Fix Or Repair Daily

If you had to break down where would you choose to break down?  Perhaps near an inexpensive well stocked city with cheap pull through sites.  Our rig broke down just after climbing a mountain in Lame Deer, MT.  Deep in the heart of what appeared to be Native American sovereign lands.  You had to drive 60-100 miles in any direction in order to get cell phone service.

This all started many hours before the actual breakdown.  About 1 hour into our trip I felt like the rig was slow.  I had to depress the throttle much more than I thought I normally had to and it was to the point where that I actually even pulled over and checked that our tow vehicle was properly setup and not dragging us.  For the rest of the way the power would come and go.  Sometimes it felt like we were dog slow and other times it felt normal and fully powered.   It may have actually started well before this because we've had a check engine light for about 400 miles for "HEGO lean Bank 1 Sensor 1".  This is actually rather telling but I ignored it because in our rig the single o2 sensor is only used in coasting (ours is an OBDI system) so I didn't put two and two together.

The engine basically died after cresting a mountain.   It was stumbling around and you could get some power.   Me being the smart guy that I am stuck it in neutral and it promptly died completely.  Since it's an automatic trans, putting it back into gear did nothing and we were completely dead.   Power steering and braking was gone and we were flying down a mountain going faster and faster.   In all my past vehicles as a teenager I would do experiments under controlled conditions to see how the vehicle was without power steering or brakes but I never thought to try this with the motorhome.  I'm happy to say that it was controllable but BARELY.   Steering effort is huge and I had to stand on the brakes to get normal stopping power.   We eventually came to a stop in the area where you are supposed to take off your tire chains at the bottom of the mountain. 

I instinctively thought the problem was fuel pump so I had my darling crank the engine while I got out and under the rv and listened to the fuel pump.  Indeed it was making unhealthy noises.  The ignition module on the distributor can go on these but there is no stumbling involved when that happens, it either is running or is toast.  We waited like half hour to 45 minutes and tried to run it.   It would run for 5 seconds or so and die.  I figured the situation was hopeless so we went through the ritual of unhooking the tow vehicle and went into Lame Deer to a gas station and used their phone to call Good Sam roadside assistance.  When I asked to use a pay phone, the nearly toothless 20ish year old female attendant simply pointed at a pay phone behind me.  For the next agonizing hour random Native Americans came into the store giving me varied looks that made me seriously ponder what was going through their heads.  While on hold I stared impatiently at the papers hung on the wall detailing individuals banned from the store marvelling at the names on there like "Maria Littlefoot" and "Greg Strongbuffalo".  Even after this agonizing hour was up Good Sam still hadn't located even one person to tow me and couldn't guarantee anyone was coming, leaving me considering switching ERS providers.  We left and drove back to our motorhome.  Of course the motorhome generator died while we were gone but our pets were still alive and it barely heated up much at all inside.  I spent the next half hour fixing the generator which involved cleaning the carbon off the plugs and then adjusting the altitude setting properly and then went inside and tried to start the rv.

To my surprise it actually ran.  I spent the next 15 minutes backing up and pulling forward in the pullover lane like weirdos trying to kill it again and it wouldn't die so we made the decision to push on towards Billings.  At the first sign of civilization (and cell phone service) we called Good Sam to cancel and were surprised to find an rv park that actually answered their phone.  So here we are to stay. 

We've had an unblemished record of colossal screwups by "professional service facilities" repairing our rv (including body damage from backing into random objects) so after pondering the situation, reading forum posts, and hanging out under the rv in my "garage clothes" I decided I can do the job.  Our RV park host graciously agreed to let us do the work on site and even offered a site that accomodated the drop to the rear that makes dropping the tank easier.   So we have a fuel pump on order and will be going to Billings to pick up a Harbor Freight racing jack which will help us lower the tank. 

The tank is huge, nearly as long as I am tall, holding 75 gallons of gas.  The replacement process involves actually crawling up onto the tank to do the repair.

Crossing my fingers I succeed.