Well, from where we left off, there were several hours of bleeding the brake system with a Harbor Freight pneumatic brake bleeder. This is a gadget that you hook to an air compressor and when you pull the trigger and air blows through it, it creates suction in a collection bottle with a hose attached that you connect to the brakes. This sucks the air out of the brake system. In Theory. It actually works that way about half the time, but somehow I kept managing to get air pressure blowing INTO the brake system. This is a bad thing (tm). Hydraulic brake systems are not supposed to have ANY air in them because the air will compress rather than having the hydraulic fluid move the wheel cylinders causing the brakes to work. As the end of the day was approaching, I calmed myself down and put away my tools and toys and cleaned myself up as best I could. I realized that in general the vacuum bleeder worked at first, but as the air pressure dropped it seemed to have more of a chance of blowing air into the system. I thought about this as I went to the el-cheapo hotel and cleaned up more, and decided that in the morning I would only have the thing attached to the brakes while the air pressure was at it's highest. Great idea, but wrong. The thing still blew air into the brakes. This is Friday now, and I have to get the brakes working before I am willing to order the $2,750 worth of tires. If I don't order the tires on Friday, they will not be installed Saturday, but on Monday. I have to be back in the Bay area on Monday. I am beginning to feel the pressure and decide to invent my own tool. I go to Harbor freight and buy a vacuum pump. These are sold for working on air conditioning, but will serve my needs also. I rig up an air-hose connection to the vacuum pump and block off the air-exhaust of the brake bleeder gadget, and viola! I have a brake bleeder that provides constant vacuum - no blowing air this time !
I work through the booster and then each of the 4 wheel brakes. They keep providing air as well as brake fluid. I go through about 2 1/2 quarts of brake fluid. I call Jeff at the brake shop and he gives me some advice and encouragement. I keep plugging away. Finally, about 6 PM I am getting a bit of pedal, particularly if I pump the brakes. I call Jeff again and he offers to come out Saturday morning.
Saturday morning, I decide not to mess with the brakes too much before Jeff arrives, and I spent some time spiffying up the dash / driver area, playing with the lights and turn signals etc. There is plenty of opportunity to learn about electricity in this rig, cause lots of things don't quite work. Most disturbing is that with the left turn signal on (and the lights actually blinking) there is no electricity on any of the trailer light connector plug pins. This is bad cause U-Haul is known to actually care about trailer lights working properly. Without the U-Haul tow dolly, I won't be able to get my car home.
Jeff shows up and we start messing with the brakes. His expert eye finds several small leaks, all due to my being a little too shy about tightening things too tight. We get the brakes to the point of actually holding pressure and it comes time to test! We move the chocks a few feet in front of and behind the wheels, start the bus and..... put it in gear! MOTION! and... BRAKES! the brakes actually stop the feeble 2 mph motion of the rig. We pull the chocks completely away and discuss a route I will take that avoids tight turns and minimizes potential collisions. I take the rig out of it's parking stall for the first time in 10 years and drive around a couple hundred yard ciricle. I step on the brakes several times, stopping the bus and re-starting. The idle settles down to the 550 or so that it belongs at and the transmission seems to shift.
We stop the bus and park and check the wheels. It seems like one is actually working, one is not and two others maybe sorta. The brake drums should all be about equally warm if the brakes are all working the same.
At this point several things are running through my mind.
1. IT RUNS! ! ! IT DRIVES ! ! ! YIPPIE let's head for home! oh wait - need tires. hmmmm
2. Brakes are not working RIGHT.
3. We discovered that the power steering hoses are leaking, and the power steering belt is shot.
4. The lights don't work right
5. Can't get tires till Monday and I have to be at WORK monday, not playing with an antique bus.
2&3 are real show stoppers. Where I work, we take safety very seriously. It seems to have seeped into my hard skull somehow over the last 30 years. The risk of running over some minivan full of kids is not worth attempting to drive this thing on any public street, much less a highway. #4&5 could maybe be mitigated, but only worth doing if 2&3 are completely resolved. Not gonna happen on the apron of El Toro Marine Air base without jacks, stands and appropriate tools.
Jeff had been getting more and more interested in the bus as we worked on it. I was happy to let him take over the project - he has all the required skills (more than I do in any case) and I knew the bus would have a good home. I spoke with Jeff today (Tuesday 2 days later) and the rig is now at his house. One of the wheels (most likely) has leaked all of the brake fluid out - so #2 above was a much bigger issue than I had anticipated. It would have been very unsafe to drive the rig for any distance. If Jeff decides he does not want to keep the rig, he will contact me and give me the opportunity to take it back, which I appreciate. Somehow, this thing has gotten under my skin.