Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hitting us like a Freightliner

We are parked on the street outside of Los Angeles Freightliner, in Whittier, California (map). Tonight will be our third night in this spot. Ironically, there is a deserted municipal campground less than a mile from here, next to the Whittier Narrows Dam, but the city shuttered it years ago due to "lack of maintenance."

We arrived here after a lovely drive up the coast on Tuesday. We more or less had to stay on I-5 through Camp Pendleton, which also afforded us the opportunity to dump and fill at the CalTrans rest area along that stretch. But the rest of the drive, we stuck to county roads and El Camino Real, both because it is much more scenic and pleasant, and also because we really wanted to keep our speed down with the tires so close to end-of-life. We noticed that the couple of ocean-front state campgrounds had plenty of room, and were sorry we had to press onward.

Tuesday afternoon we met with the service manager, Rex, with whom I had spoken earlier, and it looked like all was set. He was going to be out Wednesday, and he introduced me to his lieutenant who would be honchoing the job. We rolled into the yard at 8am the next day.

Things got off to a somewhat rocky start. The head honcho never got the full detail of what was needed from Rex, and I didn't list the litany of what we had discussed for the service writer, either. Somehow, the folks doing the work never understood what was needed, and, after sitting in the waiting room for nearly eight hours, wherein we watched the bus roll into the service bay for only about an hour, we got a report that informed us of several things we already knew, and nothing that we didn't. I was pretty much livid when I discovered that, in spite of my direct request that they do so, the bearing dust caps were never even removed. To add insult to injury, they tried to charge me $240 for "diagnosis."

This morning, Rex was back in the shop, and we had about a half hour meeting wherein we both acknowledged mis-communication had happened, and sorted out what actually needed to be done. Back into the shop we went, and this time they actually took the front bearings out. The good news is that the bearings look pristine. The bad news is that, to pack the inner race, they will have to pry the bearing off the shaft, which will likely damage the seal. We're now scrambling to find seals; as a Mercedes axle, Freightliner is the part source, but the part is odd enough that some database magic needs to happen that will take two business days. So we will not even know if the parts are anywhere to be had before Monday.

They repacked the outers before reinstalling them, and we stopped short of pulling the tag bearings. They'll have exactly the same issue, and, fortunately, take the same seals. On the alignment front, we've also run into a snag. Long-time readers may remember that, when we had the alignment done a couple years ago, the tie rod ends needed to be replaced. We were only ever able to get three of the four ends, so we had to pick the best of the two left-threaded ones that came out, and re-use it. Well, lo and behold, that end is now critically worn, and needs to be replaced.

Between then and now, however, the source for that part has dried up. NeoPart can't get them anymore, and I now need to track one down, possibly in Germany. The alternative is not pretty -- fabricating an entirely new tie rod, to accept some more common ends. So we are dead in the water, for the time being, and I will spend tomorrow on the internet and the phone trying to track down tie-rod ends and bearing seals. While I am at it, I'll try to rustle up a pinion seal for the differential, too, since that's also been seeping for some time.

In the time we've been sitting around waiting in the customer lounge between yesterday and today, I've been calling around to tire dealers to find a new set of shoes. That, too, has had its hiccups. It is beginning to look like the only way we can get the tread we want in our size in any reasonable time is to get a set of Bandag re-treads. We'd prefer new, of course, and I'm still looking. It seems we will once again have to forego our preferred 315/80R22.5 drive tires in favor of the 12R22.5 size. If there is an upside to that, it's that the federal excise tax on the 12R's is only $36.76 per tire, versus $61.43 for the 315's.

We'll spend tonight right here, because it's convenient to the shop, and I'm sure I'll be walking in tomorrow to sync up with Angel, the parts guy.

Angel, not the parts guy

But then we'll go find someplace else to spend the weekend. If not more comfortable and scenic, then at least closer to some decent restaurants. If we can find tires anywhere in the LA area, we'll probably also go get them mounted while we are waitng on parts from Freightliner.


  1. Sorry to hear about all the issues. Hopefully things will come together here on a Friday so you can get what you need and back underway on Monday. Ugh!

    I have a nephew in Whittier and we were just there last April. But I have no idea where the Freightliner shop is...

    Love the LinkWithin tip - thanks!

    Randy and Pam

  2. Sorry to hear of your troubles, we had to sit in LA for 3 weeks a couple of years ago waiting on a Ford part (this was 2006, and we needed a part for a 2005!) so I know the frustration.


  3. You guys aren't going to buy a German trawler, are you? :) --Jon

  4. OMG you guys, you are about 2 miles from where my parents live, and I grew up! AND, my Dad, a retired diesel mechanic, used to work there! What a total trip!

    Hey, I'm going to tell him you're there. If you see an old guy with a beard walking around and looking like he doesn't have anything better to do, that's him.

    Meanwhile, if you're bored, check out Uptown Whittier on Greenleaf. It's not far from you at all, and the atmosphere is really nice.

    As far as places to stay, unfortunately not too many options, you're probably better off there. If my parent's house wasn't insane from all of the grandkids, I'd say that would be your best place to stay, but heck even we have trouble staying there with all of the noise!

    If you have any questions, Twitter me, I know the area well.

    Good luck, we'll be thinking of you.


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