Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Yesterday we stopped at Cooper's BBQ in Junction Texas on the way home. I really liked their sausage and brisket. So much so that I added very little sauce. We ate under a large spreading oak tree behind the building and resisted the begging eyes of the three cats that prowled around the picnic tables. We disposed of the trash and got back into the RV. I turned the key, and nothing happened.

What had been a pleasant drive on I-10 suddenly acquired stress. The batteries had to be fully charged. We'd only been stopped 30 minutes. I tried the auxiliary batteries, and still, no sound of the starter. Looking at the voltage seemed to show about 10 volts, no matter whether using the main battery or the aux. I tried the generator, and it started immediately! The batteries had to be okay. I was deeply puzzled. I moved the gear shift back and forth, in case an interlock had stuck. I tried everything I could think of.

Suddenly, there was a puff of smoke from beneath the dash. It pulled the key immediately and opened the window. I sat there, waiting, wondering if I'd have to deal with a fire, but after that one incident, there was no sign of more smoke. Other than the smell, that is.

Through all this, Mary Ann was sitting behind me at the table, offering suggestions and staying calm. When I was becalmed in an absence of ideas, she got on the internet, starting to search for auto-repair places in Junction. I checked under the slide-down front grill, but there was no sign of anything there. I was wondering what could have happened.

Taking the hypothesis that I'd done something to cause this, I tried to remember what all I'd done. The only thing I could think of was straightening the side shelf. Beside the driver's seat it a wooden shelf that holds the cup-holder and the controls for the steerable side rear view mirrors. It had come unscrewed by road vibration and I had straightened it up with a shove to the side and a couple of kicks. Could I have messed up the wiring somehow?

I reached under the dash and moved all the wires I could reach. It was impossible to see any of them. Meanwhile, Mary Ann was having trouble getting anyone to come help up. I could imagine having to call AAA and get the RV towed to Austin.

Mary Ann's thought was that it was the starter, but I had my doubts. For one thing, the smoke didn't match that theory.

Then, while Mary Ann was waiting to call a mechanic for the second time, I flipped the key again, and the starter turned over. I was so shocked, I released the key. Then I tried again, and the RV started right up. No smoke or anything.

We debated whether to drive to a repair place or to go on. I looked at the fuel gauge and decided to head on down the highway. It wasn't smoking, and if my wire wiggling had done the job, I was willing to let sleeping wiring lie.

We pulled out and made it home without any problem, although I didn't turn off the engine for any stops.

Now I've got to track down the source of that smoke without the ability to get up under there to see. I've tried taking photos with my camera, but I can't see anything charred. The engine starts just fine. I'm puzzled.


Karen said...

Wow, that's crazy. I hope it doesn't creep up again and harm anyone.

Bill said...

I blame the mouse.