Locked Inside

lockedout

There is much to learn about operating an RV, especially what to do when things go wrong.

For the first time in my life, I was locked inside a motorcoach.

Lorraine and I were travelling down to the Hershey RV show in Hershey, Pennsylvania. On our way, we stopped at the Flying J in New Milford, Pennsylvania to top up our fuel. The stop turned out to be a little more dramatic than we had expected.

We pulled up to the lanes that are dedicated for RVs. I shut down the coach in preparation for fueling. Lorraine went to the door to exit the coach and the door handle would not open the door.

Odd. Was it still locked?

No.

Odd. Was the deadbolt engaged?

No.

For the next 10 minutes or so, we went back and forth. Locking and unlocking the door. Manually and with the keyless entry system. Manually and with the dashboard entry lock control switch. Nothing worked. We could not get ourselves out of the coach.

We called Newmar.

We were on hold with them for about 15 minutes or so.

They told me that they had never heard of something like this happening before.

I told them that it has happened before.

It took them a few minutes to find someone who might be able to troubleshoot the problem.

I was told to try pulling the door hard and then moving the lock and unlock button up and down.

The lock assembly looks like this:

doorlocked

I pulled as hard as I could and I moved that lock up and down. I repeated this action roughly a dozen times until it became apparent that the door was not going to open this way.

I was then told to find someone who might be able to push the door from the outside.

Okay. Here we were in a Flying J without anyone nearby. We were the only RV in the RV section. Everyone else was about 100 feet or so away. How would we get their attention?

Or, do we try to use the escape window? Or exit out the rear bath door?

Lorraine went to the back of the coach, opened the bathroom door and called out for help.

A couple of men wandered over to give a hand. They both pushed hard against the door from the outside while I was pulling the door from the inside and, at some point, and I am still not certain how it happened, the door opened.

Newmar could not offer a reason for the problem. All they did say was that the door has a two latch position mechanism. We knew that from experience. If we closed the door using a normal to light pressure, the wind noise would be very pronounced in the cab while the coach was in motion. A really firm pressure engages a second latch and tightly seals the door. No wind noise.

Did we use too much pressure to close the door?

I have no idea.

We were worried about being locked out again?

Absolutely.

I’ve jumped on the IRV2 Newmar Owner’s Corner to ask for some help. I’d like to know whether there is anything we could do to prevent this from happening again.

This little adventure took about an hour from when we stopped the coach to when we could get out the door. Once we were able to fuel the coach, we were finally ready to go again.

All part of the ownership experience.

Update: it turns out that the resolution is pretty simple and I am not sure why Newmar did not point this out when we called them. One of the forum members gave us this insight, unlock the deadbolt and door lock BEFORE you pull up on the handle. Otherwise you may get stuck. I checked with Lorraine and she cannot remember if she unlocked the door before pulling up on the handle. She has tried to open the door while it was still locked several times before so it probably was the cause of getting locked in. One more item to add to the checklist. When exiting the coach, always make sure the door has been unlocked before pulling up on the handle.

Airstream Basecamp

basecamp

We will be heading out to the RV show in Hershey next week. Billed as America’s largest RV show, we are looking forward to seeing a lot of the new models.

I have a bit of a soft spot in my heart for the Airstream travel trailers. Their designs really bring back memories of when I was growing up, probably because of all that aluminum. It looks like something from the 1950s or 1960s although the first Airstream was built in 1929. You can find an interesting history of the Airstream trailers here.

The folks at Airstream were kind enough to let me know about their new Basecamp travel trailer.

They market the trailer this way:

Loaded with innovative features that will satisfy and amaze both the experienced long haul traveler and the weekend warrior who is just getting back in their adventure groove, Basecamp is the result of nearly a decade of planning. With comfort and convenience in mind, Basecamp allows campers to stop wondering and start wandering.

This is one of their marketing photos of the new trailer:

basecampmkt

The Basecamp looks like the type of unit that would appeal to an active, younger couple without children. What fascinates me about the design of this particular trailer is the attention to detail and the use of space.

Within that really small footprint is a kitchen, a washroom with a shower, and a living and sleeping area. 16 feet long by 7 feet wide.

basecampflrpln2

 

Check out the details behind the floorplan here.

I hope they have one on display at the RV show. It would be cool to see one in person.

Mirrors

mirrors

Being able to work with the mirrors of our coach has been a bit of a learning experience. Seeing what is happening around the coach is critically important. It took me a bit of time to learn the best way to position and adjust our mirrors.

The mirror on the passenger side of our coach extends in front of our motorhome.

RWC_3801

Apparently, most coaches have this mirror set incorrectly.

The best way to check is to stand in front of the coach and look down the passenger side. The inside of the head of the mirror should look like it is just touching the coach. When it is set flush to the side of the coach, you get the best overall view. When we received our coach, our mirror was set in too far.

The mirror on the driver’s side of our coach is swung around to the back.

RWC_3791

A number of Dutch Star owners do not like this look. They think it lacks symmetry and some people have rotated the mirror forward. The driver’s side mirror is on a short arm so I am not sure how well it would truly balance the look of the coach. I also wonder whether the corner post would get in the way when positioning the mirror properly. I suspect that Newmar went with the short arm for a reason: to maximize visibility and to give the driver’s side a bit more maneuvering room.

My driver’s side mirror remains swung around to the back. The mirror is aligned in the same fashion as the passenger side mirror so that when I look at the mirror from the front, it looks as though it is just touching the coach.

With the mirror heads positioned properly, there are a few additional adjustments.

With the flat part of the mirror, I move it until I can just make out the side of the coach along the inside edge. I do not need to see very much of the side of the coach with my flat mirror. I adjust the flat part of the mirror so that I can see the horizon at about one quarter of the way down. I do not need to see a lot of sky when driving.

With the convex part of the mirror, I adjust it so that I can see out horizontally to the ground and the side of the coach.

I’m still learning how to drive confidently with the mirrors. I use them far more frequently that I would ever use the mirrors of a car. And that makes them far more important for driving safely.

Testing Air Brakes

AirBrakes

This was from an article on air brakes in the September issue of the Family Motor Coaching magazine:

Let’s assume that a 200-horsepower engine is needed to accelerate a vehicle to 65 mph in one minute. For that vehicle to come to an emergency stop in 6 seconds (one-tenth of the time it took to reach 65 mph) requires 10 times the acceleration force, or 2,000 horsepower. Chassis builders take this into consideration when designing a braking system and determining a chassis’ gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR).

However, if the brake on just one wheel is out of adjustment or not operating, up to 25 percent of braking capability can be lost. Therefore, to ensure safe motorhome operation, the braking system should be tested regularly.

For someone whose driving style leans toward heavy engine brake usage and minimal service brake usage, chances are good the service brakes will not be in proper adjustment and won’t be very effective when they are needed most.

I tend to lean toward heavy engine brake usage and minimal service brake usage. Checking the air brakes is an important part of our Pre-trip Inspection.

This is my approach to testing our air brakes which is based on the air brake training that Lorraine and I did for our commercial driver’s license.

1. Make sure the coach is secure with the parking brake engaged

(In our training, we were told to also use a wheel chock. For our coach I do not chock any of the wheels)

2. Test the low air warning indicator
  • Ensure air pressure is over 90 PSI, if not build air pressure
  • Engine off, key on
  • Pump the service brakes
  • Warning at 65 PSI is good
  • Warning below 55 PSI is defective
3. Test air pressure build
  • Start Engine and run between 600-900 RPM
  • Reduce air pressure to 90 PSI
  • Time from 90 PSI to 120 PSI
  • Less than 30 seconds is good
  • More than 30 seconds vehicle is defective
4. Test air pressure governor settings
  • Build air pressure to maximum and note cut-out pressure
  • Cut-out must be between 120 PSI and 135 PSI
  • 120 PSI is good
  • More than 135 PSI is defective
  • Pump down pressure 20 to 30 PSI until compressor cuts-in
  • Cut-in should be at 100 PSI
  • 100 PSI is good
  • Less than 90 PSI is defective
5. Test air loss rate
  • Release parking brake
  • Apply service brake and shut engine off, key on
  • Time for 1 minute and note any loss of air pressure
  • 1 or 2 PSI loss is good
  • More than 3 PSI loss in pressure is defective
  • Re-engage parking brake
6. Test parking brake
  • Ensure parking brake is engaged
  • Start engine, select drive
  • Attempt to move the coach forward
  • Parking brake holds is good
  • If coach moves than parking brake is defective
7. Drain air tanks

(Our coach is equipped with automatic moisture ejectors so I don’t do this step every time)

  • Shut off engine, key on
  • Drain front wet tank for 5-10 seconds
  • Go back to gauges, see if any change to PSI
  • Drain 2nd valve for 5-10 seconds and check for oil, sludge, water
  • Drain 3rd valve for 5-10 seconds and check for oil, sludge, water
  • If valves work – then coach is good
  • If valves do not work then coach is defective

Magnum Inverter

NoEnergy

The Universe of Energy, Walt Disney World. So much energy there.

At home, last night? Not so much.

We had a power failure. I know when it happened. My son called me at 3:51 in the morning. Again at 3:52. And again at 3:53.

Now it is doubtful that I would have woken up from a deep sleep at that time of the morning. More so when you consider that the smartphone he was calling was charging in our house and I was blissfully asleep out in our coach.

Our son was awakened when all of the “gee we just lost power” alarms starting buzzing from our various technology devices. A veritable cacophony of urgent alerts. I think he was annoyed. He needed others to share his joy of waking up in the middle of the night.

My son decided to exit the house, walk out to the coach and wake us up.

“Power’s gone!”

Aside from notifying the utilities company, there wasn’t much I could do about the power outage.

The coach had gracefully switched from shore power to battery power. I wasn’t sure whether that was a good thing or not. I decided to activate the generator instead. The energy management system then automatically switched over to the generator.

This got me to thinking about the auto genset feature of our Magnum inverter. I seem to recall reading something about the generator automatically starting when a certain condition was met, like a shore power outage or when the batteries discharged to a certain level.

For our power outage, I just went ahead and turned the generator on myself. I ran it for a couple of hours. By the time I woke up at around 6am, power had been restored to the house and we had shore power available to the coach. Off went the generator.

The Magnum inverter is still very much a black box to me. I did read the manual but it was not very helpful. Lots and lots of settings. Very few tutorials.

This video, on the other hand, helped me better understand the Magnum inverter and how it works. Very cool device.