Thursday, June 27, 2013

Stripping and dismantling: 1969 Karmann Ghia engine overhaul, Part 2

Well, here it is: the engine is out of my Ghia. I am pleased to report that I was able to get this far on my own. (David did help me jack the car up, though.) The engine, with all the stuff still attached as shown here, weighs something over 200 pounds. First, I had a piano dolly blocked in place under the engine. Two scissors jacks on the dolly were then raised to where they were in contact with the oil pan, to support the engine once it came off the upper and lower mounting bolts, which hold the engine onto the transmission. With one hand on the fan housing (the curved black box at the top center of the photo) and the other on one of the tailpipes, I carefully wiggled the engine off the bolts until it was resting on the jacks. I then lowered the jacks so the engine could be rolled out from under the car.

Now the engine stripping begins! This photo shows the engine after I took off the fan belt, fan housing, intake manifold and carburetor. The tall black skyscraper-looking thing is the oil cooler. I had suspected the oil cooler was leaking, and sure enough, one of the two seals at its base was bad. Since the cooler lives inside the fan housing, when it leaks, the fan tends to fling oil all over the engine area, hence my suspicion.

After I took off the oil cooler, I removed the muffler (the rusty-looking thing at the bottom of this photo) and the two heat exchangers. The weight of the engine was now down to around 150 pounds, and I rolled it on its dolly into the shed so I could get it up onto the Workmate and be under cover as well. Between David and I we had no problems lifting it up onto the Workmate.

So here's the stripped-down engine, up at a good working height. What you're looking at in the middle of this photo is the clutch plate, which is attached to the flywheel. On either side are the cylinder heads with valve covers still in place. next job is to remove the clutch plate and the pressure plate under it, then the flywheel.

With the clutch removed, I used this nifty little flywheel lock to clamp the flywheel in place prior to removing the large gland nut that attaches the flywheel to the crankshaft. At this point I had a surprise: The 36mm gland nut, which is supposed to be torqued to 220 foot-pounds, was actually loose. I had expected to need a breaker bar and someone stronger and heavier than me to loosen the thing. Instead, after barely a quarter turn with the socket wrench, I was able to unscrew it the rest of the way by hand.

Aha, I thought. I bet the ka-thunk ka-thunk ka-thunk noise I was hearing (thinking this was a thrown connecting rod) was coming from this loose flywheel. The good news is I took the thing apart before the flywheel came all the way off. The bad news is that, because of the way the thing was wobbling around in there, I'll almost for sure have to replace the crankshaft. No doubt I'll have a list of things to take to the machine shop.

In the meantime, I next removed the rocker arm assemblies and cylinder heads. The rocker arm is the pipe thing going from left to right, with four little arms attached. Here I've removed the two nuts holding it in place. Then it is simple to lift the assembly up and out.

After the rocker arms are out, the eight nuts holding the cylinder head in place are easy to reach and loosen. Here you can see I've taken off one of the cylinder heads (on the bench to the right). Toward the top center of the photo, the round black things are two of the four cylinders, with pistons inside. The only thing left to do before opening up the crankcase is to remove the cylinders and pistons.

I was fortunate to discover a shop in Port Angeles (about half an hour away) that specializes in air-cooled Volkswagen repair. I will be taking the cylinder heads there to have the valves done (something I do not have the specialized equipment to do). They will also check the flywheel for possible damage, since it was loose, along with the crankshaft. After that, I will be able to start putting it all back together!

The thing that has surprised me the most about this project is that I have only spent about seven hours so far. Considering I had never done anything like this before, I'm kind of amazed that it has seemed so relatively easy. I've been taking my time, too.

I'll have another update after the machine shop does its work. I'm starting to think I'll be driving my Ghia again before long! What a fascinating project.

Friday, June 7, 2013

1969 Karmann Ghia engine overhaul project, Part 1: I don't know I can't, therefore I can

 My 1969 Karmann Ghia, up on the ramps. Isn't she gorgeous?

A couple of weeks ago, my Karmann Ghia broke down while I was on my way to Portland. Fortunately it happened just as I was pulling up to the toll bridge on the west end of the Tacoma Narrows bridge, so I was able to get it out of traffic without much trouble. I happened to have one of my VW repair manuals with me, so I amused myself, during the 3-1/2 hour wait for the tow truck, by reading it and trying to figure out what had happened.

I'll skip over the troubleshooting process (you're welcome, gentle reader) and come right to the diagnosis: a thrown connecting rod. The oil cooler was leaking and definitely needs to be replaced as well, but the connecting rod is a bigger deal to repair. Not that I've ever done it myself, mind you, but I do realize that since the connecting rods (there are 4 of them in my Ghia) are inside the crankcase, it's going to take some work to get at the things to replace them. On the Ghia you can replace the oil cooler without pulling the engine out, but this is sadly not true if you are actually going to dismantle the engine.

A little background: I am not a "trained" mechanic, although I seem to have an aptitude for mechanical things. Virtually everything I know about working on cars I've learned by reading and practical experience. This is the second Karmann Ghia I've owned; the first was a 1970 coupe that I had for 11 years. I did a lot of work on that thing, including a complete re-wiring job. I also learned how to do things like adjust the valves and replace a muffler and heat exchangers.

I bought this 1969 specimen 5 years ago. It was in much better shape when I bought it than my 1970 Ghia was. Still, considering the car is almost as old as I am, naturally I don't expect it to never need work. On the other hand, in the 5+ years I've had it, it's only been in the shop once, for a leaking brake line, for which I spent about $125. I've been lucky enough to be able to deal with what few repairs it's needed, as well as the usual maintenance chores. This car has been super-reliable, it gets 31 mpg, and I just love her.

So, back to the current situation. While I was awaiting the arrival of the tow truck, I read through the entire procedure for removing, dismantling, mantling and re-installing the engine. At the end of it I thought, hey, why not? It would be a good time to learn, and who knows? It might even be fun!

At this point, I am just about ready to remove the engine. I've done all the electrical and mechanical disconnect stuff in the engine compartment. I've been under the car and disconnected the heater cables and fuel line, and removed the two lower engine mount nuts. Now I need to mount a piece of 2x4 with a couple of lengths of chain around the frame to support the transmission once the engine is detached. After that, all I need to do is take out the two upper mount nuts, and the engine should be ready to come out.

I gather the engine weighs around 200 pounds. I'm not going to be lifting it out of the engine compartment. Instead, I am going to block the car up a little higher than it is now on the ramps, and lower the engine with two scissors jacks onto a piano dolly. Then I can simply roll it out from under the car. (We put down a sheet of plywood under the back end of the car, so the dolly won't sink into the ground with that weight on it.)

Believe it or not, so far I have only spent about an hour and a half on this process. I can't help but think that if I can do this, anyone can. Yes, even women! I think it would be so great for women to be more actively involved in the maintenance and minor repairs of their cars; it's really not that scary. Actually I find it quite a confidence-builder. I'm a problem-solver kind of person, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of figuring things out and fixing them when I can.

Regarding the procedure for removing the engine, my Bentley VW manual says: "Some parts of this process may be difficult for a man working alone." Well, I guess it's a good thing that I'm not a man working alone, then.

My Ghia's license plate frame; words to live by, eh?