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Hobohome meets Alice Brake & Clutch

Written Dec 2004

This is the tale of how we learned to be more careful about who we allow to do work on the motorhome and how we monitor what they do.

A few weeks before we arrived in Alice Springs something went dramatically wrong with the brakes on the motorhome. Applying the brakes resulted in the pedal falling to within about 50mm from the floor, to make matters worse, the pedal was very slow to return. Once the pedal did return the brakes worked better with each pump of the brake pedal. This issue happened suddenly when we were travelling over a very rough road.  In an attempt to resolve the issue I had bled the brakes and adjusted them – while this helped, it did not resolve the problem. The right hand front brake adjuster would also no longer adjust that lining.

All of this information was passed onto Glen Schilds (owner/manager) at Alice Brake and Clutch when we booked the motorhome in to have the fault diagnosed. There was also a leaking air valve that I pointed out to one of the mechanics working on the brakes.

Glen kindly allowed us to stay in the yard and provided mains power for the motorhome while the work was carried out.

After 3 days the diagnostic work was complete and Glen provided the bad news.

To be replaced:

 To be reconditioned

 Including labour at total of $8500!

 

I asked a few questions – but clearly not enough. I should have asked to see the parts that required reconditioning and replacement.

Glen told me that the reason that the right front brake would not adjust was because the wrong size shoes had been fitted.  

We felt that we had little choice but to give the go-ahead to proceed with the work (after all we were up on blocks in their yard.)

Two weeks later the work was completed and we were ready for a test drive. The first issue was that there was a serious air leak back into the compressor – this was never an issue before. They decided that the head of the compressor would need machining AND a check-valve would need to be fitted (all at additional cost).

This would be done after the weekend and so we took the motorhome away from Alice Springs for the weekend. The brakes worked very well and when we returned to the workshop on Monday I told Glen that I was happy with the work. I did comment that it was strange that the air gauge dropped when the brakes were applied – Glen told me that this was because I had never seen the booster in operation.  I also commented that the air pressure came up very quickly and was told that this was due to the reconditioned compressor.

The brakes were again to be adjusted – this time I watched. The old problem with the front right was still there! It turned out that this was caused by a bent adjuster – not ill fitting linings! I wondered what that mis-diagnosis cost us. The machined heads and check valve were fitted, but I pointed out that the valve that had been leaking was still doing so.

We paid MORE money then left the workshop again.

The same day I wanted to use an air tool and so connected it to the outlet of the main air reservoir. To my surprise, there was no air in the main reservoir. This explained why the pressure came up so quickly – we were not filling the main reservoir tank.

Feeling very unhappy I took the motorhome back to the yard again and explained the issue.
At this time they decided it would be good to trace out the air lines – I could not believe that this had not been done before. They had no idea what the purpose of the two valves in the air system was – including the one that had been replaced. I suggested that the valve that had been replaced was not in fact faulty and how could they know if it was if they did not know what it’s function was. The new valve was removed and I was refunded the cost of the valve (but not the labour cost that I had been charged to fit it).

We left the yard once again feeling just a little unhappy. We felt that there had been no effort put into diagnosing the real issues with the brakes and that the approach had been “replace or recondition everything – that has got to fix it”. Alice Brake and Clutch makes 20% on all parts and reconditioning work carried out by third parties – a very good reason for an approach like that.

If that had been the end of the saga we would have learned our lesson, been $8500 poorer but had good brakes. Sadly it was not…

While travelling on yet another rough gravel road on the way to Ayers Rock, the old problem of the falling pedal returned. Once again the pedal fell to within 50mm of the floor before we felt any braking.

I telephoned Glen and he told me to take the motorhome to a friend of his at the workshop at Ayers Rock. Glen had phoned ahead and I made an appointment to have the issue looked at in two days. I checked when I arrived for the appointment that Glen had arranged payment for any work – I was assured that this was the case.

Two days latter we were no further ahead. The workshop had made numerous calls to Glen for instructions but the brakes were still the same. On one of those calls Glen instructed at the air pressure should be raised 200 kpa to 797kpa – this was a simple task of just adjusting a valve. Sadly it had no effect.

At the end of the two days, the Ayers Rock workshop said that they could do no more. They explained that to Glen on the phone while I was there and passed the phone to me. Glen then explained that I would have to pay for half of the labour for the work and he would pay the other half. When I asked (extremely unhappily) why – he said it was because the air pressure was incorrect and because I had incorrectly adjusted the brakes.   

I lost my temper at this point and told Glen that I had no intention of adding further to his retirement fund and reminded him that he already had nearly $9000 of ours and the initial problem still existed. I also pointed out that adjusting the air pressure did not resolve the issue and that the vehicle had been parked in their yard for over three weeks – why was it that they did not even know what the air pressure was supposed to be?

At this point I left the workshop and I understand that Glen agreed to pay their labour account.

A few days later I spoke to Mark, the former owner of the motorhome and he assured me that two of the wheel cylinders had already been re-sleeved in stainless steel – this should not have been required again.

Questions for Glen Schilds form Alice Brake and Clutch…

  1. What was causing the initial problem of the falling pedal?

  2. What after spending all that money why does the issue still exist?

  3. Why did the front slave cylinders require re-sleeving again – was this in fact done?

  4. Why did nobody take the time to understand the air system and why was it not tested before I was given the ok to drive out of the yard (with an empty main reservoir)?

  5. Is there any warranty on the work carried out by Alice Brake and Clutch. What are you prepared to do about the current state of the brakes on the motorhome?

 

In an effort to be reasonable, I will give Glen an opportunity to respond and to answer the questions above. I will print his response (if I get one) below this message.  

Footnote - I have no issue with the work carried out by the team at Uluru Motors (Ayers Rock), they were very understanding and did a fine job in trying to find the cause of the issue. My thanks to them.

Update 11-02-2005 - To date I have had no response from anyone at Alice Brake and Clutch and I have had no reply to my emails.

 

 

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