Knock Knock?

Who’s there?

Our engine.

Well, our high hopes for the engine were dashed after we re-assembled, put the engine in and fired it up. The initial worst-case diagnosis was pretty close after all. Time for a new engine. Again.

Let me back up a bit. After being towed back to a hotel a few nights ago, we updated the blog to let folks know our status and I sent a few emails.  One e-mail was to some of the Portland members of the Type 2 AIRS list (for the record, half of them bounced). It was about ten o’clock in the evening. No more than an hour later, we had suggestions of recommended mechanics, parts places, places to stay, friends of friends to call, etc. Pretty amazing, actually. I’ll repeat what’s already been said – if you’re going to break down anywhere, Portland is the place.

One response was just so good we had to follow-up immediately. Christen said,  “Give me a call, I live in Gresham and am an ASE certified auto mechanic with 15+ years experience. I can offer a place to park your bus and help swapping the engine, tools too.My better half and I have a VW Karma debt to repay, so feel free to impose! ”  I give her a call and it just keeps getting better. A pro mechanic wants me to tow my bus to her house, guarantees we’ll be taken care of until it’s fixed, let’s us stay at her place, picks us up from the hotel, and buys us lunch.  Know any mechanics like that?

After hanging out for an hour or so, the bus arrives on the flatbed and we almost immediate get to work. Within a few hours, the engine is out and torn down to find the problem. The #4 exhaust valve broke off (see photo) and bounced around inside the cylinder for a while and mangled all sorts of metal. Did not go through the piston. Some small bits did get sucked back out the intake and into #3, but no serious damage there.  After lots more inspection, we decided to cross our fingers and get a new head and piston/cylinder, reassemble the whole thing and drive away into the sunset.  The rest of the evening was spent driving to get parts (again, Christen provided the wheels) and re-assembling everything back at her shop. She even had a donor engine for various bits and pieces we deemed needed replacing. After a pretty long day of wrenching, we had dinner a few beers and turned in.

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The next morning, I proceeded to put the engine in. Bode and Angela rode the MAX to the OMSI. Christen had some other business to tend to:  her ’58 Cadillac Hearse had to be taken to a friend to get a new exhaust (remember, Halloween is just around the corner.) Aside from being an ace mechanic, she’s also an artist, sculptor, creator of things that spew fire and enjoys scaring the hell out of people around Halloween. The ’58 Caddy Hearse with a 472 engine is a nice touch.  It looks like something a zombie would drive out of a cemetery.

Anyway, my engine goes back in, I fire it up and… knock, knock, knock. It was actually funnier than some knock, knock jokes I’ve heard – but now I know for sure it’s time for a new engine. Crunching on that broken valve probably bent the crank or bearings and now there’s really no other choice.  I’ve had lots of suggestions to just go buy a new engine (with lot’s of upgrades!) over the past few days and of course, I knew it would be the most likely path to success, but I’m stubborn I suppose. Thrifty too. I had to try to fix what I had. But now, without further delay, a new engine is coming. So, I pulled it out again, pulled the top-end off and took it to someone local who is going to rebuild the long-block for me. Stock. Like new again. Again.

If you go back a few months, you’ll see that’s how this trip started. The engine that came with the bus when I bought it had been on fire and was a complete mess. I found a Craigslist special – an impossibly low-priced freshly rebuilt turn-key engine.  The guy built them in his garage, did his own machine work, had 30+ years experience, etc. I spent a lot of time talking with him and he seemed like a good guy and I’m sure generally does good work. I suspect he or one of his minions may have liberally re-used parts (like, valves) that maybe were just too tired to be re-used.  It was a bargain, and like I seem to never learn, you get what you pay for. Hopefully, now things will right.

9 thoughts on “Knock Knock?

  • September 16, 2009 at 12:23 PM

    Hi Guys,
    Just got back from Catherine Creek Wetwesties/Idaho Bus Pitots Campout. I’m so sorry to hear about the break down. Just keep in mind it’s all part of the adventure. As you have seen when you drive a VW Camper you are part of a great family!!! We watch out for each other. We wave as we pass, stop and help when found on the side of the road. VW people are the greatest. Welcome to the family. You guys are a great addition!!!

  • September 16, 2009 at 1:13 PM

    Yowza. even the rings got bent up!

    Sorry to hear about the cata$trophy. Sounds like your on the right path now though.

    Which Local Mech., might I ask?

    If you’r in town Sunday, come on down to the Lucky Labrador Pub (kid friendly) around 5 pm. there will be a local contingency (and one from Maine…)of Bus Pilots that know of your dilemma. Come commiserate and hear some other horror stories if for nothing more than to remember to be thankful that you have a bus and that means your part of the family, and to enjoy a good beer.

  • September 16, 2009 at 1:36 PM

    I want to be Christen when I grow up.

  • September 16, 2009 at 3:07 PM

    Should probably specify the LL on Quimby in NW portland (19th and Quimby)

  • September 16, 2009 at 4:30 PM

    stubborn and thrifty …. could be worse ; )

  • September 16, 2009 at 8:37 PM

    I’m sorry to hear that your repair didn’t work. I really don’t think you want to put anymore $ into that case without checking everything, like how many times it was line bored. And like you said, the crank may be bent as well. I think you should consider building your own engine. Your pretty mechanically inclined, and getting better by the day it appears. You have lots of folks there to lend a hand, and hopefully the tools that you don’t have. And you will then know for sure everything is right.

    You should take Gypsies advice if you are able and hit the Lab on Sunday and talk to some of the other bus folks there. I bet you won’t have trouble finding someone who would help. Good luck and let me know if you need any parts shipped. I can even ship you up some specialty tools that you can use, and ship back when your finished.

  • September 16, 2009 at 11:41 PM

    It always is a welcome surprise when I am reminded just how cool and human people can be.

    Hope you guys aren’t down for too long. At this rate, you’ll hit snow soon!

  • September 17, 2009 at 10:32 AM

    Yes, with all the traveling you’re doing and plan to do, a fresh engine is the way to go. Best of luck and happiness on your continuing travels.

    Also, within the website of is a list of recommended VW parts and repair places all across the country and Canada/Mexico too. A good site to bookmark in case you need future assistance.

  • September 20, 2009 at 8:05 PM

    Christin here, just wanted to say thank you for all of the cool stuff you did for us while you were here. I didn’t have to do dishes for nearly a week! WooHoo! I hope all is going well with the new engine and you’re all having a killer time on the coast! Gimme a call when you’re back in Portland for your 500 mile check up!


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