Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Idaho & Montana Road Trip

There are a lot of different factors you can consider when deciding if an automobile trip was a good one or not. One of the most significant is the number of times you have to open the hood. On this trip, I had the hood open a lot. Let me back up a bit and start from the beginning.

The plan was to have everything pretty much packed into the RV and ready to go when KeeWee got home from work on Thursday. When she got home we tossed the remaining stuff into the RV and headed to Clinton where we caught the 6pm. ferry to Mukilteo. In twenty minutes we were in Mukilteo and headed up Highway 525 towards Alderwood Mall where we would pick up I-405, then through Bellevue and pick up I-90, which would carry us all the way to Coeur D'Alene. That was the plan.


Just as we were passing through Bellevue the temp gauge went from normal range to "Overheating Badly" in about 20 seconds. I grabbed the first freeway exit and found a vacant park and ride lot to park and assess the problem. When I opened the hood there was coolant everywhere but in the radiator. Hot coolant was dripping from everywhere. Nothing much I could do but to grab a flashlight and lay down in the pool of anti-freeze growing under the engine compartment and see if I could find where the problem was. Maybe a hose had split, and if I was lucky I could trim it back a bit, push it farther on, and re-hose-clamp it. A bit more soggy exploration revealed a split in the lower part of the radiator where a bracket was soldered on. If I could figure a way to get it mostly sealed up perhaps I could keep enough water in it to limp my way back across the ferry and back home where I could make permanent repairs. I made a bent washer out of a folded piece of steel plumbers tape and cut a piece out of a rubber snubber style bungee cord. I put a small hole through the rubber piece, then ran a sheet metal screw through the improvised washer and rubber block. I screwed the sheet metal screw into the crack, hoping it would compress the rubber into the crack enough to hold water until I got home. I poured water into the radiator, and it didn't seem to be leaking, so leaving the radiator cap loose so no pressure would build up, I fired up the engine. It ran fine, and no damage had been done by the over-heating.

Gingerly I limped my way back to the ferry, and back home. It held enough water to get us home. WHEW!

I pulled the RV into the shop and opened the hood for the second time. Interestingly enough, the radiator hadn't leaked a drop all the way back home! Fortunately the Toyota design makes removing the radiator fairly easy, and being an older vehicle, the radiator is brass, so it can actually be repaired. Once I had the radiator out I could see what needed to be done. I carefully tapped the split back together and wire-brushed, sanded, and Dremeled the area clean and bright. A couple of brass strips were cut and formed to the shape of the radiator bottom tank near the split, then soldered into place. After re-soldering the tank bracket into place, the radiator was ready to reinstall. Once reinstalled, I filled it with water and anti-freeze and started it up to see if it was water tight. I knew it was plenty strong, but water tight was always a question until you gut a little pressure in it. It seemed to be holding fine, so I put on another set of clothers, washed of the anti-freeze as best I could, and we roared off into the night to try and catch the 12:30 am. ferry, the last run of the night. We made it with minutes to spare.

Around 3:30 am. we pulled into the rest area at Vantage for a few hours sleep before continuing on to Coeur D'Alene Idaho later in the morning.

So far it had been a rocky start to our big shooting weekend. Fortunately things that went wrong seemed to have gone wrong in the best possible ways, so for that we were thankful. It could have been a whole lot worse!

Next, onward to Idaho................

--End of Part One --

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At Wednesday, July 30, 2008 5:58:00 PM, Blogger Ted said...

Don't you just love it when a plan comes together? Well done brother, carry on!

At Wednesday, July 30, 2008 9:00:00 PM, Blogger TrueBlueSam said...

I would love to have you along when I travel; you are the king of resourcefulness.


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