In a perfect world there would be perfect trucks, but our world is far from perfect. Truckers identify quality trucks as those that hold up well, hold their value, and present the least amount of problems, whether severe or minor.
In our March issue, you read about some owner-operators who were experiencing problems withpremature steer tire wear on their Volvo trucks. When these OOIDA members reported premature steer tire wear on their Volvos, some also told us they were having additional problems. (While these problems don't seem to be widespread, they can be serious, and drivers should be alert to the possibilities.) In this issue we'll take a look at those problems, acquaint you with some fleets that are having steer tire wear problems, as well as update you on Volvo's response to these problems.
Ira and Janet Doss of Ormond Beach, FL, purchased a new Cayman green Volvo 770 in September 1998. A little over a year later, Volvo agreed to buy the truck back. Why? While Ira and Janet say they had a number of ongoing problems, including being billed hundreds of dollars for "warranty" repairs, one recurring problem left them terrified.
On Jan.20, 1999, while they were westbound on I-84 in New York, the truck went haywire. The speedometer was spiking to 80 mph and over and within a mile the engine brake was gone. Ira says he tried to turn the cruise control off because of deteriorating road conditions, but the truck was out of control. He rode the brakes a while but it was useless and the truck began to fishtail. Ira was afraid of blowing the engine if he put the transmission in neutral. He turned off the ignition and removed the key, but with the key in his hand, the truck was still doing a nightmarish 60 mph on an icy, slushy road. A short time later, the engine died and would not restart. Ira somehow managed to bring the runaway truck to a safe stop. The truck was towed to a shop in Newburg, NY. Six days after the incident, the truck was out of the shop with a new ECM and Ira cautiously took it back out on the road.
On Jan. 27, 2000, Ira and Janet were headed toward St. Louis when the truck shut off several times while rolling down the interstate. Finding they could not readily get the truck into a shop in St. Louis, and fearing another expensive week of down time, on Jan. 29, they decided to try to get the truck home. As they headed down an icy I-55, the engine died and stayed off a few seconds, then came back on at full power. The truck broke traction and began to jackknife. Ira managed to regain control of the truck and avoid an accident. After they managed to get the truck home, Janet refused to ever get in it again.
A letter dated Feb. 3, 2000, from Ken Culver of Volvo documented the verbal agreement made with Ira and Janet. Volvo agreed to pay off the note on their Volvo and reimburse them for the latest repairs and towing in exchange for their releasing Volvo from "any and all claims" relating to the truck. By the way, the VIN of this truck is 4VG7DARJ3XN774154.
A few owner-operators reported steering problems with their Volvo trucks. Doug Grattafiori of Brighton, MI, tells OOIDA he experienced a steering failure at a loading dock when parts of the steering box fell out on ground along with steering fluid.
Harold and Linda Haines of Cassville, MO, say their steering locked up on a freeway off ramp. Harold "had to use all of his strength to break it free."
Ray and Joan Kasicki of Cleveland, OH, say Ray was backing into a dock when the steering wheel fell in his lap. The bracket holding the tilt/telescoping wheel to the dash had broken.
Ira Doss was making a left turn onto a Los Angeles area street when he found the wheel would not turn past a certain point. He says it took a great deal of force to get around the corner. Ira removed the cover from the steering column and said he found that a round piece of plastic that cancels the turn signals had jammed the steering.
Dash and electrical problems
Harold and Linda Haines tell OOIDA their dash cluster has been replaced four times and that there is a burning smell and popping noise coming from under the dash. Timothy and Rose Fleming of Rhododendron, OR, report ongoing electrical problems but did not specify the nature of the problems. Ron Dunaway of Fremont, NE, reports electrical problems and faulty dash gauges. Karl Maier of Chatham, Ontario, reports that the instrument panel in his 770 had to be replaced at 39,732 miles and the LCD display in the dash had to be replaced a number of times.
Fleets report premature steer tire wear
Are owner-operators the only ones complaining about steer tire wear on Volvo trucks? In Land Line's March issue, owner-operators reported steer tire mileage as low as 50,000 miles. OOIDA learned that some fleets have similar complaints. Digby Truck Lines of Nashville, TN, runs 500 Volvo model 610 and 660 trucks. Maintenance systems administrator J.W. Holland tells OOIDA that in August 1998, (shortly after he started with Digby) he identified a problem with excessive steer tire wear. When he started asking questions, "Volvo told us we were the only ones having problems," says Holland.
Holland told OOIDA he noticed that when they had to replace steer tires, they also had to replace wheel bearings. He learned the wheel bearings on the fleets' trucks were manufactured by SKF and the races were manufactured by Timken (instead of both components being manufactured by one company or the other). Holland says this fact combined with improper torquing from the factory is the cause of the problem.
When he questioned Volvo about his findings, Holland says Volvo called it a maintenance problem and had someone come to the Digby shop to demonstrate wheel end maintenance. According to Holland, that didn't solve the problem.
Western Express, also of Nashville, has 240 Volvos models 610 and 660. Mike Lewis of Western Express is convinced that replacing bearings and races with a set from the same manufacturer solves the problem. Lewis told OOIDA that when a new Volvo is delivered, his shop carefully checks the bearings and aligns the truck within the first five hundred miles. Then when the bearings fail, the bearings and races are replaced with a matched set. Lewis says this boosts his average steer tire life from around 60,000 miles up to 120,000 miles.
A Volvo spokesman verified that some (not all) trucks are delivered with bearings and races made by different manufacturers, but said that this is an accepted practice as bearings and races from these manufacturers (and others) meet engineering standards set by SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers). OOIDA was told whether or not a particular truck has the SKF/Timken match up depends on the suppliers and date of manufacture.
T & L Transportation of Lebanon, TN, operates 104 1998 and 1999 Volvo 610s. John Hood of T & L says the fleet does have problems with premature steer tire wear. Hood isn't sure what causes the problem.
D & D Sexton of Carthage, MO, operates 70 Volvos. Ed Boes tells OOIDA that he has managed to increase steer tire wear in the fleet from around 60,000 miles to close to 100,000 miles by careful maintenance. Bearings are checked frequently, because Boes has found they tend to loosen up around 50,000 miles. Each truck gets careful alignments, and the toe-in is set at zero.
An update on Volvo's response
On March 2, OOIDA president Jim Johnston received a letter from Volvo's National Service Director, Dwight McAlexander, advising that Volvo was compiling the data collected in their investigation into complaints of steer tire wear. When that data might be available is still not known. McAlexander indicated Volvo would "share our findings as soon as we get this information pulled together."
OOIDA's Johnston says that the safety of the association's members who own Volvos and those who plan to buy them is paramount. "While Volvo has promised to study these safety issues and get back to the association," he says, "so far the company has been as unresponsive to us as they have been to our members who have been complaining for some time."
Johnston says while OOIDA will continue to work to prompt Volvo to address these issues with immediacy, it is important that members be aware of the issues.
If you are experiencing problems with premature steer tire wear on your Volvo, please provide us with details in writing (no phone calls please). Mail your information to OOIDA, attn: Volvo Investigation, 311 R. D. Mize Road, Grain Valley, MO 64029, or fax to 816-847-5287. You may also e-mail your information to OOIDA@aol.com, but be sure to include your full name and mailing address.