The Trip From Hell/PT 1

Welcome To Part 1 Of Our Nightmare

We have crisscrossed back and forth across the country since 2016 with virtually no problems at all. We have been very careful to keep up with maintenance and always repair things (especially the RV) better than they were originally. Our lucky streak has come to a grinding halt!!!

Planning Ahead

We had been working in the Ocala National Forest when we accepted a job clear across the country and up north in Montana for the Spring/Summer season of 2021. It would be at least a 2500 mile drive across the country. As always as the time neared we went over the truck and RV to make sure everything was ok.

Maintenance & Service

We had been getting a lot of work done on the truck including new tires, spark plugs, wires, coolant hoses, heater hoses, air filter, and oil change. We also checked the RV out to make sure it was ready to roll. Brakes, bearings, and tires were some of the things we checked. Since we took the coroplast off the underside of the RV to work on floor reinforcement and other things like installing new tank heaters, we tie wrapped up any and all wires or anything else that was hanging. After all, we did not want anything getting caught on something in the road.

Other Preparations

We have roadside assistance through our insurance company so we were never really worried about breakdowns. That turned out to be a big mistake. Sometimes breakdowns need a little more than roadside assistance. More on that in a bit. We went over our route planning approximating our first stop. We have started to only travel interstates these days due to it being easier to find gas stations and rest areas. We always plan several ways to get to a location in case we run into construction or bad weather.

All Systems Are Go

With the truck and RV all checked out and ready to roll, the trip up to Montana was for the most part uneventful. We did have to alter the route a bit due to snow and ice. The Wyoming area was the worst as it was the coldest and snowiest. Other than that it was easy peasy. We arrived at the KOA we were to be working at for the summer a few days later than planned but it was no big deal. We kept in constant contact with them as we traveled along.

Summer Over/Time To Travel Again

The summer flew by and we had made our next set of plans. We never made it to Glacier National Park during the summer so we booked a week (with Passport America/half price!!!) at an RV park 8 miles outside the west entrance. We then booked (all Passport America parks) a week in South Dakota and a week in Colorado Springs. After that, we would be off to Long Island for my daughter’s wedding and then down to Florida. We were excited to be hitting the road again. Everything was in place.

The Usual Checks

As the time got closer to us leaving we started the usual routine. Truck serviced, RV checked, possessions that we have not used in a while purged. We also checked and aired up all the tires and retorqued all the lug nuts on the truck and RV. The tires were under 2 years old and still looked brand new. No cracks, bubbles, or uneven wear. All systems were go!!!

Off To Glacier

Blown Tire 1

When the day came we set out to our first destination. We did not have to rush as we were only about 2-2.5 hours from the park so we left around noon. Literally 15 miles from the KOA we got a blow-out!!! It was our first ever since going full-time back in 2016. It was in a construction zone where there was a wide shoulder so we had plenty of room to change it safely. We put on the spare and off we went. It was a little unnerving as we were now traveling the rest of the way with no spare.

We Made It!!!

We made it to the RV park with no other issues. The next day we took the tire to a local tire place (Les Schwab) and had it replaced. Before the week was over we put it back on the RV and put the spare back on the back. We again checked all the other tires and retorqued the lug nuts. After an awesome week near Glacier, we were off and running. Now we were to head to South Dakota.

Not Again!!!

Blown Tire 2

Things were going well and we were excited to be heading to South Dakota when all of a sudden, BANG!!! Yup another blow-out!!! This time on the other side. You have got to be kidding. Not again. This one we were not so lucky with. It seems that the tire peeled apart (almost like a re-tread would have) and took out our decorative plastic on the side of the RV. It also blew a hole in the floor!!! The cheap ass floor is so thin the part of the tire that was flapping came right through the floor!!!

The Spare To The Rescue…Again

This time the road was not as wide but I was still able to get the tire changed quickly and be back on our way. As we were heading for the interstate we looked for another tire place. Lucky for us there was another Les Schwab about 16 miles up the road. I must say Les Schwab in Missoula was awesome. We rolled up there about 1 pm with no appointment and after we explained our situation they had us under an overhang and being serviced in under 20 minutes.

On The Road Again

They removed and re-mounted the tire we bought in Glacier on the spare (rim) and mounted 4 brand new tires on our regular rims. In no time we were back on the road. They even gave us a discounted price on the tires!!! We were all set. We learned our first valuable lesson with all this. We should have replaced all the tires when we got the first blow-out.

According To Plan

Now that we were rolling again we were back on our track. Our original plan had us heading to a rest area on I-90 and hanging out for a while doing some work on the PC and then napping. Since we lost some time with the tire debacle, we skipped the work on the PC and went straight to the nap. The reason for the nap was we planned to start driving between 8-9 pm so we would be in South Dakota by the morning.

Nap/Coffee/On The Road Again

After a couple of hours of sleep, we got up, stretched a bit, and made coffee for the long night ahead. We filled up our thermoses and we were off. I-90 has many exits that have no service so we had planned our gas stops ahead of time. Things seemed to be going really well. After about 70 miles (we already had about 60 miles since our last fuel stop) we got off the exit for our scheduled stop. This is where things came to a grinding halt.

Is That Smoke From Us?

After pulling up to the gas pump I grabbed the infrared thermometer like I always do and jumped out of the truck. I checked the temps on the truck and RV on the driver’s side and everything was normal. As I walked around the back of the RV I saw smoke streaming from the underside of the RV near the back tire. Oh crap. One shot of the infrared temp tool and I knew right away why we were smoking. You have got to be kidding me I thought. I fueled up the truck figuring I would give the hub time to cool. As I crawled under and took a look I knew we were done for the night. The bearing had apparently heated up and cracked the axle. We were going nowhere.

Sleeping At The Gas Station

We pulled away from the pumps and parked alongside a curb so we were not blocking any of the station’s operations. We went inside and explained to the manager what had happened and told him we would get it towed in the morning. After all, we had no idea at this point who we would bring it to. He told us not to worry since we were not blocking anything and it would be no problem to stay where we were.

It Was A Long Night

It was now about 10 pm. We took some pillows and blankets out of the RV and brought them into the truck. We did not stay in the RV for 2 reasons. First, the smell of the overheated bearing completely stunk out the inside, and second, we would not have been able to run the heat and it was supposed to go down into the lower 20’s, which it did…lol. Neither of us could really sleep as we wondered how we would get this fixed. We had roadside assistance but we needed a place to bring it to.

The Morning Of Phone Calls

Thankfully the place we were at was also a truck stop so it had restrooms and food. We started making calls at about 8 am to any RV dealership, repair shop, or mobile repair place we could find. To our horror, no one would help us. Most places claimed they didn’t do that type of work or just didn’t answer the phone. We left numerous messages and never got 1 call back. We started to panic. After all, this is not that hard of a job. If I had an axle I could have done it myself right there in the parking lot!!!

3-5 Weeks To Get Into A Shop

One RV shop we finally got to listen to our story seemed genuinely like they were concerned for us said we could tow it there but they were so backed up they wouldn’t even be able to look at it for 3-5 weeks!!! They also told us if it really needed an axle (I knew it did) it would be anywhere from 3-6 weeks for one to be shipped!!! What?!!! Holy crap!!!. I always thought we were prepared for anything but I was quickly finding out that this was not true.

Finally Found A Shop

After numerous and I mean numerous calls we finally found a truck shop that said they would take it. They said it would be anywhere from 1-2 weeks before they got it into the shop. Well, 1-2 weeks was the best offer we got so we agreed. The problem is that this shop was back in Missoula. Yup, right back where we started from. Now we had to call Progressive and see if we would be covered for a low boy flatbed truck tow of 125 miles. After speaking with Progressive we were pleasantly surprised to find out they would cover the entire tow!!! Woohoo!!!

Flatbed Tow

At The Shop

After being towed 125 miles to Missoula we dropped the RV at the shop and it was time to find a motel. The prices we were getting were absolutely ridiculous. They were near $1000 a week!!! What?!!! Crazy!!! We decide to drive up and down the main road we were on and stop in at each motel. After all, it was the road that the airport was on so there were a lot of motels. We found a Motel 6 that was willing to give us a weekly rate that was half of everyone else.

Not As Bad As We Thought

To our surprise the next day the phone rang and it was the repair shop. They said they wanted to get it in the shop so they could at least order the parts. We were excited. That excitement was short-lived as the service manager proceeded to tell us the bad news. He said it would be a couple of weeks to get the axle. After hearing the other RV shop say 3-5 weeks we figured 1-2 weeks wasn’t that bad. It would definitely throw a monkey wrench into our plans but we would still have time to get across the country for the wedding.

It Just Got Worse

We figured we would just need a couple of weeks at the motel. While it sucks to lay out that money, we would at least be local and ready to go when the RV was repaired. After the first week, we received a call from the service manager that it would be closer to 3-5 weeks. Oh crap. Not what we wanted to hear. This changes everything. We were not about to shell out all that money for a motel. This would be a good time to mention that although we have full-timers insurance, Progressive would not cover the motel because it was a breakdown, not an accident… Doah!!! The shop suggested we head to New York for our wedding and hopefully they would have the axle and be finished with the repair by the time we got back.

Started Chatting

We started doing our own research and even contacted Lippert direct. They gave us the same song and dance for about 3-5 weeks or longer. We explained we were full-timers and that was unrealistic for us to wait that long. She promised she would talk to someone and get back to me later that day or the next day. Several days went by and no call back…what a surprise. We also found out that our particular axle was rated for 4400lbs. The bearings however are only rated for 3500lbs!!! How do they even get away with that crap? Apparently, we were not the only ones with bearing failures on this axle. We found a forum with many other people that experienced bearing failures.

Local Parts Houses

We decided to stop into a couple of local parts houses only to find out that they were familiar with these axles and Lippert and said we would be extremely lucky if it came in 3-5 weeks. It would likely be much longer. They suggested a faster way would be to buy upgraded axles that were more readily available. They told us what to look for and measure. So off we went back to the motel room armed with our new information.

.com Search

I found a few places online and had some possibilities but it was now Friday night and none had any customer service reps available. The next morning I was on the computer early and before long I had initiated a chat with a rep. I like to use the chat feature most of the time these days as there is no misunderstanding of what’s said and you can get the transcript of the chat if you ever need to refer back to it.

After a little while of going back and forth on my problem and a possible solution, we came to the conclusion I could go with 5200 or 6000lbs axles. I was leaning towards the 6000lbs one. I needed to check a few measurements before I ordered anything so we left off at that. As I usually do with chats I had the transcripts sent to my email.

Took Some Measurements

Since this was the day we were checking out of the hotel and leaving for New York we arrived at the shop a little later than we expected. We spoke with the service manager and he said he had no problem with us ordering the axles if we could get them there faster than the estimate he provided. We grabbed a mechanic and started verifying some of the measurements the rep needed. I then went outside to call and order the axles and wouldn’t you know it the company was closed. Dammit, they close at noon. It was 11:45 am where we were but the company was located in Texas and it was 12:45 pm there. Ugh…

The company we used was “The Trailer Parts Outlet” (not an affiliate link) and we would definitely recommend them.

Off We Go

We went back inside and let the service manager we would order them on Monday morning. We again made sure he was alright with us doing so. At this point, there was nothing we could do but start heading for New York. We decided to stop in South Dakota and check out Mount Rushmore along the way.

They’re Ordered!!!

When Monday morning came around we made sure we pulled into a rest area as soon as the company with the axles opened. Although I would have liked to order the 6000lbs axles they were out of stock!!!…lol. We went with the 5200lbs axles and expedited shipping. This was October 11th. They were delivered to the shop on the 14th!!! Woohoo!!!

So What Now?

So now we wait. We expect the shop to have them done by the time we get back. The wedding is on the 23rd which is a Saturday and we plan to be leaving New York for Montana very early Sunday morning. We are getting the truck serviced and checked out before we head out. It will probably take us about 4 days to get back as we learned we don’t like driving all night anymore. Then we will pick up the RV and try to get south as fast as possible. Montana has already had snow!!!…lol.

What Have We Learned

Well, if you think you are totally prepared, think again. We felt like we had all our bases covered. If this problem had happened a few years ago (pre-pandemic) I feel like it would have been much easier to find a shop, order the part, and get it installed. The lack and unwillingness of shops to help us out was mind-boggling.

We also wish we would have gone to “Trailer Parts Outlet” much sooner as we might have been able to get the job done sooner.

Also, although we love traveling at night we will never do it again. Even though we have roadside assistance, since it happened at night nothing was open so we didn’t know where it was going to be towed. Therefore we had to sleep in the parking lot of the gas station/truck stop with the manager’s permission of course. We couldn’t sleep inside the RV as it smelled really bad from the smoking axle/bearing. It was very frustrating

If you think our nightmare ended here, think again. In part 2 (we will publish that in about a week) we will let you know how our nightmare continued and then finally ended. Stay tuned……

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