North West Mog Fest 2002

We first discovered NWMF on some of the Mog mailing lists just before the event in 2001.  There was no way we could plan a trip that far in that short of time, so we started planning then to attend NWMF 2002.  We thought it would be really cool to get together with a whole group of Unimogs, just once.

On the evening of August 13, 2002 we set out for the Molloy farm in Oregon for NWMF 2002.  You'll have to forgive us, we don't tend to take many scenery pictures.

On the evening of the 13th, we slept in the Husky truck stop in Cranbrook, B.C., so that we could get a good start the next morning.

During the morning of the 14th, we crossed into the States at Kingsgate/Eastport.  The only mishap we had crossing the border was the confiscation of 6 apples.  You can't bring New Zealand fruit that you bought in one country across the line, you have to buy new New Zealand fruit at the next grocery store!  However, when you're driving something as strange as a MOG, you really don't mind if the only hassle at the border is over apples.

We headed down through Spokane, where we filled up our gas tank....the price in Washington was MUCH better than in Western Canada, and you really notice the difference in price when your total fuel capacity is 450 liters!!!  We didn't find the trip across Eastern Washington terribly interesting, almost as boring as Saskatchewan!!

Heading across the Gorge was an interesting experience.  The wind surfers may like it, but they can keep it!  Too much wind for us.  Later that day heading through a town around 6pm we noticed a sign which showed the temperature as 104°F.  We don't know how hot it was when we were heading through the Gorge.  By the top of that 10 mile climb, we were doing 25mph in 4th gear.  We weren't running out of power, but the engine was running too hot to do that much work.  Thank goodness for our hazard lights, so that we didn't get run over by the other cars with less sympathetic drivers (some of which had radiators boiling over when we saw them at the top).  Keith burned his toe on the hot air coming out of the heater, which he had turned on to give the engine a tiny bit more cooling (it helps by about 2°C).

The next ridge we climbed was even worse.  While climbing the Manastash Ridge we had a tailwind, which means no air flow through the radiator!  We finished that climb in 1st gear.... you know you're going slow when you can look in the mirror & see the individual lugs going by on the tires.

Here's the view from the rest stop at the top of Manastash Ridge.

And here's our truck sunning himself... and trying to cool off at the top of the ridge.

After that we headed into Wenatchee National Forest, where we drove through a forest fire, it is awe inspiring to see burning signposts & guardrails.  Neither of us has ever seen anything like it, piles of gray ash & little smoldering fires right up close to the road.  The nearest similar thing we could come up with was pictures we've seen of Hiroshima after the nuclear bomb hit.  We were too awe struck to think of getting out the camera.

We camped that night at a little campground just a bit before White Pass.  At first we were worried about our proximity to the forest fire we'd just driven through, but then realized that if there was a safety issue they'd have closed the campsite.  Also, the wind was blowing from us to the fire.

Thursday the 15th we drove through Mount Ranier National Park.  The road was really cool to drive on and the views were spectacular.  We didn't find any views we felt we could frame with the camera, hence no pictures.  Next, we headed to the I5, then crossed over into Oregon at Longview, skirting around Portland.

After we were past McMinnville, on highway 18 & cruising comfortably at about 55 mph, all hell broke loose!  The truck hesitated, as though it was running out of gas on one tank (didn't think we should be), so Keith reached to switch tanks/fuel pumps.  Suddenly, there was a rather explosive POP & the cab filled with blue smoke, pouring out from between the seats.  Keith very quickly pulled the truck over & jumped out, reaching for the fire extinguisher beside his seat as he thought we must be on fire.  Sharon jumped out of her side & started looking under the cab/box above the transmission, as it was obvious that whatever had just happened was to the transmission.  Keith realized he didn't need the fire extinguisher, for there was no fire, and Sharon soon realized she was looking at the dipstick hole, with no dipstick in it!  The explosive sound had been the dipstick blowing out of the transmission, taking about three liters of transmission oil with it.  Fortunately the dipstick was lodged between the auxiliary fuel line & the cab, no dipstick hunting required.

Up until this point, the transmission had been running great.  We know that it wasn't overheating, for we have a temperature sensor in the bottom plate of the transmission, and if anything it was running on the cool side of normal.  We also know that it wasn't that low on oil, for Keith had just made a perfect shift from 5th to 6th gear.  The old transmission had a bad 6th gear synchro, you had to make the shift very slowly to not grind gears, and if you were even 1/2 a liter low on oil, you couldn't make the shift without grinding, no matter how slowly you did it.

As luck would have it, about this time, one of Jim Molloy's sons stopped on the road & asked if we needed help.  We finished topping up the oil, started the truck, tried to let out the clutch in neutral & it lurched & stalled, umm.... yes!  We needed help!  1491 km from home & a serious problem with the transmission.  Kris had to hurry back to the farm with a Suburban load of fuel cans but promised to send back help, so we waited with the truck.  While he was gone, we decided to try running the truck didn't seem that further damage could be done to the transmission, so we might as well see if we could make it move under its own power.

As it turned out, while the gearshift was in neutral, the transmission was in 3rd gear, so we could amble very slowly along the shoulder of the highway (once more, thank goodness for those hazard lights!).  We had no neutral & no reverse, but we could move!  In case you're wondering, the maximum speed listed in the manual for 3rd gear is 24.07 km/h (at those speeds you have the time to look it up... you're also thankful for a hand throttle and a stereo).  It was a further 15 km to the Molloy farm at this point, it took a while!  The Molloy's sent Seamous to our rescue & he drew us a map so that we could make it to our destination with no wrong turns (& no having to back up!  Lack of reverse is nerve wracking), no one wants to make wrong turns when they're driving at just over 20 km/h.  So, sometime Thursday evening, we made it to the Molloy farm & set up camp there.

Friday morning, it was time to figure out WHAT had gone wrong.  We pulled off the side cover plate, wondering if we would find something obvious, or what?!?!?!  Some were speculating a dislodged shift plate, others a bent shift fork.  Jim had a spare (old) transmission from a 404 handy, so brought it over in the front end loader so that we could compare what was happening in our transmission with what was happening in the other one.  Through much looking & thinking (thanks to Kai, and the others who were helping at this time) it was determined that 3rd gear had seized to the shaft.  So, while in neutral, 3rd was engaged, while in any other gearshift position (very difficult to even shift to) two gears were engaged, hence the reason the truck wouldn't move in any other gear.  We did manage to break the gear free, and Keith & Kai took the truck for a drive around the field hoping to perhaps polish things up so it would work again, while Sharon got a ride to town to buy more gear oil.  Sadly, within a mile, the gear seized to the shaft again so it was official.  Our transmission was toast!

Now it was time to source a transmission.  Thanks to Eric for having the presence of mind (not to mention phone numbers) to get us going on this next step.  We felt pretty lost at this point.  We talked to both Scott Ingham with Expedition Imports and Jim Ince at Eurotech.  The deciding factor was time of delivery.  Scott's truck of parts was already at the farm, and he couldn't have gotten a transmission shipped to us until Tuesday.  Jim agreed to hand deliver the transmission to us Saturday.  No contest!

At this point it was time to start disassembling the truck.  Many thanks to Jim Molloy who had been working on his L F ANT, and could give us directions as to what needed to be taken apart, & in what order (he also rolled L F ANT out and gave up his shop space for us).  We could have figured it out for ourselves, but it would have taken longer!  As it was, it took all of Friday afternoon to remove the cab.

The cab hung in Jim's barn for the remainder of the weekend.

The truck looks a little funny with the cab off & the camper top popped up, but it was still home-sweet-home all weekend.

Saturday morning we spent watching everyone else's truck doing the obstacle course, we felt we shouldn't miss out on ALL the playing just because our truck was dead.  We worked all of Saturday afternoon & into the evening to get everything possible disconnected.  Undoing the transmission mount bolts was awful, but it was finally accomplished!  (Special thanks to Bruce for rolling in the dirt to help with this difficult task.)

The new transmission arrived Saturday afternoon!!!

Sunday it was time to pull the engine.  Direct view of the bell housing & throw out bearing!  You can also see Keith plugging in the Camper.  Because the truck wasn't being driven, it couldn't recharge the camper batteries to run the fridge!  We therefore ran off a kindly provided extension cord all weekend.

Next the front drive shaft had to be disconnected & the front axle rolled forwards, then the rear drive shaft was unbolted.  Bending the stainless steel lock plates holding those bolts in place was likely one of the most difficult tasks in disassembling the truck.  It was certainly the most frustrating!  At this point, the truck consists of a frame resting on jacks, the box on the back, and the transmission.  Everything else is detached!  And we understand that it would have been easier if we had removed the box too!

When you're up to your a** in alligators it's hard to remember that the object is to drain the swamp!  Finally out comes the dead transmission!

Off it goes.

The truck is a little naked at this point!  Finally, everything has been removed, now we can start the reassembly process.

Everyone needs a break at some point!  What better way than test driving the Pinz.  Here's a shot of Keith behind the wheel, we didn't get a shot of Sharon driving it too.  We'd considered a Pinz at first because it's suspension is similar to a VW Bus, but we wanted the extra room afforded by a Mog.  By the way, a Pinz does drive almost exactly like a Bus.

Shiny new gears!  They feel beautiful.  You can tell that these rebuilt units have pretty much all new parts.

In goes the new transmission!  That should likely have been Keith in the picture, but the expression on Zach's face about covers it!!!

We couldn't resist taking a picture of the bolt with the Mercedes symbol in the middle!  This is one of the 12 bolts that hold the drive shafts to the transmission.  Thanks Håken for holding the bolt for me.

Sunday night we were convinced to stop & go to town for an excellent Mexican dinner.  After dinner our helpful crew agreed to bolt the front axle back in place so that we could be ready to put the engine back in come Monday morning.

Lining up the engine to get it back in place is tricky.  Being able to tilt the engine with the front end loader was vital.

Back in the barn for the lowering of the cab!  Also the reinstallation of the steering box.  Nervously they await the results of the operation!

Zach's 404 got the opportunity to pull ours back out of the barn, so that we could have a bit more room to work on hooking everything back up.

By this time it was late Monday afternoon.  We started hooking things back up but didn't get a lot done before stopping for dinner.  Thanks again to Håken and Zach & Kris for sticking around on Monday to help us out.  We know you had intended to go home sooner than you did!

The two of us spent all of Tuesday hooking everything back up that had been disconnected to take the cab off.  Sometime after 9pm the truck was finally ready to run.  A brief trip around the field in the dark was all we managed that night.

Here we are Wednesday morning, with the old transmission loaded into the camper for the trip home.  We want to look at rebuilding the old transmission at some point.

Ours didn't get to play with the other trucks, but we had to do some of the obstacle course before we left!

The log pit.

The already rather squished car (had to squish it a little more).

The "New Secret Trail."  OK, not very secret by this point, but we had to do it!  Keith named this the "stand on your bumper and take a hard left while going straight up" trail since this is how he did it in the Pinz.  Our Mog took a couple of attempts at the steep climb out while the Pinz did it the first try, but we later realized that with all of our camper, fuel, water, extra transmission, etc. we outweighed the Pinz by about 4000lbs!  (this also gave us a good test to make sure the four wheel drive and diff lock engagements were working after the reassembly)  By the time we were mobile there was a bit of a shortage of other MOGs to take our picture with, so we took pictures with the two available.

Here the SUVEATR says good bye to L F ANT, who kindly gave up his sick bay, so that our MOG could get back on the road in such a short time.

And Jim's other 404, which was sitting in the field welcoming everyone to NWMF 2002.

We left the Molloy residence around noon on Wednesday, August 21st.  A couple days later than planned!  Not bad, considering we disassembled & reassembled our truck in that time.  Five days of hard labour, for which we will thank everyone who helped us one last time.  You know who you are!  We don't even know all the names.  We couldn't have gotten home on time without you!

Happily, we got away in time to still drive up the west coast on our way home.  Our tentative trip onto Vancouver Island got canceled, minor detail!

From Sheridan, we drove west on highway 18 then took the 101 up the coast.  We hadn't seen the coast in a few years, so it was nice to see it again.  That is one heck of a bridge across the mouth of the Columbia River at Astoria.  Keith drove this route about 12 years ago in a '63 Beetle, it was Sharon's first time through there.  After a few hours our stomachs began to un-knot from all the worries of driving home with a freshly reassembled vehicle and unknown transmission.  We didn't relax completely the whole way home, but that first afternoon was the most tense.  We stopped several times to check the oil level and to tighten the bottom transmission cover bolts as the gasket seated itself.  Wednesday evening we camped in the Olympic National Forest.

Thursday saw us continue up the 101 to Port Townsend where we crossed on the ferry to Keystone.  One of the ferries grounded that afternoon, so we had a longer than anticipated wait at the ferry landing, but that didn't matter, we were on the road!  We then drove up Whidbey Island & across to the mainland, filling our fuel tanks in the Burlington area.  First gas since Spokane!  That night we camped in the North Cascades National Park.

Friday we found a forestry office & got a forestry map of the area (our kind of roads!) so that we could head up towards the border crossing at Osoyoos/Oroville on back roads, rather than highways.  (Must get more USA forestry maps before the next NWMF!)

Just a little bit before Oroville, we finally discovered what sort of damage a mule deer does to a MOG.  We say finally, because we've had so many near misses in the past.  As expected, a normal sized doe is not really capable of winning the fight with a 404!  We were avoiding a few cattle on the side of the road & the deer came out of nowhere.  She seems to have been scooped up by the right side of the bumper, for our curb feeler was bent outward in a funky curve, and the passenger side fender was a little dented.  No biggie, we've bent that one before.  Sadly, it was a biggie for the deer.  We talked to the alfalfa farmer who was checking his field at the time, and he promised to make sure she was put the rest of the way out of her misery soon.

At around the same time (didn't notice until the next day, figured out approximate location from mileage on the map) our odometer broke!  The speedo will get replaced ASAP, for when you have no fuel gauge, the odometer is vital.

We had absolutely no problems at the border crossing that night.  The border guard recognized the truck, which is always cool, and nearly killed himself laughing at our license plate (SUVEATR).  He even told the other border guard, when he asked what the truck was, "This is a UNIMOG, this is a truck that makes a Hummer look like it can't do stuff!"

We drove for a while longer Friday evening as we wanted to be out of the heat of the Osoyoos area the next morning.  We finally stopped for the night at Boundary Creek Provincial Park.  Not our preferred sort of camping spot, but it was late & we were tired.  It was kind of cool to be back in our own country where we don't have to convert the speed limit to km & the prices to our own currency!

Saturday we headed eastward again.  We turned off of the highway near Moyie, now in very familiar territory & really itching to be off the highways.  Around this time we started noticing a rapid decrease in the level of our engine oil.  We'd been checking all fluids quite frequently, but hadn't had any real problems until this point (the new transmission leaked a lot of oil out at first, once the gaskets became soaked we were able to re-torque the bolts holding the cover plates on & this slowed way down.).  We tracked down a leak on top of the oil filter housing.  It seems that the pressure fitting, which goes to the gauge, had not been tightened properly.  Oops! We also noted a lot leaking out from around the seam where the filter bowl bolts to the top of the housing.  We tightened this up & decided to keep an eye on things.  Saturday night we camped at one of the forestry campgrounds a ways south of Cranbrook, B.C.

Sunday morning our levels looked OK so we decided to try a "shortcut" on the map from just North of Elko which should have dumped us out in the Crow's Nest Pass region.  Well, B.C. Forestry maps are great, but not always accurate, and we never found the connecting road.  Adding to the trouble, our oil leak stepped up the pace.  At this point, we were several miles from the highway, and several more from the nearest town, and had consumed all of our spare oil!  Of the 5 l we went through on the trip home, 3 of them were within a span of probably 100 km.  2 l on a 2000 km trip would not have been out of line, that other 3 l was rather worrying.  So keeping the rpms as low as possible, we headed back out to Fernie, bought a whole lot of engine oil, & checked our oil rather often on the way home.  Fortunately, the last tightening on the filter housing held, & we got home from there with very little more oil lost.  Once we were home we were able to diagnose the problem.

It seems on some previous oil change (before we were responsible for the truck's maintenance), the o-ring had not been removed from the groove in the filter housing, but a new one was put in!!!!  So, every time we've changed oil, we've removed an o-ring & put in a new one, never looking deep enough to see that there was an old, squished o-ring down in the very bottom of the groove.  Now, we've also always had trouble lining up the filter housing when bolting it back on, which this also explains.  It seems that in the process of removing/installing the engine on our trip, the filter housing got bumped enough that the top o-ring got damaged.  When we pulled the mess apart at home, that o-ring was broken.  So, happily, our engine oil leak was easily fixed.

We headed home through Crow's Nest Pass after a brief visit with some friends there at Western Adventures - holidays on horseback.  As usual, we got a huge rainstorm coming through the pass, but it didn't last too long.  We arrived home Sunday evening just before 10pm.  Exhausted, dirty & happy to be home!  However, despite the troubles on the trip (the first 1491 km went without a hitch, the remainder to make up a total of around 3500 km were less than trouble-free!!!) we did still manage to enjoy ourselves.  We met some wonderful people at NWMF and we intend to be back.  Provided that vacation from work can be arranged, you will see us in Oregon again next August!

"The Lump" at home.  We wrapped the transmission in our denim winching blanket, strapped it in & brought it home.  2000 km with an extra 250 kg in the back.  The truck noticed the weight & we noticed the large lump in the middle of our camper.

Observations on the new transmission:
Don't panic when you can't find a gear in your newly installed transmission.  New transmissions are very stiff to shift!  When we first got the truck back together, our hearts sunk.  We couldn't shift into any gear!  Not until the engine had been run with the transmission in neutral did things loosen up enough to be able to shift at all.  At first, it was nearly impossible to shift into most gears when sitting still, but when rolling things went a little better.  For most of the trip home, it was physically taxing to shift (Keith's arm was sore), and it was impossible to shift between forward & reverse without a bit of a grind.  Now, after 2000km it is shifting great and all syncros work effortlessly.  First and Third gear are still tough to get into at a stand still but they do go without sound.  It is actually easier to time the engine statically with the new transmission than it was with the old one (once we were capable of shifting it into 6th the first time!).  With the old transmission, the play between the gears tended to shift the engine past the firing point of the distributor, after you'd stopped turning the wheel.  The new gears are so tight that they stop when you stop the wheel, and the engine stops turning where you wanted it to.

We accidentally discovered how to stop the gearshift lever vibration that we always had with the old transmission.  The new transmission came with an o-ring on the gearshift lever, where it bolts to the main body of the transmission.  When we looked closely at the old gearshift, we could see a very compressed o-ring, that had stopped doing its job eons ago.  The new gearshift does not vibrate when driving down the road in 6th gear!  With the old transmission, we were always able to tell that 4WD was engaged, simply by the sound of the gearbox.  The new transmission sounds the same, 2WD or 4WD.  However, the 1st & 2nd countershaft is a bit noisier in the new transmission.

The new transmission does run a little hotter than the old one did (understandable, with everything so tight).  It also leaks, but we knew that was a risk when we chose to use the synthetic oil.  The lube is thinner and more likely to slip past the seals.