Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Be It Ever So Humble

I'm back, about a week early.  And there's a reason for that.

I left last Tuesday, towing my trailer with my pickup and headed for Colorado Springs.  I reached Ely, NV, that evening, and the truck was acting up.  It ran like crap.

On Wednesday I visited 3 different mechanics in Ely, taking up pretty much the entire day.  The last one figured out I was running on 7 cylinders; his solution was to replaced the grossly-fouled #6 spark plug with a new one and to send me on my way.  He said I'd make it to Denver and back and then might need a new engine.

Thursday I somehow made it into Grand Junction, CO.  No power on hills at all, and it shuddered as if not getting any fuel or air.  I called a GMC dealership--but they don't work on 1979's, too old.  (You can't plug a diagnostic computer into them.)  Another shop referred me to a 3rd, and they gave me directions to get there.  I made it about 100 meters before the truck died on the side of the road.  I coaxed and cajoled the poor thing and finally limped into the garage.

They checked and there's plenty of pressure in all 8 cylinders, so not an engine problem.  The #6 spark plug, with only a few hundred miles on it, looked as if it had a few hundred thousand.  A loose grounding strap in the distributor and a bad #6 spark plug wire looked like a a reasonable fix.

It was not.

They drove me to a hotel that night--which was a dump and exceedingly overpriced due to Country Jam 2017 being held less than 10 miles away that weekend.  Friday morning, right before checkout, I got a call that the truck was ready.  They even came and picked me up.

I got about an hour east of Grand Junction, where the climbs really start, and realized that the problem remained.  It died a couple times on the way back to town, but I made it to the shop.  They replaced the fuel filter and fuel pump.  Then they put in a 2nd fuel filter when the first one made it run even worse!  They stayed after quitting time to install these for me--but the shop isn't open on weekends.  It would either work or I'd have to wait till Monday.

It didn't work.  And because of Country Jam there were no rooms or camping spots to be had.  A dozen or more rigs camped out in the Walmart parking lot Friday night.

I was able to get a camping spot on Saturday afternoon, and reserved it for 2 nights.  My mother had offered to tow my Camry out to me and tow the truck home, and at this point in the debacle I took her up on her offer.  She and her friend showed up Sunday afternoon after driving with absolute minimal stops.  We swapped out vehicles and they headed back immediately--they'd put their own trip on hold to help me out.  I got the trailer ready for travel and left a few hours later, of course going much more slowly than they were because I was towing with a Camry.

They put my truck in the garage around Monday noon.  I stopped off in Reno for the night to blow off a little steam--and darn near every room in the city was occupied because of a rodeo in town!  I was lucky to get a (somewhat inflated-price) room via Hotels.com, as calls to reservation lines had lengthy waits.

I stopped for a $6 breakfast today and made it home around 1:30 pm, a week after I'd left.

There's no place like home.


three of clubs said...

Journey and a half. I'm sorry your travels were interrupted.

For some time, I've told people the best trips are those marred by inconvenience --- like the time I got mugged in Rome by a bunch of gypsy girls.

Your recent travails though seem just like a bad trip. My 1973 Buick Electra died under similar conditions, albeit closer to home.

It just might be that 30 years on, a car or truck, has pulled it's weight, and with great regard, we let it go.

Or, that's some sentimental bull to ease the passing of time.

Anonymous said...

What a hassle! I'm sorry you had to go through that, and I'm surprised so many mechanics weren't able to properly diagnose the problem.

Unknown said...

Darren, so sorry your trip crashed like that. Very discouraging. Still, what were you thinking asking a ’79 GMC to do a job like that? I have a ’93 GMC pickup that is a workhorse for sure but I wouldn’t trust it to do a road trip over elevations dragging a load.

Still, I’m proud of you for nursing that ’79 along. Very green of you. Pretty soon you’ll be voting for Jerry Brown.


Pseudotsuga said...

Your poor budget...and your poor towing vehicle!
Hopefully the shop can locate an old-school mechanic (not one who just reads the computer and does what the computer says) to diagnose those mystery engine troubles.

Darren said...

It's a "new" (rebuilt) engine, it should run!

And there's no reason to believe it's the engine. For some reason enough fuel isn't getting to the cylinders--and mechanics at 4 different places didn't or couldn't figure out why.

I'll let the guys here near home figure it out, under better conditions for me!

Darren said...

Richard, at 9mpg I don't see how that truck could be called "green"--but it *is* beautiful. And it got a new engine last summer.

Someone will get to the bottom of this.