Saturday, January 3, 2015

Stop Yelling At Us, We Can’t Hear You!

Since we arrived in NM, Annie (our van-home) has been in quite a mood.

As you might remember we’ve been tracking down a random difficulty with starting issue which was interrupted by a bulging tire issue followed by a blown u-joint issue.  After a successful u-joint replacement we thought for sure she’d want to take a break from all of this nonsense.

Sure, we still haven’t figured out what she is trying to say but there is such a thing as trying too hard.  We wouldn’t mind a more subtle approach.  Our friend, Craig, says that she’s just protesting our disturbing her currently peaceful and zen-like existence.  He might be right.

The other day we decided to make our every two to three week run to the store.  Being a bit chilly temp wise Nicole went out early to get her fired / warmed up.  This is what Annie had to say about it.

Grind!  Grind!  Grind!  Grind!  o.k.  o.k. I’ll start.  Naw, I changed my mind.  Grind!  Grind!  Hey, look at me I’m going to star... nope.  Grind!  GRIIIIINNNNNDDDDD!  Alright, I give... let’s start.  Wow!  Had you going on that one.  Let’s not start.  Grind!  Grind!  Grind!

Seriously, is there a class in van-speak that we can sign up for?!

Annie has always been a bit of a temperamental starter.  Grinding, however, has not been a regular part of the process.  She was usually more like, “Um, not right now.  I was really thinking maybe another time.”  We’d learned to say, “O.K. Annie.  We’ll go eat lunch and then we will all be ready.”  Compliance was then pretty well relied upon and delivered.

Not on this day.  Although we did eventually get her started and made a rather uneventful run to the store, the next day we were faced with more of the same.  Our girl was dead set on making a point (though we still don’t know what that point is)!

Grinding is typically (power) starter or ring gear / flywheel involved.  Since the ring gear is not an easy replacement on our vehicle (requiring dropping of the transmission) Nicole thought it best that we figure out this problem before we brought on another more difficult one by destroying the teeth on our ring gear.

Thus began the deconstruction, inspection and cleaning of the starter...

The commutator (new favorite word) a bit dirty but otherwise in great shape.

The brushes all had a nice curve and 8/16” left on them (5/16” = replacement).

The armature’s protective shellac was flaking but otherwise it was looking good.

   Commutator slots looked clean and nicely squared (although those burs could be removed).

Resistance testing on both the commutator and armature revealed ‘normal’ readings.

     The pinion gear teeth looked great considering their recent chatter.

Plunger fit nicely and was moving well with a spring that was in good shape too.

  The reduction gears and bearings (other than being a bit dirty) looked new.

Essentially, nothing was wrong with the starter!  Yes, that is good news but it meant the possibility of ring gear damage.  After removing all of the spark plugs (which had seen better days by the way) to reduce compression and make ring gear inspection easier Nicole found...

                           the ring gear was in superb condition!

Yeah, sure that’s technically more great news but it means that now we are back to the idea of an ‘electrical gremlin’. 

So, Nicole shined up what she could, added some new grease on the gears, cleaned up some main power source wiring...

                               and back together the starter went.

Let the journey continue.  While we still have no idea what the ‘real’ cause of our mystery starting issue is... we do know that it doesn’t seem to be any of the fifteen items that we have cleaned and tested so far since arriving to New Mexico.  We’ve now got two more months left for her to learn to speak our language because despite all of our efforts we obviously are not understanding hers.

                     Common Annie-girl.  Let’s get this worked out!