Wednesday, May 9, 2012

My favorite thing to do

It must be – I do it often enough.  I’m talking about fixing my generator.  Nothing serious – this time – but nonetheless my hands are covered with genset grime because I have spent the last 24 hours wrastling the beast in and out of its hidey hole. 

On the way home from Texas we had a fail to start incident.  Nothing unusual in that – we’ve been having fail to start incidents as long as we’ve had a generator.  I am getting faster at diagnosing the problems – all that practice isn’t going to waste.  This time the run solenoid wasn’t pulling in.  The way both our Onans work is that the run solenoid is spring loaded to hold the governor against the fuel shutoff.  Unless the solenoid is energized the governor won’t pass any fuel.  So that was the immediate cause but figuring out why it was doing that was another matter altogether.  In the interest of getting home I simply unbolted the run solenoid and we ran the generator under close supervision and only when absolutely necessary.  The problem with that “solution” is that the genset had no way to shut itself down if it got into serious trouble.  Gensets spend a lot of their lives running unattended so they need to be able to shut themselves down if they run out of oil pressure or overheat.

These older Onans have a reputation for having a needlessly complicated run circuitry.  I spent some time trying to figure out why I had no power to my run solenoid but finally decided to do as many others have done and bypass the complicated Onan circuitry completely.  So now in the place of all the Onan ground based circuits we have one simple little cube relay.  When I start the engine that relay is powered and therefore open because it is normally closed.  That means that initially the run solenoid is unpowered but as the engine turns over and the oil pressure comes up the oil pressure switch opens, dropping the ground to the cube relay.  Only when that relay reverts to closed does the run solenoid see power and open the governor.  In a sense my system is an improvement on Onan’s system because the engine doesn’t start until it sees oil pressure.  Today I added a further refinement when I moved the run solenoid ground so that it has to pass through a normally closed thermostat mounted close to the exhaust.  I’m not sure what temperature I should be using on that shutdown but I’m starting out with 105C because that’s what I bought.  The thermostats were $7.99 shipping included from China for 10 pieces so I’m not out a lot if it doesn’t work.  My digital thermometer has a dead battery & we didn’t have a spare onboard so checking the temps will have to wait for tomorrow. 

As you may have guessed, we are back in Buchanan.  We left the Island about noon on Monday, caught the ferry to Horseshoe Bay and then drove like mad until we got back to the little house on the prairie.  Its pretty wet out here.  We didn’t see a single drill in the field all the way home.  There were a few set up in yards obviously ready to go but absolutely no sign of field work anywhere. 

Since we got back we’ve been in a mad scramble to get ready to leave again.  Aside from the already mentioned ongoing generator repairs I had some work to do on our other major piece of shit equipment, the Ford Exploder.  When we left it here in March we couldn’t use the front passenger door.  Apparently this too is a known problem.  Their door latch mechanisms rust up and you can only open the door from inside, if you are lucky.  Some owners have to resort to crawling across the console to get out whichever side is still usable.  Ours wasn’t so bad that we couldn’t use it but it was hard to open and sometimes didn’t want to close.  Yesterday I managed to get the inside panel off the door but ran up against a wall trying to get the mechanism removed.  I think you have to take out the rear window track and I’ll want a lot more time on my hands to tackle that one.  Instead I filled the latch up with weasel piss, worked it a bunch, opened and closed the door several times and I made some serious improvement on it.  I’ll keep filling it up with 3-in-one oil which is my current weasel piss of preference and hope that it doesn’t let us down on this trip. 

The last major piece of work I’d like to get to is doing a grease job on the Frenchy-bus but our neighbour says we’re getting rain tomorrow.  If he is right the grease will have to wait.  Today I pulled the plugs on the tag and steer hubs and added oil to a couple of them.  The engine fired up first turn and I either fixed our headlight problem from the winter or postponed fixing it – not sure which yet.  Tomorrow we expect to be back on the road by early afternoon and will likely get to the rest area at Maple Creek tomorrow night.  So I better get back to work now.

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