Monday 16 October 2017

Stepping up a gear

Another new gearbox
October 2017

Yes, that's right - another new gearbox has been fitted into Wand'ring Bark.

Regular readers will remember the saga of our gearbox which had to be replaced by RCR back in May as we set of on our summer jaunt. Well, from the off I was never entirely convinced that all was well with the new PRM 125 lurking at the back of the engine. When I engaged reverse it always dropped in with a solid thunk but forward was always a silky smooth affair, so silky that from time to time it didn't engage and the gearbox slipped for a few seconds before biting, and then all was well for the day.

Initially I put this down to a slightly overfilled gearbox and so after a week or so, I drained the ATF down to the level of the drain plug. This seemed to fix the slipping problem but it still didn't engage very positively. All was well till we got back to the Midlands and then, after the Black Country Boating Festival it started to slip most mornings. 

At that stage I could have called RCR who did the original replacement, but as the gearbox worked when warm and we were just a few days from home I decided to get the boat back to base and then consider my options. An inspection of the ATF revealed a dark red liquid rather then the cherry red I was expecting, and something was clearly amiss. A call went out to RCR asking for a review under their warranty, but there is no hurry said I, as I only live 10 mins from the boat.

This morning I received a call from RCR to say an engineer was on his way and could I get to our boat in 10 mins? Well, I was just finishing my breakfast so I stretched it to 15 mins and sure enough there was an RCR van waiting for me as I arrived. At this stage I was expecting a quick 10 minute inspection to assess the situation and decide what to do next, but then the apprentice bent into the van and out came a brand new PRM gearbox. Clearly this was not going to be a quick job.....

I set to cleaning the boat ready for a council hygiene inspection tomorrow whilst the engineers set about the task of removing and installing the gearbox. It appears that this is quite a common problem with mechanical gearboxes where the cone clutches fail to engage fully and slip till the metal warms up and expands. The diagnosis I offered on the phone was so typical that a replacement was immediately ordered from PRM who ended up paying RCR to fit a replacement unit.

All this activity was played out under the strangest of red skies drought on by a mix of Saharan dust and ask from Spanish forest fires, all carried to us on the periphery of a hurricane tracking north up the west coast of Ireland.

I have to say that situations like this confirm the wisdom of having big jobs done by RCR's contracting arm. Had the gearbox been replaced by a boatyard somewhere outside the Midlands how would I have had it repaired and would it have been done promptly and with good grace? At least with RCR I am more than a one off transaction and they place a value on their reputation. Their communications leave a bit to be desired, but when the chips are down they are always there and if things go wrong they will come back and sort things out without quibble. That sort of peace of mind has got to be worth something.

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