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Monday, February 19, 2018

MOTORHOME MODIFICATIONS - *I* Injectors on 3126 Cat Engine and Ice Storm

I am going to start off the new year with posting some of our motorhome modifications, a few at a time. I will post repairs, modifications, or neato things we have found for RVing.  I have lots of pics in my files so I will do them in alphabetical order.

Underneath that stuff, I will post my regular daily stuff..... kinda sorta fun, eh?

So here it goes, we are up to the letter I now!


This is an injector, and our Cat 3126 diesel engine has 6 of them.  They are intricate electronic devices that are all computer controlled.  When one goes wonky, the engine derates down into "limp mode" enough to get you off the road and to a safe place for repairs.

A few years ago, we had trouble with our injectors while on a trip out west. Yes, we got stranded ON A CORNER IN WINSLOW ARIZONA....  Just like the song! 

We experienced a derating in power around Flagstaff and thought perhaps it was a clogged fuel filter.  We always carry extras and Steve swapped it out.  We even stopped at a Cat dealer in Flagstaff who could not find anything wrong with the codes, so sent us on our way.  We headed out eastward again--- and it derated back down to "limp mode" near Winslow.  We found Hi Chapperal Truck Shop right off the highway and pulled on in to get some advice.

winslow 2

They diagnosed that it was an injector, but our system on these Cat engines with diagnostic code shows PAIRS of injectors... so it was really a guessing game.  They would not know until they tore it apart.  This is a really busy truck shop, but they said we could wait in their parking lot for the duration.

This was on a Thursday.  The guys started tearing down our engine to get to the injector, but the boss suddenly had to leave to Phoenix.  (family emergency) The workers were part way into the work and ran into a snag… so the workers decided to wait till Saturday morning when the boss came back to be sure of their next step.  They had to order the injector and the new valve cover gasket from nearby. That was fine with us, because another day was already waning and we would just spend another night in the lot.   They offered us a hookup for electric or water, but we were fine as is.

winslow 2

Saturday morning dawned with a nice warm day, but boy oh boy these guys here got REALLY busy!  We had big semi trucks coming in all day---- 2 or 3 or 4 being worked on at a time, and the guys were scrambling!  Some would dash off in their fully equipped on the road service trucks, and other times parts stores were bringing items in to the shop.  It was a very busy place with lots of action going on.  Steve had brought in a box of doughnuts to the guys, who wolfed them down between gulps of coffee from their thermos bottles while they were working on more and more semi trucks.

About 10:30 a.m. Steve went in to inquire as to where we were in the line-up.  They were working as fast as they could, but many of the truckers coming in were independent haulers.  If they don’t get fixed on a Saturday, they have to sit till Monday.  Each minute they lose is money outta their pockets.  We understand.  So we said fine, putting us off until later afternoon would be good with us.  We went back and made lunch and did some projects.

Now, we thought we would be next in line to get our motorhome finished…. but …. but…. a single gal trucker was having some work done to her dark purple rig.  She was really raising some cain in the office and being very demanding and plain ole “b*tchy* to each and every one there.   Steve went in to see what was going on and how we were lining up as it was almost 4pm.  The gal was giving them so much grief, and the boss assigned the guy who was destined to help us on OUR engine, to go over to HER rig to double up with the guy trying to do some difficult maneuver on her dreaded Mercedes engine her truck.  He apologized to us and asked if we wanted to stay one more night, he would come in on Sunday with his best guy to work on our rig.  Amazing!   Most places would say: “Tough luck, come back Monday”   …. but since our rig is half torn down, we can’t go anywhere anyhow. 

We watched those guys working on her rig, well past closing time, and not finished till almost 7pm.  She flounced off with an attitude and I am sure they were glad to see her go!

Ahhh it was finally Sunday and the boss at High Chaparral promised that he would put John on our rig and get it done today!  

So we got up, I took a quick shower, and we got the rig both "road worthy" for a test drive and "worker worthy" for greasy boots in and out on the carpeting and bathroom floor.  We laid three plastic tablecloths down as runners and got extra rags and paper towels at hand to grab.

(Having had once long ago I was forced to clean greasy foot and hand prints from our Coachman motorhome, I learned the hard way to make sure everything is covered when a worker from a greasy garage has to go in and out and in and out of a carpeted, clean motorhome! )

John came over about 9am and examined the work area, and assessed the job to be done.   Then he went in for the tools and extra parts.  Once he realized that Steve was very mechanical, he allowed Steve to assist and they worked together on it. 

See.... let me explain... Steve had worked many years on heavy equipment at the university, servicing and repairing.  But these newer electronic fuel injectors are said to need a "special lifting tool" to remove it correctly without damaging anything else.  Thus, that is why he was willing to pay and let the experts handle this one, if only he could watch and learn.

Our king sized bed completely lifts up and uses a strong prop pole to keep it secure.  It gives full access to the engine compartment compared to other rigs that have bedroom slides that complicate matters.  So John was very happy to see the wide open access.  Many big truck repair places don’t even like to work on RV’s, so charge a higher rate of service because of the hassle.  (and hope you go somewhere else?)

Here is a shot from the left side.. .and the right side… of all the room under the bed
injector work3      injector work2

So there was a MAN UNDER MY BED!!!   

John and Steve were hard at work with the delicate engine components exposed.  There was a lot of dust blowing in from behind the rig from the west, so they were working fast and trying to cover things up with clean rags as they worked too. The winds were so strong the rig was rocking with each gust.

repairs at high chaperrall5    injector work1

John was courteous, careful and and very thoughtful about the dirt or the grease.  We liked his caution and also his patiently explaining what he was doing and why.  I am sure he doesn't like customers "hovering" over him, but he was getting assistance from Steve and seemed to like having someone to "Talk Shop" with!

What Steve learned was this:  the "special lifting tool" the manuals required …  was...... John found the most useful was nothing other than a big adjustable water-pump pliers!   LOL   Once Steve saw how he did it, Steve is now comfortable if he ever needs to change out an injector again.... hopefully not ever needed!

(take note here... 
 John is the one who connected the
 wire connector clips at this point, not Steve. 

IF it HAD been Steve, 
he would have noticed that they were loose and wiggly....ahem? 
A future problem indicator that we were not aware of) 

They put it all back together (with NO leftover parts) , turned the key and VOILA!    That Cat engine was purring like KITTEN!   We didn't need any further repairs to the cylinder that we had kinda dreaded would be the case.  Whew!

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeee  no miss, no Check Engine light.  We were "Good to Go”

We finally settled up the bill… 
the parts (injector, valve cover gasket, orings etc.) 
was about $400 with tax, fed ex charges $25,
 and the labor was about $400…
 so just a tad over $800.   

OUCH…. but we were on the road, and Steve learned that he could do the job if and hopefully NEVER needing to be done again.  (little did we know that we would be redoing it again soon) 

We noticed a slight metallic buzzing noise or vibration each time the turbo kicked in.  Hopefully it’s just from a bracket or clamp, so Steve will check it over once the rig is cooled down.  All systems are running fine and the readouts on the VMspc computer are all in order.

We made it from Arizona back to Wisconsin, but something wasn't quite right.  We took the rig a week later on a camping trip in Wisconsin with our grandson Jameson.  We got about 70 miles down the road when suddenly the rig was running rough and the check engine light came on! Derating again!!!

The dash error codes were the same as back in Winslow, AZ 

I saw the sign for Bagley Rapids national forest campground up ahead, so suggested we pull in there and figure it out --- at least we would have a campsite for the night.  We camped here before and it was very nice.   Camping at Bagley Rapids

If we had to turn around and go home, we could do that in the morning, or we could even opt to stay the weekend in a campsite and go home on Monday.  That is... IF ... we could solve the problem and get it running smoothly again.  Limping home 70 miles with a missing cylinder is NOT good for an engine.

Napping Jameson woke up as we were backing in the rig into a campsite, and was gleeful that we were at a campground.  It just wasn't the campground and family members we promised we would be camping with!  He didn't care, he was camping and that is all that mattered to him. 

We got out and walked to the pay station where he could put the envelope in the Iron Ranger pay post--- he called it the Mail Slot.  How cute.  It was a lovely night and we tried to ignore the looming possibility of a major repair on the engine.

Friday morning Steveio held his breath, turned the key, and fired up the rig ------ and it ran clean and smooth, and no check engine light!!!   Now the questions and decisions start to pop up:

Do we DARE run it all the way to Michigan, about another 60 miles, and chance it?
Do we stay put and camp here with only us and Jameson?
Do we just drive it home and park it?
Do we wait till 11 am to call the repair place in Arizona to see if there was a warranty on the 1st injector?
Do we run to the Cat dealer in Green Bay in the Tracker (70 miles backtrack) and pick up another injector?
Do we just replace the injector (at $300) ourselves and what if that is NOT the problem?

At 9am, we called the Cat dealer in Green Bay and spoke to a mechanic.  He said if the injector had just been replaced 2,000 miles ago, chances are that is NOT the problem.  He is thinking just the connector TO the injector could be at fault, as they are known to go bad!   And they sell replacement connector kits for a mere $22 each and had them in stock!

So Steveio hopped in the Tracker and zoomed down to Green Bay 70 miles. In the meantime, Jameson and I took a nice walk, and visited with some fellow campers, and enjoyed the woods and the birds.

Steve bought TWO connector kits, because the error code of 7-3 we were advised could mean it was either injector 3 or 4 throwing the codes as they work in pairs on the diagnostic process.  He also bought an injector to hedge our bets, and as long as it remains sealed in the box, it can be returned again.  There was also a core charge of $260 added to that $300 price tag.  So, $600 poorer, he drove back 70 miles to the campground.  The rig started up fine and ran great... so maybe we didn't need the injector after all?  Steve said now that we have parts on board, we can chance driving further and get up north afterall. 

A neighboring camper wanted our site for his friends, so he was quite happy to see us leave at 1pm where he could immediately erect a tent to save the site in completely filled campground.

We pulled out and got about another 20 miles down the road when the dash light came on and the erratically running engine happened again!   This time we were near a large flat parking lot for the Citgo station in Lakewood.  We pulled in the far side of the lot, next to the ATV trail to entertain Jameson with the passing fourwheelers.   We made up a quick lunch and then Steve proceeded to tear down our engine!   Right there in the parking lot.   Jameson was transfixed with the process and enamored with the array of tools that  Granfaddah had me fetch from his tool drawers!

"Granfaddah, can I help you wit dat?"

He had to remove the air intake tubes to the air cleaner,
the aftercooler for the turbo tubes,
the valve cover,
the rocker arms and
some cross pipes to get to the injectors... whew!  

Then he found the old connectors were wiggly and loose!!!! THAT was hopefully our only problem!  If he had been the one putting them and felt that looseness back in Winslow, he would have wanted new ones put in then.... but because it was John doing that part of the repair and not Steve, it didn't get noticed.  Another good reason to do ALL your repairs yourself if you can!!!!!

He replaced the two connectors, and reassembled it all correctly and without any dirt getting into the vital openings.  I am sooo thankful I have such a handy husband!!!!!!!

I was just the Gopher of Tools and Babysitter of the Wee One to keep him outta the way.   Little Jameson was easily distracted by the many ATV's flying by on the trail next to the gas station.  He stayed glued to the window to announce the colors of each one and to count them as they roared past.

Once it was all done and put back together, I was the lucky one to get to turn the key..... gasp.... yes!!!!!  It was purring smoothly, no rough idle, no check engine light... we were GOOD TO GO!    Jameson cheered as much as we did!

(Ironically, there had been a buzzing noise in the turbo 
every time it kicked in ever since the repair in Winslow in April. 
We dreaded an expensive replacement in the future. 
Now, since Steveio reassembled the engine himself, 
the buzzing noise is GONE!) 

As we tootley-bopped down the road again, the engine purring like a Cat...  we wondered if perhaps the initial repair in Winslow was not the injector at all... but perhaps just the connector?  That is a very expensive $800.00 lesson there.  I would suggest anyone have an injector problem throwing a bad code to FIRST check those connectors!  (we now keep extras on board... just in case) 


We are due for an impending ice storm today.  All of the schools are closing at noon. Fortunately, Steve's last run for the handicapped bus is done by 1.  I am getting ready a box to ship out a rug for a customer.  I hope to make it to the post office before the ice storm starts.  I would MUCH rather have *S*N*O*W* than ice!

Maybe I will have a chance to start the binding on my Coffee Break quilt...  I want to get it done and photographed and listed in my Etsy store.  It sure came out cute, and I have enough fabric I think to do another one, but perhaps a bit smaller.

Oh, here comes my Old Fart Party Bus Driver... so I better post this blog and get ready to hit the post office....

(on edit... duh.. the post office is closed today!)

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