Web Log

Our Camper Van




Amy's Cakes

Outboard Hydroplane Racing

Radio Controlled Toys

Expedition Trophy Camp Site

2010-05-10 (E)

First a note that things on www.badgertrek.com have been a bit wonky as of late as I did some reorganization of files, updated our name-server and DNS settings (no more redirect, yay!), added a few pages where I consolidated our tool, book, and gear lists, and did a bit of a scrub to cleanup the years of cruft that have accumulated in the way of bad links (bit of mod_rewrite magic), etc. It may take some time for search indexing to catch up, as well as the nifty new search bar on the bottom of our menu as this runs off the Google index which has been taking its own sweet time about revisiting us after these changes

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Another long delay and more news: Welcome to Magnolia Badger, the newest member of our little clan.

'Nolia was born on the 21st of December, and we have been a bit overwhelmed with parental duties to spend much time updating weblogs of late.

As the weather improved and we found 'Nolia to be a fair bit more mild-mannered than her sister, we ("we" usually consists of Erik and WiVi, who helps by randomly moving bolts, nuts, tools, and using wrenches to wail on the undercarage while saying "I'M FIXING VAN!!! I'M BUSY!!!") started working on the van to prep for some family outings. Some of the work was mentioned in the prior log including a larger alternator, heater-core shutoff, gauges, etc. This work continued with a few test drives with the new gauges showing the tremendous amount of heat generated in the engine compartment, and the rather alarming temperatures the transmission fluid was reaching just with short jaunts in the mountains at sub-freezing temperatures. Additionally we had been looking into some solution to improve the braking performance.

To address the heat we found the transmission cooler in the van was tiny (1/5) the size of the cooler in the Ford pickup trucks for the same drive train, so a larger transmission cooler with a thermostatically controlled electric fan was installed. Hood louvers were installed in both the hood and the front quarter-panel "cheeks" to allow hot air an easier way out of the engine compartment.
Hood Vents

For the brakes a hydro-boost unit from an E450 was mated to the stock master-cylinder yielding 33% more braking power with additional reserve and removal of the huge stock vacuum boost unit. While doing this work the power-steering fluid was drained and found to be quite burnt, indicating a larger PS cooler was called for. This was adapted from the old transmission cooler that was now surplused.

The exhaust was replaced with a 4" stainless aftermarket unit for lower exhaust gas temperatures and better turbo performance, as well as significant clearance improvements as the hangers could be adjusted.

Finally we threw on an aftermarket transmission filter setup and a power-steering (and now brake) fluid filter, and did a fluid change of the transmission, power-steering, and engine oil.
Transmission Filter

With all the changes (EGR clean, Hydroboost brakes, Transmission Cooler, Transmission Filter, Power Steering Cooler, Power Steering Filter, Exhaust Insulation, Fluid Changes, Gauges, Alternator, Heater Core Valve, and dozens of minor things) in place, a relatively short test trip seemed in order, so we took a few days off around a weekend and headed into southern Utah. This was our first trip with both girls along, and we learned a lot, especially how much they dislike driving in the morning.

Our average speed the first day came in at 20mph for 200 miles in about 10hrs. The scene that would constantly repeat was one of a crying child, stopping to address while the other one sleeps, and then starting to go again. After a few minutes of driving the child who had been sleeping while we were stopped would wake and get upset while the other fell asleep. Over and over and over....

We ended up at a nice spot in the San Rafael Swell in late afternoon, and decided to call it a day and let the girls stretch and enjoy a few hours of sunlight.
Red Rock

WiVi immediately jumped to work with her new shovel and dump-truck, attempting to resculpt all of the red sand around us into small piles and holes. She would pause periodically to say "HI COWS" to the locals as they wandered past, and "HI COW POO" and "HI 'NOTHER COW POO" to the locals' leavings.
WiVi Digging

'Nolia, meanwhile, spent much of the time inside the doorway of the van just surveying her domain, and enjoying the scenery with Mama.
Nolia Camping

We traveled further south the next day, and ended up camping in a spot near Bluff, UT which we had visited years before in our wanderings. The spot had some nice shade, sand for WiVi to dig in, and was accessible to some friends we met the following day in their car. WiVi did learn that when I suggest she avoid the red ants it might be a good idea, and after being bit on the ear by one, spent the next day pointing out all the "BAD BUG[s]!!!! GO AWAY BUG!!!"

The trip down had been good in terms of the modifications done to the van. The noise in the cabin was significantly less (exhaust & turbo insulation, larger exhaust, rear cross-over fuel rail line are all possible contributors); the brakes took a more gentle touch for the same result; the engine fan clutch only engaged once on the hottest day while on a dirt road climbing a steep hill at slow speed, for just a few seconds, and it was much more gentle than the standard jet-like whoosh (probably because the air has somewhere to go now); the transmission never got over 175deg, even on the hill climbs (aux fan comes on at 180); and the ability to turn off heat into the cabin with the vent led to us never even turning on the AC (no rush of hot air after stopping for a few minutes).

On the final day we decided to do a hike till early afternoon and then just jet home in one shot as the girls hit their afternoon nap time. Since we knew where we were going (home) and how to get there, the need for daylight at the end of the trip was not there. This worked much better and we had only a couple stops dictated by their needs. We did however, have a rather comical (in the tragic sense) series of stops due to van issues....

The first issue to show up was a persistant leak from the new transmission cooler. It was not a lot, but sent a periodic drip out of the inlet which would be blown back over the bottom of the motor and exhaust. Till I located the source it was very concerning as the entire underside of the passenger side of the van had a slight coating of transmission fluid.

The second issue was a slight to moderate surging the van would start to do when the road went from flat to a slight incline. Dropping off the throttle for a second and then back on to force a shift would resolve the issue but it could come on quickly and was somewhat startling.

Third we found a leak out of the rear passenger side axle tube when parked slightly off-camber for dinner at a gas-station. Not critical, but requiring attention before the next trip.
Rear Tire

Then, finally, when we were feeling like we were home, about 25miles actually, the alternator light came on, the steering got very heavy, and the engine started to heat up very quickly. I pulled off the freeway at the next exit a mile later, and stopped in a parking lot where I confirmed my fear that we had lost our serpentine belt. (Note that the hydroboost brakes without incoming pressure worked better on the first few stops than the vacuum boosted brakes had last year when the engine died).

Being the clever fellow that I am, we always carried a spare serpentine belt I had picked up in the beginnings of our trip. Unfortunately I now discovered that they had sold me the wrong thing, it was too short by a factor of 2 or 3, and not wide enough either. I also discovered the source of the broken belt was the alternator pulley, which did not have a nut anymore. The alternator had lost the pulley nut, the belt walked off the alternator pulley whilst being shredded by the edge of the pulley, and eventually unstrung itself completely. Without the belt we had no power steering, no power brakes, an no engine cooling. The lack of alternator power was not that big a deal as we have the huge house batteries which were fully charged, plenty to run all the engine's electrical and lights for a few hours.

It was now 11pm, and we still had 25 miles to get home. Amy and I decided to send me home on the dirt-bike (which we brought at the last minute to assist with meeting our friends while camping), pick up our car, bring it back so Amy and the girls could drive home, and I would nurse the van home a few miles at a time.

After riding home, and returning with the car, it was nearly midnight. For the first run Amy followed me, while I drove the van keeping an eye on the oil-temperature. I found that if I kept to back-roads at around 35-40mph the oil temp would stay steady, however every stop-light would cause it to climb till I got back up to about 40mph again. When the temperature hit 230 I would pull over and stop for an hour or two. Steering was a workout, and stopping required a fair bit of foresight and planning (fortunately at midnight on a Sunday there was minimal traffic). It took me 3 sub-trips, with engine cooling stops between them, to get the van home.

Of course the moment I drove into our driveway I realized that we have an electric water-pump plumbed into the engine in the form of our coolant heater. If I had turned that on to circulate the coolant I could doubtless have driven the whole way home with reasonable cooling capacity, and avoided the whole motorcycle/car shuffling and much of the nights stress.

The next week I pulled the alternator out, machined out the pulley (which has wallowed out due to the missing nut), machined a shim to make up for the lost metal, and put it back on with a new nut, plenty of thread-lock, and finally staked the nut with a punch for good measure. I ordered a couple of CORRECT belts, and then spent a few hours figuring out how to release the belt tensioner so I could restring it.
Loose Alternator Pulley

The surging we experienced is likely attributable to a problematic exhaust back-pressure sensor (EBP) or injection control pressure sensor (ICP). There were no codes for the sensors being way our-of range, and at about 50$ per and having them be ones we should probably cary spares of anyway, we replaced both (keeping the old ones as backup) and will see if that resolves the issue.

The transmission cooler leak was hopefully a fairly easy leak to fix, coming from the point at which the thermostat for the auxuliary fan screws into the cooler. I have sealed it up again, and so far no reoccurance in short test drives.


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