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.


  1. I hope they check all the remaining hubs for installation defects. I know you said you wanted to get new tires and rims, but if all the hubs were torqued wrong, they may be damaged also.

  2. You're right. We're going to pull all the other wheels, check them out and repack them.

  3. Can't you spend a night or two in your truck? I remember you did it in arctic Alaska.

  4. Donna, Sorry I didn't reply earlier. Staying in our truck for a couple days would be possible if it were not for the fact that it is now being used as a store room for all the things we acquired at Wideners and are taking to Denton. There's no room behind the front seats.