Not Enough Air

NotEnoughAir

We had to replace a bad tire on our travels to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan last month. That tire, located on the front driver’s side, now checks in at 101 PSI cold. The tire on the other side of the steer axle checks in at 110 PSI cold.

My sense of balance requires both tires to be at the same pressure: 110 PSI cold.

No problem. On our way to the Flying J a few nights back, we planned to check the pressures running hot and level the driver’s side to match the passenger’s side.

Only I did not have enough air from the air pump.

Frustrating really.

I took the air hose, connected it to the tire valve, and waited. Not long, probably 10 – 20 seconds. I had no idea how quickly the tire pressure would change but when I checked, it had not changed at all.

I spent a bit longer, perhaps a minute or so. Checked the tire pressure. And still no change.

I tried 5 minutes. No change in tire pressure.

I then went to the Flying J counter to settle the fuel and dumping charges and to ask them about the air pump. It was working except that 115 PSI was the max. And, as the heat had increased the tire pressure on the driver’s side from 101 PSI to 111 PSI, I was trying to get the tire up to 120 PSI to match the level on the passenger’s side.

With a 115 PSI air pump, that was not going to happen in my lifetime.

They told us to go into the trucker area and use those air pumps.

We made our way over to the trucker area. We are basically the same size as a big diesel bus so we were not entirely out of place. Just mostly out of place. There were at least a dozen lanes and every lane was full. We queued behind one tractor trailer. He pulled out of the lane and stopped about 50 feet or so in front of the pumps.

We pulled in and got to work on the front tire.

Same exact experience as before. Could not move the tire pressure north of 115 PSI.

Time to leave. Except for one little problem, the tractor trailer still stopped about 50 feet or so in front of us. No way out.

I had to do something that I did not really want to do, namely, back the coach out of the pump lane. Lorraine stepped out to spot and we figured out a way to retreat without impacting a truck.

I had no idea as to how to exit the trucker area. It took us another 5-10 minutes of roaming around to finally break free of the Flying J trucker area. I am very sure that I entertained a few truckers as we drove in random patterns around the parking area looking for a way out.

Getting our own air compressor has suddenly jumped to the top of the must have list for our motorcoach.

SeeLevel Tank Monitor

SeaLevel

The Castaway is a beautiful coach. Not perfect mind you. There are a few weird things about the coach that I find a wee bit irritating. For example, our tank monitors.

We have a system which monitors our black, gray and fresh water tanks. Despite being in the year 2016, our coach reports the status of the tanks this way: E, 1/3, 2/3, F.

We spend most of our time in the coach in a hybrid dry camp. We have 30 Amps of shore power and no water or sewage hookups. We do have potable water that we can bring into the coach through a temporary hookup. Once the gray and black tanks fill up though, we have to find our way to a dump. We will be taking a drive this evening to a Flying J located about 20 minutes from where we live and that is because our black tank hit the dreaded “F” status. Whenever that happens, our toilets shut down.

I find it really frustrating to determine how close is close with our existing system. Why didn’t Newmar put a better system in place? A system like the SeeLevel RV Tank Monitor? This system, created by a fine Canadian company, Garnet Instruments, provides tank level information using a percentage of full readout. As in, your black tank is 95% full.

I suppose we would not be as annoyed if our coach was always on a hookup. Our current arrangement is more akin to boondocking and we are constantly guessing as to our actual capacity.

When the freshwater tank reads “E”, is it just below 1/3, or roughly 30 gallons remaining? Or is it empty with less than a gallon remaining?

Irritating.

We will be heading out to the Hershey Show in September and I hope that the SeeLevel product will be on display. I’ve looked at several videos on the installation process and it looks like something I might be able to do on my own.

Here is one such video by Motorhead Garage.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Winter

I hear you. It is too soon.

However, the storage facility for our coach has already been in contact wanting us to set the date for bringing the Castaway in for the winter.

We will miss her.

We have travel plans for the coach in September and early October. Within six weeks or so, I will have to ponder this question: how to winterize our motorhome?

From what I have read, there are two basic approaches although I will offer up a third:

  1. Drain all water and use an air compressor
  2. Use RV antifreeze
  3. Take the coach to Florida and forget about winter

The RVgeeks have a great video on winterizing the RV:

Newmar has posted a couple of articles here and here.

And, for a really detailed set of links on winterizing your RV, check out this post on iRV2.

Too soon.

The Shakedown Trip

ShakedownTrip

The infamous shakedown trip.

That was one of the major objectives for taking our coach, the Castaway, out on an extended trip, to find any warranty issues with the coach.

The good news?

After putting almost 3,000 kms on the coach, we have only a few warranty items from the shakedown trip:

Exterior

  • Paint flaw on the driver’s side fuel tank cover
  • Missed silicone sealant under the passenger’s side mirror

Interior

  • Slight gap in a small section of tile grout (roughly half an inch)
  • Lift of a section of fabric trim on entrance door to master bedroom (about 10 inches of trim needs to be glued back into place)
  • Tile cracked under one of the recliners on the full wall slideout
  • Full wall slideout is not settling properly, out of level and requires adjustment
  • Kitchen sink is leaking

We will be taking the coach down to Newmar for a custom install of bedroom windows in the spring — we somehow missed that on our order — and perhaps we might have them address the warranty items then or we can work with our dealer on the warranty items before we put the coach into storage in the late September/early October timeframe.

We did have two other issues that occurred during our shakedown trip.

The Tire

It was unfortunate that we experienced a sidewall bulge on our first long trip with the coach. A sidewall bulge is an unsafe tire condition. Our dealer was very helpful in terms of how to best replace the tire and roadside assistance was clearly the most appropriate solution given our location. Our dealer worked with Coach-Net and they arranged for the service provider and covered the costs associated with sending a service provider out to our site in Petoskey, Michigan.

The service provider did not provide any warranty support and we are out of pocket $1,000 CAD to switch a new tire for another new tire. Lorraine is going to follow up with that service provider regarding warranty coverage and she will also follow up with our dealer. Hopefully we can get the tire covered under warranty.

The Engine Fault

We reached out to our dealer as soon as the engine warning indicator turned on. The dealer told us that we should be fine driving the coach on the yellow engine warning light. We also contacted Cummins as they are the warranty provider for the engine. They wanted me to run the diagnostic and identify the specific fault. The fault was SPN 3216 FMI 2 OC 1.

What I was told is that this fault code is set when the difference between the expected NOx ppm and the actual NOx ppm is greater than 200 ppm. The Cummins support person was concerned that this particular fault could lead to an engine shutdown.

I found out on the iRV2 forums that a number of Dutch Star owners have experienced this fault and, ultimately, the only fix is to update the software level in the engine. When we stopped at a Cummins dealer in Saginaw, Michigan, to resolve the issue, all they did was hook up a Dell laptop to the engine where they found the fault codes from when the coach had been built (they were never cleared) and the fault code that triggered the yellow engine warning light. They updated the engine software by connecting the laptop to a hidden port in the engine and once the update process was complete, the engine warning light was gone. The session at the Cummins dealer took less than 30 minutes.

Our coach was two versions back on the software. The technician was surprised that this had not been caught prior to delivery. Although the Cummins support person would not explicitly acknowledge the presence of a software bug, the technician in Saginaw told me that the initial sensitivity parameters set by the software needed to be “adjusted” to eliminate the fault and that could only be done by updating the software level.

Tomorrow I will share a few lessons that we learned in taking the coach out on a long distance trip across an international border.

Battle of the Bulge

RWC_4094

“It’s a good thing that you do your circle checks.”

So said Heidi, our service advisor at our dealer.

Being a bit of an OCD kinda guy, okay, a major OCD kinda guy, I walk around the coach almost every day. I check the tire pressures frequently regardless of whether the coach has been driven or parked.

As we have been enjoying our stay at the Petoskey Motorcoach Resort, I also start the day with a bit of detailing to keep the coach looking nice. I generally do a quick pass with my detailing spray on the areas of the coach I can reach without a ladder.

I was cleaning the wheels of the coach when I noticed something on the front driver’s side tire.

TireBulge2

A bulge on the sidewall, roughly six inches long, half an inch wide and rising up from the sidewall about one eighth of an inch. A bulge like this could easily lead to a front tire blowout.

How serious is a front tire blowout? I think this video says it all.

Our dealer is working with Newmar and Michelin to see how we can get ourselves back home safe and sound.

We expected a few issues with our first major trip and we have so far uncovered two: a required software update for an engine control module and a bulge in one of our tires.

Such excitement.

We should hear back from our dealer later today. Hopefully we can settle the tire issue on site.