Driving Home – Part 2 – Day 3

After a great evening and relaxing diner, we slept very well.

The next day was looking to be a continuation of our good fortune.  In the pre-dawn light it looked light we were going to have another easy day…

But soon fate took a turn for the worse.

We hopped in the cab of the Unimog, turned the key, and were surprised by a new sound.



I turned the key again and got the same sound.



We sat there in the cab of the truck and I started to think…

The starter motor sprag was not engaging to turn the motor over.  The starter motor was working, but not engaging.

So there we are, 20 miles from the nearest town, and the truck won’t start…

We’re the only ones here and we haven’t seen anyone at all.

Time to think…

I remember I had this problem before on my old 1986 Isuzu Trooper II.

The solenoid was stuck, and it wouldn’t activate the plunger which sent the the pinion drive into contact with the motor.  The Starter motor would just spin freely.

So assuming we can get a new starter motor, here’s the next problem…

Can you find the starter motor in the engine compartment?


It’s all the way back there, behind the exhaust manifold, and above the front axle.  You couldn’t locate it in a more difficult location to work on it.

So there we were…

Plenty of time to think about this, because we’re not going anywhere.

You can’t tow a six ton Unimog.  It has air brakes, and without getting the motor started, you can’t get the air pressure up to disengage the air brakes.

The only solution is to get the motor started…

So back to my experience with the Isuzu Trooper II.  I learned that if you tap the starter motor, you can sometimes get the solenoid to work.

So that’s what I did.  For about two hours I tried tapping the starter motor from various angles and with various degrees of force and trying the ignition key…

And then, just once, the starter motor engaged the pinion drive, and the motor started!!!

Oh thank you Unimog Gods!  What a blessed sound!  I sat there in the cab, and very carefully made sure the motor warmed up and did not stall.

I sat there and thanked the Universe for this blessing.  The truck was running, and that’s all that mattered.

I closed the hood, and got back in the cab, and very carefully engaged the transmission and got the Mog rolling.

I had a new mantra.  “Do not stall the truck.” “Do not stall the truck.””Do not stall the truck.”

We got on the highway and continued our drive West.  Only 950 miles to Home.

We crossed the White Sands National Monument area.

And as I drove I realized… we can’t stall or turn the motor off till we get Home to Los Angeles because I may not be able to get it started again.

Just keep driving and keep the truck running.

We stopped in Alamagordo NM, and filled up on Diesel.  We were going to have to keep the motor idling all night when we stopped to sleep.  I did not want to run out of fuel.

The sun began to set in front of us.

We drove till about 10:30pm.

In Tucson AZ, we stopped at a truck stop, found a parking space in the back, left the engine running, locked the cab, and went to sleep in the camper on the back of the MOG.

It had been a stressful and exhausting day.  But we were grateful to have been able to keep going.  470 miles in a Unimog that has an average speed of 40 MPH.

That’s got to be some kind of record…

Stats for the day:  (Yes, the clock is still on Pacific time.)


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