I’ve had this Vanagon for 8 years. As best I can tell from the paperwork, before I bought the van it spent several years in a storage facility in Eastern Shore, Maryland. Given that it had zero rust anywhere on it I’d presume the storage facility was climate controlled or at least very dry and not exposed to salt/marine air.

Please note that this is a Weekender. It does not have the sink and stove. Instead it has an additional seat and table. I had a camper with the sink/stove prior to this and never used it. The weekender is a better configuration for our family and I spent a long time looking for one in this condition.

Here’s a timeline of the work I’ve done to it.

April, 2014

This guy, Kevin Mayer who I found on Roadhaus, checked out the Vanagon before I purchased it and then did a bunch of work on it before we took it home.

This guy, Kevin Mayer from Mayer’s Garage in Philadelphia (HIGHLY RECOMMEND!) who I found on Roadhaus, checked out the Vanagon before I purchased it from a private seller and then did a bunch of work on it before we took it home.

  • Cooling system flush
  • Brake fluid flush
  • New break pads and resurface front rotors, new rear brake shoes/rear cylinders
  • oil change
  • repair speedometer (sent to outside shop, $120)
  • shifter pivot/adjust shifter

These pre-delivery repair/maintenance costs totaled: $864

In addition to these maintenance/repair issues, we also had some cosmetic work done that was pretty expensive but it was worth it in the long run as we had new window seals installed all around and larger GoWesty wheels+tires installed. Neither of these were required repairs/maintenance but I’m glad we had that work done by a good mechanic.

Total “optional/cosmetic” costs: $1,800

April 2014.

 

The Vanagon was only home for a week before I had to tackle my first job: speedometer cable replacement.

The Vanagon was only home for a week before I had to tackle my first job: speedometer cable replacement. My first very satisfying repair.

By the time I’d driven the car home from Philadelphia, the speedometer cable snapped, so I had to replace it. This was my first “job” on the vanagon. It was harder than I thought it was going to be, but I did it and it was great way to dip my toe into the vanagon repairs. That fact that it was successful also helped to keep me motivated on subsequent repairs. $25

Also, trying to be a responsible dad, I performed a few safety-related upgrades:

  • Installed third-brake light from GoWesty: $35
  • Installed three point seat belts in rear of van on both passenger and driver sides ($210)

June 2014

My fuel pump was whining and it was really annoying so I put in a new fuel filter in front of it. It didn’t solve the problem. I suspected the tank was just gummed up but none of the mechanics I spoke with thought it was a big deal. $16

Also, at this point I upgraded the stock radio and front speakers. I don’t have the costs on this but really need to document the process because I kept the old speaker grills on the doors and a lot of folks have commented to me how they like that. I will write that up someday soon. Still, as this wasn’t a needed repair to keep the van on the road I don’t think the cost information here is critical.

July 2014

My van was having a tough time starting every once in a while. It seemed kind of random. I called Ken Wilford at Vanagain and explained what was going on. He suggested a temp2 sensor for $18 and coached me through installing it via email. Ken is truly one of the great people of the Vanagon community and I love how much he encourages and inspires owners to maintain their Vanagons on their own.

Also at this time, I cleaned all of the grounds. This didn’t cost anything and didn’t do anything as far as I could tell, but it seems like a Vanagon owner’s right of passage and it helped me learn a lot about the van’s electrical system.

March 2015

I went out to start the Vanagon up after it sat for a lot of the winter and notice I smelled gas. A fuel line connected to one of the fuel injectors had developed a small crack. These were not the original fuel lines and they’d been inspected before we picked up the van so, you really want to keep an eye on these and change them out if they are more than a few years old. I replaced all of the fuel lines on the van and fuel injector seals $70. This is a GREAT way to learn about the fuel delivery system on the Vanagon and is a very easy job to do.

March 2015

A purely cosmetic job but super satisfying-- replacing the torn up corduroy with new fabric from Sewfine.

Our corduroy upholstery was shot. It didn’t keep us from using the van but over the winter I convinced myself that it would be worth spending the money on good fabric from Sewfine and doing the job myself. I  The van looks awesome now. Thanks Sewfine! Labor + Materials: $900

 Here’s the “after” shot. Really happy with how this came out.

Here's the "after" shot. Really happy with how this came out.

 

April 2015

Tired of the whining fuel pump, I tried blowing some compressed air into the fuel tank to clear out whatever was clogging it and installing a new fuel pump ($200 for pump and parts). This had limited effect and frankly the original fuel pump was quieter than the replacement.

May 2016

The engine sounded weird and was losing power. I replaced the plugs, wires and distributor cap ($100). Fixed! And so much more power! This seemed like a big job but doing it step by step made it easy and I really learned a lot about the vanagon doing this.

June 2015

Replace the three belts (power steering, alternator, AC) on the engine. Super easy to do, and a necessary maintenance item before our long summer road trip. $24.

July 2015

 

Installing jalousie windows in the Vanagon was purely cosmetic but boy does it make sleeping in the summertime better.

I picked up a pair of old VW bus jalousie windows in OK shape for $100 and Kevin Mayer installed them for me for $250. Cheaper than air conditioning repair and it’s way nicer to sleep in the van on warm nights now. You can read about the install process over here.

Installing jalousie windows in the Vanagon was purely cosmetic but boy does it make sleeping in the summertime better.

April 2016

 

Installing a new fuel tank by myself was a real challenge but solved all sorts of problems -- silenced the fuel pump and got rid of gas smell!My front wheelwells smelled like gas whenever I filled up and I was really getting tired of my whining fuel pump that I suspected was due to a clogged fuel tank. I knew the answer was to replace and reseal the fuel tank. After a lot of research (you can view my notes here) I decided to give it a go on my own.

Installing a new fuel tank by myself was a real challenge but solved all sorts of problems — silenced the fuel pump and got rid of gas smell!

 

Replacing the tank and installing the reseal kit to help get rid of that gas smell up front.

This was by far the most difficult thing I’ve ever done on the Vanagon ever. I did it on my own, I’m not even sure how a second set of hand would have helped. It was a BEAR of a job but I’m glad I did it.

Replacing the tank and installing the reseal kit to help get rid of that gas smell up front.

I should note that I did it in the driveway on the day of my son’s birthday party. So I was baking and icing birthday cake as I did this install. Which was good as this meant I had to take breaks while doing the repair job. Taking breaks is a KEY part of replacing the vanagon fuel tank and it will help you from losing your mind!

Fuel tank reseal kit (RMW $100)

March 2017

The previous summer on our way up to Maine, the vanagon had developed a small but shockingly loud exhaust leak where the exhaust pairs up with the engine head on the first cylinder. I used some of that exhaust repair putty on it and it held up amazingly well and really helped to keep the engine quiet over the summer.

But over the winter my vanagon’s exhaust had been getting progressively more obnoxious and I figured it was time to seek some professional help as replacing the exhaust system seemed a bit out of my depth. I brought the van over to Lou Hodi at Hodi’s Auto Service (someone on the NJ VW Facebook group recommended him). Good thing too as it turned out I didn’t need a whole new exhaust (despite all of the rust!) just new gaskets at the header.

Also, while the van was on the lift the mechanic discovered a torn CV boot (which explained the slight vibration I was experience when accelerating). I asked him to fix it while he had it as CV joints are a notoriously messy undertaking. Lou did a great job and is a super nice guy. The exhaust repair + CV joint replacement + brake fluid flush was $850.

Now the van accelerates smoothly and is as quiet as a Tesla. Ok, not really. But it’s super quiet.

 

July 2019

Noticed my battery wasn’t charging. Bought a multimeter. Bad alternator. Replaced it in the driveway. Not too difficult.

 

July 2020

The speedo broke again. The speedometer itself still registers the van’s speed but the gears in the odometer stopped spinning at around 175k. 

July 2021 

My brother was going to borrow the van for a short camping trip with his family so I figured to be safe we should swap out the fuel lines. So we did this project again. It was overkill as the ones I’d put in a few years earlier looked great but better safe than sorry. Also, I have a blazecut in the engine compartment, too.

August 2021

Before heading out on a family camping trip, I had a trustworthy local mechanic flush the brake fluid and replace all of the brake lines on the van.

Also installed four new Michelin Defender tires. The old ones had plenty of tread but were 7 years old so replaced to be on the safe side.

Posted in Uncategorized

Really late on this.

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Here’s a playlist of my top tracks from April, 2022 on Last.FM and on Apple Music.

Still really enjoying The Cactus Blossoms. Work has been busy and so meeting-filled that I’m barely listening to any music during the day. This has been true for April and May. So, listening habits are changing a bit. Fiddling with my Marvis settings again to surface more new cuts.

From Grant’s (Petersen, of Rivendell) latest post. He’s one of my favorite bike-people:

We are locked into steel, locked out of suspension and disc brakes, are increasingly suspect of racing’s influence, and we “value,” I guess is the closest word I can think of, bicycles as non-elitist daily transportation, and yet we still make them as beautiful‑by our standards—as we can. Some people see inconsistency there. Expensive, finely crafted bikes for daily use. I can’t help that. There are people out there who are threatened by that. Because, I’ve been scolded and called a hypocrite for it

I’ve watched every season of High Maintenance a few times. We’ve been watching them again lately when we need a short show to watch in the evenings and this time around I’m deeply focussed not the soundtrack for each episode.

I’ve always been aware of the music in the show (it’s amazing, here’s some background from pitchfork) but this time around, moreso.

Anyway, here a couple of playlists that capture the show’s soundtrack:

Spotify – High Maintenance

Apple Music – High Maintenance

Also, here’s a good interview with Ben Sinclair about some of his current listens from a few years ago.

This great take on Twitter/Musk from Robin Sloan via the always excellent Michael Sacasas:

The amount that Twitter omits is breathtaking; more than any other social platform, it is indifferent to huge swaths of human experience and endeavor. I invite you to imagine this omitted content as a vast, bustling city. Scratching at your timeline, you are huddled in a single small tavern with the journalists, the nihilists, and the chaotic neutrals.

I keep thinking about all the hand-wringing about Twitter and can’t help but feel like, well, who cares? The twitterverse, I think, to some degree takes itself way too seriously. There is, as Sloan writes, so much more than Twitter. There is so much more to being online than twitter and so much more to the world than being online.

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Visited Austin. Learned some tips on smoking brisket from the pit master at Terry Black’s. Saw some great live music. Didn’t take nearly as many good pictures as I would have liked. Still, great trip.

I have a bunch of playlists that I’ve crafted over the years and when I moved to Apple Music I was disappointed to see my local library copies of those files replaced with Apple Music’s versions. It seemed to be totally arbitrary and, importantly, the play count, rating, etc. was different on my local library copies then it was on the Apple Music versions of those songs.

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In the above, I know that I have a copy of Can’t get There from Here in my local library, so not sure why the Apple Music one was substituted in my playlist. Anyway, I want my local version in there so I can track stats, etc.

I poked around the venerable Doug’s Scripts for a while but couldn’t quite find what I needed so I wrote this script which:

  • Select/start playing a song in the playlist you want to work with
  • Creates a new playlist called “$playlistname Local Files.”
  • Checks each song in the active playlist to see if it’s local or Apple Music
  • If it’s not Apple Music, it just adds it to the Local Files version of the playlist
  • If it is Apple Music, it checks to see if there is a song in your library with the same Artist and Song name
  • It then copies the tracks that result from that search to the Local Files version of the playlist
  • If it can’t find a local copy, it adds the Apple Music version to the “Local Files” copy of the playlist

The search is really loose so it will find multiple local copies if you have them which is a bit of a pain in the butt. SO you need to go to the new playlist and remove the local versions (live! Remix!, etc.) from the playlist.

I’ve run this on a few big playlists with ~1000 songs and it runs just fine. It might be helpful for a few folks so I’m putting it up here but that said, I wouldn’t download and run this unless you know what the code is doing.

Apple Music Playlist March Top Tracks

My top tracks for March, 2022. You can listen to this playlist on Apple Music or on Last.fm.

Last.fm’s is much more comprehensive for some reason. The service has seemed very flakey the past few weeks and I can’t find an alternative method for tracking so have to live with it just being janky I guess.

I have been really loving the song Doers by Bodega. Definitely one of my favorite tracks for the month.

 

I enjoy when my daily email from readwise offers up two seemingly independent quotes/extracts that inform each other simply by their proximity to each other in the email thread. Today’s:

 

Race After Technology by Benjamin, Ruha

Hashtags like operate like a virtual public square in which response to racial insults are offered and debated. Memes, too, are an effective tool for dragging racism. (Location 676)

 
The Convivial Society, No. 5 by theconvivialsociety.substack.com

Kierkegaard saw that the public sphere was destined to become a detached world in which everyone had an opinion about and commented on all public matters without needing any first-hand experience and without having or wanting any responsibility.” Perhaps that very last line holds an important clue. Perhaps action demands responsibility and that is precisely what we are unwilling to take.

Several months ago the EVF/OVF on my X100F stopped working correctly. I sent it in for repair to Fuji.   I should note that printing out the form on FujiFilm Camera Repair page is laughably broken but, anyway.

After a few weeks I heard back that FujiFilm wanted $650 to repair the viewfinder. 

I asked them to send it back without repairing it, thinking I would just put that money towards a new X100v instead. Well, supply chain! You can’t get an X100v anywhere right now. SO I decided to make due with the broken X100f and just use the screen instead of the viewfinder. Not optimal but serviceable.

Until this week.

All of a sudden all sorts of other things started breaking on the F. Now the camera looses its settings when you swap out the battery. And it it is stuck on AF-C/continual autofocus. Which is so annoying. 

So, anyway, I’ve sent it back in for a repair estimate, hoping it won’t be much more than the original $650 repair estimate but we’ll see.

While it’s out for repair I’m using my 6-years-old X-E2s. I have it paired with the 27mm pancake which makes it feel like a really lightweight (and, sort of cheap) X100. This is an older Fuji camera and I’d completely forgotten what amazing photos it takes! This makes me realize that there’s really no reason to rush out and get the X100v when it becomes available again.

I really like this quote from Ken Rockwell’s review of the X-E2s, it’s still totally true today:

Real shooters shoot LEICAs because of their simplicity, small size and fantastic optics, and the X-E2s does all this even better. The X-E2s is ergonomically superior to LEICA, its optics are at least as good, all for a fraction of the price with none of the poseur attitude.

The Fujis just shoot so well for so long (when they’re not broken!). It’s a real incentive to just keep the older gear around, repair it when necessary and only buy the newer models when catastrophe befalls your existing Fuji gear.

First rainy day in a while. Glad because it’s been nice out lately and I’ve been too busy working to enjoy it. Less FOMO on a rainy day.

My letsencrypt SSL cert wasn’t renewing. I’d forgotten that I moved my wife’s site to squarespace so that caused the renewal to not find the site on my IP, causing it to fail with something like:

Attempting to renew cert . . .  produced an unexpected error: Failed authorization procedure.

I was using the same cert for multiple sites. Note though, you don’t actually remove the superfluous/relocated sites from the cert and then renew, instead you recreate the cert with just the domains you want. Makes sense.

Anyway, here are some really good instructions and explanation.

And just in case that site isn’t around, basically you’re running:

sudo certbot --cert-name jimwillis.org -d jimwillis.org -d www.jimwillis.org

And then you can run 

sudo certbot certificates

To make sure that the domains were removed from the cert. Handily, it also renews the cert when you run that command. 

 

I didn’t realize Dries founded/manages Drupal until I checked out the about page on his website. In any case, he has a really excellent comparison of PESOS vs POSSE on his site.

For me, I’m just trying to find as friction-free a way to collect/post/share. After a bunch of false starts I’m leaning towards WordPress as the bucket that collects everything and sends it out to other places like Mastodon, my newsletter and Day One (my journal software).

Unfortunately, iOS shortcuts integration with WordPress is horrible. Unless you fall back to old school xml-rpc stuff which feels like way too much work. This means it’s not a totally friction-free collection bucket but I feel like from a sharing-out perspective, it’s the right tool for the POSSE job.

A friend unexpectedly gifted me this the other night when we were rehearsing for an upcoming gig. I can not believe what a huge difference it makes in the sound/volume of my already very loud Martin D-18.

It’s called a d-gard and is purpose built for the back of a Martin dreadnaught. I put some new felt on it so that it wouldn’t scratch the finish. I’m astounded at how much more volume and sustain I’m getting from this. A good friend of mine who plays mandolin has been telling me to get one of these for years and I’m glad I finally got one. For standing up and playing at live gigs around a single mic, I’m hoping this gives me the volume I need.