Note: We’ve been without decent Wifi for a while now so I’m a little behind on publishing blogs. The next few days will contain blogs covering the last week or two.
As we packed up our gear for another campsite move, I was taking off the canvas wheel covers when I noticed some black oil behind the front left wheel, and on further inspection I found a small puddle of oil on the inside of the wheel, oil sprayed all around the inside rim, and oil leaking out of the inside crevices of the brake drum. Not good.
Ever since I’ve been involved with cruising sailboats I’ve found that systems onboard will break down, usually at the most inopportune time, and unless you are willing to deal with these little unfortunate events as a price for enjoying the lifestyle, you had best not venture too far from your boat’s home dock. Cruisers often define cruising as “repairs accomplished in exotic places.” It appears that the same holds true for traveling in an RV.
So here we were in Beverly Hills, Florida, a small town in the north central part of the state, not very close to anywhere in particular, and the seals on our front left wheel chose this particular time and place to give way. I’m still searching for a decent manual to help me understand the systems of a Freightliner RV chassis, so we contact our Roadside Assistance provider (something we never had on the sailboats) to get some help. We discovered however, that on a Sunday, particularly on Mother’s Day, getting someone to come assess your troubles and provide assistance is a particularly expensive proposition, and one not covered by regular assistance coverage.
While I had mentally resigned myself to stay another day and sort things out on Monday, Carrie was not quite so willing to give up a day on our paid-for reservation at a State Park near Gainesville. Undaunted, she hopped online and presented our symptoms to one of the Facebook RV user’s groups we’ve recently joined, and sure enough several group members quickly responded in spades with advice and similar experiences.
Now we have also found in our cruising experience that too much advice can also have its disadvantages, but we did determine how to check the gear oil on the wheel hub, and how to replenish it. We also determined that we could safely move on to our next destination and deal with the underlying problem at a time and place more advantageous to us without disrupting our short-term schedule.
So we purchased the right flavor of gear oil and filled the reservoir, finished packing up the rig and headed off to our next stop with only a few hours delay. We reached the park with plenty of daylight, set up camp and enjoyed a pleasant evening in our new surroundings.
The next day when we found a WiFi hotspot (no WiFi in the park), and I did some additional research and found seals and gaskets online as well as instructions on how to replace them. Armed with my newly acquired knowledge we enjoyed the afternoon biking and hiking trails around the park, and after dinner I consulted with Carrie’s older son Jason, who is a diesel mechanic/welder who works on heavy equipment. It’s a good thing I did.
Jason calmly listened to all that I had learned that day, and then politely advised me that changing the seal on the outside of the wheel wouldn’t solve our problem. It appears there are also seals on the inner side of the wheel drum, and these were the culprit for the oil leaking on that side of the wheel. It also seemed likely to him that oil has probably found its way around the brake shoes and may have degraded them to some extent. Replacing those seals, along with cleaning up the drum area and probably replacing the brake shoes as well would involve more equipment and expertise that I have, but he agreed that we could safely schedule the maintenance somewhere down the road while watching the oil level closely so as to not let it run dry.
So that’s our plan for the near term, and we’ll look into using our extended warranty (also something we never had on any of our sailboats) to help with the expenses. Yet another similarity to cruising, we’ve found that networking with others of a like mind can offer great support to keep things rolling far from home. It also appears that with some perseverance and a willingness to climb around under the rig and get one’s hands dirty, we can enjoy some freedom and opportunities that many people only dream about; just like cruising!