Details, Details

Detailed

The Castaway is a big coach. Particularly when compared to a car. It is so tall that a ladder is needed to reach the almost 13 foot high roofline. With a length over 40 feet, the coach has somewhere in excess of 1,500 square feet of surface area.

I love to detail my car. I have all of the tools and finishing products necessary to deliver an awesome car show shine.

When we took delivery of the Castaway, I declined any form of paint treatment by the dealer. That part I would do myself. After all, I love to detail my car. And I have all the tools.

I am now having second thoughts.

I washed the coach last week. It was a really, really big job that took a couple of hours to complete. And I did not dry the coach. I ran out of daylight and decided to let the water sit, something I would never, ever do with the finish of a car.

I have a package arriving from my friends at Auto Obsessed which includes the following:

  • Griot’s Garage Glass Cleaning Clay
  • Griot’s Garage Speed Shine
  • Griot’s Garage Glass Polish
  • Griot’s Garage Glass Sealant
  • RejeX Paint Sealant
  • Microfiber Premium Dryer Towels
  • Griot’s Garage Micro Fiber Wash Mops Heads

The long weekend is coming up and my task is to detail the coach.

I’ve decided to break it down into 6 phases.

Phase 1. Front Cap

The biggest part of dealing with the front cap of the coach will be the main windshield. With such an expansive area of glass, I need to make sure that I have eliminated any and all water spots etched into the surface and polished out the minor imperfections prior to applying a sealant. I will use the glass cleaning clay to remove surface contaminants. The clay requires a lubricant which is where Griot’s Speed Shine comes into play. Once complete, the windshield should be free from road film, oil, tar, grease, water spots and the remains of splattered bugs.

The fine glass polish will be a second pass on preparing the windshield for the sealant. The sealant increases wet weather visibility as it creates a hydrophobic surface to repel water. It also makes it easier to clean material off the windshield. As we enjoy a wonderful, panoramic view from the flight deck of the coach, enhancing the visibility and clarity of the windshield is at the top of my detailing list. Even for a new coach.

Newmar applies a shield to most of the front cap. Called a Diamond Shield, it is basically a protective film against stones and bugs. The front cap will be hand washed, dried and then treated with RejeX Paint Sealant. RejeX is a thin, polymer coating that protects the paint finish for up to six months. It has a high refractive index so lustre should be on par or better than most waxes.

I think this part of the job will take about 4 hours.

Phase 2. Rear Cap

The rear cap of the coach will probably be the easiest and fastest part of the detail work. 2 hours should be more than enough time to wash, dry and treat the rear cap. The toughest part of this job will be cleaning and treating the long mudflap at the bottom of the coach. It spans the full width of the coach and it hangs below the bottom frame.

Phase 3. Passenger Side Slideouts

There are two slideouts on the passenger side of the coach: the living area and the stateroom. The stateroom is the smaller of the two. Nothing too complicated here. I am going to guess at roughly 4 hours to wash, dry and treat the two slideouts.

Phase 4. Driver Side Full Wall Slideout

There is only one slideout on the driver side but it is a large one. It basically spans most of the length of the coach. This one slideout will take about 4 hours.

Phase 5. Passenger Side

Lots of details to worry about on the passenger side with multiple compartment doors, stainless steel accent trims and a large surface area. I will be happy if I get through this side in about 6 hours.

Phase 6. Driver Side

This side will be a little easier than the passenger side as the full wall slideout occupies most of the space leaving just a small area of the coach to wash, dry and treat. It also holds multiple compartment doors and stainless steel accent trims. Probably a 4 hour effort.

All told, it may take about 24 hours to detail the coach.

I have Accuride wheels with Accu-Shield aluminum wheels. The wheels do not require any polishing or treatment. I will wash them of course but I won’t be spending any time polishing or treating the wheels.

The tires are fine for now. I want to pick up some product for the tires once I have had a chance to do a bit more research.

Wish me luck on this project.

 

Cross Border Expedition

JungleCruise

We have booked our second expedition for the Castaway. This one is a bit more of an adventure. We will be travelling about 1,000 kilometres to Petoskey Motorcoach Resort in Michigan.

Our first trip was very successful and it was also very local. We traveled only 50 kilometres to our campsite. Short drive and a two-night stay.

This expedition will be more of a test. We will be following this route:

Route

We will be breaking the drive down into two segments. The first segment will take us across the border and we will stop for the night at the Port Huron KOA. That will be about a 5-hour drive and whatever time it may take to get through U.S. Customs.

We have never crossed the U.S. border in a motorhome before. And we have never brought our dog across the border.

Tabby is a wonderful golden retriever and very friendly but she has no passport.

What do we need to bring our dog across the border?

Tabby must be healthy, and she is, and she must have a valid rabies vaccine certificate. The certificate has to be issued from a licensed veterinarian and includes the following information:

  • Breed, gender, age colour, markings and any other identifying information
  • Date of rabies vaccination
  • Expiration date of vaccination certificate or date that the next vaccination is due
  • Veterinarian’s signature

The CDC website outlines all of the requirements for bringing a dog into the United States.

What about crossing the border in an RV?

We will need to have our passports.

We may have to prove residency so we will have copies of our Property Taxes as well as some utility receipts.

We won’t travel with any food. We will pick up what we need once we cross into the United States.

We are only staying for a week so we do not have to worry about hitting the 182 day visitor limit. Once we start snowbirding in the United States, we will have to fill out a Closer Connection form and send it to the IRS so we are not held liable for U.S. taxes.

And we will make sure that we have U.S. travel packs for our mobile devices.

The second segment of our drive will take us to the beautiful Petoskey Motorcoach Resort. We have a great site reserved for the week. As we have not yet set up a toad, we will be renting a car. The folks at the resort will arrange to have the rental car brought out to our site.

The trip back will be a full day of driving — probably about 10 hours or so depending on traffic and any delays at the border.

We will be heading out in 4 weeks.

 

Checklists

Checklists

The Circle Check and motor coach pre-trip inspection is an important part of every trip on the Castaway. And we conducted our circle checks. That said, we rushed things along and we did miss some items.

Update: I’ve had a few people ask me for pdfs of the checklists below. Here is the Freightliner checklist. And here is our checklist.

Freightliner, the company that manufactured the chassis of the Castaway, provides a comprehensive section on Pre- and Post-Trip Checklists in Chapter 9 of their Operator’s Manual. You can download the pdf from this link (select the Recreational Vehicle Chassis Operator’s Manual).

This is their recommended approach to the pre-trip inspection:

PreTripChecklist

Hang on because our pre-trip inspection will be a bit more detailed. I am putting it into a checklist form on Evernote to allow either Lorraine or myself to use a tablet and literally check off each element. If we have missed any important element, we can readily add it to the checklist.

Our Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist:

Approach Vehicle
No leaning or leaks
Nothing under the coach

Enter Vehicle
Check previous log, notice any repairs needed/completed, any issues that need checking
Locate Insurance Card and Vehicle Registration

Engine Compartment (Engine Off)
Look for fluids on ground or dripping from the engine or transmission
Check Oil Level
Coolant reservoir: sight glass level, radiator cap, secure, no leaks
Power Steering Fluid Level; no leaks, gear driven, securely mounted
Water Pump: no leaks, gear driven, securely mounted
Air Compressor: no leaks, gear driven, securely mounted
Belts: no cracks, frays, proper tension (no more than 3/4″ of play)
Pulleys: no chips, cracks, welds, securely attached
Hoses: not cracked, no bulges, no leaks, clamps secure, no loose connections
Alternators: securely mounted, wiring properly attached and not corroded
All Clamps and Fittings secure, tight
No Leaks (anywhere)

Preparation for Starting Coach
Adjust: Driver’s Seat, Mirrors (left & right), Steering Wheel (tilt & telescope) lock in place
Check Seat Belt Operation: Seat belt must be securely mounted, adjustable, latch properly, and in good condition (not ripped or frayed)

Safe Start Procedure
Coach is in neutral, parking brake is on
Apply Service Brake
Ignition start
Observe Oil Pressure Gauge shows normal pressure normal and temperature rising to normal
Check Amp/Volt Meter working and showing normal output
Turn On Lights (in & out), Flashers

Inspection of Entrance Area
Check door operation from outside, hinges securely attached, door seals intact, no glass damage
Stair Treads: fastened securely, no hazards
Handrails: present and securely fastened
Step Courtesy Light: operational

Right Front Wheels
Rim: no cracks, bends, weld, or damage
Right Front Tires Tread Depth: must be 4/32″ minimum, wear pattern even, no recaps
Tire Condition: Check that tread is evenly worn, check sidewalls for cracks, abrasions, bulges, or other damage
Tire Inflation: check the air pressure with a gauge
Valve Stems & Caps: not missing or damaged
Lug Nuts: all present, free of cracks, tight, show no signs of looseness (no rust or shiny threads)
Hub: oil/grease seal behind rim, no leaks
Splash Guards: attached and secure, no damage

Front Air Brakes
Inspect rotor, brake pads or drum and linings
Check for wear, oil/grease, or damage, secure and bolts tight
Check Air Chamber not leaking, cracked or dented, securely mounted
Air Hoses, Lines, & Fittings: secure, no leaks, worn or damaged
Air Tanks: secure, no leaks

Front Suspension
Air Ride Suspension: check for damage and leaks
Shock Absorbers: secure and no leaks

Right Side of Coach
Check All Lights, Reflective Equipment: clean, functional (not cracked, broken, or missing)
Clearance Lights (amber lens)
Turn Signals and Flashers (amber lens)
Windows: closed properly, no damage to glass
Compartment Bay Doors: Check all, open and close properly, latch securely, interior cables not frayed and secure
Front Bay: Check Safety Triangles (3) or Flares (6)
Fuel Tank: secure, fuel cap(s) are tight, no leaks from tanks or lines
Under Bus Frame: Check for damage
Exhaust System: intact, no leaks

Battery Compartment
Hold Downs: secure
Cable Connections: tight, no corrosion
Cell Caps: present
Battery Box: secure
Compartment Door: operates correctly, fastened securely

Right Rear Wheels
Rim: no cracks, bends, weld, or damage
Right Rear Tires Tread Depth: must be 4/32″ minimum, wear pattern even, no recaps
Tire Condition: Check that tread is evenly worn, check sidewalls for cracks, abrasions, bulges, or other damage
Tire Inflation: check the air pressure with a gauge
Valve Stems & Caps: not missing or damaged
Lug Nuts: all present, free of cracks, tight, show no signs of looseness (no rust or shiny threads)
Hub: oil/grease seal behind rim, no leaks
No debris between tires, duals evenly spaced
Splash Guards: attached and secure, no damage

Rear Air Brakes
Inspect: rotor, brake pads or drum and linings
Check for wear, oil/grease, or damage, secure and bolts tight
Check Air Chamber not leaking, cracked or dented, securely mounted
Air Hoses, Lines, & Fittings: secure, no leaks, worn or damaged
Air Tanks: secure, no leaks

Rear Suspension
Air Ride Suspension: check for damage and leaks
Shock Absorbers: secure and no leaks
Drive Shaft: check not bent or cracked, secure and U-joints not loose or worn
Splash Guards: attached & secure, no damage

Rear of Coach (Top to Bottom)
Check that all external lights and reflective equipment are clean and functional
Clearance Lights (red lens)
Brake Lights (red lens)
4-Way Flashers (amber lens)
Back-Up (clear lens)
Reflectors (red lens)
Rear Bumper: secure, intact
Exhaust System: intact, no damage or signs of leaks such as rust or carbon soot.
Tailpipe: secure, not damaged or twisted, secure

Left Side of Coach (Repeat from Right Side)
Rear Wheels: repeat
Air Brakes: repeat
Drive Shaft: repeat
Clearance Lights: repeat
Windows: repeat
Turn Signals, Lens: repeat
Bay Doors: repeat
Under Bus, Frame Check: repeat
Front Tires: repeat
Suspension: repeat
Splash Guard: repeat

Front of Coach (Top to Bottom)
Check that all external lights and reflective equipment are clean and functional
Clearance Lights (amber lens)
Turn Signals & Flashers (amber lens)
Inspect Windshield: no damage to glass, sealed securely, no illegal stickers or obstructions
Wipers & Wiper Arms: check hardware, blades, hoses, clips, all secure and operate smoothly
Windshield Washers: must operate correctly
Headlights: low and high beams
Front Bumper: secure
Mirrors & Brackets:securely attached, no cracks or broken glass, no stickers or obstructions to view

Inside Coach Walk Through
Fire Extinguisher: charged, dated, securely mounted
First Aid Kit: present
Overhead Compartments: Check function, secure and clean of debris
TV Monitors: secure, not loose
Seats: secure
Floor: clear of debris, hazards
All loose items secured
Satellite dish retracted

Driver’s Area
Shades: left and right operational
Windshield: no damage to glass, clean, no obstructions
Primary Panel: all instrumentation operational
Driver Heat and Defrost Fan/Temp tested
HVAC Control Panel
Fog Lights
Mirror Heat
Hazard Warning Flashers (indicator light on dash must be working)
Headlight Switch
Mirror Adjustment: properly adjusted
Fast Idle
Tag Axle Air Dump
Engine Brake configured properly
Emergency Parking Brake Release Show Location
Steering Wheel Area Tilt & Telescope Lever: locked
Check Steering Wheel Play: no more than 2″
Check Electric Horn: must test
Turn Signals: indicator light on dash must be working
Air Horn: must test
Wipers/Washers: check for proper function
High/Low Beam Head Lights: must check (indicator light on dash must be working)

IMPORTANT NOTE Checks of brake, turn signals and 4-way flasher functions MUST be done separately. Have copilot help check outside lights

Travel Mode
Levelling Jacks retracted
Wait until ride height is achieved
Slides in
Visually confirm slides are fully retracted

Air Brake Check
Start with air pressure up to maximum (governor shut off) then shut off engine
Open door and window to hear any air leaks

1) LEAKS: fully apply and hold foot brake pedal, hold foot brake pedal for one minute, check for no more than 3 psi air loss
2) ALARM: Turn ignition on and keep pumping brake until ‘low air warning’ alarm light and buzzer activate
3) BUTTON: continue pumping brake until brake valve button ‘pops’ out

Parking Brake Check: with parking brake ON, put bus in gear and apply slight accelerator pedal to be sure park holds.
Service Brake Check: determine brakes are working correctly and do not pull left or right, drive forward at 5 mph and apply brakes, should not pull to left or right and coach should stop smoothly and sufficiently.

Ready to hit the road!

CAT Scale

Weights

As we made our way on our first excursion with the Castaway, we decided to make a stop at KAL Tire to check our air pressure and then over to a local CAT Scale to weigh our coach.

Perhaps we should have done this the other way around, weigh the coach first and then adjust the air pressure. I have to tell you though, that I am finding the advice on tires and tire pressure to be quite divergent.

Newmar, the manufacturer of our coach, has their own weights and recommended tire pressures which they affix to a sticker near the captain’s chair.

NewmarWeights

The steer axle is 15,400 pounds and the drive axle is 30,000 pounds. They recommend a cold inflation pressure of 120 psi for the front, 90 psi for the duallys and 85 psi for the rear,

Of course, those weights represent the Gross Axle Weight Rating, or the maximum distributed weight, the axles of the coach can support. We do not intend to max out the load on the Castaway.

Our dealer had inflated our tires just prior to the delivery. We were told to keep them at 110 psi for the front and 90 psi for the tag.

Taking them to KAL Tire, they recommended 120 psi all around.

And the tables at Michelin Tire have a different set of pressures yet again based on how much the coach weighs.

In our case we have a steer axle of 14,160 pounds or roughly 7,000 pounds of load per axle end. Michelin recommends 105 psi for the front tires.

As our drive axle weight is combined, it is not possible to get a direct load from the Michelin site. That said, they do recommend 80 psi for the duallys and for the rear.

Very confusing.

We drove down to our campsite in the Thousand Islands with the tire pressure as set by KAL tires. The Castaway rode very well. That said, I am going to place a call directly into Newmar. We’ll see if we get any further clarification on how much air is too much, or too little.

It’s A Jungle Out There

20131006_disney_463

Or maybe we should call this post The Attack of the Crazed Robin.

From the Journal of Zoology:

The Robin shows aggressive behaviour not only towards intruding Robins but, to a varying extent, towards a stuffed adult Robin, foreign species (especially in flight), living and stuffed juvenile Robins, and a stuffed red breast.

To which I would add: the Robin shows aggressive behaviour towards 40-foot motorhomes.

We live in a forest. And we have lots of birds on our property. They occasionally fly into the windows of our house but otherwise they have their space and we have ours. We have always been on friendly terms.

Until last week. Last week I was literally at a loss over what to do about this crazy Robin.

He would perch on a large stone about 5 feet away from the rear end of our coach and literally attack it. Over and over. I was worried about the damage he might do the the paint as he would go full out with wings and claws.

We tried chasing him away only to see him return. We put spikes on top of the large stone hoping that he would not land on it. No effect. He found a way to perch in between the spikes. We even purchased a fake owl hoping that the predator would convince him to go elsewhere. No effect.

This was one very determined Robin.

But why was he so obsessed with our motorhome?

Being a bit slow, it took me a few days to figure it out. I searched Google for “how to deal with robins”. And it became clear. The Robin wasn’t obsessed with our motorhome. He was protecting his territory from another Robin. The Robin that he saw from his stone perch. The Robin that was being reflected by the mirror-like finish of our coach. In other words, he was at war with himself and nothing he did would get rid of the other Robin. At a certain level, Mr. Robin and I had the exact same dilemma: how to get rid of a crazy Robin.

As he was always attacking the same section of the coach, we decided to install an anti-reflective Robin deterrent guard: some strategically placed cardboard and garbage bags.

And, so far, it seems to be working. He is no longer concerned with that part of his territory. I just hope he doesn’t perch on another part of the property. We have a very large coach. It might not look quite as sharp fully clad in cardboard and garbage bags.