F-250 as logging truck

Testing the limits of the rack….
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Summer Camping Trip August 2021

Fortunately we managed to fit a camping trip into family schedules that were tighter than in previous years and between forest fire road closures. We had decided to go to the Chilcotin area of our beautiful province, an area our girls had never been to, but my wife and I had seen a bit of when we traveled to Bella Coola in our very first westy trip in 2004. The main focuses of our trip were to go horseback riding near the incredibly beautiful Tatlayoko Lake and visit an acquaintance who lives in a remote spot on the shores of Chilko Lake.

We decided to head to the interior via Pemberton/Lillooet although we knew it was unlikely we would be able to take the Kelly Lake Road from Pavilion to Clinton so we would need to take the long route on more main roads over to highway 97.

Pemberton Meadows – the road to the Hurley Pass Road

We spent an hour or two checking out Pemberton Meadows: what a beautiful valley that is. Then we decided to go to Lillooet via the Hurley River Road but it was a super-hot day and after maybe 3 or 4 miles of dusty, bumpy gravel road we decided to take that route on some future trip when it wasn’t so hot out (sweat and dust aren’t the greatest combination).

On ‘the Duffey – getting close to Lillooet

I’ll never tire of the scenery on the Duffey Lake Road, it is so gorgeous up there.

Just north-east of Lillooet – that is smoke!

Just north/east of Lillooet we knew we would be going by the McKay Creek fire but what we didn’t realize was that we would be able to see huge flames up on a distant ridge. The flames appeared to be 50 or 60 feet tall but only right at the top of the ridge. The side of the ridge we were looking at wasn’t on fire at all but the other side must have been totally engulfed and the smoke covered ½ the sky. We got away from the smokey smell by somewhere not too far north of Clinton and that was the last smoke we smelled for the rest of the trip.

Camping at Tatlayoko Lake

We stayed at Lac La Hache that night and the next day spent a bit of time in the Williams Lake Visitor Info Centre (which is like a very interesting museum with friendly helpful staff) before heading west on Highway 20. That night we camped on the shores of Tatlayoko Lake at a beautiful spot (the community campsite) that apparently is a wind-surfer/kite-boarder hot spot.

Mountains east of Tatlayoko Lake

We camped 2 more nights close to Tatlayoko Lake and one day went for a trail ride (on horseback) up to a viewpoint near an old mine. I must say, the people at Homathko River Inn (where we went trail riding) are so friendly and the entire place so welcoming, I highly recommend that place for anyone interested in staying at a gorgeous, peaceful, interesting, out-of-the-way spot.

Our next destination was to see a friend who lives at a remote spot on Chilko Lake (near Nemaiah Valley). To get there we took a back road that, judging by its appearance at some point we wondered if anyone still used it and if it would actually remain passible all the way to Nemaiah Valley. Fortunately at about the time I was starting to wonder if turning back might make more sense (not wanting to go below ½ a tank of gas at that would mean not enough to return to the last gas station) we stumbled across a most beautiful big lodge with many outbuildings (Tsuniah Lake Lodge). At first I didn’t know if we would find any people there but after looking around a bit we met a most friendly lady who, with her family, runs the lodge. The road was little travelled as most of the lodge guests, who tend to be Americans,  arrive by plane (at least pre-Covid times) and this past summer I think there were few guests due to Covid. The lady we met gave us a tour of the lodge facilities and told us a great deal of history about the place (her dad had built and started the lodge in 1950). That afternoon was so interesting and really one of the surprise highlights of the trip. It was also great that she let us know the road we were on was totally passable to our destination and also that gas was available even closer than we had planned for (there is a gas station in Nemaiah Valley). After Tsuniah Lake Lodge we continued on the last maybe 10 miles to our friends place on Chilko Lake although that really was a 4WD road and although there were no signs at all on the road from the end we started on, when we got through to Nemaiah Valley and looked back at the road we just came out of there was a sign saying, “Road conditions for the next 48km. can be impassible at certain times of the year. Four wheel drive vehicles recommended.”

Exiting the road the goes from Tsuniah Lake to Nemaiah Valley
Our first view of the mountains on the other side of Chilko Lake – after getting out of the bush
Leaving Nemaiah Valley

Nemaiah Valley is incredibly scenic with the colourful big mountain peaks surrounding it and the shores of Chilko Lake right there but we more or less just drove through only stopping for gas and at various points to take in the views.

Traffic – Chilcotin style…

Interestingly enough as we left the valley area we again saw a sign for people heading the other way: this one talked of Covid restrictions for that area (there certainly were no signs like this on the road we used to enter the valley)

Leaving Nemaiah Valley

The rest of the trip was essentially just getting back home as quickly as we could. We passed though the Fraser Canyon but sadly it was dark at that time so the kids never got to see it. We were driving after dark from somewhere south of Cache Creek all the way to a campsite near Yale(Emory Creek Provincial Park). Just a note: I highly recommend never staying at Emory Creek campsite as it is located between 2 major railway lines and the trains run frequently, all night long. We got there at about 11 p.m. though and just really needed to stop driving for the day. We had hoped to stay at a provincial campsite near Spences Bridge but it (and of course the one in Lytton) were closed so that is how we ended up driving through the Fraser Canyon in the dark.

Typical Chilcotin scene



The trip was a total of 1923 km and the westy ran flawlessly although at one point a loose hose clamp caused power steering fluid to drip onto the hot muffler so that was not a good situation and it necessitated a road-side stop and emptying all our stuff from behind the backseat so I could gain access to the engine cover and tighten the offending clamp. That happened while climbing the biggest pass of the trip (up towards Duffey Lake from the Pemberton side, and on the hottest day of the trip, not ideal conditions to have flammable liquid dripping onto a scorching hot muffler. In some ways I wish the van had manual steering as the power steering system has given me grief on multiple occasions (ongoing noisy pump or hoses and then this leak). Our DOKA has manual steering and it seems just fine.

Last comment, as the kids grow the limited space of a westfalia for 4 humans is becoming more apparent and it is giving me more reason to get the DOKA running again and into trip-worthy state as maybe we could put a roof top tent on it and use both westy and DOKA for future family camping trips (especially if one or both kids bring a friend). I have thought about bigger vans (4WD sprinter) or little off-road style trailers but really there is no way we could have passed though some of the places we went this trip with any sort of trailer (imagine going up a side road where you have no idea if there will be a place to turn around and towing a trailer) and even the shortest wheel base sprinters are just so big that on the narrow roads we were on, they would be catching branches and maybe catching bumpers on water-bars, etc. As we already have 2 syncros and sometimes like to travel to remote spots where a second vehicle would be like insurance against breaking down in the middle of nowhere, plus many spare parts could fit either vehicle (not to mention the prohibitive price of a 4WD sprinter or an off-road style mini trailer, or the limited towing capacity of a vanagon) getting the DOKA trip ready is looking like the best way to move forward (plus a good excuse for “working on the DOKA” to vault closer to the top of the to-do list 😊. It is fun to dream, especially when at least some of the dreams can be made to happen… Very last comment: I do hope it will be possible to take the kids to Yellowstone, or the Colorado Rockies, or the Grand Canyon some summer in the not too distant future…

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RV Propane Furnace Repair – Suburban Model SF-30

We have a 5th wheel trailer that has a propane furnace in it. Usually when you turn it on, if the thermostat is up, the fan comes on right away and then about 30 seconds later the propane comes on and is ignited and then lots of heat flows from the vents.

About 3 weeks ago the furnace suddenly stopped working. The only thing that happened when it was turned on (with thermostat up) was a clicking sound from the furnace.

First, I took off the grille and furnace front cover and I could easily spin the fan by poking in a long stick, so I knew the fan motor wasn’t seized. I removed the furnace (not a particularly easy task as it appears when the trailer was built, they did not have it in mind that someone might ever want to remove the furnace). Then I was able to check and found that the furnace was getting 12 volts (and ground) as required and also that the thermostat and related wiring were working as they should, so the problem was definitely inside the furnace.

I hooked the furnace up to a 12-volt battery so I could do some trouble shooting. Luckily there is a wiring diagram glued to the furnace and the controls are pretty simple, so it didn’t take too long to isolate the problem to the control board (it was getting all the correct inputs – power, ground, signal from thermostat, connection to sail switch (to sense when the fan is spinning) and over-temp switch, and the outputs to the fan motor, propane valve and spark ignitor were all connected. I could fake that the fan was working by moving the sail switch by hand and everything else worked as it should, plus when I put power to the fan output wire the fan spun just fine. It turned out the fan relay was clicking when it should but no power was getting to the fan.

Suburban SF-30 RV Furnace on work bench
Suburban SF-30 control board

I ordered a new control board from an RV place (about $140 CDN) but then as I was looking at the board I noticed that one of the 4 connectors where the relay pins were soldered to the circuit board looked weird, there was a dark ring around the pin. I re-soldered the pin to the circuit board trace and tested the furnace and it worked perfectly. Luckily, I was able to cancel the order for the new control board.

Source of the problem was this bad solder joint. (although this photo was after I fixed it – I know it doesn’t look pretty but it has been 2 weeks and the heater is still working perfectly)

It has now been 2 weeks since the repair was made and the furnace reinstalled in the trailer and so far, it is working perfectly. I find repairing this sort of thing to be very rewarding. Not just as I saved money avoiding having an RV technician make a house call, or purchasing a new furnace or new control board but also as I like to get as much life out of things as I can… sort of my way of fighting back against our ‘disposable’ society.

Now we just need to get the “right to repair” laws in place in Canada so companies like John Deere and Apple don’t intentionally make it impossible for consumers to do their own repairs.
https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/monitor/when-will-canadians-have-right-repair

Note: Youtube made this job far easier than it would have been otherwise as I found a video of a guy completely disassembling a Suburban SF-30 furnace so I knew all the parts of the system, where they were and what they did. I also saw a video of a guy troubleshooting a similar issue on the SF-30.

PS – next thing to fix is the 2004 Golf (2 litre gas engine) which has an intermittent miss, super obvious immediately after starting and then intermittently (seemingly randomly) when under load. Unfortunately that is unlikely to be as easy to sort out as this furnace was.

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Westy Trip – summer 2020

We had thought about a trip to Yellowstone but with COVID we changed our plans to explore parts of Southern BC. The girls hadn’t really seen anywhere east of Chilliwack so this was a perfect opportunity to check out some of the great scenery BC has to offer.

This was our approximate route (Google wouldn’t show our ‘short-cut’ from Kimberly to Gray Creek/Nelson so I had to draw that part in myself.) We explored a number of side roads too.

We took about 2 weeks to cover the route so that gave time to explore a bit and travel at a relaxed pace and it was fun to show the girls where I lived many years ago (Lillooet) and many other places.

Duffey Lake (between Pemberton and Lillooet) – scenic as usual and the weather was perfect.

We took a ‘side road’ (Blowdown FSR) just after Duffey Lake and then hiked up to Blowdown Lake. It was beautiful although it was a bad year for bugs.

On the way up Blowdown Forest Service Road
Older daughter cooling down in Blowdown Lake

I had only been to Blowdown Lake once before and that was a ski trip so this was my first time to see the water there. It is picturesque.

Visited with some friends in Lillooet I hadn’t seen in about 30 years so that was fun, and then eastward to Kamloops and Shuswap country.

Lillooet from part way up the trail to Red Rock. (used to be a good trail for mountain biking, now seems to have been taken over by dirt bikers and quads)
Dry country as we got closer to Kamloops

We spent a couple of days at Scotch Creek on Shuswap Lake. I had run my buddy’s parasailing business there for one summer many years ago so it was fun to be back there again. Our second night in Scotch Creek we got a spot in the provincial campsite with no reservation (who’d ‘a thought… long weekend, middle of summer)

The beach at Scotch Creek Provincial campsite on Shuswap Lake.

Revelstoke was fun although tougher to find a campsite. We ended up staying on the side of Hwy 23 the first night and then found a spot at Martha Creek Provincial campsite the next night. Revelstoke sure is scenic and we enjoyed a trip up the ski hill and riding down their ‘Pipe Coaster’.

Revelstoke Ski Hill
Our youngest caused a bit of a traffic jam on the Pipe Coaster… (mom and big sis behind her)

Then the scenic drive from Revelstoke to Golden – so impressive!

Between Revelstoke and Golden
Looking down to Golden from near the paragliding launch spot on Mount Seven.

We decided to go to Banff so that necessitated crossing the border to Alberta.

It was overcast and raining when we got to Lake Louise but in some ways that was a blessing as if it had been a nice day we likely wouldn’t have been able to drive to Moraine Lake and I was really hoping the girls would get a chance to see that. (even with the less-than-stellar weather we had to wait until there was space in the Moraine Lake parking lot before they would let you start the drive in from Lake Louise)

Moraine Lake – impressive even with the fog and drizzle!
Getting close to Banff, and sun coming back too.

The drive from Banff to Kimberly was nice. We camped near Canal Flats and checked out downtown Kimberly the next morning. I asked about the Gray Creek Pass route to Nelson at the tourist-info place and was told it was as in as good a shape as it had ever been so we decided to go that way rather than the highway.

The start of the Gray Creek Pass road, a bit west of Kimberley.
Getting closer to home, good old Osoyoos. I spent many enjoyable summer days here as a teenager as it was our ‘usual’ summer holiday destination for quite a few years.
We camped in the Haynes Point overflow site (the side of the road out to the main campsite). It was so windy I couldn’t pop the top until the wind died down at about 2 a.m.
Lots of whitecaps on the lake – younger daughter checking out the water.
Really getting close to home now – Mount Baker and the Black Buttes. Spent many fun filled days at Baker ski area years ago and stood on the summit with my brother on the May long weekend in 1985.

Overall it was a great trip and I am so glad we got away when we did as the whole COVID situation hasn’t gotten any better in the last few months. I wonder what the summer of 2021 will bring… hopefully happy travels.

Note: in a comment below, Peter asked about the ‘Black Buttes’ which are the 2 rocky “sub-peaks” to the right of the summit of Baker in the photo above. Peter: here are 2 better photos of the Black Buttes from the ski-touring trip up Baker.

The Black Buttes on Baker as seen from our campsite the evening before attempting the summit (summit of Baker itself is off to the right in this photo). (please excuse reflection of Christmas lights – it is a photo of a photo)
The upper Black Butte as seen from above on our way back down after reaching the summit of Baker. The lower Black Butte, and pretty much everything else, had been swallowed by clouds. We went from skiing down in intense sun to slowly and very carefully following our tracks from the way up so as to avoid skiing into a crevasse in the dense fog.
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New Vehicle – Kubota L4400 Tractor

Last fall I bought a new (to me) vehicle: a Kubota L4400 tractor. I knew it was going to be a very useful tool but I didn’t realize just how useful.

So far I have used it for tasks for such as:

  • Moving a small building
  • Digging ditches
  • Clearing dense brush
  • Moving dirt to make a place to put a building
  • Spreading a load of gravel
  • Erecting the frame for a small building
  • Clearing snow from the driveway
  • Digging holes for planting trees
  • Raking rocks from a newly landscaped area
  • Moving misc stuff around the property (including moving a big trailer)

Honourable mention in the useful vehicle category has to go to my 1992 F250 as without it, getting the Kubota home wouldn’t have been so easy (thank you Rod for lending me your trailer).

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Westy Trip (summer 2019) Pemberton

In late July last summer we went on a short trip up the Sea to Sky corridor to the Pemberton area. In nice weather the trip from Horseshoe Bay up to Pemberton is truly spectacular.

The viewpoint to the Tantalus Range (just north of Squamish) is always worth a stop.

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Just past Whistler we stopped on the shores of Green Lake to take in the views of runs on Blackcomb and Whistler . We saw two Harbour Air float planes take off while we were checking out the views of the surrounding peaks (Whistler and Blackcomb of course, plus Wedge, Weart, Mt Currie and others).

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We stopped at Nairn Falls (just south of Pemberton) for that nice little hike into the falls which was enjoyable, saw a jet boat taking tourists up the river to the base of the falls too. Interesting how many of the no smoking signs in Canada now include a marijuana leaf on them.

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While in Pemberton we decided to take a drive up the Mount McKenzie Forest Service Road which yielded great views of the Pemberton Valley and surrounding peaks.

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We even got to see a couple of Paragliders launch from the very spot I launched from on my one and only paragliding flight many years ago (my flight ended well, I just wanted to try it once). It was cool for the kids to see that.

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We ventured further up the Mt McKenzie FSR  to the upper paraglider launch point which has a spectacular view of Mount Currie and south to Black Tusk, as well as over to the mountains across the valley to the west.

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Next time we are back in this area we plan to continue eastward across the Duffey Lake road to Lillooet where I lived for 3 years in what seems almost like another lifetime ago. It’ll be fun to show the kids some of the places where I used to have fun up there.

 

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Studebaker M16 Starter Issues

A while back I had to move the M-16 farm truck. I hadn’t started it for about 4 months but it is usually pretty good about firing up even after sitting for extended periods. I keep a trickle charger on the battery so wasn’t worried about cranking power.

When I tried to turn over the motor nothing happened. I checked with a volt meter on the battery while attempting to crank and could see big voltage drop when the starter was trying to turn so I knew the solenoid and related wiring were OK. It appeared the starter was seized.

I pulled the starter, and happily, like almost everything else on this truck, that was easy to do. At first I couldn’t see why it wouldn’t turn but eventually noticed a small bit of metal wedged between the rotor and armature.

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That little bit of metal on the right is what was jammed between the armature and rotor.

I had to disassemble the starter to get the metal bit out but once that was done it turned freely. I took the opportunity to clean the commutator bars and brushes. Not having a metal lathe I used my drill press and some emery cloth. It wasn’t ideal but got the job done.

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I then undercut the commutator bars with and old broken pancake flipper that was about the perfect width and shape (I knew it would come in handy at some point).

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The commutator was so dirty to begin with I was surprised the starter worked at all. Now it cranks over nicely but I still have to boost it with a 12 volt battery when starting it for the first time in a while (the truck has a 6 volt battery).

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Studebaker M16 – brake updates

I finally got around to dealing with the front brake wheel cylinders on the M16. Turned out they were too pitted to just hone out and unfortunately new wheel cylinders are no longer available.

Luckily I found a local guy who did a great job of sleeving the cylinders: Jim at Bristol Motors on Vancouver Island. He used bronze and went the extra mile to clean everything up, polish the pistons, chase all threads and powder coat the outside of the wheel cylinders. He does top notch work (a true craftsman) and when I picked up the wheel cylinders I even got a tour of his shop and the many cool projects he was working on (old luxury cars, sports cars, vintage trucks etc.)

The front brakes on the M-16 went together nicely (everything is so simple on that truck) although the wheels and tires are heavy and a bit of a bear to lift onto the hubs/wheel studs (at least compared to any other vehicle I have ever worked on).  I would have loved to take the time to sand blast and paint the backing plates but as is often the case lately, time didn’t permit that.

I noticed that whomever last installed the inner seal for the front wheel bearings appears to not have had the appropriate tool. I usually just use a socket from my ¾” drive set for such things but this person did a bit of a hack job, or so it looks to me.

I still haven’t had a look at the rear brakes but it is on my list to pull the rear wheels and check the rear brakes. The previous owner had the shoes relined but if the front was any indication the rear wheel cylinders may be shot too. The only other brake work planned is that I bought a power brake booster with a new master cylinder so I would like to replace the old master cylinder with those as soon as time permits. I suspect I’ll have to install a vacuum reservoir/canister at that time too.

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First Westy Trip of the Season

As usual at this time of year the outdoor school our eldest attends had their year-end camping trip, this time to the Walbran Valley on Vancouver Island. Parents are welcome to attend so, as we have always done, we joined the trip.

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The Walbran Valley is right next to the Carmanah Valley, which was the location of BC’s ‘War in the Woods’ which ended up in the creation of Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park in the early 1990s. Currently parts of the Walbran Valley are slated for logging and another ‘War in the Woods’ maybe be ramping up as various groups in favour of saving the beautiful valley from clear cuts are working towards that end. (see https://www.wildernesscommittee.org/walbran for details)

It really is beautiful there and Walbran Falls is stunning, a truly incredible place to be.

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We went on a short hike to the Castle Giant, a massive old cedar tree and it was nice to walk among the old growth.

On the way in, we saw some helicopter logging going on just before arriving at Walbran River. The helicopter, a Sikorsky S-64, was massive and the landing was right on the road. The road was clear when we passed but others in our camping group had to wait about 10 minutes while the freshly dropped logs were moved.

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Westy ran nicely for the trip but one of our fellow campers got a flat on the way home and her spare wouldn’t work due to the fact it needed different lug nuts she didn’t have (first flat tire in a new-to-her vehicle) so as we didn’t want her to have to spend the night on the side of a logging road by herself (she had sent her kids home in other cars by the time we got there) our little group (me and 2 kids) decided to camp with her on the side of the logging road until the tow truck arrived.

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The tow truck arrived at 3:24 a.m.! By 4 a.m. he had the truck with the flat tire loaded on his flat-deck and was off down the logging road with the trucks owner. The first empty logging truck going up came by at about 3:50 a.m. and it got progressively noisier after that with the peak of uphill traffic (empty logging trucks and crew pick-ups) coming shortly after 5 a.m.  They all just drove on by with the exception of 2 pickups whose driver’s felt the need to lay on the horn for a while when driving by the westy (maybe thinking westys equate with the enemy in the ‘War in the Woods’?). Anyhow, luckily the kids sleep through the entire thing until I got them up at 7 a.m. to pack up and get ready to head back down and home. By that time there were full logging trucks going down as well as empty ones coming up and as I didn’t want to round a corner to face the grille of an empty logging truck heading straight for me at speed, I waited for the next one going down and followed fairly close behind. Luckily it had rained pretty hard that night  so there was virtually no dust even right behind the loaded truck. I ended up with an escort down and once we reached the bigger 2 lane road down by Cowichan Lake the logging truck I had been following pulled over and waved me past.  I gave him a big ‘thank you’ wave and off we went towards pavement (another 15k or so).IMG_0591 (1)

The Walbran Valley is a beautiful place that definitely merits another visit when we have time to do more hiking.

 

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Syncro Vanagon Speedometer Drive Gear Replacement

As usual at this time of year I start thinking about getting the westy trip-worthy. One of the items was getting the speedo and odometer working again.

The van has been without a speedometer and odometer for the last year. I got by using the miles-per-hour gauge on the ScanGauge2. (As I have a Bostig Zetec in my vanagon I can connect the ScanGauge to the OBD port.)

scangauge2

I had diagnosed the issue to be a problem with the speedo drive gear in the front differential: when I spun the speedo cable from the differential end the speedometer moved and when the front wheels were turning the speedo output on the side of the differential was stationary unless I gave it a bit of a twist manually, in which case it would turn about ¾ of a turn and stop again. Seemed like a few teeth were worn off the drive pinion gear.

There is a great thread at https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=482112 so I read that before attempting the job of replacing the drive gear. It was very helpful.  I then prepared for the task by getting an inexpensive set of roll-pin punches and purchasing a new speedo drive pinion gear from T3 Technique in the states. (previously this was only available from the UK.)

t3technique-website

There is an aluminum ‘sleeve’ held into the side of the front differential housing by a roll pin and as mentioned on that thesamba thread if you ‘extend’ your punch with a socket drive extension (I used an 10”, ½” drive extension and a 10 mm socket which fit perfectly over my roll-pin punch) it is a good set-up to drive the roll pin out.

roll-pin punch

roll-pin punch2

Once the roll pin was out I used a similar method to the one described on thesamba to remove the aluminum sleeve from the diff housing (but used an old nut and part of a ball bearing as a spacer).

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Exactly as I suspected, a few teeth were worn off the plastic pinion gear.

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Next step was to make sure the new bronze gear from T3 had the same number of teeth as the old plastic one (they both have 19 teeth – well the plastic one maybe had 16 ½  left but started life with 19)

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I then removed the old plastic gear with a hacksaw, cleaned the shaft and new gear with brake-clean, coated the knurls on the shaft with loc-tite 680 and pressed the shaft into the new gear.

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According to the loc-tite website, 680 takes 24 hours to cure so I’ll put everything back together tomorrow. Looks like that should be an easy task. What I was most worried about on this job was the roll pin being stuck and possibly damaging the diff case like happened to one of the fellows on thesamba thread.

UPDATE: everything went together nicely and I now have a functional speedometer and odometer. The speedometer is a bit jumpy at low speeds though (below maybe 25 kmph). If I would have had a 10mm reamer I would have reamed out the housing the speedo pinion gear shaft fits into as there was a little resistance to turning there. I may still do that in the future, now I know this all comes apart fairly easily.

 

 

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