The miracle

2009 July 30
by Hedon

When last we left our decrepit heroes it was a bright sunny morning in Jersey City. Thanks to having been to that shipper once before they had known which dock they would be hitting and had parked right in front of it to sleep. When the dock guys pounded on the door all they would have to do was open the trailer doors and slide back about four feet. They had both had a good night’s sleep for a change and were ready to face the day and whatever came their way. They had no idea what was in store for them…

Another TWMNBN truck showed up to get loaded. After hitting a dock, the driver wandered over to bum a cigarette off of me. Being in a particularly good mood, I gave him a pack and we started chatting. The conversation hit all the usual bases such as, “How do you like TWMNBN?” and “Are you guys getting plenty of miles?” and whatnot. Eventually the conversation rolled around (as it often does) to “So how do you like those new Cascadias?”

Well… as you can imagine if you’ve been here for any length of time at all… I had quite a bit to say on that front. I told him that we had come to TWMNBN because we wanted a Volvo and we were not at all pleased to be in the Cascadia. It has far less storage room, it’s much louder than the Volvo, and worst of all it is much harder to sleep in while rolling. He smiled kinda goofy and said, “You know how to fix that don’t you?” I assumed he was speaking in the abstract so I answered something like, “Drive it off a cliff?” At which point he said, “No, I’m serious… you know there’s a way to smooth out the ride, right?” He was serious.

I’m going to have to stop right here for a second so you can take a moment to insert your own personal version of angels on high singing and rejoicing. Go ahead and savor the moment.

Ok… when I realized he was serious I was immediately all over that like… well… like something on something else. I asked him how you did it and he said come on back here and look and I will show you exactly what you need to do. Oh happy day. As soon as we got home in about two weeks I was immediately going to make a couple of… uhh… modifications to our truck. I could hardly wait. But I couldn’t just stand there listening to angel choirs all day because our load was ready and we needed to start rolling west. I thanked new BFF guy lavishly and we headed out.

~~~~~~~~~~

When we got to the receiver in Minnesota, they had the delivery appointment right before ours. New BFF guy walked over and said, “I was thinking that if you want we could hang around after we deliver and I could fix your truck for you. It probably won’t take thirty minutes.”

To which I naturally replied, “Uhh… yes, please.”

AND THEN — OH MY GOD — HE FIXED OUR SUSPENSION!!!!!

I’m serious — the truck rides a ton better. I even slept in Minnesota on I-35 and I haven’t been able to sleep on I-35 since we lost the Volvo. It’s like a little baby miracle. Kinda like finding Jesus in your potato salad or something… only better. I think we may have mentioned before how very precious sleep can be out here if you’re running hard. Getting plenty of sleep can literally change your outlook on the whole universe and not getting any sleep can turn you into a raving bitch in short order. Oh, happy day… to sleep again… perchance to dream.

So as a public service — and especially for all those other TWMNBN drivers out there — I decided that I would post exactly what he did to our truck to fix the ride. But we’re going to have to have some sort of standard disclaimer. I mean you know this is serious crap we’re talking about here. So please really think about it before clicking “I agree” to find out what he did:

I agree that I am a grown-assed adult who is perfectly capable of using my own brain to make my own decisions and then I’m more than happy to live with the consequences of those decisions. Besides I’ve been hanging out around here for a while and it’s obvious to me that you two often have only the most vague — one might even say juvenile — grasp of the theory, science or mechanics of a thing so why on earth would I blindly follow anything you have to say? Just give me the low-down on what he did and I’ll make up my own mind for my own truck.

I do not agree that I should have to think for myself and I certainly shouldn’t have to make my own decisions. In fact, I don’t want to have to make any decisions at all. I just wish someone would tell me what to think, do and say. As for living with the consequences of my decisions… can you say “bail out?”

Go ahead and take your time... we'll wait... it's a big decision

Go ahead and take your time... we'll wait... it's a big decision

The Problem

So as it turns out the problem with our suspension was the airbags. I don’t know if those of you who are driving a Cascadia right now have ever kicked (gently) your drive-axle airbags or not, but ours were hard as rocks. I mean they had no give whatsoever. Same thing with the airbags on the back of our sleeper. Really if you think about it that explains a lot. I mean try filling your air seat completely with air and then drive down the road. No give at all so you feel each little thud and skitter of the road.

The Fix

So the part that determines how full the airbags fill is very easy to locate. We’ll call it the control arm for lack of any actual knowledge as to what it might actually be called by people who know what they’re talking about. Here’s a pic highlighting it’s location on the drives:

Don't mind all the 5th wheel grease that has been scraped off the 5th wheel

Don't mind all the 5th wheel grease that has been scraped off the 5th wheel

So here’s how I think this control arm thing works. I think it’s kinda like the thing in the back of the toilet that cuts the water off once the tank is full. When you dump your airbags and then refill them they raise the frame and take the slack out of the control arm’s housing. They keep filling until there is some sort of pressure exerted as the control arm is lifted to it’s maximum height. Then the flow of air stops. Well… you know how if you have a toilet that’s running… and you get in the tank back there… and you bend that arm that holds the floaty thing… and suddenly the water shuts off sooner and your problem is solved… I’m just saying. You’ll notice in this pic that our control arm is now bent. Bet yours isn’t. Well, unless you already knew about this whole thing in which case — what the hell — I thought we were friends!

So what he did was:

  1. Dump the airbags and then refill them to get a true and accurate measurement.
  2. Measure from the ground to a spot on the frame at the back of the truck by the license plate area. Remember that number.
  3. Dump the airbags again and remove the control arm thing while they are slack.
  4. Use vice-grips and a hammer to GENTLY put some bend into the control arm. You are only looking for about an inch less in height at the rear of the frame so you don’t need much bend at all. Much better to do too little than too much because if you get it too bent your airbags won’t fill up completely and your drives are going to skitter like they do right after you’ve dropped a heavy trailer. Then you are seriously screwed. Go slowly.
  5. Reinstall control arm and refill airbags.
  6. Celebrate life with a happy dance… nekkid or clothed your choice. If filled airbags are still rock hard you might need to do it again. Ours now have a very slight give to them when full.

The sleeper control arm was even easier. He just took it off, bent it and slapped it back on the truck. Again it didn’t take much bend at all to get the results. I’ve got pictures so you can see the location of the arm and how ours looks now:

Like little fluffy pillows of happiness, aren't they?

Like little fluffy pillows of happiness, aren't they?

Close up of new and improved bent control arm

Close up of new and improved bent control arm

I assume that it goes without saying that your company would in all likelihood frown on you taking parts off the truck, bending them and slapping them back on. I would go so far as to suggest that at least at TWMNBN it is probably a firing offense if they ever notice it. Ok… it is almost certainly a firing offense. But then what isn’t? Hell writing this blog post is also a firing offense. So fire me already… at least I’m going to get some decent sleep while rolling until you do.

New BFF guy and I were talking about why TWMNBN might have the airbags set so stiff that they weren’t even being engaged except on the most severe bumps and this is what we came up with… to save money. I mean think about it. If those airbags are set so hard that they almost never actually get used then they don’t get any wear and tear on them, do they? Just one more piece of equipment that TWMNBN doesn’t have to worry about replacing or maintaining and who cares that the drivers are suffering with a ride that is significantly rougher than it needs to be? I know it sounds almost too evil an explanation to really consider, but we are talking about TWMNBN. Have you been reading around here at all? It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if that were the reason. But then maybe it’s not and I’m giving them more credit for evilness than they actually deserve. Doesn’t much matter anymore to me though. Maybe I’ll dream about all the different possible explanations the next time we’re running a timed-transit load and I’m in the bunk sleeping like a baby.  :)

4 Responses
  1. 2009 July 31

    Hedon, a miracle indeed!!! Yahoo, you go! And get some sleep already. That is totally cool.

  2. 2009 July 31
    punxxi permalink

    hmmmm brits are they?

  3. 2009 August 1

    Amazing. I agree, it must be an evil Corporate Plan to save money. Sooo…not that I even know a shred of information about the World of Trucking other than what you girls graciously provide for us, the audience, but wouldn’t that bent arm thingy be the only “damage” or rigged up part that a company inspector might notice? I’d just tell them that you’re not sure what happened, but it looked like that after some screw offs got too close with a forklift, or maybe it was that time that tires were being stolen off trucks parked at the Truck Stop (pick a bad area) … then bat your eyes flirtatiously.

    lol. I dunno… it worked for Marilyn Monroe.

  4. 2009 August 2

    brad says, you girls are now my overly-qualified pit crew….thank you very much!

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