Well, I succumbed to Jim Hammill’s charms again, and I’ve been in Kitchener for the past couple of weeks. I was getting a check engine light that indicated a bad pressure sensor on the DEF pump, so I called up the factory to see if we could pull the fresh water tank to get to the DEF tank so I could take it to a Mercedes shop, but Jim says bring it on in, we’ll fix it here. Which is what we did – now I know a lot more than I did before about how the emissions control system works. I really can’t complain about the Mercedes chassis, though – we have done 63,000 miles and four years with nothing but routine service stuff changing fluids and filters, so it’s about time something broke. If I had had this repaired at the Mercedes dealership it would have been covered under the ten year emissions system warranty.
So we whip out the fancy Mercedes diagnostic tool that they have at the factory, which is like a computer that reads all the onboard diagnostic data and tells you what’s going on, drop the fresh water tank on the front passenger side to get to the DEF tank, replace the indicated part, and… it’s fixed. No more codes, the check engine light is off. It sure takes all the fun out of mechanicing to have a computer tell you what to do, but I guess times have changed from back when I was turning wrenches. It also makes me understand how important it is for Mercedes to have the right diagnostic protocols in place – a few of the 2014 models had a recurring NOx sensor problem that frustrated many new owners because the protocols needed tweaking, but the task force got that straightened out eventually. The DEF tank pump is made by Cardone, a major manufacturer of fuel pumps. These modern vehicles sure have a lot of parts. I was reading a book about precision in manufacturing and found out that the Model T had fewer than a hundred parts to bolt together – no wonder they made so many.
But now that I got the Mercedes problem straightened out, I find out more about Jim Hammill’s nefarious plan. He didn’t offer to fix the Mercedes problem out of the kindness of his heart – he has stuff he wants to test, and I’m the guinea pig. I take the bed apart so that we can get to the back, and we go to work. It’s just like old times, Kevin and I are scratching our heads and trying to figure out how to install things that have never been installed in a campervan before. I am running out of room to put strange devices under my bed – it’s definitely getting crowded under there, and we have to do this so that I can continue to carry my satellite dishes and other stuff I need for fulltiming. It’s also hard to remember where we can drill and where we can’t- it’s been four years since the original installation of the very first lithium battery and underneath air conditioner, and we’re a little fuzzy on exactly how we did it, and where all the electrical and plumbing is beneath the floor. None of this stuff is written down anywhere, we were improvising.
Many of the people who were here back in 2014 and who spent the summer with me are still here – Kevin and Richard, the core campskunkmobile build team, plus all the specialists who contributed their talents – Shelley who did the caulking, Wendy who’s the rear screen installation expert, Marianne who did the decals, Sylvana the dash trim guru, and people like Mike Kelly, Norm and Roy, who provided logistical support when we needed some weird thing to complete the installations. There’s such an institutional continuity here at the Roadtrek factory. The campervan production continues at the original Shirley Avenue plant, just like it always has, where they’re building all of the original Roadtrek models, plus some new ones, and the new Reuter plant, which is HUGE and has assembly lines for the trailers, plus the innovation stuff – R&D is over there now. I started out at the Shirley plant for the Mercedes repair, but now I’m finishing up at Reuter. It’s so new and clean over there that I feel a little guilty sawing away at things – it’s so shiny that you don’t want sawdust on the floor. The Reuter plant is also very spacious compared to the cozy confines of the Shirley facility – I still can’t figure out how they drive those vans in and out and maneuver them with millimeters to spare.
Later this week I’ll be all finished up and back out on the road with this mysterious new technology, plus all the little things people keep dropping by to fix me up with. I am accumulating gadgets. There’s nothing really wrong with the Roadtrek part of my van, just a few little things like the igniter for the cooktop, plus Sharon wants us to tidy up the Alde doughnut so it matches the exterior paint – it was white to begin with so we didn’t paint it, and got a little discolored over the past four years. Sharon has no idea how any of these complex systems work, but she knows a color mismatch when she sees one. I hope she doesn’t spot the difference between the new paint on the Alde doughnut and the four-year-old paint on the van body.