Sunday, October 17, 2010

The saga continues

No Parking Sign NYC Style

This seems to be our week/month/quarter for problems. Those tired of hearing me write about them should probably just skip the rest of this post, unless you really need to know where we've stayed the last couple of nights.

As I wrote in my last post, we did indeed depart the Charleston Elks Lodge on Friday afternoon, and headed towards Savannah. Somewhere about half an hour or so into our drive, the master Low Air warning came on, which is never good. A quick check of the two brake gauges revealed plenty of pressure in the brake system, and holding steady, so we did not panic, but we did begin looking for a place to pull over. Unfortunately, US-17 is narrow with no turn-outs, and between not wanting to use the brakes at all while hunting, and keeping an eye on the gauges, we managed to nurse it to a business parking lot somewhere near Seabrook, SC.

As soon as we slowed down to maneuvering speed, the low air light went out, the door tightened up, and the suspension, which had begun to sag after perhaps 15 minutes of driving this way started to firm back up. I attributed it to a governor problem, since clearly the compressor, once it was signaled to compress, was working fine. I was guessing the the brake applications for maneuvering were causing the governor to again call for air, though this seemed strange. We could find no leaks or problems in a walk-around, and with air pressure back up to normal, we continued on our way.

Shortly after reaching highway speed again, the master air alarm once again began ringing and we had the same situation as earlier, with good pressure in both brake systems, but air leaking down from the auxiliary system which runs the door and suspension. With the brakes holding rock steady near 100psi, we again continued on to find a safe place to stop. Once again when we slowed down, the compressor came back on and we very rapidly had full pressure in all systems.

Judging the situation to be an annoyance but not a safety issue, we continued to our first overnight possibility at Camping World in the Savannah suburb of Pooler, GA, stopping occasionally to let the auxiliary pressure build back up. The transient overnight spots at Camping World were all taken, offering as they do water and electric hookups, but when I asked in the store they told me we could use a spot normally reserved for deliveries, so we had a safe place to park and power to boot. While I was jockeying into the space, the low air alarm came on a few moments after every time I put it in reverse, also weird.

Once we got settled in we found that the inverter had tripped off, presumably from the poor electric air compressor desperately trying to compensate for the leakage in the main system. That was no real problem, but once we got the power back on we discovered that our satellite modem was dead, possibly due to whatever overload or surge tripped the inverter.

This proved to be a much bigger issue than the air leak, and I spent all night Friday and a good part of Saturday getting it working again. Rather than bore you with the details, those interested can read about resetting a DW7000 modem at this post I wrote on the DataStorm Users Forum. Being off-line and having my nose down in this work meant no post here, and I decided to defer it until this morning, when I knew we would be ahead of schedule and have plenty of relaxed time to write, or so I thought.

In any event on Friday evening we took the scooters out and rode the 9.5 miles into town for a nice dinner at the First City Club. We've been to Savannah several times in the past, and somehow we have never managed to eat at our reciprocal club here before. It turns out to be a very nice club on the second floor of a building right in the historic downtown. While we were there a pair of police Harleys rumbled down Congress street, followed by thousands of folks on some kind of march, we guessed for breast cancer awareness. We had a great view from the balcony.

Saturday our air leak problem had seemed to have disappeared, with no alarms driving out of Pooler and no further problems in an hour or so on I-95. Shortly after crossing into Florida, we left the freeway at State Route 200 to cut across to Callahan and pick up US-301, and once again the master air alarm went off shortly after the turn. This time, thinking that brake application was causing the governor to cut back in, I made several brake applications at highway speed, bringing the brake system pressure down to 90psi or so, but this did not result in the compressor starting to recharge the system. Once again, though, as we slowed down coming into Callahan, the compressor kicked back in and charged the system fully. This was starting to look like Heisenberg's air system -- every time we slowed down to look at it, it went away.

At some point I put two and two together, realizing that the problem was happening at high speeds and in reverse, and deduced that it was a leak in the tag axle air locker system. We stopped in Baldwin to test the theory. We parked the bus, and as soon as I applied the manual axle lock switch on the dash, a huge rush of air confirmed that somewhere, this system was open to atmosphere. Even the massive Bendix compressor could not keep up with such a large leak. The good news was that it was a simple matter to disconnect the speed input from the axle lock system, so now we do not have this leak above 35mph, although it still happens in reverse. I never did figure out why it did not trouble us on the freeway; perhaps at that RPM the compressor was just barely able to keep up.

Getting to the source of the leak will require either a pit or some claustrophobic time between the rear wheels, and we will now defer this until after our trip. In the meantime, with the tag axle unlocked at speed, we are trying to keep to 50 or less as much as possible. Figuring this out and disconnecting the speed input allowed us to continue on without further worry, and we set our sights on a Wal-Mart in Starke as our overnight stop, there being otherwise very few options along US-301 in Florida.

Unfortunately, the store was posted No Overnight Parking, located, as it was, just a couple of blocks from the KOA. We continued on, but parking options are few and far between here, without even any other Wal-Marts until Gainesville. We knew from past experience that the Gainesville store also did not allow it, and so we continued to a Petro truck stop on I-75 (map) that we had remembered from one of our mad cross-county Red Cross dashes.

That turned out to be a fine place to wrap up working on the satellite modem, and it has all the amenities including a decent restaurant, C-store, and even a laundry. My plan had also been to crawl under the bus there today to check on the air line, as it would have been nice to get the axle locker working again. Alas, it was not to be.

Back in Charleston, parked on the grass outside the Elks Lodge, we managed to pick up an infestation of ants. I can only assume we parked close to their lair, and thousands of them must have crawled up one of the wheels and into the bus. They had been a minor annoyance until last night, when we found them in the cats' food bowl in numbers. We've been spraying the environmentally friendly, pet-safe ant killer liberally, making the whole coach smell like wintergreen oil, but when we got up this morning, the pet food was again covered with hundreds if not thousands of them. We decided that today we'd have to fog the whole bus to get rid of them.

That necessitates sitting outside with the pets for several hours, and we could not do that at the Petro, so we made a hasty exit this morning in order to get to a more appropriate spot. We are now at the Inverness/Hernando Elks Lodge (map), a familiar stop, where I am sitting outside in a lawn chair while we wait for the fogger to work its magic. Tonight we will walk to a nearby Italian joint for dinner.

Raid Roach & Ant Killer

While the speedo fix meant no air leaks on the way here, backing into the space once again prompted the electric compressor to trip the inverter, since there was also an air conditioner running, and when we got parked the satellite modem was again defunct. This time the problem appears related to the transmitter on the roof, and I have my fingers crossed that it is not blown. I have a long night ahead of me troubleshooting, possibly followed by a day up on the roof tomorrow. At least we are in a good spot to do it, and within striking distance of the Tampa airport.

Tomorrow at some point we will head towards Tampa, where our friend Niles has offered us a secure place to park Odyssey as well as a recommendation for a good vet who can kennel the pets.


  1. Sean if your in need of a pit, the shop here in Lakeland is unusally slow right now after completing the engine swap in Steve's Neo-plan. It's only a 30 minute or so trip from Tampa and I'm sure Niles wouldn't mind! :) Give me a call if you need guided into town and his shop! There is an easier way rather than what most gps mapping suggest!
    Ace 863 five five nine nine ohh six seven

  2. The best thing for the small ants that I have found is Twenty Mule Team Borax and sugar mix. Place in s,all bowls and the ants get it on them and carry back to their nest and it gets them all.

    uncle ned

  3. Wow - I'm curious about the locker air leak. Those fittings and lines are - supposedly - carefully run and well protected. Please share pics when you finally get in there!

    Since air problems are a recurring theme... Does anyone make the equivalent of a "breaker panel" for air systems? Something centralized that would indicate flow, allow individual cut-off, help track down leaks, etc.? Just curious...

    Regarding ants: Terro brand ant traps are awesome. They use a syrup/borax formula - but their mix is more effective than anything else I've seen or used.

  4. the easiest and fastest way to curtail ants is to not place food out. so feed pets on a schedule and don't feed the ants.


Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!