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US Border Crossing Closed Down by the WTM

Posted on Thursday Mar 22, 2012

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When that "Charge" light kept turning on after the engine warmed up, I decided to just wire the solar panel into the engine electronics. With all the sun down here we turned the WTM into the WORLD'S FIRST HYBRID TOYOTA MOTORHOME. The solar would run the fuel pump and the electronic ignition and keep the battery charged up enough to crank over the engine once or twice a day. Our goal was to get to the US where the car parts are a lot cheaper.

In Guaymas we stopped to visit friends and I noticed the belts were really loose on the engine. Since the alternator failed to charge after the engine got hot, I wondered if the belts were just slipping. So I tightened them and we pressed on.

Well, it was obvious after about 30 minutes when the charge light came back on that the belts weren't the problem. We pushed on. A new alternator in Mexico is almost 2x more than in the US and we only had about 400 miles to go.

All was great with the sun shining brightly on us powering our electronics. However at the US side of the border everything changed. They made us pull into the Agricultural Inspection Area that is covered (no sun!) and shut off the engine. Without the solar power we couldn't get it started again. Ok, we really didn't block the WHOLE border. But we did shut down our line (1 car behind us). The officers said it happens all the time and since I had cables, we got the car next to us to jump us.

But now that we've got a new alternator all is good (we hope!). Only $80 here, instead of $140 in Mex...that's why we rigged the RV to run off solar until we could make it back to Tuscon...almost worked.

Changing the alternator was a classic WTM moment too. We parked next to O'reily Parts. Went inside, verified they could test everything and they had a rebuilt alternator in stock. Then we proceeded to strip out the old alternator in the parking lot -- it's not like we could really disable our only car anywhere else.... The job required removing some cooling hoses (and draining the coolant) and taking off several brackets and plates. Once we could squeeze the alternator out it of course passed their tests. Since it normally takes about 20 minutes for the alternator to stop charging (measured at the alternator), we opted for the new alternator assuming the problem was intermittent. Then we put all the pieces back in and refilled the coolant system.

Not as quite a WTM moment as when we changed all the shocks last year in the NAPA Parts parking lot with a huge floor jack we rented, but it is a close second! Installing the shocks with the RV blocked up was quite a crowd pleaser.

Now to start the long trek EAST to see our family!