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Old 11-08-2012, 05:26 PM   #1
Michael Martinkus
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Default The "Snake Bit Customer"

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[TD="class: alt2 lastcell"]Back in the
early 80's I worked at Sam White Motorhomes in SW Houston. We handled a wide
selection of motorhomes including Blue Bird Wanderlodge. A local business owner
named Glenn was introduced to me one day after he had just completed the
purchase of a new '82 front engine "Bird" . The salesman brought him back for
our introduction because I was service and parts director and I liked to meet
new owners and kind of prepare them for the "debugging" process and to hopefully
mitigate future customer frustrations that might arise from it. On this occasion
it worked in reverse. Glenn wanted to forewarn me that he would undoubtedly
present my department with issues that we had never before encountered.
According to him, he was snake-bit with these odd issues anytime he bought
something and he didn't want ME to get discouraged!

We became more friends than customer/Service
Mgr. as time went on and sure enough he came in with some real head scratchers.
The first one that I recall was shortly after taking delivery. He called to
inquire about oil consumption. According to him his 3208 Cat was using excessive
oil. We had never encountered this problem with a new Cat so it was a bit of a
learning experience. The first lesson from Cat for me was that you couldn't
pursue the full mark on the dip stick by adding a quart each time it got a quart
low. I was informed that the first quart was gone fairly quickly. The spinning
crankshaft in the running engine tended to catch the splashed up oil from the
oil pan and throw it up on the lower cylinder walls where some of it got pushed
up into the combustion chamber and burned along with the fuel. As the level in
the pan dropped a bit this phenomena decreased so the second quart went away
much slower than the first, the third slower still etc.

So the first thing Cat wanted was for him to
put some miles on and NOT add any till the level got down to the "Add" mark on
the dip stick...about 4 quarts. The engine held so much oil that this was about
the equivalent to your car engine being a quart low. Glenn had a trip planned so
off he went. When he got back he promptly reported to me that there was no
improvement. It was using something like a quart every 100 miles or so. When I
re-contacted Cat they said that they needed detailed records of miles driven and
oil consumed before going further. On his next outing Glenn kept very detailed
miles vs. oil usage and so my next instruction from Cat was to take the coach
back to the Blue Bird Plant in Fort Valley Georgia for them to inspect. This was
an 8 hour trip each way.

I personally drove the Bird back to the plant and kept in contact
till I was finally informed that an engine replacement was the answer. That took
a couple of weeks and when finished, Glenn went to the plant, picked up his
coach and drove it directly back to the dealership. Disappointed and discouraged
he came in saying it had done the exact same thing as before. No
change.

I was stumped
and he reminded me of our original conversation when we met. I told him to leave
the coach with me and let me think about it some.

I thought about it for a few days and decided
to go back to square one. I had a tech pull the unit in and drain the oil and
remove the filters. I called Cat to see what the capacity was supposed to be and
was informed that there had been several versions of oil pans over the last 2
years with ever increasing capacities and they would need the engine serial
number. I got it , call them back and got the correct capacity, put that amount
into the engine, pulled the stick and bada bing...it was 4 quarts LOW. In order
to bring it to the "full" mark on the dip stick it would be necessary to add 4
quarts TOO much which I figured is exactly what had been happening since day
one!

It turned out that
the original engine had been equipped with a dip stick tube for an engine with a
smaller capacity crankcase and when Blue Bird replaced the original engine they
transferred the dip stick tube from the original engine to the new engine ( it
had come without one) and in doing so they passed the original problem on to the
new engine. The crankshaft was apparently actually scooping oil from the pan and
throwing it up into the cylinders like the paddle wheel on a
riverboat.

The cure? We
cut about an inch off the dip stick tube… Never had another
problem.

Next story I'll tell about the time Glenn called me
from Florida with an overheating generator. Except it only overheated when he
was driving West! True story...
Mike Martinkus
Motorhomes of Texas
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Old 11-08-2012, 11:32 PM   #2
larryweikart
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I remember Sam White motor homes in the 80's. That's when I was with Fleetwood out of Decatur, In. They were a major dealer and were a very professional dealership. Nice story Mike, I'll look forward to the next. Having spent 20 years in the motorhome business I have a few interesting tales also.
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Old 11-09-2012, 12:15 AM   #3
Randy J
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I get a kick out of these tales. Larry share your interesting tales!
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Old 11-09-2012, 01:45 PM   #4
Raymond N Priscilla Miller
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HUGE problem simply solved! It's a relief to finally figure out the problem! The true stories are the best. Thanks for sharing, I look forward to your next one!
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