Thursday, January 18, 2007

False Starts

After two (half-hearted) attempts by Fedex to deliver the repair part, and two trips to the Fedex office by the mechanic to pick it up himself, we finally had the missing piece. He removed the rest of the steering column and after five days stranded in El Paso, I began to have hopes that I'd finally get the RV repaired and back on the road.

I went for a walk, over the McDonalds, and when I came back, they had moved the RV into the main work area and had begun to jack it up so that they could work underneath. They had managed to start the RV in my absence by manually twisting the neutral safety switch.

After liberal use of penetrating oil to loosen stuck parts and reassembly of the column, the mechanic tested all the connections. Everything worked, except the starter wouldn't click. If you will recall. This was the original problem that started this mess. The broken piece in the key switch mechanism happened after the failure to start -- it was a secondary failure. They had changed out the neutral safety switch after the plain evidence that it was the cause of the problem. But now, with a new safety switch installed too, it still wouldn't start.

The safety switch was patiently readjusted. Still no starter. By now, it was nearing the end of the work day and Mr. Fernandez's helper left for the day. After a bit, one of his sons left for the day as well. Now he was determined. He began tracing the wires, beginning with the starter itself, verifying that it worked and working back.

After solid detective work, he found what was probably the real, original, source of the problem. A wire supplying power to an ECM relay was intermittent. He fixed it, and for the first time, the starter worked as it should, from the key switch. Final adjustments were done. The steering wheel was replaced, and the RV was backed out of the lot. I paid the bill, and I was pleasantly surprised. They said goodbye, I got into the driver's seat and felt good as it started right up. I shifted into drive and applied the gas.

The RV didn't move. I checked the emergency break. Not on. I shifted again. No gear worked.

Opening the window, I explained the problem. He dashed back to the office and came back with a sheet of cardboard and crawled under the RV. I worked the gear shift, by foot firmly on the brake pedal, and he located the problem.

Although everything had been working fine as he assembled the steering wheel and backed the RV out of the lot, as soon as I sat down in the driver's seat, a little piece that secured the gear shift cables had snapped in two. Like I've seen many times. The salt air of Galveston, from the time before we bought the RV, had left many things damaged. He held up the broken hook and I could see that it had just snapped from old corrosion.

It was dark, well after normal closing time, and probably impossible to get parts. He took the broken piece and while I sat in the driver's seat, cultivating my patience and serenity, I could see the flash of a welding torch and the fan of sparks from a grinding wheel in his office. Shortly he came back with a part -- one he had assembled himself. In short order he had fixed the problem, and sent me on my way, refusing payment for this additional repair job.

So after three problems; the ECM relay wire, the broken key switch linkage, and finally the gear shift cable hook, I was finally off. I filled the propane and gas tanks as quickly as I was able, and made it to Lordsberg, NM for the night, relieved to be on the road at last.

But I'll remember Horizon Automotive. If I lived in El Paso, I'd certainly have Mr. Fernandez as my regular mechanic.

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