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Old April 26th, 2005, 00:09   #52
TDIClub Enthusiast
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n1das's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Nashua, NH, USA
Fuel Economy: Who cares? It's a DIESEL! Great fuel economy comes as a bonus!
Default And Now for a Totally Different Idea! : )

I had been thinking about starting this same sort of thread, but dieseldorf beat me to it! LOL! I would have titled it something like "What was it that finally made you get a TDI?" or something like that.

My story tells about the final straw that made me get my first TDI and started my conversion into a DIESEL-head. This is a MONSTER of a post, probably my longest ever, but it's all relevant to the story.

I had known about VW TDIs for a while but shied away from them and all VWs in general because of past quality issues plus I was of the Japanese car mindset back in the 1996-2002 timeframe. I've owned several Hondas over the years, including 2 Acura Integras. I've loved every car I've owned but I'm also tired of trading cars every couple of years. There's always been something about them that eventually makes me want out of them and into something else. I have sort of a split personality when it comes to cars. There's a part of me that want a fun, fast car. And there's also the practical side of me that wants a utility vehicle. I was also interested in VWs because of the cool fun factor they have plus their longevity.

My first VW was a 2000 Golf 2.slow gasser. I shied away from the GTI/VR6 and 1.8T gassers because of the horror stories I've heard about them and the 2.0 gasser was known to be a solid engine. I was previously driving a 1998 Nissan Pathfinder SUV. Great SUV, but what a gas guzzler! My commute also got longer as I had changed jobs in late 1999. I loved everything about the Golf but later traded it for a 2002 Subaru WRX when the WRX first came out. I fell victim to the WRX hype and simply had to have one. The WRX was great and I thought I could live with a slight MPG penalty that comes with the WRX's performance. The Golf gasser averaged 27MPG and the WRX averaged 22MPG. That's still better than my Pathfinder's 16-17MPG average, so I was happy at the time. Meanwhile, my commute became longer still as a result of another job change, so the WRX was costing a bloody fortune to run. I also found there were a number of things about my Golf that I really missed in the WRX, so I was getting the itch for another VW. I had thought about getting a TDI back in 2000, but was unable to find one due to their scarcity on dealer's lots. So I was open to considering a TDI again.

Meanwhile in March of 2002, a high school friend of mine bought an old phone company microwave "bunker" facility atop a mountain in Enfield NH. He owns a 2-way radio shop in the Lebanon NH area and bought the site to use for his business. We're both into ham radio (hence my N1DAS callsign) so this was also a cool site for ham radio use and there's a 70cm (440MHz) ham repeater already there. The facility is an old Western Electric "Ma Bell" point-to-point microwave relay facility that was part of the backbone of the old phone system of the 60's and 70's and through the 80's. This facility was built in the mid 70's. The tower is 100 ft. tall and can support up to 4 large microwave horns. The pair of horns on the tower are 25 ft tall and weigh several tons. The tower is 24 ft wide at the base. My TDI parked near the base of the tower (see pic) gives it some scale.

Here's a pic of the top of the tower:

In 1993, the facility was taken out of service as phone network traffic was switched over to fiber optic lines and handled by other facilities. It still served as a backup system on standby status in case of a major network outage in the area. In 1996, the site was officially decommissioned and shut down. The obsolete microwave radio equipment was dismantled. The site was sold to a tower company and then to a ham radio operator who worked for that company and managed to buy it dirt cheap. He later sold it to this friend of mine dirt cheap compared to what it's worth on the market. It's a perfect site for future wireless services plus the cell phone service providers have approached him about renting tower and building space for their equipment. Last I heard, the going rate in the wireless industry for rent is around $2500.00 a month! I know he'll be a cellular landlord someday. Very cool!

Generator Discovery:
The microwave site has two buildings: One built by AT&T in the 70's and the other built in 1984 as result of the breakup of AT&T. The newer building was owned by Verizon up until about a month before my friend bought the site. When he became the new owner, he was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Verizon building also had a 45kW generator ("engine alternator") set, driven by a 6-cylinder VW-Audi diesel. I eagerly volunteered to check it out and see if I could restore it to service. We knew it had been abandoned and hadn't been run at all since 1996. We had no idea of its condition or if we would be able to fire it up. This became my summer of 2002 restoration project.

Generator intake/exhaust chimney outside building:

Here's the genset inside the building:

When we checked out the genset for the first time, we found it to be a VERTICAL alternator set, with the engine on top and the 45kW alternator below it. The engine is a 6-cyliner VW car engine modified for vertical operation. This engine literally stands on its flywheel! The vertical setup was used to save space inside the building. The generator was set up to replicate the 240VAC 225Amp service coming into the building and sized to carry the full building load during commercial power outages. It's designed to automatically start up upon interruption of commercial AC power and operates the building's AC tranfer switch. Upon restoration of commercial AC power, the genset runs for an additional 30 minutes before switching the building back to commercial power and shutting down.

General information:
* Genset Manufacturer: Morrison-Knudsen Co., Inc. Power Systems Division. Custom manufactured for Western Electric in the early 80's. The genset even has the old classic Western Electric "Bell System" logo and "Guardian" name on it.

* Model: KS22344, 40kW version. The alternator is actually rated for 45kW. There is also a 28kW version, using a 1.9L IDI NA engine that looks VERY similar to an A3 VE (non-PD) TDI engine. I've only seen drawings of this 1.9L IDI NA engine in the service manual.

* Engine: VW-Audi 2.4L NA 6-cylinder IDI diesel. This engine is a 6-cylinder version of the old 1.6L 4-cylinder IDI engine used in the old VW Rabbit diesel. This 6-cylinder engine is the exact same engine that Volvo sourced from VW and used in their cars in the 1983 timeframe. Volvo called it the D24 engine. The turbo version was the D24T. The genset manufacturer bought the basic engine from VW and customized it for vertical operation. Custom crankshaft, oil pans (side and bottom), remote oil filter, modified injector pump, engine-driven fan and lift pump, prelube system, and more. Some parts look an awful lot like what's in our TDIs!

* Hour meter reading: 401 hours. That's nothing for a diesel! It now has around 480 hours on it.

* Oil change interval: 250 hours. Uses 15W-40 dino oil and holds 16 quarts. I bet this engine has only had one or two oil changes in its lifetime before I started working on it.

* Fuel consumption: 2.4 gal/hr at no load. 3.6 gal/hr with a 40kW load.

* Compression Ratio: 23:1 (and I thought my TDI's 19.5:1 ratio was high!)

* Equipped with oil and coolant heaters (1 kW total wattage). The coolant heater looks VERY similar to a TDIheater! It is a KiM Hotstart heater.

* Governed engine speed: 3600 RPM. It really roars when running! The radiator fan is belt-driven by the engine and also cranks at 3600RPM. As soon as the oil pressure comes up at startup, the governor slams it at WOT to get it up to 3600RPM ASAP. It often belches a huge cloud of cold start smoke at startup. Exhaust is clean afterwards with occasional light traces of smoke. It has a prelube system to prevent dry starts and oil starvation at startup.

* TWO Fuel filters: 25-micron main filter plus a 5-micron water seperator filter.

* Also equipped with a backup manual run kit to manually run the genset in case the main control system fails or is inoperative.

* Engine DOM: November, 1983. Genset installed mid-1984.

* Original new price of genset in 1984, listed on building inventory sheet: $33,000.00.

* The old fuel tank was a 275 gallon oil tank, mounted on a cement slab outside the building. That tank is long gone and a 22-gallon drum was being used as a temporary tank. we don't know what happened to the tank.

* Dimensions: 9 ft tall (includes ductwork) x 4 ft wide x 4 ft deep.

* Shipping weight (in crate): 3000 lbs. Installed weight: Approx. 2000 lbs. Engine: 400 lbs. Alternator: 700 lbs.

More pics:

The Hunt for Information:
Before starting any restoration work on the genset, I surfed the internet to try to find more information. I didn't find much except for somebody in Australia advertising 10 of the 28kW versions for sale, still "new" and in their original shipping crate, stored in a warehouse, for $45,000.00 each. The genset manufacturer (Morrison-Knudsen) appears to be out of business, so that turned up a dead end. However, through my surfing, I also found TDIclub! (I found it by googling "VW" and "DIESEL") I instantly became a "lurker" on from that point on. I downloaded and gave the TDIFAQ a thorough read and surfed the forums.

I also found that believe it or not, the old "Ma Bell" Western Electric is STILL in business! They manufacture and sell a few specialized vacuum tubes that semiconductor devices never replaced. There's still just enough replacement demand for these vacuum tubes worldwide to keep them in business and still manufacturing these tubes!

Western Electric's homepage.

Fortunately, we did manage to find and recover the service manual for the genset. The manual also included the notes to a VW Diesel Engine Training class, which I studied thoroughly.

The Restoration:

We found the pair of batteries in the system to be totally dead. Not surprising after sitting unused and with the charger turned off since 1996. The control system electronics and engine system is powered by a pair of 12V deep-cycle marine batteries. We scrounged up a pair of used batteries to use. They were not in the greatest shape but were healthy enough to use. We later replaced these batteries with new ones we picked up at Wal*Mart.

The first thing I did was check all fluids. Oil level was totally FULL and the oil was BLACK. This was my introduction to the normal ink black color of oil in a diesel engine. The radiator above the engine was totally empty, as all coolant had evaporated from the system. However, the engine block still had coolant in it. I did a full drain and replacement of the coolant. It took 4 gallons of Prestone in a 50/50 mix. No signs of coolant leaks anywhere.

Before trying to crank the engine, I decided to take out each glowplug and attempt to crank the engine over by hand. I only managed to get 4 of the 6 glowplugs out. The #5 and #6 glowplugs were inaccessible as they were behind the injector pump. I squirted some penetrating oil in to each cylinder where I had taken out a glowplug. I expected piston rings to be rusted solid to the cylinder walls. It turns out that the engine wasn't siezed at all! However, it still wouldn't turn by hand. Something was still locking the engine. Since I could only move the engine a couple of degrees, I couldn't tell if a piston was kissing valves or if it was something else.

I poppped the timing belt cover off and carefully inspected the TB. Looked perfect! Still like new. When I tried to crank the engine by hand, I found the TB tightening up on one end and loosening on the other end, around the waterpump pulley. The waterpump had totally siezed up from corrosion over the years. Good thing I didn't try to crank the engine with starter via the backup manual control system! It probably would have snapped the TB and done other damage and then I'd be totally SOL.

Note in the pics that the engine has TWO timing belts. The main timing belt is at the top end and also drives the waterpump like in the old 1.6L Rabbit diesel and like our TDIs. The second TB is on the bottom end of the camshaft and drives the injector pump. The top TB looked like it was in perfect shape. No cracks or dry rot at all. However the bottom TB driving the injector pump is totaly oil soaked and has been that way for several years. If the pump belt fails, at least it won't take out the engine with it. I decided that it was best to not touch either timing belt at all.

The big nasty problem was how to get the waterpump freed up. I squirted some penetrating oil into the weep hole, expecting the seal(s) to be glued to the shaft and the bearing siezed. I let it soak overnight. It still wouldn't budge with a pair of vice grips on the pulley hub. I ended up having to get a big pipe wrench on the hub and give it close to 90 ft-lbs (!) of torque to get it to move. It moved with difficulty and slowly at first as I was also cranking the engine via the timing belt. I was worried that I might be shearing the shaft instead of cranking the pump. I won't know until I free it up and get the engine started. After a couple of turns, it broke free!!!! It cranked around perfectly and didn't break anything! I then got a big screwdriver on the weights on the crankshaft's harmonic balancer and cranked the engine around several revs, a quarter-turn at a time. I very carefully inspected the timing belt as it went around to verify that it was in good shape. The timing belt looked as good as new. After cranking the engine around several revs by hand, I knew that it wasn't kissing any valves and it was safe to crank the engine with the starter. I then reinstalled all glowplugs that I had taken out earlier.

The next problem was to figure out the control system and try to get it working. I replaced the pair of batteries, carefully noting how they hooked up. One battery is for engine starting and glowplug operation, just like in a car application. The second battery ran the control system electronics. The control system also has an automatic battery charger powered by commercial AC power to maintain the batteries. After replacing the batteries, the main control system and backup control system came alive! The main control system wasn't fully operational yet, as I later found it needed to have a pair of circuit breakers replaced. However, the backup manual run kit was fully operational and was able to be used to crank the engine.

Using the backup manual run kit, I turned the main switch to ON, and it came alive with an alarm indication. I held up the manual glowplug switch and the glowplug light came on for about 15 seconds and then went out. I turned the main switch to START while holding the glowplug switch cranked and after a second or two, it sputtered to life and ran for about 5 seconds and then stopped. Success!! It fired on the penetrating oil I had used earlier plus 6 year old diesel fuel that was still in the injector pump. The genset belched a huge thick 30ft diameter mushroom cloud of smoke when it ran briefly. I didn't keep cranking it but instead worked on getting the fuel tank hooked up to it. At this point I knew there's a good chance I can get this engine up and running if I can get some fresh diesel fuel to it.

I had to make a trip to Home Depot to get some copper tubing plus some fittings needed to get the fuel tank hooked up. I dumped in 5 gallons of fresh diesel fuel plus several ounces of PowerService Diesel Fuel Supplement (white bottle). I also filled up the main fuel filter and the water separator filter. On the first try...after about 15 seconds of glowplug heating....crank-crank-crank-crank-crank-SPUTTER-SPUTTER-CLATTER-CLATTER-CLATTER-VAROOOOMMMMM! It came to life and stayed running! WOOHOO!! SUCCESS!! It belched a huge cloud of startup smoke. Needless to say, no mosquitoes bothered us that evening. It ran a bit rough for a few minutes with the governor pegging the injector pump at WOT. It was running a bit rough and at somewhere around 25000RPM and putting out a bit of grey-white smoke. The governor was keeping the pump pegged at WOT, trying to get it up to 3600RPM. After about 2 minutes of running, it unexpectedly went VAROOMM again, with the revs shooting way up, belching a cloud of black smoke. It was a bit scary and I thought it was over-revving. Out of panic, I hit the emergency stop button and shut it down. Everything seemed OK though. No signs of trouble. I restarted it and the revs took off again and leveled out, but this time I saw the green "60 Hz" light illuminate on the backup run kit. SUCCESS!!!! It was now running at its governed 3600RPM! It did not over-rev earlier like I had first thought. It had ben running rough at first and then started running properly. It caught me totally by surprise when it suddenly accelerated at WOT to governed speed. Whew! While the engine was runing at 3600RPM, you could see the governor linkage occasionally wiggle and move up and down slightly as it maintained 3600RPM. It ran smoothly with no misfires at all. The exhaust was clean with occasional traces of light smoke.

I let the genset run for about a half hour before shutting it down. The radiator water temp came up to it's normal 190 degrees, so that told me the waterpump is OK. No signs of coolant leaks anywhere. A small amount of coolant came out throught the radiator overflow tube and then stopped. That told me the cooling system is up to its normal pressure. Also no oil leaks except for a minor leak from the lower camshaft seal.

The last problem area was with the control system electronics. I could start it and run it with the backup control system, but not yet with the main system. I also found the main system would intermittently lose power, so I checked around for loose connections. Turned out it was due to a pair of circuit breakers that were making intermittent contact. I researched the circuit breakers and found exact replacements for them (made by Airpax Corp.). After replacing these, the system is now capable of automatic operation when commercial AC power fails.

Remaining problems:

1. The injector pump's shaft seal has dry-rotted and leaks. In the vertical orientation of the pump, this causes the pump to lose its priming and often result in a no-start condition after sitting for a couple of days. I have to loosen the center bolt in the output section and crank the engine until fuel pees out around the bolt to reprime the pump so the engine will start. From looking at the maintenance log for the genset, Ma Bell limped along with it in this condition from 1992 to 1996. The pump appears to be still in good shape otherwise. This pump is a one-of-a-kind pump because it was modified internally for vertical operation plus it has electronic governor linkage for the control system.

2. The main control system fails to operate the glowplugs when an auto-start sequence has been initiated. It will wait for glowplugs to heat without actually heating them and then cranks the engine. It often cranks and cranks without starting, and automatically times out after 30 seconds if the engine fails to start. The glowplugs operate when I operate them using the backup manual control system, so I know the glowplugs and relay are OK. The automatic system fails to operate them before cranking the engine. This is a troubleshooting project for when I get some time to work on it.

The biggest problem is the injector pump seal leak. I'm looking for Bosch shop than can rebuild this pump. It's a one of a kind pump, so I need to find a Bosch injector pump expert. If anybody has information, please pass it on to me.

Getting my TDI:

Through my experience working on restoring this genset to service, I kept thinking how great it would be to have a DIESEL car. I became hooked on diesel through learning about this engine and working on it and getting it running after being abandoned for 6 years. I definitely knew what my next car was going to be: A VW Golf TDI! I had planned to keep the WRX and get a TDI after the WRX was paid for. But I was also looking at my fuel, maintenance, and insurance costs, and thinking about which car is better suited for the large amount of driving I do. The more I thought about it the more I was hooked on the TDI. I also came to the conclusion that I really need to get out of the WRX and into a TDI sooner rather than later as the costs of running the WRX were sky high. So on May 15, 2002, I traded out of the WRX and got into my 02 Golf TDI!! I took a big depreciation hit on the WRX but I was still able to wash out of it. I've already more than made up for the hit in fuel savings plus lower maintenance and insurance costs. Haven't looked back at all. Friends of mine thought I was crazy at first, but later agreed with me because of the large amount of driving I do. Now with the recent spike in gas prices, they are interested in TDIs!

My friend who bought the microwave site has ridden with me in my TDI tons of times and likes it, but previously never gave any thought to owning and driving one. Now with the high gas prices, he's interested in a used TDI for his business as a daily driver instead of having to drive his gas guzzler truck. He'll keep his truck and use it when he needs the 4WD capability. Both of us wish Toyota sold a DIESEL version of the Tacoma truck here in the USA.

I started working on the genset in early April, 2002. A little over a month later, I got my TDI! My TDI coveting period lasted about a month while working on the genset. I registered on TDIclub about a month later (June, 2002).

I had previously thought about getting a TDI years ago, and it was this generator restoration project that became the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back and finally made me do it. Had I gotten a TDI back when they first came to the USA, I probably would still be driving it today and not had as many gassers that I've had over the years. I would still have a newer TDI as a second vehicle. I guess it's just another sign that I'm totally converted to DIESEL! No more gassers for me!

~ n1das
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