On Being the New Kid in Town, Again . . . and Again

Bad brake system 2006 Dodge Ram 2500While sitting in the Dodge dealer today in Jackson, WY, as they did over $2k in repair work on our truck brakes, I realized that I’ve finally discovered a couple of real downsides to living the fulltime RVer lifestyle.

Fulltimer Downside #1: when you pull into a town with out-of-state plates, and tell the local auto shop that you’re having vehicle trouble, who do you trust? You gotta wonder; Is that service guy really drooling? Are those actual dollar signs in his eyes?

From Florida to Wyoming, three different shops have looked at our truck, to find out the cause of a loud, chirping sound coming from the wheels. One wanted to charge us $700 for what they claim was the real problem (we said “no way.”). We paid another shop $75 to determine we had dirty brakes.

But the sound keeps getting louder, and we have some steep mountain passes to tackle on the way to the Pacific Coast. So today, we took it to a third shop.

The problem, Shop #3 said, is that our entire brake system is blown to hell. We are left wondering: why didn’t the other shops see this? The service guy said that’s because they didn’t tear the break system apart to investigate. We have to go on faith that he’s not a scheister. Jim saw our parts lying on the floor, next to good ones from another truck, and verified that ours looked blown. The caliper seals were all indeed shot. And the rotors had a deep blue tinge to them – discoloration indicating they had been cooked pretty hard.

So what would you do, dear reader? Take your vehicle to another no-name shop in town, and pay another $60 estimate fee? Or run away, hoping the dealer was lying while praying for the best on those seven percent downhill grades?

I grew up with a Dad who knows trucks inside out, so relying on mechanics is especially traumatic for me. But I’m trying to look at the bright side; the average cost of ownership for our truck is $3200 a year according to Edmunds.com, and so far we are just over it. at $3700. Considering that we drive it so hard, we’re not doing so bad. Still, having this work done all at once is going to hit our budget hard, and it makes me nauseaus.

Fulltimer Downside #2: Finding Good Health Care

Bone cancer dog Jerry boondocks in Sinclair, WYDoctors, mechanics, they’re all kinda the same, right? They supposedly know more than we do, but who do you trust when it’s time to look under your hood or up your ass?

We are also here in Jackson because over the last few days, it’s been clear that our dog Jerry is getting close to the end of his long battle with osteosarcoma, and we wanted to research vets, in case we need to quickly relieve any suffering he might be experiencing. It’s hard enough to make that awful euthanasia decision, but if you happen to find a jerky vet who doesn’t have the level of compassion that you need, well, that could scar you for life.

We think we found a good one, who we are meeting with tomorrow, before we have to make that decision. Hopefully Jerry will continue his recent rebound from the funk he’s been in, and we won’t need to take that step.

The Ties that Bind

We’ve run into this situation over and over again, and a part of me is yearning for those community ties that you establish when you settle in one place. When relocating somewhere permanently, you only have to suffer the insecurities of being the new kid in town for a little while. Pretty soon, you are that person that strangers will come to trust.

But when you’re always new, and you look to strangers for help, those new kid insecurities will never go away. Can I continue to live with this? I just don’t know.

Yes, Shop Guy Really Said That

Bad brake system 2006 Dodge Ram 2500Today, when the service manager announced that our truck was done, we started getting ready to leave. As we were walking out the door, his phone rang. “Yeah, it was a really good day,” we overheard him say. “I sold two big jobs.”

We plan on staying at Grand Teton National Park, just outside of Jackson, for about a week while chasing buffalo and driving the hell out of the truck, to make sure that chirping sound is really gone.

Will being here for almost a week qualify us locals? If so, then at $18 a night, at least we’ll have the cheapest rent in town.

Meanwhile, once again, I gotta go on faith that we weren’t scheistered.

24 Responses to “On Being the New Kid in Town, Again . . . and Again”

  1. Eric Auckerman October 2, 2008 at 4:21 pm Reply

    I have your solution, sell everything and get bicycles. I just went on a bike cruise in Ottawa, Canada, and what a great time.

    Question you two, where or what was the most bike friendly community you’ve visited so far? I’m riding like crazy these days and love it. True, I work at home and don’t have a commute, but if I were looking for a place to live I’d consider a place bike and people friendly rather than politically correct and vegan (sorry Rene, couldn’t resist).

    Think about all the places you’ve been, takes courage to be you and will take even more courage to say – we’ve found our home.

    I’ve always found you two naturally happy and upbeat, so here’s a shocker from a friend, no matter where you settle you’re going to have friends and live a rich and colorful life. So, what are your weather requirements?

    Having returned from Ottawa, Canada, on business and for a fine bike ride the ‘ole adage came to mind, “those that see beauty everywhere are free”. So true as I could see living in Canada, the peeps are wonderful and very easy going, sure, they like hockey and yes, I did go to a match with plenty of boxing, but again, very nice folk the Canadians.

    The road trip thing has been very liberating I’m sure, but like living on a sailboat, may nudge you toward less mobile digs. In now way do I view your venture as anything less than a full fledged success, you have to do what you’ve done or you would never have experienced this country in all it’s splendor.

    That said, ride bikes, walk, or better yet, cross country ski, and while you’re at it, find a place relatively cheap and with friendly people to fill your days with.

    Last item – vote McCain!!! Just kidding, did that for you again Rene.

    A big aloha to you both – Eric.

  2. I’ve come to the conclusion that Chrysler breaks just suck!

    Love my jeep, but have had nothing but break issues. Rear breaks clunked from the moment we left the stealers lot – Fixed under warranty(a few times). Front breaks “FRIED” calipers cooked at about 40k miles. Turned routers and replaced the calipers and pads. 4k miles after that, one of the front routers “warped”!!!

    Now you know our trailer, the thing only weighs 1,300 lbs loaded, and the jeep has a 5k tow rating so we are by no means anywhere near overloaded. Of course we do love to go over HWY 108 and that has a 26% grade 😉

    Replacing your break calipers/pads/routers is relativity easy and cost less to replace it all yourself than to have a stealer replace your pads and turn your routers. So if you have time (I no longer do) this is a good way to go. Have pops give you the quick Breaks 101 course next time you see him. I do hate bleeding breaks though.

    Also I hope you guys have a service manual for that truck. If you don’t get one, they are very valuable when it comes to diagnosing an issue and doing roadside repairs if needed.

    All our love to Jerry Dawg, we hope to see him next time you guys pass through.

    //AKC

  3. Just remember guys…life is peaks and valleys. Wouldn’t matter if you lived in the mansion on top of the hill…Don’t forget you “can” stay a night or two up there and you’ll be safe coming down with new brakes! Sit back and enjoy the moment having a cold one with Jerry… p.s- how was you visit with kev&ang?

  4. word is “caveat emtor” in all cases, trust no one who isn`t related by blood! hope jerry`s running & scratchin again,i was gettin ready to buy a dark suit! shows to goya !

  5. Hi Wayne, thank you for reading and commenting. Your thoughts were a pleasant surprise to wake up to.

    One thing I failed to mention in the post, is that while they were diagnosing, before any work started, a friendly local was hanging out in the shop. I asked him, “Do you trust these guys?” and he said “Yeah, they’re one of the more reputable ones in town.” He said his company bought their fleet vehicles from them, his neighbor bought a car there, and he was there because they were cutting a new remote key for his work vehicle at no extra charge. That made us feel a lot better at the time when they presented us with the issues.

    Jackson is in fact a town of less than 10k people, and do think your ideas about the town size makes a lot of sense.

    Thank you Wayne, you’re really started my day off on the right foot.

    -Rene

  6. I’ve run into that same problem recently ( http://waynewirs.com/?p=141 ) and I think I’ve found a solution to the “who do you trust” question.

    What I found is to find a small to medium sized town, a town where everyone knows everyone. Then ask a few locals who they use as their mechanic/vet/doctor. Since it is a small town, reputation (read “honesty and fair pricing”) is everything to the business owners.

    Be sure to mention the name of the referrer to your mechanic/vet/doctor – helps establish your “local credentials.”

    Good luck with your brakes and all the best to Jerry.

  7. Rene:

    The best to you. I hope Jerry has a easy ending. Sounds like your brake system is back in order. Thanks for the post, blown brake caliper seals from overheating.

  8. Gosh Jefe, you really know how to make a person feel great when their dog is on their deathbed. Love it, thanks.

    We never said the rotors were grooved, read it carefully. We said they were cooked, and we never said the pads were failed. The guy said it was a combination of all of them that made the system unsafe as a whole.

    Whatever.

  9. btw rene la palabra es “shyster” from the yiddish i believe !

  10. btw henry, dodge doesn`t make the diesel engine! it`s made by cummins engine co. of columbus ind.!

  11. that henry ferguson is one smart fella ! judging from the pics you posted i`d say i hope the dealer at least gave y`all a big wet kiss `cause i think you were screwed !, i don`t see any deep grooves in any of the rotors & the pads seem to be worn but not “failed” ! blue rotors are seviceable as long as they are`nt warped to the extreme. all in all it`s a steep learning curve for sure ! when you get into town i`ll give you my std. disc brake change 2.5, it`s bound to make you ill, it`s too easy! sorry to throw a “turd” in your punch bowl!
    the old diesel guy !!

  12. What?! Did you happen to drive through Pocatello on your way? Get this – we drove through Jackson last night on our way home from Minnesota. Ugh. We have shitty *thisclose* timing. Taking off for CA in a day, otherwise we would drive back up to Tetons and meet ya at Jenny Lake – the dogs could play in the water together.
    xoxo to Jerry

  13. Paws up for Jerry’s recovery from his funk …

    As to honest mechanics, isn’t there some sort of Craig’s List service where you can post positive and negative experiences with service providers? Shouldn’t RV’ers have their own listing of these sorts of encounters.

    Hey, what a great business idea … ka-CHING !!

  14. Gee Henry, thanks, I feel so much better! 😉

    Well, I’m trying to be optimistic about it, and am thinking at at some point, we would’ve had to have done all of that work anyways. Now we just have a head start on it.

    Oh, you had the same advice that my Dad did about the trailer brakes, thank you.

    Yeah, dealers suck, that’s for sure.

  15. Gee Henry, thanks, I feel so much better! 😉

    Well, I’m trying to be optimistic about it, and am thinking at at some point, we would’ve had to have done all of that work anyways. Now we just have a head start on it.

    Yeah, dealers suck, that’s for sure.

  16. I have to agree that you were taken for a ride. It is possible that a whole brake system might need to be replaced but it is highly unlikely. My dad was a mechanic and I don’t think I ever heard of a whole brake system being replaced. Chrysler/Dodge dealers I think are the worst. No proof other than experience. Independent mechanics are less expensive if you can find a good honest one. Which is not too hard by just asking around.

    My brother has a Dodge Diesel we were going to use it on a vacation. When we had it loaded and ready to leave it would not start. He took it to the dealer said it was a bad fuel shut off valve. $800. We left the next day drove 300 miles and it would not start the next morning. Took it to the Dodge dealer he said the other dealer had not adjusted the fuel shut off correctly. $200 Next day would not start. That ended our vacation and we took the truck back to my brother. He took it back to the dealer that replaced the fuel shut off. Took them two days to find a lose ground wire that caused all of the problems. None of the dealers refunded any money. So a lose wire cost over $1000 to tighten.

    One thing make sure your trailer brakes are adjusted properly and your brake controller is also adjusted. This will take a lot of the work off of the truck brakes. Be sure to gear down on hills.

    Good Luck!

  17. wow… I thought about the same thing regarding traveling from town to town and be the “new kids.” But, we have been very lucky in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. It was a small town, and we found a great local coffee shop and the staff made us feel welcome and at home.

    As for doctors, mechanics and such… it is hard. The thought of having to pay “new patient” fee for each doctor visit everything we need to see a doctor and ended up in a new town is painful.

    Cross our fingers, the new truck we have now from trading in with our old one (the one broke down the very first day we went full time RVing) has been working like a dream. Since it is a 2007… we thought it might last us a little while before any major fixes…

    Give Jerry a big hug from us. He is lucky to have wonderful parent like you and Jim, to be there for him and love him always.

  18. Awww shucks guys, thank you for the moral support.

    Jerry is hanging in there, and we think that his quality of life and happiness factor is good.

    The truck, meanwhile, still has a friggin noise coming from the front end. This, after they replaced EVERYTHING…rotors, pads, etc. The claim our whole system was cooked. We think that might be true, since we did go over several 11k passes in Colorado, and probably over our weight limit (newbies that we are). We are taking the truck back into the shop tomorrow. Grrr….

    It’s comforting to know we aren’t the only ones out there who get into these predicaments. Thanks for you support!

  19. Sorry to hear about Jerry. Losing a loyal friend is always hard, even when they have 4 legs! Maybe especially when they have 4 legs.

  20. What did you guys end up replacing? Did you get new rotors? Pads?

    So far, we haven’t run into that situation. Thankfully, We haven’t been at the mercy of strangers, yet. It will come. Its just a matter of time. Our truck is an 2001. And, my dumb ass was driving it through all kinds of saltwater on the outer banks last week. Not on purpose mind you, but because the roads were flooded with it.

    I hope that the brake noise stays at bay and that the mechanic was an honest one. I am sorry to hear about Jerry. I hope that you wont have to make the decision any time soon.

  21. I’m really sorry to hear about Jerry. I hope all goes well with whatever you have to do. I’ve had to make those decisions many times. It’s never easy – even when it’s the right time.

    We’re getting ready to take our truck in for servicing today. I’m hoping we won’t have a bill like you! We have to get a front end alignment and find out what’s been making that knocking noise in the engine all summer. Will it be the engine or the exhaust?

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