Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Another week motionless

We are still at the Choo Choo Express Garage near Chattanooga, and now we'll be here at least into next week. It has been a very frustrating couple of days.

In my last update I mentioned that we expected the replacement bearings here on Tuesday. I was pleasantly surprised, then, when DHL reported them as "out for delivery" at 11:30 Monday morning. The DHL service center is in Smyrna, Georgia, a good two hours from here, and their delivery runs go all the way to 8pm. As it turns out, the shipment arrived here a 7:50pm Monday evening.

That's when I discovered that, firstly, they sent four sets of bearings instead of the two that I ordered. Not only was that over $600 in unnecessary parts, but also an extra 15 pounds sent via overnight express from England.

The much larger problem, however, was that, while the inner bearings and seals were spot-on, right down to the manufacturer's (FAG) part number, they sent the wrong outer bearings. They looked to have the right inner diameter to fit the spindle, but the outer diameter was more than 2cm smaller than the 11cm outer races on the originals.

Of course, the outer bearing is the one that is totally destroyed. Also, the outer bearings were made by Koyo in Japan, and are so old that even Koyo no longer has the part number (57249) in their database, so they could provide neither a cross-reference nor even a specification. Presumably Mercedes switched to a different supplier sometime after 1984, because I know these hubs continued to be used well after my coach was built in 1985.

I immediately fired off an email to Heavy Duty Parts explaining the mix-up and including a photo of the outer races and the obvious size difference. At this point I was also quite miffed, as anyone with a modicum of heavy duty experience could look at the correct inner bearings, which they sent, and the incorrect outer ones and know that they could not possibly be from the same wheel assembly -- whoever picked the order should have caught this straight away. Also I had emailed the original part numbers before ordering and asked explicitly to confirm they were sending the correct replacements, and they were quite certain on the phone with me that they had the correct items.

I received a reply around 4am that the individual I had been dealing with was on vacation this week, or, as they say, "on holiday." Which put me back mostly to square one with a different salesman, and I spent a good part of yesterday morning catching him back up. I also went out and copied down every number from all four wheel hubs, plus I photographed two more parts book pages for him.

By the time he was square on what we actually needed and working on finding a supplier, it was past DHL's pickup time, or about 10:30am here, and hopes of replacing the bearing this week were fading. This morning I asked for an update and was informed that they would have the bearings in house tomorrow, which seals our fate -- even if they sent them overnight tomorrow, we now know the earliest we'd have them is nearly 8pm Friday. This time, though, he first intends to send me a photo and dimensions, so we do not repeat last week's mistake.

And so it goes that we will pass another full week inside the Choo Choo Express Garage -- with the hub off, we can't move even an inch let alone, say, out into the daylight. We've taken all the covers off the upper windshield and I open the roll-up door each morning, just so we can have a little daylight in the coach. Direct sunlight is out of the question, since we are facing north.

Being inside the shop also means our satellite TV and Internet access are off-line. I can get one TV station on rabbit ears if no one moves too much. We are thankful to Mike for letting us use his DSL to get internet access, but the metal shop door won't let us pick up his wireless, so we ran a 100' ethernet cable direct from his router to ours. Odyssey's ceiling is reminiscent of a Red Cross operation, with the ethernet cable coming in the roof hatch and hanging on carabiners. Even the cable is the same, acquired on a Red Cross operation years ago, when practice was to give away or discard used cables at the end of the operation rather than spool them up and ship them back.

As long as we're stuck here with some downtime, I have been continuing to tackle various projects. The air door which I spent several hours working on last week turned out, while nicely adjusted by all appearances, to still be leaking air, and I spent another five hours working on it yesterday. It's still leaking, and I can see spending another several hours this week to conquer it. And I have several days' backlog of computer projects and paperwork to get done.

Being stuck here in Chattanooga into next week aces us out of the Fort Lauderdale boat show, which was one possible destination on the calendar, and also makes Trawler Fest in San Diego next month impractical, another (albeit unlikely) possibility we had considered. It had been suggested to us to attend another bus rally this weekend in Hoboken Georgia, and that, too, is now off the table.

All of which adds up to us having even less of a clue now than before as to exactly where we will head after we are done here, whenever that may be. Even though we can't make the boat show, there are a few boats we'd like to see in the Stuart area, so that remains one possibility. And it is starting to get cold here, so south is a preferred direction. As soon as our wheel is back on, we will return to the Red Cross availability roster, so we will probably also stay in the eastern half of the country until hurricane season ends in November.

Given the difficulty we've had in getting the parts, I am very glad we decided to continue here to Choo Choo to have the work done. In addition to being a bus garage (rather than, say, a truck repair shop), they are full-timer friendly, and have been very generously allowing us to live here in the shop. We have 20 amps of power and access to water, and other than what we will eventually pay for the repairs, it is costing us nothing to stay here. Should there be any further delays I also have enough macerator hose to reach the on-site dump station as well.

All that said, we are looking forward to getting out into the sunlight, and I am sure the shop will be glad to have its service bay back. With any luck, Hurricane Rina, and whatever becomes of Investigation Area 97 behind it, will miss the U.S. entirely, and we'll head someplace warm to relax for a bit before we make any further commitments.


  1. The unnecessary excitement continues! I'm glad you landed somewhere pretty pleasant in the meantime.

    I've found an RV that I think will suit me, and I'm in the process of securing a loan -- wish me luck, and hopefully I'll see you on the road someday soon!

  2. Louise looks just soooo thrilled to be "back home". Other than that, I got nothin'.
    Good luck.

  3. I find it really inconsiderate that Choo Choo couldn't have faced their service bay west, with a nice picturesque view for the convenience of long term guests!

    Seriously, as someone with an interest in bus conversions (but no bus, yet), I never cease to be amazed by the hospitality of busnuts. For a garage to let you hang out in a bay for a couple of weeks is pretty great service.

    Have you ever done a post dedicated to Choo Choo, perhaps with pictures of their bays, and the like? They seem like a great operation.


  4. i need a recommendation for house batteries, which ones did you install? i asked tecnomedia how much hers were and she refused to answer. thanks!

  5. taflocks -

    Some good reading here:

  6. Lots of good comments here.

    @Kate: Glad to hear you've found one and I look forward to reading of your adventures soon. If that's the Georgie Boy you blogged about, it is nearly identical to the 32' Fleetwood I used to own (and live in part-time) -- it was a very livable floor plan.

    @Bob: Yeah, I wanted a picture of the front window, and Louise was "collateral damage" -- not really ready for her glamor shot.

    @Justin: I wrote extensively about Choo-Choo on our first visit here. Too many posts to link directly, but go have a look at the archive for June and July of this year, over on the right in the sidebar.

    @Tom Flocks: Phil L is write, I wrote up the whole battery experience back in July. In addition to the post he linked which talks about the installation experience and what we paid for them, I talked about the decision process on which ones to buy and where in a couple of the preceding posts.

  7. Wow - at this rate you may still be there when we start heading back south.

    Here's hoping that everything comes in this week....

    Oh, and @taflocks - we didn't refuse to answer, we just haven't finished our next article on our lithium battery setup yet that will go into the details of what we ordered (including costs) and why. But if you aren't prepared to build up a system from scratch yourself - I don't recommend you follow in our footsteps. Geesh!

  8. Umm, OK, I meant that "Phil L. is right," not "write," as I wrote. But, of course, comments can not be edited after they are posted.

  9. For something like a bearing race, I would think it should be something a well equipped tool maker could produce including the necessary heat treat and I am sure it would not be as expensive as buying and delivering it from Europe


Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!