Van, Damn

As Holly explained, the van needed a bit of work before we could launch the adventure.  The last time we’d taken a long trip in the van, we heard an occasional, faint grinding noise during braking.  I’d looked things over before we left and didn’t find anything amiss, but it was back again and louder by the time we got to Sequim.  On Saturday, before dinner, I took the right-hand tire off and poked around.  It looked like the metal splash shield that’s supposed to protect the brake rotor had shifted a bit and was rubbing against the rotor.  Whew!  A bit of prying provided the needed clearance.

I took a break for dinner and our early gift exchange, but went back out after the festivities to double-check the left-hand side as well. It was dark at this point, and as I was preparing to put the tire back on my headlamp peered into the recess where the axle meets the transmission. Uh oh. The rubber boot on the inner CV joint was torn — and looked like it has been that way for quite some time. If the joint failed on the highway it would take out the transmission and spoil our adventure, so it needed to be replaced. And, while we were replacing one axle we should probably do the other as well.

Unfortunately, it was too late to call any parts or service places, so we went to bed on Saturday night with the realization that our trek would not begin at the crack of dawn the next day. On Sunday I called some of the nearby auto parts places. We were in luck! A place in nearby Port Angeles had one of axles we needed, and could get the other by Monday afternoon. GranDurkee and I started disassembling the right-hand side so we could replace the axle I’d picked up in Port Angeles. We made pretty quick progress, until disaster struck: Once the old axle was out we could see the replacement was not the right part. A trip back to the parts place was no help — their computer system claimed they’d sold me the right part, and they didn’t have any other options for our van. (This meant the axle they’d ordered me for the left-hand side was going to be wrong as well.)

It was now Sunday evening. The van was up on jack stands and disassembled, we didn’t have replacement axles, and it wasn’t clear where we were going to find them. Expectations were adjusted again: We weren’t going to hit the road on Monday morning either. On Monday morning I called the nearest VW dealer. They could get me the right parts (at a much greater cost, naturally), but the nearest set of axles were in a California warehouse. They could have them by the middle of the day on Wednesday. Looks like we’re not hitting the road until Thursday morning at the earliest…

The photos above show two pictures of the old axles, and a shot of the fabulous new parts that arrived on Wednesday as promised. They were installed by dinnertime on Wednesday evening, and we were finally ready to hit the road! The old axles looked to be the originals, and had lasted for 160,000 miles, so with some luck we’re ready for the next 160,000.

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