Warning! Be advised, you are about to read an account of a debacle. You may proceed with caution.
While crossing the Smokies on my way to visit friends, my engine began buffeting my eardrums like a Mil Mi-26. Wait, let me back up a bit...
Somewhere in the Midwest, I had noticed that my power steering pump was empty, covered in what appeared to be the remains of it's previous contents. I had also noticed that my brakes were very unresponsive, as well as the fact that my forearms were exhausted from trying to turn my steering wheel at everyone stoplight. Being the noob that I am, continued driving to avoid some cold weather and get farther south before I looked under the hood.
When I reached Kentucky somewhere near Tennessee, I had a look and found that the belt that turns the pulleys for the power steering and the brake booster (brake assist?) was very slack. That made sense that I was having the issues I was experiencing and pulled over at a big box auto store to purchase a new belt. Long story short, I found the belt for under $10, but had to go get some cash to purchase it. When I got back, a new clerk was manning the store and could not find a belt for under $40, even though I had the item number, whatever. Not wanting to be hornswaggled and with more cold weather (This winter had some ridiculous weather I might add) creeping up on me, I headed into Tennessee, bound for The Great Smoky Mountains.
Somewhere in TN, I mistakenly added Premium or some other grade gasoline into my tank. I was pretty exhausted and under stress and well, I just goofed somehow; never before, never again. Before I got the North Carolina border, I heard the belt loosen to the point that it was flapping against the intake fan or something and pulled over and cut it off. Aside from the timing chain, I have only one other belt that connects to the alternator.
Very soon after that was when my 454 turned into a chopper. Now, the noise I was hearing before, that I assumed was the belt, may have been the precursor to what I was hearing now, who knows. I soon released what you may be guessing already.
I had at least one cylinder miss-firing, most likely two, no brake booster, no power steering, and huh, what is this? My voltmeter is swaying erratically and I'm losing power up hill, or up the Appalachian Mountains I should say. Luckily, I made it to my destination where I could finally get to work on Mighty Mite.
Or so I thought...
After 5 purchases and 4 returns, I got the belt that I needed for power assistance and tune up package. I have had this bus for a little under a year this month, and I feel like I know next to nothing about anything when it comes to automobiles...
The previous owner (PO) pulled the stock engine and dropped in the 454 big block before he sold it to me. I can't say whether or not he did a good job or not, but when I tried to line everything up with the crankshaft and the two power assist. pulleys, well, like I said, I tried. I had to loosen the alternator to disengage its belt to insert the secondary belt. I reattached the alternator's belt and tightened it back into its regular position. Okay, good, so far not bad, this is first for me and I'm excited and proud of myself! Woohoo!
Something is not right. I feel like I am developing a 6th sense, the uncanny ability to see into the past, because I feel like I know what happened to set me up in my current condition. When the PO dropped in the new big block, he didn't or couldn't make any adjustments to any brackets or pulleys to get them to align correctly with the crankshaft. After putting in the engine, he most likely didn't feel like taking it back out do to his lack of foresight, so he just threw on a loose/wrong belt and decided to just tell any potential buyer that the belt was old and needed to be replaced or whatever. Maybe that is why with the not-so-random spare parts the bus came with (I vaguely remember him mentioning offhandedly that there was a belt that needed to be switched, if I get around to it, no big deal...) there was a handful of v-belts, none of them the right one.
After smacking brackets, summoning bum-magic with washers and earwax and whatnot, both belts are now in place! Power steering fluid is added to the pump and I gave it all a good wipe down! Now, on to the engine.
I think I kind of know what a distributor cap does, maybe. I removed 6 of the 8 spark plugs, no problem. The two remaining plugs are naturally, the hardest ones to get to and all the removed plugs have green corrosion on them, which is a sign that I have a coolant leak? Anyway, both spark plugs are so rusted that they snap off their threading inside of the engine block. I swore so earnestly, I swear I could have made a sailor blush! Now, I don't know if this was the right thing to do or if I could have gone about it in a different way, but I sprayed the inside of the block with some WB40 or white lithium, let it sit while I headed to a Blue Box store to look at my options for extraction tools.
After several hours and ~$6, I came up with a contraption of three sockets, a ratchet and a torque screw bit and began extracting the spark plug casings. MacGuyver would have been proud, I certainly was! It worked and I fingered tightened the new spark plugs in and attached the new spark plug wires. Feeling extremely accomplished, I turned the key in the ignition...
Wah wah wah wah wah eeehhhhhnnnnnn.... nada
No clicking, no turning over. The crankshaft spun a little, but the starter wasn't making it. Then I saw the voltmeter plummet when every time I tried to start her up. I attached jumpers and connected my friends BMW 328 to the bus and tried to jump. No dice. Thinking back, I wonder about polarity issues... Either the car didn't have the power or the battery is toast?
It is likely that I drained the battery using the lights while working on the bus. It is also likely that my problems have only just begun. I had to winter the bus with friends for the past six months and return to Maine. Soon, I hope to make my way back to her and get her running and bring my baby home.
I know that this is not a lot to go on, but I am praying that someone out there may have some advice or ideas to consider that might help. A new battery and a charger (any suggestions on a good charger, I have a marine/rv deep cycle cranking combo battery from Duracell, the kind that battery and light bulb stores have) are on my shopping list for when I get down there. Before I started working on her, she started just fine, fine enough for the engine knocking from the cylinders to be heard indoors. The headlights and interior lights work after trying to jump, but the voltmeter doesn't quite read 12 volts, let alone 13.7 that I believe the starter needs. I really feel like the starter needs more power, but I may be wrong and it may be fuel/combustion related. Hopefully, I have included the necessary clues for someone to throw their two cents in. Also, if I have made any mistakes or bad assumptions, whatever, please call me out; I came here to learn, not be a pretentious, incorrect braggart.
Maybe this is an unimportant side note, but the temperature gauge never registered anything; it could be anything between a faulty gauge to the thermistor (thermostat, thermometer?) not being connected. I don't know and I haven't had a chance to find out. I mention this because I don't know if I overheated the engine at some point. Could my cylinders misfire from overheating causing seal failure, a blown gasket somewhere. Maybe the evidence of coolant on the spark plugs, if that is what that was, is a clue. I really am noob with all of this stuff, so anything that anyone would like to throw out there for me, it is much appreciated. You may speak to me about mechanics as though you were explaining it to a child, I will not be offended
Sorry for the long post about amateur stuff.