Work History
The Rabbit

A Tough Work


I had a 1982 Volkswagon Diesel Rabbit. When I got it (traded another car for it to a used car dealer), the engine head was laying in the back of the car (hatchback). I purchased a perfect, just machined head from a junkyard. I put it on the car, which is much harder when you didn't take it off, trust me! I had used the wrong timing mark on the crankshaft and the timing was probably about 17 degrees off. I took the car out twice and the second time, one of the cylinders got progressively louder. There were two things I didn't know at this point: that the timing had been off and that the block actually split where one of the head bolts went into it.
I just got another engine from another junkyard. Well, I found out later that the engine that had been in the car was a 1.6 liter engine and the one I got from the junkyard was a 1.5 liter engine. I put it in and it took HUGE amounts of battery power and turned over REALLY slow when I tried to start it. After I bought a battery that was actually worse (new battery!) than the one I had in the car, I eventually found out that the starter and flywheels are slightly different on the two engines. I fixed that by installing the starter from the junkyard.
While getting a part from that same junkyard considerably later, I found an amazing thing! A 1984 diesel Rabbit complete that ran; a 4-door! It even had a nice JVC stereo! I got the part and went home. It gnawed at me. I ended up going back and buying the entire car for $350.
I fixed the desperate things (shift linkage, door handles, some other things) and got it inspected. I had to remove fog lights and a non-stock rear window brake light before it would pass. I started driving it! Way better! The 1.6 has just enough more power to make the car drivable AND gets better gas mileage. In fact the 1.6 gets 53 miles per gallon in the summer and 48 in the winter.Also, I like a 4 door! It even has the triangular swinging vent windows. I sold the two door with the 1.5 liter engine to my son-in-law.
Some 10-15,000 miles later my Rabbit blew the head or gasket or something. I didn't even want to know. I ordered an engine that had only 90,000 miles on it for $550 from a junkyard to the north. These engines are getting quite rare. Among other things, the farmers are using them for irrigation pumps. I put it in and have driven it ever since. The car now has 197,000+ miles on it.

Not right away, but after awhile, my son-in-law's Rabbit overheated on the way to work. We went and got it, using my Rabbit. It was a struggle with frequent water stops. It was about 25 miles and it was dark by the time we got it to my place.

It sat at the side of my building for at least three years. Nobody actively pursued fixing it. At some point someone took the gas cap. I shrieked in horror and my daughter immediately purchased a gas cap and put it on.

About the time my 4 door Rabbit blew its head, we had spotted a Volkswagon for sale at the side of the highway. When we finally went and looked, it turned out to be a 1986 Jetta! It was perfectly maintained; in like new condition! Then I spotted the diesel tag and My daughter and I went nuts! The wife wanted me to get it for myself. I put my foot down and we got it for my daughter. We talked the man down to $1850. After that is when I ordered the $550 engine for my Rabbit. Several years later, my daughter was rear-ended HARD in the Jetta by a drunk driver.

It was with huge reluctance that I admitted to myself what had to be done. Over a period of... a week?... my son-in-law and I removed the motor from his Rabbit. It was a terribly oily mess. I have a wooden tripod engine lift that I made myself. We had to push both cars, the Rabbit out of the way, etc. To make a long story short, we did it! The engine mounts were different. I had to remove the injector pump, which includes removing the timing belt, to take the motor mount off the Rabbit engine and put it on the Jetta engine. I got the timing wrong again, but this time I caught it. At age 49, I changed an engine and a half in cold weather!

Now the car didn't run right. We changed the diesel in the tank and everything. It would run for awhile and die down. If I didn't floor the accelerator RIGHT away, it would die.I was advised to remove and drain the tank. No way! The rear suspension is in the way, which involves open brake lines and disconnecting the parking brake cables. It sat there again

Some time later, I got back in touch with my friend Darryl. We started simply helping each other! You can see also, the Motorcycle story and the Cabrio story. It occured to me to ask Darryl for advice. He suggested drilling a hole in the fuel tank. I thought about it and realized that my sub-conscious had rejected that as a possibility because they advise how dangerous that is. I also realised that this was diesel; it doesn't explode, it burns! I did it without incident and let the tank drain for a couple days. It worked! Rabbit fixed!

Today, that Rabbit has a glow plug problem that needs to be figured out, but other than that, it runs great!

My Rabbit has a new axle shaft on the drivers side, a new transmission flange seal on the drivers side (you don't even want to know how hard that was), a complete new exhaust system, and all new brake components except the lines, the calipers, and one rear wheel cylinder; and it runs great.

This is definitely one of my greater works.

I forgot to mention that while I was changing the engine in my four door Rabbit, I got interrupted by work and it rained and the transmission filled with water. I drained everything, filled it with cheap engine oil, and with the front wheels in the air, I ran it repeatedly through all five gears and reverse until the engine was completely warmed up and then filled the transmission with synthetic 90W oil.

I also forgot to mention that the main reason the car with the motor that had 90,000 miles on it was in the junk yard was almost certainly that the clutch was completely shot. Imagine the wonderful feeling you get when, after changing an engine, which includes separating the engine from the transmission, you get to remove and re-install the transmission again.

UPDATE: The Rabbit now has over 200,000 miles on it (not the engine), is mechanically sound, and is currently running on B20 biodiesel. This is diesel of which 20% is made from soybean oil.





The Rabbit being driven by me
The Rabbit