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P38 frame crack

While cleaning up the P38 I found a crack on the upper chain stay just behind the seat on the left side. It really sucks because the bike is only four years old. The good thing is that it's near the end of cycling season and I do have a Phantom I can ride in it's place!

The crack is located about 1" from the lug where it's welded. It runs at about a 45degree angle and is about 60% around the tube. I assume that it's probably due to some sort of fatigue from the original weld job. Possibly improper quenching or getting the weld area too hot.

It's not from abuse that's for sure. Nobody takes care of a bike like I do! It gets cleaned and maintained on a regular basis. I have over 9,000 miles of pure enjoyment on the bike and plan on many more!

Hi Scooter,

Sorry to hear of your left top chainstay breaking close to the underseat lug.

I have not heard of any other Lightning P-38 frame cracking at this particular location. Not that this will be of any solace to you! At least you discovered the crack closer to the end of the nice weather, and you have a spare bike to ride.

If you have a digital camera, take some pictures and send them to Tim Brummer at Lightning. Calling him on the phone would not hurt either. He will probably ask you to take the bike apart and send him the frame for repair. As long as you are sending him your frame, you might as well have anything else you want done taken care of at the same time. Like adding a rear disc brake mount, or a new powdercoat color, or whatever. Make lemonade out the lemon of the frame failing.

Let us know what happens.

Safe riding,
Joel

Thanks Joel, I'll give Tim a call this week. Will let you know how this turns out.
Scooter

Good news! Lightning said my frame is NOT cracked but has a large paint chip that looks like a crack. They ground the paint off the area and made the discovery. They will touch up the paint and return it to me hopefully this week. Looking forward to getting those new wheels I picked up from Ben on the bike including that 451mm front.

Scoot

Well, my P38 frame arrived Tuesday from California. I had sent it to Lightning for a warranty repair for what looked like a frame crack. It turned out to be nothing more than a giant paint crack. My disappointment is in Lightnings customer service.
First it took weeks to get an update on the repair. Then they ground the paint off the spot about an inch long down to bare metal, to see if it actually was a crack and weren't planning to touch it up until I called and asked them to. However, the touch up looked like crap. Then a few more weeks went by to get it back. I shipped it to CA on 10/18. It arrived back here in IL on 12/6. They wouldn't reimburse my shipping costs either since it wasn't under warranty.
I'm disappointed that a company that makes great bikes, has such poor customer service. It makes me think that they really don't care much about anything except selling bikes.

Hi Scooter,

Glad to hear that your frame was not cracked, but sorry that Lightning did not do a good job in touching up the paint in the area that they removed. They probably used some automotive touch-up paint in a color close to the original powdercoat finish. Getting good cosmetic results can be tricky. The real alternative may be to completely re-powdercoat the whole frame.

The amount of time you had to wait may seem excessive, but it is unfortunately not unusual in the boutique bike world. I have had to wait longer - sometimes much longer - in working out problems with little bike companies. Actually you did OK in the time department, believe it or not.

Communication with Lightning is hit-or-miss. My best luck has been to insist on talking directly to Tim Brummer about anything at all. If he is not available to talk on the phone, find out when he will be and call back.

Regarding the question of who should pay the shipping costs for you sending the frame to California, I am not sure who is responsible.

Sorry the whole experience was such a pain in the ass. But at least your frame is OK functionally, if not what it used to be cosmetically. If the touch-up job is really hideous, and you just cannot look at your bike without feeling queasy, consider having it repainted. I have gotten bike frames repainted cheaply and well at automotive body shops. If you tell the shop that you are not fussy about the color, they can often re-spray the frame along with a car body or parts at minimal cost. Gerber body and glass has helped me out with re-spraying my older bikes.

If the touch-up is small and in an area of the frame that is not very prominent, I would just live with it.

Safe riding,
Joel Dickman

Hey Joel,
Appreciate your comments.
Yes it is hideous! Thats a great way to describe it, wish I had thought of that one myself! And yes I do feel queasy when I look at it, but thats because I am fussy. I believe in doing quality work no matter what.

Anyway, I'm thinking of having the frame powdercoated. Is it powdercoated now or painted? I can't tell. I've heard that powdercoat is tough to remove, paint is not. We are checking with some shops to see if someone will do it. Are you aware of anyone in the Rockford area that would powdercoat a bike frame??

What really looks bad Joel is that they made no attempt to sand out the spot so the paint would blend. It's a small painted crater. Plus they primed the spot and got primer overspray on other parts of the frame in the vacinity of the blemish. THAT'S what makes me queasy! I could probably live with the screwed up spot but the dull gray primer overspray......my stomach's churning thinking about it!

I guess Joel, what we all have to do is lower our expectations. We shouldn't expect prompt, courteous, professional communication. We shouldn't expect small problems to be handled in an honest and timely manner. We shouldn't expect the kind of workmanship that we, well.......expect! And we certainly shouldn't expect a company to take any responsibilty if it can be dumped on the customer. Oh and we should not be so fussy about things either.

Lightning gets a shitload of money for their bikes, and their damn well worth it. But I think the least they could do is give their customers the best possible customer service of any bike manufacturer in this country. It would at the very least send a clear message that there's more to them than just selling bikes.

If you let me know how to put a photo on this forum I'll try to do that.

Thanks again,
Scooter

The Lightning bikes are powdercoated.

From your description, it sounds like somebody at Lightning really dropped the ball in this instance.

I would ask around at the auto body shops in the Rockford area and see if someone will respray your frame for you without charging an arm and a leg. Modern automotive paints are extremely tough and often shiner than powdercoat. Powdercoat is probably still the toughness winner, but not by a big margin. An auto body shop can paint over the existing finish of your bike without removing much of the old finish, and still do a nice job.

My experience is that if you go to the shop, and tell them to spray your frame in whatever color they are using for car bodies and car parts, they will often do a good job for a bargain price. They will probably try to spray the frame in the same color that it is presently, or something similar. The local Gerber shop has done a bunch of frames for me for $50 a pop, and they look very nice.

You will want to prepare the frame by taping off all the threaded areas, the outside of the fork steerer tube, bottom bracket shell, etc. so that the paint does not get in the places where it will be a headache. The more prep work you do, the less the shop has to do, and the less money they will charge. But do not attempt to remove the existing paint. You could show them the area where Lightning did a bad job, and explain that that is the reason for the respray.

If you take your frame to someone who specializes in refinishing bikes, they will probably try to charge you the deep-pockets rate. I would avoid this myself, being a cheapskate sort of guy.

Some friendly advice: get on the phone with Tim Brummer and explain what has happened. Ask him if he is willing to reimburse you for the cost of a paint job on your frame. The worst thing that can happen is that he will say "no". But then you will be no worse off than you are now.

Again, sorry this whole thing has turned out badly for you.

Safe riding,
Joel

Thanks for the advice Joel. I'll check with some local body shops and see what they can do. I can do all the prep work for sure, just a matter of matching the color. I think the spot could be sanded so the paint would blend better, the body shop would know what to do. I'll give Tim B a call too and let him know my dissatisfaction. It's aggravating but it is just a bike and not the end of the world. I'm sure it'll all work out.

Thanks for your help
Scott

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