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Author Topic: what a difference a weekend can make  (Read 5291 times)
John Z
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« on: June 07, 2007, 06:08:56 AM »

Pulled out Friday afternoon for a weekend bicycle ride about 100 miles away. It was the first time i had used the bus since the end of Feb. It felt so great to be loading up supplies, bikes, filling water tanks etc. This was also the first trip with the water heater and shower system checked out and working.

About 70 miles away we smelled something hot while stopped at a red light. I made the corner and found a spot to pull off. The whole back of the bus was under smoke which smelled strange to me, a combo of hot oil, rubber, wiring, about everything except coolant. The left rear dual was all oiled up, and while looking through the wheels my friend spotted flames. She ran to the bus for a fire bottle and i grabbed one out of a luggage bay. The fire was easily put out, thankfully. While keeping an eye on it in case the fire started again, the inside dual blew out, scaring both of us.

A mobile mech comes out and pulls the wheels off. When he removed the dust cover, it contained 2 axle bolts that were completely out. I could see that a few more of them were backed out about an inch. He backs off the brake, and reinstalls and tightens about half of the axle bolts. After mounting my spare and the outer dual, the mech said i was good to go, and asked me to pull ahead a bit so he could get his chocks.

I pulled ahead a couple feet and the couch just stopped when i put the clutch in. I told him something was still hanging up. After readjusting the brakes off, the same thing happened. I told him the bus should actually be rolling backward, that i felt something was not right. He had it back in the air and showed me that he could turn the wheel (albeit with a lot of effort). I again said things were not right, but could tell he was getting angry with me. He said it was as good as it was going to get and that i could leave.

It is now dark. Ten miles down the road as i am being passed, i notice smoke again in the cars headlights behind me. I pull in a gas station, we get out, and the brake drum is cherry red glowing and hot! Fires bottles are brought out again. This time both duals blew out, and a small grease fire had to be put out.

A different mech came out on Sat to look at it. He came out Sun with wheels and tires, and puts it back together. We start down the road and stop to chk at 5 miles. The remaining 5 axle bolts have worked loose and some oil is on the wheel. He tightens it up and says to "walk" it in to town, about 6 more miles, and stop. The bus only made it 4 more miles before the axle came out. I noticed the speedo climb, so pulled way off the highway. No local tow company (within 100 miles) would come get the bus, so the mech tore it apart on the shoulder of the highway. The rollers fell out of the hub when he took it off. The inner bearing was shot, with the race "welded" on.

I know this is getting to be a long post, so to shorten it up, it took two days on the side of the highway before i could move the bus. Thanks to Luke's for having the parts on hand and being able to next day air them out to us on Mon morning.

Questions and concerns. Right now i don't even want to drive the bus, my whole attitude toward this has changed. The mech said it may have damaged the tube, as it was difficult to remove and install the axle. He had to cut the race into 4 parts in order to get it off. Once one piece was removed, the others came off easily. He spent approx 45 minutes with an air grinder in order to be able to put the new race on. He said i may have to have the end of the tube cut off and a new one welded on, which sounded even more expensive than this already was. On the way home i stopped about 4-5 miles to chk on things. The new bearings were just slightly warm, other 3 cold. I drove it 5 more miles and new bearings maybe a slight bit warmer, but just barely warm to touch, others were cool but maybe warming a bit. I drove it about 10 miles, and all 4 corners were just warm. I drove about 15 miles and things had not changed, so i said a little prayer and drove home. The temps had not changed when i checked them at home.

Should i drive it or not? Should i bring it to a shop to have the work done on the road all checked out? At the time i still had 22" wheels and tires, so had to switch to 22.5" wheels with used tires in order to get home... guess i am just saying the expense of the trip was all sudden and unexpected and i am thinking it may be a while before i can afford to even thing about doing anything with it. Plus right now, it just does not seem like something i even want to do.

Lessons:
- fire bottles are a must, at least 4 of them.
- dust covers can hide problems until too late
- for me, towing insurance will be a must. Any ideas of good ones?
- good idea to always pack extra underwear and socks!  Smiley
- good mechanics are hard to find, the first one was a DOT inspector!
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Barn Owl
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« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2007, 06:40:58 AM »

Ouch!

That is the experience we all dread. I understand the feeling of not wanting to drive the bus, I had a similar feeling the week before my vacation because I started to loose confidence in it. Fortunately I pushed ahead and had a great time.

New bearings will run a little warmer as they set in. I replaced bearings on a pop-up I had one time before a trip and became very concerned after touching the hubs. They were very warm. After a few hundred miles they settled in and never got above what I would call normal temps.

Good advice in your "Lessons", I use Good Sam's Club and I like them. You can search for "road side assistance" or one of the service providers and you will find a lot of information on the services.

Where your rear bearings grease packed or oil bath? I am wanting to inspect mine but it will be a winter project if I can do it.
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L. Christley - W3EYE Amateur Extra
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« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2007, 06:46:28 AM »

Link to my experience with road side assistance:

http://www.busconversions.com/bbs/index.php?topic=1527.msg12929#msg12929
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« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2007, 06:52:36 AM »

Hi John,
I'm so sorry about your experience.  I completely understand how hard it can be on your emotional state to be broken down.  The only solution to regain confidence is to drive.  However, I highly recommend you try and figure out why the bearing and axle bolts failed.  It doesn't sound like that was addressed.  I don't understand how your axle bolts could back out or fail other than the hot hub causing that to happen.  I think you would definitely be well served to figure out what is the cause of the failure and address it.  Then you can have confidence in the solution.

Once you have this expensive experience paid for I think a trip down to the cities to C&J bus would be something work considering.  JD and crew should be able to fully investigate your axle and make sure no lingering issues exist.  Also, if the axle tube does need replacing you have the option at C&J to not cut and weld, but to replace.  JD has a jig they built that can pull the tube out of the differential and press a replacement one in.  It would be worth considering this route if the price is right.

I agree with Barn Owl's post about bearings running warmer for a while until they seat in.  I had a wheel seal failure that caused my bearings to get toasted on my passenger side drive wheel.  I had to replace the bearing cones (on the hub) and bearings as part of my fix.  The new bearings ran at least 15 - 25 degrees hotter than the other side for about 1000 miles.  Now they run at the same temperature as the other side.
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skipn
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« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2007, 06:56:08 AM »

John,

   As you may have guessed it is easier to become a DOT inspector than a good mechanic.
   If the break drum was cherry red I would at a minn change the brake pads.
   Different size tires can change the load factor and heat up one side more than the other.
  
    Put the correct size tires on change the brakes and try it out.  When the work is done on
    your bus watch and make sure they use a torque wrench on everything.
    Until your confidence is up on the bus keep the dust cover off.

    One more item to add to my spring check out..... Remove chrome simulators and check All of the bolts.

  IMO
  Skip
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kyle4501
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« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2007, 07:18:41 AM »

It sounds like you are all fixed now as for the bearing issue goes. My guess is the bearing was bad & the vibration caused the axle bolts to loosen. If ALL axle bolts weren't installed, they will fail sooner - there is a good reason the manufacturer put so many in there.  Wink

If I was concerned about the axle tube, I'd start looking for a good used axle assembly. You should have time to find one at a reasonable cost.

That first mechanic needs to be held accountable for his incompetence. If a 'lay person' knows something isn't right, he most certainly should have known! His 'professional' assurance that all was good could have cost you your bus & more if not for your preparedness.
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John Z
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« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2007, 07:26:21 AM »

Thanks a lot guys, i am already feeling better! I knew my funk would not be permanent as i really love busing. But man, what a depressing trip home that was. I just kept thinking that there must have been some indicator that i missed that was trying to tell me things were not right. I mean i have had wheel bearings go out on a car, and i knew about it right away from the sound and feel of things.

Barnowl, thanks for the link you gave about the towning,, i will get to work to get that in place before i turn another wheel. The bearings were grease packed. Also on my shopping list is a 3/4" ratchet/breaker bar and sockets to fit things back there.

Brian, i have saved your note about the shop in the cities - what part of town are they in? You are right on about getting this weekend paid for!! YIKES. You asked about the axle bolts being loose - when they took off the wheels on the good side (curb side) to replace with the 22.5 wheels, those axle nuts looked good but were not really tight either! So, i think i can get by without those dust covers for quite a while. Think i will just paint the ends of the axles to match the wheels! I really like the idea of being able to inspect those nuts when i do my "walk around."

I had driven the bus about 60 miles on Wed to warm it up before changing the oil and filter. We stopped at a Dairy Queen and my friend thought she smelled something hot. While she went in to order, i walked around again. I felt the tires, but never thought to feel the hub  area. And i had not loaded my digital thermometer or i would have used that. Could not smell anything myself. Drove the 30 miles home, and niether of us noticed anything else when we got back.

You guys have made me feel much better, MUCH BETTER, about new bearings running a bit warmer. That had me quite concerned on the way home. It is a relief to read what you have said about the new ones.

Skip, i too wondered about the DOT inspector/mech. When the second mech arrived on Sat, he said this thing should be out of service! He knew the first mech, and was surprised that he put us back on the road. I asked about the brake shoes,, was wondering if the glaze should be taken off the shoes, and was told he did not think that was necessary, that it would come off on its own soon enough. Yeah, now i need to save up money for 4 new 22.5 tires for back there. Any ideas of good ones or where to buy them? I could use saving a few bucks about now!

I appreciate all of you saying to get back on the road. I already am feeling better.

BTW, i have two dust covers for sale! Would make a nice little parts cleaner or maybe a good fondue pot for traveling! It would hold at least 10 forks easily!!!
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John Z
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« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2007, 07:30:47 AM »

Kyle, i was typing when your post hit.

I felt the same way about the first mech. Was not sure if i was justified or if it was just my run-away emotion about the entire weekend. Have thought about what steps to take. Yep, i was sooo thankful for the 4 fire bottles on board. One under the sink, one by the driver seat, and one on each side in my luggage bay. I will not move the bus until i replace those for sure!
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« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2007, 07:42:52 AM »

John,

Is it possible the brakes were hanging up, which caused everything to heat up, and resulted in the loss of the seal and loosening of the axle bolts?  Maybe the anchor pins are rusted and not allowing the shoes to release properly.


C&J Bus Repair is in Bloomington, two exits south of I494. About 4 blocks east of I35W.

www.cjbusrepair.com

Their labor rates are not cheap, but they are fair, and they do excellent work. In fact, if they can't do the job correctly, they won't do it at all. Nothing is done half-assed there.

Give them a call. Talk to JD.  He'll give you the straight story. Tell him Brian and Craig sent you.

Craig
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« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2007, 07:48:24 AM »

John,

The single best advice I have for you is to trust your instincts!  When you are dealing with a service provider of any type and you don't have first hand knowledge of their capabilities, listen to your gut.

I tend to trust people first until they prove me wrong and that has cost me dearly several times. It's a hard lesson.

Even when you don't know the first thing about the subject at hand and you are dealing with a pro, go with your gut.

Len
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John Z
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« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2007, 08:00:56 AM »

Craig, i don't know which came first, the brakes hanging or the bearing failing, but my guess is it was the bearing. The second mech said the pins were good, the s-cams were good etc. OK, i will try to set aside some money to get down to the cities and have those guys check things out. I would certainly feel better about setting out on another trip with it knowing things had been inspected.

Len, you are 100% right. I know a bit about cars, and certainly less about buses and air brakes etc. But i did know that something was wrong when the first mech had me pull ahead. I knew that the bus should not come to a halt on its own the way it did. I knew it should have started to roll backward on the slight incline we were parked on. But then i started to second guess myself. I thought maybe something was still really hot back there, and that it would clear up, after all i had just been told things were ok by a DOT inspector!!! Live and learn. If i had gone with my instincts, i guess i could have called a second mech later on, but that would not be a easy decision to make. It sure would have saved me heartache and money.
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« Reply #11 on: June 07, 2007, 08:27:01 AM »

John,
I would say you had a bearing failure. The bearings failed and let the hub run at an angle on the axle tube and put a big load on the axle nuts/studs. Generally when this happens the axle shaft breaks at the flange end of the axle shaft; breaks at the spline end are usually torque. Once the axle nuts/studs have failed the hub angles enough for the brake drum to rub on the brake shoes and lots of heat is generated enough to burn out the axle seal and heat soak the tires to their failure point. When the first mech jacked up the axle it unloaded the brake shoe to drum load so that he could turn it, although the drum was probably rubbing on top of the shoes from the weight of the tire and hub assembly, once he let it down the weight of the bus was now pushing the brake shoe against the drum and you know the result.
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« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2007, 08:30:47 AM »

John,
I would say you had a bearing failure. The bearings failed and let the hub run at an angle on the axle tube and put a big load on the axle nuts/studs. Generally when this happens the axle shaft breaks at the flange end of the axle shaft; breaks at the spline end are usually torque. Once the axle nuts/studs have failed the hub angles enough for the brake drum to rub on the brake shoes and lots of heat is generated enough to burn out the axle seal and heat soak the tires to their failure point. When the first mech jacked up the axle it unloaded the brake shoe to drum load so that he could turn it, although the drum was probably rubbing on top of the shoes from the weight of the tire and hub assembly, once he let it down the weight of the bus was now pushing the brake shoe against the drum and you know the result.


Lee, that is a pretty good story and I could see how that could be the case for what happened.  Still, I'd wonder why the bearing failed?
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« Reply #13 on: June 07, 2007, 08:50:47 AM »

I had a bearing failure a couple of years ago. It just failed no idea why. It was late at night and was pulling a 5% grade at 60MPH and I pass a truck and checked my mirror to pull back in and saw smoke the truck started flashing his headlights. By the time I got pulled over the axle had come out around 6 inch. Couldnít use the brakes to slow down as that wheel would grab and make one hell of a noise. The cone was welded to the spindle and took about 3 hrs to get it off and polish the spindle up so the new cone would fit up. Have put on around 15K miles since with no problems Ö I guess it was at the end of its life.
 
Ron
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« Reply #14 on: June 07, 2007, 09:36:42 AM »

When I pulled the old wheel bearings on the front axle, we inspected the bearings, and discovered way to much wear on the rollers they were pitted and grooved, who knows how many miles were on these bearings, I called Mohawk........the bearings were cheap, with the weight, stress and age on these old buss animals it wouldn't take long to go bad if a roller split!  I was wondering if maybe Smart Tire or a similiar product would have shown a temperature increase before a total failure? If the brakes were cherry hot this temperature would have definately affected the air pressure........temp goes up......press goes up! A first out indication that there might be a problem!           

Pat
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