Monday, December 22, 2014

Joseph Lucas Prince of Darkness

If you ever owned a British car or motorcycle you've heard all the "Joe Lucas" jokes. British auto electrical systems bore the brunt of a lot of bad press and to be honest I owned LOTS of British bikes and cars and never suffered from problems.

The problems I experienced were inflicted by previous owners who suffered more from dim WITS than dim lights.
Like what you ask?
I briefly owned a wreck of an MGB. Got it for nothing because it wouldn't run for more than 5 seconds. Had a new battery, all kinds of stuff but just wouldn't stay running. 

Dim witted owner. Decided to replace the fuel pump, cut off the connectors that came from the factory and wired it back up BACKWARDS. It sucked from the carburetor and blew bubbles into the gas tank. Fine of you are fond of bubbles. Not so much if you want to drive somewhere.
So what has this got to do with the price of hay??

Dim wits.
We had a plan. We liked the plan. We had anticipated the plan for several months. The plan failed.
Dim wits.

Here was the plan. We were going to get the sofa and dining chairs in our rig re-upholstered in Yuma. We spent a weekend visiting Wayne and Rhonda then dropped the rig in Yuma and drove home in the toad. (You read all my previous blogs so your familiar with the terminology right?) (If not go back and do your homework!!).

2 weeks later we were going to drive to Yuma, pick up the re-upholstered rig and camp that night in Walmart then next morning drive the 200'ish miles to Casa Grande and spend Christmas and New Years there. We called ahead and they said the sofa was ready, they even sent a picture and it DID look good. I asked if they'd done the dining table chairs too, which we'd paid for. From the tone of the reply I guessed they'd forgotten but give them their due they got them done.

Saturday we arrive at the place and go out to the rig, the sofa and chairs looked GREAT!
We paid them, jumped in the rig, turned the ignition.

Nada. Not even a click, 
Dead chassis battery. 

Never mind I flipped the switch that allows you to start the engine from the coach batteries. 
Nothing, they were dead too.

Now part of the thing that attracted us to this shop is they have hookups for multiple rugs at their shop and they promised us they would hook ours up.

They didn't.

I kind of knew that the rig had a problem with the chassis electrical system, when we bought it Dee mentioned that the battery had died and she'd replaced it but it went dead again. An RV electrical guy had decided that the dimmer switch for the dash lights was draining the battery even with the ignition and chassis isolation switch off. 
If you turned the dimmer off no problem. We'd had no problem in 9 months of ownership, but when we went to hang out with Wayne and Rhonda we were driving in the dark and I turned the dimmer up high. And forgot about it.

So my bad for the chassis battery.

The coach batteries I have to put down to them, The batteries were isolated when we brought it in but apparently they had to work very late to get the dining chairs done. That's when I suspect that the coach batteries got drained.

The owner of the company was very apologetic and said they had a charger, they'd put it on charge for a couple of hours and we could come back and get it started.
When we got back some of their "Technicians" had the chassis battery on one of those big "Fast Charge/Jump Start" rigs. Worse they were taking the negative cable on and off with it still powered up. There were some serious sparks being generated. They got it going and left, then we tried to back it out of the spot to get on the road.
It died. 

The owner came at it with the charger again but I managed to get it turned off before he tried to attach the clamps again. He offered to let us dry camp at his place so we could get a charge in the battery with the charger to start it, then put it on the 30 amp hook up overnight to build up the charge
We started it after an hour on 10 amp, moved it over to the hookup, plugged in and went to bed.

Next morning full of confidence we had breakfast and slipped the key in the ignition. 

I was pretty convinced it was a bad battery and we found the receipt for it, it was only 9 months old with a 3 year warranty from Sears. We pulled the battery, loaded it into the Fiesta and drove to Sears.
In order to test it they had to charge it for an hour on their computer controlled charger. We wandered around the stores and came back an hour later.

"Perfect" was their statement, in fact it was now fully charged.
Back to the rig to throw the battery in. Engine started right up.
Hit the road.

Heading east towards Tuscon on I8, I noticed the battery light was on, indicating a no charge condition. Nowhere to turn around but 150 miles to go, maybe we could make it on the charge in the battery. I started up the generator thinking that it would put some power into the battery as we drove, maybe making it last longer.

58 miles down the road 1 mile BEFORE an exit, the engine died. 

I tried the house batteries, not enough to turn the engine over. We called Gieco who we are insured with and who also offered towing coverage when we took out the policy.
Yes they would get a tow truck to us BUT it would be Monday! (This being Sunday).
We unhooked the Fiesta (Ain't toads wonderful??) and drove the mile to Dateland AZ where there was a gas station and a campground. But no mechanic, no tow truck and no battery charger.

Gila Bend was 10 miles closer than Yuma at that point so we pulled the battery out again and drove there. We located a towing company that was closed for the day, but the owner's friend was a Brit Car nut and had pity on us, letting us put the battery on their super dooper computer controlled charger. 
We talked Brit cars and bikes for an hour and the charger "Dinged" ready to go. I gave him some cash for a holiday 12 pack and we drove the 40 miles back to rig, (doing an illegal U turn thru the median). Battery in and it fired right up, we drove the mile to the off ramp and checked into the campground.

The friendly guy at the towing company had agreed with my diagnosis of failed alternator caused by putting the battery charger clamps on with the power still on. Those sparks were indicating a big no no.

Monday morning I got on the computer and found NAPA Auto Parts and O Reilly's Auto Parts stores in Yuma. O'Reilly's very nice lady said they had 3 alternators in stock that would do the job. We drove the 50 miles BACK to Yuma and went straight to O'Reilly's. The guy on the desk looked it up. "No don't have one 5 to 7 business days to get one"

I was not happy. 

The lady I talked to at 7 am had no problem finding one listed, she said there were 2 different power outputs 90 amp and 130 amp, one was 5 1/8" diameter the other was 5 5/8" one was $149 the other $175. She sounded very competent and very convinced that there were 3 alternators in the store.
I pressed the counterman and wouldn't take no for an answer. Finally he stumbled on a link to F450 alternators which would be the same as mine (I had it with me, having taken an hour to remove it as soon as it was light enough to work on the rig),
So we got the new one side by side with the old one and it was identical. It was 130 watt, and it was $175. Just for reassurance that the old one was the actual problem I had them test it. It was dead as a door nail.

We shopped for groceries, bought a heater for the rig (More on this another time) filled up the Fiesta and drove the 50 miles bask to Dateland.

An hour later the rig was up and running and charging. We decided to stay were we were for that evening and continue our trip first thing Tuesday.

So Joe Lucas at work??
No just the Dim Wits with the charger who fried the voltage regulator in the alternator.

And me, the Dim Witt who forgot to turn the dimmer switch off.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Brian & Barbara, I feel your pain, especially the counter guy at the parts store. Can almost cause a guy to go POSTAL...
    When in the past I have experienced a real group of that stuff all in a rapid succession it usually meant I was free of it for a good while after. Hope that means your 'dues' have been paid and all of 2015 will be trouble free.

    Merry Christmas.