My next project: The VW Jetta Veggie-Car

So I finally got this thing home last week after borrowing a car dolly and making the slow trek from Lake City. I acquired this car from a guy at work after doing a bit of “horse trading” for repairing his Honda 500 Interceptor84 VW Jettajetta3. Seems this thing has been sitting in his garage for the better part of 8 years without running so the body is fairly rust free. Being that the beast is an ’84 version, it should not be too difficult to do the waste veggie oil conversion. I will let you know the progress, as it occurs.

Cylinder Boring Videos So I have been messing around with a video camera and took some footage of my cylinder boring process. There are a number of ways to do this on a variety of equipment but this is the methods that I have used for over thirty years with excellent results. If I get a chance I will add in the final step: the honing process. Can you contain your excitement? I think not!

Maiden Voyage of the Double-Ott

Here’s proof that the thing actually runs. I drove it to work all week with no problems, other than a leaky radiator hose due to a rusty hose clamp that I promptly replaced. The thing runs like new. Gas mileage seems to be very good as well although I will need to verify that after my next fillup. I would like to have a front end alignment done at some point because it does pull to the right ever so slightly. Not a big deal. Drove it to Rochester to get some Amzoil today so I could make the change to synthetic oil. That’s the best stuff! Change oil twice a year (spring and fall) and no need to worry about it the rest of the time. It’s a bit expensive but you actually save money in the long run because you are changing oil less often and getting better protection.
The thing is so cherry that it is more than Church Worthy, unlike a few of my other vehicles.

Maiden voyage

Maiden voyage

A Thing of Beauty

Back in and ready to run

Back in and ready to run

At long last the Double-Ott is a runner, although not without some struggles on my part. Installing the engine went fairly well even though I had to pick the coldest morning of the season do the install. (minus 15F). Once I had everything hooked up and ready to run it was the Moment of Truth time. I turned the key and there was cranking of the starter but no firing of the cylinders. Hmm, what could be the problem? After further checking of electrical connections and plumbing I determined that I had installed the two fuel lines to the injectors wrong, even though I had marked them so as not to mix them up, in my haste to finish the project they were reversed. I had a 50/50 chance of getting them right and I still got them wrong, leading to no fuel pressure at the injectors, so no starting of the engine took place.
But wait, it gets better. After correcting that situation and in my numerous attempts to start the car and getting out to check other things, I managed to lock myself out of the Double-Ott. In all fairness, its really my first car with a key fob and I didn’t realize that when you pull the key from the ignition the doors will lock. Shoulda kept a window cracked, I guess. Anyway, that little setback took an hour to rectify as I attempted to trip the door lock mechanism with a bent coat hanger.
After getting back in the car, finally, and being sure to put the keys in my coat pocket this time whenever I got out, it still would not start, only crank with an occasional pop. A call to my son, the car expert, was placed. He suggested to check for spark, and then pressure at the fuel rail. I checked for spark at the plugs when cranking the engine: good spark. Next I checked the fuel pressure at the fuel rail; not much there, certainly not the 40psi that he said I should have. Could the fuel filter be plugged? I checked fuel pressure before the filter. Nope, about the same. The problem was elsewhere, further upstream, at the fuel pump itself. Could that have gone bad from sitting for two months? Not likely. Or could I have damaged the pump somehow by reversing the fuel lines? Possibly. After a long and frustrating day, I decided to call it quits and start fresh the next day. It was a dissapointment but what can ya do? Sometimes the best thing to do is just walk away for a while.
A YouTube search the next morning of how to remove the fuel pump from an Outback revealed a plethora of videos to watch. Ten minutes later I had the process down pat and headed back to the shop.
Sure enough, after getting the fuel pump out of the tank and on the bench, the problem was obvious: there was a metal endcap on the plastic housing that was sealed with an o-ring. Reversing the fuel lines had pushed the endcap off the housing allowing the o-ring to be forced out thereby causing a lack of fuel pressure. After re-installing the cap and o-ring, I made sure this little situation would not occur again by installing a hose clamp on the cap. Problem solved! After installing the fuel pump and buttoning up the tank access panel, I tried starting the engine again. Presto! We had liftoff! The little engine purred like a kitten on a farm. After a few minutes of warmup and checking of fluids it was test ride time! The Double-Ott went down the road just fine, heater, cruise control, brakes even the power mirrors, seat and CD player all worked just like new. Next will come the Maiden Voyage to work. If all goes well on that trip she will be my daily driver for the remainder of winter. And that’s what I call a thing of beauty.

Progress on the Double Ott

eng1So here is the engine, mostly back together with the exception of the timing belt cover. Had to find a good deal on Epay for that part. There was no way I was gonna fork over fifty bucks for a new one. It’s made out of plastic on top of that. Anyway, this is another step in the process. Soon I will drop the motor in the car and then wheel it into the shop to defrost overnight before final assembly and (hopefully) a test run. It’s been a long process but most of the delay has been finding good deals on parts, waiting to get enough money together to buy the parts and then waiting on shipping and time to work on the thing. Whew! The end is near, though. Can you feel the excitement?

My latest project, the double-ott Outback

So here’s the scoop on my latest project. I was in Zumbrota at the NAPA store one day back in early October when I just happened to look out the window and see this car go by on a flatbed owned by Bergs Towing. Being that it was a Subaru Outback, no less, really got my attention. When I was done with my business at the parts store I wandered down to Bergs place, since it was only a couple blocks away. They were just unloading the car and the owner was standing there, looking a bit forlorn. After quizzing him a bit, I found out his story. He was from Iowa, down by Decorah, I think. He had been in Wisconsin on a sight seeing trip and was on his way home when his 2000 Subaru Outback died on the highway right by Zumbrota. I asked the mechanic, Roger, to try starting the car. His attempt left little doubt that there was a serious lack of compression as the engine would spin right over. Next, I asked if he would take off the plastic timing belt cover on the front of the engine to have a look at the timing belt. There were only three bolts holding it on and so he complied. Upon removal of the cover, it was apparent that the timing belt was quite loose on the pulley. Not a good sign. This engine was not going to run anytime soon. I told the owner that he might find a used engine to put in the car, wished him luck and left for home. I didn’t give him my phone number or bug him about selling the car or anything, I just walked away. End of story, right? Not exactly. Not by a long shot.
The very next morning, my phone rang. It was the owner of that Subaru Outback and he wanted to know if I would be interested in buying it. Bergs had quoted him a price of two thousand for a used engine and installation. He wasn’t prepared to spend that kind of money on it so he was in a selling mood. I told him yes, but I would like to know how much he wanted for the car. He didn’t know. So I made him an offer of five hundred dollars. You could have heard a pin drop on the other end of the line. He then proceeded to tell me how he had just put two new tires on the front and also both front drive shafts back in September, to the tune of six hundred bucks. Then he wanted to know if I could go any higher. I told him, probably not. He told me he had one other guy he would check with to see if he wanted it and he would let me know, then hung up. I didn’t hold out much hope, at that point, because surely this other guy would want it bad enough to cough up more than what I had offered him.
A week went by. I had just about given up on the guy when he called back out of the blue. Seems that his other guy was in Iowa and would have to arrange to have the car hauled back there and didn’t really want it that bad and was I still interested? I told him yes but I would be sticking to my original offer of five hundred. After a bit of hemming and hawing, he agreed. We set up a meeting for a couple of days later to transfer the title and make the purchase.
We met on the following Friday. The sale went just fine. I handed him the cash and he signed over the title. We chatted a bit about the car. He had planned on keeping it for another three or four years until this episode happened. I checked the odometer to find nearly two hundred twenty thou showing. That seemed a bit high but he assured me everything besides the engine was in working order, brakes, tires and even the AWD option. Bergs Towing brought the car out to my place a couple days later. It sat in the yard for a week before I got around to pulling the engine out. It is possible to pull the heads off of these Subarus in the frame but it is much easier to work on the engine when it is sitting on the bench. I always prefer working on a project like this in a nice warm shop with warm wrenches handy.
Once the engine was out I started the diagnosis. After removing the front timing belt cover the damage and its cause was readily apparent. One of the idler pulleys for the timing belt had a bearing that seized up, causing the pulley to stop turning and snapping the bolt that held it on. When that happened the idler was free to rattle around in the timing cover and chewed a nice hole in it. The timing belt was no longer tight at that point so it skipped a few teeth on the cam sprockets, bending every valve in the engine before it quit spinning. Removal of the heads revealed the bent valves but luckily, the pistons were not damaged. It could have been worse, I guess, but at this point I am looking at a full cylinder head rebuild, top end gasket set, water pump, idler pulleys and timing belt kit. I have found the parts on Epay and the grand total looks to be about three and a half bills. Add a few incidentals like four quarts of Amzoils’ finest, some cool-aid and a new timing belt cover and I should be looking at a little over four bills. Labor is free on a project like this, naturally. My next move is to finance this little project so I can get it running before too long. I will keep you updated on its’ progress.

The old ’54 Chevy

Kind of a sad day around here last week as I watched my trusty old Chevy grain truck get loaded up on a trailer and hauled off to her new home in Owatonna. I had been perusing the want ads on Craigslist and ran across a guy looking for just such a beast. Since the old girl has been sitting back under the pines for about a year now without being started, I had been thinking of selling her for a while. That would take a bit of effort on my part to get her running and drive her up out of the weeds for a photo shoot. After emailing the guy, I found out that he basically wanted just her engine for a project truck he was rebuilding. He was a bit particular about making sure her engine was in the year range he was looking for and also that it had all the correct stock parts. Since I knew the original owner and also the second owner, I assured him that all was period correct with the truck. He even wanted a video of the engine running to make sure that it actually did.
I had bought the beast from a neighbor when we lived by Mazeppa. Basically, just because the hoist worked and she had a lovely fourteen foot bed with sides. Her first job for me was as a moving van of sorts when we moved out to the farm in ’94. Made three or four trips hauling household stuff and shop equipment as I recall. Top speed of about forty five miles per hour made for slow and bumpy ride with her two ton rated springs. That was probably just as well with all the slop in her steering it was a real challenge to keep her going down the road in a straight line. Her brakes were nothing special either with much pedal pumping going on before any actual braking took place. I learned to anticipate stops and turns with well advanced downshifts.

'54 Chevy

’54 Chevy

Over the years she hauled countless loads of gravel for our driveway, seed corn from the elevator to burn in our stoves, sand for our cement mixing projects, brush and trees from cleanup of the place, scrap iron to the recycling place in West Concord and I even used her as a scaffolding of sorts when I had to install siding on the barn. Due to her incredibly powerful hoist, there was never a load of rock or sand that she had trouble dumping when it was needed. I can imagine that back in the day she was quite a handsome farm truck, but that was sixty years ago now. Time spent at our farm sitting outside for twenty years has not done her any good. I had to repair the wood floor of her bed and also the sides on numerous occasions. And a few years ago one of her rear axle bearings went out stranding me on the side of the road with a full load of corn. That little episode cost me about seven bills including a tow home and all new bearings, seals and brake shoes to get her back in working order. While I’m sad to see her go, it is probably just as well. Hopefully her new owner can salvage that wonderful inline six engine and part of her will live on.

Labor Daze

It has been a while since my last entry on this blog. Not because nothing has happened this past summer, au contraire, too much has gone down leaving me virtually no spare time to tell you about it. Things that have never given any trouble before have suddenly conspired to break. Other things that should have broken down years ago finally did. I’ve had tractor troubles. My “new” truck developed electrical gremlins and my lawnmower engine grenaded right in the prime lawn-mowing season.
Consider my latest episode on Labor Day weekend: Saturday morning. We were getting ready to leave the house to take in the sights and sounds of the Rice County Antique Tractor and Steam Engine Days near Dundas. My wife casually mentioned to me “There is no water pressure in the kitchen faucet.” Not being one to be alarmed by such statements, I proceeded to run down the checklist of possible causes like the water filter needing to be changed or the circuit breaker switch on the pump being tripped to anything else that could go wrong with our well like a (gulp) bad pump. I found the culprit soon enough, a tripped breaker on the pump circuit. So, I flipped the breaker back on. I tripped almost immediately. I flipped it back on with the same result. This was not good. There was probably a short somewhere but where? A quick call to plumber Mark ( I was quite relieved when he actually answered the phone on a holiday weekend) and he had a few suggestions to look for like a burned out pressure switch, so I checked that. Nope, everything looked good there. His other thought is that maybe a critter had chewed through the wire somewhere between the pump and the electrical box, a distance of several hundred feet. Rare, but it happens, I guess. This would be harder to find and would require fresh wire to be laid on top of the ground and then wired in to both the pumphouse and the electrical box for testing purposes. Not the sort of thing I had anticipated doing on a long holiday weekend. My other option was to fire up my generator and hook that up to the pump to make sure that it was working. Naturally, the generator didn’t exactly fire up on the first pull, or the second for that matter, having sat around for a couple of years with old gas in the tank. A quick fuel system cleaning was performed and I had the beast running, although I had to keep the choke on about halfway for it to run cleanly.
Once the generator was hooked up to run the pump, I could see the pressure gauge making steady progress in the positive direction. Whew. That meant that the pump was in working order so no need to pull the well. That also meant that running a new wire from the breaker box to the pump was my next order of business. Off we went to Menards to gather the necessary supplies. Buying a two hundred fifty foot roll of wire was an eye-opener as well, but then it has been a while since I bought any electrical supplies so I should have expected that.
By the time we got back home it was too dark to attempt any kind of wiring project so I just left the generator hooked up to the pumphouse. We were able to at least take showers before bedtime, however, I had to run back outside after my shower and turn off the generator or it would just keep on running until it ran out of gas. So far, this episode had all the makings of a bad camping trip.
The next day, Sunday, I proceeded to run the new wire from the breaker box to the pumphouse. Once that was completed and the breaker
flipped back on, all systems were go, once again. We had water pressure. Oh happy day!
There was still the matter of burying the new wire and so the next day, Labor Day Monday, I commenced digging a shallow trench for the wire to lay in. Since I had to trench across part of the driveway with its compacted gravel, I retrieved an old pickaxe from the shed and started hacking away at the driveway. A thought occurred to me as I was swinging the crude implement, with the late summer sun beating down, sweat soaking my shirt and it was this: “Here I am, laboring on Labor Day. How appropriate.”
About an hour of that and I decided to see if the local hardware store was open and if they had any kind of powered trencher on hand. Wonder of wonders, the hardware store guy said they were open til 3pm and yes, they had a small trencher that I could rent. I made a beeline for the store and was back within the hour with the trencher in the back of my truck. After unloading said unit and firing it up, I commenced some real trenching. Sweet. This was going to be so much more fun than digging by hand! I had only gone about two feet when the machine found a buried rock and proceeded to smoke one of its two main drive belts. It looked like decision time. Do I take the machine back? (Yet another trip to town.) Or, do I keep going, with only one drive belt powering the trencher? I opted to keep trenching, carefully, so as to prolong the lone remaining belts’ life. All was well until I was about ten feet from finishing up when the machine found another rock and smoked the remaining belt. I guess we were done at that point. I would have to finish up trenching by hand. Sigh.
That’s about how it goes around our place. So close, but yet so far. It could have been worse, I guess. The well could have had to be pulled or a new one drilled. An endeavor like that makes me see dollar signs when I close my eyes. This whole experience has given me a new-found appreciation of seeing a steady stream of water whenever a faucet is turned on. I’m sure those of you who have your own well can relate.

Geo-trike, again!

P254-344-256-368-000h-0037-c11-l057-02-0360-1080-0359-1079-000-LB00-1P254-339-256-374-000h-0037-c11-l059-02-0360-1080-0359-1079-000-LB00-1 So last week I finally got the Geo-trike back in running order after the big digger it took back in January. It still needs a windshield as there are numerous cracks in the old one and I need to get it replaced before getting stopped by law enforcement. I found a door from a guy in Oslo, MN of all places. That is an interesting story in itself and here is how it went; After perusing Craigslist for Geo Metro parts most of the winter, I found a guy in Rochester who had a four-door Metro he was parting out. However, he was still asking $800.00 for the thing, way too much for my taste just to harvest the door and maybe a fender. Anyway, I called him and told him to let me know if he sold it or not as he was looking to move it by the weekend. Low and behold, wouldn’t you know it, he actually called and said he had sold it to a guy in Oslo and he even gave me the guys’ phone number, of all things! I called the Oslo guy, whose name turned out to be Jeff and after conversing a while, found out that he is a bit of a Geo Metro nut, even belonging to a club of Geo Metro owners and having a small collection of the things parked out back of his house. I had no idea there even was such a thing as a Metro owners club. They even have a website dedicated to the things. We made an appointment for me to come down to his place on a Sunday afternoon and have a look at his stash of Metro parts and so I made the trek in my truck.
It was a cold, rainy day in late April when I arrived at his place. He was a friendly enough sort of guy and he proceeded to take me out back to his collection of Geo Metros parked in the weeds. There were eight or ten of them in various states, some with no wheels and missing body parts. I spotted a red four door that had minimal rust and I inquired as to the price of the drivers side door and front fender. “Sixty bucks for the pair” he replied. That worked for me. However, I had neglected to bring any tools with me for the removal process so Jeff brought out his toolbox and we set to work removing the door and fender. By now the rain and a foul east wind had picked up in intensity and his daughter found an umbrella to hold over us in a feeble attempt to keep us dry. Fifteen or twenty minutes of struggling with rusted bolts and the fender and door were removed and in the back of my truck. We then went into his modest house and exchanged emails, payment for the parts and I found out more about the Metro club events. Seems they have a Metro weekend in August and he invited me to come down and enjoy the festivities. He told me they will get fifteen or twenty Metros at this little gathering and they all stand around and talk about modifying their Metros. That sounded like my kind of party so I proceeded to describe my Geo-trike to him and he got even more excited and said that my trike would be a big hit at the “convention”. I told him I would make a serious effort to attend the party and then headed out the door and hit the highway for home.
I was happy to meet such a nice guy who is very sympathetic to the Geo brand and even more tickled to get the much needed parts for my Geo-trike at a good price. The only stipulation he required was that I bring back the old door for him to mount back on the donor car to keep the rain from destroying the interior. I told him this would not be a problem and so a couple weeks later, after I had the Geo-trike back in running order, I made the trip to Oslo and Jeffs’ place to return the wrecked door as per our agreement. As I pulled into the driveway the dogs sounded a warning bark and I saw a few heads peek out the house windows. I had barely come to a stop when Jeff, his wife and their two kids came piling out of the place. Seems they had seen me coming and noticed that this was no ordinary Geo at their house. His wife even had the cell phone camera at the ready and started snapping pics right away. Her comment was “I can’t wait to post this on Facebook. Nobody will believe it”! I stayed a good half hour, swapping Geo-trike stories with them and Jeff insisted that I “Just gotta come back in August for the Geo party”. I assured him that I would make a serious attempt and then I headed for home again, from Oslo, Minnesota, of all places. Strange days indeed.

First ride and a sign from above.


     That first ride of the year can sometimes be an adventure. Last week we had a couple of warm days, a kind of teaser that spring likes to pull on us this time of year. Anyway, the warm weather triggered the bike bug in me and so I decided to fire up the 550 Suzook and take it for a quick spin. Since the big bike (my trusty ST1100) is still on the workbench waiting for me to finish some overdue winter work, the 550 was the next logical choice. I was  anticipating riding it to work on Thursday and that actually got me motivated. After installing the battery and siphoning gas from the snowblower (hopefully I won’t need to run that til next winter!) the old girl fired right up and off I went. I’m usually a bit rusty after not riding all winter and this year is no exception. I made a couple of passes out on the highway and spotted my neighbor, Jerry, out raking the gravel back onto his driveway so I stopped to chat with him a bit. After leaving his place, I rode back home and decided to replace the rear tire on the bike with a better looking used one that I found in my collection of too-good-to-throw-away used tires.  I had about an hour to mount the tire, and take a test ride before lunch and then it would be off to work for me. The tire mounting went OK and I had it done with about fifteen minutes to spare before noontime. Perfect, I thought. Just a quick test ride up the highway for a mile or so and I would be back just in time for lunch. Off I went, again, down the driveway. I had just pulled out onto the blacktop and hooked second gear when the bike revved out of sight, like I had missed a shift or something. Except that I didn’t. I looked back and thought that maybe the chain had come off the sprocket. Nope. There was no chain dragging or anything so I pulled over and stopped. There in the middle of the highway was my chain, alright. After waiting for a couple of cars to pass, I walked back and inspected said chain. The master link had pulled apart, causing the chain to be spit right out the back of the bike. Not a good situation, but at least I wasn’t too far from home, so I started pushing the bike. I had only gone about a hundred yards up the driveway when I figured I might as well abandon that effort and walk back to get my truck. The walk home gave me some time to reflect on what could have gone wrong. I had replaced the chain last summer and it was a good quality O-ring type chain. The kind that will go at least 10k before wearing out. Since the safety clip was missing I could only assume that it had parted company at some point and the sideplate had fallen off too, sometime before the chain derailed itself. I had removed the chain from the rear sprocket for the tire replacement procedure but had not taken the master link off, or inspected it upon reassembly, something I wish now that I had done. In forty years of riding, I have never tossed a chain on a streetbike and maybe only one time on a dirtbike that I can remember. Strange.  Anyway, I got back home, took the truck back down to the disabled bike, loaded it up and hauled it back to the shop. By now it was just past noon and there was no time to find a replacement master link, put the chain back on and eat lunch and then round up my riding gear, rain suit and backpack before it was time to go to work so I was forced to drive my truck on the first really nice warm day. Bummer! But, that’s how it goes. I took the whole episode as a sign that I should not ride to work that day. On the way to work, in my truck, I kept looking out for hazards that I might have encountered if I had been on two wheels but saw none. Better safe than sorry, I guess. There will be plenty of better riding days to come, hopefully, and maybe I will just have to ride my trusty ST1100 to work first, like I usually do.