Monday, September 27, 2010

Wrist Rocket Slingshot - My Childhood Companion

I spent much of my childhood roaming the backyard of my parents house with a pocket full of rocks and a slingshot in my hand. Not just any sling shot but a wrist rocket.

My dad first introduced me to sling shots one day as we were doing yard work and trimming trees. He came across a forked branch and said, "This would make a perfect sling shot." After we finished our work we went in the house and began hunting for supplies. A few rubber bands from the kitchen and then a scrap of denim from beneath my mothers sewing machine. Soon I was in the back yard knocking over soda cans like a pro.

A sling shot however should not be confused with a sling. The weapon David use to defeat Goliath. A sling does not use an elastic band, and is also used to hurl a much larger stone. A sling uses two cords attached to a rock holding pouch. The rock is swung and one of the cords is release to send the rock flying.

Several years (?months) later, while shopping at Fedco (does anyone remember that store?) my father sees a commercially manufactured slingshot with a wrist support. He immediately placed the item in the shopping cart. I think the purchase was actually for himself. Having a wrist support and surgical tubing increased the efficiency of a sling shot incredibly. The one we purchased that day was a deluxe folding model. However the plastic grip eventually cracked and I replaced it with a wrist rocket original (the one picture above).

Last week, I was in the hardware store and above the drawers of nuts and bolts was a single replacement band for a wrist rocket type sling shot. I immediately placed it in my shopping cart. As soon as I got home, I found my wrist rocket (I knew exactly where it was) and replaced the broken sling, and went in my back yard to fire off a few shots.

I am very happy that I get to take this part of my fathers childhood and pass it to my child.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Eurovan's Transmission Woes

It has been called the Achilles heel of the euro van; the 01p 4 speed automatic transmission. Our EuroVan Camper is on its second transmission. The first one failed at approximately 35,000 miles. It was replaced by VW under warranty with a remanufactured unit. So far the transmission is still chugging along, but care must be taken beyond what VW recommends, to insure that the transmission continues to do so.

The typical failure mode of the 01P transmission is due to overheating of the Automatic Transmission Fluid. The EVC comes equipped with a unique ATF cooler. Rather than being a fluid to air heat exchanger, it is a fluid to fluid unit. The cooler uses the engines cooling fluid and primary radiator to provide cooling to the ATF. Though a fluid to fluid cooler is typically more efficient, this particular unit does not provide enough of a temperature drop to prevent the ATF from over heating. The engine's coolant runs at a consistent 190 degree Ferlinghetti, and the small cooler certainly does not remove enough heat. As the AFT is over heated, it breaks down and oxidizes and loses its properties. An article from Go Westy suggest that transmission failures are hit or miss, based on build quality. This might be a contributing factor, but overheating, in my opinion, is still the primary reason. VW recommends the ATF be changed every 40,000 miles, however Go Westy suggest it to be changed every 15,000.

The first time tranny failed it would show signs of it by getting stuck in a low gear, and fail to upshift until the AFT had a chance to cool down. The situation would go like so: Drive the van for a few hours towards the mountains. Begin to climb a long steep grade and the transmission would downshift into 3rd or 2nd gear. At the top of the grade when one would expect the transmission to upshift, it does not, and it stays in whatever gear you climbed the hill in. Pull the van over and attempt to start off from 1st gear. The EV then does not upshift out of 1st gear. Pull over again, and kill the engine. Wait 5 minutes, start the van and drive off like nothing happened. This scenario would happen more and more often, until one day the transmission makes a loud clunk upshifting and EV comes to a lurching halt. Oil pouring out the bottom of the van and smoke bellowing out from underneath. The Death of a Transmission.

This most recent time I took possession of the EVC, I had a similar experience. After 5 hours of driving I make my way up the hill from Bishop to Mammoth. From 4th gear to 3rd gear. Climb the hill, and at the top it would not shift back to 4th. Ohh Shit, this is the start of a 3000 mile trip I have planned with my family, I do not want to worry about an exploding transmission.

I did not have the time or supplies to change out the ATF at the time, but I did start to look into the problem. Based on two separate write ups, Garreett and Baldy's , I knew that I needed some tranny specific parts to do the ATF change, and that I would not be able to get them before I departed for the long leg of my trip. However in my reading, it mentioned that the fluid level of the transmission was very important. I decided that I had to at least check this.

In order to check the fluid level one must first drop the belly pan. Though having a belly pan makes working on the van harder, it is a great item to protect vital engine parts from road debris and damage. The belly pan however is made of light gauge steel and should not be expected to act as a skid plate. Anyways the oil pan itself is not protected by the belly pan. The pan itself is well designed for serviceability. After removing the four 13mm hex head bolts, and the 10mm safety nut, the pan is still held in place by a release clip and and the pivoting hangers. This makes unassisted one man removal and installation easy. Once the pan is off you can see the engine and the transmission. The transmission fluid pan does not have a drain plug. The 5mm allen wrench bolt you see is actually a fluid overflow drain. The allen bolt is attached to a tube inside the oil pan that drains fluid which is excessive to the proper level. (drain picture not mine) The proper level is also dependant on three key points. One-the vehicle should be parked on a level surface. Two- the engine needs to be running, and Three-the AFT should be at the proper temperature.

Leveling the van is a bit tricky. Since the van sits with the nose lower than the tail, even if the van is parked on a level surface the floor is not level. Is this considered level? I used a four foot level that I set on the floor o the van, and based the level on that. However I do not think that it is super critical to get the the van perfectly level; close enough is good enough.

It doesn't seems logical that the ATF level requires the engine to be running when checking the fluid level. After all any other fluid: engine oil, coolant, manual transmission fluid, is all checked with the engine stopped. However checking the ATF when the engine is running is standard operating procedure. The torque converter and pumps needs the engine to be spinning in order to be filled and thus yeilding the proper fill amount.

The proper fluid temperature is the third key point when checking the fluid level. According to Baldy's write up, the AFT should be 130 degrees F. This is not the steady state operating temperature of the ATF. Per the factory service manual, the vehicle should be attached to a VW computer scan tool to read the temperature. However most shop mechanics just wait till the transmission pan is warm to the the touch.

Paying attention to these three key points I check the level of the ATF, and guess what: the fluid level is almost a pint overfilled. Draining this extra fluid seemed to make the transmission run smoother, however over heating symptoms would still persist on our long journey. When I returned home, I purchased the supplies required for the ATF change: fluid, filter, gasket, locking cap. I decided to go with VW approved Pentosin however I think any synthetic Dex II III, ATF would have been fine. The filter is a must, the gasket I am not sure. I think one can reuse the old gasket. And my filler was missing the red locking cap.

I will not go into detail of the actual fluid change since it is covered in great detail by the two previously linked write ups. I will, just touch up on a few finer points. The first is a series of pictures of the ATF. From top to bottom, this first picture is old AFT with 25,000 miles on it. The second brand new fluid. And the third overflow fluid, which is new fluid that has been mixed with old. You can barely tell that it is "cleaner".

The filler lock cap is released by pushing a pin into the release hole. The filler cap is simply pressed into place, with resistance provided by two o-rings. There is not mechanism to release in order to remove the cap. Just use force, however do not tweak the filler tube.

An finally how to fill the transmission with fresh fluid. The write ups will have you either buying a long tube so that you can fill from the engine bay, or buy the special filler neck with the spout. If you have beeb up to speed on your "Bill in Tahoe" readings you will know that there is a much better gear oil pump .

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Labor Day in Yosemite - Commissioner's Buttress

For those that have not known me since my college days, the screen name "MrPulldown" might be a bit of a enigma. Since it has to do with the web many think that it is associated with a pull down menu. However the term pulldown, has its origins back from the last year of College. At the last house I lived at during my senior year, I lived with a bunch of rock climbing friends. A slang term for climbing was to pulldown. One day needing a screen name, I used Mr Pulldown to describe myself; I have been using that screen name ever since.

So this picture is not one I took from this trip. However I did take it one winter day many years ago. What whould a post about Yosemite be without a picture of the Valley.

Through the following years, climbing was a sport I followed with varying degrees of passion. In the most recent years, I would describe myself as a retired rock climber, though I will still climb a few times each year. This last labor day weekend was one such time.

Through one of the original climbing roommates a large block of campgrounds were reserved, the notice to congregate was sent out, and the jingle of climbing gear once again rang in my ears. This year not only did three of the four original roommates show, along with several of our friends from the same time period, but my wife, brother, father, and son was also part of the adventure. In fact this was the first time my infant son visited the Valley.

So how was Yosemite Valley Labor Day weekend 2010? HOT. When we rolled in Friday the high temp was reported to be 97 degree, with the following three days predicted to be in the mid 90's. The crowds were not much of an issue. Once our vehicles were parked in the campsite, the shuttle fulfilled all of our transportation needs. However I did find a traffic backup traveling East into the Valley right before the 41 split. Though the popular trails were at maximum capacity, the climbing spots were only moderated busy. Our crag day at the Church Bowl did not involve any waiting. I guess climbers tend to stay away from the Valley on such popular weekends.

The real climbing was done on Sunday, when my brother and I roped up to climb Commissioner's Buttress. It is a lesser known 5.9 on Manure Pile Buttress. The climb was recently featured in January 2010's issue of Rock and Ice Magazine, as one of the best unknown climbs of Yosemite. Though the name does not spark instant conversation and the one star rating doesn't get tons of press, the climb is a true Valley classic. First ascent by Galen Rowell and Joe Faint 1969, the route has often been described as "old school". What seems like an awkward fashion term, old school in this case harks to the Golden age of climbing where routes were hard and the men who put them up where even harder. CB is truly a vertical rock adventure. If you have got to the point of pumping out 5.9's in the gym, you are in no shape to lead this climb. From finger locks to off widths this climb takes you through cracks, lie backs, stems, and roofs.

The above picture is not my own. I must give credit to "Trad" from the the SuperTopo Forum .

CB starts to the right of the famous Nut Cracker route on the Manuer Pile Buttress. Stay low on the approach till you pass the large buttress, then head towards the rock. The climb starts at an odd long rock that has partially broken off the main buttress, a pine tree is located right in front of the rock. 100 feet up the main crack is a large pine tree. The first two pitches of the climb are the most notable. The rest of the climb is just to top out and is dirty and lose. The climb tops out above the nutcracker platform. Down climb 3rd/4th class to the main gully trail used for decent. The option of bailing to the right after the first two pitches is possible.

A topo of the route can be found the Reid Falcon Valley Free Climb Guide. Unfortunatly i could not find the topo in the Supertopo's Valley Guide.

So the next time you get a chance head out to the Valley and enjoy the good tidings the mountains bring, and don't forget to pulldown!