westy guts, part II

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The Westy resurrection includes fixing a fuel problem. At highway speeds and full throttle (occasionally, she gets going fast enough to pass someone!) the engine will hesitate like there is fuel starvation. Our fuel pressure gauge confirms a big pressure drop, so when we got home, I did my research. It turns out that the original design of the system (fixed the year AFTER our girl was built) was flawed. I can just replace the fuel filter until it happens again, but the real fix is to swap in parts for a later model year. There is another problem too — when we fill the tank full, some fuel drips out of an inaccessible vent hose, so the rubber hoses have degraded. You see, vehicles in 1985 were not built for gasoline that contains ethanol, and modern gas corrodes the original hoses. Knowing she has the original tank, almost certainly rusty, and a fuel level sender that has, let us say, a lot of character, I’m replacing the whole thing with new parts that avoid both of these problems permanently.

It’s always a moral and ethical dilemma for a mechanic: is the quick fix good enough, or do I take the time and money to really resolve the problem? Sometimes I go one way, sometimes the other. I know I have to drop the tank to fix the vent hoses, I want the fuel system to be utterly reliable, and I don’t want to change the fuel filter every few months because it gets clogged with rust from the tank. And I don’t want to have to ever work on this part of her again — one has to drain the tank before removing it, and there is no way to do this job without smelling like gasoline for a day.

I’ve become the nexus for parts packages from all over the country (see Part I: heater fan, tail light parts, LED bulbs), and the first to arrive are the fuel system parts. A shiny new gas tank, fuel sender, vent hoses, gaskets, fuel filter and clamps to put it all together. So I don my mechanic’s one-piece pullover, rubber gloves, and wade into the fray. The partially-disassembled dash can wait.

After about two hours, the front of my modern house is looking quite out of place for Fairfax. The front of Mz. Parker is up on ramps. Tools and parts, a pan of gasoline and rags and a jack are strewn about, and the first half of the transplant is complete. I am grimy, looking and smelling like The Dud from the game Mystery Date, if you are old enough to remember that. The filthy rusty tank with rotting hoses is lying in my driveway.

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Installation of the shiny new bits was not too bad, perhaps 2 hours start to finish. There was one moment when I’m lying on my back under the new fuel tank, supporting it with my knees and chest, as I reached as far as I could over the top of the tank to plug the overflow balance hose into grommets on either side. The hose has to go OVER a bunch of stuff in the middle of the chassis, running down through the indent in the top of the tank. It took all my strength, ten minutes of wrestling and a healthy array of curses in multiple languages to get the little fucker plugged in. As I read long ago in an ancient E. E. Smith Lensman sci-fi novel, “I could eat a handful of iron filings and puke a better design than that!” .

There is a place where channeled fury and sheer determination makes all the difference between success and failure. I was about ready to give up on the hose installation at one point. However, one more all-out attempt, reaching into the 2-inch space with snarling sound effects and bruised knuckles leveraging off the grimy underside of the body, and the connector popped into place. Once I had the tank bolted up, I finished the plumbing with a series of short hose pieces connecting the tank, fuel pump, fuel filter, fuel pressure sensor andima line going to the engine. I cleaned and replaced the filler tube, plugged in and clamped the (five!) vent hoses, dumped in a bit of gas, and she fired right up with nary a leak. My First Major Accomplishment on this adventure is done.

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The new fuel tank gleams in the bottom of the photo, and new fuel line links the pump, filter and fuel pressure sensor.