Well, we knew something would happen sooner or later. All RVs have issues (I type this as we are passing an RV that is smoking on I-80 through western IL), and 14-year-old school buses are bound to have their own set of problems.
We drove the bus to Kansas City—where Abby’s parents live—to accomplish some much-needed intensive days of work. And we did. Thanks to my father-in-law and brother-in-law, We got the floor and ceiling insulated, the subfloor laid, the roof power-washed and sealed, and had a garage sale to get rid of a tiny portion of the stuff we can’t take with us on the road.
The bus drove like a dream on the 550-mile journey. The Caterpillar 3126b maintained a constant temperature through 90+ degree heat and rolling hills. Once in town, we drove it to the local home depot a few times. At the start of last two Home Depot runs I had a little trouble getting the bus into reverse—or so I thought. I shifted to “R” and it wouldn’t roll. I dropped it into “D” and it moved forward, and then when I threw it back into reverse, it moved. I thought maybe a cable or linkage needed some adjustment.
On our 7th day in KC, we were about to head out to the tire shop to get a new set of boots (more on that later), and after I started the bus up, it just wouldn’t budge. You could feel it drop into gear, and the driveshaft would turn each way slightly, but it almost felt like I was trying to back into a brick wall. The bus WANTED to overcome it, but couldn’t. It would shudder a little to one side, and it seemed as though the driver’s side rear wheel wanted to turn, but the passenger side didn’t. We were fairly confident we had a stuck brake on the right rear wheel.
We have air brakes, and the pressure stays constant, so it didn’t seem like a system problem. My father-in-law, Dave, (who has some experience with heavy trucks) and the neighbor spent a while banging on it and prying it free, but there’s not a whole lot of access to the actual brake under there. Some folks from the Skokie Converters Facebook group were very helpful in diagnosing, even giving us their number to call and checking in with us to make sure we were OK. We finally had to give up and call Coach-Net, our roadside assistance service. They dispatched a mobile tech, who worked a while on the brake, using the slack adjuster to pull it all the way off the drum. Still, wouldn’t budge. Uh-oh.
The mobile tech thought it was perhaps the transmission (doubtful since the driveshaft moves), or the differential. The differential sounds like a likely culprit. I made sure there was oil in it (there was), and called Coach-Net again, and they dispatched a (BIG) tow truck this time. Thank god I signed up with them before this trip, or we could have spent a lot of cash on the tow.
The tow truck driver thinks we might luck out, that perhaps we have a seized wheel bearing (he thought he saw a little leak around that area). Fingers crossed, the shop he took it to won’t be looking at it for a few days.
In the meantime, we are on the way back to Chicago in our mini-van, and I’ll have to take the train back to Kansas City to get the bus when it’s fixed, whatever that might take, and we still need to get tires installed. It’s a setback that is costing us precious time. Each build day we miss means a sacrifice somewhere on the bus.