Stuck in Denver: Part I

I spent the night at Best Auto & RV Service in Arvada, CO which is just outside of Denver. Just to recap, the previous morning I was driving down the Interstate when my RV decided to die on me. Luckily, I was able to coast to the side of the road. After shutting the engine down, I was able to start it back up again. I pulled off the exit into a parking lot to figure out my next move. I wasn’t about to continue driving down the freeway and have it stall on me again while I was in some podunk town.

I found an RV repair shop less than five miles away that had some good reviews and was able to take back roads to get there. They ran a scan on the internal computer and it came up with three codes: one fuel pressure sensor problem, one random cylinder misfire detected, and a Cylinder #1 misfire detected. Jack, the owner, said they wouldn’t be able to get to it until tomorrow.

I stayed in the RV that night on their property. Fortunately, they let me plug in. The following morning, sometime around 10am I got a knock at the door. It was Frankie, the technician. I was next up in line, so they needed to move my RV to another bay on the side of the building. I hesitantly left kitty in the RV while Frankie drove it around the block. I walked through the garage and waited for him at the other bay. And I waited. It seemed like forever before I finally saw him come down the driveway and pulled up to the garage. I quickly went in to check on kitty. There he was in his road trip spot, lying down on the floor between the two seats, nearly asleep. I picked him up and brought him back into the coach with me.

A short time later, as I was sitting at my dining table and I could hear Frankie open the cab door and turn the key in the ignition without actually starting the engine. I have a curtain I hang between the cab and the coach, so I couldn’t see into the cab and he couldn’t see into the coach. But I made sure to keep an eye on kitty because he has discovered that he can sneak under the curtain and get to the cab.  Then, I heard the cab door shut.

Thirty minutes later, Frankie knocked at the door and asked me to come with him to talk to Jack about what they found. We met Jack in the shop and as we made our way to his office, he asked, “Where did you purchase your RV? A dealer?”

“No, private party,” I said.

“Well, they were having some problems, let me tell you. You see this?” He held a spark plug up to me. It looked like a spark plug. Then said several things to the effect that the spark plug looked terrible and who ever installed it didn’t know what they were doing.

I told him the previous owners I bought it from said they never had any problems with the RV. When we did the pre-buyers inspection, they found detected a misfire on one of the cylinders and replaced a spark plug, but I didn’t know which one.

I had no reason to believe the previous owners had deceived me about having any problems with the RV. They were probably in their late 50s. The husband was super laid back, very knowledgeable about the RV and was very helpful with giving me any information he could about it.

Jack then pulled out a puny pocket knife and was attempting to cut something off the spark plug. It looked like a plastic sheath wrapped around the bottom of it. His knife wasn’t doing anything, so I offered him mine which cut the plastic thing right off. He then said, “This isn’t even the right spark plug. This is a Platinum. It should be a Double Platinum.”

Ok, I thought. He told me all my spark plugs needed to be replaced. I took a seat as I waited for him to print me out an estimate. At some point, some guy came into his office and took a seat. They apparently knew each other as they started up a conversation. This went on for about 20 minutes as Jack went on into some story about his first RV he ever bought. It was one of those huge bus-sized ones and he managed to tear a hole in the roof and scrape the side of it or something.

This was how all conversations with him went. He had a story for everything. People would come in and out of his office, he’d start up conversations with them and he’d take phone calls while in mid conversation. It was impossible to sit with him for less than 30-40 minutes at a time because he always had to tell a story. It was interesting to hear them at first, but then it just got annoying. He explained how he just spent an obscene amount of money on his backyard to make his wife happy. I even got to sit there while he fumbled through the pictures on his phone to show me.  At some point he told me about a guy who called in asking to come in because they had torn a hole in their poop tank and it was leaking poop everywhere. Jack flat out turned him away saying he was three months backed up with work and didn’t have time for him. But really, he just didn’t want to deal with this guy’s poop. “You know what they call shit?” he asked me. “Biohazard!”

Jack was very vocal about how busy and backed up he was and how other shops send work to him because they’re either too busy or they couldn’t figure out the problem. “Everybody’s busy!” he said. I fidgeted in my chair which seemed to make him come to and finally printed out my estimate for replacing all the spark plugs. It was about $550. Fine, I just wanted the problem fixed so I could be on my way. It was a three-hour job and he said they’d try to get it done that afternoon. The entire time I was in his office, I was distracted worrying about kitty. I was nervous leaving him alone out there with other people having access to the RV. What if they left a door open?

I rushed back to the RV after I got the estimate. Ok, doors are all shut. As I walked by the passenger side door, I looked at the driver side door. The damn window was open! I whipped open the coach door. Whew! There was kitty, lying on the couch.

I texted Mike that they were planning to replace all 10 spark plugs. “Huh? That wasn’t the cause of your problem was it?” he replied.

Um, no it wasn’t. I had forgotten about the fuel pressure sensor thing. If I hadn’t mentioned already let me be clear, I was pretty stressed out about this whole situation, so I wasn’t thinking clearly. I marched back into his office. “So, what about the fuel pressure sensor thing?”

He looked at me quizzically. “The fuel pressure sensor seems to be fine. We didn’t find a problem with that.” And he went into some explanation about how the spark plugs “could” be the problem but they don’t really know. And rather than dropping a thousand bucks on a fuel-something part (I don’t remember the name of the part he was talking about), he thought it’d be best to try this first.

“So, it’s one of those situations where you don’t really know what’s going on and I just have to see if this fixes it?”

“Unfortunately, yes.” Frankie walked by and Jack called him. He told Frankie to put a fuel pressure gauge on my dash and once all the spark plugs have been replaced he’d have me drive around a bit and watch the gauge for improper readings. I’m not sure why he was going to have me do this.

I had another meltdown as I slogged back to my RV. I immediately called Mike. And he immediately questioned what they were saying. The spark plugs really shouldn’t have anything to do with the fuel sensor issue, he explained. After some time of talking through this, I mentioned I had the code from the scan, and so he typed it into Google. Turned out, it could be several different things causing the issue, but there was a simple methodical process to troubleshooting it. Did Frankie do any of these? No, because if he had, he would have found the problem. But instead, they wanted to just replace ALL the spark plugs. And who knows if they all needed to be replaced since he only took one out?

It was just now starting to sink in that they might be trying to bamboozle me – trying to send me off without fixing the real problem, all the while putting money in their pockets. Since this seemed to be an intermittent issue, I could drive hundreds of miles away before it ever happened again, and I’d be a long way from Best Auto & RV Service. Mike suggested I could take it to another repair shop or even a Ford dealer. I wasn’t about to take it to another incompetent repair shop, so I decided to contact a Ford dealer.

Lucky me, there was one just a few miles away that dealt with motorhomes, but they couldn’t get me in until Tuesday. It was Friday. Whatever. I booked the appointment. Now I had to inform Jack I was leaving. It had been a couple hours since he first told me what they found and gave me the estimate. Thankfully, Frankie had not started replacing all the spark plugs yet. I went back to Jack’s office. He was in the adjacent office blabbering with a couple people in there. I gave them a minute before I poked my head inside. I caught Jack’s attention and we went back to his office.

I told him I wasn’t thrilled about the thought of “trying” the spark plug thing and seeing if that fixed the issue and told him I was taking it to Ford.

Without putting up any sort of fight he simply said, “Ok.” He reiterated how busy they were. He was now just confirming for me that I made the right decision. They were too busy to take the time to figure out what the real cause of the issue was and were just going to let me drive off knowing they had done a shoddy assessment and it may very well happen again. He knew I was traveling by myself and was a long way from home. He tried to appear helpful by giving me the number of the Ford dealer that could help me. As he searched for the number he asked, “Where you headed next after this?”

“South Dakota to see Mt. Rushmore.”

“Did you hear what Obama wants to do with Mt. Rushmore?” he asked.

Oh god. “No,” I said.

“He wants to tear it down!” he cried. What the hell is he talking about? I wondered. I let him express his opinion of Obama’s decision; he got all riled up. Then he went off on some conservative tangent I don’t remember because it was already going out the other ear. Great, there’s nothing I love more than listening to someone ranting their political views that are completely contrary to mine. I’d had enough. I fidgeted in my chair, and like a trained dog, he snapped out of it and finally wrote down the number of the Ford dealer. “Here. Give them a call. Let me know what they say.”

Later, I was curious to find out what he was talking about regarding Obama wanting to tear down Mt. Rushmore because it sounded ridiculous. After just a few minutes of looking it up online, I discovered it was a prank some guy named Mark Dice did to see what kind of stupid things people would say when he asked them what they thought about it – kind of like Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” sketch. Dice had done this prank before several years ago only instead of using Obama as the subject he was telling people Mt. Rushmore was being sold to a housing developer to pay off government debt.

As I walked from his office through the garage to the RV, I realized something. I had walked through this garage now close to a dozen times in the span of about three hours. The place was always quiet – even the previous day when I had been sitting in my RV right outside the garage. I never really saw anyone doing any actual work. No wonder they’re three months backed up. Nobody works!

I went back to the RV to wait for Frankie to put the spark plug back in so I could leave. About 15 minutes later I could feel the RV moving around a bit and heard the hood slam shut and then a knock at the door. I stepped outside, and he said it was put back together. He apologized for not being able to help. He was clearly upset in a disappointed kind of way – like I had insulted him for deciding to take my business somewhere else. I went back inside to stow things away and the AC inside the RV suddenly stopped. He had unplugged the RV without saying a word. Oh, this is how it’s going to be? I finished stowing things away then went back to the other side of the garage to retrieve my bike rack we had taken off the previous day and put it and the bike back on the front of the truck. I passed Frankie several times; neither of us said a word. I also went back in the office to ask Jack what I owed. He said nothing. That’s right – nothing. I just wasted about 15 hours of my life here. I went back outside, got in my RV and left. I was so pleased they didn’t get a cent out me.

To be continued…

Author: Debora Schwartz

I am a traveler, a writer, an outdoor enthusiast and a tiny house dweller.

6 thoughts on “Stuck in Denver: Part I”

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