On our latest leg of this journey, we have been watching the RV’s left front wheel’s axle oil closely. Since first discovering this little jewel, we had a fairly short leg to Payne’s Prairie State Park, about 60 miles, and we saw very little oil loss. While I was at it, it seemed prudent to check the right front wheel as well, and found that it was very low as well. No oil visible on the inside of this wheel, but definitely needed to replenish gear oil on this side as well.
So we purchased another quart of gear oil to keep on hand for the road and replenished both sides. Now we have yet to even use up one quart of gear oil replenishing both sides of the front axle, but I have consistently noticed oil leaking down the inside of the left forward wheel since that day. We have tried to remain hopeful for the remainder of our trip to Nashville where my brother is setting up a garage to replace the rear seal, clean up the oily mess, and possibly replace the brake shoes.
The next leg was considerably longer, about 250 miles, so we stopped after about 100 miles along Interstate 10 West, pulling into a rest stop alongside other RV’s and several big trucks, and I removed the chrome covers on both front wheels to check the gear oil level. A little loss on the left side but none on the right, so we added a squirt or two of oil, buttoned things up, and continued on. After about another 100 miles we found another rest area and checked the wheels again, then had some lunch and completed the day’s drive.
We’ve been consciously trying to maintain a vigilant watch on everything and not completely focus on the front wheels, so it certainly was a surprise when we arrived at Falling Waters State park about halfway between Tallahassee and Pensacola to discover that when we disconnected the automobile from the RV it refused to shift from Neutral into Park.
When we pushed the car into a parking space near the Park entrance, I noticed oil spayed all over the rear door and window, and when I came back after we hastily set up camp I found oil all over the undercarriage as well, and no fluid registering on the transmission dipstick. The transmission body is hidden under some cowlings along the underbody, but it seemed safe to say that the transmission had experienced a catastrophic failure.
We called on our Roadside Assistance contract to get the vehicle towed to a Ford dealer’s garage about 25 miles away, and have called on the extended warranty we purchased when we purchased the car. When we found out that the dealer must keep the car and present it to an inspector from the extended warranty people, a process which may take up to 2 weeks, we said we’d continue on our way without a car and come back for it when the repairs are complete.
A little more research on the Internet uncovered some very similar problems with transmissions in Ford Escapes, and not all of them were from towing the vehicle behind an RV. One other RV owner has had the tranny replaced 3 times in his brand new Escape, at Ford’s expense. We would prefer not to go through this particular exercise with the Escape’s transmission again, however, and we’ll be looking at either trading it in on a more suitable vehicle to tow with all wheels on the road, or to purchase a 2-wheeled trailer to tow it behind Sanctuary.