"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing"
- Helen Keller

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Saga of a new truck Part 2

Sunset in Atlanta State Park Atlanta TX

Captain's Log: Atlanta State Park, Texas

Our first trip in the new truck went flawlessly, right up to when we arrived at Atlanta State Park, still in Texas thankfully, about a hundred miles north of Tyler. The trailer had followed along behind the truck and had stopped when it was supposed to. The truck had plenty of power and it was an easy tow, so I wasn't expecting any surprises, but I got one anyway . As I exited the truck, I could smell the trailer brakes. Never a good sign. I could also hear the trailer's brake actuator humming when it should have been quietly off. I felt each wheel to confirm all four trailer brakes were hot. Good thing we were going to be here awhile.

So back to Tyler to visit the Dodge dealer. I explained the problem and hoped for the best. What I got instead was a report that the truck's computer declared everything was fine. The guy I spoke to said since nothing was broken, there was nothing to fix. But what about the hot trailer brakes? Well, since it wasn't the truck, it must be something wrong with the trailer. Hard to fault that logic, since the computer couldn't be wrong. Back to the park to think about this.

I thought and thought and after Janie found my digital volt meter (in like two minutes, after I had looked everywhere), I measured and measured. There was no doubt: the truck had a residual voltage on the brake line to the trailer that caused minimal braking when there should have been no braking. I could swap the truck's integrated brake controller with an after market brake controller that I knew worked (because I've been using it for the last four years) but first I was going to make another run at getting Dodge to fix this. This time I would come armed with all my evidence and reason would prevail. This time I would take it to a different Dodge dealer, the closest one being in Texarcana.

Voltage from Ram's controller
I get in the next day and explain the problem with the brake controller, complete with voltages and unassailable logic. They consulted the truck's computer and arrived at their decision: everything is fine, nothing to fix. But look, I say, at the brake signal to the trailer. Even without a trailer attached, it's over a volt when it should clearly be zero volts. A tech was standing right there and even had a DVM with him. So he measured it and agreed that looked suspicious. So they putz around some more and pretty soon I noticed a couple of techs heading out to check other trucks in their inventory. The verdict: all the trucks they tested bug out the same as mine, so that's how Ram is building them and if you have a problem it must be your trailer. 
Hard to argue with that. I could reasonably expect the dealer to bring the truck up to factory specs, but I can't expect them to redesign the truck.

I had an after market brake controller installed the same afternoon. I used the Prodigy P3, the same brake controller I was towing with before. Finally got back to Atlanta State Park and confirmed the brake line voltage from the truck with no braking was zero volts, as it had to be. With the trailer connected, the trailer's brake actuator was silent, the trailer's brakes were off. All good.
Voltage from the P3 controller
The next morning we packed up and headed to Lake Catherine near Hot Spring Arkansas. Calibrated the new brake controller on the way out of the park and it worked great. The new truck is so quiet. I don't even have to turn the radio up, but I do anyway.

Happy trails.
- John

Saga of a new truck Part 1

A lot has happened since my last post. I want John to tell the story so there will be 2 posts from him and then tomorrow I will add a short post about the places we've stayed. Its been a little stressful.....

Captain's Log: Somewhere in Texas
Tyler SP, notice we still have the old truck

Somewhere being Tyler Texas, or close to it in Tyler State Park. Beautiful park and great weather, but instead of enjoying the fishing, I decided to take the truck in to the Tyler Dodge dealer to see if they could fix my growly sound coming from under the truck. I rarely fish anyway, and the sound may have been getting worse. I had already paid a guy in Florida to replace the rear bearings and all four brakes were new but it was still growling. The only thing that seemed to help was turning the radio up, but that wasn't going to end well.

I took the service guy from the Dodge dealer for a ride, and after several miles he said he had no idea what the noise was but it sounded really bad. Maybe if I left the truck there for a couple of days, they could tear the rear axle apart and see what's going on. Great. Maybe before I did that I would see what new trucks cost. I mean this is Texas, and we knew from our last visit here (when we had the truck's transmission rebuilt) that this is truck country. What I didn't realize but would soon find out was that March is Ram truck month.

So service guy connected me with salesman guy who was happy to show me what they had for big ass trucks in their inventory. Quite a few actually, and while we were looking they would send my growly truck in for a trade-in estimate. Fine, what could it hurt? I immediately eliminated everything that wasn't set up for towing and didn't have dual rear wheels. I wanted the new Aisin transmission also, but no dice. And a long bed. That still left several trucks so salesman guy started with the most expensive one: over $70k, but it was loaded. Ram calls this option package the Laramie Longhorn and it includes lots of leather, keyless entry, keyless start (if you had the fob on you), a sweet stereo system and lots of other stuff we no doubt needed. Ha ha, good one salesman guy, what else you got? Well, if you're willing to actually stick a key in and turn it, and you can forego the doors that unlock themselves as soon as you touch them and sit on cloth seats then we might have something in a Lone Star. Turns out Texas actually has their very own equipment package (everywhere else it's called a Big Horn). Still plenty of stuff on it, including the sweet stereo, and it was set up for towing. And it still cost too much.

But it was truck month. And our trade-in was worth more than I thought, even with the unresolved growly noise. We took all their numbers and went home in the old truck. See what happened there? When did it become the old truck? I don't know, but the new truck was really sweet and NADA said the trade-in was what it should have been and there were some dealer and factory incentives and I even asked for more and got that too, but they wouldn't include the hitch. So back to the dealer to do the deal in what was to be our last ride in the old truck. As we were transferring stuff from the old truck to the new truck, a different salesman guy comes up and says he had someone interested in my truck and he had a few questions. It is Texas.
Isn't it pretty! (oh, John would say "awesome")

So we introduce the new truck to the 5th wheel, play with our new hitch until we're ready to hook them together, and hit the road for our maiden voyage to Atlanta State Park. It's only about a hundred miles north of Tyler. About right for the first trip, I'm thinking.

Happy trails.
- John