I was hysterical about the extensive repairs suggested by the Dodge dealer, this vehicle was a rolling wreck! How could I be so naive? 80 year olds look so sincere. What was a rear differential, a front engine crank seal, a downsteam oxygen sensor, a throttle body? Kind words could not calm me but like doctors, mechanics aren’t always right. I called around town—no, they couldn’t possibly fit my beast on their service bay. In pity, Ian’s recommended Automotive Technician Group (ATG) in Goleta. I left it there for a week or so. The bill was $2,061. The day I picked up it was a lot less than that but the water pump sprung a leak in their lot as it was waiting for me come get it.  Repairs: oil change and filters, throttle body cleaned, new oxygen sensors, power steering flush, new spark plug wires, cooling system flush to remove the mucking, and then, a new water pump, thermostat and because everything was off, a new timing chain (preventative due to its 100,000 miles. That decision took a plethora of phone calls. I continued researching and wearying my friends to explain auto mechanics to me. My friend Gary e-mailed me info. . . A mobile RV mechanic in the North County laughed in awe when I told him how much I was paying in Santa Barbara.  ATG couldn’t do anything about the steering… this is the way these big vans handle, it’s fine you’ll just have to get used to it…they wrote it down, customer complains about loose steering and excess cabin noise.

The invoices pile up

The "perfect" RV

I could still make it part way across the US, I was using a cane now and taking eye drops and starting to eat. I began to check the cabin, the rear air conditioner started up for about 2 min, sputtered a bit then spooned off into a pathetic whirling sound and stopped pumping air forever. It was summer and I’d need the cabin cool for the dogs. The seller had guaranteed that everything, especially the air conditioner worked like a charm. A bad, evil charm. I fired up the propane and to my delight the furnace heaved out some toasty air, no luck however for hot water. So off to Ventura RV Service 40 min down the road I went, it was September 03, 2010 – the van was still a white-knuckle drive. Left it there for three weeks. The shop replaced the water heater and seals for $743. They made a nice note about the air conditioner – they didn’t handle those window types and yes the steering wheel was sloppy. They dropped it off next door to Associated Tire. Bless them!!! They installed wheel spacers and of course, had to redo the alignment. I’d been looking for wheel spacers everywhere – I was unable locate a single shop in Santa Barbara who could do this. Cost $211.

I adore wheel spacers!!! For the first time I could actually stay in the lane –  with the new shocks and tires my safely was improving. Can’t recommend Ventura RV, however, when I picked it up they told me I should sell, my RV was old and worn (not to mention way too little to fit it with the norm. ) My request for cleaning and inspection of the water system – ignored.

September 15, 2010–north to Serna’s Central Truck and RV Service – Mom found this place. I wasn’t easy to live with at this point, still broken-hearted and now feeling trapped by this troublesome beast…. sure didn’t get the leisure part. I was crying on a lot of shoulders – or rather shrieking at anybody who would listen. Frans drove the LT the 2 plus hours to Serna’s, I followed in my Ford and bought him a nice breakfast at yummy Ellen’s Pancake House in Bulteon. Tough as he is, he too thought it was dangerous to drive. We argued, he said it wasn’t loose steering but sway. Serna’s kept it a couple of weeks and installed a rear sway bar, $954, including mounting brackets, labor and shipping. The cabin AC was kaput – the compressor worked but the unit had no freon. They wrote a nice comment on the wind noise and had nothing at all to say about the awning I wanted.

Took it to Bruce’s, he couldn’t do anything about the air-conditioner, the cabin noise or the loose steering . . . this is the way these big vans handle, it’s fine you’ll just have to get used to it… Cost $0

Nice piece of ribbion

A little color to lift my spirits

Researched air conditioners and bought a Frigidaire from Amazon. Frans ripped out the old one, it sat on the table in the back patio for eons – it weighed a ton and being perched in the top rear of the RV it did nothing for the handling problem, the new one was significantly lighter. He installed it with a little wood framing strip for the bottom. I fussed over that little strip, it was rough and splintery…finally I pasted a piece of ribbon to the underside so when I look up from the bed I see a nice decoration.

September 28, 2010 Took it to Big Brand Tire for suggestions on the loose steering…  they were sure  it was the alignment—it wasn’t …  I’d hoped for a steering dampener, I’d read about his device and was imagining how it would lock onto my slippery steering wheel and give it  clout. They dropped the front tires to 50 psi and said it was good to go. It helped but still not enough. $0.  (FYI the RV is rated for 80 psi in the back and 65 in the front.)

Fall was turning serious, lowering the sun and bringing early darkness.  The windshield was covered with hundreds of circular scratches each one reflecting gigantic starburst glare in 3D, virtually blinding me. Took it to Tri County Auto Glass for a new windshield, $249. It took three tries as the first 2 windshields installed were defective. I love my new windshield! October 1, 2010

October 21, 2010:  Figueroa Brake & Alignment. Wow!!! Had both front end – upper and lower ball joints replaced and a new steering stabilizer shock installed. $1,305. My LT can now be driven with one hand, one finger actually but the steering is still way too loose. The mechanic explained that it was a messy job requiring specific training which most shops lack. He was one of only two shops in Santa Barbara that could handle such a job. I’d called the day after I dropped it off to check on progress, NO, I was told, we don’t have your van, you never came here and we don’t know who you are. My head went crazy, I was sure I’d been scammed. Sure all I did was move the LT from one shop to another but to have it swiped was my breaking point! I drove around frantically, not seeing the road at all, the shops blurring into one trying to remember where I had put it. Finally quite by chance, I was driving erratically; I found it, exactly as I’d left it. Apparently the Yellow Page ad for Superior Brake and Tire had never been updated and Superior who I had called was not about to tell me of their competitor. Figueroa had broken away to become independent. Of course, it had to be aligned for the third time.

I’m going to save the rest of the repairs for Part Four: It’s Too Late To Give Up Now