Part 18: Turbocharger Upgrade and Albuquerque Excursion


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The Trip

Progress has been slow as Rob has had other customers to deal with in addition to some personal actions.  But, diversions notwithstanding, the replacement turbocharger was installed after the normal yearly maintenance was completed.  As a side note, we changed the transmission fluid as a matter of course, but this time we replaced it with Amsoil special fluid and it resolved the hard shifting issues.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

The existing stock turbocharger is being prepared for removal.  The truck is a 1988 so there was some corrosion on the attachment points between the turbo housing and the exhaust brake manifold.  After the application of some solvent, the bolts came loose.

The stock Mercedes-Benz turbocharger is removed revealing the mounting to the exhaust manifold and the oil return line.

Removal and inspection of the exhaust manifold revealed that there was a significant crack in the manifold.

After several consultations, we decided to weld rather than replace the manifold.  The manifold was sent out to a machine shop that had the necessary skills to successfully weld cast iron.  Despite these skills, it took two iterations to get the weld to take without cracking.  Our conjecture was that there was some significant stress in the metal and that after the second weld, hammering and cooling 24 hours in an insulated blanket, the stresses were relieved.  The "stippling" in the weld area is due to the point of the chipping hammer.

The mounting points for the manifold were cleaned prior to the re-installation of the gasket and manifold.

Once the new gasket was on and the manifold was tightened to torque specifications, a hole was drilled and tapped for the exhaust gas temperature sensor.  Note the brass fitting on the top of the manifold and the rag in the passage way to prevent metal particles from getting into the manifold.  The manifold was blown clean with compressed air prior to the installation of the new turbocharger.

The new Holset HX-35 turbocharger is positioned for installation revealing that some additional mounting hardware will be required

The plan is to add a water cooled intercooler to the installation.  Above, the parts are laid out to approximate the orientation when installed on a custom frame.

A mounting flange will be needed to complete the installation.

Because of an incompatibility between the Holset exhaust flange and the existing exhaust plumbing, the Holset flange will be replaced with a custom plate.  Above, the plate is marked for cutting and drilling.

The 10mm plate was cut with the plasma torch in preparation for drilling.

The adapter place was mounted and then was tested to insure compatibility.

The exhaust brake manifold was attached to the adapter plate.  The linkage to the exhaust brake was re-attached.

There was interference between the new waste gate and the throttle linkage.  The throttle linkage was modified to allow clearance and an "outside" gusset was added to insure strength.  The silver canister is the turbocharger waste gate.

Exhaust gas temperature (EGT) and boost pressure gauges were added to the dash instrument cluster.

When we lowered the cab, the passenger step got caught on a tire lug and bent.  We repaired it with the "power pack" to near-new condition.

Because of some delays, we were going to be in La Junta for another weekend.  Rather than impose on our hosts, we decided to take Amtrak from La Junta to Albuquerque for a night to experience the ride and go to a nice restaurant.  At the La Junta station, we saw a huge tanker car train that was carrying oil from North Dakota south to a refinery.  The tanker cars are 200,000 pounds EACH and there were perhaps one hundred cars in the train.

The tanker cars were stopped on a siding while the train changed crews at the La Junta station.

Our train finally arrived at the station, only an hour late.

There were some interesting people at the Amtrak station.

Once we got rolling we went up to the observation car to get a more comfortable view of the passing countryside.

South of Raton, NM we spotted these antelope close to a waterhole.

Further south in Shoemaker Canyon we spotted this group of elk grazing in the grass close to the tracks.

It was a huge herd of elk, the largest we have seen since the Valles Caldera near Los Alamos, NM.

Kathleen found a nice hotel in Albuquerque that was close to the train station.  The place was called Hotel Andaluz and was built in the 1930s and recently refurbished.  And popular since we got the second to the last room available.  Turns out that they were hosting a very large wedding and most of the rooms were booked to that group.

Rather novel wall decorations.

We only stayed one night in Albuquerque and had dinner at a local sushi restaurant.  Next morning, we ate at the hotel and then walked back to the Amtrak station for the return trip to La Junta.  In Canyoncito, just north of Lamy, NM we saw this very unique house near the tracks.

North of Cayoncito the tracks had some steep switchbacks that allowed us to actually see the engines pulling the train through the observation car windows.

We made significant progress on the turbocharger installation.  Once the wiring was completed, we test drove the truck and discovered that the throttle linkages needed to be adjusted.  When that was completed, another test drive was performed and the truck reached the expected speeds and held speed better on the uphill grades.

The trip on Amtrak was interesting, but not much more.  You should dispel any notions of "romance rides the rails" immediately.  Don’t think Cary Grant and Leslie Carron in nice wool suits and cocktail dresses or “Strangers on a Train", think Greyhound bus with a diesel locomotive in front.  Our train was a full hour late before we got on, was filled with “colorful” individuals.  The train suffered an electrical failure on Raton Pass.  We were stopped on the main line for about 1/2 hour with no air-conditioning, no electric (thus no lights and no toilets) and hot outside temps.  They somehow repaired the issue, but never described what happened.  Oddly, immediately after the failure happened and the “don’t use the toilets” announcement was made, the stewards brought “free” bottles of water for every passenger.  My response?  “Excuse me sir, I want to be sure that I fully understand what is happening here.  The toilets are inoperative and your response is to give everybody free water?  Don’t you think that coffee or beer would be more effective at reaching your goal?”  Needless to say, he was a bit hostile to me after that, but it did bring a hearty laugh from those passengers within earshot that were capable of understand what I was saying.

The downtown area near the Albuquerque Amtrak station has  been nicely restored.  There were plenty of nice restaurants in the area and the streets were teeming with people after dark.  The movie theater near our hotel was quite crowded, so we did not see a movie.

Next: intercooler installation and completion of some niggling maintenance issues.

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