Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Case of the Leaky Fuel Injectors

Recently I had the great fortune of meeting a very nice woman with a gas-leaking VW Fastback.
"Help!", I think she said.

I was greeted with a beaming smile and a very original 1969 Fastback in a patina red.  "Turn the key and let's see".  Braided cloth fuel lines (that don't appear to be that old) are spraying gas through many fine pinpoints.  There is gas everywhere, and the fuel lines need to be replaced.  I get to work with a smile, enjoying this warm Portland afternoon.  And we try it again - but 2 of the D-jet fuel injectors are leaking.  Bummer, but what can you do?
She is eager to sell the car and get on with her life.  I of course try to talk her out of it, but who wants a white elephant anchor when life moves on?  I totally understand and have sold my share of Volkswagens when the time was right.
I offer to purchase and replace the injectors for her.  And then the fun begins.

file photo

Portland, Oregon, USA is quite the air cooled Volkswagen town.  With a multitude of shops and parts stores, surely finding 2 injectors won't be that difficult.  I quickly discover that they are rare as hen's teeth - no one in Portland has them.  Bosch D-jet fuel injection was only used for about 4 years, and then replaced with lesser (but emissions and cost-conscious) designs.  It is durable and lasts forever, and was in fact the first electronic fuel injection ever, quite a milestone in the late 1960's.

Getting back to work, I locate the part # and search on line.  They show up on many websites, great!  I find the cheapest ones at JC Whitney and order them, rebuilt by GB Manufacturing in the USA (apparently the only company rebuilding D-jet injectors at this time).  Expedited shipping will get them to me in 3 days.

Dear Mr./Ms. Koscik, 
We regret to inform you that we are "out of stock" on the product(s) you ordered. 

Ok then, thanks for nothing.  Why did you add the items to my cart and then charge me?  Why is the "out of stock" in quotes?  Are they really IN stock and you're toying with me?  And why are you so unsure of my gender?
  Oh JC Whitney, I should have known.  In my early days in Chicago I purchased a lot of junk from them, pretending to be new VW parts.  Door handles that would rust in a week.  Live and learn.

Option 2, Auto Parts Warehouse!  Wow I'm already impressed.  I cross my nervous fingers and place the order.  I have little experience ordering from these faceless online websites, but there is a time crunch here and I have to take a chance.
Dear Mr./Ms. Koscik,
We regret to inform you that at the present time we are out of stock on: 


This is not going well.  And these guys aren't sure of my gender either, oh man what a letdown.  Of course all of this fiasco has taken the better part of a week.  

Word has it that Bus Depot has very good quality new injectors, but they cost more and shipping takes a long time from the East Coast to far flung Oregon.  A search on "The Samba" classifieds finds a guy selling 2 new injectors, still in their factory packaging.  He can get them here in two days, and reluctantly I take a chance on a new but nameless product.  My gut tells me to learn from past experience: aftermarket (and often Chinese) VW parts are frequently junk.

"Maybe fate is with me this time", I reason.  

2 days later as promised they arrive via Priority Mail.  I quickly discover a "RE" after the part number, these are re-manufactured parts.  So much for new, but maybe that's a good thing.

I notice that the yellow plastic top on the injectors are a bit wobbly and crudely cast.  They are glued to the injector body with a hot glue blob, that can't be good.  But they are sealed in plastic bags in their original boxes, "surely the factory knows what it's doing", I pout.

one hell of a still life (and too many projects)

would you trust this injector?

The lovely lady and I meet again, curbside and me with my suspect injectors.  I hope for the best and install them.
Turning the key, they flow gasoline like a happy fountain through their yellow tops.  My credibility is shot.  
What else to do?  She needs the car running, and it will take me another 2 weeks to get injectors. 
I recommend Always VeeDub just down Hawthorne.  Their service is pricey but is usually top notch, and owner Ashley seems to always have that rare part.  True to form, he is able to help her and I am off the hook, but feeling like I got hit by a pie in the face.

I think there are 2 lessons here. 
 First, a time crunch does not mean you take a chance with unknown parts (although often there is little recourse).  Sometimes ya just gotta wait and "pay up, bub". 
Second, the VW world is littered with useless aftermarket junk parts.  Look at these injectors, shiny and new, imperial in their accurately marked packaging.  But they just don't work, a fraud really.

I encourage all vintage VW owners to completely embargo Chinese aftermarket parts.  The failure rate is astronomical, why even take a chance?  They are fleecing us like suckers, taking our hard earned money and giving crap in return.  This has been my experience and the experience of many others in the VW world. 

 Don't take my word for it, find out for yourself the hard way if you must.  But at this point I can guarantee that your injectors will leak, your distributor won't advance properly, and your undersized windshield will leak.  Do your research and don't be somebody's sucker - money is too valuable these days.  I have wasted many hours of my time on this fiasco, and the pie doesn't wash off that easy either.