Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Roadrunner Reflections: Back on the Road

The Shorty Story.
They couldn't find the problem.  All systems appear to be working correctly despite two different test drives and an Electrical mechanic taking a look at things.  So we left the repair facility late Tuesday afternoon and spent $519.96.

The Long Story.
After more hanging around the Freightliner repair shop on Tuesday, they had two drivers take the Roadrunner for a test drive.  They tried to duplicate the error or get the 'stop engine light' to come back on (how do they do that when they are driving?) but it drove fine.

No errors, no issues.  Hmm...Must have healed itself?  (I don't think so...we have an issue and it will no doubt pop up again some time some where...)

We figured we didn't want to pay these guys for any more of their time so we hooked up and drove down the road ($520 lighter) to the RV Campground at March ARB in Moreno Valley.

Can't say that we were satisfied with the results.  I thought diagnostic equipment was supposed to pinpoint any issue so they could trouble shoot.  I guess I have unrealistic expectations or too much faith in technology or? --- but what can you do?

Lessons learned (in no particular order):
- Don't panic when the 'Red Stop Engine Light' comes on.
First thing to do is make sure nothing is smoking, burning or handling badly.  Look at your gauges to see quickly what is working and what is going on.  The mechanics will want to know what you are seeing.
- Take time to park in a wide space off the road.
Pull over in a wide space if possible, as soon as possible.  For safety and for the tow truck.  Look for a place within a few hundred yards, but if it takes 1/2 mile or more to get over,  do so.  Flashers are a must.  Find them and use them.  Also, the farther you pull off the better.  The tow truck driver will appreciate it.
- Know the distance from the middle of your front wheel to the front bumper.
Coach-Net asked this.  I did a quick walk off since I did not have a tape measure handy while I was on the phone.  I guessed 5-6 feet.  It was really 7 feet.  Good to know so the right size tow truck shows up.
- Make sure you have towing service.
We use Coach-Net.  At $99 a year hard to beat.  We have used them twice.  First bill was over $800 when we were towed in 2010.  This one was $750.  But is was all covered by our 'AAA for motor-homes' aka Coach-Net.  I think Good Sam has coverage too.  Who do you have? Might want to double check and research this today so you know for sure.  I thought I did, thought I paid the yearly fee in May and did a quick search in my email.  Sure enough there it was.
- Know where your VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) is.
It is written on the driver side wall near the driver's seat.  Also it is on your RV insurance information, RV registration and in your motor home technical books.  Coach-Net, the towing service and the Freightliner facility service writer all wanted it.
- Determine if the Motorhome really needs to be tied into the tow truck braking system while being towed.  The tow driver disengaged the drive shaft and hooked up his own air hose into the braking system.
             Is that really necessary for a 40 mile tow?  Help me out here - have you ever heard of that?
He even said most drivers don't do this.
- Be prepared for some nickel and dime stuff.
When the tow driver took off his air hose the adapter he had broke on our air line.  He was not qualified to replace it nor did he have the part.  The Freightliner mechanics charged us $79 to reconnect the driveshaft and $79 to replace the plug for the air line (a $1.61 item)
- Don't be surprised if you feel pretty helpless.  
We felt like we eventually got seen, but we were not a priority.  Lots and lots of tracker trailers that came in after we did got seen first.  When we did get seen (at $130/hr), not sure we got the best service.  No matter who we talked to, we still could not find THE PERSON who was really taking time to figure it out or offer any real suggestions.  We never really felt like we had an advocate that wanted to solve this thing.
- Talk to the repair facility personally, before getting towed there and see if they really work on RVs or just say they do.
We did eliminate one facility after we talked to them, but when Coach-Net suggested these folks and indicated they would "see us within two hours" --that sounded great on a Friday afternoon.  We should have called them ourselves.
- Not all all Freightliner 'Oasis Network' facilities are the same. 
Freightliner advertises 'Oasis Network' as a place that will work on RVs. But unlike the one we stayed at in Dallas in 2010, this facility had no hookups, no water etc --- we were just parked out there in the middle of all of the tracker trailers.  Since we have a residential refrigerator working off two batteries we drove 60 miles twice daily to run the generator to keep the batteries charged.
Also, it was a large facility with 40 bays but I never saw a motor home in the shop.  And only one other one on the lot.  I'm not sure ours ever made it into a service bay - the night shift Electrical Guy checked it out but we weren't there.  I assume he brought it into a service bay and hooked up more diagnostic equipment, but I don't know.  
- Recognize the fact that most Freightliner mechanics usually hate working on RVs.  Its a fact, unless the Freightliner facility is co-located or has some strong association with an RV dealer, chances are they will handle your unit as a strange confusing irritation.
- Be hopeful but realistic.
The advertised '2 Hour Assessment and Estimate' did not really happen.  They plugged the motor home  into the diagnostic laptop, took some readings and sent them to a printer somewhere, but we never got an estimate of a part or charge estimate.  We were told it would be $79 for the driveshaft.  But since they had no idea what the problem was, when the final invoice said, "Initial estimate of $260... and Initial estimate of $240" on the invoice,  it didn't jive with what happened initially.
There must be a Freightliner Customer Service line or place to contact? Anyone know of one?
- Best time to break down is not on a Friday.  We need to plan them better because not much gets done on the weekend and the first half of Monday everyone is overwhelmed by all the new customers and rigs that show up first thing that we move down on the priority.
- Break down near great friends who will let you stay with them.
That obviously was the best part of the whole experience.  Staying with Bob and Sue could not have been better.
- Can't let this ruin your day.
As long as there are no life and death situations going on, no physical or medical safety issues -- embrace it and learn what you can.  We could be consumed by 'what if this?' and 'what if that?' The motor home appears safe, although this is not resolved yet, not much we can do.  Really -- we could take it into another Freightliner dealer and pay the more big bucks and maybe get the same result.  Who wants to do that?
- Try to get into the right frame of mind.
Find some humor? Think clearly-- but try to be pleasant even though you may be fearful.  Its normal.
No matter what the deal is, the Golden Rule still is relevant.  Treat other people like you want to be treated.  It is not there fault at the repair facility
- Make a plan, but be vigilant.
So we are thinking we will take it back to Red Bay (Alabama) at some point and have the Chris at Bay Diesel take a look at it when we get there.
- Might want to keep a log.
Don't know why we didn't think of this back at Year ! before we started on our Roadrunner Adventure.  Much easier to keep up with what happened when it occurs versus trying to remember when and what and why's down the road.  I have gotten a red 'Stop Engine' light 3 or 4 times maybe over the last few months but can't be definitive so it was not much help to the mechanics.

Another thing some have done after break downs and incidents is to re-evaluate whether or not this is something they want to put up with.  Our situation is fairly minor.  To us it is an inconvenience, but as long as big trouble goes this is not bad.  We can handle the stress? (not really stress but for some it might be) and for us this is all part of the adventure of living on the road.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!  Until next time...


  1. Love the lessons learned post. Everybody can benefit from this one.

  2. Well told story! And certainly we can all learn something from your experience. We wish you smooth journeys going forward.

  3. Definitely an informative post! Thanks! sorry your issue did not get resolved . . . that's one of the most annoying things -- "cannot duplicate concern"!

  4. Oh man. Too much technology. I found the best easy fix for the "check engine" light was a short piece of black tape. Solved that problem. If the oil level is fine, and there's no issues with a component that might have worn out that would drastically damage the engine? Then it's all just "smoke and mirrors".
    I eventually figured out that whenever the RV sat for long periods, the O2 sensor would act up. Hence the panicky check engine nonsense.
    You'll figure it out as you go along.

  5. oh goodness. . .just hate that you had a bad experience. . .and that you had to pay that many $$ for no satisfaction. . .we just HATE needing service of any kind. . .the only techs that seem to give a rats rear end have been the mobile techs. . .I think it's because they are SELF EMPLOYED. . .go figure. . . and I'm sure engine problems would be out of their scope!

    Wishing you all the best. . .

  6. I'd tell the whole story to Freightliner themselves... Especially how you were put off and no one took responsibility to tell you what was going on....

  7. I second Rod's comment ... call and talk to someone in Gaffney ... they specifically told us that the Oasis Centers are designed/vetted to service RVs ... if that wasn't your experience, they need to know about it.

  8. We keep a diary of where ever we are...complete with costs, plus and minuses, location, and what is convenient in the way of fuel, groceries, laundry and RV repair.....Started that 10 years ago, and it sure has come in handy along the way...Make it a plan!

  9. Luckily, we have never had to be towed. We have had a couple engine alarms, but if basic engine essentials still looked okay, we kept driving until we got to a service location. There is something inherently wrong with charging that much money and actually not accomplishing anything.

  10. Sorry you didn't find the problem, but you made some good points. Will try to remember your lessons learned.

  11. Your tow truck driver did a good and correct job. If not disconnecting the drive shaft, the transmission could be seriously damaged in a very short distance as there would be no trans fluid circulating to lube the parts, the fluid is circulated by a pump when the engine is running. When the DS is out, the transmission is not being driven (with no fluid circulation) by the wheels.

    Air brakes come on when air is removed and springs engage the brake shoes. It is a safety design of air brakes. Air pressure is needed to overcome spring pressure to release the brakes. Maybe there would be enough air pressure in the MH tanks to release the brakes for a short distance, but there would be a serious chance that the air pressure could drop, the brakes could engage and the tow truck driver would not notice it and cause the back brakes to be burned out.

    Hope this helps, it sounds to me the tow truck driver was an well experienced operator, unlike the Freightliner shop.

    1. Thanks for the reply! I appreciate the explanation. Makes good sense and I am glad we got him. Interestingly enough, we had a young enthusiastic tow truck driver who loves his job and it showed. Quite the professional.

  12. Ouch. I hope someone is able ro locate and correct the root cause.