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Toxic fumes coming from dash
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Vsyevolod
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2017 4:18 pm    Post subject: Toxic fumes coming from dash Reply with quote

Hello gang,

I've been living in my van (88 Westy w/Ford Focus engine) this winter here in Seattle (brrrrr), and doing okay with it. This last week saw temps well below freezing. After sitting at a friends house on Whidbey Island for a few days I thought I'd start it up and run it for an hour just to recharge the battery, warm it up, etc.

Came back to turn it off after an hour and the van was filled with smoke, like a light fog. It smelled like electrical wire had burned, though it could have been something else. I found that I had left the front heater fan on medium and it wasn't working. I turned the fan off then on and it came back to life. It took all day to clear out the smell by leaving all the doors open. Even smells a bit the next day.

The smoke/fog was coming out of the front grill (ever so lightly) just off center on the passenger side.

The next day I drove it 70 miles back into Seattle and had to drive with the window down (in sub freezing temps). After arriving, I felt horrible. Headache, nausea, chest pain (though all of those symptoms were mild).

Today I tore into it. Thinking that it was electrical, I checked switches and the cigarette lighter in that area. Then I got to thinking it may have been from the front heater core. Though if the heater core is leaking, it should smell slightly sweet from what I understand (anti-freeze), and this definitely didn't. Still, my physical symptoms are strong enough that I think it might be that.

Since this happened in the middle of a cold snap, could it be the hoses going to/from the heater core? Am I better off just replacing the core? Core + hoses? And heater box clamps?

I can do most/all this work myself if all I need to do is remove the dash (3 hours). Any recommendations on what else it might be? Any thoughts on clamping off the hoses to the radiator to keep air out of the system? Anything else I might be missing? Oh, and I do have a shutoff installed in the pipe coming from the front heater core.

I did a search on "Fumes" with a couple other keywords and think I might be onto the problem.

Much thanks for helping me tackle this problem.

Stephen




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Paulbeard
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2017 4:26 pm    Post subject: Re: Toxic fumes coming from dash Reply with quote

Might have been the blower motor resistor, a big chunk of ceramic that sits inside the air box, right against the plastic, unshielded. The inside of mine was all bubbled and nasty from the heat so I opted for the dhaavers Jeep resistor swap. The switch itself might be a good starting point as well. Those old and thin wires don't get any less brittle with age and use.
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Vsyevolod
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2017 4:40 pm    Post subject: Re: Toxic fumes coming from dash Reply with quote

Thanks Paulbeard,

Question, if it was the blower motor resistor, would it still create toxic fumes even if the blower motor were turned off?

And does this also necessitate removing the dash?

Stephen




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Paulbeard
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2017 4:49 pm    Post subject: Re: Toxic fumes coming from dash Reply with quote

Vsyevolod wrote:


Question, if it was the blower motor resistor, would it still create toxic fumes even if the blower motor were turned off?



They might linger if it all stays hot. Left front sounds about right for that.

Vsyevolod wrote:


And does this also necessitate removing the dash?


Sadly, yes. No one's idea of a good time.
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maco70
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2017 5:32 pm    Post subject: Re: Toxic fumes coming from dash Reply with quote

Stephen,

I experienced a fire from the dash and I just can tell to be very aware of that and I would say don't run the vanagon anymore until the problem is solve.

Hope it helps.

Good luck
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IdahoDoug
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2017 6:12 pm    Post subject: Re: Toxic fumes coming from dash Reply with quote

Smoky deposits and the scent of burnt plastic can continue to linger long after that combustion. To get rid of it may actually require some serious actual cleaning of the ducts (easy when dash out), and possible replacement of the burnt part of the plastic housing that's now scorched. Alternatively, when it's out there may be a proper paint to spray to top coat the scorched plastic and stop the smell. Ask an expert on that, as the last thing I'd want is for you to trade this smell for a few days of outgassing fresh paint. Some dry quickly.

Doug
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mikemtnbike
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2017 6:53 pm    Post subject: Re: Toxic fumes coming from dash Reply with quote

maco70 wrote:
Stephen,

I experienced a fire from the dash and I just can tell to be very aware of that and I would say don't run the vanagon anymore until the problem is solve.

Hope it helps.

Good luck


Yeah, I'm in the no drivey-drive camp until figured out too. See the fires thread.

I had a rattle-y noise coming from the rear end (ha!) a few weeks ago, then it got really cold and I'm doing some interior work on the van, so haven't driven it. Did find that it took about 1/2-3/4 turns on the driver side lower rear shock mount to get to torque specs. Started it up and drove 20 minutes just because Thursday; rattle-y noise gone! The new lifter noise...well, at least that got better and I know what it is...

Point is, unknown noise, smell, or whatever? Figure it out before driving more. Usually something simple, if not good thing it was fixed before driven.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2017 8:07 pm    Post subject: Re: Toxic fumes coming from dash Reply with quote

Are you absolutely sure it isn’t vaporizing coolant from your heater element leaking?
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air-h2o-air
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2017 8:32 pm    Post subject: Re: Toxic fumes coming from dash Reply with quote

a rodent in the heater box,ducts? or rodent that laid on the resistor?
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Vsyevolod
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 8:30 pm    Post subject: Re: Toxic fumes coming from dash Reply with quote

Gnarlodious wrote:
Are you absolutely sure it isn’t vaporizing coolant from your heater element leaking?


No sweet smell at all. I checked with Eion (local tech) who confirmed that it was the resistor and plastic housing burning. I unplugged the switch which stops electricity from getting to the resistor and all is good. Driving it until I have time to fix it. He also said I should replace the blower motor since I have it all apart. As well as the seals.

Are people using cork or foam for the flaps?

I suppose I'll find out if there's a rodent in there when I take it all apart, though the smell is most definitely burning plastic.

Amazed once again at the helpfulness of this online community. Thanks guys and gals for chipping in.

Stephen




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dhaavers
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:07 pm    Post subject: Re: Toxic fumes coming from dash Reply with quote

Please consider: http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=623382

Result: Never worry about the <f'n> ceramic resistor again, plus it's ridiculously easy to
replace if/when your new resistor bites the bullet...(which they all do eventually)... Rolling Eyes Wink

- Dave
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Gnarlodious Premium Member
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:50 pm    Post subject: Re: Toxic fumes coming from dash Reply with quote

There’s one wire which is full power to the blower, I don’t remember which. Its easy enough to hook up an external resisto on that wire, or better yet an electronic DC controller that can handle 15 amps.
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Paulbeard
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:51 pm    Post subject: Re: Toxic fumes coming from dash Reply with quote

dhaavers wrote:
Please consider: http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=623382


If I can do it, anyone can.
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dhaavers
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 10:19 pm    Post subject: Re: Toxic fumes coming from dash Reply with quote

Gnarlodious wrote:
There’s one wire which is full power to the blower, I don’t remember which. Its easy enough to hook up an external resisto on that wire, or better yet an electronic DC controller that can handle 15 amps.

Theoretically possible, but now you need to keep that resistor cool while it 's hanging out under
the dash with no air movement & all your dash wiring hanging there waiting to be fried...

<shrug>
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 11:03 pm    Post subject: Re: Toxic fumes coming from dash Reply with quote

Stephan,

Many of us have used a foam product available at any local auto store called "RV weatherstripping" or similar. Comes in rolls and is very soft and often used between pickup beds and their caps. You definitely want auto grade. On reassembly, I did not reuse the plastic foam retainer things (look like a mesh flap).


Best, Doug
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wcdennis
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2017 7:39 pm    Post subject: Re: Toxic fumes coming from dash Reply with quote

I know this is a long shot, but considering you symptoms (Headache, nausea, chest pain), which are also connected to exposure to carbon monoxide. I know, that having the engine in the back, makes it pretty unlikely--still, you might want to check it out, to be sure.
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