Monday, July 10, 2017

Texas Westbound - Day 1

Day 1 of our journey and the excitement has already begun - yet again vehicle related.  

Quick backstory: a few weeks ago we found our truck batteries dead upon attempting to start the truck.  A kind RV neighbor supplied the rather challenged jump start, and we were on our way.  But once moving the truck Service Engine Light illuminated (Code P0197; Engine Oil Temperature Sensor low volatage) and the truck nearly stalled with RPMs bouncing wildly.  The truck shook and shuddered and no matter how much I pressed the throttle, it merely crept forward ever so slowly, shaking all the while.  For fear of damaging the vehicle, we turned it off, walked back to the camp site (just a 1/4 of a mile) and had the truck towed to the nearest shop.  End result - two new batteries and we were good to go.  Easy enough!  Days later the Service Engine Light popped on again, this time for indicating a bad alternator.  After confirming with my multi-meter and again by the ever helpful auto parts store staff, and new alternator was provided under warranty.  Brynn, ever the mechanic, swapped them out in my parents front drive, and we were back to a well running automobile.  
     Days earlier I replaced the rear brake pads, rotors, calipers and caliper brackets with some higher end parts, so the truck has been a bit of a sore thumb sitting up on jack stands in the driveway of an otherwise fancy HOA neighborhood.  But with a four month road trip ahead, it was important to make sure the truck was ready for the task.  And it was, right up until the first day of our journey.  

     After a quick fuel stop somewhere east of Abilene, TX, I start the truck and low and behold, the Service Engine Light (Code P0197) is back, same as before.  I clear the code and immediately the truck shudders, RPMs erratic, and no power available.  Uh oh, here we go again.  The only difference this time is that my house is attached to the truck and we are sitting at the gas station lot blocking a good portion with the trailer.  Not an ideal way to get stranded.  
     Another bad alternator pushing low voltage?  So it would seem.  It's only showing 12.1V, when 13.5-14.1 is what we usually see on our Scan Guage.  I turn off the engine and then back on.  The RPMs stabilize and the shuddering stops, but the voltage is still low with the Service Engine Light.  What to do now?  We're 20 miles from the nearest town and temperatures are soaring over 100 (we see 107 later in the day - a scorcher!).  We could chance driving the 20 miles and risk being stranded roadside in the blistering West Texas summer.  I think we can make the drive to the parts store, and if need be replace the alternator in the parking lot.  Only a 30 minute job, so doable even in this extreme heat.  
     So off we go with a prayer for safe travels.  We make it to our auto parts store and patiently wait for our store associate to bring out his fancy test equipment to check the alternator.  But I already know what he'll say.  The voltage had returned to normal range during the last portion of our drive to the store.  Nevertheless, the test is performed and the alternator checks good.  Which is good, right?  No issues means the truck should be fine.  Meanwhile, our exemplary store clerk also attempts to read the code for the Service Engine Light.  We already know it is P0197 from our own scanner, but I'm hoping his might provide more detail to the issue.  But once plugged in the only reading shown is "NO SYNC".  I point out that his cable is frayed, and the yellow wire is completely cut in half.  He says, "No, that can't be it.  I think its something with your vehicle.  I've seen this before and its usually a problem somewhere in this area in front of the steering wheel."  He says this as he gestures from the steering wheel to the front bumper, completely serious as he does so.  Thank you, Sherlock, for narrowing things down.  I'll be sure to tell me friends of where they can find such helpful service.  I'll take it from here, thank you.  

     We proceed with our journey to our Sweetwater, TX* campground.  Upon arriving I notice the voltage keeps falling below 12V when idling.  Not good.  I rev the engine as Brynn gets us checked in.  That does the trick for now, and we pull into our spot for the night.  We'll see what tomorrow brings.  

*Sweetwater, TX is the answer to Picture "A", first on our "Guess-Em" blog post.  Congratulations to our "Donut Farm" Family for correctly guessing the first stop!
Our Sweetwater, TX backyard

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