Several years ago we were in a caravan traveling north to an FMCA summer convention in Pullyalup, Washington. Naturally, we opted for the scenic route up the coast. There must have been about eight coaches of varying age, style and class. All in all, we were a congenial group even though there was a broad spectrum of the financial station.
We had all enjoyed a night parked on the coast just west of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, a quarter of a mile south of the famed Cliff House. We tasted the experiences of the wine country. We gloried as we drove through the Redwoods. And we all reveled on a jet boat ride up the Rogue River in Oregon. From Gold Beach, our next target was Winchester Bay just south of Reedsport, Oregon. It was a fairly easy run and we arrived early in the afternoon. None of us had been there before so we turned into a parking lot to ask questions. I shut old Thunderbird down and along with several others inquired at a restaurant where we should park. We learned we should be on the other side of the marina, so we got in and planned to move to that location. I got in the cockpit, put’er in neutral, and turned the starter switch . . . nothing. I got out, went back and lifted the engine hatch as we all do, to have a look. I didn’t know what I was looking at since I was pretty much a novice bus driver.
About this time a congregation of all the other bus drivers showed up to help diagnose the problem. After the typical debate, the experts decided that the starter solenoid was not making contact, so Jerry told me to get in the bus and they would push start me. I asked him what they would push me with and he informed me the four or five guys standing around would do the job. At this point, I was convinced Jerry, who had a business in downtown L.A., had breathed too much fresh air and was just a little bit giddy. Since I had a ten-speed RoadRanger transmission he instructed me to put it in fourth gear, depress the clutch and let the bus get up to about three to five miles an hour then pop the clutch.
With considerable disbelief, I got into the cab and followed his instructions. Well by golly, those five guys got ‘er rolling and I did as I was told and the old gal rumbled alive. We navigated to the other side of the marina where we had planned to spend the night. Now that we were settled and out of anyone’s way, Jerry jumped into my motor area and pulled out the starter solenoid. After disassembling it, we could see that the copper contact plate was badly burned denying contact and not allowing current to flow to the starter. This was temporarily repaired by scuffing the surface with sandpaper in re-installing it. Through the rest of the trip, it worked flawlessly.
One other time, I made a temporary repair by simply turning the copper plate over. Since that time I always carry a spare starter solenoid. Sometimes it’s smart to carry a spare starter.
BY: Dave Galey
Dave Galey has an engineering degree from the University of Oklahoma, 1952. He spent twenty years as an aircraft structural designer. He did research work in honeycomb sandwich structure, and prepared a design manual while in the aircraft business. While there, he developed reinforced plastic products for the oil industry.