Monday, August 4, 2008

The Van Gets a New Brain


My 1984 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia, Mellow Yellow, received a brain transplant this morning and it sure is happy. It's clear that all the lousy performance issues--poor idling, lack of power when accelerating from a stop, and possibly poorer than average mileage--were due to a failed Electronic Control Unit (ECU), the "brain" that operates the fuel injection system. I have on hand two replacement ECUs, one a loaner, one liberated from a Vanagon headed toward the crusher, and they both run the engine far far better than the one that was in the van. Inspection of the circuit board showed at least five solder joints with cracks around the component leads. With some resoldering even the original ECU may work again.

I took a test drive today with the Ladybug trailer hooked up, drove over to West Marine in Oceanside to buy a locking hitch pin and hitch lock to reduce the chance that the trailer will be stolen during my planned overnight in Fresno or wherever I toss up on Sunday night, the first leg of my drive to Bend. The taillights and turn signal lamps all work, so I'm feeling confident that I'll make it all the way.

In other news, my friend Dai Phan brought his scanner over to the house to check the computer codes in Mrs Elliott's Volvo. That "TRANSMISSION SERVICE URGENT" lamp never came on again after that one time, although a "ENGINE SERVICE" message is on all the time. The scanner said that there seemed to be a failed wiring connection, and possibly a stuck shift solenoid in the transmission. So it's possible that her Volvo isn't crusher snack after all. I'll drive it to the Volvo dealership tomorrow morning, and ride my bike home. Later that same day I expect we'll hear what their proprietary scanner tells them.

I have less than a week left here. My 17 year-old daughter, B., who has chosen to stay in Carlsbad where her friends, work, and school are, has moved out. She will be living with her mother part time, the rest of the time in a small rented room in the house of a single mother with a daughter a couple years older than B. Unlike her mother's house, which is an ugly-long commute from the community of Fallbrook, this rented room is very close to her work and school, making it a more convenient place for her to stay when she has classes or late night shifts at her place of employment, Legoland.

So with B. out of the house, Mrs Elliott and I have the place totally to ourselves for the first time in, well, ever. Mrs Elliott never signed up to have to live with B. when she married me, but my daughter needed a more stable living environment than her mother could provide, so for the past five years, from the day we moved into this house, Mrs Elliott has--with remarkable patience and good grace--made room for B. in her life and has been an amazingly good surrogate mother. But now, with B. moved out, we have a few days to ourselves here. Alone. In the house. All to ourselves. Wow.

We plan to enjoy it. Because once we move to Bend, my 20 year-old son moves in with us. It's time to give him more attention, more help in launching his life.

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