The troubles so far

Teri and I are blogging the fun parts of our trip at, but I’ll keep the mechanical related posts over here.

We left five days ago from Brooklyn on a planned 3-month trip (details at . The van was running perfectly in every way, and sporting new tires, muffler, etc.

It started losing power and stalling in heavy traffic and heavy rain on the BQE, and finally died IN the tollbooth for the Triboro bridge. We managed to limp to the first rest stop outside NYC with flashers on, stalling and coughing.

First there would be power loss – butterflying the pedal seemed to help it keep going, but it would go through periods of nearly no combustion and we had to roll to a stop and restart a few times, then do hurtful things with the clutch to get it moving with a heavy load and reduced power.

It felt like a fuel issue, so I got down under the slider door and asked Teri to turn the ignition to on. BAD noise from the fuel pump – hooray! Something that makes sense! I clamped off the lines and pulled the fuel filter, which I had installed about 6 months ago. It was orange; when I shook it, it looked like *(^% coffee grinds coming out of there.

Gas tank rust….OK, simple…but I’m in a rest stop at night in the rain with no spare filter. I filtered the crud out of the spilled fuel which I had collected in a starbucks cup, then poured the filtered gas into the input end of the filter.

Inverted the filter and blew with all my might (mmm, taste of unleaded!), and repeated the process, rinsing out the filter. Reinstalled the filter, and made it to Woodstock, where we were staying with friends.

The VW gods at got me 3 new filters overnight for less than the FLAPS wanted to charge me for one filter, and we were back on the road. I’ll have to pull that gas tank and clean it out, but in the meantime I’ve got two extra new filters.


Symptoms: intermittent loss of power, seemed like partial combustion. Coolant temp started dropping as less and less fuel got burned.

Diagnosis: had someone turn the key to “on”, and heard the fuel pump cavitating (sucking but getting nothing)

Ozark Engineering fix: rinsed out filter with clean gas and reinstalled, good for another hundred miles. Replaced with new filter and keeping a few spares on hand.

Proper fix: Gotta pull that fuel tank and clean it out, which will be a good time to replace all the hoses, too.