25 December 2014

Merry Christmas!

I thought about sending cards this year but decided not to.  So I'm posting my holiday wishes from the blog this year.  Friends and family, I miss you so much!  So happy Christmas, everyone, and I promise I'll be back to see you someday.  In the meantime, our guest bedroom is always ready :)

And a happy New Year!

19 December 2014

VW Bus Valve Adjustment

This post is about the time I learned to adjust the valves on our bus.  So it is going to be a technical post that is technically for idiots.  Written by an idiot (who is trying to learn more!).  I'm a novice, take my advice at your own risk.  These instructions are applicable to a 2000 cc Type IV engine with solid lifters (fuel injected).  Kyle said that sentence, I just wrote it.  I have no idea what "solid lifters" means.
For accurate adjustment, the engine must be completely cold.  Correct adjustment is essential for maximum efficiency and minimum wear.
--Official Service Manual
1.  Remove the distributor cap - the orange guy in the photo below.  It is held on by two clips.  You can see one in the photo, the second one is on the far side.  (Access: engine compartment)
2.  Remove the cylinder head covers.  They are held on by that bar (real name: bail) in the photo below.  Push that buddy down in order to get the covers off.  Once that bar is out of the way the cover should pop off fairly easily.  (Access: under the side of the bus, behind the rear tires)
3.  Turn the engine until the distributor points to the notch.  You turn the engine by using a wrench on the alternator pulley bolt, almost shown below by the green arrow.
Here's the part of the distributor that should be doing the pointing (green arrow), and the notch it should be pointing at (blue arrow - click the photo to see it better).  I would turn it, then switch to the top engine access so that I could see the distributor from above to better observe the alignment.  Aligning these puts the #1 cylinder at "top dead center" of its compression stroke, spark plug ready to fire.
4.  Okay!  Ready to adjust cylinder #1 - the forward cylinder on the passenger side.  I needed a .006" (0.15mm) feeler gauge for the valves.  Place the feeler gauge in between the adjusting screw and the top of the valve - as shown.  There should be a moderate drag on the feeler gauge when pulling it through the gap.  Other engines use a .008" (0.20mm) gauge, so engine type matters here.
5.  If the gap is too tight or too loose, it needs to be adjusted.  Let's zoom in to see the details of how to do this.  The nut (green circle) takes a 14mm wrench and the bolt (blue circle) requires a screwdriver.
Use the wrench to loosen the nut.  Hold the nut with the wrench and use the screwdriver to either tighten the valve (clockwise) or loosen the valve (counter-clockwise) until a moderate amount of drag is felt with the feeler gauge.  Tighten the nut back up.  Check with the feeler gauge to make sure the valve is still properly adjusted.
Now that #1 is adjusted, turn the engine until the distributor has rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise, then adjust #2 (#2 is rear passenger side, #3 is forward drivers side, #4 is rear drivers side - they should be labeled on the engine, but not consistently).  Then turn the distributor 90 degrees counterclockwise, and adjust #3.  Repeat with #4.

6.  Clean up the cylinder head covers.  Who knows when the valves were last adjusted on Sixer, Kyle had to pry the old gasket out and then I cleaned up the sealing surface with the wire wheel brush buddy.
7.  Kyle, avid Samba reader, read that it is advantageous to put grease on the valve cover before putting the new gasket on to help the gasket adhere and help hold it in place.
Then install the gaskets.  Kyle purchased cork gaskets, having read that they are the superior material for this task.
8.  Reinstall the cylinder head covers.  The VW symbol should be upside down.  It's not really easy to read but click on the photo below for a better view.
When putting the bail back in place, it is helpful to add a bit of grease so that next time, it is easier to move.
9.  Reinstall the distributor cap.
10.  Start up the engine.  Listen for a clicking noise at idle.  A clicking noise means one of the valves is maladjusted.  Check for oil leaks.

We had a fairly significant oil leak after this task, which Kyle has attributed to excessive grease on the cylinder head covers. However, it is said that if your bus isn't leaking oil, you're probably out of oil.  Always travel with a spare quart or two. 

12 December 2014

Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberries and Pecans

I know the title is a mouthful, but there are so many flavors going on in this dish, I still couldn't name them all.  Roasted mushrooms, pecans and cranberries complement this caramelized butternut squash, and the whole thing is topped off with soft goat cheese.  Or at least, it should be.  Due to unforeseen events, I am unable to provide photos with the goat cheese version...sigh. 
Oh, and did I mention that the squash is tossed with a killer combo of extra virgin olive oil, maple syrup, and hot chili sauce?  You don't want to miss this.
Start with a squash.  Cut it in half, scoop out the soft, stringy part.  Save some seeds if you want!  You can grow your own next year.
Peel and cube the squash.  I used a vegetable peeler, it worked okay.
This bowl was perfect for coating the squash in extra virgin olive oil, maple syrup (from Michigan!), hot chili sauce, salt and pepper.
Scatter the squash cubes on a baking sheet and bake for half an hour at 400 degrees F.
Remove the squash from the oven, add the (optional) mushrooms and pecans and roast for an additional 20-25 minutes.
Finally, add the cranberries and when mixed, top with goat cheese.  Or don't.
Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberries and Pecans (loosely inspired by this)
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbs maple syrup (can sub 2 tbs brown sugar)
  • 2 tbs hot chili sauce (Sriracha or chili garlic sauce work)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 c. mushrooms, roughly chopped (half an 8 oz package) - optional
  • 1/3 c pecan pieces
  • 1/3 c cranberries
  • 3 to 4 oz goat cheese.
1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2.  Halve the squash.  Remove the seeds and stringy bits.  Peel and cube the squash.
3.  In a large bowl, coat the squash with the olive oil, maple syrup, chili sauce, salt and pepper.  Spread the squash out on a large baking sheet.  Bake for 30 minutes.
4.  Take the squash out of the oven and gently stir.  Add in the mushrooms and pecans.  Bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes until the squash is tender.
5.  Put the squash into a serving bowl.  Stir in the cranberries.  Top with goat cheese.  Serve!
I don't really like squash.  I mean, I'll eat it.  But it's one of those things I can really only eat once in a great while.  I had so much spaghetti squash back when I was doing Paleo that it will likely be several years before I'm willing to give that one a try again.  That being said, this dish was delicious.  My favorite part was the pecans, Kyle's favorite was the mushrooms.  They just really push this dish over the top, it's just bursting with flavors.  The little bit of heat from the chili sauce is perfect.

So maybe squash and I will make peace after all.