Diesel vs. Gasoline 10/22/18

I arrived on the east coast and fell down a hole. I’m just now climbing out.

Bait and Switch

When I asked you to subscribe to my blog, it wasn’t a bait and switch, I swear. At least not on purpose. But as soon as a bunch of you signed on, I found myself overwhelmed by life and swimming hard against a rip tide of depression.

Last time you heard from me, I was getting ready to go to Brimfield. As you can tell from the photos on the home page, I did go. But it wasn’t a smooth ride, believe me.

Paved with Good Intentions

Though my state of mind has not been the best, it’s been terrific compared to the state of my bus. You may remember from the FUEL MANAGEMENT blog (7/26) that Buster had some gauge issues. Well, it wasn’t the biggest problem in the world; there are two tanks, and I could have managed it by just keeping them filled. But considering I am the type of person who runs out of gas in normal circumstances, with a working fuel gauge and all that, it seemed like getting it fixed was a good idea. And it would have been, if not for what happened next.

Accidental Sabotage

I took AAA’s suggestion and delivered Buster into the hands of a local Ford Dealership. Not everyone is equipped to service a 27 year old diesel vehicle, but AAA (along with another friend) convinced me the good old dealership was the place to be. Buster is a Ford E350 at heart, after all, and who better than his own maker?  But in the course of getting the problem diagnosed (sending unit - I already knew this part), some random employee filled the fuel tanks with GASOLINE. For those of you who haven’t had a diesel vehicle, let me tell you what a no-no this is. A friend of mine once had to put a new engine in his truck because it was cheaper than fixing the damage a tankful of gas did. It’s insidious, too: just because things seem OK today doesn’t mean you won’t break down tomorrow.

I won’t name the dealership (at least not yet - let’s see how this saga ends) because so far they have been somewhat stand-up about it. Only somewhat, because it did take some arm twisting to get them to own the error. To date the service manager has never really acknowledged it, but their diesel mechanic did admit it had happened. He said the person who did it just assumed Buster ran on gas. I guess that’s because most vehicles do, and as I came to find out they work on few diesel vehicles at the dealership. Also, the “diesel only” lettering on the gas tank door was painted over when Buster got his paint job. It's still there, but harder to see. Still… it’s a garage. They’re Ford. They’re supposed to know better.

The Road to Repair

When the gas was discovered I was at a different mechanic, having been towed in after another problem emerged. It cost over $1300 to drain the entire system. But it had to be done: it’s not something I was willing to take a chance on, especially since Buster was already showing signs of how unhappy he was. I’d only driven about 20 miles with the gas, but that could have been enough, from what I’ve read, to really mess things up.

For the next couple of weeks Buster would seem to be fixed, then break down again in a whole new way, and because of these problems, I missed the set-up days for Brimfield. I had a mobile mechanic for a while who would come to the house and get me running, only to have to come back the following day because I either died on the road or simply couldn’t start up in the morning. Eventually, though, it seemed like things were finally sorted out, so I stayed up all night and packed for the show.

In the morning, full of all my merchandise - no start.

 Brimfield or Bust - But Please, Let's Not Bust!

At this point the I just figured, I paid for the space, Buster was packed, I might as well go for it, no matter what it took. I paid the mechanic to come out and get me going yet again, then to escort me all the way to Brimfield. We finally got on the road mid-day on Wednesday.

I missed the opening day selling opportunity entirely, since by the time I got there the crowd was gone. I had also planned on two set-up days and had packed accordingly, so I was still unpacking halfway through Thursday. I had to make room for people to get on the bus, which was part of my set-up, so that meant I had to take every single box off - I couldn’t just do it halfway. And because the rain was pouring down, I had to get my merchandise out of the wet cardboard boxes and onto the nice table where people could see and buy it. If only they had done that!

Brimfield Success Tip: Don't Do What I Did

I won’t say Brimfield was a bust (any “Buster” pun here is purely accidental), but I would have done better, obviously, if I’d had my set-up time and been ready to go at opening on that first day. That’s when everyone around me said they made the most money. All in all, I’m really glad I went, though it turned out to be more valuable in experience than in dollars.

I knew I would need help starting up on Sunday night when it was time to leave. I wasn’t prepared, though, for even more to go wrong. The mechanic who followed me out came back to get me started up (and collect some more money, of course), but he couldn’t do it: new problems had emerged. Now white smoke was billowing out the tailpipe, indicating that the fuel was passing through without burning.

Towed from the Show

I didn’t end up getting a tow truck until 4 o'clock the following afternoon. It poured all day, and Buster was packed to the gills at this point, so I pretty much just sat there in the drivers seat dozing on and off for hours. Cowboy, ever the trooper, snoozed in a laundry basket at my feet. I wish I had a drone shot of how pathetic we must have looked: a bright aqua whale of a bus beached on grass, all the other vendors gone, rain pouring down.

Buster got dropped at the good old Ford dealership, who had ultimately agreed to fix what they’d broken and give me a car to use while they did it. I didn’t see my bus again for a week and a half.

False Repairs

I got the call the work was done (glow plug module replaced), but when I showed Buster wouldn’t start without a boost charge, even though the batteries tested strong. It was decided there must be a bad cell in one of the two batteries, but which one? No way to know. Two days and two new batteries later, I picked Buster up and drove off. Guess what happened? Next day, no start. Again. Back to the dealer, back in the rental car.

This time, I guess, they replaced the glow plugs themselves, which hadn’t indicated they needed replacing up till now. See what I mean when I say the problem is insidious?

Buster's Back - Sort Of

So I got Buster back. The adventure at the dealership seems to be over for now, and I am back to the initial sending unit issue, along with some other things that need to be corrected in order to pass safety inspection. Buster is once again away from home, this time at a mechanic who knows old diesel vehicles. Hopefully, next time I see him, he will be working as perfectly as a 27 year old bus can work.

Now I can’t stop obsessing about snow, about how I’m going to keep Buster from rusting, and about how I’m going to get him started up on cold days. I’m also figuring out how to make him accessible to my Mom, so I can take her to doctor appointments and on the occasional outing.

Baggage Claim

Speaking of Mom, it’s been interesting getting to know each other in a new way, settling in as “roommates” basically. I want to talk more about that, and about some of the other things I’ve been facing since I’ve been here, but really that’s another chapter of what is turning out to be a somewhat strange story. I hope you’ll check back in for the next installment. Honestly, it was heartening that some people asked my why I'd stopped; it takes at least mild engagement to bother emailing me about it, so I guess there's at least a few folks who aren't bored by the saga. 

I pledge (I use that word instead of promise because it seems less charged) not to let time pass the way it did between the last blog and this one. I could have written sooner, but I really didn’t want to be a complete Debbie Downer (someone in America probably actually has that name, right? Imagine!). I want my writing to uplift. Part of getting there, for me, at least, is being honest, being exactly where I am without acting like I'm in a rosier place. Despite what people pretending to love themselves into mirrors may have been told, I believe we can’t transform what we can’t see. So once again, I unpack my baggage.

Though I haven’t even unpacked my Brimfield boxes yet.

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