The Oil Change

I had booked a load with Schneider from New Jersey to Houston and was resting in Philly for a couple of days.

Was last here in Penn’s Landing 1999, when USS Clark (FFG-11) visited Philly as part of the Great Lakes Cruise. What took me so long to return?

Back then we had thousands of visitors board the ship. Today, there wasn’t a soul in the landing. It was eerily quiet on the Delaware River. And even more strange that there’s a curfew going on right now. In the distance I can hear gunshots and police sirens as people protest against the shooting of George Floyd and police violence.

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USS Clark was docked here next to the cruiser Olympia and submarine USS Becuna in 1999 before she entered the St Lawrence Seaway into the Great Lakes.

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Philadelphia has done an amazing job revitalizing Penn’s Landing. In the past, the area was dilapidated and under utilized. Now, (prior to COVID), this area offers festivals, concerts, beer gardens, roller and ice-skating.

Last month, I had the pleasure to visit USS Alabama in Mobile Bay. In the 1980’s when the Navy recommissioned the four Iowa Class battleships, parts of the Alabama were cannibalized to restore the New Jersey to service. And across the Delaware River, the Big J lay moored in her berth.

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The Columbus Monument was completed in 1992 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the voyage of Christopher Columbus. The reimagined obelisk is topped by a weather vane that represents the colors of Italy and Spain–Italy being the country from which Columbus hailed, and Spain the country he sailed for.  There’s been a lot of discussion recently to take down this memorial as well as the statue in Marconi Plaza.

And there’s parking here. It’s meter parking from 9am – Midnight. But I stayed till past noon, and didn’t see any enforcement – maybe because of Covid – I was lucky.

After this, I visited my favorite spot in Chinatown: Lau Kee. I first came here right after New Year’s and it was busy. Returned in March, and I was the only patron there, but at least I could dine-in. Now I come back two months later, and they won’t even let me enter the dining room. Had to order out with a mask of course. Wow, hopefully next time I return, things will be back to normal.

I love to visit Philly for the museums that embodies the history and culture of the City of Brotherly Love. But I don’t go just for the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall — I go for the food, the traditional Chinese and Cantonese cuisine served in eateries from 8th and Race to 12th and Vine

Lau Kee used to be busy with Chinese visitors, tourists and locals enjoying ginger steamed chicken and won ton mein. I know I was there in early January. Now the entire Chinatown is turned into a ghost town as people are staying away in droves.

Now that China has banned organized tours and airlines have suspended flights from China, Chinatown is hit with less tourists dollars. But it’s not only tourists from China. Many Americans have avoided visiting Chinatown due to unfounded Coronavirus fears.

I first visited Lau Kee, right after the New Years. They opened early with the obligatory congee or other Americanized Chinese breakfast dishes. The streets were packed and there were many tourists and families enjoying large meals. The restaurant was abuzz with tourists and families enjoying multi-course meals, sharing plates gleaming with smiles. Now, it’s just me and my semi-introverted self as I enjoy my well-prepared meal in utter silence.


I heard so much about the roasted peking duck here, and hanging by the front window, they looked crispy and succulent. But I chose my usual – the steamed chicken was tender and juicy, as usual, albeit a little salty. The roasted pork was sweet and crispy and I recommend ordering at least 1/2 pound. Dip it in hoisin sauce and you’ll be beyond delighted. So what will happen next time I return? Will patrons come back or will I not be allowed to enter at all?

I’m quite aware that my Maxxforce 13 has EGR/DPF issues. Knew that when I purchased it from International and when I spent nearly $15,000 replacing the emisssions system: DPF, DOC, EGR coolers, etc. That’s why we won the $135 million Class Action lawsuit

The problem is that my DPF is getting clogged with heavy soot. When inspecting under my truck, I found a leak in my gasket of my oil pan which required me to add a gallon every couple of weeks. To save money, I started using cheap Pilot generic motor oil which resulted in my DPF getting clogged more frequently. I definitely got what I paid for – crap oil for crap prices.

I’m a born and bred racer and I like to push the pedal to the metal like an Indycar Racer. Sometimes climbing hills, I have to maintain my speed or else I start losing momentum. I don’t have the horses like a galloping Mack or Kenworth, so I learned to increase my speed downhills so I maintain momentum when climbing back to keep me from stalling – scary as it might seem. Often, my DPF would get clogged and then without warning, my engine would derate and I would lose momentum. This is bad, on a manual, cuz I have to shift down which is tough on a steep slope.

So there’s a fine line and I have to tread it carefully. Now I’m going to avoid going 70 MPH especially on hills and see if that will keep my DPF from getting clogged.

When the DPF gets soaked with soot, the engine starts to derate – which I notice on hills. Then I start getting a warning light on my dash. I typically have about 15 mins to pull over and do a parked regen (but sometimes, I only get mins before I get the red gong of death – a Stop Engine warning). When doing a parked regen, the DPF heats up to nearly 200 degrees turning the soot to ash and expelling it — you can see this as white smoke. It gets so hot and noisy that if you’re parked over grass, you can actually set it on fire.

So today, I’m at the TA in Paulsboro, NJ replacing my oil with Mobil Delvac I Synthetic. Also replacing my gasket in my drain pan because there’s a slight leak. Total bill: $1,150

90% of the soot and contaminants that is collected in the DPF comes from the engine oil, not the fuel, like many would believe.

I just have to learn to slow down and not panic when driving on repetitive hills. Even if that means losing speed on the upclimb.

If I can, choose a lighter load or take a different route. And of course, use synthetic or a premium motor oil, not the cheap Pilot kind.

So all of the chemistry that starts in a lab makes a huge difference on the road.

I’m looking forward to taking this rig on the road with a fresh oil change. But first gotta stop enroute in DC to run some errands at home.

After spending a half day parked in DC so I can run errands, I drove towards Houston hoping to get as far south as I can making up for lost time. I didn’t want to push it too hard because I didn’t want to run into Tropical Storm Cristobal, battering the Gulf coast.

I made it 190 miles to the Walmart in South Hill, VA (330 miles today from Paulsboro NJ) before they shut down for the night. I got some food then noticed that there their parking lot was full of trucks, and the management is amazingly friendly to truckers. So I decided to play it safe and spend the night here. Need to get up bright and early to make up for falling behind schedule.

I rose by 6am and after a nice, warm shower, I was anxious to get on the road. I started the truck, and to my surprise, the engine won’t turn over. I looked under the truck and noticed oil everywhere. I had lost a lot of oil during my drive from DC since everything under the truck was coated with a thick grime, and during the night a noticeable puddle of oil had formed.

I called the TA in Paulsboro NJ who informed me that the work would be covered only if a technician from a TA or Petro can come to verify that oil had leaked from the oil pan. Unfortunately, the closest technician is 90 miles away in Mebane, NC, and a couple of hours later she showed up.

The mobile technician confirmed that there was a missing bolt in the back of the oil pan and the gasket wasn’t properly seated causing massive amount of oil to leak out.

I relayed this information to the TA in Paulsboro, who claimed that two bolts were never there in the first place, and I was made aware of this. Thus there’s no warranty. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

The bolts were not missing when I brought the truck to the shop because I had done an inspection of the oil pan a month ago, and no bolts were missing. Additionally, my instructor from North American Trade Schools, Mr Hyde, confirmed that all the bolts were in place and there was only a slight leak from a couple of bolts that were over-torqued causing the gasket to leak. (I was only losing about a gallon every two weeks – compared to 12 gallons in 2 days).

To the left is the shiny spot, were a bolt was in place prior to the oil change. You can also see that the gasket not seated and is squeezed out resulting in oil to leak out.

Before the work was started, I mentioned to the mechanic in TA Paulsboro, NJ that my gasket was leaking (showed her a video of the inspection completed. She confirmed that there was some leak on the bottom of the oil pan, so she recommended changing out the gasket.

The technician claims that only after dropping the oil pan did she realize that 2 (out of 20) bolts were missing. I stayed in the cab of the truck most of the time and also around the truck, so there was plenty of opportunity for the techs to inform me of this discovery. But instead of notifying me, they decided to reinstall the oil pan with the two missing bolts, and thus the gasket wasn’t properly seated.

From the video above, the mobile technician stated that the bolts were on there before because the metal is shiny under the bolt, and that the gasket sticks out and isn’t properly seated.

Then they decided to pull a fast one on me by sneaking a note to the bottom of the invoice that the 2 bolts were missing and that their work is not under “warrenty” [sic]. The manager never went over this issue with me – she was hoping I wouldn’t catch it. The invoice and inspection report were 3 pages so there was a lot of fine print and they assured me that everything was ok.

In reality, I would have never left the shop knowing I had 2 missing bolts especially after I just spent $1,145 for Mobile Delvac synthetic oil and gasket. In fact the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act provides an implied warranty for consumers. Both goods and services are protected – when a reasonable customer purchases a service, he/she should expect a certain result. If not the company should remedy the situation.

Likewise, the TA should have never let me go on the road with the missing bolts. All they had to do was wait till the following morning and purchase the bolts from the International dealership for a couple bucks a piece and install them. I would have easily approved this delay, especially since it was past 8pm when the work was done , and I didn’t need to leave until the next day.

As an owner operator, I would never authorize incomplete work and would never get on the road knowing that I have missing bolts. Doing so not only guarantees leaking oil all over the roadway but also put the lives of many others at risk.

Very disappointed at the TA to not take responsibility for their mistake, not assist with my tow, and shifting the blame on me.

Replacing the gasket for oil pan for International Prostar Maxxforce 13

Three TA Technicians installing my oil pan gasket – none of them informed me of the 2 missing bolts. Perhaps they were never missing in the first place. What’s more likely the tech stripped, broke or lost them.


TA Petrol customer service contacted me today to get more info on what happened – that was a promising sign. But TA Paulsboro still declined to cover the warranty. They didn’t want to take responsibility for their mistake and were afraid they potentially damaged my engine.

So I ordered a tow from Smiley’s in South Hill. I had them come the same time that the recovery driver from Schneider’s arrived to deliver the trailer to Houston.

But there was one small problem. I couldn’t unhook from the trailer. The fifth wheel latch was giving me trouble and the kingpin wouldn’t open. Normally, I would just reverse the truck to jiggle and unlock the latch. But since I was low on oil, I couldn’t start the truck.

So Mr. Smiley took a chain and connected to the front right corner of the trailer and pulled it forward, while I released my brakes and slowly rolled down an incline – that did the trick.

Air from wrecker connected to truck secondary air tank

Before we unhooked from the trailer, Smiley connected his air to my secondary air tank so that I could have some air – at least 100 psi. This is an interesting setup since I can use this air to power my pneumatic tools such as my impact gun.

Mr. Smiley also had to disconnect my drive shaft to ensure that we don’t damage the transmission. He was able to remove the bolts with an 1/2 inch drive extendable ratchet – an impact wrench was not needed.

I was surprised since the unscrupulous Charlotte wrecker who towed me last year didn’t bother to do this.


When Smiley’s dropped the oil pan, they could see that the gasket was severely damaged on both sides

When we got the truck in the shop, we added oil, and after 4 gallons, the starter turned easily. Oh my Goodness, I was expecting the worse.

Now that my truck was in the shop, they would have to drop my oil pan and install a new gasket. Smiley’s was nice enough to drive me to the Fairfield Inn in South Hill to wait out the repair job.

Once I provided this information to the district manager, he finally agreed to reimburse me for the oil change, the tow and two nights stay at a local hotel.

Every incident in trucking, good, bad and indifferent has a silver lining

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