Technically, we were on the road again yesterday.. but that’s getting ahead of where we left you with our last post.
Picking up from there… I called Tiffin several times on Tuesday for a status update, and no one could tell me anything concrete ( or inline with earlier information ). However, at about 3:30pm on Tuesday, I did get an email from UPS with the tracking number for my next-day shipment! Woot! It wasn’t active immediately, but that’s pretty typical.
Wednesday, 6am… still no tracking data. Now, I’ve seen enough instances of missed scans, software glitches, etc… causing tracking not to be populated. So, while I would have liked to have seen something, I wasn’t immediately dismayed.
By 9am, still with no tracking data, I decided to try and get confirmation of shipment from Tiffin. After several phone calls, I found out that not only had a shipment not been sent, but Tiffin did not have any returned gear boxes to replace the seals on and subsequently send to me. This information was a shock. Why would an overnight shipping label be created for an item that wasn’t present to ship?
My best guess is that the label was auto-created by their order tracking system, and would be used once the part was available. I don’t blame any individual at Tiffin for the misinformation I’d received previously — each person I spoke with was eager to help in any way they could. The problem is really that each person only has a very narrow view of the overall picture. It wasn’t until I got to talk with someone in the area which receives the returned units that I got the bad, but accurate news.
At this point, I had entirely given up on getting any part from either Tiffin or the gear box manufacturer. I decided to try and find a machine shop which could possibly use parts from either or both of the gear boxes I have and make a functioning one.
I called about a dozen or so machine shops. The first one I left a voicemail for, but every other one I spoke with had no desire to even look at the gear boxes, let alone attempt to repair one of them. Many said they only did work for the local steel mills, others wouldn’t work on automotive parts, some refused as soon as the ‘RV’ phrase came up.
I was starting to think about an extended stay in the area, again waiting on a part from Tiffin.
Then, I got a call…
It was Tom Krukowski, owner of Millwright Machine Inc — returning the first call I’d made where I had to leave a voicemail. Tom listened to my entire story — I was braced for yet another rejection. Tom said, “Oh sure, we do that type of thing all the time and sounds like you just had a bearing seize up. When can you bring the gear boxes by the shop?”
I was beside myself. I told him I’d have to remove the “new” gear box from the coach but would be over before noon. He said he’d call ahead to the shop ( he was out running errands ), to let them know to expect me, but that he should be back by then anyway.
I beat my estimate, only taking about 45 minutes to extract the “new” box, I arrived by 10:30am. Tom set me up with one of his machinists, Kevin, and was gracious enough to allow me to hang out – this was my number top priority.
Kevin tore into the “new” gear box which had ran without lube oil, we all expected it would be the most salvageable. It was not good. Not only were the bearings wrecked, but the seat where the output shaft’s internal bearing should fit was broken and in pieces.
Since the bearing seat was a molded part of the gear box case, this one was a non-starter.
On to the original failed gear box. To our surprise, it was in decent shape and was the basis for the rebuild. Here’s what all needed to be done:
- All old bearings pulled and bearing races removed.
- This was no small feat.
- One of the bearings had spun on the shaft and slightly welded itself to the output shaft.
- Ultimately, a hydraulic press was used to separate the bearing.
- The output shaft had to be turned on a lathe to remove the smeared metal from the bearing spinning on the shaft.
- A new sleeve was fashioned and installed to correct the now thinner part of the shaft’s outside diameter for a new bearing to fit properly.
- The bearing and shaft seal part numbers had to be determined and new parts ordered.
- In total, only $84 of parts were needed – 4 bearings and 2 shaft seals.
- All the new bearings needed to be pressed into place, along with their corresponding new bearing races.
- The bearing spacing was adjusted using shims in the mating surfaces of the gear box.
- Luckily, I had spare spacers from the unused gear box so we could get this spacing spot on.
- New sealant was applied to the gear box closures and the new shaft seals were installed.
While this list doesn’t seem like much, it was a major effort requiring practically two full work days to complete. Some of the bearings were stubborn, identifying the proper bearings and seals proved difficult since the old ones were in such bad shape, turning the shaft down and creating a sleeve to correct its outside diameter… all these things added significantly to the time. Often, the simplest of tasks proved to be the most difficult.
Alas, at about 3:30pm yesterday ( Thursday, Aug 12th ), it was all back together and spinning like a new gear box!
I will say, the final price was quite a bit more than the cost of a new gear box. However, in the absence of available parts, and after being stranded for 4 days, the ability to get back on the road was priceless. Thus, the rebuild cost was worth every.. single… penny…
I must have thanked Tom, Kevin, Jackie and the rest of the staff at Millwright Machine, Inc more than 10 times over the course of the two days. There honestly were no words to properly convey our appreciation and ‘Thank You’ didn’t feel like enough. Tom confessed they ( like so many of the other shops I’d called ) don’t normally do work for individuals either, but when he first talked with me, he knew the situation I was in and wanted to help us get back on our way.
I installed the rebuilt gear box (after adding 24oz of 70w95 lube oil) Thursday evening in about 1.5 hrs and we were on the road by 5:30pm.
We’ve now completed over 800 miles and 11.5hrs of driving with the new gear box and still have just over 1000 miles remaining on our trek. The rebuilt gear box is performing perfectly!