Monday, May 30, 2016

The Case of the Missing Catalytic Converter and Repair Drama

Actually, not much of a case. Someone took it, and we didn't catch them. So this is more of the story of discovery, Working with Good and bad mechanics, figuring out what to do, and getting replaced.
Yup, something's missing
In March, we visited RoadAbode to get ready for our first trip of the season. We are always excited, because, well - first trip of the season, and we almost always head to our "home" campground. We call Country Acres our home campground because it's only an hour away, and we usually camp there first and last trips of the season.
We have a basic checklist of things to do. Check battery, look for leaks or pest infiltration, and start RoadAbode up. Usually when I start RoadAbode, even first time of the season, all I do is walk up from the house part, bend over, stick the key in the ignition and give a turn. Don't even need to touch the pedal and the fuel injectors do the rest. This time instead of the usual low throaty rumble we usually hear when I turn the key, we were greeted with a terrifyingly loud roar as the engine came to life. LOUD ROAR. Amy was putting linens away in our bedroom. Our eyes met and said everything in that knowing couples look. "THAT ain't good!" I quickly shut down the engine, fearing something was wrong with it. Hopped out and laid down on the ground and took a look. Sure enough, something was missing. "Hey Am, someone took part of our exhaust pipe!"  I bellowed incredulously from underneath RoadAbode. I laid there on my back , ticked, wondering why someone would cut a four foot piece of exhaust pipe out from under an RV. The other part that was upsetting is that though I had not visited RoadAbode In January and February as I usually do (busy at work with travel) Our storage place is behind a gated facility - with codes to get in.
We packed up and headed home still thinking why someone would cut out a four foot piece of pipe when I came to realization someone had not cut out just exhaust pipe - it was our catalytic converter!
What's missing? A Catalytic Converter!
I was not totally aware that removing catalytic converters from vehicles was a "thing" , but a quick Google confirmed the the metals found in the part are what make it an easy target for unscrupulous scrappers to make into quick cash.
Now that I identified what was missing, I had to find out if we could get it fixed before the next weekend. Then I remembered "hey, there is a truck repair place right next door" - convincingly called Jim's Truck Repair - they could probably fix it, and I wouldn't have to drive too far either. I called and spoke to what I believed was the owner, and though not 100% thought he could do the repair, but not by next weekend. So still a plus, I asked for an estimate. He asked for the Make/model, and would get back to me by end of day. Next day, I called in the afternoon since I had not heard back. An older, perhaps gruff sounding gent answered the phone, told me to hold on - and sounded like he threw on the counter - maybe even clattering to the floor. The owner got on the line after some time, and apologized for not getting back, but that he needed the VIN number as well. I said I needed to hunt that down, and asked If we could meet up at RoadAbode so he could take a look. He stated the next day at around noon or 1pm would be good for him. I let him know I needed to check with my boss, but would call back as soon as I got the VIN. Later that day I found the VIN in some paperwork, and called back. Mr McGruff answered. I had to repeat to him a several times the long sequence of numbers, either because of my speech impediment (I don't have one) or a bad phone line, or perhaps his short attention span to inane things like letters and numbers. I let him know that I still didn't know what time I could meet up with Jim (had not heard back from my boss yet) Mr McGruff bellowed into the phone "I don't know what's the BIG DEAL about meeting and gettin' him to look at this thing? It's sittin' RIGHT NEXT DOOR!" Taken aback I stopped for a moment, then proceeded to let him know that I work during the day, and to meet on Jim's schedule I needed to get approval to get the time - does that make sense?!? He grumbled yes into the phone and hung up. Later I called that I could meet the next day, Jim answered, and said no problem.
Next day I picked up Jim at the front gate, and took him to RoadAbode's spot. He took pictures, and measurements saying it seemed like he could refit a catalytic converter in. I drove him back over to his garage, and he said he'd call me with an estimate. Two day's later I hadn't received a call, and called there. "Are ys' sitting down? Mr. McGruff chuckled into the phone it's gonna be $2500 dollars! I thanked him and said if I would call back if I wanted done.
Amy canceled our March reservations, and kindly Country Acres let us reschedule at no loss for April.
I Googled the part and found that the Catalytic converter alone was $350-$400 dollars, depending on what site I visited.
I decided to call Bergey Truck Center - who up to this point has done all my yearly work and inspections. Since RoadAbode is a Ford, I was referred to the Bergey Ford Shop. The gentleman there was very helpful, and told me he would get a price, but he believed that since they were a Ford Service Center, that they would have to do replace from the headers by the engine block, all the way to the muffler. He called back in a few hours with a price of $2900, and confirmed that would be from the headers to the muffler. He also stated what I was already thinking. If it was his, he's get the part and get a muffler shop or independent garage to weld the part in.
At this point, I ordered the part online including shipping for $371 and figured I would find someone who could weld it on.
Bought it - Can I get it installed?
I knew I had until April to find a place to get the new catalytic converter installed. Just needed the time to call around, get prices and find places willing (and big enough for RoadAbode) to install my aftermarket part.
Unfortunately, I now was travelling more for work, which afforded me little time to lookup and call places.
It was a bit fustrationg - and stressing too. That's When Amy came to the rescure!
While I was in LA for work, she managed to find a place that was only a few miles from RoadAbode, and could weld in the part. So without letting me know she drove RoadAbode to Dependable Auto Service in Hatboro, There, they treated her very well and showed here what they needed to do, and took pictures for her to boot. I think we found a new dependable place for future RoadAbode work!
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Sunday, May 15, 2016

How'd We Get to Here?

It's been a long time since posting. Too long. It's not that we've stopped doing things with RoadAbode. It's been that there has been a shift in responsibility and priority.

The place I have worked for as the IT Administrator for over a decade was acquired by a larger company. Now in my fifties, my job has changed. I need to learn new technology (to me), new interfaces, new software. I have to adopt new responsibilities. I now travel to other offices to help in upgrades, moves and expansions. In the past few months I've added up more flights and hotel stays than in all my previous time spent on this earth combined. It's not that I haven't wanted to write, it's the time to do so.
One of my flights. Like riding a flying school bus

Let me try to catch you up.
In 2015, RoadAbode had two blowouts - one on either side of the rear. Two different trips. The second one in November also took out the sewer gate valve. Fortunately we had just flushed the tanks for the winter. It also took out part of the wheel well trim.  Hope to write about the adventure of replacing the sewer parts soon.

As usual, we did little in December, January and February with RoadAbode, and even less because I was travelling for work across the country. Birmingham, Los Angeles, and Buffalo to name a few - but I mostly got to see the inside of airports, office suites, and hotel rooms. Not much sightseeing. Do feel blessed to be working with a good team of people. Makes working until 2am some nights bearable.

The week before our first trip in March, I visited RoadAbode to do a "pre-road trip" check. Found out when I started her up that someone had helped themselves to her catalytic converter. Bit upsetting since we keep RoadAbode in an access controlled, fenced in storage facility. Unfortunately the time-frame was so wide we couldn't catch the culprits on the storge yard camera. March's trip was cancelled since we could not get a reasonable estimate, nor the part before the trip. We've since replaced, and perhaps will blog the account how Amy got the job done.
A missing catalytic converter
My travel for work also caused my decision to step down as board member of a local theater group, ASH. I felt I could not give the correct attention to the kids outreach that I would like to.

We finally did have a great weekend out to Lancaster in April. Thrift shopping and visiting some eateries. And some Snow too!

May's trip was for Mother's day, and enjoyed a time next to the Swatara River at the Jonestown KOA.
So there has been a good bit of adventure, and not as much travel in RoadAbode - but summer is almost here!
Looking forward to an upcoming trip to Amherst, Massachusetts - home to Emily Dickinson and the  Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Hopefully I can share the experience here.

It took a day off to recoup and get the time to write to write. hopefully I'll be able to chronicle what adventures are headed our way with RoadAbode. It's fun to look back at the past eleven years and see how much we've enjoyed the time in RoadAbode! If not, at least I'll try to post a quick picture on Instagram or Twitter. Follow along!



Monday, July 20, 2015

Trouble on the Road - Tire Failure

RoadAbode - Trouble on the Road : Tire Failure
It's not something you expect, but it does happen. The last time this happened, it was also on a Guys RoadTrip. On the way home from Gettysburg, on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, RoadAbode shook and rumbled a bit, and I heard a loud, almost ripping sound. My buddies looked at me questioningly, and I let out a quiet "damn!" as I put on the hazards and looked for a place to pull over. I already knew what had happened. Tire Trouble. Fortunately it happened right before a wide emergency pull-off area to park RoadAbode into.. I jumped out and inspected the damage.  The tread separated from the inside, curside dually tire.  It was pretty close to the stretch of highway it happened to last time. Conditions were the same. Extra hot day, and I had verified the tire pressures before leaving. Thankfully there was no damage to the Honda Fit we tow, even though it had just run over the remnants of the "road gator" we left behind. To add a little more injury, as the tread left our now bald tire, the road gator must have banged our tailpipe, which exhausts behind the wheel, up into the bottom our side wall, crumpling a small portion of filon.
At least no one got hurt, and it's all fixable, right?
Sitting on the side of the Road
Waiting on Service. Glad we were at a good pull-off on the PA Turnpike
After calming down, I dug out my Good Sam Card and called the number. Not a direct line, I needed to wait for the prompts. It was comforting to hear the young lady first verify we were in a safe location. She then took my member info, and started her search for a company that would change our tire. From her questions, she did not seem knowledgeable about RVs. Also, she needed a street address or town to try to pinpoint where we were. I knew we were headed east on the PA turnpike, and our mile marker, but finding a town to help was not exactly easy, even using Google Maps on my smart phone. She finally reached a tow operator that was currently on another job, but could be to us in two hours. Well - guess we'd have to wait. I though about turning on the Generator and house air-conditioner, but RoadAbode was on a 1/4 tank of gas - fine to get back home but maybe not to run the genset for a few hours too. So we broke out the camp chairs, sat in the shade of a nearby tree, and proceeded to wait.
Not much went on. I decided to grab a trash bag and gloves and clean up our little piece of PA Turnpike paradise. Then I disconnected the Honda Fit so we would be ready to change out the tire. The few tools the service would need I readied - a tool to crank down the tire, and a tool that gets the locking nut off the wheel covers. A dump truck passing by also blew a tire - right across from where RoadAbode sat. The driver just kept going.
RoadAbode - Location on the PA Turnpike
Where we were for 3 & half hours
About forty minutes into our wait I received a call from Good Sam. Seems the service company would need to add another hour to our wait time! "Can you see if there is someone else available?" The woman from Good Sam said she'd call me back. 10 minutes later she said she had another company and they would arrive in 40 minutes. It was Abel Brothers. They fixed RoadAbode last time!
I decided to run the genset and air-conditioner to cool off a bit.
Within 30 minutes two young guys pulled up and began work on RoadAbode.
They were good guys and we talked a little about camping and RVing - one had even been to Gettysburg in the past few weeks. They were curious about my tow setup, and showed them how it worked - and what cars with automatic transmissions could be towed.
It was obvious that one was teaching the other. They went over how to chock the wheels safely, and how to get the tires off without damage. Within thirty minutes - they were done! It was a hot day, so I got each a large Gatorade from RoadAbode's fridge. They were happy for that!

Since the "blowout" we've replaced both duallys on the curbside. I'm also keeping the tires at about 5lbs less pressure than I use to. We've had three trips since, with no issue.


Guys fixing up RoadAbode

RoadAbode Tire Trouble - Damaged Sidewall
Damage from the tread giving way and wacking the tailpipe up and into RoadAbode's sidewall