Mechanical Mayhem

A Wee Bit Greasy

Sitting parked is often an excuse to make a dent in the “non-priority” To-Do list; and Galveston 2020/21 was no exception. Well, kinda an exception…since a couple HIGH-PRIORITY items reared their ugly heads to occupy most of my attention!!

Our last 100 miles before arriving in Galveston surfaced a MAJOR issue with the Air Brake systems, which I discussed previously. The “Solution,” of course, took much more effort, though little more expense than expected. I ordered and received the check valve that had failed in one of the brake systems. I managed to get the valve installed AND save all the old copper, making the project seemingly simpler (and cheaper) than expected.


The math just does not work!

When I completed the install of ONE new check valve, after airing up I discovered BOTH CHECK VALVES (the new one I had just installed AND the 40-year-old one on the parallel system) were now NOT working. HOW WAS THIS POSSIBLE??? I started with one bad valve, replaced it and now had two bad valves.  1-1=2!  

Mechanic Failure!?


First suspicion: mechanic (not mechanical) failure. Friend Steve Florer put it all in appropriate perspective (I call Steve when I am having difficulty with simple, redneck mechanical stuff). He could not explain the timing of the second valve’s failure except by saying “Sh*t happens.” I have never heard Steve swear, so the Asterisk was in fact included in what he said!.

Then, he asked me if I had installed the first one backwards!!!

“OF COURSE NOT,” I said, with all the righteous indignation I could muster. Steve apologized, though he knew I was not really indignant…or righteous, for that matter. He said he thought he would ask the question before Liz did.


For the record, Mr. Florer, IT WAS INSTALLED CORRECTLY


Whereupon I immediately crawled back under the bus and removed the valve. For the record, Mr. Florer, IT WAS INSTALLED CORRECTLY, and seemed to be functioning normally, now in my hand. I reinstalled it, and tested – and it WAS working perfectly (now). It wasn’t broken, and I didn’t fix it, but it was working. I guess sh*t can unhappen, too. But the other one was definitely not working!

Steve supposed that there must be “crud” (crud is something he apparently knows a LOT about!) or flakes of rust on the valve surfaces, so that the valve was now leaking instead of seating. I knew what I had to do – remove that valve and investigate.

The valve was in a REALLY bad location… I had to open the generator compartment and shimmy myself through and around the drive shaft, generator and engine muffler, and I could JUST BARELY get a wrench on the valve after doing so. I endeavored to not even try to fix the old valve, but just replace it – a new valve is $30 and I did NOT want to ever crawl back in there again.

Shredded Copper and Brakes do not mix!

Although I replaced the valve, I was curious about the failure, so I took apart the old one. Sure enuf, there WAS crud on the seat-area — not really surprising after 40 years of operation.  No rust though…instead a big flake of copper debris – I have NO IDEA where it could have come from, but it was undoubtedly dislodged by repeated pressurizing cycles as I was testing and repairing the other valve.

Repair Complete!

Anyway, now, BOTH BRAND-NEW VALVES WORK GREAT!!! We are READY for the road, again!!!

Except, of course, we are not!

I mentioned a problem with the Jeep…when driving back from Kelly and Buck’s, I noticed the Jeep’s Alternator voltage was WAY TOO HIGH. Hmmm. I had replaced the alternator before (which is usually where the Voltage Regulator is, or so I thought), but, as Steve Florer so clearly affirmed for me during the Check Valve Affair, Sh*t does indeed happen.

At O’Reilly’s, after they tested the system and confirmed, “Yep…it’s the alternator…” I bought ANOTHER Alternator. Nope. It was not!!

I have NO IDEA why Jeep would make this sooooo complicated, but there we were.


Turns out,  Dr. Google overruled Mr. O’Reilly:  Jeep decided to put the Voltage Regulator into the “PCM” (Power-train Control Module – the Main Computer.) A little research showed this is not crazy expensive — only a couple hundred more than an Alternator, but honestly, the Jeep has been very reliable and inexpensive, so I was not upset about the cost. The problem is, the PCM has to be programmed with the VIN number of the car it is installed in. Which means a DEALER INSTALL usually, and our car was effectively dead in the driveway.

I found a vendor online who not only had the PCM for our old Jeep in stock, but would PRE-PROGRAM it so I could just plug it in and be done!! The PCM is easy to access, has three cables plugged into it and 4 screws to remove it. Starting to think this would be easy; which of course guaranteed NOT!

It seems it takes 3-5 Days to program the PCM, then 2-8 days to ship to me. If it was 5 days total, NO PROBLEM, but if 13 days total, we’d have left Galveston (more on our plans, below), towing a dead Jeep, and the PCM would never catch up with us. I contacted the vendor and asked if I could PAY for expedited shipping and BEG for Rapid programming. Nope. And Nope. I was told NO WAY they would overnight ship OR expedite programming.

So now I am worried.

Then someone else (not the rep I spoke with) called me, and said they would be GLAD to ship overnight (not for free, of course…but I gave her my credit card and gratitude). It still would likely take 8 days to get to me, but that would work. You’ll have to wait ‘til the NEXT post to see if it fixed the problem…

While awaiting the Jeep repair, we needed to order Groceries delivered from Walmart. This service has come a LONG WAY since we used it last February-to-May 2020 in Naples, Fla. Now Smooth as silk, I would say.  All the glitches and nuances in the ordering process had been addressed — it was a very painless process.

I doubled his tip with a smile!


And our delivery driver seems to have figured out how to manage his life for the time being, anyway, during COVID. He was dressed in a pressed white shirt and bow tie with a mask that matched the tie.  Really snappy in a post-apocalyptic way!  He was RIGHT ON TIME, and courteous as could be. AND, he had three kids in the back seat of his car, all doing their remote school work. None of that scenario was ideal: Kids should be in school, and he was probably full-time employed “before” and maybe again. But for the time being, it was a workable and safe solution to the new normal. 

While fixing the bus and awaiting the parts for the Jeep, we started to consider our next and future plans. We decided NOT to stay for the last month of our booking in Galveston. Instead, I booked two weeks at Padre Island, near Brownsville, Tx., where they ASSURED ME there were no mosquitos!!  Also near Boca Chica, where SpaceX is building, testing and launching the new StarShip, which may eventually carry astronauts to Mars. I found a County Park with a spot right across the water from SpaceX, and we are VERY hopeful of being able to watch the next test.

That spot also puts us within an hour of more friends – the Harriffs, formerly from Chicago but like us now RVing (and in Texas!!!) – and a chance for socially-distant reconnection.

We also thought about orchestrating another overlapping orbit with the Florers, who had left Iowa and were planning a swing through West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. After several conversations, we plotted paths that would intersect near Tucson beginning 17-February for a week, and then a few days on the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

The latter will be weather—dependent, since the GC can be snowy and cold in late February. I consulted with Steve, who offered several well-practiced, Iowa-redneck ways to keep our tanks from freezing;  the electric mats Bluebird installed may or may not burst into flames if used — old rubber and electric is not a mix I choose to test.   I trust Steve’s expertise with crud (and preventing said-crud from freezing). 

Steve stopped short of GUARANTEEING his strategies could keep our tanks from freezing:  said he was NOT going to help us with any poopsicles that might result from a cracked tank, valve or pipe.  We can  make a go/no-go decide from Tucson, after looking Steve in the eyes to ascertain his confidence level,  without losing too much $$$$.

And, after the GC, Liz and I are going to head towards Utah…again weather-dependent, at least as far as the exact schedule is concerned. We intend to see the various parks there, and we are in no particular hurry. If the weather is wintery, we’ll slow down and wait; perhaps in southern Arizona near Tucson? What’s the rush, after all?

6 thoughts on “Mechanical Mayhem

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *