Monday, September 16, 2013

The Casualty List

Sufficient time has passed since our Panama rendezvous  for me to render judgment and a declare a casualty list.  Casualties in this instance are defined as non-consumable items that were consumed in the course of our trip, or as a result of it afterwards.

Tires.  Four Continental Vanco 2 tires in the 185/R14C size.  These tires took quite a beating in our Alaska and Baja trips.  Despite a few small leaks they were holding strong when we crossed the Mexican border. Alas, the first to go was in Guatemala on the way to Semuc Champey.  A wooden stake finished this one off in the blink of an eye. We were forced to find a replacement set in Guatemala City, so we put on two new Toyo tires.



The second tire was in its death throes somewhere in Missouri.  This tire was done in by extensive driving on large rocks and potholes.  This resulted in tread separation near the sidewall.  Thankfully, I noticed this issue before we began our current trip westward.

Rola roof bag.  Our trusty roof bag was purchased as a replacement for our travel trailer that we abandoned in the deep foliage of my brother's front yard.  The bag's vinyl fabric began to separate somewhere on a northern Mexico toll road on our return leg.  We managed to patch the ever-growing breach with some duck tape on the side of the road.  Back in Tulsa we were able to save the bag with some rip-stop nylon fabric and our trusty can of contact adhesive.

The ripples on the right are the nylon patch.

Center shift bushing.  The vanagon has a very long shift linkage due to the driver being in the front and the transmission in the back.  Over the course of our travels, I have replaced all but one of the bushings on this linkage.  Why all but one, you ask?  There is a very good reason for this.  The final bushing is located above the voluminous fuel tank.  Nearly impossible to remove without dropping the tank (at least that's what the internet says).  Knowing this, it's now obvious that Murphy's law almost guarantees that this bushing will need replacement.  Thus I had a spare and was able to swap it out using an ingenious tool made of 3 feet of socket extensions (all of them actually).  The bushing finally fell apart somewhere in southwest Kansas. (Jen note here: of course, this had to fall apart when I was driving. Just another added to my personal list of things gone wrong when I drive the van.)

The bushing that was destroyed.

Driver side door and mirror.  Somewhere on the Pacific coast of El Salvador a rogue coconut palm attacked Chuck, decapitating the driver’s side mirror, and crippling the driver’s door.  The door met its end in a recycling bin and a replacement has been installed. The mirror I repaired on Isla de Ometepe in Nicaragua.  By gutting the power mirror wiring and tapping the core for a 10mm bolt, I was able to restore it to structural integrity.  Alas, its power adjustment is lost forever.



Exhaust.  The entirety of Chuck’s exhaust piping from the header onwards was complete trash.  Between the damage done in Yellowstone and the forceful addition of ground clearance in Guatemala, there was nothing left to save.  It all came off, mounts included, and was replaced with a new system from Foreign Auto Supply.  Mmmmm sexyness…

The Old exhaust and other stuff for recycling.
A section of the new exhaust.



Front and left engine mounts.  These mounts were little more than cracked and crusty rubber by the time we pulled them off.  The front was cheap, aftermarket junk, the left side was severely overheated by having the exhaust bent up near it.  The front was replaced with a solid urethane bushing from T3 Technique.  The left side was replaced with a Saab hydraulic mount inspired by the Vanagon I4 Google group.

Starting battery.  Our EverStart engine-starting battery gave up its ghost in Danlí, Honduras.  We bump-started the van, and found a replacement in Tegucigalpa.  The sheer volume and intensity of the road-induced vibrations had caused the internal bus bar to crack and separate from the terminal. 

One of these things, is cleaner than the others....


Roof-vent filler board.  This poor piece of untreated plywood was subjected to horrendous treatment in Central America.  Despite two coats of exterior paint, various fungi and several species of insect decided to take up residence within the wood.  Despite insect killer and extra sealant, the invasion continued.  A brief toss in the fire ended this monstrosity.  A suitably sized piece of HDPE plastic replaced the wood in supporting the roof vent. 

Honorable Mentions

Sliding door panel.  This dirty little bastard started coming loose somewhere in southern Mexico.  It would stay put long enough to fool you, and then come apart enough to jam the slider.  Too big to stow in the van, we were forced to endure its brutal and devious torture.  Twenty-odd sheet metal screws and finish washers put the nail in this bad-boy's coffin. 

Caframo fan.  Due to excusive abuse (I blame heat-induced hysteria) the internal wires got twisted and broke.  This was a quick fix in Antigua, Guatemala.

Flashing-light relay.  Due mostly to my incessant tinkering, this relay developed a cracked solder joint in southern Mexico.  A quick re-solder job at a Pacific resort town had this one fixed.

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