Sunday, September 29, 2013

Shifter boot

The shifter boot on the Jetta was a little tatty so I ordered a replacement from Redline goods. It arrived just before the car was to go into the shop and knowing Keith was going to be working on the shifter bushings I decided to hold off on installation. The Redline product is very nice, real leather with a different color stitching at no extra cost.
Shifter installation is very easy, unscrew the shifter knob, pull the bottom of the boot off the base and slip it out, then reverse. I accidentally ordered graphite at the time not remembering the interior on my car is black but I like the contrast between the two especially with the white stitching.

I'd also ordered the parking brake boot. I probably didn't need that but wanted them to look the same. This is where things got weird, the parking brake boot is considerably harder to get out of place, theres a trim piece around the nose of the handle (where you push to release the brake) that has to be pried out, then the console has to come up, a trim ring gets removed and the boot is actually stapled to that trim ring...

I finally got it all apart and was disappointed to find that the was no way the replacement was going to fit. It'll slide about 60% of the way on to the parking brake handle but no more plus the bottom of the boot wouldn't fit the trim ring and has its tabs in the wrong places so even if it did fit the trim ring wouldn't be able to clip on. My guess is that this boot is for a mk4 Jetta while mine is a mk3.

I emailed Redline and got a response (Saturday morning no less) asking me if I would be willing to send my old boot so they could make an exact custom fit. I'm going to do that next week. We'll see how that works out.

Overall for now I'm going to rate my experience with Redline as positive, they were quick to respond and the offer seems like a good one. We'll see how getting the custom boot works out.

Friday, September 27, 2013

A little lantern talk

I know at least a few of my readers come from the lantern world and in review I haven't posted anything about lanterns for a long time. Thats not to say I haven't done anything with lanterns lately although I must admit I haven't been doing a whole lot with them.

Last spring a co-worker came to me with a lantern that had been hanging on the wall of his camp for years and years. His family had given up on it some time in the '60s and periodically considered sending it to the dump but refrained because it had been grandpa's.
He sent me a couple pictures:

I made the mistake of immediately offering him $50. If I'd told him it was worthless and I'd take it if he wanted to get rid of it he'd have just hung it back on the shelf...
Look close at the second picture and you'll notice the winged fuel cap and slant R55 generator. I knew this was an odd duck and was excited to get my hands on it.
Here it is on my bench a couple weeks later:

It came apart quick, the pump leather was completely dried out:

Otherwise it seemed in good shape:

I was shocked when I cleaned the fount with a dish scrubber and soap and got this:

Apparently years of hanging over the old wood stove had protected the nickel. With a little polish the shine came up nicely.

The brass parts got a soak in citric acid and quick polish with steel wool:

It didn't need much for parts:

NOS R55 generator with the proper square nut, fuel cap gasket, new burner screens and packing. Not shown here is the beautiful mica chimney from Fred Kuntz.

Here it is all dolled up:

This was probably one of the easiest builds I've had, the inside of the fount was very clean. I didn't spend much time on the outside of the fount as I didn't want to polish through the nickel. I also didn't want to over restore the burner frame since the vent has a couple chips and I didn't think the owner wanted to have it re-enameled. If we were going to re-enamel the vent I'd suggest re-nickeling the fount and then polishing everything to a high shine, since we didn't I wanted everything to look like the nice, clean 1929 lantern it is.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

While I was at it

So the other day while I was doing the oil change I figured I should check the transmission oil. I already had the belly pan off and the car jacked up, and its right there. Also I'd noticed a whine in the transmission I didn't like.
The fill plug is a big head allen but its quite short. Fortunately I had one as it came in the kit I needed for the diff on the Mercedes. With the plug out the oil is supposed to be level with the hole. In my case is was well below level. Well that explains the noise...

I stopped over at Car Quest and bought some GL4 gear oil. Its surprising that VW specs gear oil for this job. Every other manual transmission I've ever had used ATF. Theres big debate on TDI Club about exactly what oil to get but this gear oil was the only thing I could get that met GL4 and not GL5.

The big debate centers on the fact that the stuff VW uses is more like ATF and the stuff they recommend is gear oil and way heavier. I'm thinking to get some Amsoil Synchromesh which is more like thick ATF than gear oil and give it a shot. Hopefully it'll be thin enough that winter time shifting won't be impaired. I haven't ordered any yet because I wanted Keith's (of KMH Motors) opinion before I tried anything.

The oil change!

If you read my last post you might have noticed that I forgot to tell you about the oil change. I figured I'd done enough running around on oil that was at least 2 years old and had who knows how many miles.

VW is pretty picky about what oil you can use in your car. Of course as old as this car is it doesn't really matter and lots of oils meet the old standards but I like using good oil. My local Car Quest has a great selection of oil and there I found Pentosin 5w40 which meets the VW 505 standard. My car actually only requires VW 501.1 but I thought it'd be nice to get an oil which met the better standard (current cars require 507 which is only 5w30). In consulting with the fellows there for a price one of them pointed out that the Car Quest brand 5w40 synthetic meets 505

The bottle doesn't actually mention the VW standards at all although it does give an older Mercedes-Benz standard. I found a flyer online that has the 501.1 and 505 references. A search online suggests the stuff is made for Car Quest by Valvoline and is probably pretty good (but not spectacular) oil. Its also $7 a gallon cheaper than I've been paying for Mobil 1 5w40 that I use in the 190D. I bought a couple gallons. I figure the first oil change is just making up for whatever garbage the previous owner used anyway. I'll run it up to 5,000 miles and pull a sample, based on the sample I'll decide my next step. 

The VW guys really like Rotella T6 but nobody can say WHY they like it. Oil is one of those quasi-religious decisions made mostly on feeling rather than facts. I've been using Mobil 1 in the 190D with oil analysis out to fairly long durations. The longest I've gone so far is 12,000 miles although analysis suggests I could probably go to 15 or 20k without problems. I get nervous...

Anyway the actual oil change on this car is a PAIN IN THE ASS! Lets compare it to the 190D, on that car you:
  • Pull out the dipstick, hook up the siphon hose
  • Pull a vacuum on the siphon container. This can be done with the hand pump or a vacuum cleaner.
  • Remove the 2x13mm bolts that hold the oil filter housing lid, remove lid and filter
  • Put in a new filter, add some oil, put the lid back on with its 2x13mm bolts
  • When the siphon is done remove it and add new oil
Easy peasy right? Compare to the Jetta:
  • Jack the car up, put a stand under one of the front wheels. The car is LOW, I can't get my head under there and without my big mellon under their I can't reach the belly pan bolts.
  • Remove the under car belly pan, 2 bolts at the rear of the pan, 2 plastic nuts and 2 more bolts up in the wheel well.
  • Remove the 19mm (!) oil drain plug
  • Remove the oil filter - This is why we removed the belly pan. The filter is at the front of the engine facing down. Pain in the butt to remove. Apparently this can be done from above but I had an AC line in the way that I didn't want to push real hard on.
  • Put the plug back in, new filter in. Again this job stinks. I pre-oiled the filter and added too much oil so when I tilted it to get it in place oil ran down and I couldn't hold the filter tightly enough to tighten it in place.
  • Put the plug back in and fill back up with oil
  • Put the belly pan back in place, 4 bolts and 2 plastic nuts remember!
Ugh. I'm hoping the Car Quest oil works out so I don't have to change the oil real frequently...

More bodywork and a trip to a real mechanic

Sorry kids, no pics of this just trust me that it was a horror show.
If you look back you'll see that I replaced about a 1 foot portion of the rocker under the driver's feet just aft of the front wheel. Well this time I cut from the rear of that part nearly to the rear wheel (and that wasn't far enough) and over the course of two days spent four hours each day welding back in.

In the course of the work I managed to cut a hole through the rusty floor under the driver's seat which required the removal of said seat (so I wouldn't burn the carpet) and produce some of the best (and not so best) body work I've ever done.

It still needs just a couple more inches at the rear of the car but I ran out of time, with luck I'll finish that side on Saturday. Not looking forward to the fact that the other side of the car needs equal time...

Tuesday I took the car for its longest single run to date, all the way to work. It behaved perfectly other than the sloppy shift bushings that prevented me from finding 5th gear. I was real worried about the timing belt (which turned out to be a good worry) so I wanted to keep the rpms down, thus I commuted 56 miles at 65mph which is about 3,000 rpm. The car acted perfectly even in heavy traffic and drove pleasantly.
The reason for taking the car to work pre-inspection was to drop it over at KMH Motors in Lowell. On the fixing list for Keith:

  • Timing belt - plus the tensioners and seals right by it
  • Water pump - this is not technically required but the pump lives behind the timing belt and if the pump failed I'd essentially need to do the belt again...
  • Coolant flush and fill - important since after the water distribution pipe job its mostly water
  • Shifter bushings - get 5th gear back!
  • Diagnose Check Engine light - I went over to Autozone and they pulled a P1550 code which is a pressure differential, could be a vacuum line, worst case could be the turbo
Today I got the call from Keith, most everything had been done, the CEL is probably the N75 valve which controls boost. They're known for crapping out and aren't too expensive. Interestingly when I dropped off the car the CEL was out, Keith said that kind of behavior was stereotypical for the N75, I said to do it. He also noticed a big oil leak from the oil pan gasket. I'd noticed a bunch of oil down there when I did an oil change (forgot to write about that, oops, next post!). I told him to go ahead and do the pan gasket too, I want to start my ownership of this car with as few problems as possible!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The legal stuff

Also known as a trip to the registry.

I was a little worried about this, the donation program I bought the car from doesn't actually take ownership of the car so I technically bought the car from a woman in Connecticut whom I never met. The other complicating factor is that the donation program held onto the car for 2 years and the last owner had dated the bill of sale. Never the less I figured I'd press on and see if ignorance and a happy disposition would pull me through.

It did, in the end I had to pay $56 in fines. Apparently you're not supposed to hold onto a car for 2 years without registering it. Somehow the whole deal only came out to $256 though, I'd thought the tax would have been more but I think in the excitement of "catching" me they forgot to check the value of the car and just accepted the value I gave on the bill of sale. Ironically I didn't even lie about what I'd paid for the car. Maybe honest is in fact the best policy.

After the easy trip to the registry I put the plates from the 240D onto the Jetta (no point in keeping the 240D registered and insured while it sits) and headed to Keene for tires. I'd noticed a Tire Warehouse up there and decided to give them a shot. I usually go to Gardner for tires but I wanted to go to the VW dealership anyway. This turned out to be a good choice, my sunny disposition continued and the guy gave me 4 tires with balancing, installation, nitrogen inflation (which is just a gimmick but whatever) and road hazard warranty for $300. Tack on another $65 for an alignment (which Gardner wouldn't have been able to do) and I was pretty happy. I'd planned (after researching my tire options on TireRack) to spend around $400...

Next Up: More rust repair and off to see a man about a timing belt

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Coolant leak

That, my friends, is a coolant leak.

Its called a water distribution pipe, you can see it here with the replacement. Apparently this is a fairly common failure, VW only put one coat of paint on the pipe. Still it did last 15 years so I can't complain too much. I spray bombed 2 more thick coats onto the replacement pipe this one ought to last 16 years anyway.

This is where it lives. The picture was taken looking over the driver's side fender. The pipe nestles down against the engine which means the intercooler piping has to come out of the way. Somehow in doing that I managed to trip the Check Engine Light (CEL) for code P1550. I think I got some of the vacuum or pressure hoses back on poorly or maybe broke a hose. I messed with it some, replaced a couple hoses but didn't make any difference. The car will run for a few minutes before the light comes on so I bet it would pass inspection but I want it fixed right, its got an appointment at KMH motors for the timing belt anyway...

Up next: The legal stuff

Friday, September 20, 2013


This (courtesy A2Resource) is the backside of the fuse box in my Jetta. Well okay its a diagram of the backside of the fuse box. You can see it, along with what every wire does here. When I posted questions about my electrical faults everybody kept pushing to this diagram so I finally sat down and really examined it. If you look at the top row on the outsides there are two grey/white spools, that helps you orient yourself when standing on your head under the dash. Not really knowing what I was looking for I went through the list looking for anything that pertained to horn, headlight, daytime running lamp or wipers. That finally took me to H2 and J, you'll find them in red in the upper right. This time, knowing what I was looking for, while probing around under the dash I finally spotted that J was unplugged and falling out of its socket. This shouldn't be able to happen, if you look at the bottom right of the connector there a little tab. Just below it theres a white bar that comes out on the right, thats the locking bar that ensures everything is plugged in and stays plugged in. I think somebody must have removed J at some point and not gotten the bar back in place.
Anyway I got J plugged back in and knew I was on the right track when I reconnected the battery and the hazard flashers came on.

Next: Coolant leak.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


My '98 Jetta TDI has something like 25 fuses, there are 22 in the main fuse block ranging from 10a to 30a. A big 50 amp blade fuse which I presume is for the starting circuit, a random 10a hanging out by itself above the relays and an 80a strip fuse for the glow plugs.

One of the old guys (now sadly departed) that used to be on the Okiebenz list always said to "REPLACE THE FUSES" in all caps just like that. He suggested that all sorts of electrical gremlins could be caused by fuses that looked good but were in fact bad or at least marginal. In all honesty I can't remember ever having that happen but with the current electrical issue driving me batty I figure anything is worth a try.

Here lie the remains of the fuse replacing. I didn't replace the big 50a starting fuse or the 80a glowplug fuse since the car starts and runs great, I did replace all of the smaller blade fuses. No change in the condition of anything though.

Honestly I didn't expect any big changes really, this was mostly to appease everybody on the Okiebenz list who kept reminding me to "renew the fuses".

On another note I've got a good big collection of parts coming in. Today I picked up an airfilter and shifter bushing kit. The shifter is a little sloppy, I want to tighten that up some. I also put 2 coats of paint on the water distribution pipe. This is a metal coolant pipe that goes from the overflow bottle to the heater and water pump. Failure at this point (15 years old after all) isn't apparently terribly uncommon and they seem to rust from the outside in because the paint is thin. I figured more paint couldn't hurt. I did (for once) think to mask good to keep the paint where it should be.

Finally I pulled the airfilter, which is more involved than I thought it would be, and found a good NAPA unit that was mostly clean. I'll run with that for now. Interestingly I found the "snow screen" to be present. I was given to understand those were frequently removed due to requiring more upkeep. The snow screen is a cup of metal screen, its very tight weave like on the "forever" coffee filters. Mine was full of mouse nest. It'd be surprising the car could run with that in place if it weren't for an alternate air intake in the airbox, if the snow screen is plugged the alternate opens via a spring loaded flap and pulls warm engine air. Obviously for performance the cold air is better. I cleaned the screen good with a brass brush and reinstalled. Then took some time to clean around the plastic components of the engine bay with Simple Green and then with "Back to Black" tire cleaner/shine. The plastic components like the engine cover and intercooler pipes started to look really good.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Ignition et al

This was supposed to be a happy little story about using the right tool for the job, then things got out of hand...

Remember the other day when I did a great job troubleshooting and got the sunroof and interior lights fixed? Well at some point during that the horn, turn signals, flashers, wipers and washer quit working. Apparently this is a fairly common problem with the mk3 Jetta and a simple fix in replacing the ignition switch. The switch itself is cheap but unfortunately the one screw that holds it is in the most obnoxious place possible which requires pulling the steering wheel and the whole lock assembly. In the picture above I've just put my new 5 ton 2 arm puller onto the sleeve that adapts the steering wheel to the steering column. I'm sure theres a special place in hell for the guy who decided to not make the hole in the steering wheel the same diameter as the steering column and then only put a little tiny flange on the spacer. See the big wrench (1 1/16") below the puller? Its giving the puller something to pull on. I had to buy the puller because none of my 3 arm pullers would fit...

After I got the sleeve off I didn't realize that to remove the lock assembly I had to unlock the lock and managed to rip the assembly apart. Whoops! Fortunately a local junkyard had a replacement, I actually bought the whole steering column because I managed to bugger the threads on the end too, it was quite a morning. Here's a shot of the junk car I pulled from:

Now the new lock assembly came with a different lock tumbler but I don't want to have to use two different keys on my car so I want to transplant the tumbler from one lock assembly to the other. VW apparently never thought anybody would ever do this so they didn't make the lock tumbler removable. Fortunately they used a standard lock tumbler barrel so all you have to do is drill a hole in the lock assembly and stick in a pin. Well the instructions from VW are fairly vague so when I drilled the old lock assembly apart I had to also cut a groove to find the lever to push on.

Since I knew where to drill I did a much better job on the second one. Thats good because this lock assembly is staying in the car.

Anyway after considerable swearing I got the new steering column installed, this is a really lousy job because the column only goes in one way with 39 ways to do it wrong and you can't really tell which of the 40 possible positions you're in until you find out you did it wrong. Meanwhile you're standing on your head under the dash.

So finally, finally the new column is in, the lock is keyed correctly, the new ignition switch is in and ARGH, the horn, wipers, washer, lights, daytime running lamps, and high beams still don't work.
I went back and tested the original ignition switch and the one from the junk car, all act the same. So I guess it wasn't the ignition switch at all. Oh well, at least it was cheap.

Post Modern Amazing!

Taking a break from the Jetta, its driving me a little crazy...

Anyway have you seen/heard the Post Modern Jukebox?

Start with modern music and take out the schlock, re-set it back to the jazz/swing/ragtime era and make it actually good... Bieber, Selena Gomez, there is seemingly nothing they won't attempt.

My favorite is actually one of their early ones:

In all cases the music is outstanding as are the costumes, the period dress really makes it...

Thursday, September 12, 2013


I'll admit I got a little taken in on this car, its pretty much rust free from the top of the rockers up but pretty heavily rusted from the rockers down but only about 4 inches wide, the bottom of the car is actually pretty good.

To start I took the wire wheel on my angle grinder and ground off some surface rust. I started at the front of the car on the driver's side working from the rocker up so just above the really bad part.

Once I ground off the rust back to clean metal I brushed on some POR15. I'm using their gas tank sealer because I had some. I like using the gas tank sealer because its very thin and brush strokes are pretty well hidden.

So then I'm left with a choice, the surface rust is stabilized and while there aren't any holes underneath I know that there will be holes soon and since winter is on its way this problem will become very bad by next year and that will ensure this is a three year car, maybe even just a two year car. So after a lot of debate and some poorly considered fiberglass I went to the hardware store and bought some new cutting wheels. So with my new cutting wheels I sliced out a 4" x 12" segment from the front of the car and welded in a piece of old computer case. I like working with old computer cases because the metal is very dense, this is because we'd like to have computer cases be non-magnetic. This is actually some of my better welding, I wish I'd gotten a picture. Its a LOUSY place to weld, I jacked up the car and got a stand under it but I still had to lie on my back and weld up, the outside wasn't bad but the inside was a drag. Once that was done I ground down the welds and wire brushed the whole thing before brushing on more POR15. In a couple places I filled in little holes with fiberglass and more POR15. It would have been very hard to weld behind the front fender and I didn't want to go through pulling the fender. Maybe next spring I'll have a chance.

So anyway I figure this side of the car needs 2 more feet of 4" wide on this side and if this side needs it I'd bet the other side needs it too. Thats probably going to use up this whole computer, fortunately we just replaced our microwave and I'm told old microwaves make good repair metal too.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Removing the human slime!

That should give you an idea how dirty the Jetta was when I got it. The Mighty Car Mods guys call that "human slime" and I'm inclined to agree. I started cleaning the car with my shop vac which of course chose that time to fail, it'd run but on shutdown howled like a dry bearing and it have very little suction. I pulled it apart to find the impeller full of dust bunnies and the bushing (no bearings here) dry. I lubed the bushing with a little Marvel Mystery oil (everybody's favorite) and cleaned out all the bunnies. I also took a second to put the filter in place :)

An hour later the car was much cleaner but still pretty filthy and I was thinking about soaking the seats in cleaner and sucking it back out with the shop vac like a carpet cleaner. Then I suddenly remembered that we have a carpet cleaner. Angie's grandparents gave it to us. It took some time for me to figure out how it works, Angie is the only one who had used it and I couldn't find the book but I got it going and we went from this:

to this:

Actually I took another pass at it after the picture, this time I put Simple Green right on the seat and ran clean water in the carpet cleaner. I should have taken a picture of the grime that came out of the seats.
Anyway its MUCH better. I won't say it looks like a new car but it looks like a much less dirty old car.

With all that going on I also have the following parts on order:
Coolant distribution pipe - to fix a minor coolant leak
Shifter boot and parking brake boot - both are cracked and ratty looking
Vacuum pump - for the central locking, I wasn't going to replace it until I found one cheap on eBay.

Today I need to order:
Ignition switch - Gotta get the headlights back on
Timing belt - I have no idea when this was last replaced. Its an 80,000 mile schedule which would seem to indicate 240,000 but considering failure of the timing belt ruins the engine I don't dare chance it.
Serpentine belt and power steering belt - Both have to come off for the timing belt so I figure its a good time to replace 'em.
Water pump - When replacing the timing belt the water pump is right there, I figure it should be done too. With that done I'll put in all new proper G12 VW coolant.

Next up: Rust repair

Sunday, September 8, 2013

1998 Jetta TDI fuse #21

It turns out that the sunroof and interior lights are controlled by fuse number 21 which on my car was blown when I got it. I grabbed a replacement and the instant it touched its seat it blew again. The owners manual for the car says its "interior lights, power roof, clock" okay, lets start disconnecting things.

I pulled all the interior lights, and disconnected the power roof, tried another fuse and it popped again instantly. Strangely the clock still works, further research indicated that "clock" really means "analog clock" which I don't have, mine is a digital in the gauge cluster.

Well phooey, now I'm thinking maybe something from the aftermarket radio is shorting out because that doesn't work either so I start pulling the dash apart...

Note to self, research FIRST.

In the end great mother internet saved me. Not listed in the manual the central locking module is also run off fuse 21, it lives in the trunk on the mk3 Jetta.

Interestingly the module itself (its that brown topped thing in the picture) is very similar to the vacuum pump responsible for locking the doors on my '84 190D. I've got a spare for the 190D but the electrical connections are totally different. I found online a writeup for repairing the comfort control module for a Passat but it appears to not be the same thing. At some point I'll open mine up and have a look around inside. For now central locking is not all that important to me.

So now the sunroof and interior lights work, awesome but wait, now the headlights, wipers and washer don't work. BLAST! More research shows this is almost certainly caused by the ignition switch, not the lock part but the electric switch itself. Put one of those on the "to purchase" list.

Up next, removing human slime!

New battery

First order of repair had to be a new battery. For a car that starts so easy it seemed wrong to have to jump start. I was dismayed to find the Group 49 I pulled out of the '84 190D (when I replaced the battery in that car I turned in the one from my '83 240D which was really old keeping this one as a spare) would fit the battery box acceptably well but the cables wouldn't stay on. My local Car Quest sold me a group 48 for $25 less than Autozone wanted for a smaller group 47, love my local Car Quest.

Before installing the battery I thought I should clean up the battery box some. Battery boxes (really a battery platform in this car) get all nasty and corroded from battery acid dropping on them. I couldn't get the box out so I brushed the worst of the rust an corrosion off and vacuumed out the debris, then hit it with some Rustoleum.

I soaked the hold down bracket overnight in Evapo-rust and painted it also. Hopefully this will keep rust at bay for awhile.

Next step: Why don't the interior lights and sunroof work?

Friday, September 6, 2013

What have I done?

Oh dear readers, I'm sorry to have deserted you but I promise there will be posts a plenty for awhile. You see yesterday I sinned, oh how I have sinned.
Some might remember a few months ago when I looked at a '98 Jetta TDI. Well I wrote about it on the Okiebenz list and it turns out my friend Tom runs a program for troubled kids which takes car donations. They had a '98 Jetta and did I want it? It took some time to work out the details but yesterday Fred and I drove down and came back with a Jetta.

Refueling the Ranger on our way home.

24x,xxx miles with a bad battery, a coolant leak, iffy parking brake and some body issues like typical A3 Jetta rust under the rockers. Otherwise its in remarkable shape. When jumped it starts with just a touch of the key. It roars along pretty good, Tom has a good big parking lot we could try it out in. Fred really flogged it around, enough to make Tom nervous which was pretty funny. No funny noises from the turbo or transmission, it does need some shifter bushings but those look pretty easy.

Anyway its home now:

First mission is to replace the battery and clean the interior, the cure a coolant leak and stabilize the rust...