Last we left off during the swing-through-home-to-say-hi-to-everyone portion of this venture, the wipers had gone out and we muscled our way back by sheer will and lots of luck (navigating between two lines of precipitation and nary a drop or flake). Sam at Dune Buggy Supply already had a motor on the way to us, so it would early be a thing. I just needed to take out to wiper assembly, which consists of two pieces: the motor and the transmission (the mechanical arms that physically move the wipers). I soon found out that the wiper system must be the first thing on the assembly line at VW. A wiper assembly comes down the line and they simply start constructing the entire van around it. Getting it out is a chore.
For once, I lucked out. In late bay models such as Adie, you can remove the assembly from under the dash by simply removing your heat ducts and glove box. It’s a pain, but it’s better than other models where the dash has to come all the way out. Besides, I needed to shore up the duct work with some duct tape now that the heat was working.
I removed the assembly. The motor is actually mounted on to the transmission and plugged in using a single harness with five pins. It’s the most straightforward of the VW Bus assemblies mercifully. To get the darn thing working again, the motor needed to be unmounted and the new one mounted and then the whole shebang reinstalled. That easy, right?
While we were back in town, we had our man for all seasons, Norm at Oak Grove Import Auto Service, give Adie some fresh oil, a valve adjustment, and the once-over. He also offered to take the transmission apart and lube it up. This, he explained, is what I should do if I were a good VW owner. When the part is out, you clean it and get it into the best shape possible. Also, any gunk on the joints of the transmission stress the motor and could lead to more issues in the future. The transmission should rotate freely.
When I got the transmission back from Norm, it looked like a museum piece. No, it looked nicer than that because usually museums leave all the crust on things. It looked like a replica in museum. Only this was my transmission. The joints on it now floated freely and it didn’t creak or squeak. Now all that was left was to install the motor, which had arrived that morning. We’d be able to leave on time!
Only the motor broke. I want to be clear about this: the motor bench tested well. In fact, I could even put a little bit of resistance on the motor before it became useless. In no way could Sam have known what I was about to discover. The motor Sam had sent me that been epoxied together. The one thing that fails in most wiper motors is a metal shaft that is molded into a plastic gear. The two should operate as one piece, but forty years of abuse takes its toll and they will break apart. This apparently happened at some point with this motor and it was epoxied back together. Bus owners, do not do this. It will not hold. At least not for long. If the gear and shaft aren’t machined together, any drag will just break them free again.
Getting a second motor overnighted from Sam (who apparently has the largest stash of motors in the Great Lakes Region) was cutting it close. Norm had a spare Rabbit motor that appeared to have the same dimension gear in it. He drilled the motor open because it was riveted instead of screwed. The gear wheel and length were spot on with the bus. The teeth though, were wider. So much for VW’s standardization of parts. We had to the get the second motor overnighted, which Sam did.
It arrived and I installed the thing. Success!
Only I didn’t time it because I’m a little stupid, especially when I get in a hurry. I mean, the open road is out there, calling to me. There are places I haven’t seen and a smoked turkey and hard cider waiting for me at my buddy’s cabin in Virginia. So I uninstalled the motor.
Figuring the timing on the motor is easier than one would think. First, you take the motor off the transmission and plug it in to the dash. Use a zip tie or a pipe cleaner—anything, really—to mark on the shaft where the park position is for your motor. Turn the bus on and run the wipers. Turn them off. Do this a few times just to be sure. Then you go inside and set the transmission bracket to the rest position (Google it). Mount the motor. If you want to dry test it, make a set of pipe cleaner wipers and attach them to the studs on the transmission. As the motor turns your pipe cleaners should make the path as the actually wipers.
Since this was the 73rd time I had to get under the dash for the wipers, I reinstalled them in record time. Next up—shoring up that duct work.