Pampering the Perfect Tow Vehicle and a windy night

Tuesday, December 18

Our appointment at Perry’s Desert Tire and Auto is for 10 o’clock.  Per usual I’m early for the appointment.  To pass some time, the crew and I continue into Borrego Springs.  The state park is on the other side of town.  I take some drive-by photos (see the previous post’s slideshow) and mosey back to the auto repair shop.

The Perfect Tow Vehicle is here for an oil change.

I have my latest read with me, James Michener’s Texas, which should keep me occupied.  I do believe the PTV could be taken completely apart and reassembled before I could possibly finish it.  I love historical fiction, well written.  Lately Michener helps me get through these long winter nights that begin around 5 p.m.  The sun sets so early!

Okay, back to the auto repair shop . . .

I settle into one of the chairs and Bridget and Spike stake out positions on the floor mat.  They understand the drill:  When we go into an unattractive building that smells like tires, we sit and behave ourselves.

Perry’s Desert Tire is a busy place.  Almost every person who enters makes a positive comment about the crew.  “What nice dogs!”  “They’re so well-behaved!”

Jake, the son of the owner, is a personable guy.

In between customers and phone calls, I talk to him about my oil pressure gauge needle.  “It’s either stationary or swinging back and forth like a metronome,” I explain.  I ask him if the problem could be fixed without the costly replacement of the cluster assembly by installing an on-dash digital thingamajig.  Jake is skeptical and explains why, something about a “t” having to be installed, etc.

He recommends taking it to a shop that specializes in replacing cluster assemblies and related jobs, rather than a dealer which can cost around $900.  Of course, these specialty shops are few and far between, the nearest one located in a San Diego suburb, a place to which I care not to travel.

I try to make every garage visit a learning experience.

The more I can learn about the PTV, the better off we’ll be.  Jake looks up the codes that are causing the “check engine” light to stay on.  I’ve had this done before (for no small amount of money) with no resolution.  “Have you ever left the gas cap off?” he inquires.  “Well, yes, I have, briefly.  I drove away from the pumps and noticed it right away.”  Jake explains this would trigger the light to come on.  Other codes turn out to be, for the most part, bogus.

The job done, Jake prints out a bill for $49.70.

Twenty dollars for “Lube and check chassis.  Change oil and oil filter.  Check air filter and breather filter.  Check all fluid levels and tire pressures.  Perform basic safety inspection.  Road test vehicle.”  New oil comes to $24.78.  Three dollars for oil disposal.  Tax is $1.92.

In addition to the above work, the lug nuts are torqued to 140 lbs, tires set at 40 psi, and the brake pads checked.  The rear brake pads have 40% remaining and the front brake pads have 30% remaining.  Jake advises I have brake work done no later than another thousand miles.  For the record, the PTV’s odometer now reads 128,221.

When the crew and I leave, the sun is shining brightly.

I drive us over to the grocery store to buy some rotisserie chicken.  Spike and Bridget deserve a reward for good behavior.  Plus I’m hungry!

Wednesday, December 19

Man, what wind we had last night!  It keeps me awake for several hours.  Of course, Bridget has an emergency potty run around 1:30 a.m. at the height of the windstorm.  I run around with my headlamp on, freezing, as I follow her on the search for the perfect spot to make a deposit.  “Really, Bridget!  Does it matter that much where you go?  C’MON!”  Spike sleeps through our commotion, as well as the wind buffeting the Best Little Trailer and howling through. . . what?  How can wind be so noisy when there aren’t any trees? 

Shortly after daybreak, Spike has his turn.

The wind is gone.  A lady from a neighboring RV waves and shouts hello.  We meet and she greets me as RVSue.  She has never read my blog and doesn’t have internet when on the road.  A family member back in Washington state where they live did a search for ‘Borrego Springs’ and up popped a photo of Marie’s rig which I posted a few days ago.  We laugh at the way the internet makes these far-flung connections.

Right now Bridget and Spike are in their pen getting some fresh air and sunshine.

I have a backlog of dishes to wash.  Then it’s back to Texas.  The battle at the Alamo is about to start!


Last night’s sunset



About rvsueandcrew

Fulltime nomad
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70 Responses to Pampering the Perfect Tow Vehicle and a windy night

  1. Gabrielle Becker says:

    Penny does exactly the same thing! Spend an inordinate amount of time looking for the “right spot”, and when it is raining, I have to push her out of the house to do “it”. Like she is the Wicked Witch of the West and will melt if she gets wet! Sheesh. If I don’t make her go, she will leave me a little present when she thinks I am not looking or paying attention to her. I dunno. It seems like a simple thing to me; squat and pee! I am not even going to comment on #2.
    Love the picture of the sunset. Pink sky. Purple mountains. Heaven.
    Gabrielle and Penny

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I shouldn’t complain about Bridget needing to go out in the middle of the night. She’s never made a mess inside and I think she’d rather die than do so. Spike’s a good boy, too, about letting me know he has to go out.

      • Connie & Mugsy says:

        Mugsy was my mother’s dog that I have since Mom can’t care for her anymore (or herself either… she is in an eldercare facility). But we box trained Mugsy since Mom had no yard and with North Dakota weather, walking is impossible for most of the year. Mom was too tippy to walk her at all. When Mugsy first went in the RV and down south, she refused to use it… and was sick one night. So she used the bathroom floor. I re-introduced her to the box (which had been in the room with her) and more importantly gave her the cheese reward. I walk her once in the morning and once in the evening. In three months, she has only used her box once. I sure wish I had even a fraction of her bladder control.

  2. Anne H says:

    ‘Texas’ is a great book! I remember reading it years ago and really enjoying it.
    I can relate to those middle of the night potty runs – my greyhound, Molly, now needs an o- dark- thirty walk.
    Glad you got so many checks done on the PTV for such a good price! Peace of mind

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      These long nights do make it hard for our pets to make it through the night.

      • jean/Southaven, MS says:

        Keep a package of Wee Wee pads. Then you can just put them in a plastic bag and dispose next trash run. I have a Yorkie that refuses to do his business outside if it is raining hard or if there is frozen stuff on the ground. But a pad does the trick at those times.

        • rvsueandcrew says:

          Oh no, I don’t want to start that! I’d rather run around in the cold and dark. They’d quit going outside at any time. That’s all I need, two rat terriers too lazy to step outside to do their business.

  3. Chuck says:

    We got your wind last night and it’s still blowing: steady 30+ mph gusts over 55. Snow in Black Range but no moisture for us, DARN.

  4. What’s the saying, “Take care of your equipment (PTV) and it will take care of you”.?

  5. Helen says:

    I’m getting set to hit the road full time with two cats in a Winnebago View….your stories are truly engaging and inspiring! Can’t wait for our adventures to begin this spring!

  6. Ms. Minimal says:

    Just a little tip, you can get your codes pulled at an Advanced Auto Parts or AutoZone store. I think PepBoys does it too, all for free. 🙂

  7. leroy says:

    Sue,food for thought check your truck manual change the oil per the manual not napa you should get over 7500 mi ,.and the next oil change go to a chev dealer for a quote,good camping leroy

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi Leroy,

      I’m not sure what you mean. The manual says change the oil at least once a year. (!) In another place it says every 3,000 miles. I let it go to around 6000 miles.

      I’m wary of dealers. I’ve never had the experience of hearing a dealer say, “You don’t need such-and-such right now.” With a dealer I ALWAYS need a bunch of stuff done. One time I went from a dealer to an independent garage and found a big difference in what needed to be done and also price. I’d love to hear more from you and readers on this topic.

  8. Pauline says:

    Your wind is supposed to be hitting Mississippi by tomorrow. Glad the PTV got some pampering…She has been a good friend. 🙂 Are you going back to Arizona for the winter? Always love the pictures.
    Love to you and the Crew

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I feel a pull toward southern Arizona. I love camping among the saguaros and the little town of Ajo says “home” to me. Why, I don’t know, but it does.

      You can have the wind. We’ve had enough here, but it continues . . . Love you, too. I’m waiting for a picture of your new canine pal (see, I’ve forgotten the name already!).

  9. Beverly K says:

    I love everything about your blog. I have told so many people about you and your pups. I meet many dog lovers at doggie beach here in Venice, Florida or just walking in our subdivision. You inevitably come up in conversation. I’m sure they are following your blog now, as well. I want to take a moment to let you know how much you are appreciated. I love checking my email and find your latest posting. I settle in for a good read, just knowing I will enjoy whatever it is you have written about. I’ve told you before that your pictures are great, and they are also appreciated. I get to see a part of the country I have not been to. Thank you for all the work you do on your blog for your loyal followers. Bev K from Venice, FL and Manitowish Waters, WI

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      How very nice, Beverly . . . What lovely compliments. Thank you for telling your friends and neighbors about my blog. It’s encouraging to hear someone looks forward to my writing and photos.

  10. cinandjules (NY) says:

    Changing your oil depends on you. I change mine every 3K. Just check your oil and if it isn’t dark dark brown…you’re good! With your type of surroundings (dust blowing in the desert), I would frequently check the air filter. Hold it up to the sun…if you can see thru it…good. If not you can blow it out or just change it. Make sure you secure those “clippydos” or the PTV will lug. Remember that fiasco?

    The money spent on “pampering” the PTV will save you huge in the long run.

    Finding a good mechanic is like finding a good vet. No offense to anyone intended by my next expressed opinion. Mechanics will “prey” on women on the assumption that we aren’t familiar with what is under da hood. It’s a money making business…period.

    If I was a mechanic and I advised you to change your brakes within a thousand miles (That for you can be a week of driving)…my hope is you’ll say…”hmmm I am carrying precious cargo ie Spike and Bridge…not to mention towing the BLT….okay..when can you do it?”

    Brakes are another mysterious fix. When was your last brake service? Or better yet….when was your last tire rotation? 40% means almost half of the brake pad is still good. 30% on the front means you’re getting close…but how close is close?

    You can see the brake pads thru the front should have at least 1/4 inch of pad. Anything less…there is a metal indicator that will make a high pitch noise when you step on the brakes. This sound WILL LET you know it’s time. Grinding means you let it go too far ..calipers and disks may damage (scour) the rotor. BUT the rotor can be turned.

    Dealers??? Absolutely not! The only time I would go to to a dealer was for work on a recall! Ford (Found On Road Dead) thank god you have a Chevy. Jules likes Fords…I only do Chevy.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Great comment! The air filter is good. Checked that. Oil was beginning to get really dark, hence the oil change. I watch that pretty closely. To clarify about the brakes… Jake said I can go another 1,000 miles which is different than “within 1,000 miles.” There is no grinding or squeaking.

      I agree about dealers. And I’ve developed a radar that makes me turn and run when I pick up signals that I’m perceived as an easy mark because I’m female. I’m encountering that mindset less and less. I don’t know if it’s because of my age or the sleazy male mechanics aren’t getting away with inflating business like they used to.

      I’ve encountered some really good, honest mechanics the past few years.

      • Hi Sue – Today’s vehicles and oils mean you can go longer between changes. For my 2009 F150, it’s 7,500 miles. Read your Owner’s Manual for the intervals. However, because you tow often and occasionally in dusty places, your vehicle will probably require more frequent oil changes than the norm. And, yes, having the gas cap off will cause the Check Engine light to come on, but it should go off not long after replacing it.

  11. John says:

    You can get your own little diagnostic tool from Amazon or eBay for around $20 bucks or so. Maybe even a Pep Boys or O’Reilys. Then you can plug it in (simple plug n’ play) let it do it’s thing, scroll through the menu, see the fault code number, check it against a listing of numbers on the web, see that it’s nothing serious or just plain bogus and the best part…erase it and then that annoying “check engine light” goes away until next time. Then just repeat. Easy do-it-yourself.

  12. Sue. Oil pressure in a car is like blood pressure in a person, so this should be checked out soon. Its probably either the sending unit (small problem) or failing oil pump (big problem) I’d have a mechanic check the oil pressure with a mechanical oil pressure gauge to confirm its not your oil pump. If its the pump….you’ll need to fix it ASAP. Try using Yelp to find a good shop. I found a good repair shop for my PTV that way.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Lots of good information John… I’ve been driving for months with the oil pressure gauge not working so I don’t think it’s the pump.

      • cinandjules (NY) says:

        Did Jake mention anything about it might being the sender or just replacing the cluster?

        I googled the “activity” of your oil pressure gauge needle and came up with this simple diagnosis:
        If you turn the key to off and the gauge returns to zero….and when you turn the key to on (without starting) and the gauge goes to 80 then its the sender on the engine that is bad.

        Process of elimination………….the sender is relatively cheap compared to the cluster OMG!
        Not to mention…if the above works…then it’s not your oil pump. But you already said you don’t believe it’s your pump.

  13. placestheygo says:

    Definitely need to meet Spike and Bridget someday (oh, and you too, of course). They look and sound like such cuties!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I make jokes about them, but they really are a fantastic crew. We do everything together and they’re real troopers and well-behaved. Well, except when Spike sneaks off . . .

  14. Mel NV says:

    Hope this comes thru,,on my new iPad mini at B&N. couldn’t resist commenting on the novel Texas. My family is mentioned..when you get to the 1840’s and the Ponton’s and the cannon at Gonzales, those are my direct ancestors … they sort of contributed to the Alamo fiasco by telling Santa Ana to “come and get it”, meaning the tiny cannon.. Fortunately the family didn’t go to the Alamo and fled to San Jacinto (present day Houston) with Sam Houston so I am here today! Michener is also my fav author…
    Ps. VERY cold here.. Enjoy so az…. Has to be warmer than NV or CA!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I read that part today about “come and take it” referring to the cannon at Gonzales. This book is giving me a deeper understanding of Texas. What an interesting family history you have! And you end up coming from the Bronx,right?

      • Mel NV says:

        Yep, Texas to California to NY!, the father was the 1st to be killed by Comanches in 1837 in the new republic of texas…his son, my paternal grandmother’s great grandfather had 5 wives and 18 children (Dr Joel Ponton) and escaped an indian attack with arrows in the back,,,,there are several Texas Historicak markers to my family down there. Very proud.. Neat place to visit if you ever get down that way…a lot of history most people are not aware of….

        • rvsueandcrew says:

          That is a heritage to be proud of, Mel. It amazes me what people went through back in the 1800s, the hardships and dangers. (I’m referring to 5 wives and 18 children… LOL) Seriously, those Comanches were terrifying. It’s no wonder, when you see images of people of those times, their faces look like they’re carved from granite. You had to be pretty tough to survive, and even then, it was chancy. Thanks for sharing a bit of your family history.

  15. Jim Swan says:

    Not sure how far you are from Redlands, Redlands Truck & RV is a great shop. I had them install a diesel engine in my Motorhome last year great work and great people. If you are interested Contract Mike Bronzini cell 909-206-3183. They are not cheap but do excellent work. Take Care and Safe Travels Jim&Jan Swan

  16. Pleinguy says:

    About the oil pressure in the PTV. Here are some things to have checked: oil bypass valve, oil sending unit on engine block, screen in oil pan might be partially clogged, failing oil pump, and worse case bad bearings. If it is truly just a bad gauge, installing a separate one shouldn’t be that difficult. It might be too small a job for some shops to want. You should follow-up as any of these issue could mean major repairs if not fixed. You can also get a hand held gauge for manually checking the oil pressure. Ask at an auto parts store about it; costs about $40. Good luck.

  17. Timber n' me says:

    HI Sue looks like you have great folks out there helpin’ ya with th’ PTV, n’ thats neet, i like my ol’ trucks , i can still work on ,if i need a spesalist, it;s be cause i don’t want to ruin th’ trany, i’v’d fixed darn ner every thing on this ol’ girl, but not th’ trany, i don’t have th’ spesal band ajusten tool yet. nice sunset, timber’s sleepin’, so hi to th’ pups

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi Rusty!

      I know you take excellent care of your truck and that care pays off. Here’s a hi back for Timber. I bet he’s got his normal weight by now.

      • Timber n' me says:

        Yes he’s been his right weight since th’ first week of October, n’ he’s lookin’ good, but i don’t know what happin’d to him,but he’s more polite, he still dosn’t like any dirt bikes n’ noizy atv’s n’ such.

  18. Rita says:

    Oh, I love Michener books….I’ve read several of them but have a few to read yet. I love them for the same reason you do …. historical fiction. Two my favs are Poland & The Covenant. Still chilly here in Phoenix….we Phoenicians get cold any time it gets below 80 degrees. However, one year we camped in the mountains near Showlow and woke up to snow outside our tent…must have slept through the wind.

  19. gingerda says:

    Sue, my check engine light came on in my chevy Impala. I took it to Auto Zone and they put it on the machine for codes (for free). It came up fuel. Said I might have some small cracks in my gas cap. So I went and bought a new gas cap but couldn’t get the light to go off. Finally on the advice from my ex, (a retired mechanic from a gm dealership) I had the battery cables unhooked for an hour. Hooked it back up and voila…light went off. It’s been 3 months and it hasn’t come back on.
    It’s been cold and windy here in Las Vegas too. Last night we had some hail. I guess our summer is officially over. lol.
    Ginger Las Vegas

  20. Sherry Waldrop says:

    Not sure if there are any on your area but….. My son had me take his car to Auto Zone where they “read” his check engine light FOR FREE AND printed off the results and possible causes with solutions. Very nice young man in Carrollton Ga.

    Really enjoy your blog. Wishing you safe travels, a very Merry Christmas and Happy 2013!


  21. A long , long time ago I read a few of Micheners books. Loved them !! Maybe will have to start them up again some day. They are definetely hefty books ! Great for long RV boondocking days.

  22. Mike Davis says:

    Hi Sue,
    Each time you go in for a oil change, seems your leaving a lot of money on the table. The most you should be paying is about 30 bucks. Lube, oil and filter plus all those other things they checked. The air and breather filters are checked by them because they get to charge you for them when you say go ahead and replace them. It takes you 2 minutes to check the air filter if you have a flashlight. You can do it. I cringed last time when you paid >50bucks I think.

    Now checking the engine codes is different. That is a valid extra charge, although lots of the parts houses do it for free, hoping you need to buy something. So if they did that service also, I don’t feel so bad. Interpreting the codes is what your paying for and believe me an Oil Change person is not the one to do this. Look up the codes on line and join a forum. Ask on the forum and get the info free, then tell a mechanic what you want done. These people on the forum will know what the codes are and what to procedures to do.

    Ask on the forum about the oil. If it does not sound something like “pull the sender out and put a test oil gauge and see for yourself what the oil pressure is reading”, keep reading on the forum until you get an answer that is exactly like that You may have had this done already but missed looking at the test gauge to see for yourself. You have to know before hand what the oil gauge should read. I will be a range between 40 & 80 psi or something like that.
    I like the idea of adding the external oil gauge. Ask on the forum and they will know and some of these are professional.

    Hope you know this is not a nag. There are lots of things you have learned and more yet to go.

    You can do it all by being better informed.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Wow, Mike! I appreciate you explaining all this.

      About the oil change price… Last time I think it was around $45. I don’t know where you are, but in Georgia a box of cereal that costs $3.29 is $5.69 where I am now. Don’t know if that’s a parallel when it comes to oil changes, but I’m guessing parts and labor are higher if the cost of living is higher. You say an oil change should be $30… That’s slightly more than what they charged for the oil and filter alone.

      I check the air filter periodically by myself.

      The codes are interpreted by computer software so no concern about the oil change guy figuring it out. I looked at the screen and I have the codes.

      I’ll check the forum re: the external oil gauge.

      • Timber n' me says:

        Hi Sue, I didn’t like what my electronic oil gadge read, so i put in a real oil gadge in with a copper line, now wen she first fires up it reads 55 -60 psi, same wen moven’ down th’ road, wen i come to a stop, th’ psi is at 45. so for a 302 with a good oil pump, she should run 40 – 60 wen hot, that’s what th’ book sess, now i think you said you have a 350 cubit in.,engen, maybe higher. see if you can put in a mechanical oil gadge in, cause idiotes lites, wen they come on, sometimes it’s too late n’ you know what that means.

      • Mike Davis says:

        Hi Sue,
        The forum I got some help on was Chevy Talk. here is the link.
        Register, then post the exact problem for your vehicle. Make sure you post what Van and engine you have. Some of these are Chevy mechanics and share their knowledge. They/you might check to see if there are any Bulletins from Chevy on this oil cluster issue. Also post what you have done, results and the suggestions you have received by the place a few months back that check the oil pressure.

        I owned a 12 bay Auto Repair center in Illinois. The problems you have mentioned can be diagnosed and a solution plan developed. I just went through this process with my Aunt after she was quoted $2200 to fix a code light. We mapped out a solution that was only $300.

        Send me a link to your post on Chevy talk and I will help you monitor this. I’m retired and the RV are in storage now for the winter. I have plenty of time to help.


  23. Lacy says:

    Hi Sue,

    Your post reminded me of a site I stumbled across a while back. I can’t remember if I shared it with you or not. It’s a ‘wind map’……….interesting to watch the patterns across the U.S.
    Thought you might like to see it:


  24. DeAnne from TN says:

    The winds have made it to Tennessee-wow!

  25. carol says:

    several post ago, someone gave a back handed comment on Ceevs, when my hubby drove truck in the oilfields of WY,,we had to move a comment
    We pulled a twenty-two foot HOUSE trailer with an old Chevrolet coupe, over 3000miles, with no more attention than oil chateau Googled elday 75 and found a rescue of his, at a shelter,he was called by a friend to help w a small terrified white dog,could she have been Scruffy?Your crew ARE well behaved, all the coming and going in a place like that, and they just lie there, good crew!!The weather here has been so cold that we keep aa fire in the fireplace all the time, too hot for Aussie coat, so this time the groomer clipped them, voila, no coat. Makes for quick calls of nature.No more trips from Indie at o dark thirty to the long barn, for her playmate with Sasha.Love your blogs, Sue, when I re gain My mobility, I’ll need your blog inn book form, e book, please.

  26. Sue says:

    There are 69 responses here and I didn’t read them so if I am repeating them I am sorry. When my check engine light comes on I have a paper that tells me how to turn it off. There is a button on my dash and I have to hold it for so many flashes. My husband got the code off the internet. When I need an oil change it comes on and won’t go off unless the guy doing the oil change turns it off, using the same button I do or if he forgets I do it. You should be able to get the code for your PTV and be able to turn it off. That way if it is just from leaving the gas cap off no biggie you can fix it your self. If something is wrong for sure it will come back on soon and you will know to take it in.

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