Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Thanks, everyone, for the sympathies

I can not tell you all how much it meant to us to hear from so many people. In addition to all the comments here on the blog, there were another three dozen or so comments and messages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and of course, direct emails. It was very heartwarming.

It has been a difficult few days; living together in such a small space, there was really never a time when she was out of our sight, if not actually underfoot. So her absence is palpable at nearly every waking moment. Periodically one or the other of us will spontaneously burst into tears. We are very much still in the grieving phase and have not yet moved on to the inevitable healing.

I was able to keep myself very busy, which kept my mind off of it for the most part during most of the daytime. We are still parked in front of Star Equipment in North Las Vegas, and, with Ben gone to San Antonio for a seminar over the last couple days, I have been his proxy with the shop, and also helping Karen take care of business on their bus.

For anyone who has been following along with the saga of their generator, I will fill you in on the situation. While this particular problem is not with Odyssey, we have a very similar generator setup and it might just as easily have been us. The miscellaneous bus repair posts here have been enormously popular, some of our most-read, and so I am guessing that same set of folks would be interested in the outcome.

To refresh your memory, the generator had a variety of problems, many of which I was able to fix, but we could not stop it from overheating soon after startup. We traced the cause of the overheat to air in the system, and I could make the unit run by bleeding all the air out, but we could not find where it was getting in. A dark color to what ought to have been bright green coolant, though, gave me reason to suspect a leaking head gasket or a cracked head. Nevertheless, we had the cooling system checked and tested by a radiator shop, on the chance that the air was coming in elsewhere, and the off color to the coolant might be from using the wrong color to top off the system, or other contaminants.

After the radiator shop gave the system a clean bill of health, but the problem did not go away, we had to face the inevitable and we brought it here to Star Equipment to have the compression checked and/or the head pulled. We found coolant in the #2 cylinder as soon as the injectors were out, so no need to check the compression, and they went straight to pulling the head.

Sure enough, there was a pool of coolant sitting atop the #2 piston, but the other three cylinders were, thankfully, dry. The bad news, though, was that the head gasket, which would have been the least expensive problem, was intact. That meant a crack in the head or, worse, the block.

With the head up on the bench the crack was easy to spot, running between the injector port and the exhaust valve. It was just before 11am when we got the final diagnosis, and in another twenty minutes or so, Kevin the technician reported that he thought the block was good, albeit with a fairly rough surface on the #2 cylinder wall. He figured it might use a bit more oil but that the motor was serviceable if we replaced the head.

And thus I was off, along with BJ-the-parts-guy, to try to find a head. Now the Kubota V2203 is a very common engine -- it's used in Bobcats, semi-trailer refrigeration units, pumps, tractors, and a variety of other equipment, so finding parts should be fairly easy. Unfortunately, we could not find any heads in the Las Vegas area. I was certain there'd be a used takeoff from a reefer unit somewhere, but no luck.

By the end of the day we had identified three vendors around the country who could supply either a remanufactured head, complete with valves, or an aftermarket head either complete or bare. None was cheap, and to have it here by tomorrow will be another couple hundred. But we've got to leave Las Vegas by the end of tomorrow, and Ben and Karen will also be leaving for two weeks on Thursday, so it was either expedite the shipping, or wait two more weeks with the unit torn apart.

Ben and I had a quick meeting after he arrived back home last night, and he decided to bite the bullet and expedite a fully remanufactured Kubota head from North Dakota. The head should be here tomorrow morning, and they should have the whole thing back together by close of business. That may still be early enough for us to make our planned overnight stop in Pahrump.

Today I have agreed to help Ben put some new house batteries in the bus. To that end, we will leave shortly for Main Street Station Casino, downtown, which has an "RV park" (really just a parking lot with pedestals) that has 50-amp power for $17 per night. That will give them some power while we have the batteries out, and we'll be able to take advantage of the sewer hookup to rid ourselves of over 1,000 pounds of waste before climbing the big hills west of town.


  1. Sean -

    Yes, thanks for the detail in your posts that share the real side of RV life!

    Wow: That cylinder looks pretty gooey. I'm impressed that it didn't result in hydro-lock damage to the engine.

    I'm curious: Given that the engine is already largely apart, does it make sense to rebuild the rest engine and hone the cylinders? Note that I don't have experience with diesel engine internals...

  2. Not to hijack the thread from a bus one, but I understand your reaction to Opal's loss.

    When my mother lost the dog she had for close to 15 years she commented that she had spent more time with it than any of her children. Children grow up, go to school, hang out with friends, and become independent. Dogs are want to always be with you, and are dependent on you, but are never ungrateful. So in some ways it is harder than loosing a child.


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