Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Phannie's Back!

Fort Worth Freightliner called and said Phannie was ready after nine days in their possession.  The good news is that the problem was with a broken wire in a connector near the engine bay.  The bad news is that it took them enough hours of troubleshooting to snag $700 from my wallet.  Following the regular troubleshooting guide led the mechanics down a rabbit hole to the throttle sensor, causing them to replace the accelerator assembly ($1232 plus overnight express fees), only to discover that wasn’t the problem. 

Astonishingly, Fort Worth Freightliner initially tried to bill me for the $1232 part that didn’t fix the problem.  After a non-productive conversation with a service manager, I called up Freightliner’s corporate headquarters in Gaffney, South Carolina and let loose with a stream of invective that I struggled—successfully, thankfully— to keep clear of expletives.  They agreed this was not according to their corporate policy but stopped short of any suggestion of relief, as Fort Worth Freightliner is an independent franchisee.  However, my conversation next day with the local facility was much different; the $1232 charge for the ineffective part had been removed from the bill.  I’m not sure if Freightliner headquarters had influenced the decision, but I’m grateful for the reversal.

I’ve already droned on in the previous post about the breakdown and what I’m learning about motorhome ownership, so I guess I could best serve the reader by describing my experience with the repair facility and the extended warranty that I purchased along with Phannie.

Fort Worth Freightliner is a very large and very busy place.  It is open 24/7 and, parked on the acres of concrete surrounding the facility at any time, there are more than a hundred vehicles in some stage of repair.  I had asked the wrecker driver to take Phannie to this place for two reasons:  1) Phannie has a Freightliner chassis (kind of a no-brainer), and 2) it was open on the weekend so that the coach could be secured behind a locked gate and monitored by video.  (With $12,000 of new electronics, I didn’t want to leave her parked just anywhere in this urban area.)  When I arrived at the facility with the wrecker, I figured it would be weeks before Phannie could get in line for service, given the huge number of Freightliner trucks parked on the property.  I was surprised to see that only one other motorhome was there—an older Phaeton like Phannie that looked kinda tired. 

I was astonished when the service writer said they could probably start work on Phannie in a couple of days.  I asked him about all the other vehicles that appeared to be ahead of me, and he told me that most of them had already been repaired but were awaiting pickup by their owners or drivers.  Intrigued, I quizzed him further, because I was incredulous that businesses could allow so much rolling stock to sit idle instead of being on the road making money.  The service writer said that I would be surprised how many of the units were not being released due to non-payment of repair bills.  I hadn’t expected that answer, but I guess no business has escaped the bad economy.

Fort Worth Freightliner is a facility that services heavy trucks almost exclusively, as was evidenced by the dearth of motorhomes on their property.  Behind the service desk was a harried service writer, a young man in his mid-twenties who darted in and out of the small area on his side of the stainless steel counter.  Behind him was a starkly bare and well-worn open area with tables against the walls where two computers were set up.  Other unidentified employees, most of whom wore soiled clothing, would wander through here from the shop area, perhaps sitting at the computers for a few minutes or just stopping to chew the rag.  

The distraction of this parade of unkempt personnel and the incessant ringing of the unanswered telephone gave evidence of a facility that was poorly designed, poorly managed and anything but customer-oriented.  I had entered a steel door to the service writer’s office and found myself in a closet-sized alcove across the counter from him.  There were no seats in this tiny space, and I took my turn, standing among several other men who, judging from their attire and conversation, were obviously truck drivers attempting to transact business with the service writer.  To the young man’s credit, he made an obvious effort to be pleasant to those present, although he was clearly overloaded.  This was evidenced by his occasional curtness with the drivers, some of whom were pressing him unmercifully for updates.  And again, there was the constant ringing of the telephone that was hardly ever answered.  The service door opened directly into a large shop area with perhaps 30 service bays, all of which contained Freightliner trucks in various states of disassembly.  Customers had to make their way along the periphery of the shop area to enter and exit the service writer’s office. 

Outside the building, a wide concrete apron extended to the customer parking area, and upon the apron had been placed several picnic tables where drivers and Freightliner technicians tended to congregate for a smoking break while looking out over the parking lot.  I sometimes stopped by to check on Phannie after leaving the office, and I couldn’t help but feel out of place, judging by the stares of these picnic table-denizens as I arrived or departed.  I guess I would have blended in better if I had changed from my business attire into jeans and swapped the Escalade for a pickup.  My point is, this is a facility for trucks; servicing motorhomes is obviously a rarity, and a motorhome owner is considered, well, just another truck driver.  Don’t expect special treatment from this place just because your motorhome is being serviced.   

Another unpleasant surprise came as I attempted to make use of the extended warranty that I purchased at the time I bought Phannie.  It seems Interstate National Dealer Services, the provider, elected to pick up only $96 of the repair after the deductible was applied.  I didn’t fuss too much about this, as I guess I don’t expect much more than a ripoff with these things.  That’s why I almost never opt for an extended warranty on anything I buy but, in the case of something as complex and expensive as a motorhome, I just thought I needed to roll the dice.  I suppose I will just hope for the best from Interstate if something really expensive breaks during the remaining warranty period.  I would be interested in hearing from others who have these kinds of contracts as to which ones perform well for them.

Sorry this was long and rather humorless, but there wasn't much about this experience that made me laugh.  Next weekend should be a hoot; we’re taking a bunch of family and friends to First Monday in Canton.  Look for a post after that, for sure.

At last, back home and put to bed.


  1. Oh My...sooooo sorry for your horrible experience. We had to have our Phaeton towed from Columbus, TX, to San Antonio to a Oasis Frieghtliner. It was totally different experience. The facilities were great, and the service was awesome.
    We do not buy extended warranties either. But I would have expected a lot more than $96.00!
    Wishing you a wonderful time in Canton!

  2. Our experience with Freightliner in three different locations has been OK. I show up in work style clothes and expect no special treatment, except that I made them aware that we were full time on the road.

    In each case, they did get us in the same day and always got the work done by the end of the day. I would be very unhappy if they tried to charge for a part I did not need. Since I am not a mechanic they might be able to snow me with a lot of tech stuff, but that did not happen.

    At least your place was honest enough to to tell you the part was not the problem.

    We have chosen not to buy a extended warranty as I do not think they are reliable. I have read recently of several folks who have gotten larger repairs paid after a fair amount of argument.

  3. We're happy for you that Phannie is roadworthy again, but sorry to hear about your experience at FW-FTL.

    We've stopped in more FTL service centers than we care to count. We've felt like an alien at most. It's worth noting that FW-FTL is a member of FCCC's "Oasis Network".

    From the FCCC website: "The Freightliner Oasis Network is made up of more than 90 select dealerships in North America and is growing. Each service location has a dedicated motorhome facility with trained motorhome service technicians, a motorhome service area, secure parking for motorhome customers and additional amenities specifically for motorhome owners."

    Dedicated? Trained? Secure parking? Additional amenities? It sounds like these elements were missing from your service experience. You might want to let FCCC know.

    We're with you on extended warranties. The one on our MH is the only one we've purchased. After our recent refrigerator cooling unit replacement, it has nearly paid for itself already!

    Safe travels to Canton!

  4. what can I say that others before me have already said! about Welcome home Phannie..welcome home!!

  5. So glad that the worst of your episode is finally over. I have read your words with interest and not a little bit of horror. We actually have looked at a Dynamax on a Freightliner chassis and might think twice about this. For the time being, I am happy with my little 26 foot wonder machine Dynamax on a Ford 450 that works well even though she is approaching 5 years old. whew! what a story. Good luck to you as you move forward.

  6. Wow, that price tag really hurts. So much for extended warranty coverage when you needed it.

    I've had great FL service here in Northern VA, hope I never need to use your service center.

    I bought an extended warranty, too. Knock wood, so far I've never needed it.


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