One thing leads to another…

Prevention is better than cure

After our amazing road trip to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, it felt right to give the camper a bit of love and some mechanical TLC. It had been really reliable for the 1,800-mile road trip, and I wanted it to remain that way for the next one. So I booked some time in with the guys at Resto Classics.

engine out, time for a refresh
engine out, time for a refresh

When they had fitted the replacement original VW heat exchangers before the Scotland road trip, they noticed a small oil leak from one of the engines push rod tubes. Nothing major, but something I wanted to get resolved.

whilst the engines out, gearbox seals were changed
whilst the engines out, gearbox seals were changed

You can struggle and change the pushrod O ring seals with the engine in place, but to do it properly (and to make your life a bit easier) the engines better off out.

Using the opportunity of the engine being out

So whilst the engine was out, it made sense to change the gearbox seal. The engine case had been painted red at some point. The paint was flaking and missing in places and was pretty grubby with dirt and oil accumulated over the years.

once the engines out, access all areas
once the engines out, access all areas

Time to give it a good clean up so you can see what you’re dealing with…

a good clean to see clearly what you’re working with
a good clean to see clearly what you’re working with

Scrubs up pretty well for its age

The cleaned-up engine is transformed with the old paint, dirt and oil cleaned off it. Nice to see a fresh-looking engine case again.

the tinware gets a high-pressure wash whilst it’s out
the tinware gets a high-pressure wash whilst it’s out

The trouble when you clean one thing, it just highlights the dirt on other areas. So whilst the high-pressure hose was out, the tinware also got cleaned up too!

a high-pressure wash makes quite a transformation
a high-pressure wash makes quite a transformation

Spotting problems early on

There was an aftermarket pulley fitted on the engine. At some point, it too had been painted. Areas of the paint had flaked off in the wash. On closer attention, turns out the pulley was also a bit worn. Made sense to swap it out whilst the engine was being looked at.

apart from the paint, the aftermarket pulley was a bit out of true
apart from the paint, the aftermarket pulley was a bit out of true

Fortunately, Resto Classics had a used original stock steel pulley in their stores. With a bit of clean up and some black paint, it was soon transformed (along with the tinware) to get put back on the engine once the work was complete.

tinware and replacement stock pulley all cleaned up ready to refit
tinware and replacement stock pulley all cleaned up ready to refit

More than just a cleaning session

The main reason the engine was out, was to fix a leaky pushrod tube seal. Unfortunately, as the guys taking things apart, other issues came to light.

off with the cylinder heads
off with the cylinder heads

One of the valve springs seemed to be very weak. On closer inspection, it was easy to see why. This would need to be replaced.

one valve spring was very weak and needed replacement
one valve spring was very weak and needed replacement

Then they found that the engine block had been fitted with a ‘Helicoil’ insert in the past. Unfortunately, this one had started to pull loose of the engine block, so that the heads were a little loose.

Threaded inserts

Every day is a school day with vintage VW’s for me. I had no idea what a threaded insert was. Turns out its a helical insert made of coiled wire. The helically formed coils of diamond-shaped stainless steel or phosphor bronze wire screw into a threaded hole to form a mating internal thread for a screw or stud.

an old Helicoil insert had started to pull out
an old Helicoil insert had started to pull out

These inserts provide a convenient means of repairing stripped-out threads and are also used to provide stronger threads in soft materials such as aluminium, zinc die castings, wood, magnesium etc. They sometimes get used if an engine cylinder head repair gets unintentional over-torqued or cross-threaded and strips the thread of the socket. I guess stuff must have happened at some point in the engine’s history?

a failed old Helicoil insert
a failed old Helicoil insert

Better to find out now

Best this sort of stuff gets found out now and is resolved. The barrels and pistons have to come off to try and effect a repair. Once they were off it was clear to see that a few other Helicoils had been used in different locations on the engine case too.

bottom right; the enlarged hole from where the Helicoil insert pulled loose
bottom right; the enlarged hole from where the Helicoil insert pulled loose

To provide a better long term solution, the old holes needed to get carefully re-drilled and ‘Time-sert’ solid bushing inserts fitted. Apparently these are a much better long term solution. They allow for full load use of a tapped hole, ensuring protection against any stress and vibration shaking the fixing loose.

old defective Helicoil insert on the left, new Time-sert solid bushing insert on the right
old defective Helicoil insert on the left, new Time-sert solid bushing insert on the right

Small engine performance gains?

As the heads were off, another opportunity presented itself. OK, it’s never going to be a race performance engine, but the heads could be cleaned up and mildly ported to help improve the speed and quantity of the airflow to optimize the engines power output and delivery. It’s all about marginal gains.

cylinder heads needing a bit of a cleanup
cylinder heads needing a bit of a cleanup

The heads all cleaned up with some mild Cylinder head porting carried out. Proof of the pudding will be when its back on the road and driving again to see if I notice any real-world differences or not I guess?

cylinder heads after a bit of mild porting work
cylinder heads after a bit of mild porting work

Back together again

So the three defective Helicoil inserts were removed, and the old holes carefully re-drilled and fitted with ‘Time-sert’ solid bushing inserts. There were some other Helicoil inserts fitted, but they all appeared to be in good condition. To be sure, the guys refitted the heads and correctly torqued them up to make sure everything still held OK.

defective Helicoil inserts replaced with Time-sert solid bushing inserts
defective Helicoil inserts replaced with Time-sert solid bushing inserts

What’s that sound?!

Nervous moments, but yep, everything held good and torqued up nicely. Happy days! Time to get the engine reassembled and refitted back in the bus. All back in nicely and looking good once again. Quickfire up of the engine to test everything and all seemed to be running nicely until the guys heard a small pop sound from the engine… oh oh!

 

 

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