way. I'm going to get you your own teacher. In fact, I already have… it's you. I'm going to hang out under that tree over there and let you work up the syllabus for your vehicle. That's the purpose of the list. Those are the things that you feel are important. So go ahead and get busy. If I see you doing it wrong, I'll throw rocks at you :-)

The lesson here is one most will fail to appreciate. You are in charge of your life. The secret of Life, The Universe and Everything is not '42'. The secret is to keep your priorities straight, to break tasks down into doable chunks and then to actually do them; to progress along your chosen course. Most folks don’t. Most mistake activity for progress, fill their lives with busy-ness and end up with little or nothing to show for it. Knowing how to maintain your vehicle is something of lasting value, well worth your time and effort.

But before you get busy fixing your Volkswagen I'd like you to do me a favor. I want you to add three items to the very top of your list. The first item is 'The ability to STOP.'

Stopping – good brakes – must ALWAYS have the highest priority. Making a car go is easy; you don't even need an engine. But when a sixteen hundred pound bug starts rolling, no matter how slowly, it represents one hell of a lot of energy (and a bus weighs twice as much). The ability to stop MUST be your first priority.

The second item, #2 on ANY list of priorities is 'Steering' and the logic is similar to that for stopping: Once a vehicle is in motion you must be able to steer. So before we get to the Bitchin' Sound System lets make sure you can get the thing out of the parking lot without hitting a pole.

Finally, as item #3, I'd like you to add 'Safety' and yeah, I'll be the first to admit it's probably a waste of time to put it on a list, because if you haven't learned by now that safety, not only around cars but in EVERYTHING YOU DO has to be a HABIT then you probably never will. But I want it on-record. And I want the record to show two sub- heads, the first is 'Personal Restraints' – that's your harness and the seat you sit in. The second is 'Fire' and under 'Fire' I want you to open two sub-sub-heads: 'Fuel' and 'Electrical'.

The safety thing turns off a lot of guys because they simply aren't bright enough to Get It. We probably should have called it Free Money, Good Sex or mebbe Long Life because 'safety' is all of those things. Safety is Positive Force, something you channel for your personal benefit. The way you channel it is by being cryogenically cool and totally professional. That skews the odds of success 'way over to your side of the board; you leave nothing to Chance.

Pretty dull, eh? Brakes. Steering. Safety. Nothing totally kewl. So here's a pop quiz for you. Who wins the race?

Come on. Think it out. What defines the winner?

It's the guy who finishes first. No, not the fastest car in the race, the car that FINISHES FIRST… no matter what he averaged.

So chew on this: You gotta finish to win. (And not just in a car race.) Brakes, steering and safety are fundamentals. Then comes making it durable, so you know you'll be able to finish the race. Only then do you devote any resources to making it go fast, 'Bitchin' Sound System,' 'Kewl Upholstery,' and other necessities of life :-)


Can you solder? Do you have a soldering iron? Go find one. A good mechanic is also a pretty good electrician. You will eventually be both. Get yourself some rosin-core ELECTRICAL solder to go with the iron. And a pad of fine-gauge steel wool. And a pair of toe-nail clippers. The toe-nail clippers are for clipping wire, not toe-nails. You may use diagonal cutters if you wish but the toe-nail clippers are a lot more fun. Avoid Radio Shack if at all possible. Their quality is awful and their prices too high, in my own personal humble opinion.

Have you got some spade-lug connectors? You're going to need some. Get the kind that are coated with tin; they look kinda dull silvery. Buy the ones WITHOUT the plastic sleeve. If that's all you can get, be prepared to remove the plastic sleeve. Volkswagen was a cheap car, very cheaply made. They used the cheapest electrical components. The unplated brass connectors suffer from age-hardening and corrosion. Much of your maintenance work is going to be replacing bad connectors so let's make sure you start out with good replacements to begin with. Try Home Depot or order them via mail from Mouser.

You also need some heat-shrink tubing and a pair of crimpers for the spade-lug connectors. And some wire. Mebbe fifty feet or so. That is, TWO colors of wire, fifty feet of each. Sixteen gauge will be fine.

And some alligator clips. And a roll of vinyl electrical tape. And a pocketknife.

What's all this leading up to? Old Volkswagens have a high incidence of electrical problems. Most electrical problems are easily diagnosed and simple to fix. We're going to make some test leads and a timing light. These are basic tools, something you'll use the rest of your life. In making up the test leads you will learn how to solder and install fittings onto wires, a skill you're going to need to keep an old Volkswagen running.

Now figure out where you're going to keep all this electrical stuff. You want to keep it separate from your other tools. Later on we'll add a multi-meter and a strobe-light to the kit so find something big enough. A .50 caliber ammo can will work, except nowadays they cost more than a real toolbox. Those canvas tool bags from Harbor Freight are handy and not very expensive. The tool bags come in large & small plus they offer a Rigger's bag that is about the handiest thing since beer in cans.

Word to the Wise: IF you live where folks frown upon mechanics, DON'T use a regular toolbox. Fake them out.

Gym bag works great. So does an old bowling bag. Go down to the Salvation Army and pick up a couple of awol bags or small suitcases. Use a backpack if you gotta but your full kit of tools is going to be a pretty heavy load and a major pain in the ass if you have to keep hauling them back and forth. So don't. Haul them. Roll them. One of the smartest ideas since pre-sliced bread is those suitcases with wheels & a handle. The alternative is one of those fold-up carry-on carts from Wal- Mart or wherever. Anything with wheels is worthy of consideration. Baby carriage. Office chair. Golf bag carrier. Shopping cart. BICYCLE. (If you have a home with an attached garage and lotsa shop space all of this will sound pretty silly but it's Mother's Milk for someone living in the barracks.)

I'll let you work it out. You are the Mechanic-in-Charge.

-Bob Hoover -10 April 2K

PS – Got the 'official' Bentley manual? Then read Chapter 10, the Electrical System. Pay particular attention to the explanation of Ohm's Law.

The Size of American Money

Now you always have a ruler in your pocket :-)

VW - Bore x Stroke