Fail Safe

This is the good land yacht GETAWAY at an unscheduled stop along the side of the road in New Brunswick, Canada. 25 miles from the border crossing and five miles from the last campsite.

The Check Engine light came on at the end of the day before. Then went out. This was after 1,250 miles of Check Engine free driving.  This light can usually be cleared by draining a bit of fuel/water out of the fuel/water separator.  This was done the morning before departure, so we hit the road with the expectations of being home by early afternoon.

Then, in quick succession – yellow CHECK ENGINE, red ENGINE STOP flashing & the engine stopped.  Through prior research, it was known that the ENGINE STOP warning had to be taken very seriously.  It means that an engine critical failure is either imminent or already in progress.  You have thirty seconds to be off the road and parked PERIOD!  Our hearts were pounding.

Step One. Walk around the coach to perform a visual inspection – fluid leaks, fluid levels, et al.  Nothing obvious – negative results.

Step Two.  Call Good Sams Emergency Roadside service. There is an app for that and in theory, it should use the iPhone’s location service to identify where we are.  But it doesn’t really work that way, not at all.  Fortunately, the RV GPS provides mile marker locations and eventually the operator at the other end figured out where we were.  This stage of the process works like this:  1. Find a safe place to be towed to – next campground in the preferred direction of travel. 2. Find a big rig towing service. 3. Get to safe place. 4. Call back Monday morning for tow/service/repair – at the next qualified facility.

About ninety minutes later, the tow truck arrived. Step 1 redux – check for anything obvious.  Still nothing.  Step 2 – negotiate a plan of action. Step 3 – implement the plan of action. The plan of action went like this, restart the engine, let it run for awhile and see if the fault happens again.  Then, if no fault, start driving with the tow truck following – he would follow for twenty miles until the exit to the border.  No fault in progress, started driving.  Check Engine came on, then went out and stayed out the rest of the way home. It was a tender & tense travel day.

After unloading and dinner, it was time to jump on the RV online forums – RV.Net, IVR2, Escapees and the Yahoo Winnebago email group, for experienced based advise.  A lot of good responses – bad sensor(s), clean ground connections, get an engine fault code reader, take it in for servicing.  The first thought for taking in for servicing was the local Freightliner franchise.  Then one poster mentioned that after having done that and $100 later, was referred to engine service center. So an appointment as made, for the following Tuesday at the local Cummins service center.

On Sunday, since the coach had made it home, it was time to do a cleansing dump of the tanks and top off the fuel tanks.  Started the engine to let it warm up.  Then BAM, it shut itself off.  This has now become a troubling trend.  Before the trip, when dumping the fresh water tank, the same thing happened. The rationalization then was there something somewhere that does not allow for the dumping of tanks while the engine was running.  Rationalizations may or may not become plausible reasons. In this case, it may have been an early warning over what was to come later.

Monday after work.  I’m not feeling so good about the coach getting to Cummins.  Twelve miles down the road, with twenty miles remaining – Check Engine, ENGINE STOP flashing, pull over now & Engine Stop. Southbound on a busy highway, Good Sams called and Tow Truck #2 is now dispatched.

Once on the scene, options explored. [Sidebar – towing the RV from the front requires either disconnecting the drive shaft or pulling the transaxles. Neither option is good on a busy highway.]  So the coach was restarted and driven to a safer place where it could be towed from the rear.  Since the engine did restart, the tow truck guy’s first thought was that all was well again, the coach could be driven and a tow would not be needed.  I said, “No, because it took him an hour to get here the first time and I didn’t want to risk another – fourth – Engine Stop episode.”  The coach was lifted, secured and towed.   Eventually we made it to the Cummins service center, tow truck guy left, the coach backed into a spot, and dropped the keys in the designated space.

The Cummins place started reading the codes – 399 Severe Temperature events.  They called to quiz me on coolant levels – never low, and engine temperature – never out of range.   The engine was failing safe as designed.

Then another call – need help with opening the right side slide so that they could get access to engine compartment. Access is under the king size bed.  I leave work, go over and find that the left side is working, the right side has failed.  Call #3 to Good Sams for a mobile RV technician.  The first 4 PM response was rescheculed to 8 AM the next morning with a 9 AM arrival time.  This problem was isolated to chassis wiring – probably a loose, busted ground.  During troubleshooting,  a workaround was discovered.  By grounding one connector or another, the side would either extend or retract.  The workaround bypasses the safety of the control circuitry, so it must be done only in urgent situations and is now #2 on the fixit list.

Troubleshooting on the engine continued.  The problem is a failed engine cooling fan assembly. A mid four figure <gulp/sob> quote was reviewed, signed and parts are scheduled for delivery on Monday.  The Drive Hub, Clutch Fan, Coolant Level Sensor (frequent cause of similar distress), Sensor O-Ring and the V Ribbed Belt.   Hopefully the Good Sams Service Plan will generously reimburse all expenses.

Then off to the RV Service Center for the failed right side slide and corroded tail pipe replacement.

Hope everything gets resolved this week and next month’s last RV trip of the season will be troublefree.


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