Playing Volkswagen Mechanic

Nacho used to make sounds. At first it would be a soft tapping.  We’d turn off the radio and the tapping would turn into smack, smack, smack as if one of the engine hamsters had gotten its foot caught in its hamster wheel and was striking its head repeatedly against a tin heat shield.  I made it my mission in life to figure out what this was.  I would zig and zag all over the road to see if I could make it change tone or frequency, I would drive with the emergency brake on, shift gears, changed the engine oil weight, all to no avail.  I started hypothesizing and replacing parts.  I replaced the rear axles, CV joints, springs, shocks, tires, brake drums, and wheel bearings.  Smack, smack, smack…

In the end it turned out to be something ridiculously hard to find.  The end of the axle that sticks out beyond the CV joint on the outboard driver’s side was ever so slightly too long, which caused it to intermittently tap the back side of the stub axle on every wheel revolution.  Even my replacement axles had this problem, making the solution extra elusive.  One consequence of this ongoing investigation was my having to remove and install all of the CV joints on Nacho about six times.  After the problem was solved, all 24 of Nacho’s CV bolts started continually coming loose while driving.  Great.

After several attempts at getting the bolts to stay tight, I finally pulled out the big guns this week.  I removed and threw away all 24 bolts, cleaned the mating threads with brake cleaner, a metal pipe brush, a nylon pipe brush, and compressed air, and then installed brand new bolts with brand new OEM lock washers, and slathered every bolt with red Locktite.  If these things come loose after this, we’re just going to cancel the whole trip.  I will have lost.

The axle bolts fiasco required me to lay on the ground under Nacho for a full day.  Today I decided to continue the under-van work, so I got down on my bruised hips and spent the better part of the day under there.  It started with an oil change.  Nothing too exciting here.

The next job was to replace all of the bushings in the shift linkage, as well as the ball and socket mechanism on the gear selector from Van-Cafe.  Somewhere along the line the rubber boots that covered the important bits in the shifting mechanism disintegrated, after which time the shifting performance went to hell.  Now Nacho’s shifts are clean and precise.  Like a big ugly 1984 sports car.

With only five days left before we leave Phoenix for Mexico, my to do list stands at 12 projects.  Sheena is also starting in on her project list today.  So much for a nice relaxing final week.  Still, you won’t hear me complaining.  In my normal life I’d be going to work today.


  1. jon

    Let’s see, Loctite, bruised hip, disintegrating rubber, mysterious knocking noises? Yup, its a VW! You’ve completed more work on Nacho already than I hope to in a year! Good luck on your lists! My wife and I are enjoying living vicariously though your posts! Keep up the good work!

    Comment by jon on December 28, 2011 at 4:49 pm

  2. Shay

    Very interesting, my shifting blows chunks…. This looks like a must have part!

    Comment by Shay on December 29, 2011 at 6:16 pm

  3. OMG that many CV boot change-outs? Holy crap that is determination. Gives a whole new meaning to persistence.

    Comment by Gwynne on December 29, 2011 at 7:26 pm

  4. Persistence is another word for it ;)

    Shay: Don’t forget to replace the shift rod bushings as well. Nacho had 2 of these :

    Comment by Brad on December 30, 2011 at 5:39 am

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