Saturday, January 5, 2008

Hunkering down

We are once again at the Jubitz truck stop, although in a different stall (map). Tomorrow we will move, but not far -- a major storm is moving through the entire west coast, and major routes in every direction are closed or inadvisable. Besides which, we may need to pull the inverter for service, and there is a shop here in town that can do the work (more on this in a moment), which would keep us here through at least Monday.

This morning we rolled into Ed Hardy Diesel at 9am for our scheduled oil change, and maybe to have them change the thermostats. What should have been a routine service quickly degenerated, as the magnet on the oil pan drain plug had a fairly large metal chip clinging to it when it was removed. That prompted us to cut open the oil filter for a look, and it had plenty of debris as well as more metal in it -- not good, especially considering the filter has only been on there for about 700 miles.

Given the amount of metal we found, I had them drop the pan to look at the bearings. The mains were badly scored:

(actually amazingly so for only having 10,000 miles on them) and we made the decision to bite the bullet and change out all the bearings, instantly transforming our $200 oil change into a $1,000 bearing job (as with all photos here on the blog, click for a full size view -- this shot is most of the old bearing set after removal):

In for a penny, in for a pound, so I also told them to go ahead and pull a couple of airbox covers to have a look at the cylinders, and change the thermostats as long as all the coolant was out of the engine anyway (the lower coolant crossover had to come off to pull the pan).

Removal of the pan and bearings and cleaning everything out revealed the fate of the missing fiber drive disk for the steering pump -- it disintegrated, and we found a number of large chunks:

While these may look for all the world like lumps of coal, they are actually oil-saturated bits of the missing disk, and you can even make out some outlines of the "notches" that the dogs on the steering pump drive fit into. We surmised that a good deal of the debris trapped in the filter media was actually more finely ground bits of the disk. Bits of disk might also have been the culprit in some of the bearing wear, although running the oil as thin as we did was probably a major contributor as well.

The good news was that the airbox inspection revealed the cylinders to be in good shape, and the crank also did not seem to suffer any damage. Today's bearing change-out should keep things that way.

During the morning pandemonium as we were discovering the extent of the issues, local bus aficionado (and former bus company operator) Mark Renner dropped by for a visit, and he took us to breakfast (at, where else, Jubitz). We were just going to have a morning chat over coffee, but when it became clear that Odyssey would be in the shop for the whole day, we piled into Mark's truck and rode out to Washougal to have a look at his Eagle, which was having hydronic problems that he thought I might be able to help with. I'm not sure how much help I was, but we did find a 12-volt relay that should have been 24-volt, a bad diode (40-volt rated, but passing 26 volts in the reverse direction), and, apparently, a circulating pump that wasn't. I think the pump was his big problem, but the other two items would have become issues once the pump gets fixed.

Mark was instrumental in diagnosing the steering pump problem originally, possibly saving us from more catastrophic damage, and he also steered us (pardon the pun) to Raz Transportation for the pump replacement. I was glad I could return the favor.

On the way back to Hardy Diesel, we stopped at local heavy-duty electric retailer ASE Supply to pick up a 24-volt relay (they did not have diodes -- we had to make a separate stop at Radio Shack for that). While there we discovered that they service Xantrex inverters there on-site, a fact which may come in handy shortly.

Mark dropped us back at the shop, who finally wrapped up sometime around 8pm. By which time it was too late to do much else other than drive back here to Jubitz and enjoy another meal in their restaurant -- our third in two days. Actually, Louise bailed out of the shop a couple hours early to avail herself of Jubitz' extremely tidy and convenient laundry room, with large and modern machines. I rolled in stag and snagged the very last "ShorePower" space in the lot.

Which brings me back around to that pesky inverter problem. As Louise mentioned here Wednesday, the remote panel "pooped out." More specifically, the LCD readout that displays the menus, settings, and information is kaput, while the buttons and individual LED indicators are still working normally. So this is what we now face when confronting the inverter:

The fact that the buttons still work normally is meaningless, because, without the LCD, you can't see what you are doing when you push them. So, for the moment, all this panel serves to do is tell us, via the indicator LEDs on the right, whether the inverter is inverting, shore power is connected, or the generator is running. Fortunately, the identical panel built into the inverter itself is working normally, so we can still access all the functions, but it does require crawling into the tunnel behind the driver's seat -- pretty inconvenient for checking the battery voltage, or starting the generator, or tweaking the shore power size.

My fervent hope that the problem was the remote panel itself and could be solved with a new remote was dashed when Infinity overnighted me a replacement and it showed exactly the same symptoms. Neither did it turn out to be the cable. Which leaves only the inverter itself as the problem, and so it looks like I will be spending Sunday ripping it out to bring it in for service. We'll try to find ourselves a spot with power hookups to tide us over, and I'll also swing by the hardware store to get some parts to hot-wire the input to the output while the inverter is out for service.

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