10/01/2014

Shade Tree Geniuses

1/14/2014
The cause of the series of disasters that set us back 10,000 miles and two weeks in Albuquerque, was a piece of typical shade tree mechanical stupidity. VW installed the Engine Control Unit (ECU) circuitry just to the left and below the battery. Then, to compensate for a generally silly location for such critical electronics, VW built a battery box cover to protect the battery and the ECU from the inevitable moisture that would pour through the seam in the engine hood. One of the previous owners cleverly decided all of that protection was unnecessary and removed it to make getting to the battery 15 seconds quicker.
2013-12-19 ToC (1)
This is the battery cover I cobbled together until I could get the real thing from VW. It’s pretty embarrassing, but not as humiliating as not having anything to protect the delicate German electronics that hides beside the battery.
So, I jury-rigged the tarp replacement in the picture above. It’s not as pretty as VW’s half-assed solution, but it’s pretty good and it will protect the ECU. When I posted a picture of my solution on a Rialta-Tech users’ group list, someone wrote, “What happened to the vinyl engine cover?”
All I could say was, “What vinyl engine cover?”

When I was shopping for an RV, I looked at four different units and not a one of them had a vinyl engine cover or the top battery cover. Does this sound familiar? When I was looking for a WR250X or a Suzuki SV650 (in 2000) or a Yamaha TDM850 (in 1993), every one of those vehicles had been “improved” by some hillbilly wanna-be mechanic. In every instance, the improvements made the bike louder, narrowed the power-band or outright reduced power overall, reduced reliability, and made the bike less practical and comfortable to ride. Every one of those bikes had such low mileage that I considered them to be “new except for owner errors and damage from ignorance.”

2014-01-16 Apache (16)
This is what the actual VW battery cover looks like. All $93 of it.

The fact is, modern engineers (possibly excepting VW and Harley “engineers”) use some pretty sophisticated tools to design “systems” instead of individual engine parts and messing with either end or the middle of those systems requires a complete retuning of the rest of the system. Simply slapping on a noisy pipe does nothing for performance and only provides a moronic placebo for those who can be fooled into thinking that being noisier is in some way similar to be faster. The day of the shade tree mechanic is fast vanishing, except for historic/vintage vehicles that will soon be relegated to parades and collector shows. In a lot of ways, this is a sad thing because it closes a collection of doors for young people to find their way into technology. As unhappy as that fact is, a big deficit for any used product is that a previous owner has “improved” it. Turns out, that is a fact even in a product as miserably designed as my RV. 

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