The Power of Hydraulics
I've been so busy working on the hydraulic leveling system on the Motorless Home that I forgot to take pictures!
Anyway, I'd been trying to think up ways that I could get the old blown motor out of the Motorless Home. When I discovered that the boom on my engine hoist wasn't long enough to reach, I got really discouraged, and that's part of the reason that I let the blog go for so long.
After getting started with repairs recently, I took another look. I realized that if I removed the front bumper, I might be just barely able to get the boom over the engine block to remove it. So, I got under there and started to take it off.
It was clear that someone had recently removed the bumper. Several of the bolts that hold on have been replaced with new stainless steel ones. I'm guessing that the previous owner had the engine out at some point, and had used this very method to reach into the engine bay. Once removed, I slid my engine hoist in for a test fit.
Son of a bitch. I could see that I had enough clearance to get the engine hoist into the engine bay, but now, the top of the engine bay opening was hitting the top of the hoist. I could not push it in any farther! Argh! I thought to myself that if the engine hoist were only a few inches shorter, I could get it in there. Then it hit me. If I raised the front of the Motorless Home up, it would have the same effect.
If only that hydraulic leveling system worked, I could use it to get the clearance I need. Since I was frustrated by the engine hoist problem, I decided to take a detour and explore why the hydraulics didn't work. When we first got the Motorless Home back to the house, we tried to make the hydraulics work. They didn't. We tried putting power right to the pump, but it would not move. We even smoked the solenoid trying to deliver enough power. We just concluded that the motor was toast and moved on to other things.
When I decided to explore the hydraulics, the first thing I did was to disassemble the electric motor that turns the hydraulic pump. It was clearly in poor shape. Water had pooled in it and rusted out some of the components. I cleaned everything up and reassembled it as best I could. To make sure that it worked properly, I bench tested the motor and it ran beautifully. However, after reconnecting it to the hydraulic pump, it would not turn -- just like the day that we got it home.
I thought that the problem might be a blockage in a line, or perhaps in the control valve manifold. In order to troubleshoot it, I had to dismount the manifold. Guess what? Some genius spray-foamed the bejeesus out of it. I can understand why they might have wanted to apply spray-foam in that area. Some good reasons include:
- There may have been water leaks, and getting sprayed by the driver side tire is no fun.
- Soundproofing. You can get a lot of road noise from right there, and perhaps they were trying to make for a better driving experience.
- Insulation. Maybe they didn't want their little tootsies to get cold while driving.
All of these are very good reasons to apply spray-foam to that area. But...
Hey Genius! How about you put a piece of plastic over that valve manifold before you spray? That way, you can still have the insulation you want, but you put a "bubble" around the unit so that it's not completely encrusted!
I spent 30 minutes lying on my back, working over my head with a screwdriver chipping that foam out of there until I could figure out how to remove the valve manifold. Even with safety glasses on, that stuff still got in my eyes. What a pain in the ass.
Once I got the manifold dismounted, I had to disconnect the hydraulic lines. There were six in total. One for each of the four jacks, a supply from the pump, and a return to the pump. They were all corroded and rusted. I hosed them down with SeaFoam Deep Creep, and started to remove them. It was quite an ordeal! While attempting to remove the line that feeds the right rear jack, the fitting broke. Son of a bitch! That is the longest line on the whole coach! GAH!
I also discovered one of the reasons that the pump would not turn. The return line was melted (from the fire, no doubt) and was completely sealed. After much cussing and finagling, I was able to get the valve manifold removed and into the garage to my workbench.
This thing was definitely in need of some cleaning and TLC. The levers would not operate smoothly, and there was loads of gunk.
I slowly dismantled the unit, making sure I kept track of where all the parts went. After I removed all four spring sets, I noticed that there was a single steel check ball laying on my disassembly towel.
This was troublesome. Since all four valves are identical, they should all have the same parts in them. Unfortunately, since I had taken apart the first one and it did not have a ball, I wasn't looking for one. After I found that ball, I checked out the work area. Nope. There were no more. They were missing from the manifold. Great. Someone's had this thing apart before and not put it all back together right.
I set the ball aside for later consideration. The only other complication during the disassembly was the pump switch. Apparently, the casing was cracked or I damaged it while disassembling something else, because It came apart in a few pieces. Luckily, by reassembling the switch, it worked fine -- I just had to figure out how to stick it back together again. Also, the screws holding the switch onto the bracket were so rusted out that I wound up breaking one of them. So, a trip to the hardware store was in order later.
Once it was fully disassembled, I cleaned it up really well using a wire brush. Got all the gunk off and reassembled it. I chose not to put that check ball back in since I only had one. I surmised that they would be needed, based on the design of the valve. However, since I wasn't sure, I left it out, and figured that the manifold would behave strangely if it needed them.
Today, I stopped at the hardware store and got what I needed. I reassembled the switch and screwed it into position. However, the switch did not want to stay assembled because of the pressure on it. So, I mixed up a blob of JBWeld Stick and used it to hold the switch in the right alignment. A bit of overkill, but hey, it worked, and I had the JBWeld Stick already!
My next challenge was to reconnect the hydraulic lines and the electrical stuff so that the manifold's switch could operate the power to the pump. In order to get the pump working properly, I had to drill out a broken bolt so I could secure the power cables, and I had to borrow a solenoid from another area under the hood since the one that went with this pump motor was cooked. I wired up the electrics and went to connect the valve manifold to the hydraulic lines.
I also had to sort out the return line, since the one I had was completely melted shut. I found a section of air hose in the garage that already had the right fittings on the ends. It was a few feet too long, but when I go to remount everything, I'll make sure that's neatly tucked away.
However, it looks like I will need to get those check balls and reinstall them. When I would operate the lever for one of the jacks, the others would get some fluid too. This is because those balls need to be in there to completely seal off the other channels when one is getting fluid. I will also need to tighten the supply fittings, since they were seeping a little. My guess is that the previous owner tried to troubleshoot the hydraulics, and when he disassembled the valves, he wasn't careful and lost the check balls.
Because I don't have all four jacks working, I can't level the unit. Also, the rear jacks are over the grass, and they would just sink into the ground anyway. I'll have to put some blocks under them to spread out the load.
I did, however, manage to raise the body of the Motorless Home up just enough to get my engine hoist into the front all the way. It looks like I now have enough clearance to remove the blown motor!
So, what's next?
I need to get that broken hose fitting replaced. I will have to completely remove the hose from the vehicle and take it to a hydraulics shop to see if it can be repaired. I really hope so. Since this is the longest hydraulic line on the whole vehicle, it will be quite expensive to replace. The line this uses is $0.33 per inch. That's over $4 per foot, and it's probably close to 30 feet in length. So the hose will likely cost $150 to replace! Yikes! If I'm lucky, they will just put a new fitting on the end and I can get out of there for $30 or so. Thankfully, I still have one of check balls for the valve body. I can measure it with my digital caliper so that I can be sure to get the right sized replacements, probably at the same shop that I take the hose to.
Also, I can start working to remove the old engine block. That is a real sore spot for me, and having that thing out of there will really be a milestone on this project. Cross your fingers!