29 Jul 2008

Roadtrip Adventure Day 1 – we made it out alive!

Though not out of Pittsburgh… yet. Yesterday we excitedly got into our fully loaded RV after an exhausting 4 days of moving ready to embark on a year-long roadtrip, and just half an hour into the trip we noticed the engine was smoking. So we turned off the A/C and pulled over as soon as we could.

While Nathan got out to look under the hood, I was sitting inside peering at the gauges on the dashboard trying to see if there was a water level indicator or anything else showing up but everything was in normal ranges. Suddenly Nathan started yelling frantically at me to get out. I jumped out panicking — movies taught me when someone yells, “Get out of the car!” it’s about to explode. Luckily some workmen across the road spotted the fire because Nathan couldn’t see it from above.

From a safe distance I could see fluid that had caught on fire pouring out of the engine and licking the belly, right under where my feet were. Nathan immediately ran to get the fire extinguisher but the side door to the RV was locked so he had to run back to get the keys and then the lock was fussy to open. I was hopping up and down with a whole hand of fingernails stuffed in my mouth scared stiff I was about to see the RV explode in Nathan’s face any second. He managed to get the extinguisher on time and dived under the engine to get the fire out. The tiny extinguisher ran out literally on the last flame. A few seconds too late the fire would have gotten larger and we would have watched our entire home go up in flames. Everything was inside, our wallets, bikes, photos, laptops… it was harrowing. My nerves are pretty shot knowing we could have quite easily died yesterday, or survived with severe burns. That would have sucked.

Geico were amazingly responsive and offer great full-timers insurance so we will be okay.

Though we still have to get the official word on what caused the fire, we found out online there is a Ford 05S28 recall on a faulty cruise control switch in our engine. It affects nearly 4 million SUV’s and trucks and Ford denied the problem for ages. They were dealing with two other recalls on the same switch with other vehicles at the time. My personal hero Ralph Nader and other consumer advocates demanded the NHTSA alert vehicle owners to the potential fire hazard in numerous models of Ford and Lincoln SUVs and trucks, which had already been linked to numerous deaths and destroyed hundreds of vehicles. A small, cheap replacement part and about 15 minutes of time at a Ford dealership fixes the problem, if you hear about it in time. Unfortunately if you’re not the first owner of a vehicle its hard to find out about these things.

The scariest part is the fires are spontaneous, often occurring when the ignition switch is off and the key removed! This is because Ford designed the cruise control switch to remain on or “hot” at all times. When a crack develops in the film separating the brake fluid from the electrical circuit, the leak will cause a fire. This could have happened while we were sleeping and Tristan would have been in the cab right above the engine! I feel so lucky it happened on the very first day and that Nathan got the fire out in time before we lost everything. And that we have RV insurance… wow we’d be screwed without it. We were lucky on so many levels, most of all that we didn’t die in an explosion. RVing as it turns out is rife with danger and sex appeal.

Who knows how many days we’ll be staying in hotels waiting for the repair work to be done. In the mean time all our stuff inside the RV is at risk while it stays in the repair shop. For obvious reasons we had to hand over the keys. Back when we were looking at RV options I wanted to have a truck and 5th wheel for this exact reason, (and because it makes shopping in cities a whole lot easier, especially for full-time RVers) but we simply couldn’t afford this option. So hopefully once the engine is fixed we won’t have any more problems… hopefully.


  • fly*
    August 6, 2008 Reply

    jees olivia, you really do want to live on the edge.. !!!

    glad you 2 are alright.. ;o)

  • Ms. Wakame
    July 31, 2008 Reply

    Thanks guys 🙂 We should be fine after the RV is fixed – the part should be replaced with a safe version if they fix it all up correctly. I’ll make sure they know about it.

  • Niqkita
    July 31, 2008 Reply

    eeek! that so totally sucks, but I am so glad you & your laptops are all safe.

  • nykki
    July 31, 2008 Reply

    oh man! i feel so aweful for you three. homeless in pittsburgh 🙁

    so if they fix the wire, does that mean that there is never a chance of this happening again? or will it occur over and over since that is how ford designed the RVs?

  • Bronnie
    July 30, 2008 Reply

    Oh my god my friend – so glad you okay though : ) What a dramatic start to things. Hopefully they will be able to fix everything ASAP and all your stuff comes back to you safe and sound.

    Big hugs


  • ken
    July 30, 2008 Reply

    wow Livvie thats crazy news man!
    cant believe it…. really unlucky!

    exciting though you have to admit 🙂

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