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Old 07-27-2021, 07:41 PM   #1
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Drive shaft destroyed after reconnection - they killed my motorhome!

We own a 2006 Travel Supreme 38" DP purchased new in 2005. While coming back from vacation (Colorado back to the Houston area) I smelled antifreeze at the same time that the engine overheated with a "Stop Engine" warning occurred. I pulled off of I-45 and parked next to the frontage road in a driving rain storm. I suspected a ruptured coolant line.

Via FMCA's Roadside Rescue, a mechanic was sent out to see if repairs could be made. The mechanic couldn't see anything and recommended getting towed to his shop in Houston, stating that he was experienced and equipped to do the repair at his facility. A tow was eventually arranged (it took over 15 hours - thank you FMCA!) and the tow truck driver recommended disconnecting the drive shaft for the 15 mile tow to the shop. The shop agreed with doing that and I said to go ahead and do it. The driver disconnected the drive shaft and handed me the greasy parts (greasy is important here). I placed them in a box. It weighed about 35 pounds or so.

At the shop, I handed the box to them. The mechanic later said that there was no oil in the engine (Cummins 400 ISL) for the cause of the overheating. I said that there was no oil on the tow car and that low oil would not cause an engine to overheat (it would cause the engine to seize), that the needed to check out the cooling system. A ruptured coolant hose was found and it was replaced. The mechanic attributed the oil leak to engine seal leakage. The mechanic replaced the oil with Rotella-T6 synthetic that I brought to him and I also gave him a new oil filter. Following that, the mechanic said that the engine seals did not need replacement, that the seepage was minor and that there had been in fact enough oil. The mechanic said that the hose repair was done and the vehicle ready to be picked up. He had replaced the coolant with just water. I told him that extended-life antifreeze was what was called for and told him to drain out the water and fill it was the proper antifreeze. I had a couple of gallons of that in a compartment and showed them to him.

We went to pick up the vehicle the next day. Upon restarting the engine, the "Stop Engine" warning came up with a code # indicating that it was caused by low coolant. I checked the coolant reservoir and it was low. Two gallons of water were added to bring the level above the sensor in the reservoir as they had no antifreeze on hand. The warning went away.

We started going home and got about 4 miles from the shop when the vehicle started violently shaking with a loud banging noise and then there was a scraping sound from the road. The engine warning said "Park Brake". I stopped, pulled the parking brake and turned off the engine. Then the engine would not restart. I crawled under the vehicle and saw that the drive shaft had been destroyed. A lady in a car pulled up behind me and said that she saw some parts fall off the engine. I ran down the road and found 2 greasy caps. They are pictured in the cardboard box, parts of the drive shaft mechanism. There might have been other parts but I didn't find them.

I called the shop and this time a different mechanic asked me to take a picture of the drive shaft and text it to him (which is also attached to this post). That mechanic then came over and started looking for a replacement drive shaft on a Saturday afternoon with, obviously, no luck. Another tow was arranged (and another story altogether).

Back at the shop, the shop owner said that the drive shaft showed "metal fatigue" and that the U-joints were not lubricated. The U-joints have Zerk fittings and I had regularly lubricated them. I said that the drive shaft was not properly connected. The shop owner disputes that.

Spartan told them that the drive shaft was back-ordered 29 weeks (due to the pandemic...) and would cost over $4K. The shop owner said that it could be made locally by machine shop for $900 including dynamically balancing it. I said do it.

Then, another problem was found, potentially even more disastrous. The engine wouldn't start because there was a large crack in the bell housing. This dislodged the starter motor which in turn apparently wasn't contacting the teeth on the flywheel. The shop owner said that this happened because "someone" (implying me) had attempted to start the engine when the transmission was not in neutral. I know that you can't start the engine in gear - it won't let you.

The shop owner said that the bell housing crack can be welded and the starter positioned to engage the flywheel although that doesn't always work. I said to pull the starter motor first and examine the teeth on the flywheel to make sure they're intact. A small crack was reported to me today today in the transmission housing but it was not in a critical area.

I think they killed our motorhome. From the above description and the attached pictures, I welcome any helpful comments, suggestions and/or advice. I am not requesting legal help here, just as to whether, in anyone's personal experience, this occurred due to a improperly reattached drive shaft or due to something else.
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Old 07-27-2021, 07:57 PM   #2
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Oh my, I feel for you.
They forgot to tighten the driveshaft.
Have it towed to another shop.
The bellhousing crack would be caused by the loose driveshaft beating around.

Just my opinion.
I sincerely wish you luck with this one.
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Old 07-27-2021, 08:22 PM   #3
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They probably clocked the driveshaft 90 degrees out. All u joints in the shaft have to be lined up properly. Do a quick google search and you'll understand. The shop definitely caused the cracking, that's a big heavy driveshaft. Or as said, they didn't tighten it.
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Old 07-27-2021, 08:51 PM   #4
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The one U joint cap was tightened on top of the tab that holds it in.

It got lose and flew out and then wore thru the U shaped plate.

You can not just weld that bellhousing. The engine or transmission has to come out.
It bolts to the engine block and transmission with bolts inside behind the flywheel and if its cracked there, it will never work right.

That didn't happen by starting it in gear. Even in gear, the torque converter would let the engine start.

You may have been greasing the U joints but the slip joint is dry. Still wouldn't cause what happened.

You may also need a transmission case if cracked.

Call your insurance company, their insurance company, or a lawyer.
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Old 07-27-2021, 09:01 PM   #5
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It looks to me like they forgot to tighten one of the straps on the pinion gear. There should be paint or punch marks on the pinion gear and on the driveshaft to indicate the correct clocking. Even if the driveshaft were installed out of phase (usually 180 degrees) it still should not have come apart in 5 miles. It appears as if there is a slip joint in the drive shaft due to the grease fitting and I guess it could have been out of phase there if the slip joint is not keyed. That could cause catastrophic failure as the front and back of the driveshaft would want to be rotating at different speeds twice every revolution. In any case, this is definitely caused but reinstalling the driveshaft defectively in some manner. If they are a licensed business I might try contacting their regulatory body if they don't make this right. I might also ask them if they have liability insurance and who their carrier is. This is not your fault regardless of what the shop says. Good luck.
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Old 07-27-2021, 09:05 PM   #6
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Damn! It sure appears that the shop messed up. The chances of a metal fatigue failure manifesting itself immediately after the shop connected the driveshaft is extremely slim to none.
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Old 07-27-2021, 09:21 PM   #7
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I had to have my coach towed to a Cummins shop and after the radiator replacement got it back. On the drive home I noticed a vibration, ~45 mile drive.

Got it home and crawled underneath. They had installed the driveshaft out of phase. I removed and installed correctly, no problems since.

My guess is they installed the drive shaft out of phase and a u-joint failed.

I would be contacting you insurance company and let the lawyers figure it out. I'd also take it to another shop. I would not approve of welding up the bell housing, I demand a new replacement. This won't be a cheap repair.

They may have not killed your coach but they definitely hurt it.
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Old 07-27-2021, 09:37 PM   #8
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You might try the consumer protection agency for that state. We used them here in Carolina with an issue that seemed to help to get things corrected.
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Old 07-27-2021, 10:44 PM   #9
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And just as an aside; it sure don't sound like that shop had a clue, on any of the repairs.
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Old 07-27-2021, 11:21 PM   #10
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Improper reassembly of the u-joint, That series of u-joint needed a new strap kit installed. They are not reusable. The straps and bolts stretch after being used.
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Old 07-28-2021, 12:03 AM   #11
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I guess it stems from the original call to roadside assistance when the so called mechanic could not find a coolant leak, sorry he was no mechanic. The shop should take responsibility for an untrained and shoddy tech ( if he was one)
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Old 07-28-2021, 12:20 AM   #12
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First thing is to let us know what the name of the shop, so no one will use them. Next let FMCA know that this clown cause further damage and does not have a clue what he is doing. Next ask for the name of and policy for his insurance carrier and file a claim.

Do not let this clown work on the coach again.

Improper installation probably caused the additional damage to the bell housing.

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Old 07-28-2021, 12:28 AM   #13
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I want to thank everyone who has replied. I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I just now notified the shop not to proceed. We will obviously need to have it serviced elsewhere. I requested his insurance information.

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Old 07-28-2021, 03:30 AM   #14
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disconnecting the drive shaft is NEVER an OPTION, IT IS MANDATORY.

and ANY mechanical monkey (even Forest Gump!) KNOWS that you MARK the drive shaft joints BEFORE any removal such that it is replaced EXACTLY how it was disconnected.

And only 2 needle cups (which should be full of grease) need to be removed to hang the drive shaft.

ALL that is needed is to drop a couple U joints held up and pull drive shaft out of transmission, then wire the drive shaft up such that it touches NOTHING rotating OR the road !! EASY and one would think OBVIOUS !

Then TOW with lots of strong safety chains and such !!

Any MH is lots of meat to sling around and is a nice MISSILE to throw at other vehicles and could easily kill innocent ppl (if that exists anymore above 16 yrs old?).

So is it the wage/hr paid for poor towing/mechanics OR is just lazy stupid UNskilled workers ? How much $ per hr hires competent workers, work that a decent high school student/grad can do ??

And imagine if something was HARD to do, how good is that surgeon you need ?? Is there a 'craigslist' to check for IN/competent surgeons/oconologists, lawyers, investment/financial, school teachers, Cops, etc ??
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