El Chott 2013: Ksar Ghilane Stages 8-9

Stage 8 of the El Chott Rallye had promised to be fast, and we had hoped that with careful navigation and the absence of dunes, we’d move up in the rankings. It was another bright sunny morning and our spirits were up. We were happy to still be at the starting line of the rally.

ElChott2013 Stage8

Just after the start, as we accelerated to full power on the rocky piste, the engine stalled. We pulled over to the side to let the competitors behind us pass in case they came along before we got started again, but we had a hard time restarting the engine. We engaged the auxilliary fuel pump, but each time the engine cranked again, it stalled as soon as we asked it for power. Decidedly something was very wrong, and we suspected a problem with the fuel line. We had already changed the fuel filter, which didn’t seem especially dirty, so it seemed unlikely that the problem would be something we could fix quickly on the side of the road. We weren’t far from the start, so we headed back to camp to undertake a complete flush of the fuel system.

It took the better part of the day to do something that the professional teams can probably do in a few hours at most, but it was just the two us since our mechanic blew a fuse and left the rally after we broke the front right axle shaft and had to spend two nights in the dunes during Stage 3. This was the first time we had to do this kind of maintenance and since taking apart the fuel line is critical, we took our time to avoid making mistakes. If we have to undertake this procedure again in the future, we’ll be much faster next time now that we know exactly what to do.

During all this time, just beside us, one of the teams was changing the transmission on one of the Porsches.

ElChottStage8 Porche

This provided a lot of cinema for the other rally participants and locals alike.

ElChott2013 Stage8 Better than TV

After we ahd flushed all the lines with compressed air to clean out any blockages, we took the Tatra for a short test drive after dinner, but the problem persisted.

ElChott2013 Fuel Line Flush

There was no point in working all night since Stage 9 was almost entirely in the dunes, and we wouldn’t be able to drive it with our broken axle shaft anyway. We’d have the whole next day to continue our search to find and fix the problem. In the morning, we went to the starting line to take the minimum penalty and then went back to camp to continue working. We weren’t alone. Several other cars had left the starting line only to make a u-turn back to camp to make needed repairs.

We had few choices left: an air issue, a problem with the water separator or something more sinister in the engine that we probably wouldn’t be able to fix. We were starting to worry that the issue might be serious enough not just to prevent us from finishing the rally, but to cause problems on the drive home.

We started by opening the water separator.

ElChott2013 Water Separator

It was completely clogged with what looked like dirt. We had found the problem! We didn’t have a spare water separator so we rinsed it out several times with gas until it ran clear and then we flushed it with compressed air.

ElChott2013 Diesel Gunk

As soon as we put it back together, we went for a test drive. We had full power again! The problem was solved: either we had gotten bad diesel when we had refuelled in Kebili before reaching Douz and the problem had taken a few days to show up, or somehow something had gotten into our fuel since the rest day at Douz.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have the means to empty over 500 litres of diesel and clean the fuel tanks, so we’d have to clean out the filter every night and hope that would be sufficient. Relieved that we’d found the problem, we set about preparing for the next day’s stage, excited once more to be ready not only to start, but to complete the Stage.

Read the next post in the series or go back to the start.

4 Responses to El Chott 2013: Ksar Ghilane Stages 8-9

  1. richfinck says:

    Sorry to hear you had trouble. Sometimes shit just happens no matter what. You did good fixing. Good job.

  2. Pingback: El Chott 2013: Ksar Ghilane – Douz | Erg Machine

  3. Pingback: El Chott 2013: Douz – Ksar Ghilane | Erg Machine

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