We finally found the root of the truck problems. To make a very long, and somewhat boring, story short it was the fuel pump.
While the fuel pump was suspected early on, it was ruled out by just about every mechanic who laid hands on the truck. In fact, I think they all suspected the fuel pump as a possible cause, but upon further questioning, it was ruled that it could not be the fuel pump.
The reason it was ruled out is that the truck would maintain speed when you got it up to speed on the highway. Even though it was rough to get going sometimes, and sometimes top speed was only 40 MPH, it was always able to maintain that speed…until Saturday.
While changing the timing chain and a few sensors that mechanics said were probably the cause, I even did the “bang on the tank while the truck is running” trick. The idea is that if it is your fuel pump and you bang on the tank while it is running rough, that shock may kick the fuel pump into action. Though the test does not rule out the fuel pump as the problem, if it does run better, it is almost assuredly a fuel pump problem.
I have changed sensors and timing chain (which desperately needed it anyway) and reset the timing and checked all the vacuum hoses and replaced the gasket in the glove box. But because the truck was not showing some classic fuel pump symptoms, it was determined that it was probably a computer problem. The reason that was suspected is that each time you started the truck, you would get a whole new set of symptoms. If it ran poorly after a restart, then starting it again may give you better results. That certainly did not indicate fuel pump.
Then there was Saturday. This was the day the transmission had been rebuilt. We got back on the road to make it the last couple of hours to the border. I could not hold highway speed. The 1 hour 20 minute trip took 3 hours. Most of the time we were cruising along between 40 and 45 MPH. Not fun. Every time we slowed down the truck would die. Each time you hit a speed bump. Every town that you had to go through. It was fun restarting the truck several times while waiting in line to cross the border into Texas.
As soon as we got across the border we headed straight to the place we are staying. We pulled in and that is when the truck would no longer start. The fuel pump completely died. It no longer kicked in when the key was turned on.
1300 miles and 2 weeks traveling, it at least waited until we pulled into our destination of a few days before it gave up the ghost.
I borrowed** a bicycle and made a few 10 mile round trips to the parts store to get the truck going again. We called a church that we had visited before and they sent someone to give us a ride for church Sunday.
Monday morning we borrowed** some gas cans from the same place where the bicycle came from to empty the 20 gallons of gas that was still in the tank. There ended up being another 10 gallons in the tank that we were unable to get out because we did not have enough cans.
My wife is becoming a pretty good mechanic’s helper. Also, since we did not want to risk blowing up the house we were staying in if something went wrong, she did a good job of helping me push the Suburban to a less damaging location if something went BOOM. (BTW, 9 year old boys are not real helpful when trying to push a Suburban.)
**Listen to the upcoming episode of the podcast to hear where the bike and gas cans came from.