It turned out that our disastrous maiden voyage wasn’t the only disaster we were destined to encounter. After waiting 3 weeks to get our vehicle back, we finally picked up the bus in Glens Falls, New York, and we headed south. We spent time in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. After we had been in Charleston, South Carolina for a few days, we found out that our bus was leaking.
The leak came to our attention while we were out and about in the bus on a Friday afternoon and Travis’ brother called asking, “is your bus leaking?” Certainly not the question you want to hear. Travis said, “not that we know of… why?” and Travis’ brother proceeded to text us a picture of a dark puddle on his driveway where the bus had been parked.
We called a local Chevy dealership and were told that they have Saturday hours and they could look at it tomorrow, which felt like good luck! We drove the bus to the dealership, left it overnight, and called the next day for an update. The service adviser who answered sounded perplexed and explained that there was no way anyone would be looking at it that day. In our experience, Chevy dealerships just don’t look at buses on Saturdays. They have shortened hours and limited staff. So at this point, we’re holding out for Monday!
When all was said and done, we ended up waiting yet another week to get our bus back. Of course, like our first breakdown, it was due to rust (reminder: our first breakdown was due to rusty union joints on our driveshaft). This time, it was the thin fuel lines that just couldn’t go on. We were also told that our rear axle seal was leaking. This was especially disappointing because we had the rear axle seal replaced about a year earlier by a mom-and-pop mechanic in Vermont. We thought about calling them to see if they would take any responsibility or help with the cost but ultimately decided against it and just paid for the repair again. You win some, you lose some.
One week later, we were back on the road and heading to inland South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. When we arrived just outside of Nashville, we picked a random exit to get fuel. Travis downshifted to second gear to temper braking as we came up to a line of traffic. He went to shift back into drive when the shifter started to free float. Our shifter was no longer connected to our transmission and we were stuck in second gear.
We tried to stay calm and figure out our options. We couldn’t shift into park and if we turned the bus off, we wouldn’t be able to turn it back on because it can only turn on when it’s in park or neutral. Travis spotted a semi-truck mechanic business across from the off ramp. We figured they’d have lifts big enough to work on the bus and decided to ask them for help. As we drove over, we kept in mind that we couldn’t drive into any space that we’d need to reverse out of. This meant avoiding corners and swinging wide to give the bus a extra space.
The two people who worked on our bus were absolute saviors. We walked up and spoke to an employee, who told us to pull into the first bay. We said, “are you sure?” because we knew we couldn’t reverse out of it and there wasn’t a lift there. He insisted, so we pulled the bus in. A second employee came over to help and he impressively squeezed under our very hot bus. He discovered that the plastic piece that holds the shifter and transmission together had failed and advised getting the bus on the lift to put them back together.
He manually held the pieces together under the bus as we simultaneously shifted into neutral from inside the bus. They pushed us out of the bay and then manually helped us shift back into drive. We drove onto their lift in another bay and they used metal hose clamps to secure the shifter and transmission back together. They explained the problem thoroughly and gave us extra metal hose clamps just in case we needed them. We were in and out in about 30 minutes. We asked what we owed them for the service and they said “don’t worry about it.” We were VERY lucky that if this had to happen, it happened right in front of an amazing business that gave us emergency help.
We made an appointment with a Chevy dealership to get the proper part installed and we continued to our campground for the weekend. By the upcoming Sunday night, we were driving out of Nashville when the next disaster hit. Suddenly, the bus made a loud bang and was smoking profusely from the engine bay. We immediately pulled over and started working on getting a tow.
We called AAA and put in a request but as hours went by, no one showed up. We called back numerous times and were repeatedly told that someone would be on their way. It was only around 1:00am that someone was finally honest with us and told us that they “put out a request but no one has taken it yet and they won’t until morning.”
We ended up waiting 18 and a half hours on a very busy Nashville interstate. It wasn’t too bad for the first 6 hours, but enduring an entire night of semi-trucks speeding by and shaking our bus turned out of be a specific kind of torture. Everything was loud, everything was shaking, and it didn’t feel particularly safe to be on the shoulder of an interstate for that long.
Very obviously, AAA really let us down here. We considered calling private towing companies and getting the tow ourselves but they ranged from $500 to $1,000 and AAA told us that they couldn’t guarantee reimbursement. By the morning, we scheduled our own tow with the hopes that AAA would reimburse us. Then AAA called and told us a tow would be on the way in a few more hours. SIGH! So, we cancelled the tow that would have come sooner and waited even longer for the one AAA finally dispatched.
We decided to keep our original Chevy appointment to fix the shifter and now have them fix this issue as well despite the fact that this dealership was now further away than other options. We called the Chevy dealership in the morning but no one answered. Kara left a voicemail stating that we had broken down but we were still coming and to call us back if there were any questions. Four hours later, we’re finally being towed!
When we arrived to the Chevy dealership, we were hit with the very unfortunate news that they actually don’t have a lift big enough to work on our bus. We were perplexed. We had made it clear that our vehicle is a short school bus and would require a big lift. When asked if that would be an issue, they said no. Their explanation was that our original issue did not require the lift. However, we also called four hours before we were towed there, during normal business hours, and left a message telling them that we would require further work now that we had broken down. No one acknowledged the voicemail or called us back.
We sat in the bus for a little bit talking about what we were going to do. We had just paid out-of-pocket for a portion of the AAA tow and now we needed to be towed to another dealership, one that was actually CLOSER to where we broke down! We were very frustrated and felt that we had done everything we needed to do in terms of communication and this Chevy dealership did not. We decided to talk to a manager, explain the situation, and eventually he agreed to cover our tow to another Chevy dealership with a heavy lift. We were off again.
This second dealership replaced our failing transmission (what a nightmare) and the service took a total of one week. We rented a car and drove from Nashville back to Atlanta where we stayed with family.
When we got the bus back in Tennessee, we drove through Missouri and Kansas to arrive in Denver, Colorado. After visiting the Rocky Mountains National Park, we noticed some resistance when driving but not braking. On Wednesday, we decided to play it safe and head back out of the mountains to Denver so a Chevy service could diagnose the bus. We are especially lucky to have a friend in Denver who allowed us to stay at her apartment while she was coincidentally camping with family for the week. Family and friends are the best. The only downside to this is that it turned out to be stifling hot for the first few days: 101 degrees, 99 degrees, 100 degrees. We’re back to about 88 degrees, which is still hot for us but much more bearable!
On Friday, the Denver Chevy service adviser called and said they did not find the cause of the resistance that we were periodically experiencing but they did find that the rear axle is, yet again, leaking. This is a problem that we have now paid to “address” TWICE (in Vermont and New York) and it’s still not properly fixed! We asked our service adviser if the part was covered under warranty, as we understood it was. He said it’s not and if we got it fixed in Denver, we’d have to pay for it again.
On Saturday, we decided to call the New York Chevy dealership who completed the last repair only a couple of months ago. We were told to connect the New York service manager with our service adviser in Denver. We gave our service adviser the service manager’s phone number and asked him to call for authorization for the work to be paid by them.
Later on Monday, our service adviser said he hasn’t been able to get in contact with the service manager. We talk to the service manager he said the same thing. We had to make multiple calls just to help these two talk. Once we heard back about their phone call, our service adviser said the service manager offered to pay less than half of the bill for the work. We asked why. He said because another part was backed up and that’s what caused this part to fail. We figured that this was the best we were going to get out of this situation but we were not happy. We asked one more time for our service advisor to look into any GM warranties on the part, and told them to get the work done regardless of whether it will be covered because we need our home back. He told us that it can’t be finished today.
Tuesday morning: we miss a call from our service adviser and listen to his voicemail saying that, actually, they will cover this under the part’s warranty, and it will be done by the end of the day. He said he would call us later to arrange a shuttle to come pick it up. We were happy but CONFUSED. On Friday, it wasn’t warrantied but four nights later, it is? Cool, but not happy with the extra time we were forced to stay in the area.
Tuesday afternoon: we haven’t gotten any updates. We call Denver Chevy and no one answers. The phone rings for over 7 minutes and we give up. No bus today.
Wednesday morning: our service adviser calls and says the bus is finally ready for pickup!