The Burro and the bad tranny - Fiberglass RV


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Old 07-30-2006, 02:18 PM   #1
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Saturday my Burro was ready for its first "See Trials." We would take our first overnight trip to see how everything is working, see if any travel-camping needs are amiss. Perfect weekend for a getaway, really hot and sunny. Decided on a 3-4 hour drive up into the Catskills, to a place called Gilbert Lake. The plan included avoiding that miserable, sure-to-be-a-blitz of escape traffic metropolitan New York produces on weekends: we drive west and go north.

Hooked up to the black, '92 Ford Explorer, my running good, new tow vehicle, packed with sandwich fixin's, burgers, beer, chips and the rest, we hit the road at 8 am. It was a beautiful drive out of NJ alongside the Delaware River, and into the Catskill Mountains. No traffic at all, 87 degrees in the Explorer but, windows wide open, the breeze, the smell of pines, it was all great.

Burro was towing beautifully, though I did sense a tad of strain under the hood and gas mileage wasn't looking real good. Of course, we were going north, to higher elevations, so everything was up hill. Kept checking my side mirrors for tail gaters. Felt I needed to know if anyone was close behind me. I pulled over once, to check on things inside. All the curtains had fallen down. Must be the elevation.

We had just crested another long hill. At mile number 148 of the trip, when I glanced again at the side mirror, I saw smoke. Pulled over immediately. Fluids dripping everywhere underneath the car. Engine oil was fine. It was the tranny. Blown seals? Was able to get down the hill to the exit to Sydney, NY, and a gas station where we pulled in to assess our options.

Nancy called AAA for help. We have Plus service. After the first 100 miles of towing they would charge $3 per mile, but would not tow the trailer under any circumstances. That is their policy. I went under the car and wiped off the transmission, then bought fluid, plus a quart of Gunk transmission sealer. (What the hell, I thought, at this point I'll try anything.)

There was this big parking lot across the street. I drove the rig around it a few times to see what would happen after the refill. One small drip. It looked worth a chance, so, 20 miles short of Gilbert Lake, we had a sandwich, sucked it up, and turned for home.

I stopped every 20 miles and added more fluid. Got it to New Jersey and within 18 miles of home when the end finally came. Up this long slope of newly paved blacktop it started chugging and slipping big time. Wouldn't you know it, guardrails and no shoulder to pull over onto. We were in the right lane and could not go on.

That is when we got affirmation there are many good people out there. Flashers on, I was standing behind my Burro, waving off oncoming light traffic with a red towel while Nancy was on the cell phone. A motorist stopped behind us, set up a flare, told me he'd been in a similar situation. Then a biker pulled up with two large orange cones he grabbed from a nearby construction site.

Soon the state trooper arrived. She said our location was too dangerous to let us stay until our AAA tow truck came. She had checked all the local tow people on her computer to verify one was coming but none had been contacted by AAA for us. That meant our tow was coming from a long distance. Not good. Evidently the AAA dispatcher is not even in NJ, so would not know the area. Actually, that was good for us, since AAA was not going to tow the Burro anyway. (Houston, we have a problem.) I had called my brother to tow Burro for us, but he was even farther away.

The local tow guy who arrived on the scene, and who did tow us, said he thinks the problem is AAA hires too many under trained people who they won't trust with a complicated tow situation. OK, take that for what it is worth, but what's a better reason? Local tow guy brought a flat bed truck and actually never loaded either the Ford or the Burro on it. He just slipped a hydraulic lift under the Ford's front wheels, locked in and pulled my entire rig like that, right to our door. We were home safe by 8 pm, delighted.

We will submit our bill to AAA for reimbursement, and see what happens.
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tranny3.jpg   tranny1.jpg  

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Old 07-30-2006, 04:56 PM   #2
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Myron, out of curiousity, which engine, tranny and rear-end ratio does your Explorer have, and what is Ford's tow rating for your buggy as equipped?

At least you got close to home; that sort of problem is really bad when you are away!
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Old 07-30-2006, 05:58 PM   #3
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Hi, don`t know if you towed a RV trailer before, but if it`s your first, that is one heck of introduction to RV`ing...sorry to hear about your experience and hope that the damage to the Ford isn`t too bad but most likely will be a few bucks.....two questions....were you towing in OD with the transmission shifting up and down,(hunting)?....do you have a additional tranny cooler in the truck? .....sounds like the truck was working hard....I know that I would be totally put off.....kinda sinking feeling in the stomach when that happens......Benny
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Old 07-30-2006, 07:33 PM   #4
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Well, that bites, eh? Sorry your maiden voyage was an adventure you would rather have not had.

AAA vs. Good Sam.. Good Sam does all the roadside assistance things AAA does.. BUT, they will tow your trailer too.

Look up thier benefits. I decided I could buy maps if I needed them, go to DMV if I had to in trade for getting my rig out of hot water if needed. I went with Good Sam.

Most likely, if I am going to get in trouble, it will be towing. Good Sam gave me the warm fuzzies for that.
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Old 07-30-2006, 07:46 PM   #5
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Now that would get my stomach in knots!

Never experienced anything like that, but I have come to expect that it could, "things" being what they are. At least the Burro didn't quit on you, even though you could hardly have camped right where you were and eased your blood pressure down a bit.

Gina has a point which I will consider again about the Good Sam plan. We have the same AAA plan you have, but leaving the Burro alone and exposed could be more than I could put up with.

Glad it ended up tolerably and near home. Hope your Ford will end up well and able.
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Old 07-30-2006, 11:49 PM   #6
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Nancy called AAA for help. We have Plus service. After the first 100 miles of towing they would charge $3 per mile, but [b]would not tow the trailer under any circumstances. That is their policy.
It must be a regional thing. When I blew the crankshaft bearing in my Toyota while towing my Compact Junior, AAA contacted a contract towing firm who offered to tow [b]BOTH car and trailer 200 miles, dropping the trailer at my home and continuing to my mechanic's shop with the car, for only $50 over AAA's reimbursement. It was a totally different experience for me!
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Old 07-30-2006, 11:57 PM   #7
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But you had to pay 50 extra. With Good Sams, it's part of the deal. Trailer goes where you want it (Home or to a safe campground if away from home) and car goes to shop. No extra charge.
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Old 07-31-2006, 12:10 AM   #8
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Sorry about your troubles Myron.

Ya need AAA RV and motorcycle coverage to get either towed. We have it and have used it twice for other peoples rigs we were traveling with (shhhhh! I became a passenger).

Just to be safe we have AAA and are signing up for Good Sam's in addition since we drive old TVs.
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Old 07-31-2006, 09:44 AM   #9
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So the smoke has cleared some, and there's good news and bad news. The bad news is I have a transmission problem. The good news is at this moment it don't look like I fried the transmission after all. It is looking like bad seals. I put 6 quarts new fluid in it the morning after, it drove normal down the street and back, had all my gears, but was leaking underneath.

This is a '92 Ford Explorer XLT, 4 door with 106K+ miles on it. Engine is the standard 4.0 EFI-V-6 with standard 4x4 transmission. The vehicle class is rated (gross vehicle weight) D, or 5001-6000 pounds.

The car has a transmission cooler but there were no signs of leakage in the lines to it. Got to get it up on a lift to really see the extent and scope of the leakage.

Actually, before the seals blew at mile 148 I had no cause for concern while driving, other than irritation because I didn't like the gas consumption rate. A seat of the pants calculation at the time indicated it was going to be around 13 mpg. Otherwise, the tow was going beautifully. At no time was the transmission hunting or shifting, or acting strange in any way. Was never in four-wheel drive, in fact the 4x4 dashboard switch is not working, which I attribute to dirty contacts inside the 4x4 transfer box, a common problem often mis-diagnosed by profit hungry mechanics, I am told.

I was driving the entire time in....circle-D......."overdrive?" Would that have been a contributing factor? (Holy Moley.........!) Tell me more.

Just spoke with my mechanic in town but he can't deal with it until Wednesday so I'll have to wait 'till then for answers and repairs.
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Old 07-31-2006, 02:23 PM   #10
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We have the "RV" option on our auto club coverage (with Alberta Motor Association, a CAA/AAA affiliate) in order to cover towing the Boler. If $50 is a typical extra fee for trailer towing (and I would expect to pay more than that from any camping location), a tow every three years would justify the $20/year extra fee for RV coverage (above the Plus level). I think it's worthwhile just for peace of mind.

Although my wife and I are both listed Plus members, we added RV to only her coverage, since she is always along on a Boler trip. There is no need to add it for each member, only for one who will be present if services are needed.

AMA's Membership Coverage web page makes the trailer coverage quite explicit, so we knew to add RV to our existing membership when we bought the trailer, but not all clubs may be as clear.
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Old 07-31-2006, 03:19 PM   #11
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I was driving the entire time in....circle-D......."overdrive?" Would that have been a contributing factor? (Holy Moley.........!) Tell me more.
I'm sure others will chime in here, but I would not recommend towing in overdrive, especially not with a V6. My truck has the GM "tow" mode (which keeps it out of overdrive), and I tow our 13' in tow mode. Even then, it does occasionally downshift when on an upgrade (it is a 4.8L V8). For what it's worth, I have towed it in overdrive just to measure the gas mileage, and have found that gas mileage is essentially the same either way. To me, it's not worth the slight improvement in gas mileage to risk possible damage to the transmision. In your situation, it's hard to speculate as to whether towing a relatively short distance in OD did anything to contribute to your transmission troubles, however.
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Old 07-31-2006, 03:52 PM   #12
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Quote:
It must be a regional thing. When I blew the crankshaft bearing in my Toyota while towing my Compact Junior, AAA contacted a contract towing firm who offered to tow [b]BOTH car and trailer 200 miles, dropping the trailer at my home and continuing to my mechanic's shop with the car, for only $50 over AAA's reimbursement. It was a totally different experience for me!
. Plus AAA changes their coverages, translates to diminishes service offerings, from time to time. When I first got them I think it was 6-8 tows per year allowed. Now after 4 service calls you have to make arrangements to pay the tow driver. I've had Plus for years simply because the metro area is so large, I'd still be in town on my home ground and would go over the regular membership's allowed tow mileage to get home if a tow was needed. AAA RV service will not tow a trailer here. They will tow the tow vehicle and leave your trailer on the side of the road. Its really a moho plan. They give no consideration to travel trailers being RVs.

So, I bit the bullet and signed up for Good Sam two weeks ago.
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Old 07-31-2006, 04:03 PM   #13
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As an aside to Jason...you tow a 13' with a full size GM 4.8L...what is your mileage towing on level ground.....also my manual says that tow/haul is only for larger/heavier loads than the 13' would be normally and using that mode is of no benefit with light loads...........Myron, you never know with the OD in the Explorer and if you aren`t the original owner, you possibly don`t know how it was used/abused in it`s younger years....my manual says tow in OD unless the tranny starts to hunt, then tow in 3rd instead......also noticed that your trailer sits with a front high attitude which would increase your windload a fair amount I would guess, and in my opinion, windload is possibly a main governing factor for torque/power required for highway towing.......Benny
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Old 07-31-2006, 04:14 PM   #14
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Benny, I average 16-17 mpg towing. I agree that using the tow mode with a 13' is probably not necessary, but since my gas mileage doesn't decrease with it off, I would rather have the peace of mind knowing that I'm not putting additional strain on the tranny. I agree with your assessment that, with a 13 footer, wind resistance probably contributes more to engine strain than does the trailer weight. I've come to that conclusion with my setup, since gas mileage is essentially the same whether I'm traveling west (and thus on essentially flat terrain) or east (over the Appalachians).
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