Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hey! Whaddaya Expect? It's a 27 Year-Old Vehicle!

Our camper van, a 1984 VW Vanagon with the highly-functional Westfalia pop-top camper interior has gotten leaky. There are these four levers on the dash that control distribution of air to the various vents. The one that controls the air on the feet of the driver and passenger no longer works. The cable connecting the lever to the flaps that close off the air has broken, leaving the vent open.

I took the van to Gary Young's Old Volks Home off south 3rd, and he said he'd be able to replace the cable -- if I could find one -- by reaching up into the dash from under the van. But he'd misunderstood which cable was the broken one. He thought I meant the cable that controls the hot water that goes into the heater core. That one can be replaced from below. But the footwell control cable can't be gotten to without removing the entire dashboard.

This is a difficult job and can take an experienced mechanic the better part of the day. Jack is the anthesis of an experience mechanic. Rather clumsy, in fact. So I won't be tackling that job, and will let Gary take care of it.

Not that he's particularly happy to do it. Most jobs on these practical vehicles are straightforward. Dash removal is considered an ugly one. "I'm too old and not as flexible as I used to be," says Gary.

While the dash is out, there are two other things that want looking at. First, the heater core should probably be replaced as it is 27 years old, too. If that old core develops a leak, the whole damn dash would need to be pulled again. So I'm reaching out to find a new core.

And finally, there is this great big plastic heater box hiding in the dash which houses the heater core and the flaps. On a box this old, the foam gaskets that seal the flaps when they are in the closed position have rotted to the point where they leak, causing cold air drafts in the van. That box is glued or plastic-welded shut and is going to require some work to get open. Gaskets are probably no longer available, but hardware store weather stripping will suffice.

One thing lead to another. These matters must be attended to. Sometimes that's how it goes. I can view this as an opportunity to do some much-needed maintenance, or as an unwelcome financial burden.

But we love our van and we get a lot of pleasure going camping in it. It only has 86,000 miles on the clock, so I'm gonna get the work done that needs being done.

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