When It Rains It Pours!

We’ve had a string of ‘situations’ lately – I’ve been busy!  Where to start? I knew we had a problem with the generator before I knew our house battery bank was shot. We’d been having intermittent problems with the generator since we hit Laramie Wyoming back in July. That brought us to Cheyenne, WY  where we waited for a part that did not fix that problem. Then we needed new house batteries and then start batteries and then engine R&R? However, I’m getting ahead of myself. First, the batteries…

We have a 24 volt battery system (in fact we have two separate 24 volt systems) vs. 12 volts like most RV’s, mainly because it is more efficient and the invertor requires 24 volts. Well sometime in early September, probably while we were sitting at the Grandview Elks Lodge I noticed my battery monitor was indicating very low voltage on the house battery bank?   Like below 24 volts! Without going into too much detail, that is very low and especially concerning since we were plugged into 30 amp electric service and the invertor is supposed to keep the batteries fully charged. I spent several hours trying to figure this out including phone calls to the monitor manufacturer, Wholesale Batteries in Kansas City, KS and some internet research. The bottom line seemed to be that our house battery bank was aging out and would no longer hold adequate charge. We got 4 1/2 years out of them so they served us well, but sooner or later they just get worn out or start shorting out inside. Even though they were getting partially charged, most of the amps were just turning into heat and causing the battery cases to get hot and swell!

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Troubleshooting in a tight space!

 

I could have squeezed a few more months out of the set, but probably not another year. So new batteries were needed. The problem isn’t finding the batteries – you can buy them online! The real issue is they weigh 160 lbs a piece and there are six of them in a very tight space. Not to mention they are also very expensive. So I have to find a place that will give me a good price AND remove and replace the set.

I bought this set from Wholesale Batteries in Kansas City, KS while we still lived in the KC area and they were great to work with, gave me a good price and did the original install. So I gave my contact a call and they got the six new batteries on order. It was going to take several days, so we left KC for some more bike riding and a visit to friends at Lake of the Ozarks.

So from Jack and Linda’s place on the lake we headed back to KC for new batteries. We were able to park in their secured lot overnight and first thing in the am they got to work.

As you can see there Ain’t much room to maneuver and Brian is a big guy, but he got those bad boys wrestled out and new ones installed without a hitch. Each one weighs 160 lbs! Brian and Pat (sorry no pic?) were great to work with, worked quickly and efficiently and no smoke was released. Great job guys! Let’s not do this again for awhile.

Cool! We have a new house battery bank, 730 AH! We can run one of our roof top air conditioners all night on those babies and still have power to spare in the morning. We’re headed back out on the road and all is well!

Oops, spoke too soon. We left KC for Fulton, MO to visit long time friends. Our plan was to park at Wal-Mart for a couple of days and then move on. We got parked and called our friends and since it was hot we decided to fire up the generator and run the A/C for a couple of hours. Ugh, no generator! As I mentioned, we’d been having some intermittent problems, but whenever I tried to troubleshoot the problem, it would start running. Well, it finally failed completely. This is a problem, because if we are dry camping (i.e. without an electrical hookup)  we depend on the generator to keep our brand new batteries charged (and run our air conditioners)!

Now, I redesigned and rebuilt this generator and it has been trouble free since. At least I knew the problem was with the Kubota diesel engine. However, the more general problem is that the generator itself is essentially obsolete. I have no manuals, no wiring diagrams and tech support is, let us say ‘difficult’. It is also shoe-horned into a tight space.  I needed some help on this one too. While we were in Fulton, I started doing some research and making some calls. CK Power in St. Louis, MO  was recommended be a local Kubota dealer.  I gave them a call and they sounded competent so I made an appointment.

Curiously, we don’t have any pictures of our time at CK Power, but they quickly diagnosed the problem to be the oil pressure switch on the engine. Of course, they don’t have that in stock so we had to order it from PowerTech (the original mfg. of the genset). A couple of days later, we return to CK Power from Sundermier RV Park and the new switch is installed! Bingo, we have our generator back up and running and we’re headed back out on the road and all is well! Well, not exactly…

Unbeknownst to Wendy, I had noticed in Marthasville, MO  that as we stopped to fill our fresh water tank, the bus left a disturbingly large puddle of oil on the gravel lot. Fast forward to St. Louis, Wendy also noticed a disconcertingly large puddle on the nice clean concrete at Sundermier RV Park on our return from CK Power!  I was fairly certain we had another problem, but we decided to move to the Elks Lodge in Oakville, MO so we were closer to Wendy’s sister Cherie and friends Sandy and Carl. We had a great visit!

I told Wendy I’m afraid I see a re-visit to Chattanooga in our future. So I called Joel at Choo Choo Express Garage and described the oil leak. He immediately diagnosed it as a rear main seal. Great! the engine and trans has to come out!!

We prepare to depart south St. Louis for Chattanooga (Rossville, GA actually), but the Mighty Bus felt otherwise: it won’t start. Our start batteries are dead (that is the other 24 volt battery system I mentioned above)! Fortunately, Sandy and Carl brought us donuts and Carl took me to Advance Auto for four new start batteries.  Whew! I installed the new batteries and we were on our way, again.

Fast forward to arrival at Choo Choo Express Garage in Rossville, GA. We arrive on Sunday October 9. We’re parked on the wash bay and Joel starts the disassembly in the morning before we are even out of bed. It really doesn’t take that long to pull the engine and transmission from one of these busses. In fact, Joel had it out injust a couple of hours!

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Draining the fluids.

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Out it comes.

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Engine and trans are out. Dirty!

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Empty engine bay. Wow, dirty!

 

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Engine all clean!

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Trans clean and ready for reinstall.

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The rear min seal.

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The old seal and sleeve.

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Wear marks on the old seal.

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New sleeve and seal installed.

Detroit Diesels leak oil. That’s just the nature of the beast. Like Joel says, if you fix one leak it just starts leaking somewhere else! So we didn’t try to fix them all. Just the worst and least invasive. I think we got most of the worst. On our test run to Dalton, GA we had a little more unexpected excitement: the low oil pressure light came on in heavy traffic and shut down the engine. We managed to get back to the shop and diagnosed  a – can you believe it – a failed oil pressure switch! If you own an RV you have to learn to appreciate irony. Actually, I think that is a requirement for life as well. We also found a very leaky oil pan gasket on the transmission. So we’re here for a few more days waiting for those parts. In the meantime, we’re comfortable and in good company.

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Cracked engine cradle

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Previous half-ass weld.

We also discovered a previous weld on the engine cradle that was not correctly done. They tried to weld it without removing the engine. Consequently, there was a large gap in the back (unseen) which left a hole just waiting to fail.

Well, I’ll post later the final results. I have to replace the transmission oil pan gasket and that failed (I hope) oil pressure switch tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed.

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3 comments on “When It Rains It Pours!

  1. Pingback: I Blame Donald Trump | Mighty Bus

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