We recently put a new engine in the Volksvegan. The 1.6L engine was just too small for our big bus! So we got a 1.9L Turbo Diesel engine from a ’95 Passat and Seneca and our friend the VW expert installed it last week. As you can see, the engine is pretty darn clean. She runs great! We actually were able to go up hills going 50 in third gear instead of 30 in second gear.
We had plans to go to the Okanogan Family Faire Volunteer Summit last weekend, and we were determined to take the bus. Thankfully, she was running great in time for the weekend. Seneca filtered grease and filled the tank while I cleaned out the interior a bit and packed all our gear in the handy-dandy cabinets on Friday. Before we left, Seneca was even able to install new shocks, for a better ride and added safety in the wind (since the bus is about as aerodynamic as a big sheet of plywood).
I even got some interior shots of the bus, since I haven’t shared views of the inside much yet. I dig the retro brown and green upholstery on the chairs & curtains. We’re going to replace the white upholstery stuff that’s on the walls and ceiling, on the back of the door, and inside of all the cabinets, which you can’t see from the picture but it’s buckled and peeling off. We’re waiting for a nice warm weekend at home for that project. It’s a cozy little home!
We left Friday afternoon and headed North to the faire site near Tonasket, Washington. After about thirty minutes we switched on the grease system and she purred along just fine. However, after a few hiccups going uphill on grease, Seneca switched back to diesel. When he switched back to grease again, the switch seemed to be out! We stopped to check it but the grease system wasn’t getting power at all. We’ve come to conclude that we should’ve coughed up the cash for a really nice Frybrid system, Greasecar’s components are a little cheapy. We’re also thinking it may have not worked correctly because the Turbo Diesel engine runs a lot cooler (and is more efficient), which means that less heat is going to the grease and it may not be hot enough to reach the ideal temperature for the engine. So, we plan to install an in-line heater on the grease lines. It was a bit nerve-racking dealing with the grease mishaps, but that’s why this is a test run and we’re taking a couple of them before our big trip! It’s good to get all the kinks worked out.
Anyway, the bus ran just fine on diesel for the rest of the trip, but unfortunately we didn’t find any bio-diesel. I guess having two tanks is good, but we were upset that our trip wasn’t as sustainable as we wanted it to be. Send some good vibes to that grease system, we’re a little worried about it with our new engine because it is still quite experimental. And that’s one hell of an expensive experiment…
The trip was awesome and we had a great time meeting other volunteers and the organizers of the faire we’ve attended in the fall for the last several years. I even volunteered to help with the redesign of the faire’s web site, so it was a great networking opportunity as well. The bus was the perfect home for the weekend. The only problem was that we found out we were out of propane when we got there! So we couldn’t cook on the stove or turn the propane on to power the fridge. Drat! We brought enough food and the family fed us though, so all was well. And now we know we need to refill that tank before the trip! It sure was nice to roll in late Friday night and not have to pitch a tent in the dark. We just turned on the light in the bus, popped the pop top, and put down the seat. Viola – cozy bed! And it really doesn’t feel quite like camping when you get to use real sheets and blankets instead of sleeping bags!
We enjoyed our weekend in the bus, even with the mishaps it was still exciting trying out the new engine. We even passed someone going uphill in the bus! That was a first, and it certainly wouldn’t have been possible with the old engine. The Turbo Diesel is more efficient and runs cooler than the old engine as well, so we should get similar mileage. It’s about time that the engine was powerful enough for the size of the bus. We’re one step closer to our big volksvegan adventure, although the bus is still a work in progress, as usual… there’s lots to do!