Saturday, January 2, 2010

Dec 30, 2009-March 2010, A Long Story: Left San Antonio for Sarita’s, but engine problems brought us back to SA.

Our plans were to spend New Years Eve and Day at a Corps of Engineers campground on Navarro Mills Lake, south of Dallas and go to Sarita’s on Saturday. Engine problems totally changed our plans.

We spent New Year’s Eve & Day at Lake Georgetown, the weekend in Austin, Monday night at Wal*Mart in San Marcos and Tuesday we spent the night in the parking lot in front of the Cummins engine repair facility in San Antonio at the corner of IH35 and Rittiman Road. We finally got to Lewisville Thursday, 9 days after we started.


Tuesday, Dec 30th

We were on the way to Navarro Mills Lake, driving at about 60mph on IH35 between Austin and Georgetown and all of a sudden there was a hesitation or jerk. Kind of like the engine died for ¼ to ½ second. This caused the Bug to shutter and Sharon to ask, “Al, did you do that”. It wasn’t something I did. As soon as the incident happened I let off the accelerator slightly, dropping our speed down to about 55mph. We continued without problem for 3-4 miles and it happened again. And then a couple more times as we approached Georgetown.

What to do??? We pulled off onto the access road and looked for someplace to stop our 63 foot length, including the Blazer we are towing, where we wouldn’t block something.

We didn’t find any place to stop and while slowing down we didn’t have a reoccurrence 0f the problem. So, did the problem go away??? We were at the exit to a COE campground at Lake Georgetown. I contemplated ending our travel and spending the night here. But I still didn’t know exactly what was happening. The problem was only happening every few miles, we had only gone about 10-12 miles since it started and I didn’t know just under what conditions it was happening. So what was I going to do if we stopped and set up for the night? Get up the next day and go out and test? We might as well continue on now and see what happens. The problem just might be transient and we could continue on. After all, my plans were to go to Navarro Mills Lake today. I really dislike changing our destination w/o having a decent reason. At least a decent reason in my mind!!

All these things are going through my mind while I am driving, looking out for traffic, thinking about what the cause could be and trying to find a place to stop.

Since we didn’t find a parking lot I wanted to pull into. I decided to continue on. Can you say denial of problem here!!??? As we accelerated, I could feel the jerking a couple of times, but as we got up to speed, about 55mph all was well. I began to think this was load related so over the next 15 or so miles I tried to recreate the failure, but I couldn’t consistently recreate the problem. About 15 miles north of Georgetown we saw a Flying J truck stop. Ah! A place with lots of room we could pullover and look around the Bug and think about what to do. I am still thinking of continuing on to Navarro Mills Lake. But Navarro Mills Lake is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, 35 or so miles from Waco. Plus it would be another 80-90 miles from where we are now.

I got out, looked around, listened to the engine and really didn’t see anything cause the problem. The engine sounded fine and idled just fine. Also the engine check light didn’t come on and stay on, which would indicate a serious problem.

Reason prevailed! I decided to return to Georgetown and go to Jim Hogg COE campground on Lake Georgetown. We could think about the problem and decide what to do this afternoon and night. At least we will be in a nice CG with a pretty view of the lake and sky, and a safe place to stay. We have stayed here several times in recent years.

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, so it is much better to be in a happy place in case we need to be here until Monday when repair facilities will be back in full operation again. I’m sure Sharon was happier with this decision, rather than to continue on to Navarro Milles Lake.(Sharon: Got THAT right!!!)

Going back to Georgetown on IH35, I could tell the jerking would occur as we were going up a slight incline at highway speeds. For us that is 55-60mph. After we turned off of IH35 onto local roads I could feel the jerking anytime the engine was under a load. Perhaps fuel starvation????

After we were parked and setup at the CG I called our motorhome emergency service provider, Coach Net, which also provides tech support information. They agreed, it sounds like fuel starvation. Coach Net said the closest Cummins repair facility was Freightliner of Austin, in Austin, Tx.

On the internet I have read about bacteria growing in diesel stored in the fuel tank or in a gas stations underground tank and clogging up the filter. We last filled up October 6th when we arrived in San Antonio and the Bug has not been driven until we drove it 40 miles round trip to Brett’s to change all the fluids and filters in early December. So, I am wondering if we have a clogged filter.

I called several local auto parts stores in Georgetown and CarQuest has a filter for our engine. Tomorrow we get the filter and go from there.

New Years Eve, Thursday

After coffee this morning we were off to Georgetown, and bought the new filter, $32. While in town we had a very good breakfast at El Charito’s. Sharon really liked her chilequiles. It was different than any other chilequiles she has eaten. This one was made without any eggs. I had Huevos ala Mexicana, scrambled eggs with tomato, onion and lots of Serrano peppers. It was spicy, but good!

Back to the Bug and I installed the new filter and we drove around the campground. It still does the jerking bit when under a load. To recreate the problem I drove fast enough to shift into 2nd gear and then applied the brakes and while pressing on the accelerator to keep from slowing down. After about 15-30 seconds of driving this way it would jerk, that is the engine would stall for about ½ second and then continue running.

I called Freightliner of Austin and they said to bring the Bug in at 7am Monday and they would be able to work on it.

To get to Freightliner at 7am we are going to need to move to Austin sometime before Monday morning.

One option is to stay here until Sunday, in our really nice campsite with beautiful views of the lake, sunrises and sunsets.IMG_0442 small 1

After thinking about this for a while, we decided to move to Austin on Saturday. If we move on Sunday, the last day of New Years weekend the highways will be very busy. “IF” the engine decides to quit on us while driving down IH35, it would be better to try to get a tow truck on Saturday rather than on a very busy Sunday.

The rest of the day was quiet. The warm sun shinning in the windshield of the Bug kept us nice and warm. The high today was in the lower 60’s. Going to have a good frost in the morning.

New Years Day, Friday

We had a quiet New Years Eve, in bed asleep by 10-10:30. No one shot off fireworks around the lake to keep us awake. New Years day was peaceful. A beautiful sunny but cool day. We stayed around camp and relaxed.


We drove the Bug to Oak Forest RV Park in the southeast part of Austin. I was concerned about the engine quitting on us but we made it. I had to kind of nurse the Bug up some of the low inclines on IH35. This side of Austin is the poorer side of town, kind of like the SE part of San Antonio. Mostly old and small homes and apartments. The RV Park is nice, lots of oak trees. But it is a RV park. When we look out our front and side windows, all we see is the RV parked next to us. Not at all like our nice campsite at Lake Georgetown with beautiful views of the lake and sky.


It was cold and cloudy and all we wanted to do was stay inside and relax. So that’s what we did.


Morning of repairs and night at Wal*Mart in San Marcos.

We were up very early and at Freightliner of Austin before 7am. All the service people were very nice and helpful, and got started on our repairs right away. The let us stay in the Bug while they worked on it, since the customer lounge was on the second story of their building. 15 steps up and back down would have been very hard for Sharon to navigate!

They spent about 4 hours working on the Bug. They took us out for a drive to recreate the problem. Yep it fails. They did some work, found and repaired a minor fuel leak, checked the fuel filter, drove it again. It still fails. One of the last things they did was to pull the engine check codes. Lo and behold, the check code said we have a bad fuel injector pump!! BUT, they said we really need to go to the Cummins repair facility in San Antonio to get the Bug fixed. They don’t have any vehicle lifts to raise up trucks so the workers can stand up to work on the underside of a vehicle! With diesel motorhomes most everything is accessed from below, or from an access panel in the floor next to our bed. This would make it very hard to replace parts while laying under the engine. All the big trucks have hoods which open so the workers can get to everything from the side so they seldom need to work from the bottom.

We couldn’t get an appointment at Cummins in San Antonio until Wednesday morning. So we have two days to get from Austin to San Antonio.

About 1pm we are working our way back to San Antonio. We are lucky, but also frustrated. The Bug is running almost normally. We really have to accelerate hard to get it to recreate the problem. If we drive normally it doesn’t fail. Is the problem going away?? If it does, will it fail again somewhere out in the middle of nowhere??

We thought about staying at an RV park in San Antonio for the two nights at a cost of about $40 each night. However, all we need and, all we want is a place to park. We really don’t need electric, water or sewer.

So tonight we decided to park overnight in Wal*Mart’s parking lot in San Marcos. We had easy access to a smooth level parking lot at Wal*Mart a the far edge of the lot. I went inside and made sure it was OK with the store manager to park overnight. He said, sure, we welcome RV’ers parking overnight. They usually make purchases when they stay. We don’t make it a habit to stay at Wal*Marts, but when all we want is an overnight parking spot they sure come in handy.


Cold and clear morning at Wal*Mart. We had a peaceful and quiet night here. Four other RV’s spent the night here as well. We did a little shopping in the store, fixed a nice breakfast and left for San Antonio. We got to Cummins and checked into the service department. They have us set up for our 8am appointment for tomorrow morning. They told us it would be alright if we parked in front of the building facing IH35 for the night. This is really handy. All I have to do in the morning is walk the 100 feet to the service department at 8am. We don’t have to pack up, move out of a RV Park and fight the early morning traffic.

We also have a beautiful view of all the traffic on IH35 and the access road.

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Parking lot in front of Cummins

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A McDonalds for breakfast right next to us!

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A pretty sunset, except for the traffic.

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We are warm and comfortable, sitting in our recliners watching the San Antonio evening news. Life couldn’t be better!!! Well maybe it could be better. It would be nice if we weren’t fighting engine problems, and even nicer if we were parked in Sarita’s back yard like we were supposed to be.

Wednesday: More repairs, lunch and left for Dallas

We had a quiet night, except for the highway traffic, parked in front of Cummins. They got started on our problem first thing and finished up about noon. They said an engine check code indicated we had a bad fuel pressure sensor, which they replaced. I test drove the Bug and it ran ok except under a heavy load. So we are going to call the problem resolved. At least until it comes back and doesn’t go away.

Since it was fairly early we left the Bug parked at Cummins and met Brett, Dawn & the Boys for a very nice lunch at Zio’s.

Sharon: This was the one really bright spot when we were able to meet Brett and Dawn and my Angel Babies at Zio’s for lunch! It was really fun and also funny since the restaurant sat us in the very back of the place – Brett and Dawn said that every restaurant does that when they take the boys out to eat. I don’t know why! They entertained me wonderfully all through lunch. Ehren had to tell me all about what was happening at Discovery School and we played games following “Ehren rules” of course. That means that Ehren wins and Grammy loses! Simple rules are best! Little Nate was very sweet and played nicely with his trucks and whenever one of the trucks would “accidently” go off the table, he would say, “Uh-Oh” and Ehren would pick up the truck. Then Nate would say, “Thank you, Ray-Ray”. This happened every time. *I* thought the interaction was very interesting but I guess that maybe – just maybe, I am prejudiced-or not. Anyway, I enjoyed being able to see my Angels again before being away for so long. This is going to be a sort of quick visit with Tita but I am sure we will have fun and enjoy being here with her.

We were back to the Bug about 3pm and started our drive toward Sarita’s. Since it was fairly late and we didn’t want to fight through the 4pm traffic in Austin, we stopped for the night again at Wal*Mart in San Marcos.

Thursday: On the road to Sarita’s, engine problem back

It was another quiet night at Wal*Mart in San Marcos. We pulled out of the parking lot about 8:30 and had an easy drive through Austin on IH35. About 25 miles north of Georgetown the engine started hesitating again going up minor inclines and little hills.

We continued on, nursing the engine over the hills for the next 190 miles to a city campground in Lewisville about 1/2 mile from Sarita’s. The engine ran fine on level ground or going downhill. Unfortunately it wasn’t downhill all the way! But we made it OK.

It’s going to be a really cold night, a low of about 16 degrees is expected!

Friday morning:

We made it through the night and it was 16 degrees at sunrise. Very cold! BUT it is supposed to be colder tomorrow morning at about 12 degrees!

When I got up this morning we didn’t have any water coming out of the faucets in the Bug. I had taken every precaution to prevent the inside pipes from freezing. Did one of them freeze anyways?

To top it off as soon as I got up I accidentally plugged two electric heaters into the same electrical circuit and popped a circuit breaker.

Well, the water problem was our fresh water tank was just about out of water. Since the water tank sits on the lowest floor of the Bug and exposed to the freezing temps, what little water was left froze! I had to get out our water hose, connect it to the campgrounds water spigot and fill up our water tank. The good news was, none of the water pipes froze.

Next was to find the tripped circuit breaker! This CB was not with all the other CB’s. It was hiding down in a compartment with the inverter. If you don’t know what the inverter is, it is the electronic box which ‘inverts’ the 12v direct current (DC) from the batteries into 120v AC for the TV, microwave and other devices which only operate on 120v.

All this before I had my first cup of coffee!!! Poor little old me. As Sharon would say “Pobrecito”

I called the Cummins repair place this morning and have an appointment for Tuesday to get the engine problem fixed.

Sharon: It WAS fairly cold but, with my electric blanket and both babies (cats) on the bed, I slept nicely! This has been a very frustrating few days for everyone.

Now I have a teeny-tiny question for Al: Could you please tell me AGAIN how wonderful it is to NOT live in a house but to live in a motorhome where there is never any sort of problem to have to deal with IMMEDIATELY??????????? Are we REALLY having fun??????

Our campsite in Lewisville

You can see the lake in the distance from our campsite

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 Repairs at Cummins Dallas

Yesterday afternoon I drove the Bug to Cummins Dallas and spent the night in their parking lot. Sharon stayed at Sarita's.

Cummins started testing to see if they could find the problem. After some checking and testing they decided to put me on the Dynamometer to see if we could replicate the hesitation and stalling. They had me drive, well we didn't move, but the rear wheel sure went round and round. Sure enough when I got up to about 60mph and applied the brakes a little to put more of load on the engine, it started the hesitation. They bypassed the fuel filter & hoses, going directly from the lift pump to the injection pump. Still sitting on the dyno, I ran it up to 60mph again and it still failed. Their take was there was some obstruction in the fuel line or fuel pickup in tank in the front, about 25' from the engine. After a little talking the tech decided attach a hose to the input to the lift pump and stick the other end of the hose in a bucket of diesel fuel. Still failed. (I'm sure glad this wasn't a gas engine, running the engine about 8' from an open bucket of fuel) Finally they decided to pull the lift pump. This would be an easy job in an over-the-road truck, but in a diesel pusher motorhome, the access is from the bottom and you have to reach up along side the engine, sort of working blind. About 2-3 hours labor to pull & reinstall the pump. Once the pump was out, we could see some black very soft rubber like substance clogging a screen inside the pump. Cummins installed a new pump and we took it for a test drive. All is good!

I really, really lucked out. Last August in Grand Junction, CO I had the leaking lift pump replaced. The warranty on the pump was good for 1 year. Cummins Dallas replaced the pump, labor included under warranty! WOW! In my opinion, the pump wasn't bad. It probably could have been cleaned and reinstalled. Also the gunk in the pump wasn't the fault of the pump. BUT I sure didn't argue with the shop foreman! They spent about 5-6 hours labor working on this problem.

Before leaving I asked what could have caused this problem. They said it probably was the five or six foot long flexible hose leading from the rigid fuel line coming from the fuel tank going to the lift pump.

In March we returned to Sarita's and I took the Bug back to Cummins Dallas and had all three flexible fuel hoses replaced. Actually since the hoses were not an off the shelf item, they have to be special made, I had Cummins remove the hoses. I then took them about a mile away to Southwest Hose and had Southwest Hose make new hoses. It only took about 15-20 minutes for them to make the new hoses. Back to Cummins they installed the new hoses and I had them add a fuel filter just before the lift pump. $270 labor from Cummins and $330 for the hoses.

Hopefully that will be the end to the problems.

That’s all for now, until later,

Al & Sharon.

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