Previously on Flinking Around: our travelling friend is driving up the steep and hot hills of Crater Lake, but the van is spewing out black smoke and is sounding like an old rusty coffee grinder… This does not look good…. Will he be able to get the van fixed or is it going to be an early end to this mighty adventure? The answers to this and little more on this episode of Flinking Around.
From the campsite near Crater Lake I kept driving until my phone buzzed to indicate it had reception. This turned out to be in Medford, Orgeon. I stopped the van and searched for a garage that could fix Volkswagens that would be not too far away and did not have terrible reviews. Luckily it’s in Oregon where there are plenty of VW vans so there is a garage right in this town only 5 minute drive away.
I show up at the garage and there are at least 10 other VW vans there, mostly older ones than mine and in different states of usability. In the garage I tell them about my 1991 T4 Diesel (called Eurovan at this side of the water) and its issues. They say that’s impossible, Eurovans were only made after 1993. Maybe in the US, but not back in the Volkswagen motherland. Everyone in the garage (including the other costumers) got excited and wanted to have a look at my van. When I opened the hood they said that in 40 years of work on Volkswagens they had never seen this type of engine before before, but they were excited to work on it. I could come back the next morning at 9 and they would put the van on the bridge and have a look.
First debug conclusions:
- There is mud and dirt everywhere at the bottom of the car. And I don’t mean just a thin layer but centimeters and literally everywhere…
- Black smoke is probably just the diesel, caused by the heat and hard work (it was 40+C outside, the mountain was so steep that the engine got above 110C). From now on whenever the van gets to hot: open the windows and put the heater on full to cool down the engine some more. If it still gets too hot slow down or take a break.
- Oil doesn’t seem to be leaking noticeably. As long as it doesn’t get worse and as long as I keep filling up the oil, it’s probably not worth fixing it
- The rattling while turning comes from the CV joint. The cover is torn causing the immense amounts of dirt to get into the wheel bearings. Definitely needs to be replaced before it breaks on the highway.
- More rattling comes from the muffler being loose. It looks like someone already tried to weld this back together, but a clamp should fix this properly.
They don’t have a CV joint in stock, but delivery is next day. So time to fix some minor other issues in the meantime:
- It was about time again to change the oil (also I bought some extra oil filters from them because they seem to be a bit rare but actually quite cheap).
- Plug the gap in my trunk next to the water hose. This gap causes my trunk to fill up with dust whenever I drive a dirt road (which is something I don’t plan on stopping).
- Replace the auxiliary battery. When I started my trip I could do 4 days without a campsite with power, now it discharges within a day. Obviously, being an engineer, I do the install myself and just buy a good battery from them.
The installation of the CV joint takes a large part of the third day. Apparently it was a pain to get the axle out. The mechanic also did a check to see if there was anything else that could use some attention but he found nothing. He went for a quick test drive in which he had to learn how to drive a manual van again and yes it really accelerates this slowly. You should’ve seen it in Canada when I actually did have power issues and would take half a minute to get to 60km/h. I told the mechanics: nothing personal but I hope to not see you guys anytime soon again. They agreed and I quickly drove away.
These same days in a parallel world on the campsite nearby Medford I got invited for dinner on the first night by my friendly neighbors and managed to swim 75 laps in the swimming pool when all the kids were finally gone for dinner (to be honest I think the pool was max 10m long, but still that was the most swimming I have done in a very long time).
After three days and two nights in very hot Medford I was happy to leave. The van was running better than it had in a very long time and it’s very quiet (for a 90s diesel). However, now I had to skip a part of my trip. I was planning to head back to the coast and drive that down to San Fransisco along the Redwoods. But I lost a few days and the friends I wanted to visit obviously have to work weekdays (work, what’s that?). If I follow the highway for a day, I should make it to the Bay Area by Friday afternoon. So I skipped the ocean drive. (Thanks anyway Felix for the tip! I’ll keep it listed for next time.).
The mechanics had told me that I would get a good test for the van soon enough. And they were right, the big highway leads over a pass with a 12km long 6% slope and again the weather was throwing some 40+C at me. But I made it up without sounds or smoke. At least no smoke from my van… A large truck completely burned out not to far in front of me. The night was spend at a campsite in a nice mountain range with a short hike to a view point at sunset. Since only driving the highway would be boring I made a lunch stop at the very modern Sundial Bridge the next day before I would head to Berkeley to start a week of visiting friends and family.