I know I left our last blog post on a bit of a cliffhanger, but I’m here to assure you Jacqui and I have not given up on our adventure. We are still enthusiastic to see all the wonderful things to come on this trip and are prepared to take on the hardships that will inevitably come with them.
However, in the wee hours of the night Jacqui was doing the one thing you can only hope that your significant other would be capable of doing: help me understand myself. After crashing the Dolphin in Mexico, spending two months trying to fix it only to ditch it, then returning to the states homeless and carless to purchase what has turned out to be the most difficult vehicle of my professional and personal life, last week was the first time I “lost my shit.” Or more plainly put, despite having the knowledge that life on the road is supposed to be tough, literally not a day has gone by without our adventure-fun mobile only offering the adventure part.
So, on Jacqui’s advice, I present the grand list to illustrate to myself why I’m so frustrated.
We’ve put 15,000 miles on Penny and bought her with only 47k on the odometer. Here’s what I can remember replacing. Keep in mind, things breaking on an old car are completely normal, and I’m at peace with that. However, the sheer unbelievable quantity of brand new components that have been bad out-of-the-box, the unbelievable number of brand new components that have failed in inexplicably short periods of time, and the sheer number of repairs that have yielded no positive results is what is truly dumbfounding about this vehicle. I’m also not including the hours of diagnostic time spent, because remember, I don’t just magically know what is wrong when something fails.
So here you go.
6x Replaced Ball Joints. All of the original ones had torn boots. After replacing all 4 it turned out two were bad out of the box. So I repeated the 4-hour job.
2x Resealed Oil Cooler. Original seals leaked so I resealed. Still leaked, so I repeated the 2-3 hour job…still leaked. 1x Bought Brand New Oil Cooler, it leaked. Resealed one more time, only slightly weeping now. Good enough. Keep in mind, that’s 4 repetitions of the same task.
4x Replace/Rebuild Cylinder Heads. They were rebuilt the day we purchased Penny by a professional, aircooled VW specialty shop. Failed again right before we departed, now have brand new heads. This is a job that is just short of a complete engine rebuild.
4x Replaced Oxygen Sensors and Counting. They just keep failing. Granted, the first one was simply replaced because it was old, not because it was faulty. Regardless, the new replacement was bad out of the box, and the one I replaced that with lasted one month. Current one has 12 hours of use as of writing this. Fingers crossed.
2x Completely Resealed the entire Exhaust. Very labor intensive. (Starting to leak again).
1x New Rear Main Seal. Requires entire engine to be removed for replacement. Currently leaking, don’t care to do anything about it.
2x Replaced Cylinder Head Temp Sensor. Original one failed. New one broke in half. One is working for now.
2x Replaced Oil Pressure Sensor. Original leaked. New was faulty out of the box. Newest seems to be working.
2x Engine Computers. Original fried. Purchased used one, bad. Rebuilt original, working.
1x Repair Horn Button, then horn itself died. 1x Replace Horn with New. Horn button just died again today.
2x Brake Calipers. One was cracked; have to replace both at the same time.
2x Metal Clips for Calipers. Brand spanking new calipers were provided with brand spanking new clips that broke within 50ft of driving. Photographic evidence upon request.
2x Brake Hoses. (Just smart maintenance, done with the calipers.)
1x New Tent. (Installed twice, my fault.) Currently brand new tent has a broken zipper (not my fault).
1x Brand New Shift Link Boot. Already completely torn. Need new one. My theory is that even though the boot was new in the package, it was probably sitting on the shelf for 30 years and that is why if failed so fast.
2x Replaced Passenger Side Mirrors. That is right, only the passenger side. Original broke. Replaced from junkyard. Also broke. Replaced with brand new. It’s floppy. Need new one.
4x Window Crank Handles. Bought 2 brand new, they broke in only a few months. New, new ones seem to be holding up.
2x Fuel Filters. New one clogged from bad Mexican gas. Hoping new one lasts.
1x Ignition Coil. Failed in the first 1000 miles of driving.
1x Main Engine Battery. Failed in Mazatlan, so first 1200 miles of driving.
2x Secondary Battery. New one failed after 6 months of purchasing.
2x Battery Isolator Solenoids. The brand new one failed in 6 months, new one working currently. Original new battery isolator may have caused battery failure.
1x Brake Master Cylinder. Failed in California, en route to Baja.
2x Wheel Cylinders. Failed at the same time as the master cylinder.
4x Motor Mounts. All completely sheered.
1x Fuel Tank Reseal. The very first time I went to put gas in the tank it spilled all over the damn place because the tank was leaking.
3x Secondary Battery System Re-Wire. Very, very time consuming. A gift from the previous owner, took a few tries to deal with.
1x Voltage Regulator for Alternator. Currently the brand new one is making a lot of noise. Need a new, new one.
4x Shock Absorbers. Still holding strong. Gotta love Bilstein.
Reverse Lights Still Work Intermittently. Don’t have the energy to deal with it.
Westy Stove Currently Only Has One Properly Functioning Burner. One burner melted. I don’t understand how that happens; they are designed to handle fire.
Cigarette Lighter Wiring Melted. Replaced, good now.
1x “New” Louver Window from Junkyard. Old one rusted out.
1x Fuel Pump.
1x Replaced All Fuel Lines. One line leaked two months later.
1x Air-Flow Meter Rebuilt.
1x Hall-Effect Sensor.
5x Replaced CV Joint Boots. Supposedly the shop replaced one upon my purchase, but when I examined, all were torn.
1x Paint Roof. Actually painted twice, but that’s my fault.
This does not include our personal choice upgrades or simply repairs that have forgotten along the way. Keep in my mind I’m a professional, certified auto mechanic, specializing in diagnostics and have used nothing but the best quality parts I can get my hands on. None of these jobs or tasks were new to me, quite the contrary, most of them were actually routine.
In summery, unless you’ve got deep pockets, extreme DIY skills or some sadomasochistic tendencies, skip the Vanagon and buy yourself a Toyota.
Coming soon, our regular scheduled happy blog posts.
Wheew….I feel better.