Posts tagged: repair

Goodbye Yellowstone, Hello Repair Shop!

By , June 7, 2010 9:21 pm

My previous post pretty much wrapped up our trip to Yellowstone National Park.

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On Saturday morning, I said goodbye Dasy, Rob and Lara and they headed off to Jackson Hole to catch a flight back to Washington, DC.  Dasy was going to visit family and friends for a couple weeks and Rob and Lara were going back to “normal life”. 

I finished packing up the RV and talked with our host for a bit (by the way, Wagon Wheel RV Park in West Yellowstone gets our seal of approval).  Then I started heading for Bozeman, MT to get some work done on the Star.  Here’s the short version of the issue (trust me, the long version would be several pages)…

Note: Some people I’ve discussed this with aren’t clear on what is meant by “chassis”.  In most cases, the chassis is the frame of a vehicle and all the bits attached to it that make it go or stop.  This normally includes axles, brakes, the steering components and wheels, but in some instances can also include the engine, transmission and any electrical bits associated with any of the above.  For RV’ers, we generally use the following rule of thumb for determining if something is chassis-related:  If the part in question is also found on a delivery truck or a semi (tractor-trailer), it’s probably a chassis part.  Things specific to an RV, like a refrigerator, a roof fan, or a 50 amp electrical transfer box, are not considered part of the chassis.

When we were in Texas, we noticed that the driver’s side front wheel was leaking some fluid.  We have air brakes, so I knew it wasn’t brake fluid.  It turned out to be axle fluid (gear oil).  The axle fluid keeps the wheel bearing lubricated, which is kind of important.  We stopped on the way out of Texas to get that fixed.  It’s my belief that we were completely scammed.  The shop that did the work tried to bill me for the brakes and seals for both front wheels.  It was obvious they’d only done one.  The mechanic refused to talk to me when I complained about it and the owner was “unavailable”.  I managed to get the cashier to bill me for only one wheel, so we chalked it up to “lesson learned” and moved on.  I checked the wheel several times on our way to Yellowstone and noticed that it started leaking again (almost as soon as we left the shop in Texas).  In my opinion, the mechanic did a lousy job and botched the new seal.  The lack of fluid then ate up the wheel bearings.  So, I found a shop just outside of Bozeman that was certified by Freightliner to work on RV chassis’ in order to get the seal done again.

Another problem that popped up on the way from Moab to Yellowstone was the ABS light.  It came on and never went off.  I’ve had ABS computers fry in other vehicles before, so I wasn’t worried about it, but I wanted it fixed.  I don’t think our ABS system has ever kicked in, but when I’m driving a 30,000 pound vehicle, with a 5000 pound Jeep and a motorcycle attached to it, I want the ABS to work if it’s ever needed!

We also have had an ongoing but intermittent problem with the air pressure gauges on the Star.  There are two air tanks that hold the air used to operate the brakes.  They generally stay at about 120 psi.  When we would drive the Star, one or both guages would regularly drop to zero.  This would cause alarms to sound (which I disconnected fairly quickly) and a warning light on the dash.  I  checked the actual pressure on the tanks and I checked the operation of the compressors and all was well.  So, the air system was working, but the sensor system wasn’t.  I have no idea what else relies on those sensors and I don’t what the long term effects would be, so I wanted that fixed as well. 

I ended up going to Rocky Mountain Truck Center in Belgrade, MT (about 7 miles west of Bozeman).  Out of all the shops we’ve been to for just about anything, this is probably the place I’d try to come back to if I needed more chassis work done.  They diagnosed everything fairly quickly, spent most of a day trying to get the replacement computer needed for the air system and dealt with my Good Sam service insurance (although it wasn’t quite enough of a bill to meet my quite high deductible).  The best part is that they pulled the Star out of the shop at night and they let me sleep in it in the back lot.  They even let me run an extension cord out to get power at night!  They also took care of a Freightliner recall and reprogrammed the engine and transmission controllers.  They were quite tolerant of my being around all the time and they treated me and the Star with consideration and respect (including making efforts to avoid getting my home dirty).  I can’t recommend them enough!  It would be nice if they had a better wifi antenna though, as I couldn’t get a reliable connection when in the back lot. 😉

It took about a week for everything to get done…  Most of that was waiting for the new control module for the air system.  Apparently even Freightliner had a hard time figuring out what it was and where they had one…  The parts guy spent most of a day on the phone with them trying to track it down.  I wouldn’t want his job! :S

At the end of it, all was done to satisfaction and I now have a safe and drivable RV that I can trust again.  The Star made it all the way from Belgrade to Glacier NP with no issues at all!

While I was stuck in Belgrade, I didn’t do much other than arrange things on the RV at night.  I did have one outing to Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, which I will write about next time.

I’ll leave you with a picture of the old air system control module (the new one looks exactly the same, just less dirty)…  I’ll be pulling it apart soon. 😉

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I really don’t want to tell you how much it costs to have one of these replaced. :S

Another day of driving… and fixing.

By , May 8, 2010 9:54 pm

Yesterday we left the RV repair shop (which I will blog about another time) and headed for Moab.  We saw lots and lots and lots of Texas.  It just keeps going on and on.  But, eventually we made it to New Mexico!  It was then that I started to notice that we were having a bit of a hard time maintaining speed going up hills.  Since it’s pretty much uphill the entire way to Albuquerque, that was going to be an issue.

We pulled over at a rest stop and unhooked the Jeep.  Dasy would drive the Jeep and follow me to somewhere we could get someone to look at the rig.  I was pretty sure this was a minor issue, but it was one I didn’t know what to do about. 

A bit of calling around led me to a mobile repair guy who said he’d meet me on the West side of Albuquerque at a truck stop.  That was cool, except that I was on the East side and still had a lot of “uphill” to go through.  I did notice that the Dutch Star was getting significantly worse the entire time we’re chugging along uphill.  I call the guy back to tell him I’m probably not going to make it when he explains to me that I’m calling him from the last major incline.  From there, it’s about 17 miles of downhill.  So, we chug through it at about 25 mph (my apologies go out to pretty much everyone on I-40).  We finally got over the hill and headed down and through Albuquerque.  The Star had no problems at all going downhill, so we made it without any further issues. 

We parked the Star and Jim from Anytime Anywhere 24-Hour Truck Service showed up a few minutes later and started checking things out.  He then ran off to go get us a new serpentine belt, water separator and fuel filter while we grabbed some dinner at the Flying J truck stop. 

About an hour later, he shows back up and proceeds to install everything.  The fuel filters where in horrible shape!

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He was pretty sure that would do the trick.  I took a test drive up a three mile long hill on I-40 and had no issues… our Jeep-pulling beastie was back!  We paid everything, gassed up, hooked up the Jeep and headed on. 

We took a somewhat scenic route and decided to just stop and “boondock” for the night.  We’ll see how well we can sleep and then head on in the morning.  We should be in Moab tomorrow night… Woot! 🙂

The best laid plan…

By , December 11, 2009 12:15 am

The plans of the diligent one surely make for advantage…

Proverbs 21:5

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, Gang aft agley

Robert Burns

Yes, there are definite advantages to planning and being prepared. But life happens…

image When you get sick, you go to the doctor. When your RV is “sick”, it goes into the shop. When the RV is in the shop, (especially for an extended period), you are “homeless” and therefore need to do the following:

  • Get alternate accommodation (friend, family, hotel, etc…)
  • Pack your toiletries and clothing (have a toiletry bag on standby and an overnight bag handy)
  • Put away or secure your “valuables”
  • Expect it to cost you

We have had our share of the RV (first the Storm and now the Star) in the shop.

Knowing what to expect helps.

No longer homeless!

By , November 25, 2009 8:35 pm

Our house is back! 🙂

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We had to send the Storm into the shop for a while to get some work done and have been without it for a while now.  We just got it back yesterday and are getting “resettled”.  Here’s the quick rundown on what we had done…

  • New suspension airbags installed
  • Water tank fill hose replaced
  • Water tank breather tube cleaned
  • Exterior propane outlet installed
  • All tank level sensors replaced
  • New engine air conditioner compressor installed

I’ll give a longer post on some of those later.  It would have been about $3000 worth of work if we hadn’t gotten the extended service plan when we bought the RV.  That plan just paid for itself a couple times over. 🙂

Sorry about the bad picture, but I didn’t feel like setting up the good camera and tripod in the rain.

Getting ready…

By , August 11, 2009 6:50 am

Not a whole lot of technical info about the RV for you this time… We picked it up from the shop last night and drove it home during a wicked storm.  The front brake caliper slides had rusted a bit and the guys at the shop pulled them apart, cleaned them up, greased the slides and slapped it all back together.  They also fixed the emergency/parking brake for us.  Good timing, because we’re heading out Wednesday for a short trip down to Tennessee to meet up with a bunch of family.  That’ll be a “shake-down” for the RV and should give us a slightly better feel for it and what needs to be done than the three day haul back from Texas.  We’re still having charging issues, but I’ll check on that today and take enough tools and cables to jump it or charge it if needed.

As far as getting ready for everything else that goes along with this…

We’ve pretty much let all friends and family know about our plans.  The reactions were completely from one end of the spectrum to the other.  I expected that, but Dasy was a little taken aback by some of the responses.  We’re fine now though… everyone is different and has their own opinions.  We take a little bit of good advice away from everyone we talk to about our future travel plans. 😉

LockBox We now have a “get moving” motivator…  Our house is now listed for rental.  We had our real estate agent over to get her assistance in renting out our place.  She was incredibly helpful and gave us a lot of details about how to get decent tenants.  In short, the rent we’re asking (for a quite large house) is a bit on the high end of the spectrum.  Add to that a qualification of two incomes and that helps narrow down the list a bit.  Finally, they’ve basically got to have three months rent available to move in (deposits, real estate company fees, etc).  That may rule out some people who otherwise would consider it, but if it ensures a decent family who will take care of the place gets in, I’m all for it.

There are tons of other little things keeping us busy…  Getting rid of furniture, repairing bit of the house, arranging for someone to refinish the deck, power washing the siding, getting the Jeep ready, getting two motorcycle ready for sale, arranging to have the RV windshield replaced (glass is in, just waiting to get the RV back from the shop), getting rid of my fish, etc.  We have a LOT of stuff, a LOT to do and not a LOT of time to do it.  Today’s task is the patio furniture.  I’ll be spending the morning clearing off my trailer to make room for it all.

We’ll keep you posted as we go and I’ll let you know how the RV is when we next get it rolling.

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