It’s been awhile…

Life gets busy. And priorities change…as they should sometimes.

But finally, I have some time to devote to the bus.

Recently tried to start the bus, but it would turn over but just wouldn’t fire up. Yesterday, I drained the old gas(it’s been in there of two years with STA-BIL), and added several gallons of non-ethanol. Went to crank and it fired up, the timing was a little off but adjusted the distributor a little to get it at least running.

Pulled the distributor vent tube, plugged it and out the timing light on it to get it on the timing mark.

With her running again, it’s time to start on the leftover bodywork.

See below for a quick video on it running and how the engine compartment has turned out with a refresh.

99% to Perfection

After some ups and downs over the past week, and the engine knocking, I decided to check the points again.

After checking and trying to regap, I found that the points set screw was stripped. So, I’m thinking now that the problem with the engine knock was the points not being seated properly(or bouncing around) instead of the marine gas.

Stripped points screw? So what’s the fix? Found one other rebuilt 021 905 205 P but at $175, need to hold off for now. I decided to move up one screw size and went with a stainless steel 8/32″ screw. The smallest length I could find was 1/2″.

Since all of my tools are packed up for an upcoming move, I used two nuts and a hacksaw to try and get the screw to about the same length as the OEM …about 3/16″. After trimming and filing, tried in the distributor and it fit. Reset the gap as close to .016 that I could… was a little difficult since when tightening, the gap would get smaller, so used a larger gap, then tightened.

After resetting, went ahead and checked the dwell which was at 51°. The range should be from 45° to 52°, so after the big flub up several days ago, I decided to leave at 51°.

Grabbed the timing light but couldn’t remember the settings exactly so got the timing close and cranked it and she purred just like before, but this time, without the engine knock. Great birthday gift for the day. 🙂

Big Oops.

After finally getting the distributor issue resolved, decided I’d break out my new dwell meter and check the dwell prior to setting the timing.  After using a points gap of .016, the dwell turned out to be 50°. But that wasn’t good enough for me,  so tried to get it down closer to mid-range of 47°-52°.

Big mistake. After setting a gap of .018, to get the dwell down, I couldn’t get her to start.

I was almost out of gas, so decided to use some fresh marine gas that I recently picked up during the recent hurricane scare.

After adding gas, and resetting the points again, I finally got her started again, BUT … I was getting a horrible engine knock from passenger side of engine. Though it was going to throw a rod.

Went to bed and it dawned on me the next day that I had added the marine gas and maybe that was the issue for some reason. I didn’t think of the gas being an issue as I had used non-ethanol gas in to before with no problems.

I drained the tank and picked up some fresh regular unleaded gas.

Distributor Popping Out

Since pulling the distributor for cleaning and painting, it was time for reinstallation. Since bumping the motor over a few times in the past three years, I had to find TDC. Pulled the #1 spark plug, checked the piston position, had my fan mark at TDC and inserted the distributor. Already had the points set to .016, bolted everything up and all is good. I set the timing by memory of where it should be.

I go ahead and crank it and after a few cranks, it fires right up and is running. Tweak the distributor a little to smooth it out.

Turn the engine off for a few minutes and then go back to restart it. No start. Turns over but no cranking. Pull the distributor cap and find that the distributor shaft has totally disengaged from the engine gear.

I pull the distributor and try everything again. Same exact scenario. After posting on VWSamba and thinking about over night, pulled the distributor and saw the problem. I had tightened the timing hold down first and then bolted the distributor in. The problem with that is there was a very small gap(see below) of about 3 sheets of paper that were causing the distributor to not fully seat into the engine gear, even though the distributor hold down was totally flush with the engine block.

After loosening the timing bracket, inserting the distributor, tightening the hold down, THEN tightening the timing bracket, it started right up not once, not twice, but every time. Problem solved…at least for now.

Moving along

Had a productive weekend. Received my order from JBugs on Friday, just in time for the weekend.

  • Was disappointed(but not surprised) that the rear marker lights did not fasten to the bus as they should or intended. So ended up using plastic 1/4″ anchors to fasten the base to the bus and then used screws to fasten the marker light to the base.
  • Purchased a new Duracell Group 36R battery. I must say the Walmart Everstart battery I purchased more than 10 years ago, did a great job for it’s lifetime but finally wouldn’t hold a charge.
  • Finished reconnecting all of the rear engine and electrical wiring, with the exception of the blower motor. Don’t really need it right now to get her running, plus need to rewire some of it due to age and corrosion.
  • Reconnected the starter wiring, installed new fuel line from the carb to the fuel filter but need to connect it this evening.
  • Replaced the aluminum intake to head gaskets with fiber gaskets and tightened and torqued the intake and carb.

Painting Engine Tin

With a little additional elbow grease, I was finally able to remove the engine tin. It was a battle, but I won out this time. I removed the cylinder tins, the engine surrounds, and the front tin, a few pieces underneath. I did have to unplug the wires from the alternator to the voltage regulator, however, I marked EVERYTHING to make sure I reinstalled correctly. More time spent now will save time on the backend… and frustration. Here is a pic of the tins removed and unstripped:

Since removing, I’ve now spent hours stripping with paint stripper, wire wheels and sandpaper. Yes, I could have had it sandblasted, however, this is a great stress reliever. I love working in the garage, whatever the task.

1973 Volkswagen Bus 1700 Engine Tin
1973 Volkswagen Bus 1700 Engine Tin


I chose to only spray paint the engine tin for now and not have it powder coated. I’m planning on building a second engine and will get the engine tin powder coated when that happens. Didn’t want to powder coat now and then end up scratching it.

I ended up using Dupli-Color Black Hot Rod Sandable Primer DAP1698 and then several final coats of DupliColor Ford Semi-Gloss Black DE1635. I wanted to use semi-gloss so as not to show grease smudges, etc. The main goal is not show qulity at this time, but just to try and get everything looking better.

Dupli-Color Engine Enamel Ford Semi-Gloss Black
Dupli-Color Engine Enamel Ford Semi-Gloss Black
Dupli-Color® DAP1698 - Sandable Primer Surfacer Black Hot Rod
Dupli-Color® DAP1698 – Sandable Primer Surfacer Black Hot Rod

A bad day in the garage, is better than a good day at work!

What started out to being a one hour job, turned into six.

I recently picked up a digital dwell meter and was anxious to tweak my timing rather than only using a timing light.

I decided to go ahead and remove my points and check for pitting and clean everything up a bit. Not that it was that dirty, but never hurts to do some cleaning. I began to reinstall the points and DROPPED the set screw underneath the engine tin. ARGH!!!

Tried my magnet in the hole and could never find it which began my quest of trying to remove the drivers side engine tin. I thought while I’m removing the tin, I’ll go ahead and strip it and repaint it from the unusual candy apple red color obviously painted by a previous owner. Ultimately, I’ll have it stripped and powder-coated, but for the time being a nice coat of semi-gloss black will be just fine.

To remove the engine tin, it was necessary for me to remove the carb and intake runners and also removed the distributor after making sure the engine was at TDC.

In an earlier post, I had written about having to repair one of the intake studs on the cylinder head. When I installed the intake, I was unable to tell if there was a left and right so I went ahead and installed which way I thought was correct. After installation, I noticed that the runners would not insert into the air distributor. So, I got them as close as possible and then used my silicone boots and there wasn’t any leakage.

I took this opportunity to reverse the intake sides to see if the fit was better. The fit is better, however, I noticed that the carb was now not sitting level. Thought at first it was just my eyes playing tricks. More on that later.

Back to the tins … I removed all of the tin screws on the left side and still was unable to remove the #3 and #4 cylinder tin. I was able to remove the two pieces from underneath and then the left outside piece. No matter how much I struggled it just would not come out and in fear of bending something I just gave up for now. I did read several posts about that once the screws are out, it should come out with some extra work. Went forward with stripping, priming and painting the engine tins I was able to remove. Finished those up last night. Not perfect but so much better than before. Pics to come. 😉

The good news is I was able to separate the engine tin far enough away to see the points set screw and was able to retrieve it. Then proceeded to install the points again, and reinstalling the cylinder tin, carb and intake. I first tried setting my points gap to .016 inches, but that gave me a 39° degree dwell. For used points, the dwell should be between 42° and 58°; for new,  42° and 50°. I went to .014 and was able to get the dwell to 52°. I then set the timing and have it set at 28° at 3000 RPM with the vacuum hose plugged.

The acceptable range for the point gap should be .016 to .020 inches.

After setting the dwell and the timing, it’s time to set the carburetor. With a progressive Weber, I used the initial settings provided by Redline. For some reason, the idle at times will vary from 500 rpm to 1100 rpm. I greased the distributor shaft and thought that would have helped that situation as I’ve run into that before. After several attempts and removing the mixture screw and spraying carb cleaner, I finally thought I had got it.

Took it out for a spin and it was actually running very well … except when I turned a tight corner to head home where it actually stalled out. Cranked it and ran fine, until I made another hard turn into the driveway and she died again.

My memory is not as good as it once was but surprisingly remembered about a post I had read on TheSamba website about someone’s carb not sitting level after reversing the intake runners incorrectly. Hmmm … ring a bell?

So, this weekend, I hope to remove it all again, try and remove my #3 and #4 cylinder tin and reverse my intake runners and see if I can pry the runners into the air distributor with some clamps. Then set everything back up again.

The good thing about all this struggle … practice makes perfect and I’ve never removed my distributor before and reinstalled.

What started out as a one hour job, turned into six hours and a hot, humid, sweat-filled day. HOWEVER, a bad day in the garage is better than a good day at work!

I’ll keep you posted.

It’s been awhile…timing and tuning

I’ve been busy with life and haven’t had much time to work on the bus lately. I did have my coil go out on me, so ended up having to install a new one. During troubleshooting, went ahead and replaced the points and condenser also. I replaced them when I purchased the bus 7 years ago and really didn’t have very many miles on them, but replaced them anyway.

Good news was the points weren’t pitted.

Also, I recently was given a timing light so I decided now would be a great time to give it a shot. I’ve only set the timing statically and tweaked by ear previously so I was anxious to be able to nail the timing hoping to eliminate the slight hesitation I’ve had when shifting gears and starting from a standstill.

Was also given a tach/dwell meter but it didn’t work so well, so I ended up picking up a small tach to hook up in the engine compartment.

After doing some research and taking the advice of fellow bus owners, I decided the best way to time it would be with the vacuum hose disconnected, running at 2800-3000 RPM’s and set around 28 degrees BTDC.

I tried it and was really having some issues with it running. I would set it with the engine warmed up and then when cold, try to start it and the timing was off so bad I couldn’t get it to start. So I would set it statically to get it started again and then try it again. Then I decided maybe I needed to tweak the carb a little to try and get them both working together.

After further research and more advice, I decided to set it the same way BUT to run it at 3500 RPM’s instead. That was the trick. Timing was set at 28 degrees BTDC and was running much more like it should.

I’m running a Weber Progressive Carb and set the idle mixture screw 2 full turns out from the bottom and then set the idle speed screw 1 1/2 turns after the screw touches the stop lever. These were great instructions from the Weber website and is what I followed:

Carburetor Set Up and Lean Best Idle Adjustment

I then tweaked the carb just a little per the instructions and she seems to be running better than ever. Took her out for a spin and the hesitation is gone and ran smooth the entire time. Let her cool back down and then went back out to see how she would start when cold, and fired right up.

That’s it for now. Until next time…

“I think I found the problem…”

Finally had some time to crawl under the bus and check things out. Started degreasing the area some and all of a sudden sparks are flying.

After getting the area cleaned up, a little more careful, I found that two of the wires had been rubbing together and were shorting out. So, wrapped a little electrical tape around it until I can address further, and see if that corrects the problem. I’ve driven around own a couple of weeks now, and it has started every time. Hopefully, that solves the problem.

Latest issue – No Start

I knew it was going to happen sooner or later.

I haven’t done too much lately, just been driving her around here and there. But over the past year, I’ve noticed a few times that when I turn the key, she wouldn’t start. Had power to everywhere – radio and lights work. Just no start. Turn the key off and the starter would kick in.

But not this time. I had just backed her out of the garage until the rest of the family came out to jump in and she would turn over, Tried it again  – no luck. Tried for another 10 minutes and nothing. I haven;t had time with Hurricane Irene bearing down on the SouthEast coast, and cutting grass and normal family responsibilities to check on the situation. But my first thoughts were that the ignition switch was going out. I had replaced it a few months after I purchased the bus and pulled the steering column, painted everything, fixed the horn, etc. It was a real pain changing out the switch and had heard a few rumors where other bus owners had to replace the new cheap made switches.

I really didn’t want to hafta go through that again.

Fast forward to yesterday, and my son and I were headed to the beach for some beach combing after the hurricane (in my other vehicle). And it dawned on me, he had asked me about a specific sound whenever I had tried to start it that day. I told him that it was the fuel pump.

HEY wait a minute, if we heard the fuel pump(which we did), that means that it is not the ignition switch, so it must be the starter solenoid or the starter.

So, a sigh of relief comes over me. I’ll keep you posted on the progress.