Monday, March 6, 2017

Check the Meds...

Our experience last week at Atlantic Cummins caused me to think about how important it is to be on top of things and to ask a lot of questions when you take your RV in for service.

It reminded me of when my mother was ailing back in the 1990s and ended up in the ICU.  We were at the hospital and to my amazement, the nurses were asking me about her meds.  What?  Me?  Why are you asking me?  Didn't you read the chart?  You should know this, not me.....
One lesson I learned from that experience was 'don't always rely on only the experts'.  Do your own homework if you can.  Hear what they are saying but have a healthy scepticism.

Same with taking your RV in to get it repaired.  There is a balance between keeping up on things and getting in the way and being a pest.

Seems as if every time we take our car or the Roadrunner in it is at least a $1000 bill.  But not this time.  After four days at the service center, we drove away with a 'NC' - no charge.  The rest of the story follows.

We had a leak from a cylinder that is not part of the engine.  It looked like a hydraulic something. I crawled under the Roadrunner and took these pictures.
 It didn't look like previous oil drips we've had.  But we didn't know what it was and we are more inclined to fix something before it gets too bad that wait for it to totally break when we are out in the middle of nowhere.

So we made an appointment with the closest Cummins shop and drove it over to Chesapeake VA about 15 miles away.
Our service rep was ready for us and said they'd get right on it.  Meanwhile we decided to check out the little diner next door for breakfast.
The Razorback Grill was fine -- a little on the pricey side but its the only one nearby and probably doesn't get volumes of business.

About 10 AM the service rep said they found some hydraulic hoses that needed to be replaced and they had to fabricate them so it would be a while.

We drove over to Greenbriar Shopping Center to hang out and use the internet at Panera Bread.  A little bit of dé ja vu.  Eight or nine years ago our daughter had a condo nearby and lived in the area, so we visited Panera often.

About 3:00 PM we went back over to the Cummins shop to see how they were doing and they said they'd have to keep it overnight.  That was a bit inconvenient - but workable.  We plugged in the Roadrunner, got some things and went back over to Kelly and Jon's to spend the night.

When we returned the next morning and discovered the mechanic also stated we needed to replace a leaking hydraulic fan pump.  What?  $3100 is what!  And they waited too long in the afternoon to get same day delivery for the part.

We came back the next day and the service manager said he just learned about the leak we were referencing.  We came in with the photos and I thought they were basing their repairs on the same thing I knew was leaking.   They were not!

At that point, the service manager indicated he was going to steam clean the whole are himself and find out what was going on.

Meanwhile, I called the Tiffin Service help desk and talked with the hydraulic expert.  He concluded the leaking item in the photo was a hydraulic "Equalizer Balancer".  The cylinder ensures the main slide on the Passenger Side moves in and out steadily with both edges at the same time.

When I talked about it with the Cummins service manager he indicated that the Cummins shop does not work on RV related items such as this.  Fair enough.  But at the same time I wanted to be sure that there was clear evidence problems with hoses and the hydraulic pump.

He pulled the Roadrunner into the bay and cleaned it up in the area.  He found no evidence of leaks on the hoses or the pump.  So we didn't need a pump afterall.

I was/we were not pleased.  But I maintained a level of communication without condemning him or 'yelling at him'.  I calmly expressed my disappointment and how three days after we brought it in for a scheduled appointment, we find out my initial survey of the situation was the only problem-- the leak in the equalizer balancer (though I didn't know the name of it at the time).

While the Roadrunner was sitting there the previous day, I called Cummins in Richmond to see if they could take a look at our engine starter problem.  We are not sure it is a starter per se, only that it appears to be sluggish at times when we start it.

He asked since we had the coach in the shop at Atlantic Cummins, 'why don't you get it fixed there?'.  I told him we did not have much confidence in their work at this point.  The Service Manager in Richmond called around and found another Cummins dealer on I-95 for us in case we wanted to use get it checked out after we leave Virginia Beach next month.  He really went out of his way.

Isn't this is the type of effort and help one hopes for when it comes to getting work done on the RV?

So that was nice of him and we'll schedule a visit to Richmond for another time.

Back to our repair shop saga...

The Service Manager called back from Atlantic Cummins and said he cleaned the engine area thoroughly and could not find any leaks in the hydraulic pump or the associated hoses.  He was apologetic and said - everything looks good.  No need for new hoses or a new pump.

Every time I talked with him he was always courteous, helpful and quite a bit embarrassed at how this was turning out.  He said, "I have talked with my bosses and make this right."  --- whatever that meant.

We were cleared to pick up the Roadrunner on Friday morning.  We drove over and wondered how much the diagnostic/labor hours expended bill was going to be?

To our complete surprise -- they said No Charge!  It was a mess shortly after the whole episode started so good for them.  We should not have been charged!  We were very thankful and glad not to have to pay $3100!

So here are some lessons learned:

- Take pictures if you can and share them with the tech when you first get to your appointment

- Stay on top of the situation.  I asked for an update every couple of hours and called after not hearing from them after about 3 hours.  Is anything happening out there?

- Try to track down the problem on your own and see what you can find out.  I call Tiffin Service Help Desk, Cummins in Richmond and a local RV place.

(The RV place said we could get an appointment in about eight weeks.  This is a busy time of year.  When I called Tiffin, I asked if we were at risk if we waited on replacing the equalizer balancer.  He said No -- but to keep an eye on it.  We will do that and get it fixed at Red Bay in late April.)

- Maintain lines of communication, even if you are upset.  I think that proved very helpful in the end.  They could have charged us for time they looked at the coach that was probably 2-3 hours.  At $130/hr -- that is probably over $400 we did not have to spend.

- I should have called and done my homework earlier.  The people at the factory know the RV better than the mechanics at the repair shop.  Theoretically -- I could have found out that the Equalizer Balancer was the issue and that I could wait and get it fixed at Red Bay.  I could have avoided the whole episode.

- Take more responsibility (as in trying to learn what meds my mother has or has not taken the last 24 hours

Moving forward,
I will continue to be civil with those that are trying to fix or repair our RV.

We will continue to try to troubleshoot and figure this stuff out on our own.  Primarily this will help us help them - the professionals.

Expect the best, but have a 'healthy sense of scepticism.  Key word is healthy.  Most people try to do a good job every day.  The Atlantic Cummins Service Manager was one such individual.

I will hope of the best, but try to anticipate what could go sideways.

I will continue to view this and other episodes in light of the fact that we are, truly, Living the Dream.  This IS part of the adventure.  This is not life and death, this is part of the journey.
We will be thankful. Every day.

That's all for now from the Roadrunner Chronicles.  Thanks for joining us!


  1. Glad to hear this worked out well for you. Sometimes you get to win one. :c)

  2. Glad it all worked out for you but like you said do your homework. Also treating the people doing the work with respect and dignity goes farther then sarcasm.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

  3. That's one heck of a difference between nothing, and that other amount. Scary. Good thing you were able to stay somewhere without incurring any expense. Added bonus. Best to know every square inch of your "house". Happy Motoring.

  4. Not unlike healthcare lately..We must be proactive when involved in anything we aren't satisfied with..Glad you stayed with it and one the battle!

  5. Glad everything got worked out in the end. Good that you had pics before they started work on your rv and that you talked with Tiffin. You are so right about staying on top of things regarding repair of your home. Kudos for you.

  6. Excellent summary Randy! Have been learning much in how our bus operates, or doesn't. There is some excellent support for our bus, but learning to diagnose the problem certainly helps expedite the process, and it certainly helps financially. Hope the new changes at Tiffin for repairs don't effect you guys too much.

    1. thanks Tim - The changes at Tiffin should have no impact on us. Over the years, we have rarely had any work done that required more that a short stay in the express bay. the exceptions to that were removing and replacing the PS slideout floor and repairing the wet bays. They other times we have needed work done at the Service Center, we have used the Express Bay. But the majority of work we get done at Red Bay we schedule it with some of the other shops around town that are owned by former employees. They know what they do excellent work.

  7. Well said and great advice, Randy. So glad that it turned out well for you.