Big Blue version 4.0 – Ending with a bang
We spent two days packing up the van (I say we, but actually Kerri did all the packing as I blew out my back something fierce on the final day of construction [that is twice in five weeks] and was barely able to stand, let alone move things into the van) and were all excited to drive off from Grass Valley on Christmas Eve. Things were all going according to plan – not my plan, but close enough – and by Sunday afternoon we jumped into the two captain’s chairs and waved our goodbye’s to the Mom and Dad and started our hop over the Sierra Mountains. We found that our new drawers and cabinets were opening and closing while driving, but were still happy to be moving nonetheless. There were other concerns that popped up (as expected) but we were able to move past them quickly. We were on the road, heading South to meetup with friends for the new year.
Only 30 minutes later, and less than 20 miles from our starting point, as we were climbing up a grade on Interstate 80, the engine shut off and smoke billowed behind Big Blue. We coasted to a stop on the side of the Interstate, jumped out of Big Blue, popped the hood and found that Big Blue was on fire!!! We had just finished a huge (and costly) rebuild, and had all our gear packed tightly into the van… and it was on fire!!! Luckily, Kerri and I had just finished a conversation on where I packed out extinguishers, two of which we were sitting directly on. When we jumped out of the van, I asked her to grab the extinguisher under her seat. While I opened the hood, she pulled the pin and handed me the life (and van) saving device. A quick burst from the extinguisher – while Kerri pulled the dogs out of the van – and the real problems were resolved. But we were still stuck on the side of the Interstate, with oil pouring from the engine.
As you can see, a passerby called in the cavalry; the local fire department were on scene within 3 minutes, and not another minute later a CHP officer dropped in to make sure all was OK as well. He left us with a few long lasting flares to set out while we waited for our tow truck (which he called in so they would prioritize us). The flatbed showed up quickly, and pulled the 8000+ pound van onto it in record time. We asked to be towed back to Grass Valley where the parents were awaiting, again.
Always, ALWAYS, carry at least one of these guys in your van/car/truck and make sure they are easily accessible. I had three when we departed yesterday and not 30 miles down the road Big Blue vomited out all his motor oil and caught fire!!! Kerri and I just finished discussing where the extinguishers are in our he van (under each of our seats and one in the rear) so the flames were put out within seconds of us pulling over, saving the van and everything in it. Our night ended with a tow back to Grass Valley where we will assess the necessary repairs in the coming days. Baja will have to wait, but at least the little red cylinder saved our ass big time.
Big Blue was parked right beside the Airstream (again, again), but it stunk of burnt-van inside. We couldn’t sleep in the trailer either as it had nothing in it, like bedding, clothes, water, etc. We opted to sleep inside, in the guest bedroom and leave Big Blue to air out for the night. I fully expected it to be a blown engine and some tough decisions were going to need to me made. Hopes were not high, but we both understood it was not a life-ending situation.
The culprit to our little engine fire was… ME. My own stupidity, even after Kerri told me so, stopped me from completely cleaning up what you see in the swipe. I removed it of course but not thoroughly enough to prevent our recent mishap. The good news is that it is a much less expensive and less time consuming job then what we were originally thinking. On a side note; not a mechanical failure, but stupid human error… not sure that makes me feel any better though. My laziness put our lives at risk. #humbled
Once I pulled the doghouse out and got a first peak at the engine it became obvious that it was not a blown engine. Instead, it was my stupidity (not properly cleaning up a rats nest that I removed weeks back) that caused the fire, which did a number on the wiring (hence the engine shutting down), vacuum lines, and oil pressure gauge tubing (hence the oil leak). As awful as it all looks, it was an easier and less expensive hole to dig out of. Three days later, as I am writing this, and the van has still not restarted. We will be at least a week (hopefully not two weeks) behind due to this easy-to-avoid-mistake.
The lessons I would like to pass on to others are:
- Look for, and properly clean up rats nets after a vehicle has been sitting for a long period.
- Always carry at least one fire extinguisher, in a place easy to access, at all times. We had 3 with us that day.
- Listen to the women! Sometime their “nagging” could save your life/van/butt. I wish I had.
Dive safely now… and always an extinguisher.