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Who Said This Would Be Easy

September 15, 2011

The last week or so has been fairly tough for us as we’ve been hit by another round of mechanical problems.

After leaving Whitehorse we headed South trying to find a proper Summer and to escape the rapidly worsening weather. Whitehorse temperatures were hitting 0C overnight and only reaching single figures in the day.

At our first break we came to leave and tried to restart the Beast and nothing. Not so bad only a flat battery. The large amount of cranking we’d done the previous day at Kenworth had emptied our batteries.  Fortunately we carry spares, so we jumped ourselves and were back on our way.

We kept on heading South but when we reached the turn-off for the Cassiar highway we chickened out. We were worried about our reliability and on the Cassiar you are a long way from anywhere.  So we decided to take the sensible option and head down the Alaska Highway where there are towns interspersed along the way and you get more road traffic (i.e. help when you are in a tight spot!).

The first evening we made it to Liard Hot Springs for a second time. We had a great soak on getting up the next morning. Much better than our last time because it was colder out and there were far less people, we had one of the pools all to ourselves.

We spent the morning driving to Fort Nelson. However mechanical problems were rearing their head again as our oil pressure had dropped right down and the alarm was coming on when we were coming to a stop.  We went to a garage in Fort Nelson to have things checked out. Here we discovered that we had diesel fuel getting into our oil. We had an oil change and 18 litres of watered-down oil came out where there should only have been 12 litres.  That’s a lot of diesel, also explains why every time we dipped the oil it was always full even though the pressure was dropping.  The mechanic here really scared us by telling us that we needed a new engine which would cost around $10k. However he also said get further south as it’ll be cheaper and when its that kind of diagnosis you want a 2nd opinion.

So we got back on the road and made it to around 90km short of Fort St.John where we spent the night in a muddy turnoff just off the road. In the morning we went to leave and stalled after moving around 10 metres. Same problem as we had before in Whitehorse which Kenworth were meant to have fixed – air in the fuel lines. Argggh!

It wasn’t so bad this time – we thumbed a ride 5km down the road to a place called Wonowon (101 miles on the highway – cool name huh!).  Here we arranged another tow to take us to Fort St.John (a bigger town). This is where the nightmare started. Nowhere in town would take us – a couple of places quoting at least 2 weeks until they could see us.  It’s an oil and gas town and the garages are constantly busy… if you’re a mechanic this is the place to be, they’ve been advertising for over a month and only had 1 applicant and the money for a mechanic out here is good! You don’t make the big bucks working in an office in these towns.

In the end someone recommended a friend of his called Reuben, a mobile mechanic, who lived out of town.  We spoke to him and he told us to get the tow truck to drop us at the Northwood Inn – in their car park – and he would swing by later. So a bit worried we did this and then waited.  When we got to the car park there was a pub called Cheers attached to the Inn, however upon closer inspection the ‘pub’ was in fact a strip joint, not the best place to be parked on a Saturday night in a town like this.

Around 5pm Reuben arrived in a pickup and started looking at the engine. He didn’t fill us with much confidence and he wasn’t a big talker.  When he did speak he had an Eastern European accent though he swore he was Canadian born, as were his parents (hmmm ok!).  There was something a little dodgy about him and he did the work for cash but he was a good guy, determined to fix us and  5.5 hours later he got us started.  There aren’t many people who’d stick around working in the dark until 10.30pm on a Saturday night, so we were very grateful.  He had replaced half the fittings on the fuel line – and even managed to find parts at 9pm on a Saturday night (which he got free through a friend). One of the fittings was a real Frankenstein monster of five adaptors to get it to work. However we were going.  We knew we needed proper work to be done on it and we still had the fuel in the oil problem to worry about so the next morning we headed South to the biggest town in Northern BC – Prince George in search of a garage.

Here we managed to find Total Truck and Repair. These guys have been brilliant. The work that they did took three days but they let us camp out in our camper in their workshop. Not the prettiest campsite we’ve been in but better than having to fork out for a motel. We made the best of it and even setup our table in their yard for alfresco dining.

They completely replaced our fuel lines and all fittings. So we won’t have the problem with air in the lines again.  They tested the fuel pump and replaced the rubber seal which sits against the engine, they tested the injectors and replaced the rubber seals on these, tested the cylinders by compression testing, heat testing and visual checking and then replaced the hood gaskets – a couple of which were leaking. They didn’t find anything conclusive but we are all pretty sure the fuel pump was leaking into the oil somehow. There are only so many places that you can get fuel into the oil !

Before setting us on our way they put a UV dye in our fuel and told us to do some miles so that we could check if the problem is sorted !   We went for a road trip and covered over 250 miles and went back in for the dye check. We had a really restless night’s sleep before going in to check it out, I can tell you. But good news – no dye in the oil. We were leaking a bit from the cylinder heads – but new gaskets and this was soon sorted.

Problems sorted – time to head out. So we got on the road and headed South to Whistler.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 15, 2011 3:12 am

    Whistler is a little paradise on Earth !! Get the day pass on the tram and you can downhill all day long (or as long as your arms can stand). About half a way from Whistler to Swamish is one of the nicest zip line I’ve been.
    Glad to read you’re back on trail.

  2. September 15, 2011 9:12 am

    I’d agree with Renato, Enjoy Whistler! Super spot. Its been years since I was there, but I seem to recall I loved it. You deserve a few pleasant days after the hastle!.

    But I must admit, this tale has made me think, It’s probably good to do the first few thousand miles somewhere you can get work done. It may not have been easy to get your truck sorted, but I bet in the deepest Amazon jungle it would not be as simple!

    Merv,

  3. September 27, 2016 3:44 am

    I was doing some research on tow trucks and came across your post. What a great story. I’m glad they took care of you.

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