Sunday, December 11, 2016

Inner Tubes and Vapor Locks

When BreAnne was just a baby, we went on a road trip with Grandma and Grandpa G.  They drove their Arrow motorhome and we drove our Nissan Stanza.  We were going to Colorado for a vacation.
Via Google Images
Our route took us across eastern Oregon through Winnemucca.  It was August, and it was hot.  The highway is through some very barren land.  There is a place where it appears to be heading straight into the base of a towering cliff, but at the last moment, the road turns to the right and takes a slanting, uphill direction to reach the top of the cliff.  We occasionally changed up drivers in the vehicles.  For this leg, I drove the motorhome and G-pa drove the Stanza.  On the way up the side of the cliff, through the waves of heat, you could see the occasional wrecked car laying at the bottom of the drop-off as a reminder of the unforgiving nature of this section of roadway. It was a narrow, two lane road with a hint of a shoulder on both sides.  It was as I noted these things about the roadway I felt the barest hint of a hiccup from the engine.  We were about halfway up the incline.  I pressed on the gas harder hoping to clear the top before any more hiccups occurred.  Within seconds, more hiccups, readily discernible, no-nonsense hiccups were coming.  There comes a point in time when a person has to admit that plan A is not going to happen, and a plan B is necessary.
Via Google Images outside of Winnemuca, NV
As the engine hiccupped and died halfway up the side of the cliff with no way to turn around and no civilization within 75 miles, plan B was only a wish.  G-pa and DeEtta pulled up and stopped behind us.  It was an easy guess that we were the victims of vapor lock - that condition where the fuel vaporizes in the fuel line, but the fuel pump cannot push it through.  So, you have a couple of choices. You can wait for the vapor lock to clear on its own, but this usually requires it to cool down - the sun was not going to be setting for many hours. Or you can get a tow truck to pull you into town and to, well, do nothing that time and cool temps wouldn't already do.  After a few vain attempts at starting the engine, we realized we needed to hunker down and wait. Yes, we could send the women and BreAnne on ahead to Winnemucca to get a hotel for the night, and we would catch up with them later, but they decided to hang out with us on the side of the cliff overlooking some car wreckage as the sun blazed down, a hot wind assaulted us, and there was no one in sight - except for a semi truck going in the opposite direction, there would be no one, at all.  We sought the occasional relief in the A/C of the Stanza, but the baby needed far more than we did - as nice as it was. At times, we would try the engine - no luck.
Via Google Images - none hanging from gas tank

As we waited, G-pa and I talked and thought. Sometimes this is dangerous, but in this instance, it was nothing short of synergistic brilliance, if I may say so myself.  😉What was needed, I said was some way to push the vapor lock on through the fuel line.  Maybe we could get some air pressure on top of the fuel?  Well, we were not going to blow into the tank, that was for sure, but perhaps we could use an air pump to put some pressure in the tank.  It would not take much pressure.  Maybe 10 psi or 15 at the most.  G-pa had a tire pump in the back storage compartment, but we could not get a good seal.  Then G-pa remembered he had an inner tube in the back.  It was for floating down rivers and such, but how to get it to seal around the filler tube.  Well, this is an old school type of vehicle with a filler tube that protruded out the side of the vehicle. No smooth, aesthetically pleasing lines for this RV, and it was a good thing.  G-pa also found a large hose clamp in the back storage compartment.  We cut a one inch hole in the side of the inner tube, fit it over the mouth of the gas filler tube and clamped it with the hose clamp.  We then began to pump up the inner tube.  Once the inner tube had some shape and a bit of pressure, I hopped into drivers seat and gave it a try. After a couple of tries, the engine roared to life in a very satisfactory manner.  The inner tube hung out side the window of the driver's seat.  I grabbed hold of it and put us into gear. We were off, inner tube clamped to the filler tube hanging off of the side of the RV zooming our way to the top. 

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