Monday, July 18, 2011

OK So Maybe I Didn't Cook the Engine After All ...

Then again maybe I did. Too soon to tell. But there are encouraging signs.

Three days ago I put in new points. Suddenly she is running on all four cylinders again, and sounding a lot letter. Today I found my timing light -- hard to lose something in a space small as a bus but I did -- and set the timing. Still sounds a little loud but much, much better.  I'll know more after a few more road tests. Meanwhile $800 worth of parts to rebuild the engine are starting to come in this week. Hopefully, I won't need them. Not just yet anyway.

The weather continues hot here at Caballo Lake State Park. And the dawns and sunsets just as beautiful. Cows wandered into the park last night and grazed placidly among the tents and RVs.

Just another breath take away dawn at Caballo
Besides cows we have skunks. None has sprayed so far, yet they are odiferous in the approach and repellant even from afar.

Yet they are beautiful. They move like ghost critters in the moonlight bathed silver above and black beneath. They walk without hurry looking for scraps.

And rattlesnakes. Our camp host, Jack, killed and skinned a small one yesterday and mounted the skin on a board. The snake had tried to bite a ranger's leg. It only got a mouthful of cloth for its effort.

But the night time shadow cows are the more interesting. No one seems to know where they come from. They walk down the river and emerge among us in moonlight. By morning they are gone.

Jack, by the way, and his wife, originally from Tennessee, have been full-timing it for five years and love Caballo with its thirsty salt cedar trees, rustling cottonwoods and wild birds as much as I do.

Tomorrow I look at an apartment in Truth or Consequences. It's up for rent for a few months.  It may be just the place to settle in for a while and do some serious writing before pressing on in the fall. Or it may be time for a longer sojourn. The bus has 41 years on its chassis. And I am older than my bus by three decades. We all wear out eventually.

Another dawn in a different hue
Besides it's a nice neighborhood.  And there is a movie theatre with $2 popcorn in walking distance.

Life is good sometimes.



  1. Nice pictures, I can go without the snakes.

  2. Hey John !

    Where is Caballo anyways ???? Sounds great.

  3. Re.: VW engine trouble. John, once I had a 1976 VW-bus. Bought it brand new. After 60.000km it got a strange sound. Loud and rattling. Something was wrong. It ended with a new engine!! Mine was 1.6l. 50hp (Europ. standard) These engines had one big problem. There was not enough air to cool it when getting hot. And the engine was too small for that heavy bus. It came out of a beetle, you know! Having it in the rear there was no major air intake. The little opening behind the last window did not the trick. Chances are, you motor still runs but needs a major overhaul, even if it still runs now,I would not go on a long journey with it without an overhaul.
    I loved my VW-bus and it was my first RV. I considered to get one again to put behind the motor-home, but I'm afraid of engine trouble, and actually the fuel-mileage wasn't all that good either.

  4. Yes, Peter. Mine is the 1.6 l. I built is three years ago and it ran beautifully until I pushed it up and down mountains in 95-degree heat. My own fault. I knew better, just didn't do better. But now I have the parts for a major overhaul and it is running well enough that I am not in too great a hurry, so all is well. Whatever happened to your green bus?

  5. Hi Wolf,

    Caballo is in southern New Mexico on the Rio Grande river about 20 miles south of Truth or Consequences and 65 miles north of El Paso, Texas.

    Happy Trails.


  6. John,
    I'm working on the timing of my 71 and from what I can tell, on-line, to find the proper degree mark there is a disk with all the degrees on it to adjust from retarted to advanced and back with my timing light. Is the disk a must or can I tell the timing another way? I have the mark on my lower pulley slightly to the left of the stationary mark at the top of the pulley. It sounds and rides well but after about 20-30 min of driving the restart takes about 15-20 sec of pumping the gas and now and then I feel a slight decline in hp in 4th. I know this isn't a technical blog, but you know your bus so I thought I'd ask.

    1. Hi Jaemie,

      Very hard to do this long distance. I'm assuming the marks on your pulley indicate top and bottom center. You can check that by removing the No.1 spark plug and inserting a pencil and measuring its climb to the top. But as it runs well most of the time the suspicion I have is that it is not timing. It may be that the engine is running rich. You can check this by looking at a plug. It should not be dark and fouled. If it is that is likely the cause. You probably have a Solex carb and mixture can be adjusted. However if the carb is old it may be harder to do. Hope some of this is helpful.



  7. Thanks John!
    I will try your suggestions this week. Enjoy your ride!