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Monday, November 30, 2009

Motorhome leans. Why? What to do?

My new motorhome leans to the passenger side. The weight record shows that the passenger side rear is about 1,000 pounds different then the driver’s rear side. Winnebago installed a two-inch block on the rear passenger side to lift the springs and it doesn't lean now but it drives differently. The rear end is all over the road. Was the block the proper repair or would you suggest adding leaf springs?
Peter, (Framingham, MA)

Peter, it is apparent you’ve had your coach weighed, which is good. It is very important to make sure you know the individual weights of your vehicle at each tire position. This includes axle weights as well as individual tire position weights. The 1,000-pound discrepancy is significant and should be addressed after a thorough evaluation. 

In my opinion, the only acceptable way to correct this situation is to redistribute the weight if possible and add leaf springs instead of a solid block. In some cases, air bags can help. The block that was added is not resolving the underlying problem, as it did nothing to redistribute the weight. The result can indeed be poor handling issues, as you have indicated. 

In addition, frame damage, abnormal tire wear among other ailments, may still be in your future. My concern here is that, although your vehicle no longer tilts to one side, the fundamental problem was not addressed, which can, and likely will, lead to other problems. 

I highly suggest you take your coach to an experienced frame shop and have the suspension evaluated fully. Recommended repairs may include additional leaves in the springs, a sway control bar and/or other aftermarket improvements. But the evaluation must be performed first.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

RV slideouts: In or Out?

As I drive about I keep noticing RVs stored in driveways and yards with the slideouts out. Is this the preferred or correct way to store an RV for extended periods?
Jay, (Blue Ridge, TX)

Jay, I am not a proponent of leaving the slide rooms out during storage. Perhaps many of the units you’ve seen belong to owners who are actually using the RV while at home? I recommend that each slide be brought in during any extended period of non-use. When left out, dirt, leaves, debris, etc., can all gather on the roof sections creating a mess and inviting water intrusion. Plus rubber slide seals can dry out and become cracked. Even if the room is equipped with a topper awning; why subject it to the elements when not necessary? Additionally, depending on the type of slide mechanism, exposure during non-use can corrode moving components. I suggest keeping them in the travel position during storage.

Monday, November 16, 2009

RV Awning Angst

We have had this problem with two different motorhomes. We have been in a strong side wind and it has knocked our patio awning latch ineffective and the awning unwinds and flips while we are driving! It actually broke our vent cover on top of the motorhome. We need a way to anchor the awning and secure it instead of using duct tape. Recently while in a very strong side wind, our awning came loose and when we pulled over to secure it, there were two other motorhomes pulled over fixing their awnings too. Any suggestions?
Shirley, (Eugene, OR)

Shirley, so sorry to hear of your awning loss. It can indeed be quite disconcerting to have any awning unroll as you are driving down the road. There are a few things to check on your awning; first, the locking mechanism. Integral to all RV patio awnings that I'm aware of, a locking mechanism prevents the roller tube from rotating while it is in the travel position. Check to be sure yours are operating properly. There are aftermarket safety latches available that can be added to secure the roller tube. These devices add a redundant locking method to the installation.

Second, be sure you have enough tension on the awning torsion spring assembly. A properly tensioned spring should require a bit of effort to extend the awning during normal set-up. Of course, driving down the road, if the wind gets under the canopy, it will be easily extended if the locking mechanism is non-functioning. You didn't mention what brand awning you have, but the number of turns on the spring assembly is determined by the length of the awning. The manufacturer will have a chart you can refer to for the number of turns required by your awning.

And thirdly, in addition to properly securing the awning lock mechanism, I also recommend a product called Awning Cinch Straps. One of these little straps on each awning arm should prevent the arms from jumping out of position and falling away from the RV and prohibiting the wind to inflate the canopy and extend the awning further.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fuel for Thought

I have an Onan generator in my Class C motorhome. It has been running fine until a few weeks ago. Now it will not start. The fuel tank is full.
After several tests I have done to troubleshoot the problem, I have determined that it is not getting fuel. When I use starting fluid it will fire, but will not continue to run. The fuel line from the main tank appears okay. No fuel comes out of the hose that goes into the carb when cranking.
I have narrowed it down to a clogged filter, or a bad pump. Is there a possibility of another issue like a safety fuel shutoff? I want to fix this myself. I think I can get at the fuel pump and filter without pulling the generator out of the coach. Is there a test I can do to verify that the pump is good or bad? Thanks for your help!
Randy, (Ossian, IN)

Randy, try this; run a new rubber fuel line from a portable gas can directly to the fuel inlet on the generator. If the unit starts and runs fine, you’ll know the problem lies within the fuel delivery system. If it still will not start, then you can focus your attention on the genset itself. If it starts and runs as it should using the gas can, replace the entire length of fuel line from the fuel tank to the inlet on the generator. An aged hose is likely to have cracks resulting in the generator fuel pump sucking air even though no apparent leak exists. The fuel line may look good, yet still allow air to enter while cranking the generator. You may have to drop the fuel tank slightly to reach the take-off tube on top in order to replace the whole length. 

Look also for hidden in-line filters somewhere between the tank and the generator. To be safe, replace all existing fuel filters. If the unit does not start using the portable fuel supply, remove the fuel solenoid temporarily and connect the fuel line directly to the carburetor. It is possible for the solenoid to become faulty, fouled or plugged. If the generator starts, replace that solenoid. In some extreme conditions, it may be necessary to measure the actual fuel pressure at the carburetor. A weak fuel pump may be at fault. I’d recommend a professional RV shop if it comes to this. If you have access to another fuel pump, you can swap it out also to be sure. But I’m betting on cracked a cracked fuel hose between the fuel tank and the generator or a plugged filter.

Follow-up from Randy Fields:
Gary, I did as you suggested and no fuel is being supplied to the carburetor, even when I try to draw fuel from a portable container. I believe it is the fuel pump or as you call it, the fuel solenoid. Is there a way to test them before I pull the generator?

Randy, to test the fuel pump, you’ll need to attach a pressure gauge to the fuel pump outlet hose. While cranking the generator the pressure should read about 3.5 PSI on the gauge. Anything less, replace the fuel pump. You can bench test the fuel solenoid by applying positive 12-volts DC from a battery source to the non-grounded contact on the solenoid and negative 12-volts DC to the grounded terminal. When connected, you should hear an audible “click” as the internal plunger is activated and the solenoid valve is opened. While activated and open, you should be able to blow through the solenoid. If the plunger does not move or you cannot blow through the solenoid, replace the solenoid. This is, of course, assuming the pump and solenoid are both receiving the proper voltage during cranking when installed on the generator.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Anyone for Air?

I’ve been looking into air ride hitches. I have GMC dually and a 30-foot 5th wheel travel trailer. I am looking for a safer, smoother ride while towing.
Some of the road surfaces jerk the trailer so much it seems like something will break. I’ve seen variations from $1000-$2200. Do they really work? Is it worth the money?
Joe, (Endicott, NY)

Though I do not have direct experience towing a fifth-wheel, Joe, I have studied many of the accessories and add-ons available. I have looked closely at the Trailair Air Ride pin box and am impressed with its design. I have spoken at length with the president of the company and feel this is one that may actually work quite well. It certainly warrants a closer look. But only you can make the subjective decision as to whether it will be cost effective though. Check them out at: www.trailair.com.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Gen Hours

We are interested in buying a used RV. They often tell us how many hours are on the generator. What is the life of a generator? What would be considered low hours vs. high hours?
This info would be so helpful to know if what we are looking at is "very used" or a good sale.
Janet, (Worcester, MA)

Janet, RV-approved generators are sturdy units, but extended use without proper maintenance can take its toll over time. This toll is somewhat predictable, however, and manufacturers usually specify maintenance and inspection intervals based on the number of operational running hours such as every 50, 100, 200 and 500 hours. It's impossible to determine just how many hours per year would be an average. And keep in mind, a well maintained generator will last indefinitely. 

With all the amenities found in the typical campground today it would probably be rare for the casual RVer to rack up more than 150 hours or so per year. Unless of course, they spend a lot of time off the beaten path or at tailgate parties, (many do both).

A generator load bank test can be performed to determine how well it responds to varying loads. This will provide some indication to its general state of well-being. Many proactive RV shops will offer this service. If you have a serious concern about too many hours based on the year of manufacture, the only true way to determine how hard the generator has been operated is to remove and inspect the cylinder heads. A close internal inspection of the heads will reveal to what extent the unit has been pushed (see photo). Carbon buildup and cylinder wall scoring, etc., all provide clues. But even if it has a ton of hours and the owner can verify that the manufacturer-recommended maintenance interval checks were performed, I wouldn't be overly concerned. It wouldn't be a deal breaker, but perhaps a negotiating chip!


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