30 November 2012

Postcard from Arizona- 3

30 November 2012


It's almost Rabbit! Rabbit! day (the first day of a new month) and I am still trying to get the new computer to the point I can call it "useable". It's been almost a month of screwing with this thing! Takes awhile when you have to start all over again: at one point I had to contact Samsung who told me how to use a Function key option when powering-on to restore the computer to an earlier or even not-yet-installed Windows configuration (there are no instructions; the only Help is on-line which pre-supposes you don't a problem getting connected; well guess what Mr. Microsoft and Mr. Samsung, when you click on "Get Help With Connecting to the Internet", you probably don't have a *&^%#$# connection!). The problem was intermittent and seems to occur daily sometime during the mid-morning ('morning sickness' I guess). With that problem sorted, I got started again and must admit it went much quicker the 2nd time (though the Admiral emphatically does not agree!).

Sierra Vista hasn't moved

We drove both vehicles over to Sierra Vista to have the Highlander serviced and to get the windshield washer hoses replaced at Sierra Toyota. While we were off to Maine for the summer, a critter had taken up residence in the engine compartment and needed some building material. Or maybe a low-cal lunch. I guess the hoses were handy and he was sure we wouldn't mind. Sorry dude... wrong!

Surprisingly,  the bill at this particular Toyota dealer was very reasonable for service and repairs. Looks like they have a $70/hr billing rate which is significantly less than we seen elsewhere.

Update on our truck

Just for the record: nothing has broken on our F-350 truck since we arrived. Still running great; still getting good mileage; and the exhaust is still smelly when we idle.

This reminds me of an old Post script that appeared in the Saturday Evening Post around 1952 which went something like this:

During WW-II, a merchant marine captain was disgusted with his First Officer's drinking habits, so to build a case for dismissing him he decided to record the problems in the ship's log:
"Tonight the 1st officer was drunk when he came on duty."
The next night when the First Officer came on duty, he read the Captain's entry and then added an entry of his own:
"Tonight the Captain was sober."

Channel 43

I think I mentioned earlier that I've volunteered to help with Channel 43 (the SKP Saguaro RV Park's private cable channel). It's been fun learning something new, creating the weekly playlists that schedule the video files and play them into the park's video feed. I may have to learn about creating videos as well. Bryan & Mike have been patient teachers!

The key s/w that makes this all work is Playlist Manager from SprintBit.com. It's an SQL-based product that costs all of $29 which, if you forgive a few quirky behaviors, is a bargain for what it does. Last year the freeware program they were using was causing more work than you can imagine. They have photos of the guys laying on the floor in the park's video feed room as they entered new playlists and added videos. No thanks! Call me a prima dona, but Mrs. Bowman's little boy doesn't do laying-on-the-floor-updates-cuz-of-crappy-software-from-China. Bryan and his wife Susan worked on those problems the entire summer and his effort has made the production job nearly routine this fall. What a guy!

14 November 2012

Postcard from Arizona- 2

14 November 2012

[ Edit: I processed a bunch of images from Day of the Dead in Tucson which I've included below. ]

Catching up. Again.

Not sure why I let this happen, but here I am behind again. I think this may have happened before in an earlier life. But I really do have an excuse: we're having too much fun. I think. Is that possible? to have too much fun? Nah!

Did you vote? Everybody needs to vote. I did- I voted for the end of political rhetoric and accusatory BS. Apparently others of you voted the same way cuz it has finally ended. Or maybe they just ran out of $$$. What a relief! Now where do I vote to stop the tele-marketing and the robo-marketing?!

And we have a lot of gas these days. You know... the kind that comes in a big tank and runs the furnace. Since we were already in their system, Barnett's was out to our site in a matter of 3 or 4 days. Last year it took 3 weeks before they brought the tank plus another 2 weeks before they filled it.

The timing was good as the temperatures dropped a couple days after we were hooked up. Got as low as 25° F where we are on the outer reaches of the park. On the plus side, the daytime highs are down in the 70's now and it's incredibly comfortable outside during the day.

Computers and software.

My (not very!) old HP laptop packed it in. It's not like I didn't have some warning: the touch-pad had died a couple months after I bought it; some keys didn't work right, though that was intermittent and infrequent; then the eSATA connector (connects to my 2 TB external drive) literally fell apart and I had to switch to the very slow USB 2.0 port; and finally about 2 months ago the wireless connection died. Fortunately the latter was only an annoyance as I had a spare NetGear WiFi device that plugs in to a USB port. A separate but really big issue was something associated with the CPU and memory. Processing images started taking longer and longer. I had thought it was maybe a virus, but McAfee Virus Scan and Microsoft malware s/w insisted all was well. I decided it was time to move on, but I held off till we got settled here in Benson. Almost as soon as we arrived I ordered a replacement laptop.

But what to buy?
  • The old Sony we had on the boat did really well, though it was shot by the time we moved into the Santa Fe house. It worked well and I felt OK with getting another except anything with a Sony logo is pricey.
  • I wore out the Dell replacement for the Sony... it didn't last 3 years and it was in a friendly environment.
  • I learned over 15 years ago that Gateway is not anything I want to own again.
  • The HP that replaced the Dell has lasted only 23 months, so I didn't want to go there again. Plus HP says they're getting out of the PC business.
  • There are a ton of choices out there, but I've never heard of 90% of the brands.
  • I decided I wanted to try a Lenovo. Their ThnkPad model was recommended by photographers who process all their images on them (they use a 2nd monitor so they can calibrate color). I think Lenovo is the old IBM PC machines which always had a good reputation (created by the Point of Sale Division of IBM). But they ended their 2-day 20% discount special during the 2 hour period between configuring a machine and checkout. So screw 'em.
I was whining to myself about my lousy timing when I happened to notice the TV and home theater electronics in our Montana: all Samsung equipment. Hmm... this stuff has survived road shock, vibration, altitude changes, high-/low-humidity, and extravagent (though not extreme) temperature swings. This stuff just keeps on keeping on.

So I went to Amazon.com and there was a Samsung Series 7 (it's considered a gaming machine) configured pretty much as I wanted it for about $800 less than the discounted Lenovo I had just tried to order. Plus it had an optical disk drive which reads Blu-Ray & reads/writes multiple format data CDs (for some odd reason Lenovo doesn't offer ODDs on their work station laptops... ???). Amazon had the laptop in my hands in 2 days. Then things got hard...

Getting 'stuff' off the old machine is always the biggest challenge and this time is no exception. What a pain, especially when my 2 TB external hard drive decided it's going to join the rush to retirement! Fortunately I managed to move my images (all 18,000 of them) plus my genealogy, text, spreadsheet & tax files before the external drive died. Sadly I failed to get the last full back-up on the HP restored to the Samsung since my external hard drive also died! It wouldn't have reinstalled executable files, of course, but I had a lot of things I wanted to keep like the goose--bumps.com and rabbit-rabbit.org web site source files and all my saved e-Mails which, among other things, had activation codes for downloaded s/w, receipts for purchases (for warranty claims), all my Contacts and all my Bookmarks. But that's how it is. I'll just have to move on from here (if you haven't already, seend me an e-Mail so I can get your address back in the Contacts!).

At this point I have installed 3 earlier generations of Adobe Creative Suites (CS includes Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Acrobat, etc.), bought and installed the upgrade to CS 6, then uninstalled CS 4 thru CS 5.5 (in hindsight it was unnecessary to install these before the upgrade as Adobe allows typing the qualifying activation codes); my 2 favorite image managing & editing programs are installed: DxO Optics Pro Elite 8 and Adobe Lightroom 4; Microsoft Office 2010 is up and running; I've installed Mozilla's Firefox browser and Thunderbird e-Mail programs (I refuse to use IE or Outlook); and Family Tree Maker 2012 (from Ancestry.com) is up and running and can read my family history file. Still have to deal with H&R Block's TaxCut s/w which I'll need soon.

Btw, it may be nothing but growing pains, but I think Windows 8 (vs. the older Windows 7) may have been a mistake. Ihave essentially thrown away 20 years experience with prior Windows systems as the user interface (aimed at the touch-screen market) has no relationship to prior versions. For instance, none of the utilities like Notepad or Windows Backup or Disk Manager are to be found anywhere. Even the venerable Solitaire & Minesweeper games are gone. I guess with the truck pretty much fixed I now have something new to whine about!

Goings on

We've made it to dinner a couple times with friends Mike & Susan and we made it to the Day of the Dead celebration in Tucson with friends Doug & Linda (I can finally  process the images!). Celia has gotten back into line dance (no surprise there) plus she volunteered to do Channel 5 updates (daily announcements). And I've volunteered to work on Channel 43 here in the park. Mostly we've tried to keep a lid on eating so at the very minimum we don't gain.

Oh... and we bought and have started using a Bissel Green Machine which both vacuums and shampoos the carpets and hard floors. It's a beast (heavy, uses water for filtration), but it has dual use and works pretty well. Timely addition as our now 3 years old Kenmore Intuition vacuum is starting to die. Hmm... this seems to be a recurring theme: replace things at 3 years old. That's pretty poor!

So that's it for now. Here's the phto from Day of the Dead...

Perhaps the most patient person I've
met, Doug volunteered to drive through
what turned out to be horrible traffic!

The celebrants sort of milled their way past us...

...and just seemed to keep coming.

There was a lot of interesting figures
that had to be done by art students at
Univ. of Arizona here in Tucson.

Most were in costume or had some theme makeup..

... like this one that made me believe Monalisa was back from
the dead. With a black eye!

The Admiral was having a great time!

Many rememberances for family members
that are gone like this guys mother...

...and someone's father.

Someone had to have seen the Chinese New Year parade in
San Francisco!

Not everyone was in costume...

...but these mariachis certainly were.

Mmm... try to keep up kids!

01 November 2012

Truck repairs and changes

1 November 2012

Hey, dude... what did you have to do to get your mileage to improve so much?

If reading technical details about our truck (repairs, mods, whatever) is b-o-r-i-n-g and if hearing again my obsessive rhetoric about fuel mileage makes your eyes glaze over, you'll want to skip this post.

To anyone left, if you've read through the our year-and-a-half of whining and up & down emotions with each mod or repair, you know we've spent a lot of $$$ to get to 13 mpg when pulling our 15,000# Montana over fairly level ground. What's more, we're now getting about 17 mpg running solo on level ground at 55-60 mph. What we have now works well for our needs, but there are cheaper ways to get to this point.

We started with nearly everything Banks makes for our truck (air cleaner, DPF-back exhaust, inter-cooler, and their 6-Gun Tuner). It helped improve fuel economy by 15-20% and it was all CARB-approved mods (it could pass a pollution inspection in California). It was not, however, a dramatic improvement in mileage. In fact, the firmware mod Ford supplied in 2011 produced about the same result.

Then the EGR system temperature sensor in the DPF died. The resulting Ford-approved repair by the dealer in Sayre, OK nearly destroyed the truck and left me prejudiced about the hazards of DPF and EGR systems in general.

Thanks to having access to a mechanic that has dealt with all this before, I learned about a way to keep the Banks tuner, remove the DPF and its attendant cleaning cycle, and have access to the power-boosting settings that our Banks tuner offered. As I see it, it's not till you defeat the EGR system that you get meaningful improvement in fuel economy.

But before you get too enthused about seeing your mileage jump from 9 mpg up to 13 mpg while pulling a 15,000 lb. load on level ground, there are a few things you need to inform yourself about. There are more issues than just fuel consumption, but here's a few talking-points to start considering:
  • There's no guaranty from anyone you'll get improved fuel economy, Period. They won't even talk to you about it. DPF-delete plus a compatible tuner is strictly an off-road system.
  • You're left with a truck that will never pass a pollution inspection, so understand what your state requires.
  • Understand your own feelings about driving a truck that may cause more pollution. Your personal cost of fuel isn't the only issue.
  • Installing the necessary non-Ford firmware from S&C in our Ford's ECM would have  ended any warranty coverage; our warranty had expired July 2012.
  • I'm told some (most?) dealers won't work on a truck with these mods even if the repair is unrelated to the mod. That may be urban myth, but you should ask your local dealer if you think you may need their help at some point, like to repair the transmission or change the oil.
  • Diesels have smelly exhaust, but ours seems stronger than when the truck was stock.

So do your homework to understand the ramifications, both legal and practical. Installing a DPF-delete kit in the exhaust and loading 3rd party firmware in the Ford engine control module (ECM) is a slippery slope. There are traps, trade-offs and the potential for damage to your wallet and your truck.

This is the hardware we ended up with

In our case we already had a Banks 6-Gun Tuner and all the other Banks hardware. But our Banks doesn't change anything in the Ford ECM... it lives between the ECM and the engine. So with Banks equipment, the EGR (exhaust gas regeneration) system continues to operate and you can pass a CARB inspection in California (CARB has approved the Banks 6-Gun and a sticker with the permit number is supplied by Banks). No matter what Banks has done to improve mileage, the ECM still goes into the regeneration cycle and the mileage goes right out the tail pipe. If you just install a DPF-delete kit, which is nothing but a piece of tubing that fits where the DPF used to be, the  ECM will fail to work because certain sensors are no longer installed.

Since the Banks tuner doesn't change anything in the Ford ECM to disable EGR, we needed a different tuner that would turn off EGR plus a DPF-delete kit (a piece of " or 5" exhaust tubing). With that tuner installed first, then the Banks tuner can be "piggy-backed" on it and continue to modify fuel flow as it always has. Scott steered us toward the S&C Mini-Max tuner as it's been proven in this application. The Mini-Max replaces the stock Ford ECM firmware with something similar except it has no EGR functions. At this point your warranty is dead and you've got an off-road vehicle.

The Mini-Max must be installed in a specific way prior to re-connecting the Banks 6-Gun tuner. Normally the Mini-Max display and cable is used to install new firmware in the Ford ECM and then left in place so you can see truck/engine operating parameters as well as set any of the 3 power levels. In our case we just wanted the firmware installed then left in the Stock setting (0 HP gain). With that done the Mini-Max display and cable can be removed and the Banks re-connected between the ECM and engine. Both tuning systems (Banks 6-Gun Tuner and display as well as the S&C Mini-Max ECM firmware but not its display) are installed and operating simultaneously, i.e. the Banks is "piggy-backed" on the Mini-Max.

In our installation, none of the Mini-Max hardware is used after the replacement firmware is installed. The 6-Gun display continues to operate the Banks tuner, completely oblivious to the presence of the modified ECM firmware. S&C has created some impressive tunes for their system (as high as +500 HP over stock on a 6.4L Ford), but only one is available without their display. So for our installation the S&C will be left set to Stock for as long as we have the truck.

The tech doing the mod really needs to have been down this road before- it's complicated! Doing something out of sequence can leave you with a dead truck. If it's done properly - ours was, thanks to Scott Spear at Spear's Auto Center - I would expect your 6.4L PowerStroke diesel to produce a similar improvement in fuel economy to what we have seen. But again, their are no guarantees. The exhaust cleaning cycle, elimination of about 150# of metal, cooler inlet air (that's what the inter-cooler does for us), and less-restricted intake and exhaust are all involved in making the engine more efficient.

We've never felt a need for more power from our 2008 Ford F-350. It has plenty of torque just as it comes from the factory. Yes, we still have the option to dial up an extra 50-185 HP, but what for? If it reduces our fuel economy, we're not interested. Banks will tell you, though, that the best economy may not come from the lowest power setting. Yet I continue to avoid those higher settings because my greater concern has always been that more power may cause transmission or differential damage.

On the down side, the exhaust odor while idling is stronger than when the DPF was installed and we've found we're getting a little diesel exhaust inside the Montana while we're pulling. I guess the latter explains why some some owners install vertical exhaust stacks on their pickups. Plus we're at risk of being cited and fined for having tampered with the EPA-approved exhaust system.

I'd love to see numbers which compare emissions caused by the stock system (including the ash blown out during cleaning) vs. a system that defeats pollution controls while using 40% less fuel. To my knowledge, that sort of data is unavailable... ???

If you decide to attack the fuel economy issues with your truck, get a good diesel tech to help you and to do the work, or at the very least guide you. That ain't me, but if you're near central New Mexico (Cedar Crest, NM), Scott Spear is your man!

One more thing: our truck is a 2008 Ford F-350 with the 6.4L PowerStroke diesel with 4-wheel drive, long bed, dual rear wheels, 4.10 differential, stock tires, tow package. It's big and it's heavy. I would expect what I've described above to be applicable to any similarly equipped Ford F-350 PowerStroke, but if you have anything different - e.g. single rear wheels, 2-wheel drive, whatever - the results will surely be different. Maybe better, maybe worse, but certainly different.

Similar mods are available for all recent American trucks (Dodge, GMC/Chevy, other Fords). In fact, I got launched on this path by a guy with a 2006 Dodge with a  Cummins diesel. Do your homework for your truck. I'm just highlighting one way to peel this onion called fuel economy. I will never recommend anyone else do what we've done.

There are a few forums where you can get info from other owners... Google is your friend. Lots to be found out there. Just remember that along with all the good info is a lot of stuff that's flat wrong! It's your job to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Postcard from Arizona- 1

28-31 October 2012

Santa Fe

We retrieved the truck on the 27th (Sat) and the 28th was supposed to be a 'drive it and see if it's OK' sort of day. Well, it was a good plan, but life got in the way. Instead of a test drive, Sunday saw the truck doing some hauling to get a few things from the house to the Montana. Then Monday the 29th we returned the rental car (btw, the Kia Forte we rented was excellent!), aired the tires, cleaned all the glass in the truck, and fueled up. Then we discovered the Admiral's favorite Key West hat was missing, so back to Budget Car Rental. I'm not sure I actually finished what needed doing or if I just got tired and quit. Airing up the tires always kicks my butt!

I had either of 2 first-nite destinations in mind:

    Las Cruces KOA (290 mi) or
    Road Runner RV Park in Deming (345 mi).

When the Admiral heard more than 300 miles to get to Deming she told me where to go! So I drove to Las Cruces.

We've been to Las Cruces KOA several times and know what to expect. Staying more than a single night means you have to deal with the dust from raking the gravel late the next morning. So there was no choice but to make it a 1-niter. The park is pristine, but keeping it that way raises dust even with the watering system on the back of the small tractor.

Other than a 1-hr delay in Albuquerque for an accident, the trip went well and we managed to get 12.7 mpg... a first for us while pulling. The next day we pulled to the SKP Saguaro Co-op in Benson and... Yikes! 13.2 mpg! What an incredible drop in fuel usage


We have arrived safe and sound in Benson, AZ on 2 November. The last leg was about 215 mi and, as I mentioned above, this time we saw 13.2 mpg. We ended up at close to the same elevation, but the trip was anything but level: we started at 4,600' and ended at almost 4,400'. In between we dropped to under 3,400', went over 3 low passes before climbing to 5,000' as we traversed the pass into Texas Canyon, and finally ended up at 4,385' here in our site. The route had everything: steep grades both up and down as well as long flat stretches. Made me feel a lot better about trying to tackle Alaska next year: 13 mpg for much of the 10,000 mi means a saving of $1,500 - $2,000 compared to 10.5 mpg.

Old friends

The best part of arriving in the park was getting to connect with old friends. We'd been in touch with Mike & Susan while we were on the road, so it was no surprise to them when we pulled in. Naturally we had to do dinner out so we could get caught up and that meant a trip into town to Reb's. Great meal, great conversation, great to be back!

Summary for the summer

Benson, AZ to Trenton, ME via Elkhart, IN, upstate NY, southern VT & NH, including day trips was 4,600 mi. Trenton, ME to Benson, AZ via Asheville, NC, Louisville, KY and St. Louis, MO including day trips was another 4,000 mi.

We left Benson 8 April, stopped in Santa Fe for 31 nites, took 34 days to get to Maine, spent from 16 June thru 13 September in Maine, then spent from 14 September to 16 October getting to Santa Fe where we stayed for 2 weeks. We left Santa Fe on 31 October and spent 2 more days to get to Benson, AZ on 2 November. That's about a week short of 7 months on the move, and our truck runs better than before we left. The coach, however, looks like it's just traveled 8,600 miles. We need to get scheduled with Hooper so it's not an embarrassment to us and the park!


Still haven't got this resolved. Looks like I'll be getting a new laptop... maybe a Lenovo? Dunno. Too many choices and it's easy to get Analysis Paralysis.

27 October 2012

Postcard from New Mexico- 3

27 October 2012

Santa Fe

It took over a week to get in the queue, but on Thursday 10/25 we drove the truck to Spear's Auto Center in Cedar Crest, NM to get the exhaust system fixed. I had talked quite awhile to Scott and took his advice to install a DPF-delete kit plus an H&S XRT-PRO tuner. The great part about this approach is that all of the Banks gear stays in tact. The XRT-PRO, as setup by Scott, operates in the Ford tuner to shut off regen. The Banks system still adds/reduces the fuel flow as an adjustment to what the engine is commanding. He set the XRT-PRO to 0 HP gain (stock) so that I can run all 6 Banks power settings as we have always done. Very interesting concept. H&S has many optional tunes available (all the way to over 500 HP) if you don't have a Banks system already, but I don't want to make any smoke out the exhaust, so he kept it conservative. For us, it's all about fuel conservation.

Edit: H&S makes it clear on their site to not "stack" tuners (e.g. Ford + H&S + Banks) as we have in our F-350 unless you know what you're doing. You really need someone involved who has worked this out already because a misstep will lead you to a dead end where you can't operate the truck.


We wanted to get the truck serviced while Scott was doing everything else, so I asked for that to be added to the service order without really knowing what that might entail. When The Day arrived, Scott stripped out the old parts, then when he received & installed the delete kit and tuner, road tested everything before the day was over, then was ready to start the maintenance work at the end of the day. Great start.

Then Michelle handed him the printed 75,000 mile service instructions... all 18 pages. Yikes!

As he went thru the service he discovered that our rear shocks were leaking. Typical shock life is 50,000 miles on these trucks, so they did good. I asked that he replace just the rear shocks and he got them on order along with any filters he needed. And that's when things started getting messy.

The first set of shocks they sent were for a Jeep, so they had to re-order. They also ordered the internal transmission filter which was a challenge cuz there are 10 different filters used for this transmission. The right one depends on the truck's VIN. Our truck was built the day they started using the 2nd choice, but the filter turned out to be the wrong one. We needed the oldest filter choice which was supposed to be for the day before our truck was built. By the time Scott had to leave (he also races radio controlled cars professionally!) the filter hadn't arrived. But he said if it arrived before Michelle went home on Friday, he would come in on Saturday and finish up. And that he did.

Btw, when he walked me around the truck before we left he said the Banks exhaust (the last section of tail pipe) was so blue and dark, it had to have been heated to well over 1,500° F, maybe even 1,700° F. That's pretty scarey! I think what saved us is that the exhaust hit those temps while we were moving which helped dissipate some of the heat. Still, it points out the danger of the recommended repair that Ford wants done when the sensor is corroded in place.

The bottom line

We retrieved the truck mid-day Saturday for a grand total of almost $3,500: $2,000 for the exhaust/tuner mods; $1,500 for maintenance. Don't ever let anyone mislead you- diesel trucks are expensive to operate!! But if you need torque for pulling/hauling, nothing else will do.

We happily paid the bill- what a relief when Scott assured us there is nothing wrong with the twin-turbo. We had lunch at the Greenside Cafe in town (try their Sangre de Cristo sandwich!) then drove back to the RV park.

I reset the mileage calculator on the dash as we took off. There was no issue whatever with the engine... ran like a noisey top! Also, I heard no strange turbo noises like I heard on the way over. The exhaust note is not loud which is a relief. And by the time we had covered the 40+ miles of constant grade change the calculator was reading 20.1 mpg. That's a great number for the 6.4L F-350 when running solo (no load; Ford says maybe 9-13 mpg), but the number we want to know is mileage under load. That will have to wait till we head for Benson on Tuesday morning. We've got our fingers crossed!

Btw, I always ask that the engine get full synthetic motor oil (AMSOIL if I can get it- 15W-40 CJ-6). I was shocked the first time I drove our truck after having it installed... the engine becomes much quieter!

Computer issues

You probably noticed there haven't been any photos recently. My laptop is struggling and I haven't been able to process images for a couple weeks now. Like everything else, it'll get fixed in Benson!

19 October 2012

Postcard from New Mexico- 2

16-19 October 2012

Santa Fe, NM

It was a white knuckle flight all the way from Tucumcari, but the truck made it with flying colors. As a precaution before leaving Tucumcari, I called Spear's Auto Center (Crestview, NM) to see if I was doing the wrong thing by towing the rig to Santa Fe. The folks at Spear's are the ones that got our Banks tuner, etc. working for us last May. The mechanic who answered the phone said he understood the circumstance and that we should do the least damage by keeping the exhaust gas temps (EGT) below 1,200°.

So that's what I tried to do: I limited our speed to 50 mph initially, then later to 45 mph with the emergency flashers going. But there's a 3,200 foot grade change from Tucumcari to Santa Fe and speed had little effect on the EGT. It was still better than it would have been otherwise had I not made the adjustments I did. It'll be a long time before we know for sure.

Setting up repairs

I rented a car right away so we could do errands without having to drive the truck.

Then on Wednesday I called Spears Auto Center and talked to Scott. I explained everything again and asked what he thought we should consider doing. His suggestion was to install a DPF-delete kit which will  eliminate regeneration altogether and just side-step the problem. To help me make a decision I asked Scott to give me an estimate to replace the DPF (which is now apparently leaking exhaust gases) and another to install the DPF-delete kit. It was about $3,700 to replace the DPF (DPF, sensors, clip (?), labor) vs. $2,000 for the DPF-delete kit (pipes, S and C tuning kit, labor). So it looks like we're going to go with the DPF-delete kit and hope for the best. Not only is it cheaper initially, it will provide another boost in fuel economy and will avoid future engine shut-downs from a bad sensor (I'm told they are a frequent failure, though this was our first occurrence in over 30,000 miles).

The work isn't scheduled yet, but hopefully we'll get it started next week. Scott just needs to receive the parts.

14 October 2012

Postcard from New Mexico- 1

13-14 October 2012

Getting to Tucumcari, NM

Well we made it to the KOA here but not without a very high level of anxiety. Aarrrggh!

Mileage has definitely deteriorated and exhaust gas temps are very high... running at the maximum allowed temp (1,250° F) even with straight & level pulling. What's more there is a very strong smell of diesel exhaust in the coach and in the storage compartments of our Montana every time we stopped along the way (115 miles). I had to run the kitchen exhaust fan just to step inside.

At one point I got out and looked under the truck to see what the new sensor looked like and was shocked to see that it's simply clamped to the outside of the diesel particulate filter (the so-called DPF). You gotta be kidding me! This is Ford's solution for replacement of a corroded EGT sensor?

There may be something additional wrong, but my guess is that the replacement sensor is reading very low since it's not inside the DPF. I'll further guess, and I admit this part is a little weak, this causes the Engine Control Module to use too much fuel. Too much fuel makes the EGT higher than normal. Our truck, as delivered, won't display EGT for the driver. You have to have a separate readout that accesses the internal data bus, and that's what the Banks does (in addition to modifying the fuel-delivery commands if you're running in non-stock power levels). In Stock mode- that's what we use 100%- the Banks tuner doesn't modify the engine fuel delivery commands, but it does display the data being sent to the internal computer. So the average owner would be driving in ignorance of just how hot the exhaust gases are.

Btw, I saw a puff of white smoke on at least 2 occasions on the driver side. The exhaust, however, is on the passenger side. So I haven't a clue where that's about. I thought maybe we had a locked trailer brake and I was seeing a tire skid and smoke but that proved to be wrong.

The plan was to find a Ford dealer here in Tucumcari. No joy. We either have to drive 115 miles back to Amarillo, TX or drive south about 80 miles to Clovis, NM. At this point it seems to make more sense to drive to Santa Fe and get it looked at there.

Enough whining. Mea culpa!

Tucumcari KOA

This little guy is a chi-weenie... chihuahua/Dachshund mix.
He does a good job of getting diners to share their food!
This stop has been a surprise. I wouldn't begin to call this a garden spot since this part of New Mexico is very dry. But the campground has what a traveler needs if they're just stopping for the night. This KOA has an on-site restaurant with food that's made here... not just something re-heated in the microwave! We had both had the Mexican plate which had a choice of 2 of the 3 entrees offered: enchiladas, tamales, or chile rellenos. I had a couple of very good cheese enchiladas (you can ask for cheese, chicken or beef) plus black beans and a very good New Mexico-style Spanish rice. I wanted green chile salsa which was mild enough that most diners wouldn't notice anything but the flavor.

Cindy & Layne are the owners and Cindy makes everything except the tamales herself, including the tortillas. We were very pleased with our meals and don't hesitate to recommend eating here if you happen to stop. And they'll deliver the food to your site if you want. Pretty cool!

Oh... and we had breakfast there this morning which was every bit as good as dinner last night. We had pancakes (a stack of 3, mine were 6" pancakes). But I was pissed at myself for not remembering they have biscuits and gravy on the menu! I doubt I'll be able to convince the Admiral to eat out again, so that was a missed opportunity.

The campsites have a few trees, but they're struggling
with the limited water.
Tucumcari is in the high desert and, as you should expect, it's very dry. The rule of thumb is that anything green that isn't grass probably has a sticker on it or is poisonous. They had about 1/2" of rain a few days ago and almost overnight it greened up a little, but that will soon be gone. And there's a steady 15-20 mph wind blowing during the day. The kind of wind that can wear on you. You can't be a wimp to live around here!

Click on the image to get a larger one, then check the
ridge of the distant hills. You may be able to pick
out the wind generators.
All the pull-thru sites were full last night, but they tell me that by tonight we can have a pick of any site in the park. The spike in visitors is because of people who have been to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and are now heading home. Sure enough, by 4:00 AM I was hearing engines start as people began heading out. When I went over to arrange to have a propane tank re-filled there weren't more than a couple other campers left in the park.

We should be on our way tomorrow to Santa Fe (west on I-40 to Cline's Corner then north on US-84/US-285 to El Dorado, then west about 20 miles to the NM-599 turnoff). We'll be staying at Santa Fe Skies RV Park again while we see all the usual doctors.

And oh, btw...

We've been trading notes with RV'ing friends Mike & Susan about the current truck problems and possible repairs. Susan reminded us "If it has testicles or tires, you know it's going to be expensive!"