Tuesday, April 14, 2015

ERS stinks sometimes

On our way home from the Four Corners monument Friday we stopped briefly in Bluff to pickup some firewood, as I reported.  What I didn't report, because I didn't think it was going to be an ongoing problem, was that after started the VW up to head home from Bluff the car began hesitating like it wasn't getting enough fuel.  It gradually went away, and the 24 miles home was uneventful.  When we decided to drive into Mexican Hat to have lunch (Mexican Hat is about 8 miles away.....probably more like 4 miles as the 'crow flies') this prior issue was in the back of my mind, but the car started up just fine......when I turn the ignition key clockwise to start the car I always hear the fuel pump in the rear of the car (located on the top of the fuel tank) come on and pressurize the system, and that is just what happened, so I'm thinking maybe whatever happened the other day was an 'outlier'......it's good to be optimistic, right?

At any rate we cruised the 3.5 miles out Utah 316 and ultimately back to US 163 and into Mexican Hat to the 'Olde Bridge Grill' located right on the San Juan River where US 163 crosses it.  There are four restaurants in Mexican Hat and they all get ratings of 3.5-4 stars based on less than 25 reviews, so who knows how good they really are.  The Olde Bridge Grill gets 3.5 stars and I would settle in right about there.  I was expecting there to be some sort of outdoor dining being right on the river, but there is none available in the restaurant proper.  You can order 'take out' and then go outside to the other side of the parking lot and sit on one of two picnic tables, but there is not much ambiance.  The service was above average, and my BLT with fries was also.....not the best one I have ever had, but quite adequate.  They offer a good selection of craft beers (I ordered DP this day) including Polygamy Porter.

That was the good part of our 'first Saturday'.......we paid our bill and got in the VW to drive back to the 7-11 to pick up a couple of things before heading out to see the rock formation for which Mexican Hat derives it's unusual name, but that was not to be.  When we exited the parking lot from the restaurant the car began to do the same thing it did in Bluff, but smoothed out again just as we parked at the 7-11 (also a Shell gas station).  We went inside, got what we needed, and went back to the car.  It would turn over, and start, but then would just sputter and die.....and I could not hear the fuel pump pressurizing the system.  After trying to get it started for about 5 minutes I gave up and called AAA.....that was the easy part.

I belong to the Southern California AAA, so when you are out of state you call the out of state '800' number and they transfer you to the Utah desk, in my case......the 'desk' is not really in Utah, it's in Las Vegas....go figure.  I was connected with a very nice young lady, but in spite of her wonderful 'niceness' she did not seem up to the task of entering the address of our location.  To be clear, Mexican Hat is about 1 mile long.....the main drag is US 163 (aka: Main Ave.), and there is only one 7-11/Shell station.  She (her name shall not be revealed) kept me on the phone close to an hour before she was able, with the aid of a supervisor, to finally enter an address that the computer would accept.  Then she told me they had located a 'local' towing service that serviced the Mexican Hat area and they would be at my location in 30 minutes.....it was 1:30 pm by this time ('this time' means Arizona time.....we did not change our clocks), so I thought "Cool, we'll be home by 2:30 (Arizona time).  

At 2:15 there was no tow truck, so I called back and was connected once again to the Utah desk.  I advised her I was told a tow truck would be at my location in 30 minutes, and now 45 minutes had expired, and no tow truck.  She said "let me talk with dispatch, and see what I can find out".......she puts me on hold for 10 minutes.  Let's get one thing clear here.....I spent over an hour on the phone with the first nice lady, and my battery was beginning to get to the critical stage.....I can see that within 30 minutes my battery will be operating on fumes, and I let her know that.  She comes back on the phone and says it will be another 30 minutes, which would make it 3 pm AST (Arizona Standard Time).  I'm thinking that the only towns near Mexican Hat are Bluff (24 miles away), and Kayenta (48 miles away), so where is this tow company that can be there in 30 minutes?  I already know there is no tow company in Bluff, so I ask "What is the name of the company, and where are they coming from?"......a reasonable question you might think, right?  She doesn't know, so she puts me back on hold again for another 10 minutes (we've now been on the phone for 30 minutes on this current call, and I can 'hear' my battery hyperventilating).....she comes back on and tells me the tow company they contacted is too busy, and can't be there until 6:30 (AST)....wait, what?  I say....."you just told me 30 minutes......what is going on?"......I still have no tow company name, or the location from which they are coming and ask her once again for the tow company name and phone number.  She puts me on hold again for 5 more minutes and comes back telling me they are trying to find an alternate tow company and will have to call me back.  I ask her to call me back within 30 minutes, regardless of what she finds out.

Forty more minutes elapse and it is now closing in on 3:15 (AST), and no call back, so I call once again, get transferred to the Utah desk to another nice lady.  By this time my phone is flashing a the message that says "battery level critical, please either plug in the phone, or put a new battery in"......I didn't bring my USB cable with me to lunch as I didn't think I would be gone for 4 hours, and be on the phone for 2 of those hours, so I tell the third nice lady my problem and give her TLE's phone number (she brought her USB cable......she's way more prescient than I).  She (the AAA 3rd nice lady) is repeating to me what the #2 nice lady told me 40+ minutes earlier.  Finally I insist that she give the name, phone number and contact name at the towing company so I can call and find out what the 'bleep' is going on.  She puts me on hold for another 10 minutes, and finally comes back with the requested information.

I end the call, and turn off my phone.....the battery indicator is now showing 'red', which means I've got about 2 minutes left.   TLE gives me her fully charged phone and I call the towing company (Nations Towing).  Within 30 seconds I find out the tow truck has already been on the road for 90 minutes and will be at our location within an hour.....Nations Towing is out of MOAB, UT.....124 miles way....I give the nice young man TLE's phone number after explaining that my phone is dead.  I'm now very encouraged, but totally wondering why AAA's Utah desk didn't know that.  I'm thinking "How could they have actually called Nations Towing and not found out what I found out in 30 seconds?".

Okay, it's now 4:30 (AST) so I'm thinking the tow truck will be in Mexican Hat by 5:30 (AST).  Within a few minutes after I hang up with Nations Towing TLE's phone rings and there is a nice young man from AAA practically falling all over himself apologizing for all the problems on my service call.  I listen patiently to the multitudinous excuses he provides, then when he is done I relate how I called the towing company direct and got the information they were unable to provide over the course of 3 phone calls in less than 30 seconds.  I ask him....."Do you really think anyone in 'dispatch' really called and talked with a human being at Nations Towing?"  I tell him "I called and got the answers to all my questions in less than 30 seconds.....why couldn't they do the same?".  He was speechless.....I bid adieu to the nice gentleman, ended the call, and went to the bathroom.....and that's all I have to say about that.

The tow truck arrived about 5:4o (AST), and the VW was on the flatbed within 10 minutes....we were 'home' at Goosenecks by 6:20 (AST), and very happy the sun was still just above the horizon.  My good friend Tom McCloud says "most everything can be fixed with a credit card", and I totally agree.....I would only add that 2 fingers of The Glenlivit Scotch helps, too....:-)

So, why have I gone into exhaustive detail on our latest ERS experience?  I do it for one reason......we have never had a bad ERS experience until now.  I read a lot of complaints on various RV related websites written by people complaining about their ERS service.  My theory is that if you have to call  your ERS enough times over a period of time you will invariably have at least one bad experience....we just had ours.  The thing to keep in mind is at least we were in a safe location, near a restroom....the only thing AAA's lack of competence cost us was time.  The reality in our situation was we are in a very remote location, and when one finds themselves in a remote location it will probably take a long time to be 'rescued'.  If the 3 nice ladies at AAA had just given me accurate wait times to begin with I wouldn't have been upset that it took 3 hours for the tow truck to arrive....I've driven that road up to Moab, and know that it takes at least 3 hours of driving time.  The problem arose when I was told 30 minutes twice, and then found out they had no idea what they were talking about....it seemed to me they were just telling me what they thought I wanted to hear.  What I wanted to hear was the truth, or at the very least somewhat accurate information, and I didn't get it.

About 7:30 I got a message from my friend Tom with a link to a YouTube video that shows how easy it is to replace the VW Beetle fuel pump.  I ordered a new one on Amazon Prime and it will be at Tom's home on Thursday.....we'll just fix it together when we get to his home!

TLE made some great soup for dinner, and it was the perfect ending to a not so perfect day.....thanks for stopping by!


  1. If fate ever has us crossing paths, I would love to share our ERS nightmare over two fingers of Glenmorangie :-P This is why I am entirely convinced that we would all be better off to travel in packs.

  2. How will you get the Beetle to Tom's or even into the trailer? The pump in question is called the pre-pump or low pressure fuel pump. It's located in the fuel tank sending unit for the fuel gauge.

    1. There's also a controller called the fuel pump module under the back seat on top of the tank. It has a square white plastic housing with wiring going to the pump. Check it for signs of overheating.

  3. That explains why the VW was on a stretcher when you came back. I decided it wasn't going to be a good time to say hello!

  4. Michael, send me your cell # to chockwald@gmail.com and I'll call...have a couple of questions. John, if you're here come on down!

    1. I pulled out first thing Monday morning headed for Sand Island and a petroglyph hike. Sounds like you had a bunch of visitors!


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