This is probably going to be a long post, so you might want to go refresh your drink before you start reading.
Cindy and I were getting ready to take off the first of next week (February 2nd) and get back on the road. I brought the 2499 into General RV to have the brakes looked at and have them pack the axle bearings before we leave.
Surprisingly our brakes are still the original units and we've logged 50,000 miles give or take a few. 60,000 on the truck, so we think the coach might have been off for 10,000 or around their.
The service manager called saying that they didnt think the drums could be turned any more and asked if I wanted to replace the entire backing plates and all. Since this is our home and we move so much, I told them to just throw on completely new brakes all the way around just to be safe.
Then a few hours later I got a phone call that was both good and bad news. Very bad news considering that he told me when they pulled off the entire brake system, it revealed that where my axles mount to the frame, the mounting plates were cracked and peeling away from the frame itself.
I consider this good news for the fact that we are home right now and not finding this out while on the road, or worse yet watching as our house goes off the road due to losing an axle while driving.
So the next few days was spent with me and the General Manager along with the Service Manager of General RV spending a few hours on the phone and internet trying to figure out how to remedy this situation. I'd like to say a HUGE 'Thank You' to everyone over at the Novi location for their help and amazing service they do for us. Top Notch all the way around and the best we've ever seen in any industry.
Here is a update on what we've come up with. I should note that everyone should look at their axle plates just to be on the safe side, but I also dont blame anyone because I know that we have the camper loaded down to its maximum weight restrictions and put on more miles down some of the roughest roads than most do in the entire lifetime of their coach.
Our first call was to the insurance company thinking we were going to have to replace both axles. $1600 a piece for the 3500lb Al-Ko Soft Ride Axles. Not really in our budget right now. We also looked into upgrading the axles to the next weight limit size which is 4000-7000lb soft ride axles, but the guys from Al-Ko said that would make the ride very harsh and actually be the opposite of what the axles were meant to do.
Insurance company let us know that since this wasnt an accident and we didnt hit anything to cause this, it falls under the clause of Wear & Tear
and is something that isnt covered.
Next call was to Al-Ko to see if the axles themselves would be covered. I thought it was funny when I was talking to the rep and he asked how many miles I had on the camper. When I told him I wasnt sure, but roughly 50,000 or around there, he said "Well you know that our axles only carry a 5 year warranty?
I said "Yes, but we've only owned the camper for a little over 2 years now.
He coughed and said "Oh wow, we never get calls from people with this many miles in this short of a time
." He also told me that they have almost never had a call due to an axle failing or cracking, so he really wanted to see the axles themselves to see what had caused it.
This was what opened up the next can of worms, but helped in saving us a whole ton of money.
With a few of us on crawlers under the coach with shop lights lighting everything up really bright, what we found was the axles themselves are fine, it's just the mounting plates that go around the axle housing and mount them to the frame.
I called the rep over at Al-Ko back to let him know that his axles hadnt failed once we saw that these plates are just welded on, but the plates themselves were what was cracking. We got to talking and he informed me that they build the axles without the plates on them, ship the axles to Lippert (in Sunline's case) with plates off and Lippert welds the plates to Sunlines specifications.
So this told me that we didnt need to replace the axles, and could probably get this fixed by dropping the axles, torching off the plates and having a fabricator weld on new, stronger, thicker plates.
This is what the rep from Al-Ko said he would do and it would probably save us a ton of money and the time of having new axles made and shipped over from Elkhart Indiana.
So, what we've come up with is that I know we're going to have to shed some weight, and lighten our load (The camper and it's contents, not my beer gut), but it doesnt mean we are going to stop traveling the way we've been traveling.
The camper itself, and the axles themselves have held up beautifully, and I wish Sunline was still around so I could let them know how well this little coach has held up to the constant abuse we've given it.
The welder at General RV was laughing when he said "What do you do with this thing? Drive it off road and go four wheeling with it
I just looked at him and said "Yeah, no one ever told me we couldnt do that
" His laugh went to a serious look when he said "Are you serious, you actually take this off road
I dont think he's looked through our website.
What I wanted to do was give everyone a heads up to check your mounting plates where the axles are mounted to the frame. I have a crack on every plate on both sides of the frame (All 4 of them) on each side of the plate.
But again, I'd like to stress that this wasnt caused by Al-Ko or Sunline and I take full responsibility for these failing. Like the guy from Al-Ko said. "We've been making axles sine 1931 and we dont get calls about our axles failing, so I was a little concerned and stressed when I got your call
." I would also like to say that the guy from Al-Ko was amazingly competent in getting back to me, answering all of my questions and letting me know what he would do personally and what he felt would save me money to get this fixed with the least amount of time and effort.
Not the typical saleman who automatically wants to sell you something and make a buck. Great people over there and glad I have a set of their axles on the Sunline.
Without the camper being lifted high on jacks and having the brake backing plates removed to really get a good look at the mounting plates on the axles themselves, this is easily overlooked.
I routinely crawl under the camper and have never seen these cracks before, so I dont know how long we've been driving like this? Without having the technician point out these small, hairline cracks, I probably wouldnt have noticed them unless I was really looking for them.
But the frame mounting plate bending is a dead giveaway. That is very noticeable and is what we are going to beef up. I'll be sure to post pictures of what the fabricators weld up to remedy this situation.
I'm pretty confident if we beef up these mounting plates, we shouldnt have this problem again. But who konws, we plan on returning to Baja, and I'm sure hundreds of miles on some of the roughest roads I've ever driven had something to do with this.
We also had to have all our bushings and tie-rods, sway control bushings and front end componets on the F-250 replaced while home this summer. But that was all under warranty
Thanks again Ford!
Wish us luck and thank the man upstairs that we found this while we were home and not at 50 mph on some backroad.