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Story by Lois Grace

Here in California we have finally had some weather. As the rest of the US held its collective breath and wondered if we would dry up and crumble off the edge of the map from lack of water, we dusted off our umbrellas and actually got RAINED on not too long ago. Yes, water fell from the sky and made the lawns grow once again, turned out dust to lovely wet mud, and made a general mess out of cars we hadn't had to wash for 6 months. But don't think we don't appreciate it! No, we needed that water so badly that the rain came just in time - our state slogan was in danger of being changed from "The Golden State" to "The Semi Arid State".

But our weather actually began in December, when the Arctic Express below through and treated us to some of what the rest of you enjoy all winter: sub-freezing temperatures. This was the coldest weather for California in over 70 years. I know what you're thinking. "HAH! Probably on the high side of 50 degrees, and she's COMPLAINING?" Well, I've heard it all before and I'm not looking for sympathy so you don't need to write. For those of you who live in the Rust-Riddled East, warm is anything above freezing. For us here on the West coast, freezing is something that happens only in that small unit on top of your refrigerator. Freezing most certainly does not happen OUTDOORS, for Pete's sake, that's why we live HERE. But on December 20th we woke up to a strange white coating all over everything outside. I'm told this is known as frost and happens only when the temperature outside reaches approximately the same needed to keep an igloo intact. Needless to say, this is not a common occurrence around here and we all suffered. The plants froze, the pipes froze, and the dog's water bucket froze. The mercury said it was 19. 19 WHAT? Degrees?? Surely not, since everyone knows there's no such thing as temperatures below about 50 or so. Dang that thermometer, must be broken. But no, it was true, and it never got above freezing (is that 32 degrees?) all day. Our pipes never did thaw out, by the way.

Bogart has had his share of problems this winter. I'm not sure I can blame any of them on the weather but I know one of them was due to the cold temps. He's always been such an accommodating little guy and things don't usually bother him. Besides being easygoing, he's considerate too, never pulling more than one stunt at a time. He's approaching 22 years old so things are bound to wear out and I try to keep this in mind. However, this winter he's had one thing after another go haywire.

Bogart was not impressed with the cold. He started hard and ran rough. He lodged his first complaint by instructing his heater cable (of all things) to take a vacation. The right side simply stopped working, no hot air came out. I was told it was probably a broken cable. Since I didn't feel like rolling around on cold concrete under the decidedly LOW fanny of a Bug, wrestling with a broken cable, I did the obvious and ignored it. I though it a tad rude of him to do this right in the middle of this Not-For-Human-Habitation weather, but the heater worked so well that I found I didn't really need both sides anyway. After all, who drives from the RIGHT side of the car? The left side still worked fine so I stayed nice and warm. I think I'm the only one that thinks there's no room for improvement in a VW heater. With both sides working, I usually had to run it at half mast anyway to keep from sweating to death. So, the broken heater cable didn't bother me much.

What came next was a bit more annoying. The turkeys took up residence in his speedometer. The cold must have affected his speedometer much the way it affected me - shocked me into hibernation - because one morning I started out for work and I heard IT. GOBBLE GOBBLE GOBBLE, the distinct and plaintive sound of a captive turkey. At least it SOUNDED like a turkey. And it was coming from the middle of the speedo. Hmmmmm. The speedo worked just fine, it's just that I had trouble hearing my radio above the din. After about 5 miles of this, I pulled to the side of the expressway and solved the problem by unhooking the cable from the back of the speedo. Presto! No more noise! Of course, I had no more speedo either, so something had to be done. I at first thought that the cable was breaking (after all, hadn't we just gone one round with a cable of some sort?) but the speedometer continuing to work normally scratched that idea. Once the weather warmed up to tolerable levels, I squirted some good liquid lubricant down both ends of the cable and solved my problem. I hooked it back up and it's been fine ever since. The turkeys are gone, probably to warmer climes.

About a month or so ago, the rains began and with them came Bogart's leaks. Not the regular garden-variety, water leaks, oh no. Nothing so mundane as that. Bogart has always had a flair for the dramatic, and chose his leak carefully. I'm talking every VW owners' nightmare here - a GASOLINE LEAK. I began smelling raw fuel one day when I turned on the one remaining heater vent. The scent of Eau de Unleaded Supreme wafted in gently, insidiously, until I turned off the heater. Then it disappeared. After getting out of the car one day, I noticed the smell near his rear end. It got so bad I had to abandon using the heater altogether. By now I was getting pretty tired of these high jinks and was about to investigate (don't wanna rush these things) when he began to run funny. Time after time, I'd look in the engine, expecting to see something obvious and finding nothing out of the ordinary. Time after time, there was nothing other than the strong smell of unburned gasoline in there, not even anything particularly wet. So, I'd shut the lid and off we'd go. This went on for a couple weeks until one particularly threatening day he began to sputter. He died at lights. He didn't wanna GO. I'd restart him. He'd die again. At one stoplight he died and I never did get him started again so I crawled out into the rain and pushed him over to the curb wondering what I was going to do next. A well-meaning guy passing by offered to push-start Bogie and we tried this and he started. He ran just long enough to get me to a nearby gas station, coasting in and leaving a trail of rainbow-colored puddles on the wet pavement behind him. Something was definitely not right here. I opened the deck lid to be greeted by a most alarming sight - gasoline drenched every square inch of my hot engine. Wet, smelly gasoline hissed off the hot manifold and worst of all, the line from the fuel pump dangled and dripped directly above the distributor. One spark and I'd have been Bugless and probably without eyebrows to boot. WOW! Talk about scary! Gasoline dripped off the open deck lid to run in a current onto his rear fenders. The top fitting on the left side of the carburetor had blown completely out. The fitting itself was still firmly clamped into the hose from the fuel pump. Once my heart started beating again and I could breathe, I grabbed my Halon extinguisher and a towel and dried things off in there. I hammered the fitting back into place with the end of my pliers, put everything back together and drove back to work with the Halon on my lap. I ended up epoxying all the fittings I could find once I got home, and things have been fine since then. No more gas leaks, unless you want to count what happened after this........................................

Last week I began to smell the gas AGAIN. After the usual looking-under-the-hood routine and seeing nothing (as usual) I let him sit for a few days, thinking that he'd come to his senses and knock off this behavior. Silly me. Oddly enough these things don't usually fix themselves. After those few days I drove him once more and this time, without waiting for something dire to happen, I thought about the symptoms: starts fine cold, cranks over and over without starting when warm. Gassy smell. Runs like he's flooded. Black smoke from the tailpipe. all these symptoms told me he was getting too much fuel, running too rich. once again I looked under the hood and pleaded with his 1600 to give me a clue as to what was wrong. It was sulking and didn't answer me. I noticed the top of the carburetor was once again wet. The gasket looked like it was leaking. Since I'd just rebuilt the carb not too long before this, I decided to take the top off and have a look inside to see if I forgot to put something back in, like maybe a float or something. As soon as I had the top off, I noticed that the needle valve was spinning around loosely instead of being screwed tightly down. It was FINGER TIGHT, and allowing gas to leak out the threads and all over the top of the carb. SIGH. After tightening everything up and reassembling him, Bogie ran just fine. That was a couple days ago. Before the Generator Light Incident.

I suspect that sometimes, Bogart sits in the garage, in the deep darkness of the long still night, dreaming of ways to confound me. With one problem solved, he usually manages to present me with yet another test of my fix-it-myself will. Does Vernon put these ideas into his head, or does he think of these things all by himself? I have no idea, but I do think he enjoys finding ways to stump me. Fortunately, he usually spaces out these episodes so I don't get too impatient with him. Not this year. Now that I fixed that latest nagging little problem, he's thought of yet another: the generator light keeps coming on. The fan belt is brand new, and tight. The light only comes on at high speeds; below about 30MPH or at an idle, it goes out. Voltage regulator? Generator itself? Who knows, but I'm not driving him till I find the culprit. I guess most of the latest snafus have been fuel-related, if you don't count the FOWL noise in the speedometer. Odd, isn't' it? Things generally come in threes, so I guess I'm due for some peace a quite now, once I get this present problem fixed. I hope. And Bogie? What does he think of all this attention? He seems to have a tiny half smile on his face, all the time now. Well, maybe that isn't a smile after all, maybe it's ONLY GAS.

UPDATE: You know, it's really funny. I can't, for the life of me, remember what that generator light incident was all about. I'm sure it got fixed, it really did, because Bogie isn't doing this anymore. Of course, he's now had almost 5 years to think up new ways to confound me. But I rewarded him anyway, last October, with a brand new 1600cc single port engine. His old one made it almost to the 200,000 mile mark before it gave out, due to a crack in the case. So far, so good. I don't really mind, all his little idiosyncrasies make him more lovable. There's something about an older car that's so endearing - I think it's that gassy smile.


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