Saturday, August 29, 2009

Basics Valve Adjusting VW WBX 1.9 - What Are They Talking About?

I just want to provide some pictures and some basic basic information that should help you figure out what the experts are talking about on the other sites that discuss valve adjustment on the VW engine. There is plenty of information and controversy out there about how to adjust valves, that is one turn, two turns, pre-load, etc.

When they are talking about gap or lash and pre-load, they are referring to the space between the top of the valve stem and the rocker arm. The space is measured at a certain point in the rotation of the engine for each cylinder, basically when the push rod is just about to start lifting the rocker arm to begin to push down the valve. There is a screw locked down by a nut that runs through the rocker arm and actually touches the top of the valve stem. The other side of the rocker arm, like a see-saw, is pushed up and down by a rod that is moved by the cam shaft and lifters (lifters are little spring and oil filled cans close in size and shape to a "c" battery that actually ride on the cam).

That space is measured with a gap measuring tool which is a fan of different thicknesses of thin metal shown here. Since most auhtorities recommend some pre-load, that is screwing down the adjusting screw some number of turns after contact, the measuring tools helps you determine when the screw just touches the valve stem. With a thin blade, .005 or less, in between the screw and the valve stem, screw down until the blade is pinched. That will tell you when you are right at the top of the valve stem.

The gap is adjusted by turning the slot in the screw that goes through the rocker and touches the valve stem.

Before you can adjust the valve screw, you have to loosen the nut, which is a 14mm, (most everything else is a 13mm). After you have the pre-load set or gap or lash adjusted, you have to tighten that nut back down to lock the screw into place.

As with everything else, do your research, take your time and walk away if you get frustrated. 45 minutes of someting else resolves and avoids a lot of problems.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

valve spring removal

My 1985 VW vanagon was running for about fifteen minutes and then losing power. It would idle but did not have enough power to move. This loss of power would occur about fifteen minutes into my test drives and would begin as hesitation and what seemed like missing. Once the symptoms set in, I opened the engine cover and wiggled the spark plug wires and coil. When I just touched the wires coming out of the distributor (the hall sender wires) it died immediately. I started it back up, again touched the wires and it immediately died. This seemed like a pretty good indication that I had a problem with the ignition wires. I ordered a new ignition harnes from Kyle at kyleautomotice specialists and a couple days later a beautiful new harness with new plugs and perfect wires arrived in the mail. After putting in a new ignition wire harness into the 1.9 waterboxer (as well as a new coil and new spark plug wire set which I may or may not have needed), I went off for a test drive. It was obviously missing. I pulled the plugs and number three was wet. I pulled the spark plug wire off number three while running and no difference. I checked number three for spark by cranking the engine with the plug pulled and a spark plug put into the wire and held near the engine block to ground (rather than through your body) and confirmed spark. I pulled the fuel injector and cranked the engine to confirm a pulsing cone shaped spray and no dripping after turned off. All those checked out so I checked compression in #3 and found 0 compression. I pulled the valve cover off and found a broken compression spring. This was a problem and hopefully my only current problem.

I have a couple of spare heads complete with valves and springs from the engine that broke a connecting rod, but I did not know how to remove the valves and the springs. After reviewing the Samba forum and receiving some response to a post, I had enough to tackle the project. The samba is an amazing source of VW information, technical guidance, moral support and inspiration.
Working with engines and particular older engines sometimes requires the exact tool. A great deal of the work on the 1.9 and 2.1 waterboxers can be accomplished with a 13mm socket but there are somethings that you just cannot do easily without the right tool. A valve spring compressor is essential to free up the keepers that hold the valve in place. It is available at a FLAPS (friendly local auto parts store) and is shown above.
The valve is held closed by the pressure of the springs. The flare part of the valve seals against the underside of the head and closed off the piston cylinder creating compression. I had no compression in cylinder three because of the broken spring. On the waterboxer, there are actually two springs, a thick outer and a thinner inner spring. The stem of the valve runs through the springs, is capped with a holder/washer and the holder/washer is held on with a keeper. The keeper is actually two wedge shaped semi circles that catch the ringed grooves in the stem and then jam in the holder/washer. At right is a picture of the parts of the valve and spring assembly.

Here is a close up of the keepers and the valve stem

The valve compressor takes the pressure off the keepers and allows the washer/holder to be pushed down so the keepers can be removed. If removing the valves from an in place engine, the valve must be held up to allow the washer/holder to be pushed down and expose the keepers. If the valve is not held up, compressing the spring just lets the valve open. Two methods can keep the valve up - compressed air into the cylinder through the spark plug hole or a length of thin line fed into the spark plug hole and rotation of the engine to bring the piston up smashing the rope into the head, filling the cylinder and preventing the valve from opening. On a disassembled engine, you can hold the valve closed or put a roll of electrical tape between the bench and the valve. Once the valve spring is compressed, a little tap on the compressor and spinning the whole deal back and forth may be necessary to unstick the keepers from the washer/holder. Here is a picture of the compressor on the valve spring on the removed head and a close up that shows, a bit blurred, the keeper popping above the washer/holder.

The inner and outer spring create a bit of a problem. The jaws of this compressor only reach the outer spring so there is still some pressure on the washer/holder but not so much that it cannot be overcome with a little hand pressure. It does create a three hand challenge which is made easier with a pick like this to pop the keepers out. Be careful because the keepers are small and they will fly.

I used a washer cut into a "U" to extend the reach of the jaws to grab the inner and outer springs. It did help, but there was still some spring pressure left. Here is a picture of the washer that hopefully shows how it should work. A little larger washer would have worked better.

With a little patience and the right tool, you can free the valve from the springs without damaging anything.

Next I will remove the broken spring from the engine that is in the vanagon and replace it with one of the spares.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mission Statement

Two years ago on a whim I bought a 1985 VW Vanagon Weekender from a guy who was living in it up the street. He was a carpenter who was being hounded by the IRS. I doubt if he had ever made more than enough to libe on but he was apparently public enemy number one at the IRS office for never filing tax returns. I did not feel particularly happy about the situation he was put in, but he wanted to sell the van and I gave him his asking price, started the van and drove home two blocks, with the emergency brake on.
The first thing I did was drive around the neighborhhod looking for neighbors to freak out. I am a 45 year old trial lawyer. I am married to a wonderful and amazing woman and we have two children who are sixteen and thirteen. We live in a nice suburb about halfway between Annapolis and Baltimore. From all appearances, we are standard suburban family. Yes my wife is an artist and a designer and we do have creative non-conventional side. We are progressive liberal, but we live amongst and like many people who are country club/republican/private school/vacation in the islands/golf and tennis/I got mine/personal responsibility/former yuppie now suburban types.
As I am driving around the neighborhood with The Dead, Neil Young, Allman Brothers, Little Feat, Seldom Scene, John Prine, Buffalo Springfield and LA Dub Allstars playing, I am getting some looks from the neighbors. I am also getting some peace signs and "power to the people" salutes. Now the van is a good 13 years after the end of that era, but it still has the cache. It is freedom and empowerment. It is freedom because you can camp in it. It is empowerment because, as I have been learning, you can fix it,make it work, rebuild the engine, replace the clutch, do the brakes, grease the bearings, repack the CV joints and figure out all the wiring.
That is power.
Also as I was driving around on those first days of ownership, I was overheating the engine. There was a little "H" pipe that the previous owner (PO) had fixes with JB Weld. It leaked out the coolant. A little red light was blinking but I did not notice or care. Well when I figured that out I went on line looking for the part and found a wonderful place called The Samba. With the help of that forum, I had the knowledge to replace the head gaskets. After that repair, we were able to take the camper to Virginia Beach and had a fantastic time cruising in Sugar. On the way back, coming up I-95 and trying to keep up with traffic, the little engine just got too hot, the oil too thin and a connecting rod shot through the engine case. We rented a car carrier, borrowed a truck from some fantastic people in Fredericksburg and brought Sugar home. I found an engine on eBay, bought it and rebuilt it. Thats right, a lawyer took an engine completely apart, put it back together, put it back in the van and drove around under its own power. It worked for a little and more problems developed, but the point is, I built an engine that ran and powered a vehicle and it made me feel great.
In this era of the emasculated everyone, where no one can do anything, where nothing is repaired, where no one makes anything, this collection of German engineering, the people's car, can heal us. Sugar is a bread loaf looking brown brick of a vehicle that flips a big patriotic, can do, resourceful and independent bird to The Man.
I want to help others assert that independence.
I am no expert, but what I will do is carefully disassemble and catalogue the parts of a WATERBOXER engine for you. That and the technical expertise of the brothers and sisters on The Samba are all you need. So go find that 1983 to 1990 Vanagon and get empowered.