Equipment Maintenance

Maintenance 20221020

The next task is to get going on equipment maintenance, starting with the tires. RV tires can blow out, and among the main reasons is age. You see, tires are a lot more complicated than many people realize, and one complication is that they contain chemicals that keep the rubber flexible and strong. But these chemicals can break down and disappear over time, so that a tire which looks good and has plenty of tread can be on the verge of a blow out, and that can be a very bad day indeed. It can do thousands of dollars worth of damage to your RV, leave you stranded on the side of the road, and worst case cause you to lose control resulting in loss of the RV, truck, or even your life. So it is nothing to be casual about. The tires on our RV were manufactured in 2015 (this is stamped on the side of the tire by Federal regulation), so new tires were called for. I decided to go with Discount Tire because they are nationwide and have an excellent warranty. So I bought 5 tires (you need to replace the spare as well, since it is also aging out), and made an appointment to install them.

Then when we went to hook up the RV to the truck, it would not start. So I had to call roadside assistance (never go without this essential insurance), and it turned out we had probably done it to ourselves. We had disconnected the negative battery cable since the truck was just sitting there for a few months, and we didn’t want it to run down. Vehicles these days are drawing on the battery all the time, what is called a parasitic load, to run various devices, and can easily drain a battery over a few months. Then when I reconnected the negative, I didn’t tighten the nut sufficiently. The driver from roadside assistance was very helpful though, diagnosed the problem immediately, and got it started. But he said it looked like the batteries were in bad shape, so when we got it running I immediately drove it to the Freightliner Dealer and asked them to check it. There I discovered that we had not quite done it right. We disconnected the negative cable, but because we have multiple batteries in the truck we would have needed to disconnect all of the negative cables, or else there would still be a drain. He mentioned that most people install a battery shutoff switch to make it easy, so I asked him to check out the whole charging system and install such a switch. When this is done I will need to make another appointment at Discount Tire. And then we have an appointment with General RV in November to do a number of RV Maintenance and Repair tasks before we can hit the road.

Tires 20221114

Well, more fun ensued. We got the RV to Discount Tire on November 1 for the installation. We made the appointment for 8am, when they opened, but we went down there closer to 7:20. I wanted to get the RV into the position they asked before the parking lot filled up. I might have had room even with the cars, but I don’t like taking chances. The whole installation process took about 1.5 hours, but we ran into another road bump: I bought 5 identical tires, but the spare was undersized and on a smaller rim, which I did not want. So we ended up taking the spare tire with us, and ordering a proper rim on the internet. But we had new tires on the RV, so I felt good. (This is what they call foreshadowing.) We took it back to the storage lot, and took the truck home so I could do a little maintenance, such as touching up the paint in a few spots. Cheryl told me she had made an appointment for 11am on November 11, which would be the 104th anniversary of the Armistice. But when we got to the storage lot to pick up the RV, we discovered one of the tires was flat. You really don’t want to see that with a brand new tire. We had only had the tire 10 days at this point. So we called Roadside Assistance again, and they actually had someone there in about an hour. Cheryl sent e-mails to the service person at General RV explaining the situation, and that we would be late, but we would get there when the tire was fixed. The company that Roadside Assistance sent us was a local truck tire service, which I was glad to learn about. It makes sense that there would be such a service, but I never thought about it before.

The service person diagnosed the problem instantly when I said we had just had the tires a few days, and said it was probably the valve stem. He removed the tire, then sprayed a solution of soap and water on the valve stem, and you could see the bubbles. That proved the point. So he took the tire off of the rim, replaced the valve stem, and remounted the tire. Then he said that if one was bad, what were to odds on the others? Again, spraying the soap-and-water showed a second bad valve stem, not as bad as the first, but it would have been a slow leak. At this point we unanimously agreed to replace all of the valve stems. A valuable lesson learned. The service charged us $15 per valve stem, and I have no idea if that is the standard price, or if it is marked up, nor do I care. The point is that if the salesperson at Discount Tire had said to me, when I bought the tires in the first place, “Hey, you have all brand new tires here, we recommend you get new valve stems in addition, only $15 each,” I would have gladly said “Make it so my good man.” Instead I spent over $300 for a service call to the storage yard. I only wanted peace of mind in the first place, and an extra $60 on my tire bill would not have bothered me in the least. I later went back to Discount Tire, and they put in a refund claim to cover my costs for the roadside assistance, and when I supplied the recipts it was approved.

And while all of this was going on Cheryl heard back from General RV that she had the date of our appointment wrong anyway. It was not November 11, but November 17. And there are lessons to be learned here. I never really knew much about the importance of valve stems, but I think from now on I will insist on new valve stems whenever I get new tires. I’d rather spend a few bucks up front than be dealing with Roadside Assistance. And the other lesson learned is the importance of not putting things off until the last minute. Our trip does not start until December 15, so we have a month yet, and can deal with these issues without disrupting the whole trip. In fact, next year we plan to move up our RV maintenance trip to General RV by a month or two.

RV Maintenance 20221205

We took our RV in to General RV on November 17, and gave them a list of things we wanted the to work on. Our service advisor, Chad, warned us that they were very busy, and might not be able to get through the whole list, so we triaged the list and told him which ones were priorities. We also told him we needed to get it back by December 13 to make our departure. Happily, he called us on December 5 to say it was ready, so we went down to pick it up. We brought the spare tire with us so that they could install it since I thought it was too heavy for us to manage. The RV looked good, and we were looking forward to making our departure on time. I towed the RV back to the storage lot and Cheryl followed behind me in her car. I noticed the truck was running a bit rough, and Cheryl said I was emitting white smoke from the exhaust. Then at the storage lot we thought the front jacks were not working, and if we couldn’t use them getting the RV off of the truck would be a problem. But as Cheryl was going to look for help I started hitting buttons and suddenly it came on and was working. So disconnected and I drove the truck back to the house so I could plug it in. I learned from the roadside assistance guy who came for the truck in October that diesel trucks should be plugged in if left parked in cold weather, and he showed me where the plug is. I didn’t know about that, but I could park it in my driveway and plug it in through the garage, so that was the plan. But we were worried now about the truck, so on December 7 we took it in to Westside Freightliner. They were very busy, and told us they could probably not look at it until December 13. They did in fact look at it, and diagnosed that we needed a new injector, so another $2,000 in repair bills. I thought RV travel was supposed to inexpensive! But then they said that most likely the truck would not be done until December 16, which is one day past our scheduled departure, so once again I have to make some calls to reschedule our first few reservations. This should mostly mean less time in Memphis, but since there were only a few things I wanted to do there it probably isn’t a big deal.

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