Back at home for a few days and just now getting a chance to complete a write-up of my experiences getting Lowly across the border into the US.
Temporary import paperwork finalized on a Friday and I immediately reserved my flight up to Vancouver BC for the following Monday. Arrived in Vancouver BC before lunchtime and public transported down to the White Rock area to check in with the insurance office and update them of my intentions and timing for the temporary import into the US. Once that was squared away, I bussed out to the storage facility.
After sitting for over a month and a half Lowly was a little sluggish in starting but fired up and I was on my way to the border. I was required to pass through the commercial trucking border crossing at White Rock, which is several miles away from the I-5 (Peace Arch). I followed all of the commercial trucking into a 12 lane staging area where I then sat for 45 minutes waiting for my lane to receive a green light to advance to the Customs kiosk.
It was an interesting system as the green lights didn't follow any sort of sequential pattern and more often than not, drivers of other trucks would ignore their red light and proceed forward, cutting in line. No CC cameras were in sight so I eventually followed suit and joined in the scrum. Finally advanced to the kiosk where the bored-to-death Customs officer attempted to wrap his mind around my situation. He eventually instructed me to park and proceed inside to the main desk to complete the paperwork process (which I was expecting). The officer who helped me inside seemed appreciative of my organized paperwork, checked Lowly for a VIN number (thankfully the frame stamp is the same VIN as my missing VIN plate) and sent me on my way; didn't even charge me the $13.20 commercial crossing administrative fee!
Stayed with relatives south of Tacoma that night (ended up being a very long day!) and then blitzed down home to Southern Oregon the following day. Goodbye Washington, hello Oregon!
Got Lowly home by dinnertime - US Temporary Import complete!
Managed to get nailed by a good sized piece of rock on my drive south - it impacted the windshield down in the lower right corner behind a sticker - first order of business was to get that repaired before the whole windshield cracked (I can only imagine what a new piece of glass for this truck would set me back!)
Yesterday I spent a couple hours investigating all of Lowly's toggle switches, levers, systems, etc. Without a service or user's manual for this truck it was a bit of guess-n-check, but I think I figured out what most of the features are on this truck. Snapped a picture with everything deployed from the steps to the swing out shelves to the awnings to the telescoping light mast - yeah, flood lights galore!
The next step of this adventure is to find a suitable location to begin the conversion process and start all the head-scratching of exactly what will be the best design for our family and intended purpose.
Decided to take the Mrs, kiddos and pooch for a Saturday drive in Lowly truck between the snow flurries. This was Mrs' first real drive in the truck and it was a splendid outing until we broke down a couple miles from home on the return leg. Slowed down coming to a stop sign on a residential street (thankfully this happened on backroads!) and the compressed air reservoir's low pressure alarm started its mind-numbing note. Dash lights began coming on: air pressure tank low, parking brake on. Then the two needles on the dashboard's air pressure gauge slowly dropped below acceptable operating pressure.
For those not familiar with air brakes (and I'll admit that I am a newbie), when air pressure is lost the parking brakes are activated mechanically. Lowly was not going anywhere and I couldn't shut him off; I'm guessing the electronic kill switch fires off some pneumatic valve/cylinder that kills the engine. So, with the truck idling, unmovable and blocking a lane of traffic I unloaded the family and began a very long trouble shooting of what the heck was going on. Thankfully my parents were called in to shuttle the family home and my long-suffering dad stuck around to help me.
With my systematic process of elimination and a call to a diesel mechanic friend, the culprit was located - some sort of stuck valve in the compressed air cleaner/relief apparatus upstream of the pressure tanks. When you hear an idling truck or bus emit a loud pop/hiss, that is the air relief valve doing its job. Lowly's was stuck in the open position, letting all the air headed to the tanks vent to atmosphere. We decided to unscrew the incoming and outgoing air lines and mate them up, effectively bypassing the pressure relief apparatus to temporarily restore pressure to the tanks and let me limp the 2 miles back home.
Meanwhile a friendly man living nearby directed traffic around our Mercedes roadblock as night descended and I frantically Mcguyvered a fix using a plumbing union in an attempt to get home before the next rain/snow squall descended. Here is a pic of the fix with the culprit in the background.
Limped back home, stopping every time the pressure gauge needles crept above the "happy zone" to activate the parking brake and relieve the tank pressure as my pressure relief was no longer in the loop. Got home to a dinner of spaghetti. The kids thought it was a great adventure. When asked, Mrs said she enjoyed her first ride it Lowly. Whew! I just hope it isn't a sign of things to come!
This is a common problem in the RV world, mostly due to lack of maintenance. The air filter might be plugged, but, usually the internal valve, which is replaceable as your mechanic friend would know, gets full of moisture, dirt, etc.
Valve just needs a good clean. You could not shut down because the kill is air operated.
You really have to watch your air. The low air warning alarm is an all out emergency, you should catch it before that occurs, I would suggest an air brake operators course even if it is not legally required in your state.
Its been a few weeks since the compressed air debacle and I've since removed the compressed air system filter/pressure relief valve assembly to ascertain exactly what was going on.
After removing an additional 2 compressed air lines (two large lines had already been removed to bypass, see previous post) it was just 3 more bolts and the entire unit was off of the truck.
I had no idea how the filter/valve operated or assembled so it somewhat resembled exploratory surgery involving strap wrenches, screw drivers, snap-ring pliers and dental picks.
Eventually I had the thing completely apart and found the culprit to boot!
It appears that a chunk of what appears to be o-ring managed to get pinned between the sealing surfaces of the plunger inside the valve that opens and closes when the truck's compressed air tanks relieve excess air to atmosphere.
A little bit of cleanup, a few smears of fresh grease and I had the unit put back together and operating as it should. I made a 5 minute video and posted it on YouTube to give you an idea of the internal workings of the valve.