Monday, August 20, 2007

Weird coincidences do happen...

We are at Jackson's Wrecking Service, in North Little Rock (map).

This morning we rolled in to United Engines at 8 sharp. They were so busy, I had to wait half an hour just to talk to the service writer. The earliest he could get us in for transmission work would be Wednesday, and possibly later than that for the fuel issue and oil change. But he did agree to send a tech out to take a preliminary look, to see what would be involved.

Gary the tech spent a few minutes looking at the tranny from below, then asked me to pull the hatch so he could see it from above, and he was as perplexed as I, though it was clear there was tranny fluid all over everything. After discussing the fact that it seemed to happen more when hot, he sent me out to drive the coach and warm everything up. In the meantime, Louise loaded Opal onto the scooter and hauled her off to the vet (I'll let Louise tell that part of the story herself).

After I came back with the drivetrain hot, Gary got back underneath and poked around. After a while he noticed fluid coming from a braided steel hose above the tranny, but not the cooler hose. We noodled a bit and decided to try starting the engine and turning the steering wheel. Bingo! We had a hydraulic leak in the power steering system, which just so happens to be filled with transmission fluid. It turns out that two braided hoses were touching each other, and vibration finally abraded one of the steering lines all the way through.

United Engine could certainly fix this problem -- but not until Wednesday at the earliest. I made three calls around town based on numbers that United gave me, with no success. But one of the truck drivers hanging around waiting for service overheard this, and he had a card for this place. I called, and they said they could take us sometime today. As soon as Louise got back from the vet, we headed up here (after I topped off the power steering reservoir, which was already a full gallon low). We're waiting in the yard for them to get to us, which I am hoping will be this afternoon.

So, bottom line, a series of coincidences had us looking in the wrong place. After all, (1) we just had the tranny worked on in CA, when the in-frame was done, (2) the leaking fluid was clearly transmission fluid, (3) it was visibly coming from the transmission, which was literally covered with the stuff, (4) backing the coach up seemed to make the problem worse (reverse gear), and (5) we've had two Code 12 alarms (low fluid) from the tranny in the span of a week.

Items 2-4 are all readily explained by a power steering leak right above the transmission. In the case of #4, what looked to us like the result of selecting reverse was actually the result of cranking the wheel hard to one side, which we often have to do when backing into a space. #1 and #5 seem to have been sheer coincidence.

Once we get someone working on the hydraulic hose, I am going to ask if they can also look at the fuel problem, and maybe change the oil. If not, we'll try to cover that in Memphis.

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