Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Repairs in Farmington

Quick update tonight -- we have a very early morning tomorrow. We are at the Wal-Mart in Farmington, NM (map).

Let me start by saying that when we were in Salt Lake, I had planned out a route that would take us in to Santa Fe, staying in the higher elevations to keep cool, yet moving us ever closer to I-40 in the event we get called to a disaster by the Red Cross. However, we've had an oil leak for the last few weeks that has been getting progressively worse, leaving perhaps a teaspoon of oil every place we park. Additionally, I have been feeling like we are lower on power, making more black smoke, and running hotter than normal on the grades, all symptoms we have seen before, and they've never led to anything good.

We remembered that the last low-power, black-smoke, high-temperature incident got resolved at Stewart & Stevenson in Albuquerque, and, though it meant staying in hotter weather at relatively lower elevations, we have been making our way to Albuquerque instead of Santa Fe. That also keeps us off some of the really big Rocky Mountain grades until we have this figured out.

When we left Sleeping Ute RV Park this morning, we had our sights set on a nice boondocking spot we remembered from our last trek through the New Mexico badlands, at a high enough elevation to escape some of the heat. The route brought us south out of Colorado and the Ute reservation on US-491 (formerly 666), making a left at Shiprock in the Navajo Nation onto US-64, which brought us here to Farmington. We intended to continue east to Bloomfield, where we would have turned south onto familiar US-550.

When we arrived here in Farmington, signs directed trucks off US-64 onto a bypass, which we elected to take, and no sooner had we turned then we saw a familiar sign -- Stewart & Stevenson. I had forgotten they had a Farmington branch, but we remembered that Albuquerque was incredibly busy (they had first refused to see us any sooner than a week the last time we were there, and we had to pull strings to get in) and rather impersonal -- this much smaller branch looked more inviting, and so we pulled in.

After explaining the situation to the lead mechanic, they were able to pull us right in to a bay. I pointed out some soot that I had been noticing on the exhaust blankets, and it did not take them long to track down an exhaust leak between the manifold and the turbo -- this would certainly account for low power, black smoke, and higher temperatures. An hour and one clamp later, that was taken care of. The oil leak was another matter.

As I feared, it was coming from someplace above the right front of the engine, which is where the air compressor and power steering pump live. To access those, I had to open the hatch under the bed. Once in there, they determined that oil was seeping out around a shared gasket for those two items. A discussion ensued about possibly replacing the air compressor with a rebuilt, as long as we had to pull it to change the gasket, and we will make a decision on this tomorrow.

Unfortunately, we also discovered that some of what we are leaking, actually more so than engine oil, is transmission fluid. To track that down, we will have to be up on the lifts, and we ran out of day (seeing as we rolled in close to 3:00 to begin with).

So tomorrow we are due back at the shop, just a quarter mile from here, at 0700, whereupon we will go up on the lifts to have a look at the tranny, as well as draining the wet tank to see if there is any oil blowing in there from the compressor. I'm figuring to be there all day, and we'll be there again Thursday if we decide to replace the compressor, or if parts are needed for the transmission.

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