A Mechanical Hiccup On Our Way North: Serenity Shuts Down

For the sake of story continuity, in our generator theft post I left out a bit of excitement we experienced during our casino run up the west coast.  After we left our second casino we crossed into Oregon and fueled up just enough to get us up to a really cheap area for gas a couple hundred miles further north.  About 30 minutes after refueling, Serenity gave a bit of a hiccup, sort of a very short but noticeable loss of power, less than a second, before returning to normal.  I didn’t think anything of it the first time, but when it happened again a bit further down the road, along with giving me a check engine light I got a bit worried, and had myself half convinced we had gotten some bad gasoline.

Irrelevant to the story, but did you know some Oregon rest stops have dump stations?  Came in quite handy after a few days of parking lot camping.

The third time it happened I pulled over, turned everything off, gave a visual check, and pulled out my OBDII scanner to see what codes it was throwing.  It gave me two that I was not able to make much of with our limited connection, so we decided to push on the remaining half hour to our next casino stop, more than a little on edge the entire time.  We made it without further incident, pulled into what looked like a check in area, shut the engine off and made arrangements to stay a night.  When I tried to start her up to pull into an RV spot: nothing.  Not a sound, not an attempt to crank, not a warning alarm, not even an indicator light.

Irrelevant but interesting bridge we crossed while nervously awaiting Serenity’s next hiccup.

After repeated attempts we called for roadside assistance through our Easy Care extended warranty policy, and they took my recommendation for a mobile mechanic I had found through my own research.  After an hour or so of waiting, bored and on a whim I tried one more time to get Serenity started, and she fired right up without hesitation, pretty much just as the mechanic was arriving.  I pulled into our spot, shut her down and talked to the man before he began trouble shooting.

Gratuitous cat photo: PKM is unconcerned with our latest mechanical difficulties.  Do we still have cat food?  Then all is well.

I mentioned one of the weird things I ran across when I googled the two codes my scanner had revealed: something about a Transmission Indicator Switch, or Transmission Neutral Switch.  He agreed that the symptoms sounded a bit like a malfunctioning switch of that nature, crawled under the bus, found the switch in question and reported that it was very loose.  He tightened it up and suggested that was the likely culprit.  Easy Care covered the bulk of the bill as well, so success!

The loose transmission switch.

Unfortunately, there was more to it.  During the next leg of our northward journey I got the very same hiccup a couple of times on the road, and when we pulled in for gas at that previously mentioned cheap gas area, Serenity would again not start.  The gas station attendant seemed not the least bit worried about us being parked there for however long it took, so that at least took some of the pressure off.  I talked to an RV repair center just a few miles up the road that agreed to take a look if I could get her in, but didn’t have a mobile tech available.  Fortunately, just like at the casino, after less than an hour Serenity fired right up.

A welcome RV Repair sign just up the road from our latest problem.

We pulled into Florence RV and Automotive Specialists, and they started in on us right away.  After a few minutes of trouble shooting, our mechanic became convinced that we had a bad battery isolation solenoid.  Like most motorhomes, we have two solenoid operated switches that allow us to disconnect and reconnect both the house and engine batteries at the push of a button.  The one for the engine, or chassis, was going bad, and after it got hot it was disconnecting the battery causing the engine to shut down.  When it cooled off, things went back to normal.

Battery disconnect panel.

He removed the panel to check what he thought was the dying switch, but after consultation with another expert determined that the bad one was further behind the panel, and once accessed looked like no isolation switch he had seen.  He was sure he did NOT have one in inventory, and wasn’t sure how easy it would be to find one.  While he researched, we made plans to stay the night, or several nights, at a nearby RV park.

The problem is in here.

Fortunately, he struck gold while searching for the part on the internet:  Thor, the RV manufacturer who bought Hurricane, had issued a recall on this exact part, and published mechanical instructions on how to overcome this potentially dangerous failure:  bypass the disconnect switch.  That’s right, Thors solution is to completely eliminate the functionality of the switch by wiring directly past it.  OK then.  Armed with the info, our mechanic had us up and running within half an hour.  We have since submitted a claim to Thor’s warranty department, and are waiting to hear back if they will cover the $150 in labor. Fingers crossed.

See that solenoid on the left?  That’s no it.  That’s for the house batteries.  The bad one is behind the circuit board.

Despite a few glitches along the way, the ease with which we can find a mechanic for Serenity has been quit the relief.  Contrast that with extensive online and phone research to find a specialized vintage diesel mechanic, usually at great expense, like we did for The Big Kahuna.  Whenever we find ourselves missing the old bus, we just remind ourselves of that!

We made it to our next casino destination after just a few hours delay.

8 thoughts on “A Mechanical Hiccup On Our Way North: Serenity Shuts Down

  1. As a long time resident of Washington, I can assure you of what you are finding out. Washington has become a sanctuary state of drug addicts, homeless thieves and bums. This beautiful state is becoming a haven for losers looking for an easy meal or drug cash. Do yourself a favor and find a safer place to play.

      • “What makes me think that?” I have lived in western Washington for 57 years. Violent crime rate is way down in Washington as well as all over the country because of the increase in concealed carry laws nationwide. Property crimes are way up due to the drug problem. Rest assured, the only police action will be to assign you a case number for insurance purpose. Trust me, the police have already moved on and unless a pawn shop checks the serial number, you genny is gone.

    • Ken wordpress won’t let me respond to you comment further down stream; it seems to have a limit of how man steps to the right it will go. Anyway: Property crime rate for WA State 1994: 54.5 for 2016: 30.4 This mirrors national trends. It is NOT just violent crime, it is crime in general, showing steady downward trends with occasional hiccups since 1992. Also, there is no correlation between crime reduction in areas with CCLs. Anecdote is not data! I’ll go with the data. As for the cops having moved on: well sure, dead end, nothing more to do. As I expected.

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