Canada & Alaska

Michele & Stephen's trip in 2012

A Gearbox Problem

This web page is just to show how much fun it can be to break down whilst on an overland journey and some of the problems and frustrations that can arise even in a developed country like Canada.

Man for the last 75,000 kms has been very reliable, in fact apart from regular services, changing the fan belts and fitting a new exhaust nothing at all has been done to her (him? it?). However all that started to change four weeks ago...

  • 2012-08-2? - Whilst driving a short distance in a campground with Michele in the back of Man she noted a grinding noise. I was unable to hear it.

  • 2012-08-27 - The noise becomes audible in the cab. I check oil levels in both gearboxes, both differentials and all four hubs. Everything is OK.

  • 2012-08-28 - By the time we reached Sakatoon it is clear that the noise is coming from the main (six speed) gearbox and is present in all gears except fifth. Although we are still mobile the noise is getting worse and the problem will clearly need to be fixed before heading to Alaska (our plan for 2013). But where and how?

    The options seemed to be 1) Get the gearbox repaired or replaced in Canada 2) Return Man to the UK and get the problem fixed there. I already know that MAN had no service facilities or agents in North America.

    A quick check with Seabridge gave the cost of shipping Man back to Europe from the west coast as €9,300 Euros rather than €4,000 from the east coast. If we are to go to Alaska then Man needs to be repaired in Canada.

    An e-mail to MAN in the UK produces an immediate and helpful response - whilst reiterating that MAN "does not have any representation for truck services in North America" I am told that my gearbox is a ZF 6S850 and that ZF has three service agents in Canada. The nearest, and largest is The Gear Centre in Edmonton.

    In case The Gear Centre is unable to source a gearbox in North America I ask my MAN garage in the UK for the price and the cost of shipping a gearbox to Canada.

  • 2012-08-31 - A Google search on "ZF 6S850" and North America produces an e-mail address in ZF in the states. An e-mail to this address produces an immediate and helpful response that again points us to the The Gear Centre.

    Several e-mails to and from the The Gear Centre reveal that whilst they have in the past repaired a ZF 6S850 they can not locate one in North America. They also agree that because we were living in Man it would be better to go for a relatively clean and quick exchange rather than risk a prolonged repair.

    I e-mail a photograph of the gearbox ID plate to both The Gear Centre and my MAN garage in the UK just to be sure that the MAN database is correct in saying my vehicle is fitted with a ZF 6S850 gearbox.

  • 2012-09-04 - Driving mostly in 5th gear at 80 kph we arrive in Edmonton and visited the The Gear Centre who have made some progress in finding a ZF 6S850 gearbox in North America but at a considerably higher price than I was quoted from the UK, even allowing for shipping and estimated Canadian customs duty.

  • 2012-09-06 - After getting confirmation of the gearbox price and the cost of "3 day" shipment to Canada I placed an order for a gearbox, bearings and clutch parts with my UK MAN garage with delivery to the The Gear Centre in Edmonton. I phone the garage with credit card details.

  • 2012-09-07 - My UK garage has problems with the credit card number I have phoned thru to them and I call them again to confirm the details. My UK garage orders the parts from MAN in Germany.

  • 2012-09-11 - My UK garage receives the parts from Germany and they were collected by TNT for what I believe is a three day service to Edmonton. (I have been quoted a shipping price for a three day service and have already paid this price.)

  • 2012-09-12 - The TNT tracking web site says "Shipment Partially Received. Recovery Actions Underway." This turns out to mean that TNT think there are four shipments on one palette not one. TNT contact my UK garage. Also around this time(?) TNT discover that the size (or weight) of the shipment is more than they are expecting (and presumably had quoted for to my garage). This is discussed between TNT and my garage.

  • 2012-09-14 - My UK garage tell me that in order to keep to the original price they had agreed with TNT to change from a three day service to a seven day service and that the gearbox should arrive in Edmonton on the 18th or 19th of September.

  • 2012-09-16 - The gearbox arrives in Toronto and is held by customs.

  • 2012-09-17 - The Gear Centre's Customs & Brokerage Manager gets involved and after my UK garage confirm the origin of each part of the shipment (Denmark and the Czech Republic) the shipment is released by customs. The potential problem relates to the bearings in the shipment as there is an issue with "anti-dumping duties" applicable to some bearings being imported into Canada. However Denmark and the Czech Republic seem to be OK. The shipment is released by customs. (Thank you The Gear Centre.)

  • 2012-09-19 - The TNT tracking web site says "Onforwarded For Delivery".

  • 2012-09-20 - The TNT tracking web site still says "Onforwarded For Delivery".

  • 2012-09-21 - The TNT tracking web site still says "Onforwarded For Delivery".

  • 2012-09-22 - The TNT tracking web site still says "Onforwarded For Delivery".

  • 2012-09-23 - The TNT tracking web site still says "Onforwarded For Delivery".

  • 2012-09-24 - The TNT tracking web site still says "Onforwarded For Delivery".

  • 2012-09-25 - The TNT tracking web site still says "Onforwarded For Delivery". In a phone conversation with TNT Customer Support in Texas(?) it emerges that on the 2012-09-18 TNT passed the consignment on to CEVA. Eventually a tracking number for CEVA is produced.

    The CEVA tracking web site reveals that the consignment should have left YYZ (Toronto) for YEG (Edmonton) on 2012-09-18 and arrived on 2012-09-20, but it didn't. TNT continue to chase CIVA. Both I and my UK garage chase TNT.

    The Gear Centre tell me that the gearbox has arrived and start trying to free up space and time to install it.

  • 2012-09-26 - The Gear Centre North (the office/workshop we have dealing with so far) say that it would be fastest to have the gearbox installed at the Gear Centre South and arrange for the gearbox to be moved there. We are told to be there at 07:30 on the 2012-09-27.

  • 2012-09-27 - We drive the 13 kms from the Rainbow Valley Campground to the Gear Centre South where the gearbox and clutch parts are waiting along with a mechanic from the Gear Centre North with experience of this type of gearbox. By 16:30 the new gearbox is installed, but alas the hydraulic clutch refuses to be bled. An additional piece of equipment is needed and this not available until the 2012-09-28.

    Man is pushed out of the workshop into the car park.

  • 2012-09-28 - The clutch is successfully bled and after several test drives we are on our way! One month has elapsed, and whilst we have always been mobile we have been marking time around Edmonton for far too long.

    After a 300km drive with everting working well we camp on the shore of Lake Kinky.

Around Edmonton

Whilst waiting for our gearbox to arrive we have still been mobile (driving slowly and using 5th gear as much as possible) and we have been dividing our time between several campgrounds.

Wabamun Lake Park campground about 60 km west of Edmonton is very pleasant and sufficiently close to Wabamun village to go shopping on foot (about 10 km round trip).

Perhaps the most entertaining aspect of the park is watching marriages falter as couples try to reverse their giant fifth-wheel caravans into convoluted forested camp sites in the fading light watched by dozens of other experts, some of them foolish enough to offer advice. Then of course you have to get it level!

Pembina River Park campground, an additional 30 km west, was also good and nearly empty during the week. Note that Man is parked right next to the river on the right.

Near our camp site on the banks of the river was a sign that read "Warning: Last chance to get your raft out of the river". We watched a group in rubber rings float past this point and wonder what happened to them.

When we first arrived in Edmonton we parked at the Glowing Embers Campground because it got far better reviews than the more central Rainbow Valley Campground.

That was a big mistake.

We found the Rainbow Valley Campground far more pleasant with walkable access to buses, the excellent Edmonton light railway and the Southgate shopping centre (sorry mall).

The campground is fairly small and popular at weekends so you may need to book, but as a base to see Edmonton it can not be beaten. It is also convenient for the Gear Centre should you need your transmission sorting out.