This started out as an unusual post. I just needed a place to show some pictures of our travel trailer hubs and axles. I reached out to a few RV friends and an online forum for advice regarding a potentially expensive repair. I got some helpful guidance and wanted to share my story and what I learned. Maybe it can help you avoid a costly mistake.
We bought a new camper in November 2018, a Grand Design Transcend 28MKS. We like it and are looking forward to a lot of great travel and outdoor adventures. However, we haven’t used it as much as we would like. November is late for the camping season in Virginia and it was parked once we got it home.
While we travelled less than usual in 2019, we did have some great adventures with our Transcend.
The biggest trip including a stay at Lake Guntersville State Park in Alabama for the RV Entrepreneur Summit. I extended the trip with stops at Don Carter State Park in Georgia, a visit to Clemson, SC and some time at the North Myrtle Beach RV Resort and Dry Dock Marina in South Carolina. We did some shorter stays at Williamsburg KOA and Chippokes State Park. Thanksgiving in the Woods was at the Falls Lake Rolling View Campground. That led to a total of about 2,000 miles traveled in 2019.
While we had big plans for travel in 2020, the year had other plans for us, and we have been staying close to home.
Hopeful for a return to travel in the fall, I decided to do some preventative maintenance. I brought our camper in to the service department of a large, national RV chain. They advertised a special of $284.99 for a “Double Axel” (that’s what is on their site) wheel bearing pack. I added a state inspection for $20 and was quoted a total price for the job at $304.99.
I had my prior camper serviced here before it was acquired. The staff were always helpful and did good work. Maybe I should have observed that things had changed. That they couldn’t spell “axle” correctly might have been a clue that this wasn’t the best place to service my RV.
I got a call from the shop with bad news. They said my axle was damaged and needed to be replaced. They sent a few blurry pictures showing me the situation. Estimated cost, $1,450. I was shocked. New camper with minimal miles and I already needed a significant repair.
Before I agreed to the work, I reached out to some RV friends. I also posted a question on my favorite RV camping forum, the Trailer Life Open Road Forums, also known as RVnet and the Good Sam Forums. I appreciate this community and have learned a lot there. Thanks Good Sam for providing this helpful resource.
The community wanted to see pictures, so I posted the two images that the RV shop provided me. After seeing the pictures, many community members provided advice. Mostly, get your camper out of there and get a second opinion. And learn how to pack the bearings yourself.
I also reached out to Grand Design. With their reputation for great service, I was hopeful that they could take a look and give me a second opinion. However, they declined to help. As I had owned the trailer for more than 12 months, they would not review the images or offer any assistance. That was disappointing.
From the forums, I learned that my camper had been part of a recall. From the Grand Design web site “Dexter Axle has initiated a recall on their 4400# axles. On affected vehicles, the suspect axles could be missing the inner bearing race. As a result, the potential exists for premature bearing and/or hub failure that could lead to a loss of control resulting in a crash and personal injury.”.
When my camper was in for a few minor warranty adjustments in June 2019, the shop had also performed an inspection for the axle recall. Grand Design did check on the recall and confirmed that the axle was inspected in June 2019, after most of our 2019 travels were complete. No issues were brought to my attention at that time.
I requested that the shop complete the bearing repack. And then I made an appointment at another location for a second opinion. The first shop one wasn’t quite done making things difficult. I wouldn’t be charged the quoted and agreed price of $304.99. Instead, the price was now $480.50. The price we quoted was for labor only and didn’t include shop supplies like rags and protective gear. Then I was charged $105 for four seals which you can find online $9.99. What choice did I have? I paid the bill and left with my camper.
A Second Opinion
I took the camper to a local welding shop with a good reputation for working on trailers. I asked them to remove the wheels and look for any issues with the hubs, bearings and axles.
After they started the job, they did something surprising. They called me and asked me to come take a look. What they showed me was that the bearings were not packed correctly. There was a mix of pink and gray grease in the hubs, a sign that they had not been cleaned before being repacked.
They cleaned and inspected the axles and found no issues. Then, they cleaned and repacked the bearings. Total cost? It was about the advertised price from the first shop.
If you are near Hampton, VA and need work on your RV or boat trailer, check out Hibbard’s Iron Works.
The first shop did not do the job correctly. They charged significantly more than advertised. I’m pretty disappointed. I reached out to the general manager describing the situation and included pictures showing the issues with work performed. What would be fair is a refund for the repack work since it was not completed correctly. However, I have not heard back. It’s frustrating to pay so much for a job like this only to find out it wasn’t done right.
I’m trying to capture some lessons learned from the experience. Here are my top takeaways:
- Find a mechanic who takes the time to explain the right way to do things, who invites you into the shop to take a look for yourself and who ensures all of your questions are answered.
- Don’t agree to service based on a picture, especially a grainy picture that doesn’t clearly showcase the issue.
- Learn how to do at least some of the RV maintenance yourself. There are plenty of YouTube videos on RV maintenance. And there are some good training courses available. I plan to learn how to pack my own bearings.
- If you are counting on any assistance from your RV manufacturer, watch your maintenance schedule closely.
- Always keep learning. Have a questioning attitude, especially if something doesn’t’ seem right.
- Reach out to others. Camping people are usually happy to help. Ask questions and then listen with an open mind. However, take the advice you get with a grain of salt. You might receive conflicting advice and you will need to make the final decision on what’s right for you.
- When buying a new RV, always check for recalls before you take delivery.
Thanks again to everyone who has contributed to this story. Appreciate all of the insights and advice.
What are your RV maintenance lessons learned? Have you run into service issues? Did you learn to do your own RV maintenance? I’d love to hear your story. Leave a comment to share.
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