Friday, August 13, 2010

Great Falls, Montana - Saga of the Autopark Brake Continues

We left Glacier National Park on Thursday, August 12th and made our way to to Malmstrom Air Force Base which is just east of Great Falls, Montana. We had an appointment for the next morning with a Chevrolet Service Center to change the oil and work on the Autopark brake.

This is only a 170 mile drive but it took us over 4 hours because at least half of our route was along two-lane country roads.  It was a very pretty drive... and I now understand why Montana is often referred to as Big Sky Country.  Its hard to put into words, but as imposing as the countryside is, the sky dominates with amazing cloud formations and a gradiated azure that is simply beautiful.  I was fascinated by that Montana sky but, sadly, we have no photos that even come close to "representing".

We arrived at Malmstrom AFB's Gateway campground early afternoon.  This is the only military campground we've been to that is located outside the base perimeter, which I actually like because we just drove on in without having to go through security gate barriers, etc.  Anyway, we both enjoyed staying here - the campground hostess was very helpful and friendly, and the facilities were great.

We had been having trouble with the black water (toilet) tank not flushing out properly and so I had the bright idea of dumping the black water tank, filling it up with fresh water, and then dumping the tank again to flush it out. I estimated that water flowed into the commode at 1.5 gallons per minute which meant it would take 26 minutes to fill up the 40 gallon holding tank. So we had 20+ minutes to do something, or just sit around. Well, we needed to get change to do laundry so we decided to walk to a nearby credit union, get cash from the ATM, ask a teller to make change, and then come back to the Trek. So off we went at a very brisk pace while I kept a careful eye on the time.

Well, my calculations were flawed (doh!) and we barely missed having to clean up a great big mess.

When we got back to the campground, Lynda ducked into the laundry room to see what machines were available and I walked to the Trek to get the laundry basket. As I went up to the campsite, I was horrified to see water spewing from underneath the RV. Although water had overflowed onto the hardwood floor in the bathroom, I got there just in time to stop it from flooding into the heating duct and out into the carpeted area. That was a close call!

Anyway, we got the darn laundry done and laid low for the rest of the evening.  Despite all the water and flushing, the black water tank is still not emptying as it should. I'll tackle this at a later date, and hopefully a little smarter next time...

We arrived at the Chevrolet Service Center around 8:00 AM the next morning, hoping to be finished by 10:30 AM so we could enjoy the rest of the day. Sad to say, we did not get out of there until well past 1 PM, and with only part of the Autopark brake issue corrected. Oh, and it cost us $567 - isn't that nice?

After sitting in the service center's waiting room with two bored dogs for over four hours, the customer service person informed us that although they were able to repair the transmission seepage that was coating the Autopark brake (and preventing it from holding), there was also a cable that needed to be replaced. Problem was that they would have to get the part from another dealership and it would be Monday before they could finish the work.

Monday?  No can do - we have reservations for a rental car and a campsite in Yellowstone the next day and there was no way we were going to cancel all that!  So Lynda and I agreed we would get the repair finished in Grand Rapids in a week or so.

After explaining to the customer service person that we had to leave the area the next morning, I asked him if he was absolutely sure the cable they identified was all that was needed to fix the issue.  He assured me that it was and they would annotate the part number on the repair ticket so we could refer to the part number later. So we sat around for another hour while they finally did the oil change and put the Autopark brake system back together. It was about 1:30 PM when we paid the bill and left.   

As I climbed back into the Trek to drive away, I stared at the piece of wood we had been using for a chock for thousands of miles.  Would we never get to throw that darn thing into a campfire?

Once we left the Chevrolet service center, we went to do a little grocery shopping and I found a place to get a haircut.  

We got back to the campground a little after 4:00 PM, still irritated that the autopark brake was not fixed, that we spent the better part of the day sitting around the service center, and that the near-repair cost us almost $600.

Well to heck with it, we're heading to Yellowstone National Park tomorrow, so stay tuned!

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