I’m Giving Her All She’s Got, Captain!
Adventure comes wherever it will. Sometimes whether you want it or not. East of Dillon on I-70 is a climb that bests all others. I mean, it goes up for what must be at least a dozen miles, and it’s relentless. I have apparently never been on this stretch of I-70, because it’s new to me.
After a pleasant and tasty breakfast at Mountain Lyon Cafe, it was a short jaunt to the Interstate and points east. With a few miles under my belt, the climb started out innocently enough. Then you eventually notice that you’ve been passing 35 MPH semis and RVs of various types for an unusually long time. Set on cruise at a mere 65, the Intrepid hurls past with throttle to spare. The turbo boost gauge is about as high as I’ve ever seen it on cruise control, and is holding steady. With the coolant and transmission gauges per usual, I concentrate on lane usage ahead of me. Wow, this thing is really long! So glad I have a comparatively lightweight camper! How long does this climb go on, fer cryeye? This isn’t the Andes, is it?
Then the truck suddenly drops throttle, shutting off the cruise control and indicating a coolant overheat situation on the dash display. Huh? A look at the temperature gauge shows the needle at the high borderline of “normal”. Any further and it’s in the red. What happened? It was so happy! The exhaust gas temp on the ScanGauge shows about 750 degrees, which is halfway between normal and Regen Mode. I hope against hope that it never went into regen, because hammering the 6.4 in regen is a reasonably good way to damage the two rearmost pistons, at best. I slowed and dropped behind a semi to lessen the strain, and after a couple of minutes the needle moved slightly left. That wasn’t nearly as much as I’d hoped for, and I was still on the turbo.
Time to check whether I’d lost coolant. Besides loaning your vehicle to your teenage son, few are the better ways to trash it than to load it hard while coolant is pouring out onto the ground. I pulled over onto the exceptionally wide shoulder provided just for that purpose, got out, and opened the hood to take a gander. Nope, nothing wet topside, and nothing on the ground underneath. The coolant tank was full within a fraction of an inch to the cap, this being a fully pressurized part of the cooling system rather than a simple overflow reservoir. So it was hot, but it was holding. That’s very good. Before closing the hood, I glanced at the radiator fan to see it lazily windmilling. That stuck me as weird. According to past behavior, it should be at a low roar even at idle. Being the type designed for use behind snowplow blades, it used to cut in frequently, usually when it made sense and sometimes when it didn’t. I realized that I hadn’t heard its bellicose howl for quite some time. A long time in fact.
Back inside the cabin, the temp gauge had eased back up to the limit, most likely from sitting there with a fan that wasn’t pulling air through the radiator. I could shut the engine off and let it cool down, but that struck me as a bad idea because after beating on the turbo for a long time, just turning the motor off will allow engine oil to fry in its super-hot bearings, which pretty much kills them. The engine must idle for 3-5 minutes first, to allow the turbo to cool. With no radiator fan and a too-hot engine, that did not appeal as an effective option. The trans temp gauge was also significantly higher than normal, but I attributed this to its radiator being packed in a tight sandwich of 2 or 3 others.
I put it back in gear and pulled out, dogging it up to 35 MPH. After a couple of miles, the needle budged slightly left again, but nothing I tried got it any lower. How long would this situation have to go on? Very fortunately for me, the crest was reached and a descent through a tunnel was in view. With the turbo shut off and the engine almost coasting, it took awhile for the needle to lower further. But another couple of miles like this suddenly dropped it to normal. Whew.
Then starts the mental review of possibilities, of which only two surfaced for me. First, the viscous fan drive mechanism might be long gone. Second, the recent work to replace the belt tension pulley might have ended with a sensor wire left unconnected. But that assumes that the drive works off a remote temperature sensor. I’ll have to see what I can find on that, as well as any easy easy way to positively diagnose a bad fan drive.
The rest of the long 6-hour drive went like clockwork, with situation boringly normal. That’s good, the only exception being somewhat warmer exhaust gas temperatures, which it is wont to do in high ambient temps. With the high of 97 degrees today, that motel stay idea began to look pretty good, and I pulled into the Husker Inn to find a vacancy.
The rooms are like $64, or $72 after local gouging taxes, and along with the room key they handed me a plate with two generously-sized pizza slices, a cup of green grapes, and a cup with some kind of bakery pastry with raisins in it. Big time saver! The room is quite impressively furnished as well as uber-clean. Bed, couch, recliner chair, round table with chair, desk with chair, TV atop dresser, two nightstands, fridge, microwave, bathroom sink and mirror separated from bathroom with tub and shower. If I could get in here for $5 a day, I’d probably never leave. and the A/C is silent and effective. Eat your hearts out. I’ll probably cry tomorrow when I have to leave.