A brief run down on the work carried out during our visit with Rob Pickering in La Junta, CO during the week of Sept 24th 2012.

  • Valve clearance adjustment. All exhaust valves were within specification. All intake valves where tight at approximately 0.3mm rather than 0.4mm.

  • Oil (Rotella T) change and new filter (my truck does not have the centrifugal filter).

  • New fuel filters (lower and upper), but did not change the little filter basket. Cleaned the water bowl. Will carry one of those as a spare going forward,

  • Coolant drained and the two plastic coolant bottles replaced. The inboard one was cracked at the top. Refilling with fresh (Detroit Diesel Power Cool Plus - same stuff that Vincent told us about) coolant was a lengthy process because of the interconnection between the engine cooling system and the house hot water and heating system. We had to bleed air from the house system. It was easy in the end but a bit of a mystery at the start.

  • Removed the PTO gearbox at the front of the truck. That was a struggle - 4 men and a fork lift.

  • Rerouted hoses that connect the house heating system with the engine cooling system. Removal of the PTO made some cooling system connections points available. So we could remove previously necessary splices.

  • The engine already had a 110V block heater but it was not wired in. So connected harness and positioned a 110V plug above right side radiator.

  • Installed the air heating grid that is part of the cold weather package. The heating grid installs in a pipe assembly that is part of the intake system. Rob had to get and install the new pipe assembly. The heating grid is to be activated manually by the switch on the console that previously activated the PTO.

  • Manual override for the fan. The switch on the console previously used to turn on the roof top flashing light has been re-purposed to manually turn on the fan.

  • Drained and refilled the clutch hydraulic system. Like Vincent's mine had a lot of black sticky residue in the reservoir and a lot of "junk" in the used fluid.

  • Checked fluid levels and color in transmission and all hubs and axles. All clean no topping up required. This was as much about showing me where the relevant plugs were as actually checking the levels.

  • Checked brake pads and rotors (while the wheels were off for new tires -- more below). Rotors are good and pads are about 50%. That is not bad for 55,000 miles.

  • New shocks all round. These were also done while the wheels were off for new tires.

  • Fixed the left hand nob on the heater control panel (the one that directs air to the feet or wind screen). The mechanism behind this nob is some times damaged if the cabin floor mat is not re-positioned correctly on the right hand side of the cabin heater box. This was the case for my truck. The result was that the nob did not function. Fortunately the problem was only a bent wire which was easily fixed.

  • The alternator. My truck and apparently most US U500s have a Delco 22SI alternator. Rob suggested that these can be a bit fragile and also difficult to remove. The issue is that the bottom bracket of the alternator is held in place by a 7+" pin that must be removed to extract the alternator. Rob and I agreed that we would remove this pin as a demo of how to do it and also to make sure it was not too heavily corroded. This little exercise took about 2.5 hours; and there is no way I would have figured out what needed to be done had I been on my own. Also no European mechanic would have been familiar with the arrangement as this pin is (apparently) only present on US U500s. I only hope I never have to do it. Going forward I will certainly carry a spare alternator and hope to never need it.

  • Repositioned the mirror adjustment controls. GXV modify the center console so that the pass thru from house to cab is more comfortable by replacing the rear of the console with a flat platform. In my case they also put the mirror adjustment control in the top surface of this platform. The result is that often the mirrors get accidentally "re-adjusted" when one is moving from the cab to/from the house. Rob repositioned the mirror adjustment controls to the drivers side wall of the center console.

  • Removed the exhaust stack. The muffler now empties into a short U-pipe that dumps soot and fumes towards the ground and rear ward. This required some modification to the work done at Freightliner, Lancaster PA.

  • Tires and wheels. I planned on getting 4 new tires from Rob, it turned into 4 new tires and 5 Hutchinson wheels.

    • The first wheel assembly we pulled off the truck proved to be troublesome. One of the nuts that holds the two halves of the wheel together would not come loose. Eventually we had to resort to, and apply the full force of, a 1" impact spanner. Had this happened in the field that wheel tire assembly would have been un-fixable. At that point Rob and I agreed a price for 5 Hutchinson wheels he had in stock. Too bad about all the new O-rings and brand new valve stems that Rob and I now owned between us.

    • I saw the tire change as an opportunity for me to practice changing a wheel. So the first two wheel assemblies removed from the truck were done with only the equipment I plan to carry. An assortment of wood blocks, two 12-ton hydraulic jacks, a 40" tire iron, a short handled shovel and a 58times 1" drive torque multiplier spanner.

    • Jacking the vehicle on a nice level concrete surface was straight forward. I did not practice how to handle a deflated tire but was convinced I have enough blocks and jacks to handle that problem.

    • The torque multiplier is slow but VERY effective. It even removed a lug nut that the 1" impact could not remove.

    • I re-assembled 3 of the 5 assemblies; the Hutchinson wheels seem pretty straightforward in that regard - but without some Vaseline or other "grease" the O-ring could be troublesome. I even remembered to put the 4x10oz packets of Counteract beads into each tire before dropping it onto the wheel.

    • One of the great benefits of the Hutchinson wheels that was immediately obvious was the weight (85lbs lighter). Starting with a wheel assembly lying on the ground I can (just barely) stand it up ready to roll. With the steel wheels that was impossible.

    • Re seating the wheel assemblies onto the studs. I did 4 of these, and while nowhere near as proficient as Rob or Edwin, managed with some struggling, a tire iron and shovel to get the job done. It will be a good deal more difficult without a nice flat concrete floor, but at least I have some idea what needs to be done.

    • Tightening the lug nuts. I chickened out on these - or maybe I was just pooped from struggling with the tire - but we used the 1" air gun and a nice looking torque wrench to bring the lug nuts to 460 ft-lbs. In the field I will use the torque multiplier and a 3/4" drive breaker bar and guess the torque.

After all the work a test drive (and our subsequent couple of days) demonstrate an amazing improvement in the smoothness of the ride. I cannot determine whether the ride improvement is a result of the Counteract beads, new wheels or new tires; but the combination is great. Even the road noise level seems to have dropped. Even more pleasing the pronounced pull to the right that the truck was exhibiting is vastly reduced almost to the point of feeling "normal".

The effect of the new shocks is evident on obstacles such as rail crossings.