Friday, November 11, 2011
Posted by Sean
We are still at the Dog River Marina in Mobile, Alabama. The yard is very generously allowing us to stay a few days at no charge, and they have even provided us with a 20-amp power outlet. No doubt the folks we are here to visit will have a fairly hefty yard bill, though, and I am sure the yard sees it as a good will gesture. For sure we will remember it, and Dog River will be on our list for whenever we need yard work.
I am happy to report that the power steering is fixed and we are again ready to roll. That said, we've decided to stay and visit at least another day -- we have a spectacular view, a power outlet, and good company, and no particular schedule or destination in mind anyway.
The power steering problem turned out to be a missed diagnosis on my part. There is some very obvious damage to the hard pipe I mentioned in the last post, and the pipe was covered in steering fluid. No damage was visible elsewhere, and I made what seemed like the obvious connection. Once I had a clear direction on how I was going to proceed, to wit, clamping a patch over the hole until we could get to a shop at the north end of town, I decided to double-check the diagnosis before going any further, by filling the system and applying some pressure.
I put two gallons of ATF in the steering reservoir and sent Louise to the driver's seat with a radio while I got under the hatch. We did not even need to start the engine, though, as just having fluid in the system was enough for it to start leaking. A bit to my surprise, the fluid was coming out from an entirely different spot -- the underside of the high pressure supply hose.
Admittedly, a rupture in the high pressure side of the system made much more sense to me than a break in the return line. There was a loud bang when the steering went, I lost all steering assist immediately, and almost all the fluid came out in a matter of seconds. Combined with the fact that I was cranking the wheel hard at the time, it all adds up to a high-side rupture.
The good news here is that this rupture was in a braided hose, something that can merely be replaced, as opposed to the damage to the hard pipe, which would need to be somehow repaired in place. Unfortunately, without being over a pit, getting the hose out was a real challenge. It took me the better part of an hour, but I was able to get the pump side off and the P-clamps undone from under the hatch, and by airing up the rear suspension and then blocking the frame, I had just enough room to skinny under the tag axle and disconnect the coach end of the hose.
We pulled out my scooter, and two hose shops and $63 later I had a replacement hose in hand. The original was braided stainless, but the Parker guy talked me out of replacing it with the same thing and instead sold me their 4000psi, high-temperature DOT-rated hose, which looks to have some kind of synthetic braid. Parker also had a 22mm high-pressure, bite-ring pipe union for $25, and I bought that as well in the event the return pipe finally lets go and I need to cut the damaged section out.
Getting the new hose in was even more of a struggle than getting the old one out, as I had to reach further up above the axle. But after another hour or so I had the system hooked back up and refilled, and we tested it. Everything works perfectly, and the groove in the return pipe, as bad as it looks, apparently does not go all the way through and is not leaking. I put a silicone hose around the pipe to protect it from further damage, and I have the pipe coupling in my kit as a remedy should it finally fail.
It was the end of the day by the time I had the floor back together and was finally able to climb in the shower and get the grease out of my hair. Louise whipped up some dinner from whatever we had lying around in the kitchen, as it was really too cold to want to ride anyplace decent from here. And today I returned the unused highfalutin hose clamp to the on-site West Marine here. We were sitting round discussing just where we were going to head, now that we are mobile, when the phone rang with a call from Vicki at the other end of the marina.
They invited us to go see a movie this afternoon, as they are renting a car for the weekend. And she passed along that she had run into the yard owner who explicitly invited us to stay longer if we wanted to. So that obviated the need to nail down our plans right at this very moment, which means we still don't know which direction we will head from here. There are still a couple of boats we might look at in Stuart, so that remains a possibility, or we may head west where parking is free and easy and the snowbirds are more laid back.
Photo by Siddharth Menon, used under a Creative Commons license.