Our next major event for us was to get to Livingston Texas from OKC to vote and to get RV service work done. It’s about 450 miles to Livingston from OKC so, for us, that is a couple of stays at RV Campgrounds before we get to Livingston TX. We stopped in Sanger TX and again in Huntsville TX before arriving in Livingston TX on the 4th of November.
Our first stop was 150 miles south at the Sanger North KOA in Sanger TX . This was one of the best KOAs we have ever stayed at. The KOA had all level and fairly new concrete pull-throughs. And the best part, it was just $27 an night! We were 2 nights before moving farther south west and closer to Livingston TX.
Our next stop on our way to Livingston TX was Heartland RV Park in Huntsville TX about 220 miles south west. Again, we just stayed 2 nights before moving on toward Livingston.
We arrived at the Escapees Campground in Livingston on the 4th just in time to take part in early voting here in Texas. We didn’t know about early voting until very recently and would have rescheduled our maintenance plans if we had known earlier. We could have had an earlier arrival at our winter place, Natures Resort, in Elsa TX. We voted without any issues and had a nice dinner at a local downtown restaurant. This was the calm before the RV repair storm that was going to hit us starting Monday!
We made an appointment a few weeks ago to have our wheel bearings repacked and the brakes checked while we were in Livingston. We figured that if we made the appointment early that we could get this work done in just one day. I asked the service place, Acres RV, if they thought the work could be done in a day and they assured me it would barring any repairs that may need to be done.
About a month after we left Natures back in May we had a bearing burn up in Virginia on our way to New Jersey. We had that fixed by a backyard RV Tech so I was never real comfortable with the repair. However, the repair held up to now covering 5 months and over 3,000 miles. And then a few days after the bearing repair, I lost all brakes on the RV. I fixed the brakes by manually adjusting each brake by what I thought was a lot. So, before we head out next Spring for our largest trip yet I wanted everything serviced before we sat for the winter. Then we could just get up and go next spring. Sounds like a great plan, doesn't it!
Monday morning the 7th we packed up the RV around 7am to head to Acres RV about 25 minutes away. We left our hoses and stuff for when we come back to the campground in the evening after the work is done. We arrived at Acres RV a little before 8 am just before they opened. The service department doesn’t open until 8:30 so I wanted to be first in line so we had the best chance of getting the RV back by the end of the day. They opened the door at 8 and in we went to start the process. The RV was in their service yard and first in line and we were on the road for breakfast by 8:25 am, perfect!
Around 10:30 am Acres called me to let me know that all of the brake back plates were “all chewed up” and they suggested we purchase new ones for $90 each. I did have trouble with the brakes a few months ago so I agreed to the replacement. I was a little amazed that they didn’t say anything about the axle where the bearing burnt up 5 months ago. This axle has some damage on the outboard seat from when we had the bearing issue back in early June, so I thought they would at least say something about it.
We didn’t hear anything more so we figured all was good so we headed back to Acres about 3pm to see how it was going. Apparently not good we found out! We were asked to follow them to our RV which was out back so they could show us something. They just found the damage area on the axle that I was concerned about. However, it seems that it was worse than I had thought! The Virginia repair people had used the wrong nut on the axle and had cross threaded it place. Acres said they could repair the threads but the major problem for them was the outboard bearing seat. The seat was scuffed up some and they believed that the bearing would not sit correctly on it even though it did for the past 3,000 miles. I asked if a new axle was needed and they quickly said that is what they would suggest. They also thought they had one in stock and if they did we may still get the RV back today! I wasn’t sure that we needed a new axle but a new axle would not be a wrong move (just costly), so we went with getting a new axle. I figured that having the new axle would give us more peace of mind knowing that all was good as we were cruising down the highway.
By closing time we found out that they did not have a spare axle and that they were trying to find one somewhere else. Since it was late they wouldn’t get an answer until tomorrow about getting a one. We asked about staying there in our RV and they said they don’t allow anyone to stay there. They were quite snooty about that too, for some reason. So we need to stay in a hotel for the night! This will the first time that we have had to stay in a hotel while our RV is being worked on in over 4 years. We went out to the RV and got stuff we thought we would need for the night and went looking for a hotel.
We got a room at the Best Western in Livingston for the night and made the best of it. A hotel is nothing like being in your own place and sleeping in your own bed. I had a terrible night sleeping as the bed was so damn hard, just couldn’t get comfortable.
We ate our free breakfast poked around on the internet and then left the hotel at the 11am check out. We decided to have some lunch while we waited for Acres to let us know about the axle. After having our lunch we still have had no word from Acres about the axle. We decided that we were going to need to go there and see what was happening. It seemed to me that Acres had no sense of urgency with us. They did not seem to care at all that we were in a hotel waiting on them.
At Acres I asked the woman behind the desk about our axle and she didn’t know anything about it so she went looking for someone who did. After a short period of time the big guy showed up and said he had faxed info to Dexter (axle manufacturer) and was waiting to hear back from them. After an even longer period of time with this guy running around and disappearing from time to time I had to ask him again about the axle as it looked like nothing was happening!
The big guy leaves again and after some time he returns with the older guy that we have learned is the owner, Jim Acre. Jim tells us in a matter-of-fact condescending tone that it will take 2 weeks to get the axle. We were very much taken aback a bit and told him that we couldn’t possibly wait here that long for the axle. Acres told us that he doesn’t allow people to stay on the property in a real pissy voice. We had meant that we couldn’t stay in the area, but he seemed to take pleasure in the fact that we were screwed and he was the one to let us know we were screwed!
I am, at this point, fighting back a small amount of anger, I told him to put the wheel and axle back together like it was when it came in, with the bearing repacked of course, and we would take it to our place further south in TX. You would have thought I had robbed a bank by the attitude he displayed now. He told us that we would then need to sign a legal waiver to take our RV out of their place. I told him that was fine as we had just pulled the RV in that very shape for the past 5 months and over 3,000 miles and I wasn’t worried about it.
Acres said they would have our RV ready later this afternoon so we left to get fuel for our ride out. It looked like we may be out of there by 3pm which would give us just enough time to get to Victoria tonight, our original next stop on our way to our winter place in Elsa Texas. I had more or less figured that I would just let the axle be as it is as we had no issue with it coming in and now with the bearing repacked we should be good despite what Acres is saying.
We arrived back at Acres at 2:30pm to get our RV. We both signed a paper in effect saying that their work was not warranted on the “bad” axle and that we refused to have repair work done. After signing the legal stuff we were given the bill for the repacking of the bearings and putting on 3 new brake back plates. The bill was $1,200.! This is more than double what I had figured the cost would be! We had the bearings repacked in NJ 2 years ago for $300 and the brake back plates were $90 each. The total should have been around $600-700. I was shocked and said so. The big guy cashier took my credit card and Acres just shrugged his shoulders as if to say “that’s what it is, so get used to it”. I am calming myself down and telling myself that at least it is done and we are good to go. Still, we are taking our RV after paying $1200 for work that they won't stand behind! Not a great feeling at all!
We hooked our truck up to our RV and found that we didn’t have any brakes on the RV now. Then, after looking around the RV for the cause it was found that the leaf springs were broken on the “bad” axle on the side where the axle issue was. Also, the U-Bolt hanger for the springs was loose with one of the bolts missing. It looked like someone had been working on the springs and left them undone. We can’t take the RV like this so they promised to fix the springs and the brakes today. WOW, it seems they are motivated, at least it looked that way.
We left to do a little shopping as we now know we are going to stay at an RV park for the night before heading out in the morning.
OK, back at Acres at 4:45pm, 15 minutes before they close. I went in to see what was happening as we had not gotten any calls about it being done. Acres said they were still working on it so I told him we would be in the truck outside to wait.
For the next 2 hours we waited in the truck for our RV. We went from daylight to complete dark now. Now the RV Park was closed and we would need to set up in the dark if we could get a site. We were not happy!
At a little after 7pm Acres came out to say it was ready and to come in and do some paperwork to leave. We thought we had done all of the paper work before so I am figuring they are going to charge us for the leaf springs that I believed weren’t broke when we came in. At this point after just paying double for work that they are not even warranting and then giving us an RV without brakes and then finding springs broken that I believe were not broken when we came in and waiting for hours after dark, I was pretty pissed off.
Inside I go to find out what more insults I had to bear with these people. The store is dark except for the cashier area. Acres and the big boy cashier are behind the desk figuring out stuff. This figuring out stuff took what seemed a long time, something like 10 minutes I had to stand there and wait after being told to come on in. During this wait, Acres told me how lucky I was that the brakes didn’t work as that allowed them to find the broken springs. My temper is barely containable now. I told him that I didn’t believe the springs were broken when the RV arrive here. Acres then said that the springs broke when we had the bearing problem 5 months ago and that we have been pulling the RV all this time with broken springs. I know for a fact that they were not broken a month ago as that is the last time I physically inspected them. Every 3-4 weeks I get under the RV and inspect the suspension and lubricate the leaf springs with WD40 so they don't squeak. I had performed this lubrication the day before we left NJ on the 2nd of October. And I very much doubt they broke while I was pulling the RV. So, Acres is calling me a liar now in a very condescending tone. We were both getting hot now and he made the statement that I was just like all the other Escapees people, we were all alike. Just as the smoke was starting to come out of my ears, the cashier said that they needed $550 dollars for the spring work. The smoke became fire as I went BALLISTIC!! I got real bad; it was all just words though. I let the guy get under my skin and I didn’t handle it well at all. Acres didn’t like my attitude so he decided he wanted me to now pay in cash and not just for the bearing but for the bill I had already paid the day before. The end result was that we both called the police. The police came out and I got to pay with a card. However, I got a citation for abusive language! I guess that is a thing here in Texas!
So, with the police looking on, we hitch up the RV to remove it and, what do you know, still no brakes!! I was still very agitated, so if the police weren’t there I may have just taken the RV anyway just to get it out of there. Now we are leaving our RV here again and we are again staying in a hotel. In fact we are in a hotel for 2 more nights as they can’t figure out what is wrong with the brakes!
With all that has happened with Jim Acres we are not very comfortable at all with them having our RV. I feel that Acres has us trapped, we can't take the RV without brakes and he is under no obligation to move quickly on the brakes. So after the first full day of Acres not fixing the brakes we called one of our Lawyer friends in NJ for advice. Basically, he told us that we need to get control of the RV and then take it somewhere else. The costs and responsibility could then be worked out.
With the lawyer's advice we made a plan to take the RV no matter what Acres says by the end of the next day.
An Acres service tech was keeping us informed somewhat by this time. They were perplexed and at one point decided to have the drums turned to help the brakes grab. That just didn't make any sense! I stayed cool and asked the tech if he checked the electrical as is stated in the Dexter Manual. The manual states that a check of the system can be made at the main plug. All one needs to do is check for 12 volts going into the brakes and that the amperage is correct with the 12 volts. If you have that then the brakes electrical are good to go. The tech told me that he did that and all was good. I then said that he needs to raise the wheels, spin them and see if the brakes are working mechanically. He said he had done that too but that the brakes were still not working. I have no confidence in the tech at all now!
At the end of the second day of them trying to fix the brakes they determined the cause! They decided that the one brake plate they didn’t replace on the “bad” axle is causing all of the brakes to not work. I told the tech that if he got the correct electrical numbers at the plug as he had stated the other day then it couldn't be a bad brake plate. He said some stuff that didn't make any sense but the bottom line was that if the "bad" brake was removed the other brakes worked. OK, I am just done and I want the RV no matter what now.
We travel back to Acres and hitch up, damn it, we have brakes! Before I take the RV I did a walk around and found that they had cut the wires to the brake plate that they said was bad. They were not going to tell me this either. The brakes came in working and now they needed to cut one of the brakes out to make them work! I just want to leave so we were out of there!
We had just 8 miles to go to the Escapees campground from Acres. When we arrived at the campground I went around to feel all of the wheels to make sure everything was OK as I didn’t trust Acres at all. Sure enough, the “bad” axle wheel was very hot! This was full on nightmare now! We have one day, Friday to get something going on this wheel/axle before the weekend!
The next day, Friday, I luckily got a mobile RV Tech to come out and see what was going on with the wheel/axle. He found out that the brake on the hot wheel was manually adjusted all of the way out not letting the wheel spin. In fact, after removing the wheel he couldn’t even get the hub off until he readjusted the brake to get the hub off. The bearings were mostly fine except that the inboard bearing had a slight resistance to it. I told him to just replace both bearings with new ones. Actually I went to the local NAPA store and purchased the bearings for a total of $50. We tested each brake and found them to work fine now.
OK, so what happened here with the brakes? When inspecting the brakes the mobile tech found that Acres had greased areas that should not have been greased. Because of putting grease where it shouldn't be, it appears that Acres got grease on the brake shoes. The grease on the brake shoes is what caused the no brake issue to start with. We, the mobile tech and I, believe that the workers at Acres manually adjusted the brake out to the point that it would make it seem as if I had brakes when in fact the wheel was almost locked up. The cutting of the wires to the brake was most probably just a story they told their boss, Jim Acres because they couldn’t let him know they messed up.
And now for the ironic part of the post! By the time I am writing this post we are sitting in Victoria Texas waiting for a new axle! We left Livingston Texas on our way to Victoria TX on the Monday after the Friday we had the Mobile Tech fix the brake and replace the bearings. We had paid through the weekend so we just decided to stay and leave on Monday.
We left Livingston on Monday around 11:30am heading for Victoria TX 200 miles south. I stopped the first time after just a few miles to check the wheels for heat and found all to be good. We stopped the second time for fuel after 130 miles and I again checked the wheels for heat or any other visible issues and found all to be fine. After 60 more miles and just 8 miles from the campground in Victoria I noticed in my rear view mirror that the wheel with new bearings was running at a weird angle. I immediately pulled over and the wheel just came off of the axle! The spindle nut stripped off of the axle spindle allowing the wheel to come off! It now looks like the original cross threading that happened 5 months ago caught up to us. Acres told us that the cross threading could be fixed, as did the Mobile Tech I hired in Livingston but nobody fixed that part. I should have insured that the threads were fixed by either of these people. I really didn’t know if Acres had fixed the threads or not until we fixed the brake issue with the Mobile Tech later. The Mobile Tech decided that the threads would be OK to run with and I agreed with him. The nut didn’t seem loose/wobbly and went on smoothly. In hindsight, we should have fixed the threads. So now we really do need a new axle!!!
Now we are waiting for a new axle here in Victoria Texas. It is to arrive within a week's’ time, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. This has been a rough 2 weeks as well as expensive! We are hoping to be at our winter space in time for Thanksgiving there.