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Old 10-11-2012, 11:28 AM   #1
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The Snake-Bit Customer

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...
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Old 10-11-2012, 05:03 PM   #2
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In our 3208T manual there are specific instructions to calibrate the dipstick via adding correct amount of oil then adjust stick to indicate full.

1989 CC 3208T On gillig chassis
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Old 10-11-2012, 06:10 PM   #3
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Interesting story,
Having dealt with Cat over the years on their Industrial Engines, I am shocked to hear they even entertained the idea of warranty so easy.
My experience with them was that the word "Warranty" did not existist in Caterpillar's world.
Having said that, most problems boil down to very simple solutions but to find those solutions is often not so simple.
Now that I am retired, I miss these head scratchers.
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Old 10-11-2012, 06:18 PM   #4
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[QUOTE=mmartinkus;1336495]--------- SNIP ---
Quote:
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!
BIGGER SNIP -----.
Quote:
The cure? We cut about an inch off the dip stick tube… Never had another problem.
Cool --------
Quote:
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...
After that one I look forward to your next post with bated breath!
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Old 10-11-2012, 06:22 PM   #5
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Yep, the 3126 had the same problem. You need to add the correct amount of oil and remark the stick to correspond to the actual oil level at both the "Add" and "Low" levels. Brett Wolfe has/had a write up on it for the CAT owners club.
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