Near Disaster Averted – Another Travel Repair Emergency

We were having some trouble with one tire. It was low when we left Manitoba and twice I had to stop and add air. We pulled into a gas station to fill up. The gas station was very busy but the shop was quiet. The mechanic came over to admire our canoe and ask about Manitoba. I soon found myself chatting with about the problem of the tire. He looked at the tire and immediately spotted a potentially much more serious problem. One of our shackle bolts were in a grave state and need replacing. The shackle bolt holds two parts of the suspension together. A careful inspection of the tire showed it had a nail in it and worse, some very serious wear patterns.

This led him to recommending replacing all the shackle bolts.  This was one of those times when I seriously wondered if he was trying to rip me off. Lord knows there is always someone ready to take your money. However there was no debating that the shackle bolt looked ‘off’ nor was there any questions the tire was a mess. So I agree to let him replace one set of shackle bolts and buy one new tire.

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As soon as he got the first shackle bolt off I could see we had a serious problem. The shackle bolt was very badly worn and mere millimetres from breaking. When I thought of a sudden break down on one of those mountain pass roads we had just traveled I felt ill. The mechanic strongly advised me to replace all four shackle bolt sets and upgrade into a much better quality type with a brass bushing that was one could add grease to. I really hate being in the position of simply having to trust someone without first being able to do my own on line research. However, there was no question those shackle bolts needed replacing. He was not busy and had everything on hand and he promised us we could be done and back on the road in an hour. I gritted my teeth and told him to go ahead.

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He was as good as his word about the shackle bolts. Unfortunately, as he inspected the tires we found two more tires with issues. One tire was unevenly worn on the inside and also had some flat pocked spots like the tire with the nail. The other tire had developed a nasty bump/bulge on one side. When I ran my fingers over it, it was clear the tire was in bad shape and ready to blow. So we replaced two more tires.

The bill was $735.12. Half of that was the tires. Most of the rest was shop time. One bolt was so bad it had to be cut off. The actual cost of the new shackle bolts was not that much. With three new tires and the price of parts plus the time taken it was not unreasonable. Given time to shop around I might have been able to get it done cheaper with my own mechanic back home 2200km away and maybe find a sale on those tires. Yet, under the circumstances it seemed reasonable to just pay up and get it done then and there. Still I couldn’t help but feel like I was been railroaded into a far more expensive repair than I really needed. Maybe it could have waited. Maybe he wasn’t just being nice about the canoe but had been inspecting my trailer looking for some way to get me into the shop. He was just too convincing and sincere, it was just all too convenient. If he was a con man, he was one of the slickest and best I had ever met. Even as I felt that, I also knew enough to know the three tires were in bad shape and needed replacing. There was also no arguing about the wear on the shackle bolts.

Three hours later and considerably poorer we pulled out. I could feel an immediate and remarkable improvement in the handling of the trailer. There was no question that it was riding much more smoothly. Later on, I read up on shackle bolts and RVs and everything I researched suggested that we had been guided to do the right thing by a competent mechanic. So, I have decided the mechanic was not ripping us off. He was our guardian angle, whose casual interest in our canoe made me ask about the tire with a slow leak. This led to him saving us from a major break down somewhere along the way.

The moral is that sometimes stuff breaks down and wear and tear happens and if you are lucky, it happens in a good place with a competent mechanic handy who has all the parts you need to fix the problem. We got lucky. I think.

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