On the Road Again, details of the breakdown

After 8 days in a hotel, we are finally on the road again.  We are currently at Horseshoe Lakes Thousand Trails in IN after our breakdown in Indianapolis.

We stopped at Flying J to have lunch and upon returning our 2007 Safari Simba would not come out of park.  Nothing we tried worked, so we were towed by Good Sam Roadside Assistance to Clarke Power Systems about a half a mile from Flying J.

Walt was the first person to greet us and was very understanding.  As it was the end of the day, we left to find a hotel room.   Troubleshooting began the next morning.  I must say that communications the first day were kind of poor.  I had to call them to find out what was happening and even then the information wasn’t something that I could understand.  That all changed when I called and found out that they had a customer support manager (Rich), whom I called on Wednesday.  Things moved along great after that.  First, the issue was identified as an adjustment to the transmission, that apparently lead to the replacement of a part, which still didn’t correct the problem.  By Thursday, they had dedicated an Allison Technician to find the problem and fix it.  Via software and good old troubleshooting, he felt it was the shifter console (which was not an Allison part).  We (John, the tech, Putt, my son-in-law and myself) searched for a replacement.  After some research two were found and one was put on order.  It would arrive on Tuesday morning.  The part arrived and was installed.  It still did not correct the problem.  Having tested wiring, transmission and the controller, John started calling around for assistance.  Calls to Ares (they are after market makers of the shifter), Allison and Monaco, John found out that the brakes can cause the shifter to not change from park to any drive gear.

After checking the brake system, John found the lights not working (our inspection before hitting the road showed they were working at that time).  John finally found a bad fuse under the dash inside the rig.  Replaced the 20 amp fuse and everything worked!  8 days of working on the rig for a bad fuse.  All told they had spend over 22 hours on the rig.

Now this may seem like a horror story and in a sense it was.  But since the rig was not using standard configurations and there were not manuals AND no software for this setup, everything had to be done the old fashion way, trial and error.

I must say that John really did understand Allison transmissions, he admitted that he knew nothing about RV but applied his understanding of Freightliner and Allison to work through the problem.  He even allowed me to help 🙂  My basic understanding of the rig and previous experience as a backyard mechanic did provide some insight to issues we ran across.  But in the long run the people at Monaco and John found the issue.

Now for the real horror story.  Good Sam Extended Warranty Program.  When we purchased the rig in September 2013, we also purchased the ESP from Good Sam just in case.  I had read about some of the issues people had with ESP so I was  a little prepared.  I was not however, prepared for the total lack of concern that the folks at GS had for us or the repair center.

Lets start with the first phone call.  I called Good Sam to determine what had to happen, what documentation was required and what would be covered.  This was Tuesday morning.  They told me that I would need to get an estimate from the repair center and have it faxed into them.  They would review it and authorize repairs.  I would be reimbursed for hotel and food based on the number of hours on the estimate.

The first Tuesday afternoon, Clarke contacted Good Sam and a ticket was open.  No estimate at that time as we hadn’t determined the problem.  Through out the process, I called Good Sam to update them, they could have cared less.

Since this was a manual troubleshooting process, the actual repair was performed during the troubleshooting.  The only expensive part replaced was an actuator that found bad the first day or so.  So, Good Sam never got an estimate.  After I talked with them, they decided that the final bill would be good enough to settle the claim with.

Rich came up with a bill that included 22 hours of labor, the actuator and some shop items.  Good Sam required Clarke to fax the invoice for the part before they could settle the claim. 5 hours later with multiple phone calls to Good Sam, Clarke finally got the news.  A $3900 invoice, Good Sam would agree to pay $1700, plus my $1000 deductible.  Good Sam would not pay for the troubleshooting time and would only agree to 6 hours of labor.  Oh, and it only took them 6 hours to come to this agreement.  Instead of getting on the road around 3 PM it was now 7 PM.  In the end, Rich made a management decision and left us go.  He will fight it out with Good Sam.

The screwing isn’t over yet!  Remember that Good Sam will only pay US for our hotel and food, based on the number of hours billed for the repair.  Since they would only pay for 6 hours of labor, guess who gets stuck with the 8 days of hotels and food bill!  That battle is going to be starting tomorrow.  But for now we are back on the road sitting in the campground eating food we cook and drinking our filtered water and enjoying life on the road.

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