We rolled out of bed to a sunny, beautiful day after an overnight at a truck stop in Tulsa, OK. It’s my turn to drive and I’m going through my pre-flight checklist (as any good pilot would do). Everything checks out so I release brake and start rolling forward between semi trucks to the sound of grinding and screeching and not much forward movement.
“Woah!” We both said in unison, “That doesn’t sound good!”
How suddenly our world can go from trouble-free fun to …. the other thing. We had just left the Newell Coach factory the day before. What bad timing!!
So what was that sound? Maybe it will go away if we pretend it didn’t happen and try again. So I push the accelerator and again we get an agonizing noise. Nuts!
So what could it be? Well, remember last night when we rolled in here and Wendy had a difficult time getting the parking brake to engage? (The parking brake on this beast is a rectangular yellow knob which you pull to engage. When engaged, it releases all the air from the disk brakes and their springs put the jaws of life clamps on the brakes).
So maybe we have a locked brake? Wendy goes out to investigate and hears a constant hissing sound by the main/tag tires. Hmmm. Maybe we have an air leak. But I’m checking the gauges and am showing full pressure on all the air systems. (We sound pretty sophisticated at this point, right? Well, just wait.)
So I call the factory and they ask a bunch of questions and get a specialist on the phone who asks a bunch of questions, which culminates in a suggestion that I look into the belly of the beast (behind and above the main and tag axles) to see if a brake line has come loose.
The ground at truck stops is filthy. The underbelly of Zane is nasty and it’s a really tight space, with 56,000 pounds of beast on top of you and only air bag suspension to protect you from getting squashed. I’m not enthused about getting in there to have a look-see. So the next question is: Do we call CoachNet (for emergency services) or do we see if the small mechanics shop at this truck stop can resolve our problem? We opt for the mechanics shop and meet Luis. (There are people in this world who love to solve problems of this nature and do it with a smile. And Luis is one of them.) He crawls under and around and in and out. I don’t know who cleans his uniform, but, wow!
Two hours later Luis has jacked up the coach, removed the tag wheel and …. “Ohhh, he says, “I see what the problem is!” I’m thinking, hmmm. What is it: An air leak? Is the brake caliper shot? Who has parts for these things? Luis says, “Let me show you. Do you see the skid marks on the bottom of your coach? You’re dragging bottom! You see this big mounded hump in the asphalt? You’re just in a low spot.”
I had mixed feelings about the diagnosis. On the one hand, Yay! A simple problem with a simple solution! On the other hand, Duh.
But as we looked around the truck parking lot, which is in really bad shape, there was a pot hole that could have swallowed a Smart car, and a trio of trucks hauling 70,000 pound rectangular metal structures: one had tried to get out of lot and his rig slipped its king pin, leaving the huge trailer dropped to the ground, with no jacks to get it back up. It took them as long to solve their problem as it did ours. When they finally got their rig back together, they gave me a thumbs up.
We’re learning all the time. So what do I take away from this? My world is filled with good people who are ready to help me. The Newell factory was right there on the line ready to help me troubleshoot. And there are people like Luis who are ready, willing and able to crawl around in the belly of the beast to discover and solve problems.
What was the bill for this adventure? Would you believe our 2-hours of Luis’s time and equipment cost us only $53?
So how did we solve the problem of bottoming out? Usually, when we arrive at a campsite (or truck stop) we push a little button and the suspension goes from travel mode through a processes of filling and removing air from the corners of the suspension to find level.
It’s pretty cool to hearing little hissing bursts and see the world sway as it finds level. This system also allows you to raise or lower the entire coach. So I simply manually raised the suspension and we s-l-o-w-l-y rolled on out, with the high air suspension alert pinging, found a flat spot a few feet down the road, then put it back into travel mode suspension. No muss, no fuss- just 2 hours of fun and games to start our day. And we got to meet Luis, a really awesome guy.