Not home this weekend, but that's turned out to be to my benefit, for once. The newer truck I got a little over a week ago got sick and they put me in an even newer one today. This time I could "hang around" (try, like, all weekend) because my load delivers right here in Morton Monday morning. Actually, truck 3402 got sick, got better for a day or so, then had a relapse this morning. I'll be happy to explain. Glad you asked!!
It started Wednesday, while I was enroute from some little burg in Pennsylvania, to my delivery in Bowling Green, Kentucky, with an eta set for Thursday morning. It sounded at first like a dog when you take its dinner bowl away from it -- a growling noise, otherwords, from the engine, which up to that time had purred like the Kitty-Cat it is. But not now. That growl soon enough turned into a dead miss. It felt exactly like a car with a bad spark plug wire and a dead cylinder. The "Check Engine" idiot light was on and blinking a bit now and then and my steed was losing power. Wouldn't hold 65 if there was even the slightest uphill grade and would take nearly forever to get up to speed from a stop.
Since diesel engines don't have spark plugs, or plug wires, the first thought that hit my head was "injector going bad." That's about the only thing that'll kill a cylinder in a diesel -- that, or a dropped valve, which is even worse news. So, I went into that famous "OH, SHIT" mode immediately. But I remembered then that I'd had a similar problem with an earlier truck and it turned out that the fuel filters had gotten waterlogged. I had them changed and everything was fine again. So, I made plans to stop at a truckstop where we're authorized to have repairs done and try that out, if our shop was agreeable.
They were, and I pulled it into the Northern Kentucky truckstop shop in short order. I was thinking that if I was lucky, I'd maybe just gotten some lousy fuel the previous day. That 80/20 fuel/water mix doesn't run too well in any engine, to be sure. So, they changed them both and I signed the tab and took the rest of my break. Next morning, I went across the street to the Pilot, where we fuel all the time, and topped it off. It held a little over a hundred gallons,which is a half-tank, by Big Truck standards. Now we'd see about things!!
I headed toward Louisville, and I-65, and Bowling Green, eventually. The idiot light came back on and my rig did what is best described as a "slump" momentarily. It felt like I had one foot on the accelerator and one foot on the brake, at the same time, only I didn't, of course. Hmmmmmm. Not fixed?? The shop had told me to get it back to Morton if the filters didn't fix it. However, the idiot light was acting like what it's named for -- a total idiot! It would blink, stay steady a minute or two, go out for a few seconds, then blink again, like it was signaling some kind of insane Morse Code. Finally, after maybe a half-hour, the thing went out for good, the engine smoothed out and purred again, and I was saying, "Ahhhhhhhhh!" Had to run long enough to get the new, fresh fuel circulating, I reasoned.
And it stayed that way, purring along, all the way to my destination. Purred while I sat for over an hour in traffic that was stopped because there was freezing [expletive deleted] rain on the road and, naturally, a truck and car had collided and blocked the entire road. Purred when I finally got to the delivery, an hour and fifteen minutes late. Purred all night at a little mom 'n pop truckstop in the local area. And purred all the next day, when I picked up the load I brought up here and headed north and west with it. Fixed, I thought!! Ah-ha!!! I LOVE it when I'm right!!
And then, of course, the damned thing made a fool out of me this morning. Without warning, the light came on again and the slump was back, this time with a much heavier load. Now, there aren't any terribly steep hills in Illinois -- not like Kentucky, or Tennessee, for sure. But what high spots in the road there are made for a slower trip. Felt like I was going backward, half the time. But I persevered and I made it in here.
Talked to the shop foreman and he got a guy from a local Cat dealer to hook up his diagnostic laptop to the truck's ECM. He came back shaking his head. He wasn't whistling "Taps," but he didn't have to; I knew the news wasn't good. "Ya hear that 'tick' in the engine?" he asked. I listened intently and heard the sound he mentioned. "The engine's about to drop a valve, I think. You're lucky you got it up here." I agreed wholeheartedly. It would have to go to Peterbilt for several days, to fix the bad valve. Without that truck, I ain't got no bed, and I let them know. I also mentioned (just in passing, you understand) that 3402 wasn't the truck I was supposed to have gotten a week ago, anyway. My philosophy is that if you don't toot your own horn, don't expect anyone else to toot it for you! So I let out an air-horn-like blast, figuratively speaking.
I was told to go over to dispatch and tell Ish (a dispatcher whom I've known for almost as long as I've been with Star) to see what trucks they had available. I had all day to get moved over and that one would go to the Pete dealer Monday. Ish told me to take 3550. I got the keys and another check-out sheet from the shop, right before they closed and a few hours later, here I am, all moved into my new ride. This one's an early '07 model, a year newer than the other one. Same engine and tranny, and looks the same, but it's got a CD player in the dash, instead of a cassette, so I'll grab a few favorites when I get home again, and take them along with me. It seems to do well and be strong as an ox, but I won't hit the open road again until first of the week.
Let's just hope 3550 don't have terminal valve problems!