Death of an alternator

So I’m leaving Coos Bay, on my way to Eugene to check out a local mall and stay the night in their RV-friendly lot.  I’m in the middle-of-nowhere, just checked out one of the viewpoint locations, and the battery light comes on the dash.  Voltage is dropping, and I’m on a 2-line highway in the Oregon mountains.

Fortunately, I found a boat launch area pretty quickly with a large parking lot.  I pulled into there, and shut off the truck.  Popped the hood to check on the electrical connections, and didn’t luck out there.  Those all looked fine.  So, it’s likely the alternator.

At this point, I had a battery that probably wasn’t fully charged, and I knew that starting my truck takes a lot of power.  The glow plugs take a ton of power, plus it takes a significant amount of power to run the starter in a high-compression v8 engine.  I needed a way to have a full battery before attempting to get anywhere.

And, of course, it’s Sunday morning.  This doesn’t bode well for finding repair options.  I was lucky enough that the spot I pulled over I had a tiny bit of data access, enough to use google maps, at least part of the time.  I found a couple of ford dealerships, but the closest was at least 27 miles away, and it was a tiny dealership that didn’t even open until Monday morning.  A couple other dealerships were a bit farther away, but opened later in the morning.

I happend to have a portable battery charger with me (for charging the truck camper batteries), and I had a bunch of solar power and an inverter… so I hooked it all up and charged up my truck’s batteries from the camper’s power supply.  Yep, I MacGyver’d it.

After charging for a while, one of my potential dealerships opened up, and I was able to call and verify that they’d have a diesel tech in Monday morning.  That works for me.  The next step is to finish charging the battery with as much power as it can hold so it can hopefully get me as far as possible.  I’m thinking that it might get me 20 or 30 miles or something, then I’d have to pull over and charge it again.  I didn’t have a lot of faith in the batteries in my truck right now, and I’m pretty sure this truck requires a lot of power both to start and to run in general.

I ended up having lunch while at the boat ramp area, the charging took a good long time, and since I didn’t really have to try to push my luck, I figured this would be a lazy Sunday, with no real rush.  Eventually the batteries finished charging, lunch was cleaned up, and I launched into a nerve-wracking trip.  The dealership I chose was 57 miles and just over an hour away.  “Well, I’ll see how far I get,” I was thinking.

With one eye on the voltmeter, I made the entire trip in one jump.  I was absolutely amazed.  I stayed at the ford dealership overnight, and drove into the service bay when they opened the next morning.  By about quarter to ten, and $585 later, I was back out on my way.

My destination was LL Stub Stewart State Park in Oregon to meet up with Lee & CJ.  By the time I got there, they were lounging around and talking about whether or not CJ needs a bigger trailer, which is a continual discussion.

This is my first time in a state park, and the rules and regulations that accompany them.  CJ is the “primary” person here, and she’s paying $31/night, which I consider rather expensive.  Lee and I are staying as “Extra Vehicles” at $7/night.  The campground has rules of only one “extra vehicle” per campsite, but we got permission from the visiting park rangers.

The next morning, another park ranger was out checking on everyone’s little slips in the windows, and had words for us.  Apparently only one “camping unit” is allowed per campsite.  Lee and I both ave “camping units”, so we were apparently not allowed according to the regulations.  I mentioned the rangers last night had allowed it, so he gave in and let us be.  He did mention that extra tents are allowed in the campsites, with a total capacity of up to 8 people, but extra camping units just aren’t allowed.  What difference it makes, I have no idea.

This evening, the same two rangers as the previous night came back and said, “well, we screwed up”.  They are, as I’m writing this, trying to figure out if there’s any other vacancies that they could move me and or Lee into.  Utter silliness.  We’ll see how this turns out.  I can say with certainty that I have no desire to stay at state parks in the future.

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