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Copyright © 2003 by Maren Heald
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750 words


Our Breakdown from Hell
Maren Heald


After the wonderful rally in Pahrump, NV we left to visit our daughter in San Diego, CA.  After driving about 35 miles the engine stalled near Shoshone on route 127 just outside Death Valley. It started again but it was running real rough so Tom pulled over, waited a minute and tried it again. It worked for about 25 miles and then started missing again. It was 112 degrees when Tom called AAA and gave them our location right beside one of those roadside call boxes.
After about 15 minutes he tried to start the motorhome one more time and it worked, for 5 miles. Tom tried to call AAA again to give them our new location, but the cell phone was dead and the battery was low.

Tom left the cell phone to charge and hitchhiked back to the call box to check with AAA while I stayed in the motorhome. After two and a half hours at 116 degrees our Angels Bill and Andrie Boggs and Ken and Shirley Green stopped behind me. Ken and Shirley went right a way to look for Tom. They missed him because he was talking to AAA on a call box about 10 miles down the road when they went by.

Tom finally came back, after 4 hours and explained the cell phone didn't work because the call boxes on either side of us were dead. It is these Call-for-Help boxes you see along the highway that provide cell phone service in rural areas. They act as repeaters sending your call from box to box until it reaches a substation. Break the chain more than once, and your call can't get through.

A short time later the first tow truck showed up but not the flatbed we requested. He was dispatched out of Pahrump -- 70 miles away -- and not from Baker only 23.5 miles in the direction we were heading. We decided to wait for the second tow truck.

It never showed up so we left our Aero Cruiser on the side of the road and went on to Baker with Bill and Andrie. Tom called AAA again and was told that the second outfit could not find us. There we were, two motor homes sitting on a straight road in the middle of nowhere right next to mile marker 23.5, but they could not find us. So Tom went out with a third tow-truck-company and brought our rig back to a garage in Baker.

Ken, Shirley, Bill and Andrie dry-camped in a field next to us during the night to make sure we would be alright. They left after breakfast while we waited four hours in 106 degrees heat for parts that never came; but that is another story.

Thanks to Andrie and Bill and Ken and Shirley a terrifying experience was made bearable. How wonderful it is to have such caring friends in the club. In the heat of the dessert I had told Tom the he could add our moterhome to the others for sale in the newsletter, but in cooler times I changed my mind. I really enjoy our times at the Rallies.

The Problem (Tech. Talk from Tom)
The Engine Check light diagnostic said the problem was a high resistance connection to the number 1 Fuel Injector. In essence, the engine was running on 4 cylinders. In Baker the mechanic wrapped on it with a screwdriver and it started running smooth again. A new $280 fuel injector was not available, so we decided to risk it and headed on. A few times on the trip down to San Diego the engine skipped a few beats but in general it was running fine.
I found a mechanic at the "Auto Corral" in Santee near my daughters home and brought it in. The mechanic checked the circuit from the computer to the Fuel Injector, put a scope on it to check the wave form and compared the resistance across the two Fuel Injectors. Everything checked out. The only problem he found was a bent pin on the Fuel Injector. As the mechanic Tom explained it to me, the connector is a bare copper post that sticks down to mate with the pins coming up from the injector. One of the pins was touching the side of the post and not mated with it. On our 800 mile trip home, the engine never skipped a beat.

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