Thunder Bay or Bust – Nothing Like a Break Down

Here it is day four and we are still in Thunder Bay, and for good reason.  We started having problems about an hour after leaving Wawa.  I noticed the manual Over Drive light had illuminated on its own.  This would be the beginning of our troubles.

First Planned Stop – Thunder Bay

VanLife - Thunder Bay
Thunder Bay – Around Town

It turns out this overdrive light would be the beginning of our troubles, about an hour out of Wawa we needed to come to a stop at a road construction area and as I slowed down there was a strange grinding sound, and Freddy began to lurch, not a drastic one but it was noticeable for sure.  As the flag person gave us the go ahead, things were all good, and we went on our merry little way.  Though not known to us things were getting worse by the minute.  I think we drove on for another hour when we pulled over to check something, this would prove to be a bad decision.  As we went to pull away, I learned that I had lost Drive (D) on my transmission.   I still had Reverse (R), First (1) and Second (2).

Since we were in the middle of nowhere, I knew if this was to have a happy ending we would need to make it to Thunder Bay.  As we continued to limp towards Thunder Bay things just continued to get worse.  For a while, I was able to go into Overdrive or Fourth, as we climbed the hills in the area, but it was getting worse and by the time we were climbing the last hill into Thunder Bay was down to Third (D)  and manual starting from a dead stop.   Just on the outskirts we saw a Walmart and decided to pull into the parking lot and call it a day.

Transmission Work in Thunder Bay

VanLife - Thunder Bay
Thunder Bay – Around Town

Where do you go to get transmission work done, finding a shop that would help us out proved difficult!  I did a search on Google, and the first place on the list was Mister Transmission.  As I waited for the call to go through I had all those terrible thoughts running through my mind at one time.  Crap this is going to be expensive! Will we make it to British Columbia to start my new job in time?  Can we find a rebuilt transmission or is it going to be a new one?    Mister Transmission was very helpful right from the very start.  The girls I spoke to did their best to answer all the questions I had, but the one thing I did not like was we can not look at it until the next day.

Still holding onto a thread of hope for a quick fix, I decided to call another transmission shop.  One shop told me lots of information, but in the end, he could not handle a conversion van on his hoist.  Another shop would be able to take the transmission out, but then it would need to be worked on somewhere else as they do not do transmission work.  The earliest he could get me in was Thursday, and then a couple of weeks for a transmission, and I would need to be the one to find a replacement.  I was directed to contact the Dodge Dealer in town, they could do the work, but no they could not take me.  They however offered to find what transmission I would need.  We are still waiting for an answer a day later.

Mister Transmission – Thunder Bay

VanLife - Thunder Bay
Thunder Bay – Mister Transmission

In desperation, I call back Mister Transmission and I lay it out there on the line.  It’s 16:52 they close at 17:00 and I’m between a rock and a hard spot.  I speak with a gentleman named Daryl who was so very helpful.  We discussed the symptoms, and then the reason for the rush needed, and he tells me to have it there for 8:00 am the next day for it to be trouble shot.  I explain to him we are living in the vehicle, and I ask if we could stay in their parking lot overnight.  He said for sure, no worries, and I decide to head over there now so we can be in place and ready for first thing this morning.

Arriving the night before turns out to be a good idea for a couple of reasons.  The first one is I’ll be at their door at 7 am, so I will certainly be the first in line.  I’ve been warned they are jammed with work but I am going to do my best to get pushed in there.  The second reason, we happened to meet the owner, who tells me to plug Freddy in so we have power.  This turns out to be a fantastic offer, we were able to run the AC a little, and not worry about our battery power.

Sure enough, I’m at the front door of the shop at a couple minutes after 7, and I happen to meet up with Daryl, and he begins my paperwork for the truck.   We discuss a plan of action to find out what the issue is with Freddy, and then we head off to Starbucks to give some room for Mister Transmission to do their work.

The Bad News

Late in the morning, I receive a call from Mister Transmission with the bad news.  Freddy’s transmission is not fixable and needs replacing.  There is a company in Winnipeg who is working to get the transmission off to Thunder Bay if all goes well it will arrive late Friday morning.  If it arrives in time there is a chance we can head off late Friday afternoon.  The bad news is if it does not arrive on time, it won’t be done until Monday, as Mister Transmission is not open on the weekend.  So here we sit in a motel keeping our fingers crossed hoping Friday is our lucky day.

The staff at Mister Transmission here in Thunder Bay has been fantastic.  Not just because they are helping me out, but because they answered my questions and provided fantastic customer service.  You can tell they take their jobs seriously, and they are very professional!  Thank you, Mister Transmission!

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