Can he fix it? Yes he can! – PART 2

This is part 2 and follows PART 1 written previously.

DECEMBER 2016 – Penticton
The cold weather effect
The walls of the truck are quite thick and very well insulated. We have been running the heater to maintain comfortable temperatures of 22C in the day and 16C at night. However, when it came to filling the inside water tank up with fresh water it wasn’t as easy as expected.

First, a very small amount of water left in the filling hose iced up, even though I thought it was empty after blowing through it. This was stored in the tool locker and should have been ok. Then, the filler pipe inside, that ran across the floor and up into the water tank, also had a small amount of water in it, causing a frozen blockage. This was all caused by the lack of air movement inside the cupboards. It is not something I have experienced before and certainly not something I would have thought of when I was building the truck.

I re-routed the filler pipes in the hope they wouldn’t give me any more trouble. They haven’t yet.

I also spent several hours trying to defrost the waste pipe after parking slightly downhill. Water had collected in the pipe and frozen – quite annoying with a sink full of water! I won’t park downhill in future!

We finally got to test out the snow chains at Penticton and are now very proficient at fitting and removing them. They needed a slight modification as they were just a link or two too long, so I moved one cross chain by one link. I also added some cable ties to stop the inside adjustment excess from flapping around in the wheel arch. This makes it easy to see which link to hook when fitting them. They work well and make an amazing amount of difference in grip – not only in giving forward motion – but also when it comes to stopping.

We decided that the snow chains needed a home and also that we could do with some sort of storage box on the floor in the centre of the cab. I fetched some materials from town and borrowed a couple of power tools from the house sit workshop and got started.

I made two boxes for in front of the seats to house two snow chains each. These just sit on the floor but are strapped to the seats with a ratchet stap. The centre cab box was a bit more complicated as it had to contend with levers and knobs on the floor and still be useful. After building the box it was given a coat of black paint. Using one bolt to hold it to the floor so it doesn’t move, finishes it off. It is very useful for storing cameras, books and snacks for travelling days.

One day I parked up in town and tried to pull the engine stop knob, only to have it shatter in my hand and cut my finger. This was due to a combination of cold weather and frail, old plastic. I had to put the truck in gear and deliberately stall it to stop the engine. Later on, I removed the cable which was frozen solid and, after defrosting it, pulled the inards out and soaked them in oil. I made a new knob out of a bolt and large washers then refitted it all, it now works great with no fear of slicing my fingers again.

Somewhere over the other side of the USA there lies one of our rear mud flaps. It perished and broke off. I made a quick trip to Canadian Tire for new flaps that seem ok and will hopefully last longer than the one we lost.

Peering inside a wheel arch one cold morning I noticed a dribble of antifreeze down the side of the engine block just below a core plug. Concerned that it may get worse, I measured it, with a view to replacing it. Next time I was in town I picked up a couple of core plugs from a Napa car parts store.

Psyching myself up to face a cold and frosty repair on the core plug I put extra clothes on. It didn’t seem too bad that day at -10 C so I removed the air filter and intake tube. On closer inspection and with a lot of relief I found that there was a very short hose with a clip that needed tightening just above the core plug. With the clip tightened and filter refitted I packed up and retreated to the warmth. I kept an eye on the place where it had leaked for a few days and all seems ok.

The truck runs at quite a cold temperature most of the time and sometimes the cab heater doesn’t get very warm in the cold weather. I made a radiator cover and attached it with a few screws and a bungy, this helps the engine to warm up quicker and makes the cab heater work better too.

Snow chains x 2 pairs US$ 210
Mud flaps x2 Can$ 35
Core plugs x 2 Can$2

March 2017 Portland, Oregon
After the winter.
Having left most of the snow behind us we were now met with rain which had a habit of soaking the side door when we were getting in and out of the truck. Concerned that further down the road we would encounter very hot tropical weather with heavy rain, we thought it would be useful to be able to have the door open even in a downpour.

I purchased a tarpaulin and various other components and set about fitting it all together. The result was fantastic – a strong and easy-to-put-up porch awning that works a treat.

I had some trouble with a couple of padlocks that seized up after being coated with winter road grime. The only way to get them undone was hammer and chisel so some new weather-proof ones were purchased.

Checking around the truck one dry day, I tried the outside water tap and found that the handle just spun around and did nothing. I removed it from the truck and guessed that the winter ice had wreaked havoc upon it. A suitable replacement was found at the excellent Home Depot. I fitted it and this enables us to use our outdoor shower when we need to as well.

Awning parts US$25
Padlocks (4 matching) US$20
Water tap bits US$10

March 2017 Arcata, California
Preventative maintainance
Having come through the cold and snowy winter into some warmer, wetter weather, I thought that the brakes felt slightly different so I decided that they needed inspecting and probably cleaning. I bought some brake cleaner and waited for an opportunity to tackle the job. I wasn’t really looking forward to it.

The day came. We were camped in a slightly posh RV park and we thought that it was only right to check first with the reception as to whether I was able to do the work there. Their answer was no but they suggested parking in front of the Mexican resturant next door and using the parking lot, as it is shut on Sundays.

In no time at all I had the first front hub stripped down to the shoes. Nothing seemed untoward so, using sand paper, I removed the glazing from the shoes and drums. I checked the self adjusters and cleaned off all the dust, then put it all back together and moved on to the second front hub. By the middle of the afternoon and having stopped for a nice lunch the job was finished, everything all looked ok and on testing the brakes they had returned to their old predictable selves.
Brake cleaner US$7

April 2017 Shoshone California
Sun screens and insects.
We headed for Death Valley where the temperature was getting hotter and there were more insects. Somewhere back in Canada I picked up a flyscreen for the doorway but as yet hadn’t fitted it. Now was the time to do so, it’s farly simple, attached with velcro and has a line of magnets down the centre that closes itself together keeping out the bugs. How well this will work in Central America I don’t know, we’ll see.
I bought some shiny silver reflective sun screens in an autoparts store and set about cutting and gaffa taping these to fit the cab windows. They make a massive difference in keeping the cab cooler in the hot weather.
Insect screen US$10
Sun screens (3) US$10

May 2017 San Francisco
More power, less noise and a service.
We were fortunate in landing ourselves another short house sit, this time in Berkeley just outside San Francisco. The owners, Robb and Daryl, had a lovely house and offered me the use of their commercial property down the road. Robb showed me around this massive workshop with tools, compressor and lots of other useful stuff. Wow what luck I thought.

I had been toying with the idea for sometime about fitting an intercooler to the truck to give it a little more power for going up hills. Searching on ebay I found the appropriate parts, charge cooler style intercooler, elbows, fittings and pipework.

I had to make a couple of brackets to hold the intercooler in place and had to rotate the turbo to create enough room the get all the elbows to fit in. Its a bit tight in places but a reasonably neat install. It does seem to have given the truck some more power. I would guess maybe 10% more as it now goes up hill faster than it goes down (using the same gear) bearing in mind the principle of not going down hill any faster than going up hill.

The truck was due for a service so engine, gearbox and transferbox oils were changed and axle oils were checked and prop shafts greased.
I decided it was a good opertunity to do something about noise levels in the cab while I had the use of the workshop. I set about stripping the cab out and all the mats to add some more sound proofing. It has made some difference and now we don’t have to shout at each other.

The plastic snorkel top decided to start falling apart so I had a quick look around Walmart and a new top was made from an upturned saucepan.
Intercooler and bits US$250
Engine and gearbox oils US$70
Sound proofing US$60
Snorkel top (sauce pan) US$10

June 2017 Bakersfield, California
Stifling still air.
We reached Bakerfield where we decided to take a break as we knew the RV park there had nice facilities and a decent pool. It just so happened that the day we decided to stop there, there was a heat wave with temperatures reaching 45C, about 112F.
We don’t have air con and managed for a few days before we decided to go looking for a fan to move the air in the truck around. I bought a 9″ mains powered fan for when we are in a campsite. Just as I was leaving the shop I noticed an empty bargain bin that advertised 6″ USB fans. I asked if they had any more and apparently they did but no one knew where. Looking around the store everywhere for these elusive fans I came across one being used and checked it out. Now I was convinced I really want a pair of them. I ended going to 3 of the stores trying to find the blasted things and on the last attempt managed to find the last 2 available. They are great. They run off a USB port drawing only a very small amount of electricity. They are also quiet so they can run all night if need be.
9″ mains powered fan US$17
6″ USB fans US$20 for both.