Getting Closer

Getting Closer
Getting Closer

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Things that go bump in an RV

Traveling in an RV is an interesting experience, especially a new RV. After we picked up the new rig in Texas, we thought that since it was new, there shouldn't be any real problems. Also, since it's a high end rig from a reputable dealer on a Ford chassis that has a good reputation, we just assumed that things would work properly, that there would be minimal rattles, and no leaks.

Well, at least there aren't any leaks. LOL The excitement of the travels have quieted down a bit and I have a little time to think about it all. I have read several posts from several forums that discuss the merits of various kinds of RV's and the problems that are associated with them.

Yesterday, when the exhaust system came loose on the interstate, I began to wonder again about whether things that are built in this country really are built well, or maybe not, no matter how reputable the company. Dynamax is supposed to be one of the best, a high end luxury coach with service and amenities to match. So far we haven't actually tested that out, but the time is coming. The most interesting part about owning one of these babies, is discovering just how easy it is for the makers to pass the buck along to someone else.

We have had a few problems. The mirrors are great, huge things that have automatic adjustments and nice views, heated for cold weather, but oops, the passenger side mirror suddenly decided to come loose somewhere in the middle of a texas highway. We stopped to tighten it, only to discover hidden bolts and a small plastic panel that said words to the effect of don't touch this thing without a design engineer present. Called our trusty Rueben at Stahman's RV and he gave us a few pointers about removing the door panel to get to the screw, but in the end, it's come down to either a Ford problem or a Dynamax problem. In the mean time, Mo bought duct tape, in standard silver color, and electrical tape in a muted black tone, and taped the mirror together so it wouldn't fall off. Hence the trip to Modesto, to the appropriate design engineer, after being informed that the local Ford dealer doesn't work on RV's. 60 miles later, one way, we find out that the mirror is some kind of after-market thing that was put on by Dynamax. So the mirror is still duct taped until we find someone who will do warranty work on the Dynamax. Hopefully that doesn't mean driving back to the factory in Indiana, as I have read on a web site or two. geez.

Then, the fancy brushed stainless steel 8 cu ft refrigerator, with a REAL freezer and plenty of space, has a chintzy plastic tab that snaps shut to keep the door from flying open when you go around the corners. hmm. so the tab cracks, and Mo decides to glue it, but in the process, glues the door shut for good, and then of course the whole thing breaks. Now we have to figure out who the aftermarket maker of the fridge actually is, and it's in that huge box of manuals that came with the rig. Of course, Dynamax or Ford probably don't have a thing to do with the little plastic thingy that keeps the fridge door closed.

Then there is the aforementioned wooden panel above the gaping hole over the bed. Still propped up on the window shelf with several books and the stem end of a vacuum cleaner hose. Which every now and then decides that a curve is just a bit too sharp and falls with a very loud bump and slide. Note to self. Get a drill and screw that board back where it belongs. Someday. Dynamax should of course be responsible for this one, but do we really want to drive to Indiana?

Batteries. Amazing invention. Especially when paired with converters and inverters and such. Problem is, we have a hard time actually remembering convert vs invert and which is doing what when. So we have to try to remember if the inverter is supposed to be on or off when we are driving, and if the battery should be in "store" or "use" when we are driving and will it charge anyway? Yesterday while driving, the battery suddenly reads 0 charge, that is the house battery, and we discovered that yes, the battery needs regular maintenance, and yes, more often than the once a month recommended by the dealer. Both house batteries were empty, and dead and wouldn't take a charge until Mo got out in the pouring rain and filled them. Of course, even with the nifty battery shelf that slides out so nicely, there is a cover that is screwed over the compartment that makes adding water very close to impossible without an eye dropper. But she managed, and once again the batteries worked.

Our lovely Ford chassis has some really lovely leather captains chairs, both which are automatically adjustable electronically. Very very comfortable. That is, of course, until they no longer adjust and when Mo is driving it's ok, but then when I took over my knees were in my chest and I couldn't manage to lift my foot to the brake. Good thing I didn't have to stop. Thought we would get this handled at the Ford dealer while dealing with the other problem, but come to find out, the seats are also an aftermarket Dynamax thing and would need to go to them for repair. Lucky for us, Mo figured out it could be a fuse, and the Ford guy relented and helped us replace them. So at least on the trip home, I was able to use the brake.

Then, of course, there is the small matter of the exhaust system. Driving along HWY 4 on the way down to the valley isn't exactly smooth, but we didn't think too much when something when "whang" under the front carriage of the hood. A rock maybe? something in the road? Didn't give it much thought after that except for this nagging thought that the engine somehow sounded louder than usual. Then some miles later, at 3am in the dark on the interstate, there is another whang and a bang and then the truly horrendous sound of an engine with no exhaust muffled at all. Now what!? Get back on the freeway. Is it hot? Is there any power? What the heck just happened anyway? It wasn't too bad if you didn't give it any gas, just a low rumble, but as soon as it was accelerated at all, or going up a 2 percent grade and needed a push, that big V10 engine sounded like some kind of huge joke. It was louder than anything I remember from the days when guys used to take their mufflers off of cars to sound cool. We weren't sure if anything was getting hurt or not, so drove slowly for awhile, especially up the hills, and decided that we could get to somewhere at least. The somewhere went from Sacramento, to Redding, to the last decision to go ahead and rumble up the pass and try to make it to Klamath. Turned out to be a good decision, because the Klamath Ford dealer was actually incredibly helpful and quick and said it was just a clamp that hadn't been installed properly and he took the rig and brought it back all nice and quiet and polite like a fancy Dynamax should be.

Most other things that bump just have to do with the learning curve of having something with so many buttons. There are tank heaters for the gray and black water tanks, but I'm not sure if they are gas or electric, and there is the question of the order of when you push the on buttons for the "use" and the "gas on" and the "auto gas or electric" for the fridge, and actually turning the fridge on. and the inverter button. We still aren't sure about the order of that pushing.

Leveling the rig and opening the slide is another funny one. Do you level first or slide first. Brake on for both, at least that part is easy, but is it key in and to acc for the slide? or for the levelers? and which order? turns out it is brake on key off for the slide. brake on key to acc for the levelers, and we have decided to level first and then slide. LOLOL ahh the joys of a closed system, an amazing closed system actually, when you consider all that is going on in a rig like this, especially the stuff behind the scenes.

Last but not least, there are wonderful little buttons for all the doors and drawers to make sure that they don't fly open. As long as you check to be sure they are fastened properly. and that the vents are down. and the auto functions of the Fantastic Fan are turned off so the vents do what they are supposed to do. Those things actually decide to close if you are off somewhere with your vent open and it starts to rain.

So I thought that since I am not running off anywhere particularly fabulous right away, it would be a good time to talk about what it's like having one of these lovely things called a Motorhome.