Monday, February 25, 2008

It's A Start

Just for kicks, and because I had not done it for a while, I decided to fire it up and hear it run. It’s a reward therapy thing.

It’s a good thing I tried. It refused to fire. I could just barely get a little click every so often when the starter button engaged but it was certain that things were not working properly. The starter button and maybe the starter were suspect.

Now this is the kind of nightmare that I would not wish upon someone with bad -breath. Every time I run into something like this, it turns out to be just the tip of a berg big enough to supply ice for Mike’s martinis for several lifetimes. Guess what. This was no exception.

First I used a test light to check the starter button. Sure enough it had gone bad. It would work…..on occasion; but who wants to sit on the starting grid hoping this would be one of them.

OK, task one. Replace the starter button.

I pulled the old button and headed for the parts store to find a replacement. No such luck, they had none which were direct replacements. I tried one that looked like it should fit. It didn’t. The space behind the small dash in the car is very tight. We are not talking watch maker clearances here, but if it was not just right it would not work because the terminals would hit something that could short them out.

I tried four different starter buttons and six different parts houses before I found a replacement. This is the kind of thing that eats up your time.

It still didn’t solve the problem. The other player in this conspiracy was the starter. It wouldn’t work either.

Maybe the high humidity causes them to corrode or something, I don’t know. It had worked just fine before. Now it would not even try.

We had had this same problem with Hugh’s car and it turned out to be a faulty ignition switch. I checked that out with a test light and it seemed to be OK.

At least I knew where to get a new starter. Finding parts for cars, even one as common as a Volkswagen can be tricky. Especially when the parts are for engines which are forty five years old. They just don’t keep them on the shelf anymore.

My friends at NAPA would order one for me but they wanted the case for the old one.

Surprise, surprise. Remember the iceberg?

To take out starter you have to first remove the exhaust system. That normally was not a big problem. What the hell, this was not a normal car.

The exhaust headers came out without too much trouble and that should have been clue enough to worry me. I hadn’t caught on yet, but I was about to. With the exhaust headers off, replacing the starter was a snap. It went in easy as pie. I should have known better.

While I had the exhaust headers off the car I thought it might be nice to clean them up and give them a nice new coat of high temperature paint.

These were the headers that had been on the car since it was new. I could tell that by looking at the pictures taken by Mike Schiffer back in the Grinch’s prime.

I got out the sandpaper and started cleaning up the rust spots on the pipes. As I did I also began to take a good look at the pipes themselves. I shouldn’t have done that. The more I looked the more I found.

The flanges, where the header meets up with the exhaust ports, were cracked, leaking, and warped to hell and back. When I looked at the exhaust ports, I could see burns where the hot exhaust gasses had been leaking. This causes loss of power, can lead to burnt valves and also provides a fire potential.

In addition, the pipes themselves were full of little pinholes where the rust had eaten through. There was also evidence of leaking where the collector met the primary pipes.

In other words the entire exhaust system needed to be replaced. This is the sort of thing that will put fear in your heart. There is no such thing as running down to your local AutoZone and picking up a new one. You have to go to a specialty house like Roxanne’s Headers who specializes in Vee exhaust, or find someone to custom build one for you. In this case, since it was a one of a kind car, the latter seemed about the only option.

This was going to hurt. My wallet already had a dent in it from the roll bar and the starter. Now we were looking at custom work again and that always means money.


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