Monday, September 19, 2011

Getting rid of Japanese Junk

When we bought the bus I was happy to learn that it had a Kubota generator.  I had never had anything but good luck with Kubota equipment and I assumed that would be the case with the bus gennie.  Oh boy was I wrong!

It should have been a clue when we arrived to look at the bus and the previous owner had difficulty getting it started on a warm April morning.  He said something about it having always been a cold-blooded SOB and I really didn’t pay much attention to it. 

We had a variety of problems with that miserable orange whore over the years.  It never started easily but we eventually learned how to deal with that through overuse of the preheat switch.  It also quit unpredictably, usually from overheating for no apparent reason.  It was also unbelievably noisy.  Eventually it was puking so much oil that it no longer would run so I – foolishly – decided to rebuild it.  I’m not sure why I did that – I probably still harboured some notion that Kubota paint meant superior quality. 

So I pulled it out and took it to the Super Uke, north of White Fox.  The Uke is a local legend when it comes to repairing Chevies and John Deeres so he seemed the logical choice.  I’m sure he did good work but the rebuilt engine didn’t run noticeably better than it had when we first bought the bus.  Obviously it was better than when I took it to Byron because it wouldn’t run when I took it and it was running when I got it back. 

Things quickly got worse.  We spent the first winter with the rebuilt generator on the desert at Quartzsite.  We got about a week’s use out of the genset and then the power head failed.  Of course it failed completely and of course I didn’t have the brains to abandon the whole issue at that point.  Instead I dumped another $2,000 into the miserable orange crap pile, comforting myself that we would have a completely “new” generator – new engine and new generator head.  By this point of course I was well past the cost of a really good brand new genset so I had to tell myself some kind of story but all we really had was our same old pile of junk.

It continued to be less and less reliable until after a trip last fall I had finally had enough.  At that point I ripped it out, threw it in the bush and for the past year we have run with no genset.  That wasn’t as bad as it might sound because even when we nominally had a genset we rarely had one that actually worked so being without one was really not all that different.  At least with the genset pulled out we could use the space for storage. 

When we bought the boat it came with a very old Onan genset.  And we were EXTREMELY nervous about using it at first.  Every time it hiccuped we were sure it was about to die or cost us $2,000.  But it never did and we slowly came to trust it and even to depend on it.  The only real trouble we ever had with it was a sticky solenoid on the starter which I have since learned to blast with weasel piss as part of my regular maintenance.  So when we got back to the bus it seemed like we really should have a genset. 

On Saturday we drove to Selkirk, MB and picked up another old Onan.  This one is air-cooled but other than that apparently more or less the same gennie that we have in the boat.  We bought this one from a guy who used to be an Onan dealer.  He’s 74 years old and trying to retire but judging from the work on the floor of his shop he’s not trying very hard.  I’ve never heard anything but good about old Onan gensets – I hope I’m not about to learn differently. 

Today I got the new generator more or less ready to stuff into the hole where the orange pile of crap once lived.  The big challenge for the day was organizing enough cube relays to enable us to remote start it from the inside panel.  We’ve also got an external auxiliary fuel pump that I needed to drive.  The genset might be able to draw fuel from the tank but the auxiliary pump guarantees that it has fuel and incorporates some additional filtration so I wanted to preserve that feature.  Its pretty noisy but so far I’ve only run it without a muffler so I expect it to be much quieter when it isn’t barking out through a straight pipe.

Stay tuned. I hope we haven’t traded orange grief for blue grief.

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