Herbie was making weird noises (we called it “making popcorn”) and was continuously loosing power for the last weeks. Therefore we stopped by Justin Stephens’ “Beetle Barn” in Las Vegas (an outstanding shop for air-cooled VWs, recommended by our friend Wayne De Mello), while we were on our way to Laughlin, further South at the Colorado river.
Justin figured out the problem almost immediately. He diagnosed that the cylinder heads got loosen, which effected the valves by getting out of tune. He suggested to tighten the lower bolts and to adjust the valves afterwards. When we torqued down the heads, one of the studs didn’t hold up and ripped out. We thought that it would work out for a while because there are still seven other studs which would hold the head to the core.
We started the engine and Herbie seemed to run perfect again. Therefore we took off and hit the road towards Laughlin. While we were driving on the highway in the middle of desert, we noticed loosing power again and blamed the gusty head wind for it. But after a while those weird noises came back. And suddenly the oil pressure pilot lamp went on. We turned off the engine instantly and stopped on the emergency lane. Domi checked the motor oil level and indeed, there was no oil left. At that moment we knew, something went terribly wrong and the cylinder head was coming apart. Consequently we had to decide if we should continue to drive to Laughlin or if we should head back to Vegas. But as we were already closer to Laughlin and afraid not having enough oil to refill, we decided to continue to Laughlin.
We finally reached Laughlin after moving slowly and stopping several times in order to check the oil level as we were losing one quart (~ one liter) of oil per 15 miles.
After checking in at our hotel, we contacted Justin if he could help us to repair the loosen engine stud(s) if we would make it back to Vegas. He declared his support. Thank you, Justin!
But there is still one huge obstacle left: Driving Herbie 99 miles (160 kilometers) all the way back to Las Vegas with a loosen cylinder head and spilling oil by the liter.