Sunday, June 3, 2018

Bad luck, good luck

Bob, KC and I were breaking camp. KC’s 2001 Express would start, run for only a couple of seconds, then just die. Start, run for only a couple of seconds, then die. Start, run for only a couple of seconds, then die. She went through the same list of emotions just about any of us would if our motorized shelter broke down in the boonies.

We swapped theories about the cause of the problem. It was cranking, so the battery was strong. And it ran smoothly for a couple of seconds, so it was getting spark. It was getting some fuel, but maybe not enough. Clogged filter? Bad fuel pump? Or maybe it was an electrical glitch. I got on Google and YouTube looking for troubleshooting help. A faulty grounding strap? A bad relay? Mmmmm, maybe. But the symptoms weren’t identical. I had an idea of what I could try, though, based on my past experience with the Rolling Steel Tent. Maybe the mass air flow sensor was dirty. If the MAF sensor can’t get an accurate reading it can’t meter the proper ratio of fuel and air, causing the engine to run badly or not at all. It might not solve the problem, but at least it was something I could do, and doing something felt better than only talking about it.

I got out my tools and MAF cleaner and went to work. Meanwhile, KC was trying to find a mobile mechanic.

I wrestled off the air filter canister. The filter was very clean. I got access to the MAF sensor and although I couldn’t see any buildup on it, I sprayed it with cleaner. It couldn’t hurt. As I reassembled the intake I noticed the cap on the end of the filter canister didn’t snap snugly. It was loose enough to let incoming air bypass the filter, which could cause buildup on the MAF sensor. So I bent the clips enough to close things tightly. Unlike my 2007 Express, the 2001 has an odd cylindrical thing on the intake ducting. It has a button that says press to reset. Reset what? Something with the intake, I presumed. So I pushed it. Nothing blew up, so that was good.

KC had just gotten off the phone with a mobile mechanic and was about to hike out to the highway to lead him in whenever he arrived.

“Wait. Try starting it again,” I said.

She did, and it started, and kept running. Hurray! Happy day! Problem solved! No money spent!

KC called off the mechanic, who was just getting ready to head out.

So between the MAF sensor, the air filter canister cap and the reset button, the problem was fixed. It might have been the combination of all three. And luck. And swearing. Swearing is always essential in these matters, if only to blow off anxiety and frustration.

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