Friday, July 30, 2010

Brake and Clutch Pedal Pads

VW Pedal Pads

Not sure exactly when this was made, but it has the original part number stamped on the side and the VW logo on the front.  Very cool for $1.95 for the pair.  Thanks jbugs!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thing's First Car Show

I didn't want a museum artifact, I wanted something fun that I could enjoy on nice summer days.  I didn't know how people would react to it at a car show.  Yawns?  Humiliation?  Pointing and laughing?  Nope.  I was surprised at how big a hit The Thing was.  Lots of questions, and lots of people saying "I remember when these first came out" and "I remember the TV commercials for these, they showed how you could take the doors and top off and fold down the windshield!"

The rest was mostly questions like "Is this really a Volkswagen?"  and "What is this?"  That's generally the trend ... people either remember The Thing fondly, or else they are completely bewildered by it.

There are more car show pictures here, including a few pictures of a beautiful 1960 Wolfsburg Edition Beetle.  There was also some kind of contraption that used to be a beetle, but isn't any more.  Please look and enjoy!

The car show was way more fun than I expected.  Wegmans does a great job - there is food and door prizes, and they run them all summer.  I will definitely go again.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Well, the brakes finally work!  After taking off the hoses, a lot of air got into the system.  It took a lot more pump-and-hold cycles than I thought it would to get all the air out.  They weren't big bubbles, either.  It looked kind of like soda pop fizz.  But after many repeats clean, clear fluid came out of both sides.  We went down to Canandaigua and had dinner at Doc's.  Brake pressure is good, no funny pulling or anything when engaged (even during hard braking).


Our friend Dave helped a ton getting everything straightened out, helping me with his lots-and-lots of VW experience.  He told me I probably couldn't screw it up.

Thing at Canandaigua Lake City Pier, Windshield Down

Thanks also to Rob and Susie for polishing up the beautiful, classic half-moon VW hubcaps.  Thanks also to Rob for fixing a dent in one of them.  They look great!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Brake Update

I changed the front brake flex lines today.  The inside of them was unbelievably bad.  From the outside they looked good, but on the inside they were completely closed up.  They definitely needed replacement, and I'm sure this will make a huge difference.

So far, I haven't been able to get them to bleed properly.  I'm not seeing air bubbles, but the brakes are soft, and not really doing anything significant until the pedal is all the way on the floor.  I'm either doing something wrong, or else there's still a problem somewhere in the system.

My favorite air cooled VW Forum has expressed some concern about the pedal pushrod adjustment.  Susie helped me take a picture of my pedals, and they definitely seem a little off:.  The stick shows what's roughly perpendicular to the floor.  The clutch pedal is about parallel, but the brake pedal leans too far back.  You don't feel any master cylinder pressure until the pedals are about even.  That's too much free play and will need adjustment later.

My other small accomplishment today was to install some new tail pipes.  They're really cheap, $6/ea for the pipes and about $3 each for the clamps. They look pretty good, can't wait to see them in the sunshine.

More on brakes and stuff tomorrow :-)

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Beetle by Any Other Name

The Volkswagen Beetle has many names.  Most of them mean "Beetle" in the local language, but not all of them!  Here are some interesting ones:
  • Kever ("Beetle", Netherlands)
  • Poncho (Chile).  In Spanish, Poncho as a noun means just what you think, a poncho.  As an adjective, it can sometimes mean "peaceful."
  • Fakrouna ("Tortoise", Libya)
  • Cucarachita ("little cockroach", Honduras)
  • Boble ("Bubble", Norway)
  • Bhyagute Car ("Frog Car", Nepal)
  • Buburuza ("ladybird", Romania)
  • รถเต่า -("Turtle Car", pronounced Rod Tao, Thailand)

Thanks Wikipedia

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Post That Wasn't

There wasn't supposed to be a Thing update today, but two interesting items.

First: I got my new plates!

Second: I took a trip to Vintage Auto restoration in Scottsville.  They specialize in volkswagens.  I got to see a project they were finishing up: the most beautiful 1957 Beetle Convertible I have ever seen.  The owner talked with me about my brake problem and said the most neglected part of the braking system are the hoses that go from the body to the wheels.  Apparently, the hose inside them is very tiny - much smaller than the rubber hose would lead you to believe.  According to him the rubber swells over time, eventually pushing on the actual tube inside and, often, leading to exactly the problem I'm having: you step on the brakes and they work, you let go of the pedal and brake fluid doesn't flow back into the cylinder.

It's much easier than changing the master cylinder, so I'm going to give this a try.  More later.

Here is a picture of that '57 beetle convertible:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Master Cylinder @#%($&%*!!!

Well, I have hit a roadblock.  The wheel cylinders have been replaced, bearings repacked (Thanks Dave Curry!) and everything looks great ... except when you step on the pedal the brakes lock.

The wheel cylinders and pads definitely needed replacing.  One side was weeping ever so slightly out the seal, and there was a lot of rust.  Everything came out looking and feeling pretty good, but after bleeding them I was having a really hard time getting them adjusted.  I would have them where I thought they needed to be, Dave would depress the pedal, and the wheels would be locked up again.  This is after enough pedal presses that the pads should have had time to adjust/center themselves.

The feel of the pedal is also not so great.  There's a lot of pedal travel before it encounters the resistance of the master cylinder, and when you do, you have to push harder than I would expect for it to stop the wheels.  Then, at that point, the wheels are locked, and the only way to unlock them is to open the bleeder valve and let a little fluid out.  Thereafter the wheels pins nicely (until you hit the pedal again).

So, I think it's going to be time for a master cylinder.  Part price seems to vary.  I'm looking at German made parts.

Thing Shop: $120
JBugs: $59
Chirco: $89

I'm thinking about ordering from Chirco because the guys there have been so insanely helpful to me on the forums.  I need to compare shipping, and I don't want to wait another entire week, so I'm probably going to do 2 or 3 day.

Changing the master cylinder doesn't look too bad, but I currently have a far more pressing item to fix: the air conditioner on my Jeep Liberty Renegade has siezed and is smoking, making the vehicle undrivable except for very short trips (and with the windows all rolled down).  So that's the project for Thursday - don't expect any Thing updates for a few days (sorry).

Update: the master cylinder apparently needs to be bench bled.  Here's the procedure:

Looks like it will require a lot of patience to pull this off.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Wrong Shoes!

Advance Auto Parts gave me the wrong brake shoes.  Actually, in a box of 4 shoes, only 1 of them was wrong. It had one less spring hole, and it was the one I needed.  I took the parts back to the store, and they pulled another box off the shelf - and it also was not a matching set!!!  We were able to put the the two boxes together and give me one, complete, nearly identical set (lining color was slight different on one, but composition supposedly the same).  Either way, they fit, and the brakes are reassembled but not the axle bearings and drums (yet).

The brake line is dry (as in empty).  I'm a little concerned by this, maybe it takes more pumping than I think it does.  Hope to solicit help to figure that out.  (Obviously, can't bleed them until everything is assembled and adjusted).

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cleaning and Waiting

Still waiting for my brake parts.  While I'm waiting I decided to try to clean up the drums a little, and I was very happy to find them to be in excellent condition.  There is still a little surface rust on the drum surface, but no pitting or grooves, and no real signs of wear.  Gave the bearings a good fresh coat of grease, but other than a little time with a wire brush (which is mostly cosmetic) there's not a ton to do here.  Hopefully brake parts get here soon.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Braking News

You're wondering: is it good news, or bad?  Well, it's a bit of both.  First the bad news.  The front brake shoes, which looked pretty good from the side, didn't look so good when I took everything apart.  Plenty of pad left, but what was there was cracked, pitted, and brittle.  My prediction is that the back shoes will be in similar condition.  I won't tackle that until the front ones are finished (for starters, I don't have enough jack stands).

The good news is that the brake hardware cleaned up very nicely using the multimedia blaster and ultrasonic cleaners at work:

Outlook is that I will get my wheel cylinders and new hardware on Monday.  I will probably use all new hardware, and keep the above set as extras.  (Why not?  I'm planning on this set of brakes lasting a long, long time!)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Right Front Brake Disassembled

Tonight I disassembled my front right brakes.  It went much better than the left side, mainly because I knew what I was doing.  The biggest problem was the top adjuster star nut (same one that was horribly frozen on the driver's side).

The brake hardware is not in terrible condition, but it's all pretty rusty.  I marred the adjuster nut a little trying to get it off (it was really frozen).  Tomorrow it all goes into the ultrasonic cleaner, and we'll see what comes out.  Regardless of how it looks, I am inclined to change out all the springs, adjusters - I already have new kits on the way.

The wheel cylinder is pretty rusty.  I find it hard to believe it moves very freely, though this brake did seem to work better than the left side.  Unlike the left, I didn't see any seepage under the seal.  I'll replace it anyway.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Brake Trouble

I got my Thing inspected.  It failed only because of a broken windshield wiper motor.  I have since fixed the motor (more on this later) ... but on the way home from the shop, the front left brake locked.  I'm not sure if it was the stress of its first car full of people, or "Mechanic's Entropy," but as Rytek pointed out the star adjuster nuts are VERY rusty.

I am probably going to replace the adjusters and wheel cylinders all around, and bleed the system.  I will decide once I get a look inside.  Step 1, though, is to get the drum off.  I have been on Step 1 all day.

VW Thing Fun and Maintenance

When I was a kid my dad gave me an oscilloscope and a function generator.  This started me on a journey that turned into a career.  I love what I do, but it's all in the world of electronics and software.  I'm mechanically challenged.

I bought this 1973 Volkswagen Thing for three reasons.  First, I have thought they were cool since my friend Eric and I used to gawk at them on Long Island as teenagers.  Second, opportunity arose - I found this old thing on Cape Cod, within driving (well, towing) distance, almost all original and in pretty good condition but needing some attention here and there.  Finally, I want to be a little less "mechanically challenged."
This is supposed to be a hobby, a learning experience, and oh yeah something fun to drive for the brief but wonderful Rochester summer.

I'll try to make it interesting.  :-)