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Old 06-13-2010, 03:14 PM   #1
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Service Beware

Upon arrival of the Desert Rat Rally in Quartzsite, we noticed that the special sound of our Alpine diesel engine had changed its tune. We decided that before traveling much further, we needed to have Cummins Rocky Mountain in Avondale, AZ check out the situation.
The diagnosis was a blown manifold gasket and a cracked manifold. Before a quote for repairs was prepared, we told them we had an extended warranty for the motorhome. The quote was prepared, the warranty company contacted and we were informed that the warranty did not include anything connected to the engine and/or exhaust system. The quote was for $2700 “worse case scenario”. We were sick. We stayed for the necessary repairs but this story bears sharing to avoid a similar situation for other members.
The following afternoon we received a telephone call advising that everything had gone well; however, the turbo charger had been comprised and the fins were damaged. We were told there were no rebuilt turbo chargers available and Cummins had none in stock. We would have to lay-up for one week or pay expedited freight to get it overnight. A new turbo charger was $1700 and inbound freight an additional $211. The only good news was there was nothing eventful about removing the parts to have the “worse case scenario” kick in. I asked how much additional it would cost to put on this new turbo and was told 3-4 hrs. We authorized the new turbo.
Friends were waiting for us in Tombstone so we were communicating about the delay. We learned that two of our ACA members within the last six months had a similar situation of the blown gasket and cracked manifold; however, both members repaired their engines for under $800. Suddenly panic set in.
The following day we started working the phone. We called Mike Young, with Cummins in Yakima, who gave us some good information which raised our concern and caused us to be very diligent with our telephone efforts. We called Cummins Northwest in Coburg, Oregon; Cummins in San Antonio; Cummins in Yakima, WA; another Cummins Rocky Mountain in Boise, ID and the corporate Cummins at 1-800-DIESEL.
We learned from those telephone calls that Cummins works from what they call SRT (Standard Rate Time). In other words, they have calculated a standard time for repairs. In this case, SRT was 10.2 hrs. That did not include time to reach access to the engines …. through the bedroom floor. We discovered each location had varying shop rates but they were relatively close in price. We also discovered that if you provide the serial number for your engine, parts can be quoted over the telephone. All locations contacted provided quotes relatively close in price. The most important piece of information we learned was that there should be NO additional time to replace the turbo because the turbo must come off and back on to repair the manifold so the turbo must go back on once that repair is complete …. end result, no additional charge to put that new turbo on.
By this time we knew we really had a problem and we felt sure that the price tag for this repair would be near $5000.
At the end of the third day the motorhome was ready. The price was just under $5000. Carl told the service foreman that was not acceptable and we would not pay it. The foreman told us they had 19 hrs. in the job. Carl said, “Well we have a problem so you might as well get the manager.”
A very nice young man showed up and said he hoped he could handle it without the need to involve the General Manager. We explained our efforts in working the phone and that the bill was unacceptable. “In good faith and to make us happy” he was willing to negotiate down to $4100.
Cummins has a customer loyalty program called the Booster Club which entitles you to 10% off of all labor and Cummins or Onan parts for $19.99 per year. Our card had since expired so I asked to renew our card and the manager told us that the program was defunct and no longer available. The last sentence we heard from Cummins Yakima was our card had expired so be sure to renew it. The manager insisted that the program was no longer available so we left after paying $4100 and took our damaged parts.
The interesting thing is the manager followed me out to our coach. He said he sensed we were still not happy and wanted to extend us a free oil change next year when we were in the area. I asked him why he would do that. He said we would receive a telephone call later to follow up on how pleased we were with their service and he did not want to get “a bad score” and he knew motorhome people talked and he did not want us to share with other RVers our bad experience. Hmmmm.
After returning to the Avondale area, we sought out a company who rebuilds turbo chargers. The gentleman is no more than 15 miles from Cummins Rocky Mountain in Avondale. He said Cummins is aware of his work; however, they won’t use him because they want to sell new parts so they can mark up the parts 250%. He inspected the turbo and said the fins were damaged lightly; however, easily repairable. He could have repaired the turbo for $249 in one day, the same amount of time we had to wait for the new part which ultimately cost us $1911.
He also inquired if Cummins determined the cause of the “event” which damaged the turbo. The turbo is contained within the exhaust system and has no outside contact so something had to be within the system in order to cause the damage. The concern would be what happened, why and could it happen again and make its way all the way to damage the engine. He gave us the name of an expert diesel technician who could help us make that determination.
Here is the bottom line and the lessons we learned. We think we made a mistake by telling Cummins we had a warranty BEFORE getting the quote. Have you heard of insurance fraud? I don’t know, maybe. We also made the mistake of telling them we weren’t versed in the mechanics of engine repair.
We were diligent in seeking out information on the repair once we received information from the two members who had repairs done earlier – which really saved us money. So, don’t accept the first answer. Be proactive in your repair work. Even though we didn’t understand what was happening before we started, we had a much better idea after working the telephone. Don’t be afraid to contact other ACA members for information. Also be diligent in your negotiations!
By the way, I also contacted Cummins corporate two weeks after this happened and inquired about the Booster Club program. The program is still in effect. I then telephoned Cummins Rocky Mountain to inquire if they accepted the Booster Club card and was told yes. I told them my card expired, could I renew through them and they said yes. Hmmmm. I recontacted the manager and told him this disturbing information and insisted on receiving the 10% credit. He told me the card had expired and I would have to renew it and let him know when it was renewed. He would not sell me the renewal. I did so and the credit was $396. Well worth the effort!!!
When visiting with the diesel technician he provided the following information: it is uncommon to see a blown manifold gasket and/or cranked manifold in a big diesel truck but it is very common to see that in a motorhome. He thinks the reason is because we start our motorhomes and down the road we go. We drive to our destination and turn the engine off. He suggested letting the engine warm up for five minutes and when you arrive at your destination, let it idle for a short period to cool down. The engines get extremely hot when driving and a cracked manifold is a result of too much heat within the exhaust system.
The mechanic inspected the turbo charger and said the damage could be a result of a “grain of sand” bypassing the air filter. He inspected the air filter housing and observed striations within the housing. He speculated someone didn’t tighten the lid on the housing sufficiently and a small amount of dirt got inside. He could see signs of the air filter that had rubbed against the inside of the housing. The air filter is intended to catch the dirt and debris to ensure it does not damage the engine. Apparently the manifold problem is likely to happen eventually so be sure and do your homework to avoid being gouged by a vendor.
Advice: Find yourself a good diesel mechanic near your home base you can trust; a private individual who makes a living off his reputation.

:-) Kathy Nicholsen
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Old 06-13-2010, 03:34 PM   #2
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I am sorry to hear of your problems, my local Cummins shop has always been very straight with me and even renewed my PowerClub membership so I could get the discount on my last service. You seem to have an odd warranty if it does not cover the engine; I recently had my air compressor replaced and my warranty paid up without any issues. You do have to get approval before any repairs are started so I don't think you could have avoided asking the shop to get that approval first.
There have been issues with the wrong air filter being installed on some coaches. It is not quite long enough and some dust can get by the filter; worth double checking. Hopefully this is your last major repair for a while.

John and Mary Knight
2015 Ventana 4311, 2015 Cadillac SRX
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Old 06-13-2010, 05:57 PM   #3
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Sorry to hear about your experience, but appreciate the great post and information therein. Hopefully we do not experience this problem, as I am my mechanic
2001 34' Alpine Coach
2008 Jeep Rubicon or 2012 Ford F150 4x4 Lariat towds
or a couple of different trailers
Retired in Apple Valley, California
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Old 06-13-2010, 07:12 PM   #4
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Kathy, My question is very basic; since the manifold gasket and the manifold itself are integral parts inside the engine why wasn't this entire thing covered by Cummins themselves. What was the engine warranty when you bought the coach? most are like 5 years or 100,000 miles or maybe even 300,000 miles. You may have been out of warranty on time; but, surely not on mileage. I have been to what seems like a zillion Cummins shops over the last15 years, including the one in Avondale. I would have to agree with you it surely is not the best of the best. Frankly, I would have had a lot more discussion with Cummins Corporate as even with your $396 refunded discount I don't think you got the best shake in town. Let's look at the math $4100 minus $400 refunded discount and he is going to "give" you a free oil change NEXT year, well golly that is better than hitting the Power Ball. Thank you for sharing; but, it is time to move beyond telephone calls and put your scenario in writing to a mojor domo at Cummins Corporate.

I for one have had nothing but great experiences with Cummins and I will not buy any coach with another power plant in it. But, all in all this bill was way out of line. Good luck however you elect to proceed and be careful out there, Ken Roberts.....
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Old 06-13-2010, 08:31 PM   #5
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The issue of heat in the exhaust system brings up an interesting question. Perhaps some one could comment on it.
Am presently researching the use of heat wrap for the exhaust pipe and turbo/manifold. Has anyone used this product. The heat wrap is supposed to help heat get out of the exhaust system faster and keep things cool in the engine room. 2003 Alpine 38'. Thanks for any comment.
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Old 06-14-2010, 12:01 AM   #6
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Very sorry to hear about your problem, but not surprised about your experience with Cummins Rocky Mountain in Avondale, AZ. My experience with them has been similar, outright price gouging, and every excuse you can imagine. As a result of my experience with Cummins Rocky Mountain in Avondale, AZ I have been avoiding all Cummins dealerships, probably unfairly, but with what I feel is good cause. Definitely contact Cummins Corporate offices and express your dissatisfaction and concerns. Based on what I heard when I was there, about a Corporate visit, I think that Cummins Rocky Mountain in Avondale, AZ is on a Cummins "watch list". They need to know what customers' experiences are with them. Good luck.
John & Carol Randolph
2005 Alpine 34 FDDS
2006 Jeep Liberty
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Old 06-14-2010, 06:17 AM   #7
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Wouldn't we all be better served if this were put under the "Cummins" section?
Hal & Ginny Miller '04 Beaver Santiam PRT40
'04 Saturn Vue - US Gear Brake - Blue Ox tow
4 "girls" (3 Irish Setters - Retriever)
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Old 06-14-2010, 07:21 PM   #8
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Not trying to be a "pain in the backside" but does no one read the manual which should have come with the coach, or, if no manual, it can be ordered from Cummins.

Now I keep a copy in the coach, and one at home so I can refer to it. and on page 1-7 it states :Idle the engine three to five minutes before operating with a load", this means moving the coach from the RV park spot and down the road.

The proper shutdown procedures is located on page 1-19: "Allow the engine ro idle 3 to 5 minutes before shutting it off after a full load operation. This allows adequate cool down of pistons, cylinders, bearings and turbocharger components".

Next, Cummins NW, Portland, Coburg, Yakima, and several other places in the NW. Have a good reputation. I have had work performed at Portland and Corburg and been very please with being kept informed, the prices charged and the "go out of there way to fix my problems" and not charge me in some cases.

Many dealers do "NOT" provide the information for owners when purchasing diesel engines, and if you have never had one before their is a learning curve. I am sorry you had to learn the expensive way. I am going to assume you have checked the air filter to make sure it's the correct one.
Monty & Janet - 2007 Alpine APEX 40 MDTS
S/N - 75715 - Retired - Master Certified RV Tech
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Old 06-14-2010, 08:27 PM   #9
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This is very interesting, and ironic that I saw it this morning. We had just dropped our coach off at Cummins here in Vegas at 7:00am, asking them to find a whistle that we had just begun hearing. Lo and behold, it turns out to be a leaking manifold gasket. Yikes!! Thankfully, being an '07, our engine is still under warranty. Then, they found a couple of oil leaks to add to our issues...glad they found them now.

The thing I found a bit disconcerting is that when John asked them how we could avoid having this happen again, they said "you can't really...we see this on big trucks all the time". This is just the opposite of what your technician contact told you. I am going to choose to believe your guy, given that he is not making money off of you at this point. We do always let the engine run for a fair while when getting ready to leave...part of which is the time for hitching the car. What we don't always do is leave it running when we arrive at our destination...we've agreed that we'll do that in future.

Thanks so much for sharing your story!!

Hope all is well for you, Carl and the kids!

Gail, John & Mindy Stacy
2007 Alpine SE 40FDQS, 2011 Equinox
ACA & Alpine SoCal
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Old 06-14-2010, 08:47 PM   #10
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We have been lucky both times we were at Avondale, they found the problems quickly, explained what they were, and the costs were reasonable - though I do question everything and told them the first time that we were going to be comparing them with the Coach Care in Elkhart, Indiana - - that is a great one.

We had our cracked manifold replaced this winter - - it had cracked all the way around. Given the worst case estimate if they had to drill out all the bolts. Only one bolt broke and they were able to get it out without drilling - so we were done in one day. Unfortunately being a 2001 engine (2002 coach) we are well past the warranty period for Cummins.

Barbara & David O'Keeffe
Figment II (Alpine 2002 36 MDDS)
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Old 06-14-2010, 09:25 PM   #11
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Hi Kathy,
Here is my experience with Cummins Mid-South. Sorry to hear that some Cummins shops have decided to turn on their customers.
2007 Newmar DSDP 4023
Discovery is seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what no one else has thought.
If you want to see what man made go East; if you want to see what God made go West.
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Old 06-15-2010, 08:10 AM   #12
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I would like to add my thanks to Kathy and Carl for sharing this "cautionary tale" with their fellow travellers. As part of the "Tombstone contingent," we quickly came to the conclusion with Kathy and Carl that this Cummins facility was out to gouge them. But once they have you torn-down, you have few options for fighting back. After the fact, we can all muse about what might have been done but in the heat of battle, advantage goes to the dishonest service provider.

Lots of conversation on the forum about blown gaskets and cracked manifolds. IMO, the ISL is an intermediate size engine for Cummins and the manifold is under-sized for the job. Having said that, I think there are some things that might help forestall these problems: 1) reduce the number of heat/cool cycles--let the engine idle during short stops [rest areas]; 2) let the engine cool off for 3-5 minutes before final stop for the day; 3) morning warm-ups are probably a good thing but sitting next to yr fellow campers at idle for 5 minutes each morning isnt the solution. Get started and aired-up, then idle to a more isolated area for warm-up. Our gas-rig buddies will appreciate it.

One final point, the wax thermo valve on our 2003 is not consistent--if the engine is cold, the radiator fan will begin running at engine start [albeit not a full speed]. If you shut down shortly after starting cold and then restart, the wax-valve will not restart the radiator fan until engine reaches min op temps. Some of my friends with Silver Leaf have noticed some pretty high manifold temps until the wax-valve releases. Without SL, the only signal I got was an occasionally "check engine" light on cool mornings. Obviously, this doesnt apply to newer coaches with electronic fan controllers.
Old Scout
2003 40' MDTS
Garden Ridge, Texas
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Old 06-15-2010, 05:23 PM   #13
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Had the "cracked manifold" scenario last fall...

Serviced by Rocky mountain cummins Denver

No issues here,,,
Michael (Home base Northern CO)
USED TO HAVE; 03 Alpine 40MDTS Now RVless
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Old 06-15-2010, 08:51 PM   #14
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In May, I had a leaking exhaust manifold gasket diagnosed by Cummins NW in Chehalis. Upon removal, they found the manifold was warped so a new one was ordered. Bottom line, all parts and labor, $1336. I thought I had paid dearly, after reading these posts, I realize I was treated very well indeed.

'99 Alpine Coach
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