Menu Close

Letter 10

Isuzu Trek Owners Infoletter #10

January 2003

If your tranny isn’t working right

Jim Goedde (jimgoedde (at) writes:

Our transmission suddenly decided not to shift up at the proper speed or engine load.  We wound up at Guaranty RV in Eugene, Oregon.  After spending the night in their RV overnight area they took us in first thing in the morning.  I was picturing the dollars flying by with two test drives and at least four technicians being consulted throughout the morning.

 The final answer was to disconnect the chassis batteries for ten minutes to reset the transmission control module to default.  They said the module goes crazy sometimes with no apparent reason.  The transmission worked fine in the test drive and has never faulted again.  We felt very relieved when Guaranty only charged us $75 for that 4 hours of troubleshooting.

 Editor’s note: If your tranny acts up, first just pull over to a safe place, shut off the engine after the cool down period, go drink a coke or limeade for at least 5 minutes then start up and start on your way again.  If that doesn’t fix it, the battery disconnect Jim describes will probably do it.

Problem And Fix, Exhaust System Modification, Bed Problems Again, Jack Pads.

Trek Seats

William Dutcher (dutch98221 (at) says

I was having my seats reupholstered and while seats were out, I noticed that the drivers seat is not centered on  top plate. By removing the assembly from the floor(4 bolts through floor) and rotating it 180 degrees (so latch is towards the rear)will allow seat to move rearward about 4 inches more than before. This is great for someone tall. I never used the latch anyway, as steering wheel does not allow seat to rotate anyway!

I also cut support on passenger seat three inches and welded it back together lowering it three inches for my short wife’s comfort( she is 5 ft,0 inches tall)

Spare Tire

GMarple (at) writes

I have had a local welding shop fashion a bracket to fit into my receiver so that we can carry a spare tire and tow our car as well.

Editor’s note: some of us who travel in Mexico or remote areas find the need to carry a spare tire. I obtained a spare used rim from FMI in Portland, OR for $40 and also had a blacksmith fashion a bracket to go in the 2” receiver on the Trek or toad. Before you can change a tire, though, you will need sockets, a long extension (3/4 or 1” drive) a breaker bar and a strong piece of pipe to put over the breaker bar to get the nuts loose (and hope the breaker bar holds up). William Dutcher suggests a torque multiplier. The leveling jacks should lift the Trek enough to change a tire. Two sockets are needed or one combo. 1 5/8” and 13/64” square or a combo 41mm/21mm square should work.

 A New Trek Owner teaches us from his experience

The Whites bought their Isuzu Trek less than a year ago. J. has favored us with two of their learning experiences about the Trek that Roared:


J. and I planned a major trip in our 1994  Isuzu Trek.  Previously we had a cab-over camper in the 70’s, but no experience since then and no real motorhome experience.  In February, 2002, we purchased our ‘94 TREK/Isuzu Diesel chassis from a private party.  My first trip was to drive it over the “Hill” (Sierra Nevada Mountains) on US 88 to our new home in Gardnerville, NV.  Slow going uphill, but otherwise a fine trip.

Unfortunately, we had virtually no documentation for any of the RV or Chassis systems, as the former owners had not received it from the dealer (supposedly) so the only written information was a single page of type-written “checklist” instructions.  (I had a LOT of help and instruction from Dale DeRemer and Al Readdy for various problems I encountered preparing for our trip.  I want to acknowledge them and thank them both publicly for all of their considerable help, advice and documentation!)

Although I had the rig serviced and checked out professionally before leaving on this trip, it was not without a few un-anticipated problems.

The TREK that Roared

It was June 12, 2002 and we left, towing our 3000 lb. Integra on a tow dolly, for San Antonio, Texas… two days later than I had planned in order to have a transmission heat gauge installed.  We were to meet our son Mike there, who was attending a conference on the 19th.  So, I plotted our course for the shortest distance “as the crow flies” (as much as possible!).  I figured that we had about 1.5 days to spare if we could average 350 miles/day (pretty aggressive, but I did not have much choice!).

 We headed for Las Vegas on US 95 and then turned Southeast on US 93, where we made the mistake of crossing the Colorado River at Hoover Dam (Bolder City), our first mistake!

Not only did we have to drop several thousand vertical feet to the Hoover Dam and climb up the steep grade out of it, but (too late) we remembered that 9/11 security was in full force and extremely tight there!  After waiting for nearly an hour in bumper-to-bumper traffic, we had the entire rig searched by uniformed security.  So much for making good time!  Finally, we headed for Kingman, AZ on US 93, Then on toward Phoenix.

It was 98 to 105 degrees F. and the “nice” up and down grades we saw previously on 93 turned into 20 miles of continuous upgrade.  We were struggling to maintain 25-30 mph and it was hot outside and getting hotter.

Due to the heat and increasing transmission temperature, I had turned off the engine AC, and in fact used the engine heater near the top of the grade to make sure we would not boil the coolant.  (We were using the propane generator and the 110v. Air Conditioner but everything was still very hot, with bad smells from the black water tank (I thought at the time,  turns out it may not have been that, entirely… I will cover that in another story later).

Although the engine coolant was not in the red zone,  I stopped near the top of the grade to let the transmission and engine cool off a little (2nd mistake..  it did not really cool off hardly at all, and seemed to heat up more when we restarted on the grade!).

Finally, we crested the top of the grade and began to pick up speed .  As we hit 50 mph, I decided that maybe we could use the engine AC on the down grade (3rd mistake!).

After 3-4 minutes, the engine began to emit a horrible sound!  It was like a steamboat horn or whistle, similar to the sound of a radiator pressure cap blowing that I had heard a long time ago on one of my old cars.

At this point, I hit the panic button and pulled over onto the shoulder to stop.  The noise continued as I got out to investigate, so I shut the engine off, but the sound continued to roar.  Finally, after what seemed to be hours (probably 5-6 minutes), the roar stopped!  But now I hear bubbling sounds from the engine…  Coolant boiling, it sounded like to me.

So, here we are, J. and I, in the middle of nowhere in Arizona, with a possibly totally disabled diesel engine, which I have NO experience to go on.  Thank God, J.’s cell phone works!  We call Good Sam to discuss the options.   They took more than an hour to try to figure out who could get to us for a tow.  It turns out, the nearest service of any kind was nearly 45 miles away in Wickenburg, which is 50 miles from Phoenix, the nearest real RV service and Isuzu dealer possibility.

The tow truck arrives, and is a semi-truck and flatbed trailer rig that was 3+ feet off the ground and 50 feet long!

After a discussion of the situation (no noise now, no coolant leakage, engine runs now, seemingly OK), we decide that a tow is the safest course of action, so I drop the car off the dolly and the tow driver proceeds to cause the trailer wheels to move 10 ft. forward, which drops the beveled rear of his trailer to the pavement.  I then drive my rig up onto the trailer with the dolly still connected, and we follow him to town and check into a motel across from the tow service office.

Next morning, we meet with the owner of the tow service and discuss what might have been wrong.  I have concerns that it could be serious mechanical problems, like possibly blown seals on the turbocharger, or something.  I am all for a 2nd tow into Phoenix!  He finally convinces me that most every problem they see is due to overheating on that killer grade, and  we decide to make a short test run.  Everything works fine!

What Happened

As it turns out, the Isuzu NPR truck chassis has TWO cooling fans.  The normal fan which runs when the engine is running, and an Auxiliary Fan, which ONLY comes on when the coolant temperature is getting near the critical point!  That second fan kicking in was the ROARing that we heard!

So, we are back on our way, delayed, but wiser!  On to Las Cruces, NM, El Paso and San Antonio, where we meet Mike in time and then go on to Houston Space Center… but then….

A Rude Awakening in the Middle of the Night!

We checked into one of the most completely outfitted RV parks, Space Park RV park, about 12 miles south of Houston, for a couple of nights.  The very first night, at 3:30 AM, we suddenly awoke to a cacophony of alarms!

There was a loud “Bong Bong Bong…” of the leveler alarm, supported by the high pitched “BEEEEEEEEE …” of what turned out to be the vacuum system low pressure alarm.

We tumbled out of bed and I saw that the instrument panel was lit up like it was Christmas… Had I forgotten and somehow left the key on???  I crawled under the bed and checked it.  Nope, no key even in the ignition.

Well, I raised the bed and we started the engine and pulled up the levelers.  All quiet on the southern front, but when I stopped the engine, the instrument lights stayed on.  So I disconnected everything to try driving out and around… hoping that the AC interface unit might be reset, or something, to fix the problem.  No such luck!

After re-entering our site, I left the levelers up (apparently they are hard-wired anytime the ignition is on), shut down the engine (dash instruments still lit up, though).  The low vacuum alarm started again, of course.   So I started pulling fuses from the panel in the right side of the dashboard.  On fuse # 5 from the right end, the dashboard and the alarm stopped!  Haaaallelluuuya!  Back to sleep, for a few more hours before the sun came up to welcome us to Houston Space Center.

We had a limited time to visit with family in Texas and Arkansas, so we limped along with the problem for nearly a week before finding an Isuzu dealer (since the problem was with the Chassis electrical system, I figured that was the best place to get help).

We found a wonderful Isuzu dealer, Bell International, in Layton, Arkansas, a few miles north of Fayetteville.  I called and asked for the Service Manager, who told me that they were booked heavily for the next 3-4 days.

I told the Service Manager that I thought this might be a very tough problem to find and I really needed his best electrical mechanic.  I explained that we were on an extended trip and needed to get back on the road as soon as possible.  The manager reviewed his schedule and told me that his mechanic would start on my TREK as soon as he finished the job he was on.  After about an hour and a half, I met with the mechanic and went through all of the symptoms with him.  Since this was going to take some time, we had dropped our car off of the tow dolly and we went to get some lunch and find a Laundromat.  When we checked back several hours later, he was still working on the problem.

I asked the manager if I could copy the Isuzu NPR schematics while the mechanic was working on our van, and he graciously offered their copy machine.  Then J. and I went to dinner and sampled some of the best barbequed chicken that Fayetteville has to offer.

When we returned, the mechanic was still working.  After 6 hours, we still did not have a clue as to the cause.  He had checked all of the fuses, relays and grounds without affecting the problem.  So, I had another conference with the mechanic, and mentioned several unusual things that had happened or that we could not explain, including the overheating incident, loss of power late in the afternoon, and … Oh yes, we had some trouble with the electric step as well.  The step would sometimes only extend part way, or not at all, or would not retract.   The mechanic mentioned that it was not working anymore, and I confirmed that it had been working when we brought the unit in.

Well, he said that he had looked at the step, but had not checked it out by disconnecting it.  He did so, and guess what he found?  Acid from the battery had dripped into the connector at some previous time, and one of the four connectors (the ground connection) was completely corroded and broke off when it was disconnected!

One half hour later, the step connections were repaired, and the problem was fixed!  The service manager was very apologetic about the length of time, and offered to reduce the hourly rate by about 30%, and only charge me for about 2/3 of the labor time because it took so long to find the problem!  This was extremely fair of him, and I gratefully accepted his offer.

The Problem and Solution

What happened was a result of the TREK step being directly connected to the ignition wiring.  When you turn off the ignition, the step controller is still energized and it senses the engine is stopped, so it can extend the step when the unit is parked.  The step and controller have an independent connection to the battery.  So, when the ground lead failed, 12 volts were trying to find ground from the step controller, and found it through the ignition circuit!  So, the ignition thought it was turned on, which energized all of the dash instruments and alarms!

I was very pleased with the service and attitude of Bell International, and I made a point of complementing the owner, Mr. Bell, for the excellent service and gracious cooperation that we received from all of his staff.

Editor’s note: I hope you enjoyed Jim’s storytelling, with something to learn at the end of the story. There will be more from him in future Isuzu Trek newsletters.


Happy Trekking,