We too have a motorhome with the Comfortmatic gear-box; in fact our vehicle is 1 year old today and strangely enough, like yourself, we have clocked up approx 8000 miles too. (Makes you wonder if 8000 miles is of some significance?)
Up until now the Comfortmatic gear box has performed faultlessly and my husband has been well impressed with everything about it. However, 5 days ago; whilst on holiday in Northumberland; our auto gear box suddenly dropped out of auto mode, a gear box problem symbol appeared on the dashboard, along with the warning beep that you also speak of. My husband could not manually change the gear from the 2nd gear that it was stuck in and we had to travel in 2nd gear until we found a safe place to pull up. We turned off the engine and restarted it and this appeared to correct the fault and we continued on our way, believing it to be a one off electrical blip! However, the next day whilst driving along at approx 50mph, the problem happened again, we pulled off the road into a very conveniently located car park but this time we could not clear the fault despite several attempts to do so. We called Fiat Camper Assist and they arranged a breakdown recovery vehicle to come out to us and there we sat for two and a half hours! When he arrived, we attempted to restart the vehicle and once again, like the first time this fault occurred, it had had now managed to correct itself again and everything seemed back to normal! The breakdown driver suggested we follow him to the garage and then, if during the journey, we should break down en route, at least he would be on hand to assist us! So with the recovery truck in front, off we set to The North East Truck & Van Company in Blaydon near Newcastle, who are authorised Fiat specialists.
The journey to Newcastle was a total nightmare and several times whilst on the busy motorway and roundabouts during rush hour, our gear box dropped out of auto mode and stalled as we needed to slow down! If this wasn’t bad enough, to add to our stress, we also had to endure the impatient and angry honks and hoots from the drivers held up by our predicament!
We arrived at North East Truck & Van around 5.30pm and despite running a 24 hour shift, there was no Fiat trained staff on duty until the following morning. However, a lovely young man; who claimed to know a little bit about Fiats, just happened to pop back into work for something he had left behind and he agreed to take a quick look at our van. He connected the electrics to his ‘magic box’ (but I don’t honestly think it told him that much) and then he asked if we would take it for a quick drive whilst he sat in the passenger seat with the electrics still connected up to the ‘magic box!’ During the journey it repeated the fault several times and he could clearly see what the problem was that we were experiencing. He said he was glad he had seen it for himself and he would now pass all this information on to his colleague in the morning because his colleague was far more knowledgeable about Fiats than he was.
We stayed on their yard overnight. which was directly underneath a noisy flyover with the addition of a busy and equally as noisy dual carriageway running immediately alongside it too and we spent a very restless night, longing for the morning to come!
The next morning at 8am we drove our MH around to their workshop as requested and the Fiat 'expert’ gave it a quick once over! Once again it was connected up to their 'magic diagnostics box’ and he went off saying the data would now be sent via computer to Fiat for analysis and he would return with a run down of what was required as soon as Fiat had got back to him. Several hours later, (bearing in mind that all this time we had been sat in our MH inside their noisy and smelly workshop) he returned to say he hadn’t forgotten about us but he was still waiting for Fiat to call them back and sadly, Fiat were notorious for their slow response! A few hours later, the workshop manager knocked on our MH door (we were still sat in our motorhome in their truck workshop) and said they were having problems with their IT and they were experiencing problems sending the necessary data through to Fiat! He said their computer or some website had crashed! He then explained that there was no way it would be sorted out today (Friday) so we would have to spend yet another night on their yard! We expressed our concerns about tomorrow being the start of the weekend - but he assured us that once Fiat got back to them, they could still get any parts required, even on a Saturday!
To cut a long story short - NOTHING happened all day Saturday and all we were told was that they were having another computer sent up from another depot and that Fiat still had not got back to them and neither had any of the data been downloaded and sent to Fiat either! We spent another disturbed night attempting to sleep in their yard and as you can probably appreciate, by this time, we were both ready to pull our hair out.
Sunday morning the manager came across to us and asked us to bring our vehicle around to the workshop. He said he had nothing new to report but he decided to once again plug our MH into the ‘magic box’ so that he could see for himself what it came up with, he knew nothing much about Fiats and confessed that nobody at his depot had ever seen a Fiat Comfortmatic Auto gear box before but he knew all about IVECO gear boxes - so maybe he would recognise something? He also admitted that the Fiat testing equipment they used was outdated and unlike the IVECO diagnostic equipment, it was all very basic and they would not be getting the latest FIAT software and equipment for a further 6 months!!!! Anyway .... his findings were, that as far as he could see, the fault had mysteriously cleared itself, so he advised us to take a chance and drive the 150 mile journey home. We were so desperate to get home by this time, that we put our faith in what he said and we set off for home within minutes of him giving us the green light! We managed approx 74 miles before the auto gear box decided to play up again and it dropped out of auto mode and woudn't come out of 6th gear! However, because we were on the A1M motorway, on a quiet Sunday, with no hold ups, we decided to keep going until we reached the next service station; which a signpost showed as being approx 20 miles on at Wetherby Services. Our engine stalled just as we slowed down to take the exit on to the services - but thankfully after a couple of attempts to restart the engine, it went into neutral and we drove into the lorry park stuck in 2nd gear!
We decided we wouldn’t ring Fiat Camper Assist this time as we hadn’t been very impressed with their service during the first call out and thankfully, we are also covered for our MH and our 2 cars with the RAC too, so this time we called the RAC instead. We explained we wanted to be recovered to Camper UK in Lincoln, as they are our motorhome dealer and they are also Fiat approved and because we know this family run business look after their customers, we trust Camper UK to sort the problem out. However, it was 3pm Sunday afternoon by now, Camper UK close at 4 and we were still 2 hours away! We decided it was best to book a RAC call out for 8am in the morning and spend the night on the lorry park of Wetherby Services instead.
Another noisy night was spent trying to get some much needed sleep sandwiched in between noisy refrigerated lorries that come and go every 20 mins and we awoke the next morning, keen to just get our vehicle into the safe and trusted hands of Camper UK!
The RAC driver, albeit a nice enough chap, was no help whatsover though and he was about as much use as a chocolate bl**dy fireguard! The fault had once again cleared itself by the time he arrived on the scene and despite my husband and I emphasising that this was par for the course with our auto gear box problem, he seemed reluctant to request a large flat bed transporter be sent to transport our MH the 80 mile journey to Camper UK in Lincoln. He insisted, that in his opinion, our vehicle was driveable and so he suggested we stop every so often, to let the vehicle cool down and then commence on with our journey! My husband emphasised how concerned he was about slowing down or approaching roundabouts etc as experienjce had demonstrated, that it was was when the auto gearbox needed to change up or down a gear, that the problem usually occurred! The RAC guy, seemd unperterbed by our concerns and once again instructed us to plan our journey a little more vigilantly and to stop just before we knew we were going to have to make such a manouvere in order to rest the engine!!!!! With hindsight we should have put our foot down and insisted this was not acceptable - but stupidly, we took his advice and decided to give it a go, hoping that we could get as far as Lincoln before it started it’s tricks again. My husband had asked the RAC guy to escort us out of the service station and onto to the slip road that took us back onto the motorway and thank god he did because we broke down actually on the slip road and this time it would not go back into neutral no matter what we tried! The RAC guy jumped into our drivers seat but he too could not get it to shift gear either and so with a red face and a worried expression, he called someone up on his mobile for urgent assistance, as by now we were ‘parked’ in a very dangerous and unsafe spot! Eventually my hubby got our MH to go into reverse gear and we reversed into a safer spot - but there was no way we could reverse back far enough to get off the motorway.
To cut a long story short (and trust me it got far worse) a flatbed recovery truck eventually arrived 2 hours later PLUS the RAC arranged for us to have a hire car delivered onto the hard shoulder in order for my husband to drive us and our 2 dogs home and our MH is now waiting to be looked at, at Camper UK!
Like you, I hope this problem is a one off, easily rectified fault, as like yourself, we too opted for the Comfortmatic gearbox due to all the awards it won and the glowing reviews it received - but if the Fiat approved garage mechanics have no experience of working with these new automatic gear-boxes or their diagnostic equipment is not sophisticated enough to diagnose any electrical problems etc then where does that leave customers like you and I?
Apologies for my lengthy post - but I thought others who have Comfortmatic gear boxes or who are thinking of buying a motorhome and opting for the Comfortmatic might find it useful to read and hopefully if anyone is ever unfortunate enough to end up in a situation like us and they need Fiat Camper Assist, The RAC or any other breakdown recovery service - they will learn by our mistakes!