Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Golf comes home on a wrecker, due to timing belt tensioner malfunction

Not even one day after buttoning up the car from the coolant sensor replacement, I got stranded while coming back from town, running some errands.  The car just stalled and wouldn't restart.  At first I thought I might have been out of fuel, (needle was slightly above 'E', not usually a problem).  I coasted into a nearby business parking lot and checked the fuel lines, there was no air.  I opened the timing belt cover and the belt looked fine.  However, I wiggled it and there was a lot of play.  I determined that the tensioner had likely failed and the belt skipped a tooth or so.  Called a wrecker and got a "free" ride home thanks to AAA.
We were leaving for a weekend camping trip that day, so I had no chance to do anything with it. That was a little anxiety-inducing, considering the possibility that my engine may or may not have been destroyed. When I got back I finally got it apart and reset the timing.  Sure enough, the tensioner was basically not attached anymore.  The nut had come loose and all but fallen off.  I definitely remember that I tightened it "pretty hard" before (there is not enough room to get a torque wrench in there).  This time I put thread-lock compound on it, so hopefully it will be good to go.

I got the timing all set up using my tool set.  As a neat trick (though somewhat unnecessary) I set up my laptop with a USB webcam so I could monitor the TDC mark on the flywheel, while I rotated the crankshaft from below.

The timing belt was still in really good shape.  No sign of shredding at all, in fact it still had the writing visible.  Seems like the 100,000 mile belt I bought was a good choice. I replaced the "ribbed" (accessory drive) belt as that was cracking.  Pulled out the locks and breathed a sigh of relief as I successfully rotated the engine through by hand.  Got it all back together, with the whole job coming in at about 5-6 hours, taking my time.  I have realized that if I try to go any faster than that, I end up doing the job twice.

If I had the dealership or someone else do it, it would have probably cost $500-$700, and that would have been after withstanding tons of grumbling and groaning about the veg kit, other mods done to the car, the age of the car, etc. etc. 

Really feeling like I haven't got time for this crap now.  Here's to finding a new car soon.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Emergency repair after brake caliper cease

Happened a little while ago now, but I didn't get a chance to write about it.  The driver's side brake caliper had been dragging for quite some time.  After a trip the wheel would be extremely hot.  I'd been planning to deal with it some weekend, but when I noticed some brake fade, I had to do something.  I ordered a new hub on a hunch, and it turned out to be a good call.
Driver side rear end torn all the way down after the components were damaged from high heat.
The caliper pins had frozen up causing the brake to be stuck on.  The pads were worn down to nothing.  The heat caused the tone ring (associated with the ABS sensor) to warp.  Since the tone ring is integrated with the hub, I had to replace the entire hub assembly.  

While I was in there I also replaced the splash shield (shockingly, the dealership had this item in stock!  The first time ever). So the whole process went like this:

  • Remove wheel
  • Remove brake caliper
  • Remove rotor
  • Remove hub nut (after locating my old VW hub nut socket!)
  • Pull hub assembly (used jaw pullers)
  • Unbolt stub axle
  • Get the &*@#$!ing bearing race off without damaging the stub axle (I used air chisel.  It was fast but delicate work.)
  • Replace splash shield
  • Reinstall stub axle
  • Install new hub
  • Install new hub nut
  • Reinstall rotor (it was only a little warped, acceptable).
  • Repair and grease caliper pins
  • Reinstall caliper
  • Install new brake pads
  • Install wheel
I did this all in under 2 hours, as I needed to get my car back on the road in a hurry so I could return the trailer I had borrowed.  Then I finished building a deck. 

On a philosophical note.

I've spent a lot more time this summer working on my house instead of the car.  The work wasn't really that hard (I didn't have to figure out how to drill out a single rusty bolt), and now we have a beautiful kitchen and a new deck.  I have a great feeling of accomplishment and something that I can share with our friends and family.  Really got me thinking. If I put half the amount of labor I put into my car into my house, I would end up with something that is actually worth money in the end.  Meanwhile, my car just sucks money and time and, if I'm lucky (and determined enough), I am left with a car that will get me around.  I looked at my car log, and the amount of money I've been putting into it for parts alone would pretty much justify the payments on a $20K auto loan.  Add to that the fact that I'm really getting tired of dropping everything so I can lose an entire morning, afternoon, day, or days working on my 12-year-old car.  Even though I love my car, I think the time has come for me to trade up to something that I can "just drive".  When I got my Golf TDI, they were very difficult to come by, but the new ones are pretty easy to find and absolutely drool-worthy.  I've also considered getting a Prius, as they are loaded with tech opportunity.  They get similar mileage, but they run on gas which is cheaper than diesel (at least it has been for about 10 years).  I wouldn't have the option of running on vegetable oil, but it's been quite a while since I've done that, and I probably won't have time to do it again.

Anyway, just something I'm considering.  I'm not in a hurry to do anything yet, and as it happens it looks like the crop of cars I found interesting on Craigslist has sort of dried up.  Meanwhile. my inspection is due and I have a coolant temp sensor to replace.  So for now, tune into the next episode!