Friday, April 22, 2011

The incomplete saga of the wheel problem

Yes, it may be a saga.

The new wheel assemblies arrived from Kodiak early last week but the axle did not arrive from Dexter until Thursday. When it came in the installer at Cobre Motors called me to let me know it was not the same as our other axles. After some phone calls we discovered that the people at Dexter Axle had not looked up the serial number we gave them completely, and had shipped us a standard 7,000 pound axle instead of a 7,000 pound axle with an 8,000 pound spindle. That meant that brake mounting brackets would not work. After some discussion we agreed that the quickest way to deal with it was to have Kodiak send us two 7,000 pound mounting brackets. Those were overnighted to us and they arrived on Friday. All was finally ready for installation on Monday.

I arrived at Cobre Motors at 8 AM Monday, and Joseph, the mechanic, began work. First he removed the wheel on the opposite end of the axle that had failed, so he could replace the axle. When he did so we discovered that the bearings in this axle had already begun to fail. They were rough and they had metal filings in them already. We then pulled the remaining 4 wheels and discovered the same thing in all of them. It clearly identified the problem that caused us to loose the wheel. The bearings failed.

There was no option but to replace all the bearings. Cobre Motors located 5 new sets locally, and we had the one new set that had come with the new brake assemblies from Kodiak. Joseph toiled without letup to get everything changed out. I was very impressed with his conscientiousness, knowledge and work ethic. It was a lot of work.

Late in the afternoon we ran into another snag. The new brake assembly did not fit on the 7,000 pound brackets. There was no explanation for this since the part numbers were exactly the same. Our only option was to rebuild the old caliper from the parts in the new caliper. This slowed things down a bit, but was successful.

Along the way we made the decision to lubricate the bearings in an oil bath instead of using grease. The hubs from Kodiak are set up for either approach. Heavier axles, like those on the front of my truck, are usually lubricated using an oil bath instead of grease. It help them run a little cooler and insures complete lubrication that can easily and quickly be verified by looking at the oil level through the clear axle cap.

The new wheels and tires were the last thing to go on, and they look really good. I finally left Globe at about 5:45 and drove about 65 miles to Safford where I spent the night in a Wal-Mart parking lot. I stopped and checked the temperature of the wheels with my infrared thermometer several times. Five of them were almost the same temperature, but one seemed to be a little warmer than the rest. As I continued east on Tuesday, I stopped every 50 miles or so to check them. It was over 90 degrees outside so they were all a little hotter than the day before, however the one wheel consistently ran 30 to 40 degrees hotter than the others. At this point, the reason is unclear, but I suspect that is the location of the bearing that came with the new assembly from Kodiak. I am now convinced that they have a bad batch of bearings.

We are now in Pipe Creek, Texas, a small town near San Antonio, having our slide out worked on. It has needed adjustment for quite some time. It has been binding, and the people here have developed a technique for strengthening and rebuilding them that helps quite a bit. Of course, the manufacturer of our trailer went out of business a couple years ago, so that is not an option.

We will probably be here until at least Monday. When we leave here we will go to Denton where we have plans to have a lot more done to our rig. Kodiak is located in Ft. Worth, so I may stop there on our way. Someone is going to pay for all the expenses I incurred in Globe.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Scooting and Really Scooting

We had so much fun Monday that we decided to take another scooter ride on Tuesday. Since there will be little time left before we need to be in San Antonio after we get the trailer fixed, and we will need to take the most direct and shortest route when we leave, we decided to ride the scooter through the Salt River Canyon to Show Low. It's about 100 miles from where we are staying and we really enjoyed the scenery. Salt River Canyon has some great views and it was nice to end up in the pines of Show Low. After having lunch, filling up with gas, and looking around a little, we headed back to Globe.

The scooter ran fine but we encountered some heavy headwinds in the afternoon. We also often found ourselves climbing long grades where the scooter was not able to maintain the speed limit. Even with the throttle wide open we found ourselves at 55 or 60 when the speed limit was 65.

When we first bought the Burgman in 2005, I considered buying the larger 650 model, but decided to go with the 400 since we figured it would mostly be used around town and that we would only occasionally ride on high speed roads or take long trips. While it does get a lot of around town use, we have found more and more that we like to tour with it. The trip to Show Low was a perfect example, and we have talked about riding some of the parkways and traces on the East Coast sometime. In the 6 years since we bought it, we have put almost 33,000 miles on it. That's a lot for a single cylinder motorcycycle.

I often peruse the Burgman Users Forum for ideas about maintenance, accessories and other talk about Burgmans. I have also kept an eye on the classified section. Tuesday night when we got back from our ride I saw a new posting from a man in Albuquerque who had decided to sell his 2008 Burgman 650. He had purchased it on an impulse when gas hit $4.00 per gallon, but in over 2 years he has ridden it only 895 miles! It is essentially new. It has always been kept in a garage and is in showroom condition. Best of all, he was willing to sell it at a reasonable price. A new one today would cost just about $10,000. He was only asking $6,000. I made a couple phone calls, and.... well, you can guess the rest.

Dianna was all in favor of it too. We made arrangements to meet him Thursday to look it over and close the deal if it was as described. That meant we had to drive to Albuquerque the following day. Nothing like 12 hours notice! Wednesday we drove back north through Salt River Canyon to Show Low, on to Holbrook where we joined I-40, and east to Albuquerque. We checked into a hotel and then went out for dinner at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants.

Wednesday night Albuquerque received the first rain they have had in over 2 months. Naturally. It was raining when met with the owner, but the bike was exactly as described. After making the deal and accompanying the owner to his credit union to pay off the loan and make arrangement for the title to be sent to me, we prepared to take the bike out to our friends in Edgewood who have graciously offered to store it for us until we can come get it in a few weeks. The rain had stopped in Albuquerque, and it looked like we might be able to make it to Edgewood. By the time we entered Tijeras Canyon it was cloudy; then it started sprinkling, then raining, then sleeting, and finally hailing on me. Yuck!

The good news though, is that the Burgman performs incredibly. I had a very hard time keeping the speed down to 65. The bike is much heavier (around 600+ pounds), and much more powerful. More than that, it has a completely different feel. The suspension is very different from the 400's, and the transmission is much more sophisticated. Having two cylinders instead of only one also make it much smoother and vibration free.

After parking the new Burgman in Weavers garage, we headed back for Globe. This time we got off I-40 before we got to Grants and drove through El Malpais National Monument before joining US 60 in Quemado, then west through Springerville and down to Show Low again. After dinner in Show Low we made the trip through Salt River Canyon for the third time in as many days. We got home about 8 last evening.

There are many posters on the Burgman forum who used to own, or still do own, Honda Goldwings. Many of them compare the Burgman 650 very favorably to the Goldwing. Of course the Goldwing is much heaver and has more power, but many people prefer the Burgman because it is lighter and easier to handle. They think nothing of starting out across country on a Burgman 650.

Then there's Gerry from Oz, the Australian fellow whose blog I followed a couple years ago when he rode his Burgman 650 from Vietnam, across China and Russia to Europe. We don't have anything that strenuous in mind.

Needless to say, we are really looking forward to getting back to New Mexico and picking it up. After the trailer is fixed, and we are still waiting on parts, we need to so to San Antonio to see Deidra perform in a drill team show at Sea World, and then get some adjustments made to the slide outs on the trailer. After that we will go to Denton where we plan to have some more upgrades done on the trailer. As soon as we are settled in there, we will go over to New Mexico and pick up the new bike.

Stay tuned as we end our scooting days and begin our "really scooting" days.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Keeping Busy While Waiting For Parts

Since our breakdown occurred late on a Friday afternoon East Coast time, it was not possible to get a lot accomplished. Saturday morning I supplied the owner of the place our brakes were done in New Hampshire with serial numbers so he would have all the information he needed for Monday. We also talked about the best approach for dealing with the badly damaged axle. Rather than try to have it repaired we agreed that the best thing to do was to have a new one built by the manufacturer.

After getting all that taken care of, I took care of one additional item. Our plans have been to spend the next couple months in Texas, having several things done to our trailer. We want to get it painted, new curtains, new carpet, new inverter, and we wanted to install new wheels and tires. The issue about the tires is that currently there is only one tire made for the size and load rating of our existing wheels. It is a very unusual tire that is only used on large 5th wheel trailers. The tire is not only quite expensive, (about$350 apiece), but it does not wear well and it has a very poor service record with respect to tread separation. I replaced all 6 of them in 2007 before our trip to Alaska, and they are now all just about worn out completely.

Many owners of large trailers like ours have replaced these wheels and tires with ones that are used on low boy trailers. The are much more common, a little less expensive, rated to handle more than 1,200 pounds more apiece, wear better, and have a good service record. It's not an inexpensive upgrade since it involves replacing both tires and wheels, but we feel that the additional safety margin is well worth the cost. There are a few companies that are making very nice aluminum wheels for these tires that will fit our trailer.

Since one of the tires was destroyed when the wheel came off, I had no choice but to do something. It did not make sense to replace just the one tire when I was planning on replacing all of them in a month anyway, so I ordered 6 new wheels and tires. They are being shipped from Ohio and will arrive Thursday.

After getting everything in motion, there is nothing else for us to do until all the parts are here. We spent the rest of the day Saturday and all day Sunday just hanging around the RV park, out of the heat on Saturday and out of the wind on Sunday. This morning I received a couple phone calls and by noon everything was ordered. I am still waiting on tracking information and projected arrival dates. Since the axle will need to be manufactured, it may be a while until it is ready to ship.

This afternoon we rode the scooter to Tonto National Monument. It's only 30 miles or so from here, and it was a nice ride. We were there a few years ago but Dianna didn't remember it, so it was new all over again for her. I still get a warm feeling each time I just show my Senior Pass and walk right in. We hiked the half mile up the steep trail to the cliff dwellings, and enjoyed looking things over. They sure had a nice view out their windows.

We'll try to find other things to do for the next few days. While there's a chance all the parts could be here in time to get us on the road again this week, I doubt it. It will probably be the first part of next week at the earliest.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Breakdown - No April Fool's Joke

After spending almost 2 months in Mesa, we left this morning for cooler climates. Our plan was to get to the high country by way of Globe, Salt River Canyon, Show Low and then Springerville. We got ready quite early for us, and were on our way out of Apache Junction by about 10 AM after dumping our tanks, filling with water, and filling a propane bottle.

US 60 climbs much of the way, and is narrow and winding in some places. Dianna followed along in the car and we made good time on the 60 miles to Globe. After driving through town we made the turn north toward Show Low and were only two miles out of town when Dianna suddenly came on the radio telling me we had just lost a tire on the trailer. It was sure fortunate she was following me because I did not notice anything out of the ordinary.

I quickly pulled to the shoulder of the road, and as I did she came on the radio again telling me she was seeing flames. As soon as I got stopped I jumped out and grabbed the fire extinguisher. The smoke was coming from the middle wheel on the drivers side. I hit it with the extinguisher and quickly put it out, but the problem that had caused it was very easy to see. The wheel itself was no longer attached to the axle.

Last August we had new disc brakes installed on the trailer. They have worked wonderfully for the 4,000 miles we have driven it since then. But something obviously was done wrong or was defective. The bearings failed. Whether there was a manufacturing defect in the new hubs or the bearings, I don't know. It's also possible they were installed to tight or too lose, or that they were not properly greased when they were installed. We'll probably never know for sure. All I do know is that they should not have failed in only 4,000 miles.

Needless to say, everything was extremely hot. The fire was caused by the hot metal of the brake rotor touching the tire. After it cooled down some I was able to lift the trailer with the hydraulic leveling jacks enough so I could get the wheel out from behind the Tskirt (which was also damaged slightly). The brake calipers were still hanging, sort of, but the hub was in two pieces and the bearings were gone. Just the damaged spindle and the brake mounting bracket, which was also bent, were still attached.

I managed to roll the tire up a 2x8 we carry, onto the back of the truck bed. We consulted our GPS and camping directories to locate an RV service place in Globe. The Chevrolet dealer handles large trucks and RV's so that's where we ended up. I drove only 30 miles an hour since the two remaining tires on that side are now carrying the entire load. The brake bracket clears the ground by about three inches.

I called the owner of the place in New Hampshire where I had the work done, and he said he will work with me on getting it repaired. Exactly what that means remains to be seen. He is going to call his supplier to see if they will stand behind it. The service guy at the Chevy dealer seems to know what he is doing. He said they can take the existing axle off and have a new spindle welded on, but the axle will have to go to Phoenix to get that done. Since it is Friday afternoon, I don't expect to get much done until Monday.

Meanwhile, we have moved out to the Apache Gold Casino RV Park, just a few miles west of town. Again I drove only 30-35. We will stay here until we figure it all out. I won't take it back into the shop until we have all the parts in hand. Staying in the trailer while they are working on it is not possible, so we will probably have to spend at least one night in a motel.

When we know more, we'll post more.