On Thursday evening we finally got the van running again. We put the engine back in and carefully retraced the steps that we had religiously recorded while removing the engine. When we were ready to try and turn the engine over, I took one last look under the hood and saw an electrical connection that hadn’t been rejoined. With only the cosmetic front still unassembled (why put it back on if we had to take it off again, says I, the optimist), Chris turned the key and it started like it was the old engine. On first try. With no hiccuping or grinding or nasty smells.
I admit I literally jumped in the air and made victory signs with both hands. It was such an intense 10 days from when we seized the engine, that it was hard to believe we’d actually fixed it. Chris, the eternal engineer, is amused by this thought. But there you go.
Chris and Stephen’s trip to California had been in the plans for almost a month. Chris was going to a weekend workshop at All Power Labs, the company he bought the gasifier kit from in January and he was very much looking forward to it. He’d spent several hours talking to and learning from the folks at All Power when we were there last, and I think they were looking forward to seeing him, too. Chris has been blogging about putting together the gasifier and I think there were a few of the 70 participants (worldwide) who were hoping to talk to him before possibly purchasing a kit of their own. When we realized that a week or more away from home wasn’t in the cards for me, we immediately gave my ticket to Stephen and this trip to Berkley was also going to be a dad-son trip for him and Chris.
That ended roadside 0n Hwy 5 just five kilometres from our drivway on March 27th. The girls and I had gone on ahead in the pick up truck. We were all headed to Kamloops to see The Hunger Games with our homeschool group and the boys were going to carry on to California after the movie ended later that evening.
A once-in-a-lifetime oversight by Chris during an oil change left the old filter ring hanging in the assembly. Chris attached the new filter and ring on top, making an imperfect seal; a problem, however, that wasn’t detectable at idle when he tested the van for oil leaks right after changing the filter. Highway speed increased the pressure in the system and blew the seal and all the oil out of the engine. It took only minutes to seize the engine.
I think I got over the shock of this about 5 min after arriving back in Darfield after Stephen called me to tell me they were “broken down by the side of the road”. I’m very much a don’t-cry-over-spilled-milk kind of person and see no value in stomping my feet and cursing and generally making myself feel crappier than I need to. I think once Chris realized I was taking it in stride, he managed to accept the fact that really, mistakes do happen and he was able to move on quickly as well.
We had several options. One of the first comments made by another Delica owner on the Delica forums we post to (and Chris posted about what happened to get some advice and direction) was “mothball the van and buy another”! This was not an option for us as we had invested a fair bit in the conversion to waste vegetable oil and couldn’t see the math working under this scenario. Our other options were not whether we would replace the engine, but if we were going to do it ourselves or pay somebody else to do it.
We spent a day calling every Delica dealer in BC to find out if anybody had a used engine, what it cost, and how many kilometres were on it. We got a range of prices: $3200 for an engine with 167,000 kms and $2,300 for one with $115,000. We explored how much it would cost to tow the van to a shop close to where we might buy the engine, and how much the labour would be to replace it.
Our local shop estimated roughly $2000 in labour, mostly because they wouldn’t have worked on an import vehicle like this before. We loved the folks on the Island; they were efficient, knowledgable and responsive. However, the total bill to get the van over there and have them put the engine in would have been over $5000. Just getting the engine back here would have been very expensive. We looked at joining BCAA Premier, waiting the requisite 48 hours, and having the van towed to Richmond. There would be 320km free towing for the $162 membership, but we would have had to have picked up the additional 80 kms at $2.25 per km.
In the end we decided to buy the $2300 engine from Amazing Auto Sales in Richmond. We decided that basedon some really fantastic shop manuals available on the internet, that we were capable of doing the engine job ourselves. Mardy, at Amazing Auto Sales, did offer to remove our seized engine and replace it with the new one, for about $900 in labour. An extraordinarily good price. And, he has seven years experience working on these vans. In fact, the shop he would have sent it to was CVI, and we had heard amazing things about this shop, as well.
We decided to remove the engine ourselves and take it to Mardy. Included in the cost of the engine Mardy offered to swap the injector pumps (our van is automatic and the pump on his was manual). There were also some other small pieces to swap.
Chris and Stephen began pulling the engine on the 30th, and Chris made copious notes (which are posted on this blog). When I was not working in Kamloops I helped Chris. My dad had an engine hoist and this was invaluable both for pulling and putting it back in. In fact, I think it would have simply been impossible for us to do this job without one. We had the tow truck park the van behind our shop as it would have been pretty difficult to get it into the shop. The natural light made for good pictures (see previous posts) but left us open to the weather, some rain and snow. All in all it took three 8-hour days to take the engine out. I would attribute one day to recording notes. Late on April 1 we swung the engine into the pick-up truck and made plans to leave the next morning.
We left Darfield at 4:30 am on April 2nd and arrived in Richmond at 10:30. We loaded the new/used engine in the back of our pickup behind the seized engine end Mardy sent us to CVI to have their awesome mechanic spend 1.5 hours swapping parts. We elected to change the seal on the injector pump at the same time. We’d never get another chance to get at it so easily!
The foks at CVI were great and the mechanic didn’t seem too perturbed to have Chris and I hang out at the pickup while he swapped parts from one to the other. My attempts to start conversations didn’t go too far; the mechanic was fast and focused.
We headed back to Mardy’s shop and he borrowed a small forklift from a neighbour and we unloaded our seized engine. Mardy is going to try to sell parts off it as a way to recoup some more dollars.
Mardy came to Canada from Japan at the age of 28. If I understood correctly he was a shop supervisor for a crew that was working on the SkyTrain. He got involved in importing vehicles to Canada from Japan after that. I must admit that before we met him in person I wasn’t sure what our experience would be like. I found it difficult to understand him on the phone (but I never do well with any kind of accent; it’s embarrassing for me, actually). I also think that cultural differences are difficult to appreciate until you are face to face with somebody. I found Mardy to be genuine, eager to help and quick to give advice from his years of knowledge. Since we picked up the engine, he’s given us information on how to cross reference the brake caliper part at our local parts shop.
At about 3:00 pm we’d strapped down the engine and headed back home. We elected to travel the Fraser Canyon route and the trip down and back was gorgeous. Well, for me it was. As Chris started to pull the engine four days earlier, he came down with a nasty head cold.
This head cold persisted through re-assembly, which I was able to put two entire days toward. It took two days to re-assemble (we were only reading our notes, not making them). We even replaced the fuel filter, again because it was easier to get at partially assembled. We managed to get into only a few minor snarking events and the marriage is still intact.
Day 3 of re-assembly was the cosmetic parts for the front, and a look at a few things that had been waiting for attention. Namely the air conditioning (which we weren’t sure was actually air conditioning or a fan motor issue). I wanted to look at some of the interior light bulbs and give the sliding door mechanism a good grease. We did test the WVO system and initially it didn’t work. Chris quickly tracked down a blown fuse and this was replaced.
I’ve been driving the van for the last few days and obsessively checking the motor oil (hey, who can blame me? I’m sure it will wear off). I’ve been testing the van on WVO in different situations and we have not had a single stalling issue, in any situation whatsoever. We had speculated that our stalling issues might improve as the weather got warmer. I wonder (although Chris poo poos this) if it isn’t the new engine. I have to take my silver linings where I can invent them.
Chris is still recovering from his head cold, which I’ve been wondering might have been something more serious. Because this was such a major project, we are now only catching up on jobs we had set aside. I had many things I was going to do when Chris was gone and I’m now just wrapping my head around them. What was to be a holiday for Chris, was anything but, so he hasn’t had the restorative benefits of that. The kids managed to keep up with the basics of school, but we are now trying to pick things up a bit with that. It was going to be right around now that Chris and I were going to talk about the earthship and form some sort of plan. I suspect that will wait another few days until we both recover.
I’m not really whining. We did well. Five days of actual mechanic-ing and $2700 taxes included got us back on the road again. That’s stellar if I do say so!