Operation IDIocracy: Oil Return and Bilge Pump

So one of the final big integration jobs to finish before I can go take Snekvan on a joyride is the oil return system coming from the two turbos. This is a more complex system than the usual setup of one turbo mounted up high near the exhaust manifold, because these both sit well below the engine oil sump level. They therefore can’t just gravity drain with a simple tube or riser/pedestal.

Instead, I picked up a small self-priming solenoid pump and will have it sucking on the oil drain ports of the turbos, returning the oil up to the engine somewhere. Before I get there, though, I had to route the oil lines themselves.

In that “So What Now!?” post you can see some of the parts I sampled off the finest discarded leftovers from eBay Motorsports™ such as oil fittings and whatnot. I found that #4 AN fittings were the most common plug n’ play system for oil feed lines, and so I ordered a few different lengths of pre-made braided lines.

The jumping off point for oil pressure is this cross-drilled gallery plug on the lower left (driver’s) side of the engine, right in front of the transmission adapter plate. Now, Nick Pisca is a little critical of the Banks style turbo kits which use this location for the oil feed, but I think in my application having the feed line as low as possible will minimize the amount of oil that has to be gravitationally drained after shutdown.

Notice here that i used a three-way tee fitting, a 1/8″-NPT male to two #4AN. In retrospect, now that all this is over, I should have routed the right-hand side turbo’s oil feed not up and over the transmission (as it creates a long path that has to be cleared by the bilge pump after shutdown). However, in November of last year, I didn’t know this yet. Up and over the transmission instead of tucking this line under the bell housing made more sense.

I formulated what hoses and fittings I needed for the return lines and ordered them from Amazon, the universal provider of almost any strange tube/hose fitting you can imagine.

Here’s the gist of the setup for doing the oil return. From right side to left side:

  • The #10 AN right-angle swivel couplers with 3/8″ barb fittings will attach to the outlet fitting on the turbo center cartridge
  • The lines will join at the tee joint made of 3/8″ barb fittings
  • They’ll go to the inlet of the Facet clickypump
  • The outlet of the Facet clicky pump is a long hose that goes up and over the engine and into the timing gear screw cover on the front.
  • A modified bulkhead barb fitting will be drilled and mounted into said timing gear screw cover.

I had to generate a Bracketry to mount the Facet bilge pump so the rest of the hose lengths could be determined. This was to mount by the transmission at one of several convenient bolt hole locations offered by the shift linkage mounting bracket.

Probably the nicest Bracketry I’ve ever made by hand, honestly. It juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust about looks manufactured. I finished all the edges with a bit of belt sanding and then used a hand orbital sander to stir up the flat faces, giving them a bit of a abrasive-tumbled finish. All for nothing, of course, as this thing will just sit below everything else getting shat on by weather and van droppings.

This is the mounting location. Awfully close to the shift linkage, right!? This is shown in the farthest travel (1st manual gear). Remember, every part of a Ford Econoline is located no more than 1/4″ away from every other part. Literally my design guideline for making the Bracketry.

Experienced low-mount/remote mount turbo installers will instantly see the problem with my setup here. I mean, beyond the Teflon hose I bought. I really began hating this hose – what’s called “Flexible” in industrial land is probably not very flexible at all in the common sense. It might be flexible enough to bend around inside a giant machine.

The unreinforced Teflon hose also kinked and crimped if I looked at it. You can see that I’m trying to use a heat gun to soften it so I could actually make it turn and align with the fittings. This ended up being kind of a wash, and I decided that crinkled tubing was still fine for carrying fluids.

Up front, I’ve removed the timing gear screw cover and will drill a large hole in it for attaching the panel-mount hose barb fitting, which…

…has to have one side cut off and shaved down so it won’t hit the bolts spinning next to it.

The hex part was trimmed down to 3mm thick and then countersunk just a little – first to take the edge off, then I accidentally went too deep with the countersink and decided that maybe the oil could use a little more space.

The return fitting installed onto the timing gear screw cover.

Here’s what it looks like sticking out once installed.

The terrible Teflon hose just didn’t want to make the bend at all. Well, it is what it is.

A final step before firing everything up was to run power to the bilge pump. I grounded the pump locally on the Bracketry for the time being.

Power to the bilge pump was derived from the fuel filter heater element, which is commonly bypassed or deleted by modders. In Vantruck’s integration, similar to Spool Bus, this filter head will not be present at all. This heater is constantly on if the vehicle key switch is in the Run position, so it’s fine to use as the power source.

Except… well, Snekvan’s ignition switch was long broken off inside. So I just wired it to a random on/off switch instead.

Here’s a better look at the routing of that oil return hose, also showing the CDR Turnaround Bracket. Nothing’s hooked up otherwise at all: no exhaust path, no intake/charge hose, and no CDR hose. This first light-off is just going to test the viability of the oil feed and return.

And what a massive cloud of shame it made. Again, if you’ve installled remote/low mount turbos, you know exactly what happened.

The translucent Teflon hose was at least useful to confirm that, under steady-state operation, the oil was indeed flowing and being expelled by the bilge pump and returned to the top side of the engine. But I had to get rid of it right away. Besides just failing at everything and requiring a heat gun to form and get over the fitting barbs, it simply began cracking around those fittings too.

The revision used fuel hose and a more compact routing, including a relocation of the bilge pump. Why?

Well, it’s that “If you’ve done this before, you probably see what I fucked up” allusion: The initial pump placement was higher than the turbo bearings. As a result, when I shut everything off, a static head of oil above the bearing level was still present. This slowly seeped out of the bearings and into the exhaust turbine, making the massive clouds of white oil vape whenever it next ran.

The fix is placing the bilge pump lower than the turbo bearings, ideally the lowest possible point. There’s not much lower I can really go, so I might investigate later on using two of these small clickypumps together – besides for redundancy matters, it would allow me to have a much shorter flow path between the return fittings and the pump.

I also gave some thought here into figuring out a lower profile drain fitting. The #10 AN flange mount and right angle adapter were convenient, but added like 2+ inches of drop to the oil drain. I want to run a smaller tube fitting size here so the clickypump has more suction leverage on the oil in general.

But that’s for another day. At this point, I had a van with two whistles attached to it. I still needed to figure out a charge air routing solution and exhaust solution.