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Old 03-09-2017, 10:54 PM   #1
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Default Chevy Express transmission removal issues

A while it was brought to my attention by another member here, Dick Tillinger (aka dicktill), who discovered that the trans in his 09 chassis C190P could not be removed by normal methods. Roadtrek had made the transmission unremovable without taking out the water tanks, including fresh underbody, grey, and black tanks. This was news to me, as nothing had ever come up on it, that I recalled. The next time I had the van up in the air, I took a look, and yep, no way to remove the transmission cross member without taking out the tanks because the bolts come through the frame from the outboard sides and the tanks block moving the bolts back far enough to clear the crossmember.

A correction on edit to the above, which I just changed. Dick had actually found the issue when he was removing the macerator and other stuff to take the Roadtrek to the dealer, and then he informed them about it. They were good folks, it appears, and managed to do the trans repair in place.

My first impression was something along the lines of "what kind of moron would do that?" Lately I have gone even further in the not happy vein .

The tanks are not readily removable as the plumbing is all glued in place with no disconnects, and some folks who have had plumbing issues needed to remove the exhaust to get to it, so the job of just getting ready to have a tranny fixed is likely way harder than the tranny fix itself, and might require visits to and exhaust shop and RV dealer before the tranny shop, and again afterward. If this happened when you were 3000 miles from home, it would be a sure fire way to ruin your trip, and probably triple the cost of your tranny repair.

Dick got lucky in his situation, as his warranty repair was able to be done without removing the transmission, but I know that would not happen to us, so I decided to take a look at making the crossmember removable again, like it should be. As far as we know right now, this applies to 2007 and 2009 chassis Chevy Roadtreks, and likely goes back to the body change in 2003. Unknown whether it changed with the 6 speed coming in at the 2010 model. It is easy to tell if your van is this way, as you can easily see the bolts can't be removed to clear the crossmember. Other brands might be similar, but that is unknown. It would be interesting to hear from anyone who has had this issue in real life.

The crossmember is inside of the main frame rails and held in by 3 bolts through the frame rails from the outside to the inside. Making it worse is the fact that the nuts on the inside of crossmember are welded to the crossemember, so can't be removed, making the bolts need even more travel to clear and impossible to cut off enough to help.

I had a few weeks of slack time so I tried to find a way to remove the crossmember without cutting in in pieces, but couldn't really find a way. At that point I started removing tanks, which was a big job requiring removing all the macerator stuff, almost all the heat shields, cutting out all the plumbing and vents, and getting access through the running boards at the front of passenger side rear wheel (I was lucky as ours was removable pieces from a previous mod-if you have a single battery pre 2007 model the battery box side would need to be cut out or the running board removed). I was able to do it without dropping the exhaust (not pleasant, though), which would have been much worse, but I did have to remove a couple of hangers to move shields out of the way.

Once the tanks were out, the crossmember was easy to remove, but I wanted to modify it so it could come out without other efforts in case of an on road failure. Bottom line is that the driver side is pretty easy, as nut plates (home made) mounted on the outside of the frame worked well for two of the bolts, with the bolts coming from the inside after removing the welded nuts. The rearmost bolt on the driver side won't go in from the inside because of the ABS module, so that was shortened, the welded nut removed and then used as a removable nut. That bolt will just clear the crossmember when pushed back against the fresh tank.

The passenger side had only a bit over 3/8" from the tank to the frame, so very little room for nut plates, especially considering that the original weldnuts were extra thick and closer to 1/2" high. The assumption for me was that there likely was a reason they wanted more thread engagement. They also used odd strength metric bolts at 9.8 instead of the more typical 8.8 mediums, or 10.8 high strength ones, which was odd. I decided to use shouldered nut plates to put most of the thread within the frame and leave a lot of clearance to the grey tank, but thatturned out poorly because there are internal support tubes in the frame to prevent crushing. That in itself would probably been OK, but they were split tubes like a spring pin, and fairly hard, so the instantly broke drills and broke out the open side. Long story short, it took more than week to fix the carnage, so I wouldn't recommend that method

Smaller diameter shoulders, with minimal intrusion into the frame should work, though, as it would require no, or tiny drilling of the frame or tubes. It puts the nut plate right at the tank, though. The rear hole on the passenger side has clearance and a full height nut plate works fine.

As long as all was apart, I decided to make the tanks easier to remove with no cutting, and also address the plumbing that is right above the exhaust pipes from the floor drain and kitchen, as others have had melted piping in that area. I was able to make some changes to the grey tank to make connections that were pretty easy to get to and remove, and just put rubber couplings on the black tank piping as it was right at the opened up running board on the passenger side. The floor drain run was moved a bit to hopefully a cooler spot, and the rest of the plumbing above the exhaust shields was changed to schedule 80 CPVC which gives about 40* more temp tolerance.

I also put watertight wire connectors on the harness that goes through the crossmember, so it wouldn't interfere with removal, and also did all the sensors for the Seelevel tank gauge and the macerator, so they would easier to disconnect if the tank or sensor needed to come out.

Or macerator outlet had been changed to hard pvc pipe that mounted to the crossmember, so that also had to go away. I changed it to 1" rubber heater hose, that actually worked very well since it could run along our recently installed gravity backup dump pipe across the van.

I am finally done with it all, and it seems to all be working fine, but it took nearly a month and maybe 120 hours to do, in our well equipped shop. It would be virtually impossible to do yourself while on the road unless you could rent a shop to work in.

I really don't know what to recommend to others. If you don't have a transmission failure while on the road, it would be a waste of time and money to fix it ahead of time. If you do have a failure on the road, you would save your trip and likely many thousands of dollars by doing having it ahead of time. Especially since we do our own work, doing it ahead made sense, but also it would make sense to just count on putting the Roadtrek on a transport home if the tranny died, as it likely would be much cheaper than having all this done with unknown shops in a strange place.

Unfortunately, I forgot to get pix when starting, but if you have bolts from the side of the frame by the tanks, you likely have the issue, I think. If the bolts come up from the bottom, you likely won't have the issue.

I am still putting together the pix of the changes that were done, and will be adding them over a while.

Anyone with any history and/or different years information would be useful for all of us, I think, to get posted.

I just can't believe Roadtrek would hang all the customers out to dry like this, as it would have been so easy to fix at the initial build.
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Old 03-10-2017, 12:29 AM   #2
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.

No pix?


That's disappointing to hear.

I know on their Mercedes Sprinter RV,
a few people had bad NOx sensors,
they took the RV to MB for warranty service,
and found out that MB could not get to the sensor without first removing a few parts.
Of course MB would not touch any RV components.
RT eventually worked out with MB on paying for the extra work.
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Old 03-10-2017, 01:37 AM   #3
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As I said, pix are coming
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Old 03-10-2017, 01:56 AM   #4
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I'll check on this on the current 210.
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Old 03-10-2017, 02:17 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BBQ View Post
.

No pix?


That's disappointing to hear.

I know on their Mercedes Sprinter RV,
a few people had bad NOx sensors,
they took the RV to MB for warranty service,
and found out that MB could not get to the sensor without first removing a few parts.
Of course MB would not touch any RV components.
RT eventually worked out with MB on paying for the extra work.
Some interesting issues here. If the tranny crashes during the chassis warranty period, does Roadtrek cover the additional expense to access the tranny? Further, even with the offer of reimbursement by RT to Chevy, will the Chevy facility be willing to undertake this sort of work? They're certainly under no obligation to do so. You might end up having to tow the coach to some RV facility to have the interfering components removed and subsequently restored.
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Old 03-10-2017, 04:04 AM   #6
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I would guess that under warranty there probably haven't been many claims, as automatic transmissions tend to almost always make it through without issues. Of course there are always exceptions, and it would be interesting to here is anyone around here has heard of any.

Yes, as I mentioned, I think you might first have to go to an exhaust shop to have the exhaust dropped, then the RV dealer for tank removals, then the transmission shop, then back to the RV dealer, and then back to the exhaust shop. If you are in a spot without those kinds of expertise, and you are stranger, you could wind up with some major issues with a corner mechanic taking all the RV parts off and on. On top of that, you would be right back where you started with a repaired, but again hard to remove transmission as it is unlikely you will find someone to modify that part in a short time.

A repair like this could cost Roadtrek many thousands of dollars in the extra work required, and of course they will fight it if you happen to not be near a Roadtrek dealer.

I should be able to get the finished pix in the morning as I need to get flat under and the right angles because there is so little room and the floor is finally clear of tools and jacks, and such. They will show how tight it is in spots and how little space you have for parts.
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Old 03-10-2017, 05:12 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by booster View Post
I would guess that under warranty there probably haven't been many claims, as automatic transmissions tend to almost always make it through without issues.
I agree, under normal use, the tranny is likely to last the life of the coach. The exception would be one subjected to heavy towing loads with inexperienced operators. Why a tranny temp gauge or at least an overtemp alarm is not standard on vehicles set up for 5k or more towing capacity is beyond me.

Even after the expiration of the chassis warranty, the resolution still seems murky. No question, after the chassis warranty expiration, absent a recall or TSB, the transmission replacement would clearly be at the owner's expense, but the additional cost of removing and reinstalling RT components necessary to do the work, arguably should still be underwritten by RT within their 5/6 year warranty period.
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Old 03-10-2017, 04:24 PM   #8
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Ok, now some pix. I did seem to lose a few of the early ones somehow, probably when the camera went dead, but most still here. Photo posting limits will make for quite a few posts to get all the pix here. I think it is only 4 or 5 per post.

The original bolting are some that got lost, so the first pix show the finished setup to show how little space there is to deal with in some spots.

The driver side isn't too bad, although the bolts still wouldn't come out far enough with the fresh tank in place. Nut plates on the front two bolts, shortened bolt but still from the outside, with loose nut on the rear one as the bolt can't go in from the inside.



Closer



From the inside of the front bolts. I used step washer to locate better after removing the weldnuts, but would not do that again and would use thick square washers tack welded on over the holes and centered.

Attached Images
File Type: jpg drive side clearance finished.jpg (352.7 KB, 123 views)
File Type: jpg drv side inside xmember.jpg (394.6 KB, 119 views)
File Type: jpg drv side closer finished.jpg (256.4 KB, 117 views)
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Old 03-10-2017, 04:31 PM   #9
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The passenger side is where the tough clearance issues are, on the front two holes only, as the rear has room for thick nut plate.

This is the rear nut plate,



Here is the front. It looks like it is hitting, but is not really as the seam in the middle of the tank, between the two actual nuts is closer to the frame.



And from the inside of the front bolts. The square washers would be my choice for all positions, but if I had it to do over, they would be tack welded in place.

Attached Images
File Type: jpg Psg front nutplate.jpg (312.7 KB, 114 views)
File Type: jpg Psg rear nutplate.jpg (184.6 KB, 112 views)
File Type: jpg Psg inside xmember.jpg (332.6 KB, 117 views)
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Old 03-10-2017, 04:50 PM   #10
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The nut plates are made out of piece of 1/8" thick by 2". The threaded part has a shoulder on it to go into a hole in the plate, and can be flush on the backside or extended to get extra thread by engaging the van frame hole. The threaded sections are 1.5" diameter 1050 alloy cold roller steel, so relatively high strength. The pix show the construction of the ones I used, and are silver brazed together to keep them flatter than if welded.





On the driver side, I only could use the double nut plate because of the previously mentioned issue that required the bolt to go in from the outside of the frame.



The passenger side front nuts are much thinner to clear the tank, the rear is the same as driver side. The double plate was cut in half as all the frame carnage I had caused messed up the locations enough to not locate perfectly as a pair. I think if doing it again, I would make all of them single, as it would be easier in many ways.

Attached Images
File Type: jpg nuts plates top.jpg (275.2 KB, 113 views)
File Type: jpg nut plates back.jpg (225.3 KB, 113 views)
File Type: jpg Drvr side installed plates.jpg (373.6 KB, 113 views)
File Type: jpg Installed nuts pgr side.jpg (344.7 KB, 114 views)
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