Battle of the Bulge


“It’s a good thing that you do your circle checks.”

So said Heidi, our service advisor at our dealer.

Being a bit of an OCD kinda guy, okay, a major OCD kinda guy, I walk around the coach almost every day. I check the tire pressures frequently regardless of whether the coach has been driven or parked.

As we have been enjoying our stay at the Petoskey Motorcoach Resort, I also start the day with a bit of detailing to keep the coach looking nice. I generally do a quick pass with my detailing spray on the areas of the coach I can reach without a ladder.

I was cleaning the wheels of the coach when I noticed something on the front driver’s side tire.


A bulge on the sidewall, roughly six inches long, half an inch wide and rising up from the sidewall about one eighth of an inch. A bulge like this could easily lead to a front tire blowout.

How serious is a front tire blowout? I think this video says it all.

Our dealer is working with Newmar and Michelin to see how we can get ourselves back home safe and sound.

We expected a few issues with our first major trip and we have so far uncovered two: a required software update for an engine control module and a bulge in one of our tires.

Such excitement.

We should hear back from our dealer later today. Hopefully we can settle the tire issue on site.

Weight A Minute


There was a bit of an issue with the 2016 Newmar Dutch Star weight limits. Specifically on the front axle. You can download the pdf of the Product Information Bulletin here. The relevant section for us was the following:

A new front axle configuration with a 15,400 lb. rating will be made available for 2016 model year 40′ Dutch Star motor homes.

The Castaway came off the line with the 15,400 lb. rating. When we weighed the coach on June 18, 2016, she had 14,160 pounds on the steer axle. And we were pretty much fully loaded. Not sure that we could add another 1,200 or so pounds to the steer axle.

Imagine my surprise then when I came across this post on the iRV2 forum:

I have the 2017 Rand McNally motor carriers road atlas. It has 6 of the Canadian provinces with steering axle weight limits of 5500kg or 12,125 pounds.

What? That seems way too low.

And it is.

I did some digging to find the national standards for Canada which you can look at here.


There it is. A maximum of 7,250kg on the steer axle. But, there is a bit of a key point in the national standards:

It should be recognized that each jurisdiction retains the authority to allow more liberal weights and dimensions, or different types of vehicle configurations, within their jurisdiction.

I decided to check out Ontario here. Schedule 17.


So far so good.

And now the Ontario weights for the same designated bus or recreational vehicle.


Well, this takes a little bit of work doesn’t it? The Castaway would be fine in Ontario. Our GAWR rates the steer axle at 6,985 kg. Our combined tire widths in mm is 624 which would allow 6,864 kg and the single axle would be 9,000 kg. The lowest measure would be the combined tire widths on the steer axle at 6,864 kg or 15,132 pounds. A tad under our 15,400 pound rating for the steer axle.

And yet, it is not a more liberal standard as stated in the Canadian national standards. According to those standards, the steer axle limit is 7,250 kg which means we should be fine with the GAWR of 6,985 kg.

Confused? Me too.

But honestly, how weird are the rules and regulations here in Canada? We have national standards but they vary by province. I took the time to review the Ontario standards but I am not going to go into each provincial standard to see whether the coach is technically legal or not. The rules and regulations are very dense and getting at the weight limits is definitely not straightforward.

I would have expected that our coach met all Canadian regulations to be on the road. And it probably does.

I’ll let you know if we ever get pulled over for being too heavy on the steer axle. Somehow, I doubt that this will ever happen.


Up On The Roof


I finally made it, up on the roof, the very top of the Castaway, our 40-foot motorhome.

I wasn’t sure how to get up on the roof of my Newmar Dutch Star. I have two ladders, one 8-foot step ladder and a 7-foot multi-purpose ladder. After checking with the customer service team at Newmar, I used the 7-foot multi-purpose ladder to make the climb. They assured me that the side panels were more than strong enough to hold the weight. Fully extended at a safe angle, the ladder was almost two feet short of the top edge of the coach. Not ideal but I was able to hold on to the top edge of the coach and swing my legs over to the roof itself.

Success. A castaway has landed on the roof.

I needed to finish detailing the very top areas of the coach that were simply out of reach from the step ladder. Being on the roof made it so much easier to apply paint sealant to the top part of the front and rear caps as well as the top ridge of the sides of the coach.

I found a number of items on the roof: air conditioning units, vent covers for the Fan-Tastic Fans, drain-waste-vent outlets, a small solar panel, a cover for the solar prep wires, the satellite dish, the digital TV antenna, radio antennas and antennas for the Sirius XM radio.

I spent roughly 3 hours topside. Lorraine was kind enough to ferry up the supplies. Things like detailing spray, clay bars, paint sealant, microfibre cloths and fluids. Even though it was a cloudy day, there was enough heat and humidity to produce a lot of sweat. The constant moving along with the cleaning and waxing activities does constitute a pretty good workout.

Here is a short video about the experience up on the roof.

Weird AV Settings


Weird AV Settings.

That was the title of a post over at the iRV2 Newmar Forum. And it reads, in part:

I finally got to sit down tonight and figure out what in the world was going on with the AV setup in 2015 DSDP. I’m fairly AV savvy and was mostly stymied by not having (a) time, (b) extra cables from my big pile back home, and (c) the ability to take apart that insane amount of velcro holding all the boxes in the cabinet above the driver.

This is a picture of our AV Cabinet in the Castaway:


Since that picture was taken, I have added two 120mm fans to pull heat out of the cabinet, one Harmony Hub universal remote base station, one IR blaster, and a Bell HD satellite receiver. I also need to add an Apple TV. But right now there is too much clutter and not enough space.

Installed in the coach was a cheap Sony STR-DH550 AV Receiver, a Sony BDP-1500 Blu-Ray player, a Winegard Trav’ler base station, two splitters and lots of cables.

Nothing about this setup makes much sense to me. What was bad? Well, a cheap subwoofer hidden inside the kitchen cabinet. The front grill literally a few millimetres from the cabinet sidewall. Incorrect settings for the surround sound receiver — all speakers were set to large and, with 3-inch drivers, they are certainly not large. No ability to see the receiver settings on the TV panels because of the way in which the cabling was interconnected. Lots of heat and no space for adding or changing components. Way, way too many remotes. The first thing I purchased for the AV cabinet was a Logitech Universal Remote.

I have to literally empty the cabinet and get myself a bit more room in there. The receiver barely fits in the space which will limit my choices in terms of a replacement unit. There is no shelving to create some distance between the components. And the default routing of the HDMI cables limits the functionality of the various components. One example is dropping the Audio Return Channel functionality with HDMI. The living room TV returns audio through a digital cable, not through HDMI. Unnecessary cable run. Another example is not being able to program the receiver using the receiver’s GUI on the TV screen. The only way to program the receiver is by using the receiver’s small LCD panel.

The only physical change that I have made to the setup thus far is to connect an external subwoofer. It is placed behind one of the recliners. I also changed the speaker setting to small and set up the crossover to allow the subwoofer to shoulder most of the work on the lower end of the frequency spectrum. It sounds so much better now.

I have a compact subwoofer on order as the one I am using is really too large for the space. I will be installing a Cambridge Audio Minx X201 powered subwoofer. It is very compact at roughly 8.5 inches wide x 8.5 inches high x 10 inches deep. I will need to make my first hole in my coach to route the subwoofer cable through the back of the kitchen cabinet to the new subwoofer. I suppose a coach really isn’t your own until you make that first opening. This small subwoofer should be fine for the size of the listening area.

Obviously, audio is not a strong suit of the Newmar Dutch Star. The components are functional as entry level components go but I will be replacing all of the audio components: receiver, blu-ray player, speakers. The listening space will sound significantly better with a better set of speakers.

This is a time consuming project though and one that I won’t start for a while. The external subwoofer along with a few setting changes make the system bearable in the short term.

RV Ladders


I need a different ladder.

For when we travel.

The coach is tall and I need a ladder that can get me on the roof as well as allow me to get to the upper areas of the coach, like the windshield. And this ladder needs to fold up into a compact form so that we can carry it in the basement of the coach.

If you take a look at this video, you can see the type of ladder I do not want. That looks like one dangerous way to get on the roof of a Newmar Dutch Star (same model of coach as our Castaway). You can watch the entire video if you wish as it does have some interesting perspectives on risk management and staying healthy. I’ve pointed the video to start at where he gets up on the roof.

At my age, I need a less risky path. The choice of ladder for me will be a telescoping ladder like this one from Werner:



This ladder is available from Home Depot here in Canada for under $200. A similar design, Little Giant Ladder, is also available in Canada at an outrageous price. In the States, it sells for about $250USD. In Canada they want over $500 CAD for the ladder. Ouch.

The Werner can function as a step ladder, up to 9 feet, and it can function as an extension ladder up to 19 feet, more than enough to safely get on the roof of the coach.

I’ll also be able to clean the windshield.

I love a clean windshield.