Archive for October, 2012


Posted on October 31, 2012 by 12 Comments

If you’re not interested in hearing about attempting a carburetor swap at a campsite, please skip until tomorrow’s post…

Okay, so our 3.5 year old dual-Kadrons have been slowing disintegrating and it was time to upgrade. A trusted friend (still is) recommended the ‘baby’ ICT dual-Webers, so I bought the kit over the internet when we were back in the US. As mentioned earlier, we barely got them into Argentina, so that probably wasn’t a good omen.

Now that we’ve decided to settle in at Piriopolis for a little bit, I figured it was time to dig in.First, the good news. I checked my compression for the first time since Santiago (not wanting to know) at it was 120-140-110-120. Not sure what’s up with the 140, but I’m otherwise a happy camper.

I pulled out the old Kadrons, moved the coil to behind the fuel pump using the included mount, then attempted to bolt on the manifolds.  First problem.

It turns out the manifolds are either designed poorly, or they were cast in an old mold, because it is literally impossible to get a tool on the bolts to tighten them up. I managed to get on 2, wrenching 10 degrees at at time, but that was it. Huge pain in the ass.  It was clear that they had cleaned up the casting on a grinder, but the guy doing that job seemed more worried about appearance than the ability to bolt the things on. I attempted to use one of Angela’s nail files to cut it down, but there was just no way.

Day 2, I don’t know the word for ‘file’ (I do now), but I still took the long walk into town to find a ferreteria and bought a flat bastard. This did the job and I figure I had to take over 1 mm of material from each side of both manifolds in order to get a bolt tightened all the way down and still have room for a socket. There’s not much material left. Onward.

I followed the poorly photocopied directions and set the linkage and got everything bolted up, but I just couldn’t find any way to align the left linkage so that it is perfectly centered (photo – suggestions welcomed). There just isn’t any room left on the hex bar to move the arm. The photos in the instructions show a different bar. And, there is no spacer included between the carb and manifold as I might have expected. And, the nut on the throttle arm for each carb was installed stripped. They used the wrong size nut and just torqued it down. All sorts of metal filings were under it when I removed it.  I’m not getting any impressions of quality. Onward.

I get to the point of tuning it up and I find that when I set the idle speed low enough on the left carb, there is no more adjustment on the mixture screw. There is room to turn it, but nothing happens. The right one continues to respond fine (I’m using a sync tool to make sure they are pulling air equally). So, I have to tune it and set it at about 1600 rpm in order to use the mixture screw on the left carb. Again, any suggestions welcomed.

Somewhere in here, I realize that my pedal is on the floor with no cable attached, so the spring behind the pedal has been doing nothing (the Kadrons have a hefty spring on them). So, I flipped the spring around behind the pedal, and it at least stands up. When I hooked up the cable, I found out that the tiny springs on the carbs aren’t doing much either. After pushing in the pedal, it barely returns. I see some sort of custom spring solution in my future.

It was finally together enough to drive, but I quickly realized that I had no brakes. It turns out the vacuum lines are only meant for the original dizzy – and even this seem questionable. There are no vacuum connections on the manifold, so I’ve got to find some fittings and a shop to drill and tap some holes for me. I guess I should have known this before I even came back to South America – but I didn’t.

I drove it a bit around town anyway to feel them out. I wasn’t really impressed. They do seem to run smooth, but there seems to be a ‘flat’ spot when you hit the pedal – not much acceleration.  Maybe they’re just weaker than the Kadrons that I’m used to. Maybe I just need to play around with tuning some more. Also, I’m guessing – they just don’t make ‘em like they used to.

So, I’m back on the Kadrons until I can spend more time on it.

Overall impression of build quality: poor.

Overall impression of performance: poor.

Overall impression of ability to install at a campsite in Uruguay: poor.

I’m not giving up – I’ll give it another shot. Just not this week.

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Filed Under: Uruguay


Posted on October 29, 2012 by 3 Comments

The entire plan for the day was to drive to Montevideo and find some veedub parts. We need  ball joints, a tie rod, brake hoses, and a host of other things that don’t seem to be available in Argentina.

The drive from Colonia to Montevideo is pretty much a straight shot with not much between, but I did manage to spot a Karmann Ghia inside a garage on the way. After 17 countries, that would be #1.

The one and only destination for Montevideo was FuscaNet. I went in and went through my list. I ended up with only the tie rod and a few gaskets. And, some stickers. And some new friends. And, a tee shirt.

It turns out that this place is run by some really cool guys who started importing aftermarket parts from the US into Uruguay to support their hobby a few years back. Now, it’s a booming business (the place was hopping) and they even export VW parts to Brazil! After all the places we’ve been scrounging for parts for our bus, I can honestly say that this is the first aircooled-only VW shop we’ve seen in over a year. Still, it looks like we might be hosed due to the minor differences between the Brazilian and German buses. Forget that you can buy Brazilian-made VW parts almost anywhere in the US. Locally, it’s just Brazilian parts for Brazilian buses. Or Argentinean parts for Argentinean buses. Some of it’s the same – some of it isn’t.

Anyway, they sent me to a local mechanic who had two used German ball joints – we won’t use them, but it’s a start. Super nice guy. We’re going to come back and work something out in a few days – he’s confident we can get the right parts. In the meantime, I seriously need to work on my Spanish.

After doing everything we could, we decided to hit La Rambla and go find a campsite. Another hour along the coast and we happened on a nice spot near Solis. Freebie!

If someone were to tell me that you could camp on the beach and watch the sunset over the ocean in Uruguay, I would have guessed they were holding the map upside down. Well, we found one of those spots.

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Filed Under: Uruguay

Retracing our steps…

Posted on October 28, 2012 by 3 Comments

More on that bus list – the window crank AND a cabinet handle broke off today.  We still haven’t even had a chance to put on those new carbs.

But, we made it back to Colonia, a perfectly pleasant town. It’s early spring and there’s not much going on, but we kind of like that.

I don’t think I ever knew an actual clown while living in the U.S. Though there was one that ran for mayor of our hometown (literally). He lost, probably because he was… a clown.

I’ve already met 2 people who are full-time clowns between Buenos Aires and Colonia, Uruguay. Hmm.


Filed Under: Uruguay

Vamonos a Uruguay! Otra vez!

Posted on October 26, 2012 by 1 Comment

Finally back on the open highway, one more time through the Entre Rios area. The speed limit signs went from 120 km/h to 100, to 60 to 40 more times than I could count. But, luckily the weather seemed to keep the crooked cops inside (but not the hidden radar trucks). We were only stopped once, again asked for insurance paperwork (which is fake), left to sweat a few minutes while they went behind the car and stalled, and then told to have a safe trip. Whew.

There has been a lot of flooding in this region, and it was a gray day, so it wasn’t a very exciting drive. We stopped for gas, a trip to the vinoteca an lubricentro to spend the rest of our Argentine pesos. Finally, we hit the border and were able to check out of Argentina and into Uruguay in one efficient stop. They even gave us a year for the car papers. Pretty generous for a country you could drive across in one day. And, they let me keep the eggs and broccoli which they were supposed to confiscate.

It was nighttime before we had stopped for some more groceries and found an open campsite (the one our friend recommended was closed for the season). No hot water, but the restrooms were open, and it was free.

The night was really windy, and a bit more rain came, so we decided to take off before we were stuck in another muddy camp.

El Tigre

Posted on October 25, 2012 by 5 Comments

It didn’t take long before the bus stalled in downtown Buenos Aires traffic. Is it still deja vu if this has actually happened before? Only this time, we were minus MC and Simon, so I took the driver’s seat and Jason ran back and messed with the engine. It actually didn’t take too long to get rolling again, and we were only honked at a few dozen times.

Still, this sort of shot our plan to get to Uruguay that day. Instead, we changed plans and stopped short at a campsite in El Tigre, about an hour north of Buenos Aires. Because we started about an hour south of BA, this actually took all day, or at least seemed to. The bus died about 3 more times along the way. And, it’s getting hot.

Our plan was to spread out, do some shade-tree work and have a proper cleaning. Stuff we couldn’t get to at Rody’s shop. But, Mother Nature decided we better just spend an evening under the awning watching it rain instead.

After Bode came down from his bed declaring ‘there’s quite a storm out there’, the 3 of us didn’t get much sleep. Even from the inside, the bus was lit up by an incredible lightening storm. By the next day, the already muddy ground was a sticky gross mess. Not optimal for laying on the ground under the bus. Also, the awning didn’t quite make it through the night- one pole was snapped in half. Add that to the list, too.

The rain stopped for a while the boys caught up on their beauty sleep, I had my coffee at the campsite pier and chatted with Beatriz, the owner. She knows her overlanders, and spoke of the older German couples, French families, and single Swiss men in giant tanks that come through.

We were camped directly in front of the river, next to a giant ‘shipwreck’. The river is quite busy with ferry service, and while we were out there the school kids lined up to get on the boat for school. It was really cute.

When the guys were awake, we decided that this place wasn’t very good for our project list, so we went into town to run a few errands. Jason managed to tune up the bus on a side street in Centro Tigre and it stopped overheating (we figure the new oil pump may have had to ‘break in’ a bit too, so that could have contributed.) So, with a happy bus, after lunch we decided to make our border run and re-visit Uruguay.


Filed Under: Argentina

Hasta Luego, Buenos Aires!

Posted on October 23, 2012 by 5 Comments

The oil pump caused a 2 day delay in getting the bus prepared for the next leg of the trip. Jason and Rody were finally able to get the oil pump machined into something that would work.  If you need to put an Argentinean oil pump into a ‘German’ (Brazilian, actually) case, you will need to put your oil pump on a lathe and take off 2.5 mm from the inside.  You’ll also need to press out the shaft on one of the pump gears just a bit. Since the Argentinean bloque isn’t as thick as ours, the pump inlet and outlet ports don’t quite line up and the pump just won’t generate any pressure otherwise. It’s close, but just won’t work. Now, you know.

We did manage to completely go through the front end – a messy all-day affair complete with welding. Fortunately, there were no broken springs (a suspicion) but we did flip the springs around and regained 5 cm in suspension travel!  Before, the tren delantero was cansado, as they say.  Now, it’s more awake. And, we found out that all 4 ball joints (rotulas!) are shot, along with one tie rod. Again, these are different on the Argentinean models. We now have a date with a parts shop in Montevideo, Uruguay where we hope to find replacements.

There were lots of other small projects, and we didn’t even finish them all before we decided it was just time to get moving – there will always be something…. Rody and the gang had a final asada for us and we were finally off –  onward and upward!


Filed Under: Argentina

For Those About to Rock:

Posted on October 18, 2012 by 11 Comments

My kid loves AC/DC.  I’m not sure I would have known this if we hadn’t returned to Texas for the summer.

See, Houston Radio is terrible. One day, we were flipping around and we hit on ‘Back in Black’ and Bode went nuts.  Fists pumpin’ and head-bangin’ nuts (clearly, it’s a natural response).

The next day we got in the car and he requested, “put it on Back in Black.” He’s a digital kid and thinks everything is always at your fingertips.  Well, we didn’t have an MP3 player (or this on it if we did), so we went back to the classic rock station (The Eagle, or The Hawk, or something like that) from the previous day.  Guess what was on.  You guessed, it – Back in Black.  We laughed it off as a coincidence and proceeded to fill in the rest of our drive with generous helpings of Steve Miller and Journey from said station.

A few days passed and we were in the car again and Bode makes his request. We find The Falcon and it wasn’t on… yet.  Then, exactly one song later… Back in Black, baby! The Raptor instantly becomes known as “The Back in Black Station” from this point forward.

The rest of the trip goes by and the kid is fully educated on Van Halen (Hot for Teacher is another song broadcast continually), Skynard, Queen, Zep, Def Leppard, and whatever else.  You know, the basics.

This is significant for a few reasons.

One: We’re now living in Buenos Aires. Argentina. Guess what’s on the MP3 player right now.

Two: I’ve realized that in my inadvertent quest to expose my son to all sorts of music (among other things) that I’ve skipped over some of the essentials. Sure, he knows Stevie Wonder from Marvyn Gaye. But, not 80’s hair metal from Freedom Rock. I was too quick to skip ahead to the complexities of Built and Spill and Stephen Malkmus. I should be embarrassed to admit how much Iron and Wine and My Morning Jacket get rotation. Why would Bode want to listen to the pseudo-cerebral chill out music of his old man? He shouldn’t. This is stuff I appreciate, but what he should discover on his own (or not).

My boy needs a steady diet of old school rock and roll, followed by doses of power chord driven rock anthems. It wouldn’t be Rocktober without Zeptember.

Lesson learned.

Later, as we bump and bounce along sandy Brazilian beach roads, you can imagine your own soundtrack. It will rock.

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