The Guac's got a little buddy

It's been cold here in Colorado. Really cold. For example, it was 4 degrees this morning when I left for work.

The Guac's heat is... Well, it isn't.

I started looking for a beater daily driver with HEAT for these cold winter mornings. I offered up some woodworking tools as a trade for a car on Craigslist.

The only response with a car I'd be seen in was this one. A 1986 Saab 900s. 16 valve normally aspirated 5 speed 3 door.


It's not my first Saab. I had a 1984 900s 4 door in 1999 and loved it for the short time I had it. The auto tranny grenaded after only 9 months. I couldn't afford to fix it so I junked it.

This one also uses LH-Jetronic fuel injection instead of the CIS that my old one had. Very much like the L-Jetronic on the Guac! Troubleshooting will be similar. And with a 5-speed instead of an auto, the transmisison should last longer than the auto in my 84.

It does definitely need work. The Check Engine light is on, which I suspect is a mixture problem. Either vacuum leak or a bad MAS. Most obvious symptom is the engine dies when blipping the throttle. Also the hydraulic clutch is goofy and needs adjusting at a minimum, the driver's seat frame seems bent, and the brakes need work.

The interior seat covers are in great shape as the pics show. The dash and bezel are bad, there's some hippie wiring under the dash and some trim pieces need fixing.

All in all, I'm *very* happy! A little bit of work and I can take the load off the Guac so it can be taken out of service for some much needed maintenance. Seals, clutch, and other miscellaneous bits.

I'm surprised at just how quick this Saab is. Much faster than my 84 was. I can't imagine what a turbo model would be like!


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Pimp My VW Bus

Found this online:


Silly, but funny.


What a difference 5 minutes make!

Something you never think about until it breaks is the clutch. Right?
I mean, as long as you can push your left foot down and move the gears
around, it's all good, right?

Lately the Guac's been getting trickier about getting into gears,
especially 3rd. And in reverse the thing was bucking like a rodeo
bull. I realized the cable had stretched some over the past few years,
but it was so gradual I didn't notice. Clutch disengagement didn't
happen until the last inch of pedal throw!

So yesterday I grabbed some vise grips and crawled underneath. I
tightened the cable to 1/2" play at the pedal. Holy smokes! The clutch
kicks in way up at the top of the pedal throw! And it shifts smooth as
butter again, and backing up is a total non-event, as it should be.

I send this as a reminder that it's easy to forget things like this,
but for 5 minutes of effort I fixed a whole slew of annoyances.



Peggin it!

Had a stretch of freeway with nobody around me so I opened it up and took a piccie with my G1.


Parking In The Pines

PITP is coming up.



BJs for the Bus

So this week my balljoints arrived from Bus Depot and...

Wait, what?

Dude, get your mind out of the gutter!

As I was saying... My new balljoints arrived from Bus Depot. $16.95 each here: Ball Joint 68-79 Bus

Made in Germany. The pics show how they arrived (bus needs four of them). I haven't opened the bags they're in yet. I won't do that until I'm ready to install them.

The price beat the best FLAPS (Friendly Local Auto Parts Store... Replace "Friendly" with any appropriate word that starts with "F"...) price... $40 each. And those $40 ones were made in China.

I'll do a writeup with pics soon covering the installation.


search all blog articles Battery? Check. Shoehorn? Check. Make it fit!

After the alternator issues a while back, I found the battery was pretty much toast. It worked ok if it was warm, but the minute temps got to 18* or lower, nada. I started out putting an electric blanket in the engine compartment to keep things warm enough to start the bus in the morning, but on 0* mornings even that wasn`t enough.

The battery I had in there was a series 47. I hit Wallyworld and thought I grabbed another 47. I get home and go to put it in the bus and find it`s considerably longer. Hmm.. I wedged it in sort of and went on my way.

It wasn`t until yesterday when I go to get it properly seated that I notice I bought a 49 series, not a 47. No wonder it was longer!

Well, if I can make it fit, I`ll be a happy camper. The thing is rated at 1000 cranking amps at 32* and 850 cold cranking amps. Should be plenty even on the coldest morning!

I removed the charcoal canister and the ECU cable to provide clearance for the battery. It fit in snug as a bug in a rug. The ECU cable went back on, but I can`t get the charcoal canister where it belongs. For now it`s just wedged between the body and the air filter box.

I`m debating now whether to relocate the battery to the driver`s side, or to relocate the charcoal canister instead. The charcoal canister would be easier and cheaper (I`d have to buy long cables for the battery, or long hoses for the canister), but with the typical rusty battery tray, I may go ahead and do the battery.

Regardless, it`s nice having the big fat battery spinning my engine in the morning!

The Joys of Alternators

I decided since it was such a beautiful snowy morning to head out and get gas so I wouldn`t have to do it in the morning. On the way there, my stereo cut out. Odd, but that thing is like 6 years old now. So I didn`t think much of it.

At the intersection in front of the gas station the bus died. The starter wouldn`t turn over either. Sigh. I push the bus out of the intersection. The ground was so slick with snow and ice that I was pretty much just a passenger hanging from the window of the bus trying to steer it to a curb. My feet just slid. But it was downhill so I was able to steer it right into the curb. A quick check showed my battery was pretty dead. My alt must have croaked. :(

Called AAA. Must be a busy day, I was on hold 20 minutes BEFORE I got a person. Ugh. A cop came and sat with me so his big flashy lights would hopefully keep people from hitting me on the side of the road. Got it towed home finally and charged the battery. I was curious why my alt light never came on if the alt was bad. I started it up, no light. Check the voltage and find it`s 12.10v. No charging happening. Voltage regulator check first. Tests ok, but i found out why the light wasn`t coming on. The green wire was disconnected. Play around some more and find the alt is VERY hard to turn. Something inside must have seized.

I`ve never had an alt seize on me like that. Most bizarre.

Results of Smog Check 11/18/08

After dialing in the AFM settings by ear, here are my results:


  • 2500RPM - 50.1

  • Idle - 86.5

  • Limit - 400


  • 2500RPM - 0.97

  • Idle - 2.10

  • Limit - 3.00


  • 2500RPM - 12.7497

  • Idle - 5.7130


It Lives!

I got injectors and a resistor pack from Troy (Thanks man!). I got `em in over the past couple nights (did you know 1/4" FI hose will fit if it`s heated up a bit?)

No difference. :(

This morning I hit the junkyard and there was a bug. All that was useful off it, unless a beat to crap case and swiss cheese pan are useful, was the distributor. I grabbed and for giggles tossed it the Guac. Holy smokes it worked!!!

My tach doesn`t peg and bounce anymore, the bus runs great, etc etc.

Something in the two distributors I have must be shorting out, or the ground strap while passing eyeball inspection has a weak spot. I`ll spend some more time checking those out later. Right now... ROAD TRIP!

Injectors and Resistors

I picked up some used injectors and resistor pack from another bus owner yesterday. On the way home I stopped by Target and picked up a box of snack size ziploc bags ($2) and a bottle of medical grade mineral oil ($1.52). I put each injector in a bag and filled it with the mineral oil, then put all the bags back in the Target bag.

They sat that way all day.

When I got home last evening, I installed the resistor pack and one injector, replacing one that I thought was suspect. I didn`t have time to do the rest, so I did a quick test drive. No joy. :( The replacement injector seems to be working nicely however.

I`ll update more tomorrow assuming I get to finish replacing the injectors tonight.

Troubleshooting Update

I finally got to do an AFM swap. No change. Same with the ECU.

The resistor pack tests perfect when cold. Run the engine for a little while and instead of 5-7 ohms of resistance per resistor, I get 3.4-ish on 3 of the 4 resistors. ARRRGGHH!!

I swapped resistor packs with Sykboy and the guac ran MUCH better. Still not perfect, but better. Although his resistor pack tested similarly.

It seems that the resistors were damaged by overvoltage for a long time.

I`ll be getting a new resistor pack and set of injectors. Here`s to hoping!

Fuel Injection Wiring Harness

Photos of the fuel injection harness. I labeled the small connectors to make it easier for me (and anybody else) to reattach it.

The connectors are color coded.
Black: AFM, AAR
Blue: Fuel Injectors
Brown: TS1
White: Dual Relay, Resistor Pack

Note that the spade connectors are not color coded. So label them when you pull them.

Still Need Help

The Guac has been down since January, but I have little time to troubleshoot. So in troubleshooting time, I`ve spent maybe a week on it.

I`ve isolated things (I think).

Idles from cold start at least 30 minutes (I figure any longer was pointless)
If revved to 2k rpm and held, will only last 45 seconds or so.
- When it cuts out the tach drops to zero
- There are no warning signs leading up to this
- I can repeat this over and over. So it`s not (or no longer) intermittent

Wiring has been checked and re-checked and re-re-checked. Coil
replaced. I`ve now swapped out 3 different coils and get the same
results. Points and condensor replaced. Distributor replaced. I even
put a compufire on it. Exact same results. Wire wiggling does nothing.

Vacuum leaks have all been sealed. The last one was yesterday, a fuel
injector seal wasn`t seated properly which was probably from previous
troubleshooting. (Yes, I got the rear drum loose. The hammer blows did

Several dual relays tried. Injectors spray nicely when triggered,
don`t leak when off.

Fuel pressure stays up. When idling and warm the vac is between 14 and
15, which is probably good for Colorado.

The only things I haven`t tried are replacing are the engine (heh),
the resistor pack, and the computer.

I`m leaning toward either computer or ignition due to the way the tach
just flatlines like that. Though I can`t see how the computer would
affect the ignition?

Any thoughts? Things I haven`t tried? Help?

Bucking Under Load

The Guac`s been out of commission for a month while I try to figure out why it`s bucking under load.

Fuel pressure is higher than it should, but it probably doesn`t cause this.

All ignition components tested or replaced.

Valve adjustment complete.

Vacuum gauge steady low.

Photos of fuel pressure test here.

Here`s a video of all the gauges going. Note the jittery timing mark is due to the frames of the camera not lining up with the strobing of the timing light. It`s rock solid.

A clunk. A death. Angels. A trip to California.

A lot can happen in a week.

Last weekend I started hearing a heavy metal-to-metal clunk when driving over rough roads or expansion joints (ahh.. Highlands Ranch... Beige Hell with shitty roads!). It would go away when applying the brakes.

I crawled around underneath the bus and couldn`t see anything obvious so kept driving it the one block to work. Yep. One block. You`re jealous. Admit it. I could walk, but since I walk 5 miles per day on average at work anyway, I usually drive.

All well and good, but the clunk was getting worse. It got to the point where there was a grinding noise in the brakes when backing up. Ouch.

I crawled underneath again and this time saw the upper caliper mounting bolt was missing from the driver`s side caliper. Scary!

Since I only work a block away ( :P ) I ordered one from Busted Bus, and started driving the Chevrolegs.

Thursday comes around. I`m at work discovering a major project I was working on was canceled. But the universe wasn`t through with me yet. That afternoon I got a call from my uncle in California. Never good news when rarely heard from relatives out of state call. This day was no exception.

My mother passed away.

I went into shock. Then frenzy. Then numb.

I started going through the motions to get the bus ready and drive out to CA. But I still didn`t have a bolt for the caliper! Oh well, I think, it`ll be here Friday for sure, right?

In the meantime my wife reminds me that the kids need to go too. And her. I had kind of hoped to handle this one alone, but of course that was out of the question. So the simple plan of just hopping into the bus and hitting the road became a mishmash of a family road trip.

Like I need this crap now.

Top it off, I don`t have enough $$ to cover the trip, expenses, etc. So I list my BA-6 for sale. No real takers, but a great member of the Type 2 List (who is nameless to prevent others from taking advantage) dropped a good sized chunk of money in my PayPal Account! The trip itself was covered. Yay!

Friday`s mail came, no bolt. Crap. I emailed a bunch of the local guys to see if anybody had a bolt. Jon helped me out and got me the caliper bolt. Others volunteered too, but Jon`s was closer. Less gas money.

During the Great Bolt Chase, more expenses arose. I got to the point where the only way out that I could see was to sell the Guacamole Bus. I emailed the same local guys that I was putting it on the market and why. I listed it on Craigslist too.

While I was getting the infamous bolt, my wife, behind my back, called my boss at the church. While my wife is a member there, as well as an employee, I`m just an employee in the IT dept discovering just how much I hate Macs. Anyway, she called my boss, who contacted the church`s Bereavement Ministry. They kicked down the money we needed to make everything happen.

So we leave in the morning for Cali. Should be a beautiful trip with the leaves changing!

The Continental Divide

We had a great time! It took about an hour and a half to reach the divide from Highlands Ranch, CO, including a stop for gas and snacks.

The pic up top was a pain though. It was raining pretty hard, and the family needed some cajoling to get out of the nice dry bus to stand in the rain.

I slid down the muddy hill and set up the camera and tripod. I set the timer and scrambled up the slimy steep hill and barely got in place before the shutter fired.

The family disappeared into the bus like they were beamed aboard.

We continued West on Route 6 until it connected with I-70 at Silverthorne. We swung onto the 70 going East toward the Johnson Tunnel and Home.

Along the way we stopped at a gold mine tour, the Argo Gold Mine in Idaho Springs. Lots of fun, even for the 4 year old.

When we pulled in, we wandered into a yard filled with train and ore cars. I realized I`d left my headlights on so I sprinted back to the Guacamole Bus. As I was walking back to the family, a gentleman approached me asking for a jumpstart. I went back to the bus while the family checked out the toys.

It took about 15 minutes to get that Honda started because I couldn`t get close enough for his cables to reach my battery. I was about to suggest pushing his car out into the parking lot when I remembered I had cables too... Extension cord!

After putting the bus back into some semblance of "straight" I walked into the gift shop to find my family. We were late for the last tour and the wife had already bought tickets. ($15 for adults, young kids free.)

We popped into the classroom presentation just in time for the presenter to finish, though he was kind enough to recap for us the history of why the Argo was closed.

Everybody piled into the not-so-old schoolbus and we climbed a dirt trail to the pile of tailings at the opening of the Double Eagle Gold Mine, a short horizontal mine shaft dug in the mountain above the mill.

We walked around the mountain to the Argo`s portal. There is still a steady flow of water coming out of there, loaded with heavy metals. Just outside the door there`s a grate in the ground letting the water go through a treatment plant before finally draining into Clear Creek.

After leaving the Argo portal, there`s the air compressor house. The compressors they used for the pneumatic drills are huge. The wheel appeared to be 6 feet in diameter.

From there we entered the top of the mill. Except for equipment that had to be made out of iron or steel, the entire thing is wood. Very old brittle wood. There was lots of electricity in use, since that mill was still in use during WWII.

During the tour of the mill, one kid picked up a loose rock that was 50/50 smoky quartz and granite. He wanted to take it home. The Argo is a National Historical site, and it would be illegal to take it. Poor kid. He was so excited.

After we exited the mill, we went to the panning for gold display. Just like the one Knott`s Berry Farm used to have, you get a pan and a bag of sand that is guaranteed to have some gold. Out of the 3 bags we got, 12 tiny flakes of gold were found. But it was fun. I did this a lot at Knott`s, but the kids have never done it.

We piled into the bus and got ready to leave, but not without some parting shots:

On the way home, instead of taking I-70 to C-470, we took Route 6 to Boulder then to the 470.

That route takes you along Clear Creek for most of the way. It`s an amazing scenic drive. Way better than the "superhighway" that the 70 becomes as it comes out of the mountains.

We stopped at one point to wander around and take some pics.

After a stop at Qdoba (barf) for dinner we headed home. Tired and happy. Even my son who resisted going enjoyed himself.

One of the things I`ve always wanted to do was take a pic of the bus at the Continental Divide. Ideally I`d like one for each season. Yeah, I`m a geek.

Well, since yesterday was my birthday, the wife asked me what I wanted to do. Anything at all.

"Let`s go to the Continental Divide!" was my obvious reply. "We`ll make a day of it. Loveland Pass is only an hour or two away. We`ll drive up, take pics, eat lunch, and drive home."

So off we go. We`ll be leaving in an hour or so. It`s about time for an oil change on the Guac, but I have a rule: No work on the bus immediately prior to a long drive if it can be avoided. I have a fear that I`ll make a mistake doing the work that will cause major problems on the road. I`d rather discover the mistake while running to the store than when doing 75mph in the middle of nowhere. So the oil change will have to wait until tomorrow.

Again, the goal is one photo per season. Let`s see if I can accomplish that within one year. Today will be the first photo: SUMMER!

Bucking Bus Revisited

Ahhh... it wouldn`t be the Guacamole Bus if it didn`t have this @!#$%^ intermittent bucking issue. The problem has been around pretty much since I bought the bus.

Some background is in order I suppose. Shortly after buying the Guac, I did a road trip with the family to California. The day we were supposed to leave for home the bus would act like the ignition was shut off when upshifting or when RPMs went over 3200 or so. The symptom would last for just a moment, then the bus would continue on like nothing happened. It reminds me of a cat that just fell off the bookcase, then sits there licking itself as if it meant to do that.

I replaced the points, condenser, plugs, cap, and rotor. None had any effect. I even bought a new coil from Autozone (read about that piece of crap here. I spent two days extra in CA trying to figure it out. Someone on the Type 2 list suggested replacing the fuel filter. A fuel injected bus is sensitive to fuel interruptions, and this was a logical place to go, even though the symptoms "felt" like they were electrical.

I replaced the filter and the large feeder hose to the pump and VOILA! The bus stopped its bucking! It made it back to CO without nary a whimper.

A month or so later the symptoms returned. I bought another fuel filter and swapped it in and the symptoms went away. This scenario repeated itself at least two dozen times over the next couple months, with me spending a small fortune on filters. I figured the tank was rusting out like the one in my 73 did and I just needed to pull it so I could have it relined. But just to be sure I opened up a filter to see what was causing the blockage.

As you can see, there was no blockage in the filter at all. Aside from a slight darkening in the half of the element that was constantly soaked with fuel, it`s clean and good as new.

Now I was really confused. Why would changing the filter resolve the issue? I looked for more clues.

One thing I found was some scorching in the distributor cap that appeared to be spark jumping from the rotor to the ground strap inside the distributor.

Again, I thought I had fixed it when I put a different distributor in. Not so.

I gave up for a while on fixing it, and just drove through the problem. Using some gas pedal massaging I found that I could keep driving whenever those symptoms appeared.

Until last week.

The bucking and cutting out got so bad that the bus was truly undriveable. I parked it and decided to leave it alone while I went over what I`d replaced and checked, and what I hadn`t.

While I had tested and inspected both the double relay and the AFM, I didn`t swap them out. So I figured this was a great time to try that. I asked Thesykboy to swing by and let me borrow the AFM and double relay from his bus for some testing. When he got here yesterday I quickly swapped in his double relay and started the bus. It idled for a minute than died.

Hmm... His relay must be bad (it was his spare). I tried the known good one from his running bus and got the same result. Then I put mine back in. Same result.


I gave up for the day and went inside. Today I went back out to start messing with things. I found if I wiggled the wires going to the thermotime switch I could stall the bus or keep it running indefinitely.

So the TT switch must not be grounding properly, or the wires are loose. There are a pair of crimp connectors on the wires to the TT switch, so those crimps could be bad as well.

I loosened the "T" to the brake booster and tried to remove the TT switch. Screw is frozen tight. But I noticed the TT switch bracket is just flopping around there.

AHA!!! That must be it! I wedged a screwdriver under the TT switch to make sure it was grounding and went for a drive. No symptoms. Yay! Since I can`t get that screw loose, I`m just wedging some steel underneath for now until I can get an impact driver to get it loose.

Now, before I get TOO excited, I need to remember that I`ve been here before. Let`s see if it lasts...

Ragged Carpet Edges

When I installed the flooring in the Guac, the carpet I used was an area rug 8` x 5`. I cut that carpet right in half and each half was a perfect fit. But that left one edge ragged and unbound.

I looked at all the home centers for carpet edge binding, and only found some at Lowe`s. But that stuff was expensive and they didn`t have black. I found some online, but really wanted it in my hands before buying it.

I wandered around Lowe`s for a while and found a rubber border for areas where tile and carpet meet. Perfect!

I`ll leave it there for a while to test it`s durability. If it works out, I`ll glue it to the carpet and make it permanent.