During our stay on the coach during the hurricane evacuation in early August, Rob decided to start up the engine knowing that there were some issues with premature DEF head failures. The DEF (Diesel Emission Fluid) tank has a sensor that checks the quality, level and temperature of the fluid. Over the spring and summer there had been an alarming number of reports of the sensor failing. On top of that, the part was very hard to get due to shortages. Ironically, the sensor failure was “fake news” in that there was actually nothing wrong at all with the coach, the only issue was with the sensor itself failing!
Oh, oh! Three error codes appeared within a couple of minutes. Yep, as suspected we had the notorious DEF head failure! Hopefully there would be enough time between now (Aug 4) and late September to have it repaired.
If you are travelling when these codes appear, your engine goes into a phased derate mode, meaning that you can travel for a little while further, within a limited distance and a limited number of engine starts. Eventually, the engine would go into full derate and limit speeds to only 5mph. Since this has been an ongoing problem for many months, exacerbated by supply chain issues due to the pandemic, and no interim solution offered from the EPA, Shaw (the manufacturer of the failing DEF heads), Cummins (the engine manufacturer), the coach manufacturers, or Spartan Chassis, many RV’ers (and truckers) have been stranded on the side of the road, or have decided to just not travel.
The good news for us was that the codes appeared while we were parked and we had almost two months to get it fixed. And more good news is that Rob had spent many hours of his time working with a small group of other technically savvy RV’ers developing an interim solution for the problem. Read the details on the DEF Sensor Simulator website that Rob created and helps to maintain along with the other developers. The DEF Sensor Simulator is a small microcontroller that mimics the output of the DEF head sending valid data to the ECM. The ECM will not initiate derate mode as long as it gets valid data. Note that this is not a DEF “delete” device. The DEF system is still 100% functional and cleaning the emissions. DEF still needs to be added to the DEF tank. The only function of the DSS is to prevent a roadside stranding and to buy you time until a DEF head replacement can be arranged.
The not so good news was that on September 21st, we drove to Cummins in Dedham, MA about an hour away to have the DEF head replaced. Around 2 p.m., they brought our coach out, parking it in front of the facility. Even though we knew it was done, we had been told to stay in the customer lounge until they came for us. Sure wish we hadn’t obeyed those orders.
From the 2nd floor customer lounge, we watched in horror as this happened:
Here is the view from a dashcam on the coach. Do you think the driver was ready to bolt?
Yep, you saw it – a very negligent FedEx driver who was texting, didn’t bother to look in his mirrors as he backed up. How on earth could anyone NOT see a 45′ long motorhome? Yep, this is where the “if only’s” kicked in…if only we had left a few minutes earlier, if only we never made the appointment in Dedham, if only the Cummins tech hadn’t parked the coach where he did, if only FedEx hadn’t hired an irresponsible goof ball to drive their trucks, if only the goof ball had put his phone away while backing up, etc…
Although we were pretty upset about the damage done to the front of our coach, at least neither one of us was walking behind his truck at the time, otherwise we might have been seriously injured. The accident ripped off the passenger side view mirror. It is virtually impossible to safely drive a big rig like this without that mirror. It took us about an hour and a half to McGyver it back into some semblance of useability. The Cummins shop was of absolutely no use and didn’t even come out to see if we were ok or needed help.
This needless “accident” obviously wreaked havoc on our lives and our departure plans, causing us to have to cancel several of our long planned reservations. Initially, the FedEx drivers insurance company was quick to contact us and sent an appraiser to our location the next day. However, the appraiser had no idea how to cost out a motorhome repair or to get parts estimates.
We eventually made arrangements with Seekonk Auto Body in MA (recommended by Rob’s uncle). The preliminary repairs took 10 days, so we moved ourselves, Sparky and all our necessary essentials to the Extended Stay Suites in East Greenwich. What a great job Tom Clark (a former boater and RV’er) and his crew at Seekonk Auto Body did getting us back on the road quickly! Unfortunately, they were unable to repair several elements that required an assessment by the coach builder (Entegra) and much more time and expertise to complete. An additional round of repairs to correct the remaining deficiencies were definitely in our future. (Note: As of December 2023, FedEx has never fully reimbursed us for the expenses incurred).
Finally on October 21st, we were back on our way but with a vastly altered schedule.