Friday, February 18: We were all set to leave Bill’s truck yard this morning, but decided to take a quick test run before hooking up the jeep. We headed up Old Womans Spring Road and as we were moving along, Fester noticed white smoke coming from the tailpipe again. He thought it was residual oil from the turbo issue and wasn’t too concerned. However, when the smoke didn’t stop after a few more miles, Fester pulled over to check things out. Another Good Samaritan was following behind and pulled over too, saying she noticed the smoke and was concerned. After checking the engine compartment, Fester assured her that we were okay and it was just oil burn-off. We headed back to Bill’s and shortly after turning around, Fester said there was no more smoke. Back at the shop, John checked the engine and confirmed that it was oil burn-off, which was to be expected. The back of Zephyr was covered in oil residue, so we grabbed a bucket, Dawn detergent and rags and spent the next 40 minutes or so cleaning off the oil. Fortunately, Bill’s water hose reached and we were able to spray everything down and rinse off. After hooking up the Jeep, we were on our way.
We were headed to Palm Springs/Joshua Tree KOA for the night, since it was close by and we considered it a “practice run” before setting off toward Phoenix and beyond. We needed fuel, but wanted to wait until we reached Arizona so we wouldn’t have to pay the ridiculous California fuel prices. It was wonderful being out of the truck yard. We took advantage of the KOA’s pool and hot tub, which were fed by mineral wells/hot springs – lovely!
Saturday, February 19: When we were back in Arizona, we pulled into a truck stop to fuel up and Fester saw radiator fluid gushing out of the tank onto the ground. We quickly moved from the fuel pumps to a parking place among the trucks while Fester tried to figure out the problem. Apparently, when John put the coach back together after repairing the turbo, he may not have mounted the radiator tank securely. The tank had dropped from its mount and in doing so, the radiator hose rubbed up against a moving belt and was sliced, almost in two. We were fortunate that we were at a truck stop, with a parts store next door. Unfortunately, the parts store was getting ready to close, adding to Fester’s anxiety. We spent the next three hour or so at the truck stop while Fester jury-rigged a way to remount the radiator tank and clamp the hose. After filling the radiator with about 7 gallons of antifreeze, we took off for Quartzsite – a familiar safe haven. We ended up camping on Plomosa Road again. Very few campers here compared to mid-January.
Sunday, February 20 – Tuesday, February 22: Quartzsite has little in the way of shopping, and the hardware & auto parts stores were closed on Sunday. After putting a parts list together, we drove the jeep to a Phoenix suburb to get the parts we needed for the repairs.
By early afternoon on Tuesday, Fester was able to make and install a bracket to hold the radiator in a secured position and reinforce the repaired hose. We topped off the radiator fluid too. We are good to go and will head out tomorrow morning. In the meantime, we took the jeep off-road for some fun.
Wednesday, February 23: After stopping to fill our propane tank this morning, we were on the road by 8:15, heading east on I-10 towards Phoenix (and eventually, Benson, Arizona). After about 45 minutes on the road, Fester noticed the amber Check Engine light came on. The light was intermittent, so we continued on our way, keeping an eye on the gauges. A red flashing error message showed up on the computer, which I wrote down. We stopped at the next Rest Area to check things out. Everything in the engine compartment looked good so we started off again, heading into a steady rain. Although it was nice to see the continuous rain, the temperature had dropped 10 degrees from 52 to 42 in just the last few hours. In addition to the Check Engine light, the coach wouldn’t accelerate above 55 mph. Rather than pushing on to Benson, we decided to stop at Pima County Fairgrounds in Tucson to investigate the engine issue, since we are familiar with the campground and the area. We ended up parked in an area with mostly permanent and semi-permanent residents and our site was much smaller than we would have liked, especially since Fester needs to work on the coach.
Once again, Fester called John Krauss, our good friend and excellent Mechanic, to see if he could help troubleshoot our problem. John threw out some ideas and later in the day, John called us back with his friend Kevin on the line. Kevin, who is a diesel mechanic, suggested it might be an issue with the fuel sensor, but said it would be helpful to have the Cummins’ error code (vs. the computer’s error code).
Thursday, February 24: Fester contacted the software company and was able to obtain the Cummins error code and after speaking to Kevin again, we had a fix in mind. It was cold and windy and we were both a bit discouraged and feeling blue because of the recent mechanical problems.
Friday, February 25: As Kevin suggested, Fester cleaned the fuel injection connections and we took Zephyr out for a test run. Unfortunately, once on the freeway, we experienced the same error message and couldn’t accelerate past 55 mph. Discouraged, we returned to our campsite to try another approach. John had suggested we change out the fuel filters. While changing the first filter, Fester noticed black “gunk” around the top, which we assumed was algae (not a good discovery). When tipped over and shaken, bits of black gunk dropped into the bucket. The second filter was clean. After both new filters were in place, we took a second test drive and didn’t get any error messages and acceleration was normal. These good signs seemed to indicate that there was a block in the fuel filter causing the problem. Fester felt confident we were in good shape to continue our travels.
Saturday, February 26: Since we had pre-paid for the night, we decided to bop around town today and lucked out by finding a wonderful Italian restaurant, which helped put us in a good mood for moving on.
Sunday, February 27: After fueling up, we set off down I-10E toward El Paso, Texas (about 300 miles). We decided to skip Benson and instead try to make up some distance and leave Arizona behind. It’s now 2:30, and we’ve already passed Las Cruces, New Mexico and El Paso, so we’re making good time to wherever we’re going.