Archive for May, 2016


My New Mantra.

My New Mantra.

Much to my amazement the LT is on its 3rd set of new tires in less than 3 months. Yes, really!

My favs were the Michelin M/S2’s. . . loved the ride, the smoother feel, nice gripping with the new shocks, felt great. But alas a (now) suspect shop in Goleta explained how the lovely M/S2’s were causing the miserable road wander.  The owner insisted the M/S2’s could not carry the load…  that isn’t an adequate analysis: yet at the time, not having delved into the knowledge of all things tire, I believed this sincere highly touted mechanic so I switched to Michelin XPS Ribs as per recommendation from Henderson’s Line Up. The Ribs are built to last with a hard riding fit for a plumbing truck. Great tire if you have nerves of steel and no sensitive parts.  The ride turned into a Disneyland bump, crash and burn sorta thing with a nasty vibration all the way through your spine. I did not want to drive at all to the point that I preferred to let the RV sit and gather road dust.  Sleepless days and nights later and a far more complete understanding of tires, brakes and suspensions, I have BF Goodrich Commercial AT2 All Seasons and so far other than driving home I’ve not tested the ride.

The drive home from Tire Pros, felt better than with the Ribs but still very jarring;  however the tires were overinflated for the weight of my RV, hoping it will settle and that all will be good at last.

Wheel

 

I did not have a choice about the BF Goodrich Commercial TA2 All Seasons. This is the tire that Michelin recommends and the only tire that Tire Pros would allow as a switch.

 

Ergo, here’s a somewhat abbreviated recap of my story with Tire Pros.
I was fooled by Tire Pros from the beginning:  When I learned that the XPS Ribs should ‘solve’ the RV wandering and eager to be on the road, I sought a local Michelin dealer and happened on Tire Pros.  I called and to my delight, yes they had the Ribs in stock in the right size and they were on sale!  Get there early they said and they’d put them right on. I arrived at 8am to find, that no they didn’t have the tires on hand, and no there was no sale.

YES, I should have run like hell! But what they heck, they said they could order them and have them in later that day so I said ok.  They were installed and what’d ya know they did not solve the handling problem although it was improved. It was after this that the adventure of the steering stabilizer began, and then the brake forte into unknown territory.  The more things got solved the more I hated the Ribs. I longed for the sweet MP’2’s but animosity was roaring over at Tire Pros, I actually felt afraid of going into that shop. At first they had seemed so nice, esp the manager but with repeated visits and nothing made right their attitude was soundly nasty. I focused on the priority of repairing the brakes hoping somehow the Ribs would grow on me.

They did not and I began imagining how it would feel to throw away $1300 and buy new tires. Instead with encouragement from my new brake and motor shop I returned  timidly to Tire Pros to see if they would make things right. It was a disaster. I never expected a service shop to exhibit veiled aggression and to be so uncooperative. It was not until I pulled the legal card that I received action. Having learned at my new shop what a standard brake inspection requires and I mentioned this to Tire Pros…  hey I want to see the brake inspection sheet you did on my van.  That woke them up and I was offered a full refund upon approval of the owner. I attempted a discussion about the tires but was met with stupid stares and further hostility so I walked out.

A few days later the owner called me, he was not happy at my report. He will send a full refund for the brakes and has had a “talk” with his store manager. …  corners being cut, not doing the right things….  I called him back about my dilemma with the Ribs and his staff’s hostility and that’s how the tire swap occurred; he called Michelin made arrangements…  of course all this took many days and then finally it was over the 30 day limit so swapping to an approved Michelin tire was the only thing he would offer. As he told me, otherwise he’d be out the price of the tires. Well?  OK nevermind. Lame excuse to dump that responsibility on the customer.

The tire swap went without issue other than the owner keeping me waiting for several more days until he finally decided I could go ahead with the swap…  another control issue. I was not offered a price adjustment so had to contact the owner again.  He said I’d be given a $400 adjustment so, yep, had to go back again.  Once I got to the shop I was given a $370 adjustment with the excuse that I was being charged $15 a tire for labor.  Their number didn’t add up as I was also told that the adjustment was actually $450…  so $450 minus $60 is $390 and close to what I was promised. I found this disgustingly petty. In no way will I do business with Tire Pros in the future and I recommend others avoid this shop. Am waiting anxiously for their check for the brakes…  grateful that it wasn’t a worse outcome. My condolences to the owner, I’m glad he called and has made sincere efforts to set things right; however isn’t it likely that the owner sets the policy.

 

So now I have BF Goodrich Commercial All Seasons 2.  Reviews are mixed. I hope they will do. I hope I will be pleased. I wrote to BF Goodrich for a tire loading (psi) chart as I could not find one on their website. I am wondering about the MS2’s from Costco…  were these E load range?  Yes, still lusting for those tires.

Perhaps latter I will post some interesting things about tires, load and motorhomes.

Meanwhile here’s some pictures of my dogs around the lovely town of Santa Barbara.

The pups at City College

The pups at City College

Let's Go For A Walk

Let’s Go For A Walk

Flying Curls Jackson at the Park.

Flying Curls Jackson at the Park.

A Santa Barbara kinda day

A Santa Barbara kinda day

Spring

Spring

Mason

Mason…  there’s something under there which Mason takes very seriously.

Flying Curls Jackson and Jeana, Lagotto Romagnolo siblings.

Flying Curls Jackson and Jeana, Lagotto Romagnolo siblings.

Flying Curls Jeana

Flying Curls Jeana

Flying Curls Lagotto Romagnolo will be expecting Comes cordis Olympia’s 2nd and final litter this winter, currently accepting a waiting list. 

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As promised here are some photos of the front brake damage before repair on my ’96 Dodge Freedom Wide LTV. Status update, what I did about prior mechanics lack of diligence and tires to follow in next post.  Thank you to everyone at  Motor Brake & Wheel Service in Santa Barbara.

Damage to the Calipers and Pistons that the first 3 shops inspecting brakes never saw.

Damage to the Calipers and Pistons that the first 3 shops inspecting brakes never saw. Why, was this not seen!  Answer: All 3 prior brake inspections were below California Bureau  of Automotive Repair standard requirements for brake inspections. Finally the 4th shop did the inspection.

 

CracksCracks1Cracks2

brake caliper and piston1

Scratches and crack forming on the brake rotor

Scratches and crack forming on the brake rotor, it doesn’t show on the photos but these rotors are very uneven and have ridges and deep scores.

Rotors1

The "NEW" Brake pads destroyed in a few short weeks.

The condition of the Brake pads Tire Pros installed after a few short weeks of very light use.

Troubled Brake Pads

Troubled Brake Pads

Tire Pros in Santa Barbara slapped on pads to badly worn and starting to crack rotors and failed to further inspect brake system. $350.  Full brake inspection at Fairview Brake and Motors in Goleta $130, alerted to below min rotors and questioned integrity of new brake pads. Failed to notice cracking, tearing dust cover for calipers and pistons, cracks, tears and chips to the calipers and pistons. Failed to provide brake inspection sheet.  Owner advised that the brakes were SAFE and would not need further work before my trip. I requested a price on redoing the front brakes including the rotors / pads and was told I should feel confident about traveling long distance including mountain driving without worry until time for next service.   That was before the brakes froze up coming down Gibraltar Road and Motor Brake & Wheel took the parts off to inspect and measure their conditions…  i.e. performed standard brake inspection.

 

Cost for inspection $35 at MB&W although I think I received a discount from $65. Ultimately I paid nothing for the inspection but plenty for the brake job.   Ist time in; front calipers, front brake pads, front rotors, sealing gaskets, wheel seals, brake fluid  $1,102.02 and 2@nd time in to complete job: new brake hoses, gaskets and wheel seals, $272.68

I noticed a pulsation in the brake pedal and steering wheel. . .had to take RV back and the shop needed to file the rotors. Drove some more and brakes started squealing and smelling…  took it back again, apparently rear brakes needed adjusting.

LESSON: Don’t expect brakes on an older motorhome will necessarily be ready to go, drive it around and test it before you hit the road.  Motor Brake and Wheel was very courteous in taking care of these issues at no charge.

How many have ever seen a brake inspection sheet?

Brake inspection Sheet
Manufacturer’s minimum front pad thickness
Right front pad thickness
Left front pad thickness
Manufactures rim front rotor
Right front rotor measurement
Left front rotor measurement
Manufactures min rear shoe/pad thickness
Right rear shoe/pad thickness
Left rear shoe/pad thickness
Manufactures max rear drum diameter
Manufactures min rear rotor thickness
Right rear drum/rotor measurements
Left rear drum/rotor measurements
Manufactures wheel torque specifications

After install
Front calipers
Front hardware
Front bearings and seals
Front brake hoses
BRK master cylinder
Parking brake
Real wheel cylinders
Rear hardware
Rear bearings and seals
Rear brake hose
Brake fluid condition

 

 

No, not finished yet with prepping my RV, sigh. My friend Tom…  I now call him Tomlettie, drove us around the day before yesterday up on Gibraltar Road, a 48-mile narrow twisty climb into the Santa Ynez mountains above Santa Barbara. Great views and very popular for rock climbers and bicyclists. One gains 3,995′ from sea level to La Cumbre Peak. Yesterday there were clouds as we climbed, very lovely, the town below us spreading out into the haze of the sea. I enjoyed myself from the passenger seat as Tomlettie handled the curves in due diligence to loosen up the tight steering gearbox.

 

Trouble didn’t start until we stared down the 7% grade coming home. The burning brake smell was stronger than I’d ever expected. When he got to his house and I started down the road to my house I found instead of a bit looser steering that I could barely steer at all! The LT was determined to head hard off to the left into some secret missive until I tapped the brakes at which point the LT wanted to head equally insistently to the right (this was the opposite of the previous brake pull to the left at higher speeds.) Fortunately I didn’t have far to go. I struggled to get home; never having stuck brakes  in the past I wasn’t sure what was wrong, I kept checking the hand brake but yep, it was off.

 

Today back at Motor Brake and Wheel I got the news from Alex ….  my front brakes were shot! The LT required a complete front end brake job: brake pads, calipers, rotors, wheel bearing, wheel seals, and still to come on Monday brake hoses. I was given a point by point list of the brake inspection which it had mostly failed. The LT is back home now, when I take in Monday for the brake lines I will ask them if they can bring the brake pedal up. . . maybe it needs more bleeding.  The brakes were so unsafe its terrifying.  How would one know when it’s taken to other “brake shops’ and given the a’okay?   I will talk about this more later and what I intend to do about it.  I have the old brake parts and photos…  I’ll post them next time. Right now I’m tired.

Today was Motor Brake and Wheel  with Barry. My friend Tom suggested it and met me there. Tom took over seeing to it that things are to go better for me and my RV! And it seems there is hope.  They spent 2 hours checking my motorhome suspension as we watched; at first it seemed there might indeed be trouble with ball joints or the tie rods, it drove wonky yet all tested good . . . that’s when Barry, the shop owner stepped in, he took the LT out for a spin and returned saying that the only trouble was the steering gearbox. As Bruce said, the steering gearbox was adjusted too stiff and while it seemed there were other troubles it was that tightness which was preventing the steering wheel returning to true and also making the steering so difficult. Barry offered to adjust it but it was discovered that the particular OEM steering gearbox for the Dodge Ram Van 35000 is not easily accessible. It’s a several hour job to drop off the stabilizers and then drop out the steering gearbox, give it a quick adjustment and then reload everything back in place. On top of this Barry mentioned that it might or might not help, it’s wasn’t a for sure thing and even if it did help once I’d driven for some time it could then be too loose and need to go through the same process to be tightened.

On the pit

On the pit

Barry took me on the road for a little driving lesson. The option to drive the LT as suggested by Tru-Line was not wrong. Tru-Line simply didn’t explain enough or provide the lesson I really needed. The steering gearbox when out of the box does not behave like the steering gearbox one normally encounters when driving, and esp this is true for the 1996 Dodge Ram Van. It’s sticks both to the right and left at “high points.” The places it sticks can cause the steering to go wonky as one would normally try to correct this erratic steering. What I learned is that one needs to barely touch the steering wheel with your hands flat and spread out alongside side the wheel, not grasping or actually holding; it’s actually super sensitive and takes very little input to cause the tires to turn. Movement will happen with bumps in the road, wind, trucks passing and so forth but the trick is to not overreact with a tight grip and cause oversteering which quickly goes haywire.  It will take practice.

Slow and steady is what’s needed, and a very light touch. He told me not to let anyone behind me push me to a faster speed that was comfortable, such as has happened to me before up in Washington with those scary bridges. Instead he said, “turn on your hazard blinkers,” that’s what trucks do when they are moving slow. Let everyone behind you know you are not going any faster and when it’s safe pull over and let them pass.

Lots of turning will loosen up the steering gearbox. It’s not so much the number of miles as how much the wheel is turned so plenty of that can be done off the freeway at slow speeds and it will help. It’s tight. I opted for this as solution…  just drive… but now with more understanding.

The other problem the brake pull, likely a result of Tire Pros lack of knowledge.  Either the wrong kinds of brake pads were used, due to the material they are made from they may cause uneven braking, or the pull is from the rotors.  I opted for a $35 brake inspection on Friday which will include swapping the pads right to left to see if the pull changes from the left to the right. Yep, should have gone here in the first place!

 

I only wish I could have kept the softer tires. I wonder if I could have. The XPS Ribs are a harsh ride, but hopefully with enough miles behind me (and whatever the brakes need) the LT can be redeemed.  Will see….   Sorta hard to believe right now, sure have heard a lot conflicting info ….  so will see!  Will be turning and turning and wondering if all this could be right.

 

Going Around In Circles …
sorry no song just a crazy RV and crazy RVer

 Posted for anyone having similar problems. 

May 03, 2016
Bruce’s Auto Repair
Installed Dodge Ram Steering Gear Stabilizer on request.
(I can return it from where I bought it from, if not found to help.)
Check for brake pull… No problem discovered with brakes or calipers.
Recommendation:  Vehicle not safe to drive, likely Frozen ball joints” (lower.)
Steering box adjusted wrong, won’t return from turn and needs to be backed off. (Too stiff)
(Bruce not able to work on ball joints due to recent knee replacement but strongly recommended replacing lower ball joints and correcting adjustment of steering gear box before driving on any trip.)
$45

 

April 29, 2016
Called Tru Line as handling was still difficult… very hard to drive home.  Recommendation from Tru Line:
Drive vehicle for 3,000 miles to let new tires and gearbox settle in.  Discovered Tru Line had also changed tire pressure to 60 in front and 70 in rear. I returned tire pressure to 55 front and 75 in rear but this only seemed to make things worse.

April 28, 2016
Tru Line
Replaced defective gearbox, no charge
(although they said they found nothing wrong with first replacement.)
Checked steering system by installing gauge to check steering pressure, equal in both sides. Disconnected steering linkage to check for binding in ball joints non detected also not leaking PS fluid, alignment is good.
Performed front steering alignment at no charge.
Both gearboxes had the same lash. Set 2nd box pre-load slightly higher.
Discovered brake pull to the left and when released van shifts to the right before re-centering.
Recommend brake system analysis.

April 27, 2016
Took vehicle to Fairview Motors Brake & Alignment for brake inspection (see Tire Pros below)
inspect Brakes $130
Discovered front brake rotors were not serviced and rotors were below minimum specification causing braking issues until pads wear down. Bled brakes again. Adjusted rear brakes. No problem found with master cylinder or brake lines.
Advised new steering gear box likely defective: steering does not self correct back to straight after being turned left or right. Recommended return to Tru Line. Also advised that dodge steering boxes are rebuilt and many of these may be defective. Mechanic said that’s why he doesn’t like to deal with these.

 

Still had trouble with straight ahead driving and overall handling. Steering wheel did not seem true not to return to center, felt I was always correcting steering and that vehicle tended to drift to the right.
Trueline suggested swapping 2 front tires
Took to Tire Pros to swap tires and they said vehicle needed front brake pads.

Had to return 3 times after install of brake pads as pedal was hitting the floor.
Tires Pros said there was air in the line. I asked how that happened and was told it was because my vehicle was old. I complained that vehicle was not stopping safely and was told that vehicle was very heavy and I could not expect anything else!!!!!

April 14, 2016
Trueline Automotive, Inc (Van Nuys)
Asked for alignment check as vehicle was still not handling well, after replacing tires 2nd time.
Adjusted tow-in
Replaced power steering gearbox
Replaced Front stabilizer shock
$774

March 31, 2016
New Tires installed
Returned LT M/S 2 to Costco
Purchased XPS Ribs from Tire Pros, $1,338

March 30, 2016
Fairview Motors Brake & Alignment
Inspect front suspension and Alignment $198
Alignment was corrected. Printout of values in book
Confirmed complaint that vehicle does not track straight on the freeway since new tires installed.
Recommendation: replace tires to better handle load.

March 2016
Returned to Dal Pozo after test drive to Placerville:  Comfort of ride greatly increased but terrible handling, could not keep vehicle in lane, very little control of vehicle. Requested alignment and analysis. Dal Pozo drove vehicle around corner, grabbed steering wheel hard to demonstrate and said there was no problem.  Refused to do alignment, refused re-inspection.

March 22, 2016
Dal Pozzo
New Bilstein shocks installed.  $175

February 2016
New LT M/S 2 tires (4) from Costco
Balancing and installation / Older tires were cupping and had too much wear. Replaced for upcoming extended cross-county trip. Trip was canceled due to problems with handling. 

June 2012 –  February 2016
No Handling  Troubles, not perfect but handling was good enough for driving in high wind conditions, even in high wind warning conditions, mountain passes and hairpin turns. Still sensitive steering, rough ride and somewhat slow to take curves on mountain passes.

June 2012
Dal Pozzo Corp. (Santa Barbara)
Finally adjusted alignment correctly and was able to drive!
Rebalanced tires and lowered air pressure to 75 in rear and 50 in front.
$80

June 2012
Superior Brake & Alignment (Santa Barbara)
Inspect and determine cause of brake trouble
Reinstall quality front brake pads (Ian’s had put trashy pads on the LTV)
Alignment
$279

Brakes pulled, would barely stop and was very scary to drive… hand brake not engaging.  Took it back several times. Superior was very nice about it and they tried lots of different fixes… brakes got better but handling was terrible; I was limping along.

May 2012
Ian’s Tire (Santa Barbara.)
Install front pads (brakes.)
Rear Brakes, brake lining, machine rear drums
$390

Ian’s botched this job and the brakes had major trouble after work completed. I eventually was able to receive partial refund… wrong brake pads were used.

June 2011
Automotive Technicians Group (Goleta)
Turn front brake rotors and resurface
Install brake rotors and caliper, repack wheel bearings and install new seals
$316  (Confused on if they did this as rotors are now needing to be replaced???  Re-Check records?

October 2010
Figueroa Brake & Alignment (Santa Barbara)
Replaced Ball Joints (upper and lower)
Installed front end steering stabilizer Shock ($124)
Alignment
$1,305

September 2010
Front End Service Big Brand Tire (Goleta)
No charge … checked alignment and adjusted tire pressure.
In spite of improvements, still having trouble with handling

September 2010
Serna’s Central Truck Service (Nipomo)
Installed rear sway bar after inspection of handling problems.
Total with tax $954   Sway bar $593 plus $42 shipping.

August 2010
Associated Tire & Brake (Ventura)
Installed 2 rear wheel spacers ($140)
Alignment redone ($70.00)
$221 total

August, 2010
Ian’s Tire & Auto (Santa Barbara)
Tires:  Coopers, $774 plus stems, weights, installation
Alignment, $80
Monroe shocks

August 2010:  took ownership of vehicle

RV SONG

You wouldn’t think putting new tires on an old motorhome would cause a crumbling of the vehicle’s foundation, would you? Or new brake pads? Vehicles of infinite sizes, shapes and purposes have this done and they zoom off, owners pay, service rendered, everyone’s happy. But what happens when you have a vehicle serviced and other components clamor to get in on the fix-me, replace-me bandwagon? The weakest gets replaced and the domino effect begins: bing-bang-clang…. things fail, need to be redone; mechanics can’t agree, dollars go flying and the weary RV’er gets headaches.  Sure, of course, there are many potentially worse outcomes than being at home, one could be camped in a dive in the grasp of greedy rip-off mechanics waiting to drain every penny; or in the path of a tornado, hurricane, mosquitoes, alligators, snakes, floods, fires, all kinds of things can happen; this is why it’s important to avoid being stranded wondering how long your food and water will last and how much confinement the dogs can take. I am counting my blessings and “trying”to be patient. . . hint-hint. . . I’m fed up sitting at the rim of the road wondering when my little RV will feel like traveling.

 

This is what I think is going on, the old tires which I replaced were “grooved” into the system.  They had settled into the suspension.  The ride, while not perfect was sufficient. I’d fought a battle back 6 years ago when I’d replaced the cracked tries. What I went through to get the RV road worthy took a long time. Not everything was optimal and there were many frustrations, eventually however; after thousands of miles and adventures, all was manageable. Changing tires once again stirred everything up. New tires can be a nightmare, I didn’t realize that. In fact Tru Line has advised that the best fix now is to drive for a good 3,000 miles and let all the new stuff settle i; if I’m still not happy with the steering gearbox they will replace it again!  You see, last week Tru Line replaced the factory refurbished steering box they had installed as a gesture of goodwill, no charge. So now the LT is on its second new steering gear box. It does seem the steering wheel is straight now, but handling is not great, it’s just different, a challenge. (Of course the mechanic at Fairview Brake and Motor had told me the 1st replaced steering gear box had to replaced again as it was no good!  I don’t think he would approve of the this second “new” one either.  Oh and to add to the confusion Bruce had told me it wasn’t worth replacing the steering gear box as that rarely fixes the trouble anyway….   everyone has a different opinion and I thought mechanics was straight forward!) 

I’ve ordered what may either be worse than useless or may be a wonder, depending on which mechanic I talk to: Bill at Tru-Line says it will solve everything and Eric at Fairview says it will make everything worse although neither of these mechanics were familiar with this product until I showed it to them.  Dodge Ram Steering Gear Box Stabilizer.  This device is intended to eliminate steering box play and reduce steering wander. It will go on in a few days.

When it was at Tru-Line they discovered a brake pull. This is something new….  it’s significant at freeway speeds and I need to have that checked out. Of course when it was previously (only a few days before going back to Tru-Line) checked at Fairview there was no brake pull at all.

For some good news, the air seems to be completely out of the front brakes…  I absolutely DO NOT recommend allowing Tire-Pros to work on your brakes, they are fine for buying tires but nothing else!  The reason Tire Pro’s allowed air into the front brakes while they were changing the front brake pads was because as they said, “Your vehicle is old.”  No kidding that’s what they said! Tire Pro’s also said, when I took it back for the second time scared out of my wits when the brake pedal hit the floor, “Well, your vehicle is heavy, you can’t expect it to stop like a normal car.”  OH MY!!!!   I repeat Tire Pros, fine buy your tires there, but PLEASE never let them touch your brakes.  They also missed an extremely obvious item, the rotors!  I’d only taken the vehicle to Tire Pro’s to have the front tires switched and I should have stuck to that and had someone else look at the brake pads…. When I took it back to Fairview Brake and Motors to find out what was going on with the new brake pads I learned that Tire Pros completely missed the vital fact that the rotors are worn, too thin, shiny and past due and need to be replaced.

 

Okay if this is confusing I don’t blame you….  back and forth and back and forth…. I think the score is something like, 3 or 4 times  to Tire Pro, 2 times to Fairview Brake and Motor, 3 times to Tru Line (out-of-town) and now I’m going full circle and will be going back to Bruce for the 3rd time.  And this doesn’t include the visits to Costco and anywhere else I left out.

How I spent my Summer Vacation….  Ok so it’s not summer yet.  Can You Believe it!!!  Ring Around the Mechanics…  over and over….  Still asking, Why!   Will be on the road with a bunch of muddy paws soooooooooon ….  maybe?

 

One last comment, I weighed the RV and fully loaded with me and my dogs and all my gear, a full tank of gas and water, it is close but still under, maximum load. This is great news however I am certain having personal knowledge of the prior owners that they overloaded the RV on a regular basis. I don’t know how one would check for something like this in purchasing a used RV…  maybe just ask how many people travel in the vehicle. These little motorhomes with single rear wheels are only meant for 2 people of normal weight.  Newer Class B’s have dual wheels in the rear but I have read of others, esp Sprinters having handling problems.

Soul Coughing- “Circles”