May 222015

No, I’m not talking about those folks in Washington who are busy taking bribes and shafting all of us, though you shouldn’t trust them either. But I’ll get to all of that in a moment.

After we’ve been sitting still for a while, we never seem to sleep well the night before we begin a trip, and Wednesday night was no exception. We both tossed and turned all night long and were up by 7 a.m. to get ready to hit the road. This time of year high winds are a fact of life in northern Arizona, but we got lucky and had a pretty calm day for traveling. Nice!

We left the Show Low Elks lodge campground and traveled 50 miles north on State Route 77 to Holbrook, where we got on Interstate 40 and traveled west across the state to Kingman, with a stop at the Flying J in Winslow to take on fuel.

There were two RV islands, but one was blocked off because they were working on the pumps, so I pulled in behind the motorhome at the other pump. The owner had a beautiful German shepherd on a leash, which is my favorite breed of dog. So I had to get out and play with her while he filled his tank. That was cool. What wasn’t cool was that after he was done and put the dog back inside, he then proceeded to wash his windshield and putter around for another fifteen minutes or so before he pulled away from the fuel island.

Back on the road, we noticed a vibration whenever our Winnebago’s transmission upshifted or downshifted, or as I was going up a steep hill, and then once it had changed gears it would smooth right back out. Hmmm…. what’s that about?

All of my gauges were reading fine and there were no warning lights, just that noticeable vibration. I was worried that something like the clutch or torque converter was going bad. A few miles west of Williams there is a big safety pullout before the road starts a two mile long 6% downgrade, and I stopped there to check things out. Which means I called Greg White.

Greg asked if the transmission was low on fluid. Not according to the dipstick, but he said the dipstick doesn’t always give a reliable reading and suggested I use the transmission’s keypad to have it check the fluid level. That is done by putting the transmission in Neutral, with the brake on, at operating temperature and then pushing both the Up and Down arrows on the keypad at the same time. I did and the digital readout said LL 03, which means the transmission was three quarts low. I went outside to the back of the motorhome and checked the dipstick, carefully wiping it clean before I put it back in and pulled it out again and it showed the fluid was in the correct normal when hot range. But back inside the keypad once again showed three quarts low.

We couldn’t sit there all day, so we went on to Kingman and stopped at a NAPA Auto Parts. I run synthetic fluid in the transmission, and a gallon of Amsoil synthetic fluid set me back $51. Terry held the funnel while I poured three quarts in, and probably half a pint down her arm, but she never complained.

Back on the highway we immediately noticed the vibration was lessening and the rig began purring right along. The transmission holds something like twenty quarts of fluid, and we were both amazed that three quarts could make that much difference. Now the question is, where did the fluid go? We have not noticed any leakage or spray on the Explorer that would indicate a leak.

From Kingman we took U.S. Highway 93 north about 60 miles or so. It’s a good divided four lane road through the high desert, and as we approached the Colorado River we started seeing some dramatic mountain scenery.

US 93 small

Everybody knows that I have a fear of bridges, but the bridge that crosses the river near Hoover Dam is a piece of cake. High profile vehicles are supposed to stay in the left lane, and the sides are high enough that I can’t even tell I’m on a bridge.

Hoover Dam bridge small

Terry did manage to get one picture of the water as we passed over, and then this one of Lake Meade once we had crossed into Nevada. The white line on the rocks shows how low the water level is.

Lake Meade small

Lake Meade 2 small

We arrived at the Las Vegas Thousand Trails preserve about 5:30 and got settled into a full hookup 50 amp site with 390 miles behind us. That’s a long day and a lot of miles, but now we’ll sit still for two or three weeks while I get the new issue of the Gypsy Journal done.

We were both disappointed to find that the Verizon internet sucks here, both on our 3G air card and using my Samsung phone as a 4G hotspot. You’d think a city as big as Las Vegas would have decent service from Verizon, but apparently you’d be wrong.

Be sure to enter this week’s Free Drawing for an audiobook of Gun Shy, the fifth book in my friend Ben Rehder’s excellent Blanco County mystery series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Gun Shy

Thought For The Day – Dear life, when I asked if my day could get any worse, it was a rhetorical question, not a challenge.

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Nick Russell

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  7 Responses to “Don’t Trust a Dipstick!”

  1. Welcome to my world. As you already know. stay off the strip this holiday weekend.
    1/2 of Calif. will be visiting. The Pahrump Want-a-be

  2. I used to have Vegas as part of my sales territory and cell service sucked all over town. I had ATT at the time but my distributor sales guy had another carrier and neither of us had any luck.

  3. I bought a used van and took it to have the oil changed. The kid changing the oil came to me and said did you know that your van took 9 quarts of oil? I did not think a 350 Chevy did. I called the dealer and he said no, only 5 quarts. So they drained it and refilled it. I went to the dealer and ordered 2 new dip sticks. One for the oil and one for the transmission. Both of the dipsticks in the van I bought were wrong.

    Could this be the case with your Winnebago, could someone have put the wrong dipstick in it? Just a thought.

    Please be careful on the road and thank you for your Military Service.


  4. It could be the last time the transmission was service they used the dipstick to refill it.

  5. 2 comments: #1-Why do you EVER use the RV pumps? #2-I would also be concerned as to why the transmission was showing 3 quarts low if you had not had any work done and had not noticed any leaking since you last drove the rig when everything was working correctly.

  6. Ya want to be sure your fluids are right. Allison tranies have very good reputation and a RV will go under its capacities of performance. However I had one in my coach and stopping at the stop sign to top off on fuel by Lansing, MI at a FJ and the couch died. It would not restart. I was crowding the bottom of the ramp waiting for a tow. Turned out that the tranny went in reverse AND first gear at the same time. You dont want to know what the repair cost was and niether did Good Sam Extended Warrentee policy but I’ll tell ya. It only cost me $500, Goode Sam, $14,000.

  7. I’ve been told by several service folks to totally disregard the dipstick on the Allison. The unit is totally computerized with many sensors and will tell you what wrong or right if you run the diagnostics. Allison states to use the keypad to service . The Allison site has the code chart posted
    I had my radiator replaced and noticed after awhile ( 2 months) I was 3 qts low on transmission fluid . Turns out They “forgot” to add the radiators 3 qts back! On mine at least the transmission fluid is cooled inside the radiator and it holds 2-3 quarts
    It’s also one of the places ” missing Fluid” can leak .. Into the radiator coolant. Let’s hope that’s not where yours went , new radiators are not cheap ! I know! One thing is for sure . The fluid doesn’t get “used ” or burned like oil , it went somewhere !

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