My previous post pretty much wrapped up our trip to Yellowstone National Park.
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. 😉
I really don’t want to tell you how much it costs to have one of these replaced. :S