Christmas Eve Flight Interrupted

We had plans on flying the RV on its first big cross country to go from home, Poplar Grove Il to Alliance NE to see the grand daughter celebrate Christmas. The plans were delayed due to low ceilings at home with light snow showers. Waiting patiently all day to see some improvement we ended up in the late afternoon to make the call we are good to go. We finished loading up the baggage, already had fuel done and jumped in. We would have to fly low for about 100 miles to avoid the ceilings but was doable staying VFR and in the daylight. So off we went with an uneventful take off except we had a faint smell of burning tire right after that wheels left the ground. Now it was really windy here at home and a significant crosswind so I initially choked it up to me maybe dragging a tire as we lifted off. As we climbed up and leveled off at 1500′ my Dynon system announced “Electrical Current” and drew my eyes to the EMS section of the screen. Alternator AMP’s were at 1.5 and the main battery was draining slowly. OK I thought the alternator went off line due to all the stuff we had on like seat heaters. So I reduced the load and rest the ALT field switch. The AMPO’s went up for a few seconds and then trickled down to the 1.5 AMP area. After doing this a couple of times I decided to return home and do some investigating. We landed and put the RV. back in the hangar. Tricia decided that she would do a Christmas dinner for just us and we would make for Nebraska tomorrow either in the RV or on United. So I ripped into the cowl to se what was up, hoping for an easy fix. After removing the upper and lower cowl I expected to see a broken belt but it was in great shape and no damage. As I squeezed on the belt to see how tight it was I noticed that the alternator actually moved a little. What I found was the pivot bolt that holds the lower part of the alternator on had loosened up about a 1/16″. The tensioning bolt that I tightened and safety wired was still tight and secure. I’m thinking vibration and caused what I thought was a tight connection to loosen enough for the alternator to move and shorten the distance between the two pulls just enough for the belt to start to slip. That was the initial burning tire smell and the cause of the low AMP’s. So I removed the safety wire and tightened the pivot belt so I could adjust the proper tension. Then I torqued both bolts and safety wired the tensioning bolt. I pulled the RV out of the hangar and did an engine run up while loading up the electrical systems to put a good draw on the alternator. Everything worked great and no electrical issues were noted. So I put the cowl back on and secured everything for the night. We got up early Christmas morning and jumped in the RV and made our way to Nebraska. What would normally take 12-13 hours to drive we did in 5.1 hours with a stop in Iowa for gas and a restroom break. The return trip with tailwinds and the same stop for fuel took us 3.6 hours. This thing is a magic carpet allowing you to make great time on trips.

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