Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Art of Solenoid Maintenance

We've been learning a lot about mechanics and vehicle maintenance in the past three days.  The most recent adventure under the bus was the solenoid, which stopped working when we hit the Roanoke Rapids Food Lion.  If you consider the time we spent in the parking lot asking people for help a fair survey, it's safe to say that South of DC the percentage of people who understand the vehicles they drive increases, significantly.  We learned so much about the innards of Loki in the matter of a few hours of hearing out speculators as to what they thought could be wrong.  My uncle Smokey answered his phone and gave me a very detailed picture of how an alternator works when we thought it might be that.  Ultimately, it was the solenoid. 

When Jeff, Max and Jay finally ran across the street to Autozone to see if anyone knew anything or if they could try trickle charging the batteries there for a couple of hours, a kind employee told them "you go right outside and aks my husband in that truck over there.  He's a diesel mechanic."  The guy soon had Max contorted around the engine plunging some piece on a spring in to the starter with a screwdriver and moving a miniwrench in between two pieces of metal that should have been flush but had corroded to the point we had to force conductive material between them to connect the electric to the starter.  Sparks flying, the occasional whirring noise and then she started up.  

We are going to take the corroded part out today and sand it smooth then put it back and there shouldn't be the same issue again.  But this is how we have been starting the bus up for the last two days.  Jeff and I have been spotting Max...when his shirt comes untucked someone has to grab it out of the way of this belt that spins real fast when the engine starts and Jeff always makes sure his crotch and legs are clear.  But the wrench got stuck when we were trying to get out of Eno River State Park (the wrench got too hot and stuck a little), and he got a little tunnel vision and used his lower body for leverage to try to yank it and got WAY too close to that belt.  I was directly behind him, so to me it looked like HE was stuck and I imagined he'd hit the belt and passed out or something.  Jeff thought so too apparently and grabbed his hips straight up and away from the machine and Max emerged with the wrench looking fine but a little surprised.  I felt nauseous.  But all was actually fine.  


  1. I believe that by making this choice for a vehicle you have opened up a universe of experiences that would have been hidden. With every problem there are intellectual, emotional, and physical challenges which are new and must be overcome. (a new toyota corolla just would not be the teacher Loki is) Jamming oneself into an engine compartment is a prime example. Somewhere in this process you will experience one of my favorite concepts: There is beauty in utility. Aren't flowers an example of this? You will discover parts of Loki that have both physical and utilitarian beauty. Other parts will make you curse the designer (or more likely an accountant from GM from the mid-60's for being cheap). Some thoughts of care and caution for this process: BE patient with each other, mechanical breakdowns require defined roles AND collaboration with low emotional output and high intellectual problem solving skills. Take a deep yoga breath, exhale all the stress. And as long as I'm preaching, always, SAFETY FIRST when working on or around mechanical devices. Having a person watching the back of the person doing the mechanical work is a good idea and regularly practiced in dangerous work situations and you already are doing it naturally. I'm hoping you continue to have a safe and trouble free journey.

  2. Spent the whole day assisting Max as he worked on understanding and fixing the solenoid. It rained, of course, so we spent the six hours or so in the cold blue glow of our tarp. But our spirits are high...we are learning a lot and that is the purpose of the trip after all. Tomorrow he'll need to go back in...the broken wire inside the solenoid, behind the gasket and a particular screw (one of four) at an INCREDIBLY difficult angle to loosen, that Max repaired was not the magic fix, as he initially thought. The team really came together around the project...though only two of us needed to be outside near the engine, Jay continuously checked in, bringing better seating, the occasional odd tool, rubber boots. Kaley, in addition to moral support all day long, made our favorite soup of hers for dinner, which will be ready by the time we finish showering and winding down. Jeff has offered his massage therapy services, and also helped one of our hosts make amazing peanut-butter-cup cokies which were still warm when we recently came in from the rain. Brit made headway in the craft supply today which will be for sale, gave our aloe plant crutches, and is now making yet another batch of cookies to soothe our souls. Go team.

  3. I'm looking at posts and pictures: loving the adventures, cringing at the dangers! Watch each others' back, and you'll be invincible. I miss you all very much.


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