Technical Woes

 Posted by at 6:42 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 182010

We were up way too early again yesterday morning, a habit that I am going to start working very hard to break. But we had reservations at the Thousand Trails in Las Vegas, and the person I spoke to on the telephone there advised us to try to arrive mid to late morning for the best selection of RV sites, because the campground is pretty full.

We pulled out of the hilltop RV dry camping area provided by the River Palms Casino in Laughlin at 8:30 a.m. and began the seventeen mile long uphill climb from the Colorado River to U.S. Highway 95.

I was curious to see what our Winnebago would do on a hill like that from a standing start,  so I just left it in high (sixth) gear and let the Allison automatic transmission do its thing, instead of manually downshifting. We averaged between 38 and 40 miles per hour on the steepest sections of the road. I can live with that.

Greg and Jan White followed along behind us in their 1999 American Eagle motorhome, and since their coach has the same Spartan chassis and 350 horsepower Cummins diesel engine that ours does, and we both run with the Silverleaf VMSpc engine monitoring system on, I was on the radio comparing notes with Greg. On the steepest inclines, the computer showed I was getting about 2.7 miles per gallon, while Greg reported back that his was showing about 3.5. Once we got onto U.S. 95, we had a long, gradual climb toward Searchlight. On that, I was averaging about 6.7  miles per gallon,and Greg reported just over 7.  Since our odometer just turned over 40,000 miles, and Greg’s rig has about 91,000 miles on it, I don’t know if his is more broken in or what. Of course, the  3/4 ton Ford extended length cargo van we tow probably weighs a little more than Greg’s Dodge Dakota pickup, so that may be a factor too.

We arrived in Las Vegas about 10:30, and Greg and Jan dropped off to stay at another nearby RV park. Our GPS steered us wrong, telling me to take Exit 70, instead of 69, where Greg got off. This resulted in us coming back toward the Thousand Trails from the wrong direction on busy, divided Boulder Highway. But I got lucky and managed to make a U-turn at a traffic light with no problems, and got back to the campground.

About 1/4 mile or so from our destination, our PressurePro tire monitor suddenly started beeping, telling us that we were down to only six pounds of pressure in the left rear tire of our van, and then the display dropped to zero. I thought that we must have had a blowout, but once I could stop and check the tire, it was fine, and my tire gauge said it was right where it should be. I have no idea what set it off and gave us the wrong reading, but I seem to recall that Mike McFall from PressurePro once told me that they will sometimes pick up stray radio signals and send a false report, so I assume that’s what happened.

The sites here at the Thousand Trails are pretty tight, but we got our 40 foot motorhome backed in, and confirmed that our HWH leveling jacks and slide-out rooms still would not work. I called my friend Phil Botnick, one of the best RV techs around, and even though I am known for my lack of mechanical skills, he patiently talked me through troubleshooting the system.  Phil’s diagnosis, based upon his experience with the coach last week in Yuma, and what I was telling him as I tried the things he suggested, was that the motor was shot. He suggested that I call HWH in Moscow, Iowa and get their input.

Phone calls to both the Winnebago factory and HWH confirmed what we already suspected. One motor runs both the jacks and slide-outs, and it was kaput. The nice lady at HWH gave me the part number for the motor, and suggested a couple of local shops to call. I did, and nobody in Las Vegas had the motor in stock. I was going to order it directly from HWH, when I remembered that our friend Mike Loscher had suggested 3Ts RV Service in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. They have worked on Mike’s jacks, and he was very pleased with them. Shoot, we were just in Lake Havasu City on Tuesday!

I called and they had two of the motors in stock, so I gave the lady there my credit card number, and she promised to have one to me by UPS today. I hope so, because with both slides in, it is pretty cramped living in our motorhome. And because we can’t use our jacks either, we’re sitting at an angle that makes life interesting at times.        

Thought For The Day Don’t dream your life, live your dream.

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  11 Responses to “Technical Woes”

  1. Nick,

    My Foretravel buddies tell me that our big Cummins engines are not fully broken in until 100,000 miles and that our mileage will slightly increase up to that point. If your Allison tranny has an Econ mode you should definitley use that setting 99% of the time.

    And more than once we have been ready to shoot our GPS. Seems to go with the territory.

  2. Wow – sorry to hear about the slides and jacks. We’ll be interested to hear how that goes. Didn’t know one motor works both.

  3. Nick,
    Donna and I call our GPS BIB for “B*tch n a Box”. She can be very myopic at times. Makes for some interesting trips.

    Apparently the RV gods were very active screwing with us yesterday. I managed to complete a few chores but not without extreme effort. I restrung one of our day/night shades. The actual restring was fairly simple but getting the SOB back up was a hour long experience of muscle cramps, standing on my head and wishing I had my young eyes back. Donna learned some new words.

  4. We had a similar thing happen with our toad’s left rear tire Pressure Pro sensor on the way to the Gypsy Journal Rally. It alarmed and showed 86 lbs of pressure, where it should have been 32! We stopped along the side of the road and got out to check it, expecting the tire to explode in our faces. It was fine. When we got back in the coach, the Pressure Pro had quit alarming and showed pressure of 32 on that tire. Mysterious!

    Too bad you can’t get your slides out. If that happened to us, I’d have to go buy new underwear, since it’s in drawers at the foot of the bed in a slideout. Can’t get to the drawers with the slides in! Hope you get the new motor soon.

  5. Nick can you post a pic of the HWH motor on the Motorhome??


  6. NIck – We had trouble with the motor on our HWH jacks on our previous coach. The motor used on that system was made in Serbia. I took the motor to a local starter/alternator shop where the tech explained to me that because the “business end” (brushes, connectors, etc) were made of disimilar materials that caused oxidation and eventually a loss of ground from the brushes. Solution?? He simply drilled a hole in the end cap through negative side of the bush holders, put a bolt through the hole and had me run a ground wire from the new bolt terminal to the coach chassis— problem solved with a cost of about $25 and my time. It never failed again and I have shared this info other owners of HWH systems who were also successful in solving their problem without buying a new motor. By the way, next time you are passing Moscow, Iowa it is well worth the short trip off the interstate to visit the HWH factory for a jack tune-up. They are wonderful people to work with–they often do work well out of warranty at no cost– and when we were there the president of the company took us and other people having work done out for lunch on HWH. They have basic hook-ups on site for and overnight stay. It is best to make an appointment. I wish we had HWH on our current coach instead of Power Gear.

  7. Why does it take 100,000 miles to break in the Cummins? Does it take that long for the rings to seat properly? Does anyone know if the compression ratio also goes up over time? Also, 2.7 to 3.5 mpg is like a 23% increase. Gad Zooks!

    I can’t think of anything else that would improve fuel economy over time in a diesel engine, and it’s a mystery to me why it would take that long. Are you using synthetic oil or something?

  8. We are leaving 3Ts RV Service for Las Vegas today. We could have saved you the shipping cost on your motor if we had known. 3Ts RV Service did a great job on our Winnebago–even fixing problems we didn’t yet know we had but we have to go to Freightliner now to, hopefully, fix a chassis problem.

  9. Hey Nick… Oh we have had those problems a couple of times in out Itasca… I would love to hear more on the Thousand Trail park there in Las Vegas… We are now in the TT in Cottondale…It is ok and is the usual park. Have a great time in Las Vegas!
    Travel Safe

    Help me out on this one Nick. A guy wants to see America but he wants to do it in comfort so he spends a couple of hundred thousand dollars on a big new motor home with all the bells, lights and whistles. Depending on where he bought it, let’s add a thousand or two for sales tax, license and registration. How about a thousand or more for all the equipment they’ll need? Five hundred to a thousand for insurance, a couple hundred gallons for fuel and propane at three bucks per. He’ll join Thousand Trails and pick up fifty nights of free camping. Let’s not even talk about buying and rigging out a towed vehicle. With all that said, why in the world in a “free” campground would anyone in their right mind not be eager to pay a $3.00 a night up charge to get a large level corner lot with 50 amp service and instead settle for a tight unlevel spot with 30 amps? What am I missing?

  11. Last time we were at Moscow at HWH the restaurant had closed. But the service is still way above what we expected. One of our favorite companies.

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