Washing Our Coach

Lorraine knows this better than anyone.

I like things neat and tidy.

Whenever we travel, whether it is in the car or in the coach, clean is good. Especially the windshield. But preferably the entire vehicle.

And I am also fussy — in case that wasn’t clear yet — about the products I use on the finish of either the car or the coach. I hate scratches and swirls in the finish. I want to keep the finish looking like new.

Relatively easy to do with a car.

Very difficult to do with a coach.

Unlike the picture above, not every place we take our coach has a resident detailing service.

But I have found something that I hope Lorraine might add to the Christmas list this year. Something that we can use to make the task of keeping our coach clean much easier.

I already have the tools I need to wash the coach. The big challenge is how to dry the coach. Particularly if it is outside in the sun.

David Bott of Outside Our Bubble fame, put together this video on how to keep a motorhome clean using the CR Spotless water system.

The products are available in Canada through one of my favourite online detailing retailers, autoobsessed, right here.

CR Spotless offers a couple of packages specifically for motorhomes including this luxury package:

Don’t panic Lorraine. There is a basic version for about $500.

Air Conditioner Drainage Problem

If you are having trouble with the runoff from your air conditioner spilling over the top of your Dutch Star, then this might help.

Ever since we purchased our Dutch Star, we have had an issue with the front air conditioner. It would spill water on each side of the front cap. On the driver’s side, the runoff from the air conditioner would drip over the windows and leave nasty water marks that were really difficult to remove. On the passenger side, the runoff from the air conditioner would drip down both sides of the door and leave really nasty water marks on the finish.

Whenever it rained, water would run down from the roof on the front cap and, yes, you guessed it, leave nasty water marks.

I had read that it was important to keep the roof of the coach clean to prevent streaking. After sealing the roof in July, the front windshield stayed clean after a rainfall. But it did not make sense to me that the runoff from the air conditioner would spill over the rain gutter on top of the coach. Surely there must be a drain?

When the folks from Superior Coach Detailing did the wash and wax, they told me that they would remove debris from the drain gutters on top of the coach and that should allow the runoff to drain properly.

Well, there was a bit more to the problem than cleaning out the drain gutters.

It turns out that the Dutch Star has four drains from the gutters on top of the coach. On our model, two of them are located on each side of the front cap and two of them come down on the passenger side of the rear cap.

This is what the drain looks like:

It consists of a drain tube that is roughly an inch or so in diameter. That drain tube terminates with a pinched rubber hose which you can see in the picture above. I guess they pinch that part of the drain to prevent critters from crawling up the drain pipe.

For whatever reason, my front drains were not only pinched but they were put at a right angle and inserted into the overhang of the bottom of the front cap. So, much like crimping a garden hose, nothing was draining out of the tubes. The drain tube would gradually fill up, the rain gutter would gradually fill up, and the runoff from the air conditioner would spill out over the sides of the coach leaving nasty water marks.

I crawled under the front cap and straightened out the down tubes. A significant amount of water was then released immediately. Perhaps I should not have been as close to the down tube when that happened. The water did not taste very good at all.

And now? No runoff from the air conditioner spilling out over the top of the coach. The runoff drains through the down tubes as it should.

I’ve been told to check the drains at the top of the coach for any debris that might interfere with channeling the water from the roof to the ground. That makes sense.

And I’ve been told to check the pinched rubber hose to ensure that water is flowing freely through the down tube. And that makes sense.

Some people will even use an air compressor to blow out the drain pipe to clear any potential blockages. I would be very careful with that procedure and use very low air pressure as the drain tubes do not look that robust.

And, of course, none of this will be found in any manual for the coach. Thankfully there are forums like iRV2 to find some insight.

Girard Awning Stuck?

Your Girard awnings won’t extend? They won’t retract? Are they stuck hanging outside your coach?

That happened to us a few days ago. And the solution for our coach was not something that you will find in a manual.

I was doing some outside work on our 2016 Newmar Dutch Star 4002. It is equipped with the Girard Nova Awnings.

Everything looked fine.

I went inside the coach and pressed the “IN” button to retract the awnings.

The awnings began to retract and, about halfway through the process, they stopped. They were stuck.

The awnings were partially deployed. They would not go in. They would not go out.

What could be wrong?

I did the usual: read through the manual, jumped on the Girard website, searched Google. And, after a few hours of floundering, I gave up and called the service manager at our dealer.

He knew exactly what to do.

Inside one of our bays are two Girard control devices. Our service manager called them “turtles”.

They look like this:

These two are working normally because the two indicator lights at the upper left are on. Not sure why the Girard engineers chose red LEDs as the normal condition light indicator. Wouldn’t a green LED indicator make more sense?

When our awnings became stuck, both those lights were off.

If you follow where they are plugged in, you will find something interesting marked on the outlet:

Well, look at that! They are plugged into a GFCI protected circuit.

Important to note: they are not plugged into a GFCI outlet. The plug is tied to a GFCI outlet. There is no reset button at this plug. We had to go hunting for the GFCI  outlets elsewhere in the coach.

Our service manager asked us to reset two GFCI outlets. One in our kitchen galley and one in our small washroom mid-coach.

He suspected that there was some kind of voltage issue that caused the GFCI circuits to trip. One of the awnings was tied to the GFCI outlet in the kitchen, the other was tied to the GFCI outlet in the small washroom.

Finding said GFCI outlets is a bit of a trick.

In our case, the GFCI outlet in the kitchen was directly underneath one of the top row of cabinets.

You can make out the two buttons in the middle of the GFCI outlet. It takes a bit more work to press reset than I expected. There is quite a bit of travel and you have to really press down.

The reset button for our outlets is in the top position. The other button is a test button. If you press that one, the outlet may not reset.

In the small bathroom, the GFCI outlet was located inside our medicine cabinet.

We tested both of those outlets to make sure they were working before heading back down to the bay which holds the two Girard “turtles”. The indicator lights on the Girard controllers were back on.

Pressing the “IN” button retracted the Girard awnings. Success.

Filed under “Not in the manual” and “The things they don’t tell you about maintaining your coach”.

Balanced

“How do you jack up the front of your coach?” he asked me.

“I don’t know.” was my reply.

I called Newmar’s customer service. They told me to put a couple of 2x4s underneath the levelling jacks and manually push down. That would lift the front wheels up and, from their point of view, the only way to remove the tire without potentially causing damage to the front suspension system.

When we had a front tire changed last year, this was not the approach used by roadside assistance. They lifted the coach on a crossbeam that has a rather large sign on it. The sign says not to use a jack.

Hopefully he did no long term damage to the front suspension system of the coach.

Roadside assistance told me that the replacement tire did not need balancing. Well, it did. I could tell by driving the coach that the new tire was out of balance. Especially at speeds of around 60mph.

And now? All balanced. Just in time for our 11-hour drive to Petoskey tomorrow.

So Many Manuals, So Little Space

50 manuals. All in one place. All easy to find.

I guess that was the vision behind Newgle, Newmar’s knowledge base. I was hoping I could ditch the huge collection of manuals and just rely on Newgle. Unfortunately, Newgle was hit and miss for me. Some manuals were available. Some were not. Some links pointed to current content. Some did not. The user experience was, well, a bit dated. Good effort but not particularly well implemented.

I set about putting all of my core manuals online myself. A complete digital reference library for all of the systems in the coach.

I used Evernote and created a notebook titled Newmar Dutch Star Manuals. I scanned some of the content from paper. I copied some of the content from a few CDs in the Newmar folder. I downloaded some of the content from Newgle. And I downloaded other content directly from manufacturer websites.

Evernote includes all of the rich functionality that I need in a digital filing cabinet. I keep a local copy of the digital manuals on my laptop and I have a copy in the cloud. Very easy to tag and search notes.

No need to take up precious cargo space with a large collection of paper manuals.

I had moved to a paperless household system, with the exception of a handful of documents, several years ago. Evernote, along with the Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner, was my tool of choice then and it is today. Works well for this type of application.