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Bleeding

The idea was to start heading south today but I decided to book another night here at Valley of the Rogue State Park, for three good reasons.   First, our friends the McDills had decided to ditch the RV park that they were in, to come up and join us here.   That meant more time for Emma and Allison to play, a big bonus, plus more time for the adults to plot future travels.

Second, this is a very nice state park and the late fall colors are beautiful.   Third, I decided to attempt bleeding of the Airstream’s disc brakes.

Those of you long time readers probably know that I am not mechanically inclined.   I’ve been forced by circumstance to learn travel trailer repair skills from time to time, so I can pretend to know what I’m doing for a few specific tasks.   In the summer of 2006, for example, I learned how to replace lug studs on the wheels — because I had to.

Ever since our disc brake actuator was replaced in Warrenton, the braking action has not been as good as it was before.   The conclusion by most of the people I’ve talked to is that a little air got in the brake lines.   The solution is to bleed the brakes, a process of allowing some brake fluid to escape at “bleed valves” located on each brake.   Once the brake fluid starts to come out free of air bubbles, the job is done. It sounds simple, but for me at least it has not been.

A simplified version of the instructions is this: activate the disc brake actuator so there’s pressure in the system, open the bleed valve on one of the brake calipers, let the fluid drain out through a clear vinyl tube into a jar of brake fluid, watch the bubbles, close the valve, add fluid to the actuator’s reservoir (so it doesn’t run dry) and move on to the next brake caliper.

The first task was to go into Grants Pass, six miles north, and get the necessary brake fluid and tubing.   Then I attempted the job, with Eleanor working the brake controller to keep pressure on while I worked.   It was a disaster. Instead of fluid running into the tube, it ran all over the place, leaving a big messy spot on the ground.   I had the wrong size tube: 5/16″ inner diameter rather than 1/4″.   I was also having trouble turning the nut, which I attributed to using an adjustable wrench rather than a box-end wrench.

So, off to the store again.   This time I went to Medford, about 15 miles south, because there was a better selection of hardware stores.   Back to the trailer.   I tried again and again, but nothing helped.   Still leaking all over the place, still having trouble with the nut.   A few phone calls and several hours later, it emerged that I was turning the wrong nut.   I was loosening the 7/16″ nut that holds the bleed valve in place instead of turning the very small 1/4″ nut that actually opens the valve.

Didn’t I say I wasn’t mechanically inclined?   I didn’t even notice the little nut.   I was beginning to feel like the big nut, however.   By the time I noticed, it was too late in the day to make a third trip to the store, and after hours of wasted effort I was too frustrated to try again.   Better wait until tomorrow. I can dream up a whole new batch of dumb mistakes to make, overnight.

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The McDills arrived in the campground around 5:30, by which time Eleanor was already deep into dinner prep: a ginger-teriyaki chicken stir fry; jasmine rice; Thai-sesame-lime shrimp on skewers; Asian green salad; fruit salad with mango, leechees, pineapple and Mandarin orange.   Nobody had room for dessert.

We’ve made some plans to get to Yosemite before the season has gone too far.   If all goes well with the brake bleeding we will depart on Friday, and if not we will hopefully depart Saturday.   I want to get our brakes in top-notch condition before we do much more towing.   We’ll meet the McDills next week sometime, in Yosemite.

2 Responses to “Bleeding”

  1. Barry Says:

    Ain’t life full of learning experiences!!! I’ve been there, buddy. I once ran an auto parts store out of front wheel bearings because I didn’t remove the rear race before pounding the new race in. I finally learned how to change a wheel bearing on my 60 Chevy.
    Before you know it, Airstream will be calling asking if you will join their team! I admire that you aren’t afraid to tackle a problem (like you have a choice in most cases).
    Barry

  2. Rich C Says:

    Stay safe! Those brakes of yours were super good when I drove behind you guys!!! Too bad I’ve still got my original brakes. :)

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