Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
  • entries
    8
  • comments
    9
  • views
    12,726

About this blog

Our Surprising Enjoyment of the RV Lifestyle

Entries in this blog

AndyShane

I'd noticed that the plumbing manifold had some rusty hardware, and was dripping.

Actually, the first impression was that the Aqua Hot on the opposite side of the coach was dripping; but, good detective work and a drop light led me back to the true source: the Manabloc manifold.

I'll spare you all the trials of rebuilding the manifold, replacing connectors, etc. and skip to the end: someone had not properly winterized the rig, and there are tiny cracks from freezing in the top of the stack.

To the rescue came Louise Stout at Viega, who now owns the Manabloc name. She can be reached at 800-976-9819 Ext 220 and is one of those rare treasures we in the RV community love to have working on our side.

Foremost, she told me that creativity on my part to undo the damage done by RV technicians' cross-threading the cold water supply line would parallel their own level of poor methods: it turns out that the threads atop Manabloc manifolds are NOT the standard plumbing variety, that they are a proprietary pitch. She referred me to Pex Supply equpping me with a part number (46414) for the correct 1" female connector that joins up to 3/4" Pex.

Then, she looked up my manifold model number in their computer, pronounced it a rarity no longer in production -- heck, my RV is only a 2007 model -- and put in a work order for their shop to custom-build me its replacement. For $140, I get a new manifold and all outlet connections.

Maintenance Recommendation

Checking the plumbing manifold should be part of your monthly inspection routine.

  1. Open up the plumbing bay and inspect the floor for water. If power has been off the rig, rusty hardware might be the sole indication of leakage.
  2. Check under the rig for signs of long term leakage. Painted garage floors will have a telltale halo that indicates a leak/evaporation cycle.
  3. Touch the top of the manifold to ensure the recessed aren't harboring water.
  4. Check outlet fittings for security and leakage.
  5. Inspect manifold hardware for signs of moisture, eg rust.

AndyShane

Our Aqua Hot was a little smokey. Replacing the nozzle and filter, along with checking the output pressure, didn't do the trick.

The exhaust can be tested, easily: hold a paper towel over the end for 10 seconds, note the pattern.

What finally reduced the smoke was adjusting the air intake bypass, a slot cut in the intake pipes that overlap, has a set screw. I went from a solid black circle to light gray, on the towels.

Visit www.aquahot.com for owners and service manuals.

Below is the combustion chamber before and after a vigorous wire brushing:

AndyShane

blog-0050425001368159645.jpgAfter our first trip in our 2007 Beaver, I noticed a foul odor coming from the toilet area. The floor around the toilet was dry and clean, there was no sign of leakage in the basement below.

I cleaned the bowl and it still got stinky in the lavatory whenever the bus sat overnight with windows and doors closed.

These toilets are easy to loosen, move: just remove the four hold down bolts, and it is a free-moving fixture tethered by hoses and wires. I looked in the wall space behind the unit, and everything looked fine. It smelled, but not terribly.

Donning latex gloves, I spritzed the wires and hoses with 409 brand disinfectant spray and did some exploratory wiping with a damp paper towel.

Well, when it touched the underside of the large black discharge hose-to-black-pipe coupling, it came back seriously soiled. Additionally, there was dried fecal matter caked up against the wall, under the bundled tubes and wires.

My guess: the discharge tube clamps had slipped, and raw sewage had been pumped into the space. The shop had done a decent job of cleaning, but didn't take the time to break apart the bundle, jam rags underneath, really work to get the nooks and crannies spotless.

So, I did all of that and then left two air fresheners inside the cavities: one for the toilet base and one for the wall.

Addtionally, all clamps and nuts got tightening, a clean folded paper towel left behind, and wires neatly tied into bundles before returning the toilet to its original place and bolting it to the floor with fresh hardware, including a rubber washer overlaid with a stainless washer. I was extremely carefully tightening the bolts. Just snugging the floor bolts is sufficient.

I've now added a behind-toilet check and tightening to my annual maintenance checklist; hopefully, there will be no more problems in this area.

AndyShane

blog-0471793001367954149.jpgAs a new Beaver owner, I'm stomping out gremlins as fast as I can, developing a maintenance and inspection program for the bus.

Really, I cannot stress enough the importance of reviewing all manuals for the RV itself, the chassis, and its components; and then compiling all applicable checks into one simple list. In addition to that, I've created an airline-style maintenance tracking book, so that broken items are tracked and their repairs documented.

Since our January 12th purchase, I'd logged 71 maintenance writeups. And, I think this is on the plus side of average, in terms of failures in motorhomes that are six years old.

Recently, while running my monthly checklist, I was shampooing the carpet and got warm from the afternoon sun pouring in the driver's side windows. Lowering the eight-foot Brustor awning, I heard a loud clunk and the interior brightened as the forward end of the rolled fabric fell onto the unfolded awning arm!

Turns out, these awnings have a weakness: the retainer for the non-motorized end is made of nylon, and cracks due to vibration. The retainer can be broken and the awning remains marginally secure, propped inside the clamshell cover, held in place by a tiny stainless sheetmetal screw. That one screw then becomes all the sole difference between a safe operation, and catastrophic damage to the coach followed by sending an aluminum fixture that might weigh thirty pounds hurtling into oncoming traffic at seventy feet per second.

The failure seems confined to my longest awning: the shorter versions all seem fine and work perfectly.

But, there is even more bad news: Brustor is a Belgian company that makes a wide array of products and might be on its way out of business. All attempts to locate a dealer for parts have been unsuccessful.

Check your awnings regularly, folks. And, if you find a parts dealer for these otherwise nice fixtures, let me know.

Followup June 21, 2013 I had another small problem with this longest awning: at the beach, when it extended, there was a loud <clunk!> and the awning fabric was suddenly hanging over the window supporting the endcap. The arms dangled into open space, not attached.

Thank goodness no paint was harmed during this failure. Unlike before, when technicians had marred the side of the coach attempting to reinstall the arms after a similar failure.

Sure enough, I had not included the 4mm stainless screws that attach the arm-end to the sliding shoe of the extruded endcap in my checklist. They'd apparently backed out, leaving the endcap held against the coach enroute by the fabric and nothing more.

Almost more critically, the sheetmetal screws that attach the arm to its base (the base that slides up and down the track mounted to the side of the coach) was bent, its endplug nearly pulled upward through the gap in the extruded arm. That screw holds massive spring tension and could cause a mess when it breaks.

I removed the endcap and arms from the side of the rig, bagging all the hardware and plugs; the wife retracted the fabric into the shell for transport. This is a shop repair, not one easily performed in the field.

So, in addition to the checks outlined in the first part of this post, be sure to check the endplug with its stainless screw for security and tightness, at the base of the arms. And, the screw securing the top of the arm to the long endcap (onto which the fabric is mounted) needs to be checked for security.

AndyShane

We noticed the other day that our clamshell that covers the retracted topper on the full-length slideout was not fully closed.

It appears that the massively long roller has a mid-section gutter in which it rests and freely rotates.

Imagine a telephone pole, mounted to the corner of the rooftop, and you've got an accurate image, similar weight.

Well, getting to a position where the dislodged roller can be remounted is not that easy.

I'll array some photos later to show how it can be safely done.

In the nutshell, there is a spline clip strip of extruded aluminum equal to the length of the slideout that must be telescopically extracted, and the cover itself must be extracted the same way.

Nothing in this process lifts up to remove: it is all withdrawn, like a thirty-five foot telescoping curtain rod. So, multiple ladders and helpers are needed to keep each piece from bending and breaking. I'm lucky to have a scissors lift in my shop, and I clamped a 16' rail atop it to load the removed cover.

The endcaps are typical: a 3/8" ratchet is needed to carefully unwind the spring, a screwdriver can be used to pin the center section as tension is slowly let out. Remember to clamp or safety-wire the ends, since the spring also pushes outward.

At issue is the ten foot long midsection gutter on our rig, necessary due to the length and weight (about 200 lbs) of the roller. When the gutter sags (the twenty or so mounting screws were jarred loose because the wrong size had been installed by Beaver), the roller can spill out and lock up the entire assembly. I honestly don't feel there is much chance of that lethal item traveling end-over-end down the road, since many design safeguards to keep it on the RV are in place.

This is yet another example of "timebombs" built into 2005-2009 Monaco products by disgruntled or lazy personnel, in my opinion. It is like playing Whack A Mole, dealing with issues that seem to stem from a faulty assembly line environment.

AndyShane

blogentry-23770-0-81321500-1361134929_th

This is a timely post. I'm minutes away from dealing with the same problem. Will blog what I discover.

So far, Power Gear has said to examine the jack prior to making the decision to order a seal kit. I'm not sure what to read into that, but we'll pull 'er off and do some exploration...

Source: HWH Front Left Jack Leaking Fluid

Well, the jury is in, and the accused is already swinging in the wind...

I'll post the film of removing the jack leg from the rig later; for now, we'll skip straight to the end.

In the shop, I heated the top bolt on the leg -- it weighs about 45 lbs -- used the impact wrench to extract the 6" long bolt.

After allowing the entire cylinder to drain, I manually pulled on the foot and out came the rod. About a foot or so... Then, it hung up. I pulled harder, and a huge gouge from what appears to be a bolt or pin came into view.

At that point, the operation is over, says Power Gear. A complete replacement is my only option.

I'm hoping that the hyperextension was coincidental: perhaps a piece of debris rode up and down during previous uses and only became a factor when the jack was pulled out in its entirety, That would explain the multiple scratches on the leg.

Nonetheless, I still recommend extending jacks as little as possible, wipe those rods clean and keep them lubricated every few days.

AndyShane

We're at the end of our first thirty days' ownership of a new Beaver Patriot Thunder, and the learning curve remains steep.

Compounding our problem is the dealership's failure to locate our manuals: they were removed from the rig when the Silverleaf system was installed, and somehow became misplaced. Were it not for online resources, I'd be lost.

But, I'm chugging along, learning many lessons from the coach, online resources and fellow Monaco/Beaver/Navistar owners.

The highlights:

  • Leveling systems are not created equal. The Beaver utilizes a dual mode arrangement that has a Valid Technologies touchpad, Power Gear hydraulics. When I hyper-extended the left rear leg to lift the bus off a jackstand onto which it had settled, I popped a seal in the leg. Ever since, it has dripped fluid. Worse, it doesn't send the computer an "Up" signal; the alarms persist during the first few minutes of driving and system logic is boogered up, even though operations are possible with only air-leveling.
  • Utilities bundled for the purpose of linking a kitchen slideout to the main coach are fertile grounds for leaks and shorts. Inspection of those areas should be made periodically.
  • Tag wheel tires suffer indignities others don't. Small divots out of the tread are to be expected, don't necessarily compromise the safety of the tire. Remember to raise your tag axle when making sharp turns.
  • Full-length slideouts are tricky business. Visually confirm perfect sychronization between the ends of the slideout when extending and retracting.
  • Do you know how to manually retract slideouts? Every owner should.
  • Power reels depend on operators ensuring the hose/cord are wiped clean during retraction. The health of the reel depends on that simple act.
  • Our Beaver suffers silently with a loss of shore power. A popped circuit breaker in the garage could spell drained batteries in the RV. Each time I enter and exit, and after I run heavy loads on the same circuit, I glance at the Silver Leaf DC POWER screen to make sure the inverter is powering (recharging) the battery and not vice versa.
  • Few owners follow manufacturers' maintenance guidelines. Ostensibly, our new rig was sufficiently cared for, but many lubrication points in the chassis look like they've been untouched, in the coach's five year life.
  • Use your nose. We noticed a diesel smell in the bedroom en route. 'Turns out, someone had dragged the tail, torn the exhaust pipe open. That's a big safety item.
  • Use your ears. I detected a faint clanging from under the driver's seat while driving down the road. The generator's long cantilevered exhaust pipe had, via lever action, loosened the bolts securing the exhaust to the generator manifold. A HUGE safety item, potential carbon monoxide poisoning threat.
  • According to my tire expert, all truck tires represent an imminent blowout risk at ten years of age. He looked at mine, with their pristine tread and perfect sidewalls, dated late 2005 and pronounced them overdue for replacement. Not just the steering tires, but ALL of them.

AndyShane

Two years ago, I responded to my wife's comments that having an RV might be a nice alternative to searching for pet-friendly hotels as we attended dog obedience rallies.

I mean, nothing against La Quinta -- they have a universal pet-friendly stance -- but hotels located in the vicinity of such events are afflicted with noise, puddles, and lawns strewn with doggie bombs.

To make a long story mercifully short, our initial rig candidates fell short of her requirements: the shower was too small, the decor too ancient, the smell too musky. Eventually, we'd tripled our initial budget of $20,000; when friends were panicked because a second buyer for their bus failed to qualify for a loan after our friends' purchase of a Newell, we wrote them a check and became the proud owners of a 2005 Fleetwood Excursion.

My wife was largely indifferent, convinced initially that we'd overspent and could never extract even a fraction of the rig's value, in terms of convenience and usage.

Then, something curious happened: she fell in love with RVing.

Suddenly, the RV wasn't just a tool for attending shows. She planned camping trips, visits to family and friends. Along with fellow dog show aficionados, we started doing weekend escapes to local parks and attractions. Together, we discovered the art of outdoor cooking, thanks to a well-timed state park seminar on the subject and became involved in that.

As the wife learned more about RVs, she also learned ours didn't have everything she wanted. Eventually, she formed a list of requirements, like basement trays with attendant pass-through storage, an enclosed bath, electric basement door locks, quieter air conditioning. Oh. AquaHot came onto her radar, and she added it to the list.

Well, readers, we all know the league into which she was migrating and its cost, eh? I'd created a monster, and it... er, she was combing dealership and sites for candidates. We did afternoon field trips to dealers, test-drove rigs, pored over NADA values, built spreadsheets. Attending the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, we made a rainy afternoon trip to the local dealer and almost put money down on a showroom stalwart, an unsold two-year-old Winnebago Tour. Then came the rumors of my airline employer filing for bankruptcy, and the whole upgrade notion was put on Hold.

Fast forward to Autumn, 2012 and the bankrupt airline was coming back to life, having "renegotiated" its vendor and employee contracts. The wife's research swung back into motion, culminating in a call to me after I emerged from a training simulator period and drove back to the tidy RV park where my alternative to flight academy lodging was parked. "I put money down on a new bus," she ominously announced.

Two days later, we were hitching a ride to Tucson, crammed into a row in the back of Coach. I was doubtful: after all, she'd gotten a trade-in credit for our pristine but high mileage Fleetwood equal to NADA Retail, and the new Beaver Patriot Thunder was less than wholesale. A host of scenarios bounced around in my head.

To my surprise, the Beaver was a good candidate. Most of its flaws were cosmetic, and I happily declared it suitable to buy, after careful inspectiion and a brief test drive. Two days later, we were driving our Fleetwood across the American Southwest, to make the exchange.

Like any new purchase, there have been bumps in the road; but, for the most part, I'm happy with the outcome now that the new bus is wedged inside our hangar (we live in an air park community, have small planes). In two weeks, I've adjusted the full-length slideout, soundproofed the cockpit, repaired the exhaust pipe that was damaged by the previous owner and somehow escaped notice when the dealer's mechanics inspected the underside.

==================================================

So, what does all of this have to do with praising the FMCA?

Well, during the course of learning about RVing during our Fleetwood days, I spent a lot of time on a larger forum similar to that of FMCA. So much time, in fact, that by March of last year, I was designated as a Senior Member, and I'd amassed 647 posts to my credit. Sadly, as the 2012 campaign season swung into gear, so did the occurence of political rhetoric on what, like our own forum here at the FMCA, was by design a politics-free zone. Both forums, this one and the FMCA, are deemed politics-free zones.

At that forum, however, a secondary problem became evident: moderators seemed to be enforcing community rules according to political leaning. Specifically, gripes against one party were ignored; but, members who responded in protest were held in violation of the rules. When I pointed this out, I was deemed in violation for "questioning moderators' decisions," itself a violation. I terminated my membership, erased the forum from my Bookmarks.

Not wishing to function as an owner without the expertise of fellow RV'ers, I came to the FMCA.

Cautiously, I might add: I put every controversial term I could think of into our Search window, scoured the site for signs that similar activity was taking place, here. Nothing. FMCA simply didn't suffer from the same problem. Or, if it did, the staff had erased it seamlessly and invisibly, out of sight. Either was good enough for me.

Two weeks ago, I received an unsolicited email from the staff at the other site, inviting me to renew my account.

My response to them was nothing less than scathing.

There was silence, but a week later, I received a sticker and renewal card in the mail. Someone had, without saying a word, given me a complimentary year of membership and re-opened my account.

Rather than criticize, I accepted the gesture and resumed my blog there, assuring readers that each would receive my utmost respect; in short, that the bullying of the past would not be tolerated so long as I was there.

After all, it is incumbent upon each person of any forum to uphold the rules, treat all members with civility, right?

Let me just block-copy and paste what happened next. For privacy, I've obscured the administrator's indentifying data.

Back in the Saddle, but Cautiously

Posted 02-06-2013 at 08:54 PM by XXXXX(me)

Updated Yesterday at 06:12 PM by
XXXX
(overstepping boundaries)

A few of you might've noticed that I suddenly left XXXX a year ago, and have become active in the FMCA.

After kindly receiving a sticker unsolicited in the mail, I've discovered that my old account has been reactivated.

I've devoted 15 minutes to scouring the forums for the problems that prompted me to leave in the first place, and have found all to be in order.

In fact, new features at the site will probably keep Community Rules violations to a minimum; if nothing else, members are now free to block offending forums and users.

Warmest thanks to all the members who found me at FMCA and online, I appreciate your friendship and encouragement.

Don't ask me how, but we manage at FMCA to have a nearly zero rate of visible violations of forum community standards. Possibly, the smaller size makes effective moderation easier; too, there seems to be perfect standardization, eg equal application of guidelines across the membership spectrum.

There, like here, we have a handful of experts who could probably build a motorhome by hand. I'm truly humbled by the level of knowledge, talent, out there.

That said, I'll ease back in the XXXX pool one toe at a time.
[moderator edit]
.

That said, let me tell you about our latest adventure: I was just finishing a routine airline school -- the first year I've actually
camped
, near the flight academy -- and the wife called to say she'd traded our RV for another!

Considering the fact that the dealer, whose facility is 1,000 miles away, offered us Retail and accepted Wholesale for theirs made me suspicious. One of you had mentioned such a scenario; the wife was transferring basement items into the new bus when hubby came storming out of the sales office, having been told the dealership needed to "reconsider" their trade-in value.

My lawyer wife was on top of it: she drafted a contract for the dealer to sign, saying that if they found our rig to be unsatisfactory, they would pay for our diesel both ways. Then, we jumped on a flight, inspected the rig. It turned out to be in good condition, mostly minor complaints. She'd found a 2007 Patriot Thunder, and I saw much potential in the coach.

The next day, we packed up and drove our Fleetwood to the dealer.

I was thrilled that they loved our coach. With 100,000 miles on it, many dealers were reluctant to give even close to Wholesale for it, sight unseen. The high point of the experience was when the salesman called three days later, having driven the Fleetwood. "I've sold these all my life," he said. "And, I have never seen anything like this! It is like a new bus." He then asked if I'd be the maintenance manager for the entire dealership. That was nice.

So, I'm wrapping up thirty or so hours of working on our new bus: the exhaust system got overhauled, I soundproofed the cockpit. The kitchen slideout drain hose had a drip, so that pipe got replaced and is ready to rebundle. I'd noticed that the full-length slide is slightly unsychronized, so with the help of the manufacturer, I've got it humming like a Swiss watch. The whole engine bay is open -- to do that the bedroom closet frame must be disassembled -- and I'll overhaul the insulation back there and apply undercoating.

Funny, but the tag axle doesn't seem to make much difference. The Fleetwood ran so smoothly, quietly, and was immune to winds. Of course, the Patriot Thunder is bigger, and she weighs almost twice as much. But, at first blush the two buses cruise about the same. Backing into the garage is a whole different experience in the Beaver, whose awning casings on both sides broaden the rig nearly a foot.

KayCee says the Beaver sways less, I contend that it "bobs" more.

Noise is a big difference. Both have the same cockpit noise level; but, moving aft in the Beaver results in a swift reduction in noise. The bedrooms are dramatically quieter: the Beaver's lack of big windows and integral steel roll cage tempts me to nap back there, en route.

I'm sure we'll enjoy many great adventures in this big coach: it is certainly a step up.

Like the Beaver, XXXX has tremendous potential but is a little harder to keep on track. I hope both remain part of my RV'ing future.

Regards,

Andy, aka XXXXXX

Now, here is the email I received revealing the "banned" content and explaining why it was deemed inappropriate.

XXXXX

Community Administrator

The following section has been removed from your blog:

Quote:

All the while, making sure that everyone here is treated politely and with respect; as long as I'm here, no one will have community standards enforced differently than anyone else, from the newest member to the most senior moderator.

We welcome you back; however, you are not in a position nor have the authority to be making such a statement.

It is the responsibility of our Moderators & Administrators to interpret & enforce our Community Rules, not yours. If you have an issue with a member's post or suspect violation of our Community Rules, please use the report post button.

Thank you,

XXXX-

I'll let you derive your own lessons from this. Except for one: no matter your position in
any
online community,
each participant shoulders the burden for upholding community standards and for extending kindness and respect to every other member of that community.
I am guessing that one thing instrumental to the success of the FMCA forums is that we
each
make the commitment I stated.
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0