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Old 05-14-2019, 08:41 PM   #1
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T1N Interstate towing - critically important lessons

It's been a while since we had a good towing nightmare thread, so here's mine.

Blog post TL;DR:

My engine essentially blew up on the highway today. I consulted with Joel Sell (Million Mile Sprinter), emailed him a video of the engine behavior, and we agreed - this did not seem like an ordinary turbo event. He suggested that I get it flat-bedded to the nearest repair facility.

So I did -- and in the process, I faced what SO MANY other T1N owners have had to deal with - a nice but inexperienced tow operator who did not understand strategically what he needed to do, and who did not have the proper materials in his kit. How many historical forum threads have reported this same thing?? And before our whole drama was concluded, he lost control of the dismount, dropped our rig off the back of his flat-bed, upon which it rolled back uncontrollably and smashed into an 18-wheeler that was parked in the street.

We can get the damage fixed - that's not the point. The POINT is that all of this kind of outcome is unnecessary, *IF* one knows how to handle these vehicles. Note that I'm talking about T1N Sprinters here - not NCV3 Sprinters. If you fall into the former category, make sure you read this, and understand it, because one day, you are gonna need it:

TOWING AN UPFIT T1N SPRINTER: YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS STUFF
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Old 05-14-2019, 10:13 PM   #2
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Yikes! That totally sucks. Sorry to hear about it.

And this affects more than your vacation schedule, it's an integral part of your work.
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Old 05-15-2019, 03:24 AM   #3
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Unhappy

Sorry to read this...

I hope you can get it all fixed quickly.
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Old 05-15-2019, 05:18 AM   #4
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How awful, IB!

You and the tow truck driver both had extraordinarily bad days.

May you be up and running again soon.

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Old 05-15-2019, 08:17 AM   #5
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Wow... IB... SO sorry. Thank you for sharing your experience so that the rest of us poor souls don't have to learn it first hand for ourselves.

Learning lessons vicariously from the experience of others saves a LOT of time, money and effort.

Best of luck getting your T1N back on the road. Please keep us posted.
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Old 05-15-2019, 10:22 AM   #6
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I do believe that the subconscious speaks to us in ways that we cannot perceive directly. I took my Mickey Mouse Sprinter key with me for the first time in the past 9 trips. I had a feeling I would need it. I was right. My fob is remaining with Freightliner in Austin as Iím en route by air back to Houston. Some part of my reptilian brain probably detected something beginning to go wrong with the engine.
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Old 05-15-2019, 10:53 AM   #7
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Oh my, not a good day. And you are reporting about it so calmly. Your sprinter, your office and your hotel room. Arggg.

It's very difficult to tell a person (tow driver) how to do their job without sounding like a know it all. But if they've been there, done that please listen to the folks, they know what they're talking about.

Good luck on the fix hope it doesn't keep you out of commission to long.
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Old 05-15-2019, 12:52 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by InterBlog View Post
I do believe that the subconscious speaks to us in ways that we cannot perceive directly. I took my Mickey Mouse Sprinter key with me for the first time in the past 9 trips. I had a feeling I would need it. I was right. My fob is remaining with Freightliner in Austin as Iím en route by air back to Houston. Some part of my reptilian brain probably detected something beginning to go wrong with the engine.
Or a guardian angel whispered into your mind to take that key...they do that, you know, help us out.


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Old 05-15-2019, 02:34 PM   #9
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Same problems with NCV3 Sprinters

INTERBLOG - thanks for sharing your bad experience with a tow truck. I'm sure it was very frustrating. Glad you are safe.

I'd like to point out for everyone on this forum that this problem is NOT limited to T1N Sprinters. The overhang behind the rear axle on later model Interstates, built on NCV3 Sprinter 3500 EXT models, is even worse than your T1N Sprinter Interstate. That makes the departure angle coming off the tow truck more problematic.

Looking at pictures on your blog it doesn't look like your Sprinter has a front tow hook like the NCV3 Sprinters. But the T1N Sprinters have a tow hook like all vehicles built in last 20+ years. Image from 2005 owners manual attached. Apparently Airstream covered the front tow hook with the front trim they added. Not good.

I had my 2103 Interstate Lounge EXT towed back in 2013. It was a Mercedes Roadside Assistance tow as the van was still under warranty. I had to wait over an hour in Baltimore to get the right sized tow truck. Two guys in a tow truck with a crew cab. They pulled my van onto the flat bed using the front tow hook, shown in second attached image. It was dark so pictures are not great. They had a person in the driver seat to work the brakes as seen in the last photo attached. That was smart for controlling the vehicle both loading and unloading. All vehicles are free rolling when going on and off a flat bed tow truck.

Wishing no one else needs a tow. But if you do be careful.
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Old 05-15-2019, 04:04 PM   #10
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Oh my, not a good day. ...
The very, very strange thing is -- it was about the best day that we could have had, under our ongoing circumstances. It just did not end nearly as well as it started.

That in itself is very weird - that extreme juxtaposition of events. Everything I've been working my fingers to the bone on for the past 12+ weeks came to fruition yesterday. As I've mentioned before, a few people on Air Forums do know what I've been up to, but I've chosen not to reveal it publicly. If you're curious, PM me and I'll share it privately. LB_3 and I decided that we don't want it to come to define us in the forums, hence our reluctance to reveal it or allow doxxing.

Suffice it to say that there is NO WAY I could have reached the milestone without the Interstate. No way that either the logistics or the financials ever could have been made to work. Our van broke unexpectedly and in a way that nobody understands yet, but before it did so, it became a van that literally changed the world, at least in one small but important respect.

I did not get an update phone call from the shop in Austin this afternoon (I am back in Houston). That cannot be a good sign.
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Old 05-15-2019, 05:10 PM   #11
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Well glad to hear it had been a great day with a slight sour note at the end. Wishing you a good outcome on the van. Also sending you wishes for good weather looks like you've had some pretty big seasonal storms.
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Old 05-16-2019, 06:29 AM   #12
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Cross-posting additional historical Sprinter tow pics for reference:

More-or-less equivalent tow to the one I had the day before yesterday. This is journalist Brent Rose's T1N conversion clinging to the back of this smaller flatbed:




Long enough flatbed, but still perhaps an issue with breakover angle:

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Old 05-16-2019, 08:33 AM   #13
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That second one actually looks like the correct one to be use. Truly doubt that those would be easy to get every where... I remember one forum member going through the headache of waiting and waiting for the right one to show up... sorry, can't remember who exactly was, but I do remember the thread. He shared photos as well when they finally came with the right towing vehicle after several hours of waiting...
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Old 05-16-2019, 10:37 AM   #14
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Long enough flatbed, but still perhaps an issue with breakover angle:

You mean departure angle, right? Breakover angle is for in between the front and rear axles when going over a sharp hump, so named because you can break the vehicle going over the hump.


When flatbed towing, get the longest flatbed you can (longer than the total length of the vehicle), and make sure the bed is extended all the way out before loading, to minimize departure angle problems.
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Old 05-16-2019, 03:59 PM   #15
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Yup, that's what I meant. Departure angle. I'm tired. I hadn't budgeted any brain capacity and energy for a full-on van catastrophe this week. I'll start a new thread on the engine replacement task.
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Old 05-16-2019, 07:20 PM   #16
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Yup, that's what I meant. Departure angle. I'm tired. I hadn't budgeted any brain capacity and energy for a full-on van catastrophe this week. I'll start a new thread on the engine replacement task.
Geez IB, when it rains it pours, and being in Houston you know about that. So, they have officially declared the engine toast? N/M, just saw your engine thread.
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Old 05-16-2019, 07:37 PM   #17
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This post has taught me that IF my 20.5ft Airstream Avenue (Chevy chassis) ever needs a tow, I'm going to tell the towing company it is 24 ft (like the new Interstates). Then cross my fingers that they send a long enough flat bed.

If they notice it is shorter, I just say oops.
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Old 05-17-2019, 06:16 AM   #18
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This post has taught me that IF my 20.5ft Airstream Avenue (Chevy chassis) ever needs a tow, I'm going to tell the towing company it is 24 ft (like the new Interstates). Then cross my fingers that they send a long enough flat bed.

If they notice it is shorter, I just say oops.
.
Unfortunately they are going to ask you how much it WEIGHS. And if it's less than 10,000 pounds, you are likely to get the short, stupid flatbed.

Retrospectively, I wonder if I could have negotiated a cash upcharge for a larger flatbed. BUT -- they are more rare. I might have been sitting out on the highway for a longer time, maybe overnight (knowing the Austin area) waiting for one to be located.
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Old 05-17-2019, 06:51 AM   #19
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Avenue is a chevy van. Should not be a problem. But who knows what might show up for a tow?
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Old 05-17-2019, 07:35 AM   #20
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Unfortunately they are going to ask you how much it WEIGHS. And if it's less than 10,000 pounds, you are likely to get the short, stupid flatbed.

Retrospectively, I wonder if I could have negotiated a cash upcharge for a larger flatbed. BUT -- they are more rare. I might have been sitting out on the highway for a longer time, maybe overnight (knowing the Austin area) waiting for one to be located.
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Avenue is a chevy van. Should not be a problem. But who knows what might show up for a tow?

Good points. I believe it was on this forum that a member was needing tow service and they repeatedly kept sending inadequate tow trucks. Best to exaggerate a bit on size and weight. It may result in a more costly tow, but it seems they continue to skimp on what tow vehicles they dispatch. The result is unnecessary damage to an already disabled rig.




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