Category Archives: learning

After the tow … An exploration in a hot bus engine not starting.

So, in January, there was a nice, (relatively) warm day that I decided to take the bus out and fill up the bus’ fuel tank.  The drive down to the Rez was uneventful, the bus was driving nicely, and all was well.  I pulled up to the pump, shut down the bus, filled the tank, turned the key, and the engine spun.  It spun way too easily.  And it never caught.

Perplexed, I let it spin for twenty seconds or so, then stopped and waited a minute before trying it again, only to get the same result.  After about 10 minutes of waiting and trying to start, I’d run the batteries down.  Luckily, we have AAA (with RV), so I called for service, hoping I could get (at best) a jump-start, or barring that get towed to the dealership back in Buffalo.

After it started to rain and the tow driver (Justin or Jordan (Sorry!) from Bach’s Towing) arrived and sized up the situation, we found that we just couldn’t get sufficient juice from the tow truck to start the bus, so it got towed back to the International dealership (Regional International) where I get all my inspections and service done.   After them charging it and checking it, it started up right away, and continued to do so every day they checked.  One of the mechanics drove it around a bit, and it started after that too.  They just couldn’t replicate the problem.

The IDM, mounted on the firewall behind the engine, with the cover off.

They found an error message about a missed toggle in the IDM (Injector Driver Module), but it didn’t show up again.  And, as the IDM was an expensive unit, they didn’t want to replace it if they weren’t sure it was the problem.  This unit takes the 12 volt power and ups it to 115 volts(!) to control the operation of the fuel injectors.

So I went and picked up the bus from the dealership, and drove it to a local park (Chestnut Ridge Park, which was still fairly close to Buffalo in case things went really badly) so I could have some time to myself, and it didn’t start again. My hypothesis was that if the engine was fully up to temp (up around 180 degrees on the coolant), that was when the problem happened. So, I decided to wait half-an-hour and THEN try to start it.  After the wait, it started up fine.

The Eternal Flame at Chestnut Ridge Park

I drove it around inside the park a little to the head of a hiking trail, getting the engine back up to temperature (~180 degrees) and after shutting it down, it again wouldn’t start, it just spun.  After a hour-long hike, though, it started up great.

As the dealership had not been able to replicate the problem, and I had replicated it twice in the space of an afternoon, I was a bit annoyed.  So, I took to the internet.

It seems that there are three major issues with the T444E that can cause the ‘spin but not fire’ starting issues.  The first is the IDM, which, when it fails to send power to the injectors at the behest of the ECM (Electronic Control Module), the engine gets no fuel.  The second is the IPR (Injector Pressure Regulator) which is a solenoid valve to control the high pressure oil feed.  The third is the CMP (or CAMP) (Camshaft Position Sensor)  which notes a certain slot pattern on a camshaft disk which indicates that cylinder 1 is in the correct timing position.

Any one of these failing can get the ‘spin but not fire’ situation.  I could also get that if the fuel filter was clogged, but then it wouldn’t start when the engine was cold either. So, at any rate, the parts were ordered from Shop Injectors and updates are to come.

A Week in the Bus (Allegany State Park trip – Part II)

(Continued from Part I)

After arriving around midnight at the campsite, we set up the basics, and got to bed. My wife and I ran into a bit of a problem with our bed situation, as the air mattress we had been using had developed a leak that I couldn’t patch, and the replacement we brought was a king-sized one that wouldn’t fit in the back area. Luckily, with just the three of us in the bus, we could share the bottom bunk, while our son took the top bunk.

We had a nice site near the top of the hill on our loop. For the Red House camping area, the A loop and B loop had their own bathroom facilities, while the C and D shared a bathroom, I think with the E loop. There were abundant water taps, and fairly nice stone rings for firepits, though no grates. We realized that we’d been spoiled, as the fire pits and rings at Sprague Brook and Evangola had attached and adjustable grates to cook on.

Luckily, the camp store was literally down the hill and across the road from our site, and they had a nice round grating that I could perch on stones in our firepit and make a cooking surface. They also sold a 30amp to 15amp plug adapter, which I found I needed, as the 15amp power plug on the power tree was a GFCI outlet that kept tripping when I plugged into it (which of course was happening after midnight in the light rain.)  

30 Amp RV Male to Female 5-15R Adapter (6736T) (Misc.)

List Price: Price Not Listed
New From: 0 Out of Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) plugs are great, except when it's wet and dark and your system trips them!
Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) plugs are great, except when it’s wet and dark and your system trips them!

I was totally perplexed as to what was tripping the outlet, as the system worked fine on my garage’s 15amp breaker, so after going through everything and eventually unplugging a number of non-essential systems including the plug from the inverter (even though the breaker for the inverter’s power feed was off), I finally got us basic power for lights and the fridge. After spending part of the morning tearing apart the main power in plug and the breaker box, I found that it seemed that the GFCI was being tripped by the ground of the plug of the inverter.

As the ‘main’ of the box is just a regular breaker, I had wired in the plug end of a 12 gauge extension cord into an unused breaker in the box, with the understanding that in order to power the system with the inverter, I would first turn off the main, then turn on the inverter breaker, and to go back to land power, the inverter breaker would go off first, then the main would go on. But as the inverter was set to take a grounded plug, but only connected to the 12VDC positive and negative, it seemed that the GFCI ‘saw’ the system with a return/ground fault in the 110AC system. Once I put the adapter in and plugged into the 30amp outlet, there was no issue, and all worked the way it was supposed to.

We finally got to use the stove, and it preformed admirably. While most of our cooking was done over the wood fire, the burners of the stove did a nice job with popcorn, and the oven did a great job with flatbread pizzas (and a 12” round fits easily). However, I’ve found that I need some small receptacle for spent matches, though I’m realizing that all those ashtrays that have fallen into disuse should provide for something both suitable and attractive.

The troubleshooting/improving never stops …


(More on the park in Part III)

The Dashcam (Black Box G1W-C)

So, while I’ve been busy enough to keep me from doing much of anything on the bus in terms of improvements, I did get a chance to try out a new toy – the Dash Cam.

In doing some quick internet research I settled on the Black Box G1W-C Dash Cam as the best simple, cheap dash cam.  (Video reviews from and US Dash Camera as examples.)  

 It has a nice 140 degree fish-eye, and a capacitor instead of a battery, making it more durable for high temperatures that can build up in a bus (or car).  It has g-sensor capabilities, so it can be set to specially record footage when there’s a fast start, stop, or swerve, as you might get with an accident.  It doesn’t record behind, but in the bus, it wouldn’t give a useful view anyhow, and the ‘Night Vision LED’ seems laughable,and I figured that if I was using it at night, I’d have the buses’ lights on anyhow.

I made some tests with my pick-up truck and a crossover.  While several reviews had indicated that a 64GB micro SDHC card, but I had no luck with it, but have had great results with a 32GB card.  With the 32GB card and the Camera on the 1080 pixel (HD) setting, I get less than 6 hours of recording time, but with the 720 pixel at 60 frames per second, I get more than that.  It has a still lower setting of 720 pixels at 30 fps, but if you try to play it at high speed, it ‘stutters’ and that’s annoying.

It can also record sound, which could be handy if I wanted to run a commentary, but as it stands for a regular trip, it would probably just be loud and boring.  And, after testing, I’ve found that the sound ‘skips’ when you speed it up, it’s not like a chipmunk voice sort of thing that could be funny.  But it doesn’t seem to save much data space recording with no sound, which seems a bit odd.

The dash cam has what could be a nice feature in that it starts up automatically upon getting power (it comes with a nice cigarette lighter/DC outlet to mini USB plug power cord that is about 12′ long), and shuts off automatically when it loses power.  I say that it ‘could be’ a nice feature, because it is horrible when you have glow plugs.  As you turn the key on, and have to wait for the glow plugs, an already plugged in G1W-C starts up upon having the ‘accessory’ power come on line. But when you turn the key to spin the starter and fire up the motor, there’s a moment where the accessory power fluctuates and the camera thinks it’s time to shut down, even despite the now constant power coming from the running motor.  As such, I had to start the engine and then plug the camera in.

I also got an additional attaching post for the camera, as the suction cup mount (which holds really well, BTW) is angled, and I was hoping to run the camera from the upper dome window where I had the ‘School Bus’ sign removed and replaced with glass.  I was able to test it in that window, angling the camera as high as the mount would allow (in the video below).  The additional post can be mounted to a flat surface (like a an overhanging board or windowframe molding) and allow the camera to be likewise flat.

So, what follows is a video, as I’ve just learned how to do the basic editing to stitch the videos together.  While I could have set the cam to record it all as one file, I’ve done enough computer work to know that data can get corrupted, and I like the security of multiple files.  The G1W-C allows for multiple settings of file length, and I chose the 5 minute one, which limits the file length to that, then starts a new one.  An interesting feature of this is that the files can’t just be stitched together, as they overlap each other by 1 second, giving a bit of extra security in case one glitches somewhat.

One downside of the cam is that I apparently left it unused for too long before this trip.  While I really like the on-screen documentation of the time/date, it resets if you don’t power it often enough, and as I was in a bit of a hurry to get going, I didn’t double-check it before we started off.  And what you’ll see behind the time-stamp is a nice hour-long trip from Buffalo’s streets to the tranquil and relaxing Sprague Brook Park, on a mostly sunny day that does a nice job working the adaptive intensity circuits .  And if you look closely, you might note my passenger, Aaron, in some of the odd reflections in the window.

So let me know what you think.  Is this too hard to watch with the center of vision pointing at the road, rather than the horizon?  If I tilted the camera up higher and the nose of the bus was out of frame, would that be too disorienting?  Should I just move the camera down to the windshield and mount the flat mount on the underside of the metal ‘shelf’? So many options.

(And if you can’t see the video in the post, it’s on youtube.)