Down and Dirty Bus Repairs

For three day’s the bus wouldn’t start when we wanted it to and remained locked in the mechanic’s garage the first night. Joel hired a couple guys in Vancouver for the veggie oil conversion, whom that day spliced the fuel line and installed a valve that would switch the engine on and off between veggie oil and diesel. Somewhere in the course of things, a mistake was made and air was being pulled into the engine’s fuel system preventing it from starting. The rest of the day was spent filling the fuel filter with diesel, revving the engine in neutral, and spraying starter fluid into the engine’s air-in tank.

The first night Brittney remained at her sisters house who she went to visit earlier, and Joel and I spent the evening at the garage. Eventually the two guys from the auto shop had to go home and one of them told us we could stay with him. At a trailer park nearby, Joel and I crashed together on a futon at the mechanics home; also a school bus conversion.

In the morning our bus was running and our mechanic’s advice was that as long as the bus remained at a high RPM for a long period of time then any small amount of air left in the system would work its way out naturally. One hundred feet later the bus stopped running. I ran to the garage and told the mechanic. He came back with more starter fluid and moments later the bus was running again. After that we left again to meet Brittney’s sister, Christina, at her house twenty miles away.

We broke down twice more that afternoon on the course to meet Brittney. The first time we pulled onto the shoulder of I-5  South underneath the NE Broadway overpass. We broke down a second time about a mile from Christina’s home in Tigard. Joel pulled the bus over conveniently next to a grocery store and an auto parts store.

As Joel began tightening the fuel lines underneath the bus, he noticed that the radiator was leaking too. He thought to make its connection tighter, but then a big piece of it broke when he tried to and spilt fluid all over his face and clothes. That evening we were expected for dinner at Christina’s and the rest of the day was spent repairing the radiator hose.

Using a cup from Burger King as a funnel, Joel pours radiator fluid while Brittney holds the funnel in place.

With the help of Christina, the next day was spent driving to different supply stores in order to find pieces to fix the bus with. All day we were looking forward to our going away party in Washougal, Washington. At dusk the bus was running and in my mind I could smell the bon fire and hear the music playing. But the bus broke down once more on 99 E. Now that Joel had secured the ends of the fuel line, he confidently understood for the first time that the problem was in the fuel valve.

The engine has stopped and the bus has pulled onto the shoulder of 99 East.

On the shoulder of the highway, almost all our electronics were out of battery power, save for one iPad, which Brittney used to call her brother, James. He came out in almost no time to meet us. He let us borrow his iPad to make calls and register with AAA. AAA informed Joel that it does not offer same day service for recreational vehicles and from there connected us with a towing company.

It was one o’clock in the morning by the time our tow had finished, leaving us outside a body shop whose owner, knows James, and where Joel could work on the bus the following day. Around one o’clock in the morning, we finally arrived in Washougal and our friends happily greeted us.

The following day, the fuel valve was uninstalled and the bus was running fine. There was no reason to drive it to Washougal, and so we stayed on 22nd and Sandy NE, outside Atomic Auto for two nights. The final day we attached solar panels on the roof and electrical plugs for using them inside the bus.

Brittney hands tools to Joel as he installs solar panels on the roof of the bus.

Now we are on our way to Tidewater, Oregon for SOAK. Stay posted for upcoming news about this regional Burning Man event!

One Response to “Down and Dirty Bus Repairs”
  1. Meagan says:

    That was quite a night. The party wasn’t quite the same without the hosts, but we partied on anyways!

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