Sunday, July 19, 2009

Getting kicked at Route 66

Before anyone gets too concerned, I have an update on our situation here at the Route 66 Casino.

First, the good news -- this is not a dry reservation, so we were able to have wine with our dinner. We ate at the Main Street restaurant, the table-service full-menu restaurant in the main casino, where we each got an enormous carne asada burrito, complete with soup and salad bar, for $8.50 on chef's special. We spent more on the wine than we did on food. Later in the evening, we strolled over to the (much closer to where we're parked) 24-hour RoadRunner Diner at the truck plaza for dessert, having just missed the Dairy Queen, also in the truck plaza, by ten minutes.

The bad news, at least at the moment, is that it is so hot here we are having touble keeping the generator running. Today I took the cover off the radiator compartment to see if it was caked with dirt, but it was not. Running with the cover off seems to be helping; we are going to need to have the cooling system looked at when we get a chance. Fortunately, we have enough battery to keep one of the air conditioners running even when the genny quits.

On the engine front, I started tearing into the turbo this morning, having spent nearly an hour last night just getting the hatch open (the 3M firestop caulk I used to seal it last time had it glued in pretty good). I had just wrestled the exhaust blankets off the turbo (showing evidence of gas leakage -- soot -- around the inside edge, as well as a spot of fresh oil), had soaked the exhaust flange studs in WD-40, and was loosening the intake duct to check the impeller, when Louise, on her way to the laundromat here, spotted a "mobile mechanic" truck in the parking lot.

We called the number on the truck, and Jim the mobile truck repair guy agreed to come over and have a look. I took it as a good sign that, when I told him it was an 8V92, he said "oh, you must be in a bus." Since he was already here, he agreed to work for just his hourly rate of $75, without the mileage charge. Pretty, good, I thought, for a Sunday morning.

Jim had two things that I did not:
  • 30+ years of experience working on diesels full-time as a mechanic.
  • A whizzy cordless 1/2" impact wrench.
We chatted for a few moments, and he picked up basically right where I left off. The good news was that the impeller looked to be in good shape; so much so that, at first, Jim thought the turbo was fine (for just a heart-stopping moment). A few seconds later, though, he realized he could wiggle the impeller in the housing, and he predicted that the shaft was broken in two. Whew... that meant it was very likely a bad turbo and nothing else.

He had the turbo out in less than half an hour. I figured it would have taken me two hours to do the same work, between going very slowly and methodically because I've not done it before, and having to work the bolts loose in cramped quarters with just hand tools. As it was, two of the exhaust flange studs came clean out, nut and all (the nuts came off the other two as normal).

Sure enough, he was spot-on about the problem. The turbine/impeller shaft was broken in two, and the exhaust turbine was seized in the housing. This accounts for all the symptoms: high exhaust back-pressure preventing the blower from completely clearing the cylinders, unburned fuel likely continuing to burn inside the exhaust system, and oil flowing past the bearings and into both the intake and exhaust systems.

Careful inspection of the impeller (compressor wheel) showed no significant damage, and so we agreed that it was unlikely any debris was sent into the blower. He was willing to hunt around to find a turbo today, but we also agreed that I would have to pay a considerable premium to get one on a Sunday.

Later today I will get all the numbers I can find off the turbo (it's outside now, and just too bloody hot here in the sun -- I'll do it after sundown), and tomorrow morning I will start calling around. I can load the turbo on my scooter and run it into Albuquerque for an exchange.

I'm pretty sure I can get the turbo back into place on my own, but I may well call Jim back, just to have a higher confidence that it's been done right. We were very fortunate to luck into someone with plenty of Detroit 2-stroke experience. In addition to his rate, the round trip mileage charge will be an additional $60. At least he is willing to come back and put in parts that I supply -- if he supplied them, there would be a 30% mark-up.

So that's the status. All things considered, not too bad. With any luck, we will have a turbocharger by Tuesday at the latest, and be back on the road. Tonight, we will give the casino buffet a try.


  1. Sean, for us folks that know absolutely nothing about these things, is this hatch in your bedroom, and do you have to move the bed every time you need access the top of the engine?
    Does this necessitate putting it all back to go to bed at night, and then gathering it all up again in the morning?
    If this is the case, a few days of this would become old in a hurry!
    Since everything is sooty and oily below the hatch, is it a problem not to drag all of that up into the coach?

  2. Hi, Rod. Since I'm the one who cares the most about the cleanliness of Odyssey, I'll answer this one.

    The turbo hatch is behind the bed and sort of under the built-in chest of drawers. Accessing it requires removing one drawer completely. That drawer is now sitting in the living room until the project is finished. It is a little in the way, but not too bad, blocking access to about 1/3 of the sofa.

    Here's a photo of the hatch area:

    The plain plywood is the hatch cover. Sean has removed the wood-grained vinyl floor covering and the space above it is where the drawer was removed. The dark gray mat is where we walk behind the bed. The white area on the right is the top of the mattress, and I've put clear plastic over the bed to keep greasy mechanic's fingerprints off. I've also pulled back the bedspread, because that is harder to wash than the sheets should something get past the plastic.

    The plywood cover is just resting over the hole right now, which is fine to keep dirt out and cats in. To continue working, Sean will just pull off the plywood on Monday morning. In the meantime, the bedroom is completely usable.

    There is another hatch underneath the bed that provides access to the transmission. The underbed storage was designed to be u-shaped so we could get to that more easily.

    To get to that one, we pull out the dog house stored in the crook of the "U," peel back the vinyl flooring, lift the bed on its hinges, and unscrew the hatch. It is actually less work than removing the drawer, but requires lifting and lowering the bed each day. Also, the dog gets confused when her house is removed and she keeps trying to go "home."

    As for all the grease and dirt that comes up through either hatch, we encourage those with dirty hands not to touch anything. Since we no longer have any carpet, the only things I'm worried about getting dirty are fabric items like the couch and the towels in the bathroom. It's easy enough to move the towels out of the way and the mechanics are nervous enough about being in our home that they generally don't plop down on the couch. Everything else is easy to clean: vinyl flooring, granite countertops, even the ceiling is easy-wipe marine vinyl. Lysol disinfecting wipes really cut the grease.

  3. I can't believe this is fun for you guys any more. I marvel at your ability to deal with and rebound from these seemingly constant mechanical problems with the beast. Odyssey is indeed unique and impressive . . . when running, but it seems like you're spending half your time fixing it. Since yours is the #1 blog on my daily read list, I'm hoping you don't get discouraged and ramp up those trawler fantasies. :) Keep on, er, bussin! Jon

  4. Seems to me that things go wrong in a "stick home" too, and most of us never get tired of living in a house. Things that get used break from time to time, and it's just a matter of fixing them. If the dishwasher in your home breaks down on Friday you are inconvenienced over the weekend, but someone comes and fixes it on Monday. Sean and Louise seem to be able to "roll with the punches" when their home on wheels breaks.

  5. Thank you for the lengthy and concise explanation. If we ever get a motorhome, one of the things we fear is the access to the engine thru the bedroom. Large and dirty parts like the turbo have a way of leaving a trail. Carpet would be the most likely item to show the activity. Since you have removed most of it, your clean up should be easier.
    Best wishes on a speedy repair, and return to travel. Like most things mechanical, you can usually repair them with that handy tool.....Your check book!

  6. Wow! I'm pleased to hear that it appears that the repair will be straightforward.

    If you get a chance, I'd appreciate any comments you might have on this failure. Is it common? In retrospect, what were the warning signs?


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