Newmar Dutch Star Problems

I follow Mike’s blog, The Good, The Bad and the RV. He bought a brand new 2015 Newmar Dutch Star and only a year or so later he had traded it in for a 2016 Newmar Essex.

I’m not sure what motivated his decision to change coaches so quickly. He must have taken quite a hit on the depreciation cost of the Dutch Star even with a trade-in on a coach that was sitting on a dealer’s lot.

He did post about some of the issues he had in the first few months with the Dutch Star:

Our brand new Newmar Dutch Star had the following problems, which took months to fix:

  • The passenger seat had a spring poking out of it (this was noticed pre-purchase and the salesman assured us it was a simple seat replacement. It ended up taking 2 months because Newmar refused to replace the seat)
  • Both the mid and aft floor heat switches randomly turn off after being on a short time (sometimes as short as 30 seconds)
  • The Oasis burner turns on and off constantly, forever. The burner starts up, runs for 1 second, and then shuts off. 5-10 seconds later it repeats this…over and over until I turn the burner switch off.
  • The rear, drivers side leveler jack left a large puddle of hydraulic fluid when I last retracted it
  • The USB port in the dash is not working
  • The fresh water hose has developed blisters between the inner and outer layers and now leaks
  • The passenger sofa bottom fell off when putting the slide out and will not reattach
  • Windshield wiper fluid does not dispense when the button on the steering wheel is pressed
  • When playing DVD audio through the AV receiver (for surround sound), the sound cuts out
  • The sun shade on the passenger window no longer retracts
  • The night shade on the drivers window is coming down askew and sliding towards the front of the coach. It used to come down straight, but now, when unrolling, it ends up 3-4 inches away from where it started.
  • The front leveler jacks sound horrible when extending. Having owned this same system in another coach, this sound doesn’t seem normal.
  • The kitchen faucet is overly loose

Right after buying this unit, we took this coach on a two week trip. It then sat at the dealership for over 2 months! We then took it on a one month trip. Problems on the list still were not fixed so it went back to the dealer for almost another month. So the unit spent 3 of the first 5 months at the shop.

We have had our fair share of issues as well. This is our list.

First, the warranty punch list after the first few months of operating the coach:

  • Kitchen Sink Leak: drain pipe leaks where drain meets down pipe immediately underneath the sink.
  • Loose Fabric Trim: fabric trim by pantry drawer leading into bedroom has come loose in a couple of areas.
  • Cracked Floor Tile: cracked floor tile driver side behind the recliner that is closest to the kitchen galley.
  • MCD Day/Night Shades: MCD Day/Night Shades over dining area appear to require reprogramming. Day shade inoperative over main dining area window and night shades over main dining area window and small dining area window out of synch.
  • Winegard Rayzar Digital TV Antenna: Unit is producing an E3 error during operation (motor movement error).
  • Sofa Bed Latch: Latch for inflating sofa bed doesn’t stay closed when inflating.
  • Passenger Side Basement Door: When door side slideout is open, first basement door rubs bottom of slideout (door out of alignment).
  • Front Wheel Vibration: At highway speed, roughly 100km and above, front exhibits a vibration that is characteristic of unbalanced wheels.
  • Driver Side Fuel Cover: Missing clearcoat
  • Engine fault light triggered by outdate engine firmware
  • Driver side tire bulge

We had a couple of recalls including the infamous “your coach could catch fire” recall:

  • 467 RSB – Recall 16V 826: Power Steering Fluid Leak (potential fire hazard)
  • 472 TSB – Slideout Motor Mounting Bolts (under-torqued). We heard loose mounting bolts on both front slideouts (Full Wall Slideout and Off Driver Slideout) while driving the coach.

And, since then, a few other items which have not been resolved yet:

  • Side radiator lower grill almost disconnected from body of coach
  • Oasis hot water heater pump failure
  • Full wall slideout uneven — literally rises up a quarter inch or so after slides are deployed
  • Levelling jack leaking hydraulic fluid

Along with a few more new recalls that will have to be resolved:

  • 483 RSB – Recall 17V 420: Driver Passenger Shade
  • 486 TSB – MCD Remote Shade Motor Replacement
  • 488 RSB – Recall 17V 497: Battery Cable May Rub Against Frame (another potential fire hazard)
  • 493 PIB – Freightliner Lightbar: instrument panel odometer value may reset and no match the engine ECU odometer value

Well. Quite the list for such an expensive coach.

And, like Mike, our coach has to go to the dealer for an extended stay. Typically 3 to 4 weeks. Which isn’t an issue now since I haven’t retired yet. But when we plan to be in the States for about 6 months of the year, I don’t want to have the coach sitting at some dealer for a month or two.

We certainly expected some issues with our new coach. And given Newmar’s reputation as being one of the better manufacturers, it does seem a bit troubling to run into so many issues after only a few thousand miles on the chassis.

We hope to run the coach for many more years.

I hope this list doesn’t get much longer.

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.

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.

Bubble

From the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association:

RV Shipments Surging in 2017 to Highest Level Ever Continued Growth Expected for 2018, a Record 9th Straight Year

The recreation vehicle (RV) industry’s shipments will reach 472,200 units in 2017, the highest annual total since the data has been collected, and a 9.6% increase from the number shipped last calendar year, announced Frank Hugelmeyer, President of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).

According to a new forecast presented today by Hugelmeyer at RVIA’s Committee Week luncheon, RV shipments are expected to reach even greater heights in 2018, with wholesale production projected at 487,200 units.

Shipments totaled 120,866 in the first quarter of 2017, an increase of 11.7% from 2016. This represented the highest shipment rate of any quarter since 1981, with the monthly totals rising throughout the quarter for all types of RVs. The quarterly gains were widespread, with type B and C motorhomes up by more than 30% from the previous year, and conventional and fifth-wheel travel trailers up by 10%. Shipments of folding camping trailers and truck campers fell 10% from 2016.

“Our industry is in an era of unprecedented growth,” said Hugelmeyer. “We are poised to record an eighth consecutive year of shipment gains, mainly due to product innovations that appeal to retiring baby-boomers as well as younger buyers. The recession is in the rearview mirror. This is a new era for the RV industry.”

Obviously I am encouraged to see so much growth in the RV industry.

But is it a good thing?

RV Daily Report has started an OpEd series by Greg Gerber titled the RV Industry Death Spiral:

I have come to realize the RV industry is in a death spiral.

The current business model is simply unsustainable and the professionals working in the industry either:

  • Know what’s going on, are in denial, and remain hopeful the problems will simply fix themselves.
  • Don’t want to know what’s going on and keep their heads firmly planted in the sand ignoring many very obvious signs.
  • Are aware of the problem, know it won’t end well, but are simply choosing to ride the wave as long as they can.

Greg Gerber, having covered the industry since 2000, makes the following point about the death spiral:

Consumers are frustrated beyond words over product quality and customer service. Every single day I hear about another issue involving a new or experienced RVer. RV owners are seething over the finger-pointing response they receive when attempting to get problems addressed.

Well, our experience with Newmar has been great. Excellent customer service from the company and excellent customer service from our dealer. We are not frustrated beyond words over product quality and customer service. That said, there is obviously a gap in terms of the level of quality of a high-end BMW at $100,000 against a Newmar Dutch Star at nearly $500,000 (Canadian) against say a Prevost coach at nearly $3 million (Canadian). Overall, we are fine with the level of quality against the cost. We love our coach and we expect to get many years of enjoyment from operating our coach.

Perhaps a better context is the expectation a consumer brings into the discussion. The inevitable tradeoff between cost and quality. A cheaper RV is going to trade cost against quality. There really isn’t much choice.

Greg does make an excellent observation about the industry:

… two firms control about 72 percent of the entire RV market. With Thor’s acquisition of Jayco last Friday, that number is now up to 83 percent.

Concentration of the manufacturing to a limited number of firms is rarely good for consumers. Inevitably, an oligopoly or a de facto monopoly will seek to maximize profits usually at the expense of the consumer. Innovation, product quality, customer service all become secondary considerations when there is such a lack of competition.

I hope Newmar continues to remain a viable, independent company.