1976 Palm Beach







May 20, 2003


The story of a front wheel that almost departed a GMC Motorhome while underway.


The view from the side of I-94 in Michigan.


These pictures tell a story.


The orphan stud in the left picture broke after applying some torque to the lug nuts.  Now they are ready to roll.


Tuesday May 20, 2003

On the way home from a recent GMC Motorhome Mini-Rally while heading east on I-94 I noticed a GMC parked on the side of the east bound lanes right at exit 157. It looked like they were in trouble but I didn't see them in time to stop. So I went to the next exit and turned around and back tracked to the exit before them. I got back East bound and pulled up behind them. I walked up and found that that they were also heading home from the same Mini-Rally.

Well to make a long story short. While they were driving home the coach started making an awful racket and they immediately pulled over. Then it started to rain and they sat in the coach thinking about getting a tow someplace safer than the side of I-94. After I arrived the rain stopped and then we jacked up the passenger side front end to see what was going on. As soon as the wheel left the ground it started to move around like it was going to fall off. It was so loose that I thought that they lost the wheel bearings. I have never seen a bearing failure but that is what it looked like to me. Of course I thought the spacer caused the premature failure. However when we got the wheel off we found that all the internal nuts that hold the spacer to the hub were loose and some of them were just kind of laying inside the sockets machined into the space. Further inspection revealed that 5 out of the 8 lug nut studs were completely broken. It was a miracle that the wheel didn't depart the vehicle while they were driving. It became very clear that the GMC was going no place without a tow or some sort of emergency roadside repair.

However, the coach's owner wanted to see what could be done to get them home in Ohio without a tow. So we went to a close by auto parts store in my GMC (they were not towing a car) and after a time he obtained a set of new lug nut studs and 6 similar sized bolts, nuts and washers.

When we returned the coaches owner got out his tools and took a punch and a hammer and knocked out the remnants of 4 of the broken studs from the hub. Then we maneuvered a nut behind each of the holes left by the studs and carefully screwed a bolt into the nut. We did that 4 times. He didn't do the 5th stud because it seemed to be too long to punch out due to the limited space between the hub and the knuckle. He tightened the 4 up and shortly after they left for home in their Palm Beach. They said that they would drive on side roads all the way in order to avoid interstate speeds.

I have no idea whose fault it was that the nuts loosened up and caused the studs to break. It would concern me if I had the spacers and there was no real way to test for the tightness of the nuts without taking off the front wheels. They were installed in January and he said he checked each wheel for excessive bearing play prior to departure for the rally.  As of this writing I have no idea if they made it OK.

On Wednesday May 21, 2003 we received the following email:

Yes, we did make it home the rest of the way in good shape. Got home about 9:00 Tuesday night. We really appreciate the help you provided,

Dick. Not sure what we would have done if you hadn't seen us and came back to check. Not only did the noise get LOUD, there was also a definite wobble sensation so I pulled off where you found us. Then the rain started and things got a little depressing. Then you arrived and the rain let up, making it easier to take things apart.

After the parts run and the temporary repairs, we headed down the road. We went for a while on 52 out of Chelsea. Decided that road was probably harder on the coach than the freeway, so found a route back to 23 south and didn't stop till we had to for fuel - at a Flying J where rt. 37 and I75 cross. Then came the rest of the way home. The only problem (and it wasn't much of one) was that occasionally the coach pulled to the right, especially when braking, but that was to be expected.

Today, Gary put all new studs in that hub, and will finish getting it back together (with the spacer) tomorrow. He said that he doesn't know for sure what caused the problem, but for now he is calling it a 'mechanic's error'. We aren't giving up the spacers because they have made a tremendous improvement in the handling. Several other people have them and we haven't heard of any problems. If, over time, more problems develop, we might have to change our minds, but I certainly hope not.

Because of many hobbies and interests, we have done a lot of 'road time' - including before having a motorhome. There have been other problems, and Gary is always determined to 'limp home' on our own. One time we left the coach, and definitely regretted it later. Dick's help is very much appreciated, but that didn't influence our decision to head for home.

We are glad we made that trip. The mini-rally was lots of fun and we hope we can make it back for another one. Also, if we hadn't made that trip, we would have been in the hills and curves of Ky. when this occurred, and I'm sure it wouldn't have ended nearly so well.

So all is well that ends well.




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Page was last modified:  10/10/2004 11:55:01 AM