Stuck in Cody, Wyoming
Prewarning: This is a long technical report, because we had some problems with our car recently. For all, who are not so car affine, it is not worth reading further...
" Cody, Wyoming...it's a shithole" (Steve Carpenter, 2018).
True words, at least in our case. We've been stuck in this town in the middle of nowhere for five days. It all started in a relaxed way. Our plan was to prepare ourselves in this small but touristic place (there are several sights and attractions) about 80km from Yellowstone National Park. Technically and mentally. The rush of visitors in the summer months is supposed to be the sheer horror. In order to escape this, we have prepared a suitable route in Cody and selected a few overnight places far away from the hotspots. And of course we had to increase our supplies for the days in the park. Once you have crossed the park boundary, the prices for all kinds of things rise immeasurably. In concrete terms, this meant in our case: fill up the refrigerator and water and fill it up once.
The latter was my part on that day (the first time I filled up on this trip, by the way) and from then on the whole misery took its course...
Only a few meters after refuelling (at Mobil, the largest gas station in town) we notice that the engine no longer runs smoothly, stutters and has some misfires when accelerating. A look in the rear-view mirror confirms our assumption that something is wrong. We see white clouds of smoke coming out of the exhaust. Mathias had already read many reports in forums before the start of this trip from other travellers who were also travelling in North America with a Toyota Landcruiser HZJ and reported similar problems. Often the occurrence of white smoke was attributed to poor diesel quality (water in the diesel) or the altitude. Since we had driven over a pass of 3000 m.a.s.l. one day before and had no problems (neither smoke nor performance losses) and are now at 1500 m.a.s.l., we exclude this reason directly and are convinced that it must be due to the diesel (also because the problem occurred very acutely after refuelling).
So we decide to dump all the fuel (65 litres) directly and refuel it again. For this we drive to the first workshop (McCue) and commission them with our request. We quickly notice that these people have 0.0 clue. Neither of our car and engine (which makes sense to me nor because these are almost completely unknown here), no...also of fuel, let alone diesel they understand nothing. First we come across a lot of incomprehension about simply sinking a whole tank of "valuable" diesel, but then we can convince the amateur mechanic, who suddenly appears from the backyard in a basketball outfit, to do it anyway. After a short time he sniffs twice at the pumped out liquid, looks at me and is 100% sure: "You filled in gas instead of diesel".
Insolence! I am blond and don't know anything about cars, but I can see the right gas pump at the petrol station, where DIESEL is written on it.
Nevertheless...after pumping out the whole tank, the guys, who by the way watched the pumping station for about one hour and had nothing else to report but that we had such cool army rifles in Switzerland, fill 10 gallons of new, of course 1A diesel.
A short test drive later we are confronted with the sobering fact: The problem persists and the situation remains unchanged. But we are assured (shortly before the end of work) that the problem will disappear into thin air in a few kilometres and we can continue our journey with peace of mind. All the fun cost us 213 dollars for 2 hours of "work" *würg*.
We drive away angry and disappointed at the same time and then first consult the bushtaxi and Ih8mud forums. Only a short time after describing our problem we receive many answers and advice. They range from "I wouldn't drive a kilometre more" to "don't worry too much".
An important note is that white smoke can always be a sign of cooling water in the diesel, i.e. a broken cylinder head gasket, which would then result in expensive repairs. After checking the fluids, however, we can rule out this case. In addition, we change the diesel filter and the filter of the separate water separator at the Walmart car park, which we have additionally installed. They both look very clean to us.
At this moment Steve, who drives a diesel pickup himself, thinks he has already had the problem with his vehicle. He seems to have some idea of older engines and is sure that we would have definitely caught bad diesel. The quality of the mobile filling station is not the worst, but it definitely prefers Exxon diesel. In addition, hundreds of huge motorhomes are currently passing by here on their way to Yellowstone and would practically empty the tanks. It could well be that we filled up diesel from an almost empty tank and thus caught the liquid from the ground, where any water collects.
On Steve's advice, we fill the half-full tank (to the workshop's 10 gallons) with Exxon diesel and add a good amount of ATF (transmission oil), as well as about twice the amount of Howles additive (diesel lubricant) we've been using all the time in the US.
No sooner said than done...we drive the whole route to the "East Entrance" of Yellowstone. Unfortunately, our situation is not improving at all. The white smoke has meanwhile become even worse and at times resembles rather white dense smoke. Also the engine runs even worse, has dropouts and stutters again and again. Considering that after entering the park we would have to pass a pass of 3000 m.a.s.l. and the towing costs would be horrendous, we decide to drive back to Cody.
Yesterday Steve advised us that in this case we should go to the Wyoming Diesel Power workshop, as they by far know the most about diesel vehicles far and wide. That's what we do. However, after describing our problem, we are honestly informed that they cannot help us because they do not know our vehicle.
So there must be another solution.
But we don't want to drive a meter more, because we fear something worse at the injection pump or the injectors and would only worsen the damage with additional driving.
A report from other overlanders draws our attention to the 4Wheel Auto workshop in Edmonton, a specialist for Toyota diesel vehicles. So we call them and luckily Dan, who knows our car type well, takes it off as well. He thinks he knows our problem and gives us the tip to rinse the engine with "Liqui Moly Diesel System Cleaner (LM2032)".
We return to Wyoming Diesel Power and ask if you know this tool or if we can otherwise use your address to order it. The employees are extremely helpful and make phone calls to all possible suppliers. Nobody seems to know it in the area, but we can order it here overnight so that the machine can be cleaned tomorrow. Overnight we are allowed to stay in the parking lot of Wyoming Diesel Power.
The Liqui Moly ordered is delivered shortly before noon, so that we can start cleaning the injection system right after lunch. We open the diesel circuit directly in front of the injection pump and let 80% of a bottle of Liqui Moly (1 liter) circulate pure with the engine running, so that pump and injection nozzles are cleaned. We tip the remaining 20% into the diesel tank. The miracle cure works. Only after a few seconds the white smoke disappears completely and the engine purrs again as before. In addition, the engine starts suddenly after ignition (faster than before).
We close the circuit again and let the engine continue to run normally with diesel from our tank when idling. The mechanics are amazed and we almost pop the corks ("I call this remedy from now on only "Holy Moly"). The problem seems to have been solved. We pack everything up and get ready for the descent when after about 10 minutes in idle the engine starts to stutter again and white smoke arises again. Only this time it's worse than before. We now notice an imbalance and overall the stuttering is stronger than before.
So the whole game from the beginning. In total we ordered 3 bottles of Liqui Moly. It's time for number 2, this time it takes a little longer for the smoke to go and the stuttering to stop, but the engine recovers before the 80% of the bottle is used up. We now suspect that the problem lies in another place than the injection system. Possibly air in the circuit? But even after a long search we can't find any. We now let the engine run again with diesel from an external canister (without additives, but according to Wyoming Diesel Power of best quality). The result is devastating. We can hardly start the engine any more and it almost dies in idle. Not to mention the prolonged white smoke. It doesn't look good at all.
We contact Dan from 4Wheel Auto again, who recommends that we check the injection pressure and the spray pattern of the nozzles as a next step. Wyoming Diesel Power is far and wide the only garage that has a test device at all, but of course this does not have the right size for our nozzles. Just before the nervous breakdown, we think about our options.
- Find an adapter for the tester somewhere to have the nozzles checked by Wyoming Diesel Power: Duration probably eternal and nobody could repair or revise them here anyway.
- Remove the injection pump and nozzles, send them to Edmonton for inspection and reinstall them after return: We'd probably get here with the help of the mechanics, but it'll take at least two weeks. We don't even want to think about the shipping costs.
- Towing to the next bigger city (e.g. Idaho Falls), where in the best case you can find someone who knows something about our engine and can help us: Practically impossible, since the towing costs cannot be financed.
Thereupon we decide to stay another day in Cody to do a slightly longer test drive and then finally set off for Yellowstone, if the condition does not worsen again.
We make a test drive out of Cody of altogether approx. 50km. The condition remains the same. We can't notice any loss of power, the consumption seems to be OK and the white smoke only appears when starting the engine and when starting up and then disappears completely.
Early in the morning we leave with a good feeling. We refuel again in Cody, as this is the last opportunity for humane prices in front of the park and add to the diesel twice the recommended amount of the additive "Standadyn", which Wyoming Diesel Power gave us and recommended (also available in Walmart). We do this again at the mobile filling station where the whole problem started. But it is the biggest and almost only gas station in town and we don't believe anymore that the smoke was caused by bad diesel. Everything runs smoothly up to the park entrance. Since the park is located on a high plateau of about 2400 m.a.s.l., we increase some meters in height (Cody is located at 1500 m.a.s.l.) At about 2000 m.a.s.l. white smoke appears again. But it is a bit less dense than in Cody and at times more puffy and not continuous. The engine is still running perfectly and at full power. We don't want to go back to Cody, so we decide to just keep an eye on the development of the smoke and enjoy the time at Yellowstone.
We drive to Grand Teton National Park and back. The tank is almost empty, the problem with the smoke was permanently the same. When accelerating, white clouds of smoke came out, but the engine was running all the time. We couldn't tell the difference at different heights. We were always between 1900 and 2500 meters above sea level.
So we fill up with diesel in the park and again double the recommended amount of Standadyn. And after a few kilometres the smoke disappears completely and the car drives again as nothing would have been.
We now strongly assume that everything is fine with the injection pump and the nozzles and that the problem actually came from the diesel in connection with the height. Before Cody we drove about 7000 kilometres in North America without having a problem. We only started adding an additive to the diesel about halfway along the route (Howes) when it was first written on the "Low Sulphur Diesel" dispenser. With "good" diesel we could drive to an altitude of 3000 m.a.s.l. without noticing a problem. With the lower quality diesel in Cody, which was probably the same in the whole place, the problem occurs already at 1500 m.a.s.l.. Rinsing the injection system with the Liqui Moly certainly did no harm. Possibly the nozzles were actually a little dirty. We cannot say what effect the separation of the Separ filter from the circuit had.