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Old 07-03-2011, 02:47 PM   #1
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1984 34.5' Airstream 345
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Unhappy Heeeellllpppp!!!!!!

So we got packed, drove about twenty five miles and got into a campsite. So far, so good. Considering it's only my third time driving and it was a bit of a canyon, not bad.

Then, of course the usual problems: the icemaker end had cracked and was leaking, the hose had developed a leak over the winter, the fridge didn't want to come on, the propane tank was empty and the extend a stay was stuck. These I can deal with.

But day two, I tried to start the engine and nada. I called service for a jump; didn't work. Took battery to town and had charged and tested as good. Reinstalled by tech with jump equipment, still nada.

He said the starter sounded good. Then he checked the oil. He said there was none and the engine was probably frozen.

Since it's the holiday, nothing happening for three days. I did get six quarts of oil as suggested and put them in. Problem one: the dip stick won't go beyond a certain point on my 345. Maybe not the original. It hits a stop and anyway... still no oil showing that I can see.

Oh, to complete the history, I did leave the leveling lights on the night I got here. Not sure if that is relevant.

Anyway, if the engine is fried, please tell me about what it costs to replace. Tell me to sit down first, please. Where near northern NM does someone suggest if anyone has experience in the area.

Now I'm worried I may have too much oil since I can't really get the dipstick all the way in. But if the engine is fried I guess that is the least of my worries.

Pat on the back: I did get the ice maker line capped, the hose fixed, the propane extend a stay filled and reattached, so life is good, at least at a standstill.

I'm in the area of serious wildfires, in fact in the middle of a closed forest. I'm worried about being stranded here long time with no engine. But I need to have it done right and the local mechanics all think that this is more than a Chevy gas engine. I could have it towed further if it would mean better work and a better engine.

Money??? How much? Suggestions... everything welcome as I have nothing to do but stew for the next two days.

Thanks for reading!
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Old 07-03-2011, 03:00 PM   #2
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silverdream2,

I have ZERO experience with your unit. Some experience with engines.

As far as how much oil it should have, when unknown amount in crankcase, suggest drain all and refill with known correct qty. Examine oil for contamination, has oil been supplimented with coolant or even gas if carb engine? Did it make any engine sounds that indicated that it was in death mode while driving in? Does it seem to draw current during start attempts? eg headlights go dim. Can engine be turned over by hand? If it wasn't rattling like crazy or smelling of baked engine heat, how did it die overnight? Also check coolant level. If block fills up with coolant big time, engine might lock while trying to crank, but I bet it would have made some attempt to crank before hydro-lock. Any coolant dripping off of any engine seal area?

Best of luck.
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Old 07-03-2011, 03:01 PM   #3
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RV ownership is "oh so much more that camping".
This will make a great fireside story as years go by.
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Old 07-03-2011, 03:18 PM   #4
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How close exactly are you to the wildfires???
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Old 07-03-2011, 03:51 PM   #5
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These long dipsticks are difficult at times unless you just happen to get lucky. Take a pair of pliars and get ahold of the stick a couple of inches above the tube and see if you can get it to go in. Sometimes you have to push pretty hard. As already stated check the oil for coolent, gasoline etc.
I once had a problem like you are describing . I suspected it was an electrical issue. After pulling the battery, starter etc for testing it turned out I had a stuck float in the carburetor. Fuel was in the crankcase and the engine wouldn't turn over. I drained the oil and had the carb rebuilt and it started right up. Was lucky enough to catch it before any obvious engine damage.


Best of luck !
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Old 07-03-2011, 04:31 PM   #6
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Question

SD2

More questions....did you notice anything unusual when you shut it down?

The person who checked it said it had no oil? Was he able to operate the dipper? (they are very looong and can be real a PITA).
Do you get a loud solid clunk when trying to start?

As has been recommended, the oil should be drained, if it looks like Bosco it's half water, not good. If you have a tool kit you could try turning the engine over with a wrench on the alternator nut,(while applying pressure on the belt) or crankshaft nut.
Goodwrench re-man engines were 2 to 3 grand when I retired 2 years ago, you can bet more now.(3yr warr then) Figure at least 25hrs labor at the going rate.

This kind'a reminds me of when we would get customer phone calls about what went wrong with my car....hard to say, can you hold the phone a little closer.

Keep us posted...
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Old 07-03-2011, 06:00 PM   #7
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No idea what's wrong with your rig but... New Chevy 454 crate engines are running 5K and up depending how how much HP you want to buy.
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Old 07-03-2011, 06:06 PM   #8
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If there is a real fire threat, you could get towed out of there. Do you have towing insurance like Good Sam for the RV?

Try rotating the dipstick 90˚ at a time to work it in. If the oil looks thin and light brown, that may indicate coolant in the oil.

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Old 07-03-2011, 06:10 PM   #9
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Old 07-03-2011, 06:45 PM   #10
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get towed to safety and then ponder repairs. Drop the pan and check the bearings it might not be so bad.
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Old 07-03-2011, 06:56 PM   #11
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Dont panic!
If the engine was running when you switched it off, sounded fine, and showed no sign of overheating, I would think it highly unlikely its seized.
When an engine seizes, even then, they normally free when they cool, not run ok then freeze.
The comment that the Mechanic said... the starter "Sounded good" worries me... If the engine is not turning, how can the starter sound good?
I bad starter solonoid or bad connection will produce a loud clunk, and not spin the motor too.
I have an 84 too, so only too happy to help where I can.
I can measure my dipstick, so I can tell you exactly how far it goes in.
If you need some support from someone who knows more than a little.. PM me or send me you number.
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Old 07-03-2011, 06:58 PM   #12
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So, does the engine turn over when you turn the key to start (or push the start button, depending on how that's set up)? Or does the starter make an awful grinding noise trying to engage the flywheel? You say the tech said the starter "sounded good" but if the engine is in fact seized, the starter should make quite a racket trying to turn it over, or if it manages to engage the flywheel fully, just a hum since it wouldn't be able to rotate after it engaged.

The suggestion already made to determine how much oil was in the engine before (drain it and measure how much comes out, minus 6 quarts for what you added, minus about half a quart for the oil that stays in the filter.)

All we can offer with the information given so far is SWAG though. The sounds it makes (or doesn't), how the crankcase smells, etc. would tell a lot.
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Old 07-03-2011, 07:19 PM   #13
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DKB, has the same idea as me...
Something else occured to me... on my 84, next to the key there is a boost switch that connects the house batteries to the starter batteries..
If your oil level is ok, try that too?
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Old 07-03-2011, 07:25 PM   #14
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Did the mechanic who came out check the starter solenoid? It is probably ok if the starter turned over. Are the battery connections ok and clean at both ends? What about fuses—there should be an ignition fuse. What about the wires to the ignition switch—are they tight and clean? Does it have a distributer and if so, are the points adjusted properly and clean? They should be about a match book cover apart on most vehicles (that is the emergency way to adjust them). Has the coil been checked? Is the fuel pump working? Do you have fuel in the tank (don't trust the gauge—it could be bad). What about the coil wire and the wires to the spark plugs?

As others have said, if the engine turned over when the starter was engaged, doesn't sound like a seized engine. And if it was running ok when you stopped, seized is also unlikely. Sometimes a seized engine can be reborn too if it just seized.

It doesn't appear mechanicking is your strong point. That tech didn't seem to check those things either and I'd look for someone else. This is a 27 year old vehicle and they made them differently then. GM was at a low point in the '80's and things are expected to go wrong with their products from those days. Whatever the result and solutions here, you need to have everything checked over and updated where possible. This could be expensive, but not as expensive as a rebuilt engine. A young mechanic who has been trained on computerized vehicles, electronic ignition and all that newfangled stuff may not have a clue how to start a 1984 vehicle. On the other hand, I don't have a clue how to fix new cars now.

Gene
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