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.

Dutch Star Entertainment Cabinet

From that to this:

If there was one area of our coach that was a constant source of frustration, it was our entertainment cabinet in the Newmar Dutch Star.

It was a mess. Once I added a few additional components, like a satellite receiver, Apple TV, a Logitech Harmony Hub and a couple of cooling fans, I had an equipment stack that was literally one piece of equipment heaped one on top of another stuffed into the cabinet.

Every time we hit a bump in the road, clang! Equipment jumped up and down.

Although the two cooling fans were relatively large, they could not keep up with the heat as the fans had no room to operate.

And why all of this trouble?

No shelves.

I’m not sure why Newmar made the cabinet so useless for audio visual equipment. The cable routing was inordinately complex, solely to allow the option of having two independent programming feeds to the two TV sets in the front of the coach. And yet, only one sound source for the AV receiver.

I finally got around to changing all of that this past weekend.

The first task was to empty the cabinet of all the equipment. That included the Winegard Satellite Antenna Controller, Sony Blu-Ray Player, Logitech Harmony Remote Hub, Bell Expressvu Satellite TV Receiver, two 1×4 HDMI splitters, an Apple TV, a Sony AV Receiver and two cooling fans.

What was left behind was a huge mess of cabling.

I simplified the wiring dramatically by opting for one HDMI source coming from the receiver and splitting that source to the two TV sets. Each TV set playing back the same content. All I needed to put back into the cabinet was one 1 input, 4 output HDMI splitter, not two.

There were 6 HDMI cables in the cabinet. All I needed were 2 — one to feed each TV set — and the other 4 were pushed back behind the wall. I can always pull them back if I ever need them (2 of them were to send output to the exterior TV set in the basement bay which we did not install on our coach).

The rest of the wiring was to feed the AV receiver. I replaced the Sony that came with the coach. In its place is a Pioneer slimline receiver. Not as powerful in terms of pure wattage but a better sounding unit with vastly better setup protocols for doing the on-screen programming to tune speakers and subwoofer.

I had replaced the stock subwoofer that came with the coach. It was stuck inside a kitchen cabinet and sounded awful. I picked up a small but mighty sub that fits nicely behind one of our recliners. Sounds awesome in the coach.

I had a friend build two nice shelves for the coach. I was able to place all of the equipment neatly in place with a vastly simplified cable plant.

The two cooling fans are now mounted on the outside of the cabinet grill. They pull the hot air out of the cabinet far more effectively than before. So much so that I will add a temperature probe as the fans no longer need to run continuously except, obviously, when heat conditions warrant the cooling.

All of the gear is velcro’d to the shelves so no more flying equipment when driving the coach.

And, everything is neat and tidy in the cabinet.  The Pioneer receiver and Apple TV are both wired via ethernet to the back entertainment cabinet in the bedroom which is where I have a router and a NAS installed.

Very pleased with how it all turned out.

The Outpost

Not really.

The dealer for our coach, the Hitch House, is located in Barrie, Ontario and, while the city itself is well north of Toronto, it seems to be firmly in the grasp of the Greater Toronto Region. It is a tough drive through some of the most heavily congested roads in all of Canada.

We dropped the coach off last weekend and it will be with the dealer for about three weeks. We will pick the coach up sometime during the week of May 7th.

We have a few outings planned in May including our very first Newmar Kountry Klub outing with the Muskoka Ramblers. The rally will be held May 26-28 at the Milton Heights Campground.

Looking forward to getting our coach back home though. Here is where we left the Castaway.

Newmar Recall 2016-559

A brand new 2016 Dutch Star 4369 caught fire last September. And now we know why:

Fortunately we have had our coach in storage since October. Newmar had an erroneous postal code for our address and we only just received the notice in the mail last week roughly 6 weeks after the date of the recall notice.

Thank heavens we were not traveling south with the coach this year. Despite the number of “coulds” in the recall notice above, a coach did catch fire. If we were snowbirds, we would have been on the road extensively during the latter part of 2016. Our coach could have caught fire.

We have booked our service appointment for when we take the coach out of storage in April.

I am a wee bit concerned about the 4-hour drive to the dealer from the storage facility. We are going to check with Newmar and Freightliner to confirm if the coach is safe to drive that distance with this defect.