Monday, 21 September 2009

Mealz on Wheelz and some unexpected stops

As has been said elsewhere, fortunately the the worst thing about it was that MWK was right and the van didn't make it as far as the cambridge/essex border before breaking down. The second worst thing about it was that it stopped and refused to start again in the middle of a busy-ish roundabout (as in I was halfway through turning right so fortunately tucked nicely into the middle) when I was on my own.

I of course did the sensible thing and put the hazards on, hopped out to stand in the middle of the roundabout (whilst watching big lorries bearing down on poor Jules) and called Will who was fortunately not very far away. Before he could arrive though, three very nice men stopped their various vehicles and pushed me out of harms way and whilst I sat on the side of the road, two separate van owners, one in a van and one not in a van stopped for a chat and a nose in the engine bay.

As it turns out, my initial assessment of the problem was correct (a vacuum hose had become disconnected and I had no fuel going to the engine - slightly more guess work than actual knowledge but still not bad!) but I looked in the wrong bit of engine bay so didn't see the disconnected hose [Tech note: the vacuum hose to the air flow sensor had become disconnected so without the requisite airflow, the fuel pump cut out. I have been praised for my bug reports but need to work on customer led resolution - the first line technical support, as always, was first class... :) ]

With the hose reconnected, off Jules and I went again. Unfortunately we missed our lunch date but alternative company and a new location was proposed so we sat out on the edge of a field and cooked quesadilla's

thank you to Kathryn for the idea - I suspect they may become a common theme in van cuisine!

to complete our full van experience that day, we had fish and chips for dinner in a deserted car park near Burwell - not something which will feature so much in our budget foreign lifestyle but jolly tasty!

We have since had one further "refuse to start" issue - caused by a combination of points, timing and HT leads but nothing that couldn't be fixed with a cup of tea - and our first night on the road which was actually on a road (ie not a driveway) and life is all good!

Saturday, 12 September 2009

first day of the rest of our lives...

Will finished work on Friday and after a day "working from home" in Jules in the car park and drinking tea and eating flapjack, his career at DL ended in fine style at the Castle with beer and long shaggy dog tales (of both varieties - don't ask...). In anticipation of a long night out on the ale, we had already decided that driving home would not be a viable option so we spent out first night out away from home in Jules - and it was good!

This decision was met with some bemusement and questioning however

"Why do you want to sleep in the car park? Wouldn't it be more comfortable just to go home?
.... [realisation dawns]...
oh yes, you're going to live in that for the next year aren't you"

After a very good night out, Will was not so keen to face the day... much less go outside.

But with a cup of tea inside us we headed into town in search of breakfast,

stopping to climb castle hill on the way - something I have never done before - and it was glorious!

If this is how life is going to continue - bring it on!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Tea in the (car)park and a date with destiny

Jules and I went for our first proper outing today, all by ourselves and it was good! Except for a bit of "finding reverse whilst being watched" stress, everything worked and I managed many complicated manoeuvres including "turn in the road using forward and reverse gears" (in three points!) and "reversing round a corner" with full use of mirrors and everything. Not quite brave enough for parallel parking yet but we will get there...

Following a yummy meal with some "ladies who could be easily persuaded to lunch", we had a lovely afternoon having tea and cake in the car park in Cambourne and being admired (Jules that is not me!) - thank you to everyone who came out for a poke around - Jules loved the attention :)

Best of all though is that we will be homeless from next friday! A lovely couple came back to see the house for a second time tonight and they want it as soon as possible ie next Saturday (19th) - nothing like a deadline to focus the mind...

So with Will's last day tomorrow, it looks like we might actually be doing this crazy thing... watch this space :)

Saturday, 5 September 2009

started first time!!!!!!

'nuff said :D

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Land's End to John O'Groats (the long way round)

so this is as far as the plans have got using the time honoured tradition of a map and pins on the wall...

it's not so much an itinerary at this stage as an intention and without even a working engine, let alone a leave date fixed, much could change en route....

12 months (or so), 28 countries (although some of them are very very small!), an estimate of 15,000 miles (or that's what we've told the insurance company...), the current plan is to come home when we get bored, run out of money or hate each other - whichever happens first!

We plan to have enough of a plan from time to time to enable those that can and want to, to find a cheap flight and come visit us (with a bit of notice) and all welcome!

If anyone has been to any of these countries and can tell us their "must see's" we are definitely up for any and all suggestions either now or nearer the time - always remembering my father's sage advice...

"cheap is good and free is as good as cheap gets..."

As and when we have internet access, you will find us here or at

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

assembly is the reverse of disassembly....

finally enough bits were bought, delivered, returned, foraged or cleaned for work to begin - although nearly a month later, we still don't have all of them!

armed with our trusty reference library including;
  • the Haynes Manual,
  • the Bentley Official Service Manual,
  • "How to rebuild your Volkswagon Air-cooled Engine" by Tom Wilson,
  • "How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot" by John Muir, and
  • the entire internet (especially shoptalk forum's Type4rum)
and with our very own telephone helpline, courtesy of Austin, we set out to put this jigsaw all back together again, right from the very first piece....


Things started well and after a short hiatus to determine conrod orientation (it turns out that on the Type 4 they don't have a "right way up" and therefore don't have the markings which tell you with way up they need to go which caused some confusion) we soon had the crankshaft looking just like the picture.

Camshaft next and because we had to get a slightly uprated one (due to delivery lead times not delusions of performance!), we had to reuse the old camgear - not a problem, drill the rivets out and when all else fails, hit it with a hammer!

We bolted the camgear to the new camshaft with the bolts provided and it all started looking good....

After some faffing, some sealing, some more faffing and some torquing we stuck the crankcase together and started on cylinders and pistons

All going well so far, too well.....

The next day, we hit our first real problem, when Will broke the oil pump whilst bolting it to the crank case. Upon the further investigation, the root cause became apparent...

<--Clearance available to camgear bolts

Clearance required for oil pump -->

Subsequent conversations with the camshaft and bolts supplier reassured us that

"oh yes sir they are the right bolts, they just need machining before you fit them"

This is a definition of "right" of which we have hitherto been unaware... but fortunately this advice did ultimately turn out to be correct as after a whistlestop 3-day trip to china for work, Will spent a happy couple of hours communing with his lathe (NB every job is a job for a lathe once you have one!) and bolts of the right size were created and fitted.

Honorable mention to Toby at this point for failing (yet trying very hard) to save the day ;)

Crisis averted, continuing on, or so we thought....

The next weekend was spent in its entirety trying to remove one stud from one cylinder head. It was too frustrating to even take pictures of as the head was alternately cooked in the oven and frozen with liquid oxygen and nut after nut was welded to and then sheared off the stud in question. Eventually at nearly 11pm on Sunday night, in the dark, the stud came out with less than an inch left and the head was "sent" for cleaning

Despite the (continuing!) lack of pushrods and some teeth sucking and "oh you didn't want to do it like that, I wouldn't have installed that camshaft in a Type 4, you won't find pushrods and lifters that will work with that cam and you'll probably find that your timing will be all wrong and your ecu won't like it and you might end up with no power but I suppose you could put it back together and see what happens" from a "properman", assembly continued until the magic words from Mr Wilson

"Now you have completed the basic engine rebuild. All that remains is to bolt on the accessories and you are ready to refit the engine"

After some faffing, the misdiagnosis of a perfectly fine thermostat and some more faffing

<--- the accessories, and

the newly sparkly tinware -->

were all bolted on and we were ready for refit - oh, still without pushrods but apparently they can go in after...

With the help of some actual skilled labour - well he has the right t-shirt anyway ;) - rather than just me, final pre-flight checks were completed

and the engine emerged, blinking into the light of day, to be reintroduced to the van.

somewhat surprisingly, this all went rather smoothly and a test turnover or two of the engine (still no pushrods(!) so no actual starting) resulted in oil pressure and no big puddles of oil on the floor - hurrah! - so accessorising can continue in earnest...

Which just leaves three questions:
  1. When will these pushrods ever arrive?
  2. Once we have them, will we find that it does actually work any better than it did before (or indeed at all)? and
  3. Where did all these left over bolts come from...?