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Of Rear Heater Cores, and Grounding Straps, and Neoprene
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Joined: September 20, 2005
Posts: 3483
Location: Denver Area, Colorado
msinabottle is offline 

PostPosted: Sun Dec 25, 2005 12:56 am    Post subject: Of Rear Heater Cores, and Grounding Straps, and Neoprene Reply with quote

Winston continues to evolve upward from beater to, 'Hmmm.' I'm hoping for 'Hey, nice Van' by next summer.

Let's see... For no good reason except a low pressure system in Wyoming, we have had extremely powerful winds for the last three days. The actual reason for the tempest was that I was working under Winston, but try proving THAT to NOAA.

Winston's new parts, from GoWesty and Van-Cafe, were expected to arrive on Thursday, which was good. I had no idea of when the hose-clamp pliers I'd ordered for the rear heater core replacement and future jobs that would undoubtedly require them with a Wasser-Boxer would show up, and so bravely went to work without them.

While I was waiting on Thursday, in the howling wind, I took my new Sears creeper out under Winston with nasty, plastic eating contact cleaner and some steel wool. Winston's starter had at inopportune times failed to answer the ignition key's call, and the Sage at the Old Volks Home said that cleaning the ground strap between the transmission and the chassis would cure 90% of this problem's occurrences. I liked the odds.

I had never used a crawler before. Winston's LP tank was in the way, and the crawler kept trying to slide down into the gutter, and there was only one way at an angle I could get under Winston. And for some reason there was suddenly only an inch of clearance between my nose and Winston's anatomy.

Meanwhile, the winds howled and blew gravel into my eyes. I found the ground wire, both bolts were rusty and covered with gunk. I removed these. They had grounded to the chassis after it had been painted. I fitted the Makita with a grinding stone and removed the paint. Any part I placed upon the ground--washers, wrenches, cans of contact cleaner--immediately disappeared either in the general direction of Kansas or under the crawler or me. I used the contact cleaner--which thought it was for contact lenses and shot at once into my eyes--to clean the copper ends of the strap on both ends. I put in a toothed washer, and stripped the original bolt grounding to the chassis.

The winds howled and the sky darkened, due to the solstice's sad proximity. I was about to give up for the day pending the arrival of supplies and then found a self-tapping heavy metric bolt I had no idea I'd had. It re-threaded the old hole perfectly. Before finally reassembly I coated all connections liberally with dielectric grease.

I got everything done, and rejoiced online to a sagacious friend from the pre-digital days of Electical Engineering, who asked me, gently, if I knew that dielectric grease is an insulator. No, I did not. I had also used the wrong kind of toothed washer--you want external teeth--and I'd probably be better off without one. By this time it was 10 P.M. The parts for the heater core replacment arrived at about that time. I went to bed soon thereafter cursing fate.

The following morning I removed the ground strap, removed the dielectric grease and the toothed washer, and reassembled everything. You put the dielectric grease on AFTER the connection's made. You ideally use de-sulphated asphalt to cover the connection, if you can get it. I couldn't. The winds picked up as they sensed the crawler and me moving into position. Then, that afternoon, I moved aside the conduit the folks who installed the stereo had attached to the rear heater core enclosure, and dove in... The only data I had was from Ben's Place, which had a good 'how to replace' page, and a picture in the Haynes. From here I got despairing, and probably justified, prophecies of doom. From Google I got a fellow who replaced the rear heater core with an oil cooler instead of the factory unit... An attractive thought.

Used my fuel-line covered needle-nosed visegrips to pinch off the top hose, used a rag and normal visegrips to pinch off the other... They didn't work too well, the regular ones, but my hose-clamp pliers suddenly arrived about half-way through the work on Friday. I deployed one, it worked. The folk who tell you to have lots of rags handy are wise.

I found that someone had put wooden spacers to hold the rear heater core to the right height. I had to use them again. Pulled the unit, don't forget to unplug the fan cable... I found the rear blower assembly full of dog hair. The scratches on my window tint on the driver's side and the screen on the same side that had been pushed out from inside Winston were mysteries no longer. Much Simple Green and scrubbing followed, in Winston, and of the rear heater core and blower assembly.

I think the bulk of my leakage had come from the valve, but the old heater core--which could only be removed after I'd pulled the clips off the front vent, be warned that these will attempt suborbital flight when you remove them--had three areas of red corrosion on it. It went. The old valve went, but it came back when the following day I shattered the plastic valve lever that came with the new valve putting the wooden cover back over the whole rig. I pulled the old valve out of the trash, and pulled its metal lever off to use on the new valve. Fits, and is much less fragile.

The new heater core went in, fine, I used some Permatex 518 on the O-ring that the old assembly had lacked, and cinched the new valve to the new heater core. Got it all back together--wrapped the bleeder screw in nylon plumber's tape and reassembled it. I missed the bleeder screw's 'o' ring in among the other parts I'd ordered--8 drain plug washers--so I had to go in again Saturday. The good news there was that Winston started without even that moment's hesitation I thought was normal. Success, on the ground strap.

Okay, I put in two pairs of fender washers so I could use the side brackets holding down the cover over the heater core again. Drove Winston down to the store to get them, opened the bleeder valve twice to let any air out, anti-freeze sprayed forth. I later found out that I'd installed the lever on the valve with the valve in the wrong position--rotated 180 degrees, fixed that, it's a ball valve and just rolled around again. Got everything reassembled and cinched down.

I found neoprene matting at our local hardware store. The back cargo floor on an '84 Westy measures 36" by 48", although you have to notch out a 12"x 2" strip on one side where the clothes closet intrudes. This stuff I bought is HEAVY BLACK neoprene, it grips onto the engine cover and the back of the cargo area, and holds the mattress in place, and deadens so much engine noise that it was hard to tell if Winston was running at times. It cost me $24.

Putting the neoprene mat into Winston went fairly smoothly except for losing, alternately, track of the tape measure and the carpet scissors. Having them together was not for a long time possible. Great-Grandfather's carpenter's square continues to be useful.


1)Save the metal lever from the old rear heater core valve.

2)Dielectric grease, clear silicone, is NOT a conductor. Conducive grease is dielectric with silver dust in it, and is not clear.

3)Tools and parts will disappear into any crevice or roll under anything that allows them to.

4)High winds are not fun.

5)Crawlers add excitement and random uncertainty to work under a Westy, but they do make getting in and out and around beneath them much easier.

6)Winston seemed to run cooler with a functioning rear heater core. This is from observation on one three mile trip.

And I am very tired. Pictures of Winston to follow when I can in some fashion coerce my friend the cabinet maker into installing the new face plate and some Masonite into my A/C riddled middle high cabinet.

And I am... Well, you know all that. Merry Christmas!
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Joined: September 08, 2005
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Location: in a van down by the river
Tomasz is offline 

PostPosted: Sun Dec 25, 2005 10:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your posts, I enjoy reading your informative and educational adventures.
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Phil G
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Joined: December 04, 2005
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 25, 2005 12:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

While sheet neoprene products are cheap and have reasonable sound deadening properties you may notice once the seasonal temperature rises the smell is rather strong. But don't worry, it's only carcinogenic and your fellow Sambastards probably won't point out the new hair growing on your palms. Your adventure reminds me of a friends project once changing a transfer case out of his Suburban - on a crushed rock pathway. Of course admittedly, REAL men wait until the wind is howling, and projects are never as much fun in California when temps are up in the 70's Very Happy
A tip on goo to smear ground strap bolts and contacts - anti-seize compound. It is metallic and conductive, high temperature resistant, and you'll never have a corrosion problem. I use a Marine blend I like for all kinds of stuff - like exhaust nuts I plan to remove without f%*ing up the heads. Don't use it in applications where you, your shirt sleeve or the wife’s cat will rub against it - pretty disgusting stuff.

Merryhappy ChristHanukhollidaytime . . day.
2005 - the year the nation's political correct gland went overactive and became a tumor.
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Samba Member

Joined: September 20, 2005
Posts: 3483
Location: Denver Area, Colorado
msinabottle is offline 

PostPosted: Sun Dec 25, 2005 9:37 pm    Post subject: Thank you... Reply with quote

For the feedback, the praise, and the suggestions. May as well record my successes and failures, so that others may profit. That's essentially history's raison d'etre.

Today I drove him a bit more, he was very agreeable, although through sheer stupidity I killed him a few times while practicing my parallel parking. I rejoice in darkness that I put Dad's old Hella H4's in him--the street lights up with those monsters.

I think I'll order that heavy cigarette lighter replacement from GoWesty to replace Winston's problematic current installation. It comes with informed installation instructions. I'd like to install a long graphite whip antenna in the place of his loose and corroding Radio Shack special. I've been playing with the new MP3 CD player I've bought to plug into the RCA jack I installed into his radio. My dream of movies with surround sound and hours of MP3 on the road shall become a reality.

I did note that the two old Proton speakers inletted into Winston's rear bench/bed seat have been disconnected. He has four Pioneer speakers currently attached and working. Not sure if I should stick in sub-woofers and hook those up in their places, or make plugs, put them in the place of the non-functioning speakers, and putty and paint. And the cycle goes on...

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