Window Shopping at the Hershey RV Show

Our plan was to attend the Hershey RV show Friday and Saturday.

We arrived on Friday to a pretty quiet day at the show. We were there from 10am until about 7pm. Long day but we had a lot of fun.

I’ll spend a bit of time posting about our window shopping first. The Hershey RV was our opportunity to relook at a number of coaches and to see if we had any tinge of buyer’s remorse. The short answer? None whatsoever. Although there was one coach that was very tempting.

There are four coaches that compete very closely: Entegra, Tiffin, American Coach and Newmar. Sure, there are other coaches from Thor, Fleetwood and Winnebago, but realistically, those four coaches would be at the top of our shopping list if we were looking to buy this year.

Having lived in the Castaway since June and having run the coach on several long road trips, we have more than a bit of a feel for the Newmar product. We love it and if we were to make a purchase decision today, we would still go with the Newmar Dutch Star. It is a wonderful coach and the Newmar support has been terrific.

Entegra was a strong candidate for us last year. Going through the coaches at the show this year, I could see why. The Entegra products offer a lot for the dollar. Now, I could nitpick on a number of items with the Entegra coaches, which is true for all of these coaches as not one is perfect, but the main issue for us was the floorplan. We could not find a floorplan we really loved in a 40-foot coach in the Entegra line. I’m not sure what impact the Thor acquisition may have on the Entegra line. Most M&A activities are conducted to build scale and lower costs. I guess we will have to wait and see what, if anything, this acquisition might due to the Entegra customer base. What that acquisition concern us if we were buying this year? Hard to say.

For us, the Tiffin line was nice but not to our liking. Again primarily due to floorplans in a 40-foot coach. We had quickly ruled their products out of the running last year when we were going through our finalist list. The one and only dealer in Ontario, McPhail’s of Harriston, was a significant distance from our home. And then there was a lot of online feedback about required trips to Red Bay, Alabama to deal with warranty items.

As we went through the Entegra and Tiffin coaches, we were reassured in our decision to buy the Castaway from Newmar.

That said, the American Coach products were very impressive. We really liked the American Dream. Beautiful coach and a really nice floorplan albeit at 42 feet and just a wee bit more expensive than the Dutch Star. Okay, maybe a lot more expensive. Very nice coach.

Oh, and I did find my Basecamp at the show. Such a cool little travel trailer.

airstreambasecamp

Lots more to share about the Hershey RV show so stay tuned.

Locked Inside

lockedout

There is much to learn about operating an RV, especially what to do when things go wrong.

For the first time in my life, I was locked inside a motorcoach.

Lorraine and I were travelling down to the Hershey RV show in Hershey, Pennsylvania. On our way, we stopped at the Flying J in New Milford, Pennsylvania to top up our fuel. The stop turned out to be a little more dramatic than we had expected.

We pulled up to the lanes that are dedicated for RVs. I shut down the coach in preparation for fueling. Lorraine went to the door to exit the coach and the door handle would not open the door.

Odd. Was it still locked?

No.

Odd. Was the deadbolt engaged?

No.

For the next 10 minutes or so, we went back and forth. Locking and unlocking the door. Manually and with the keyless entry system. Manually and with the dashboard entry lock control switch. Nothing worked. We could not get ourselves out of the coach.

We called Newmar.

We were on hold with them for about 15 minutes or so.

They told me that they had never heard of something like this happening before.

I told them that it has happened before.

It took them a few minutes to find someone who might be able to troubleshoot the problem.

I was told to try pulling the door hard and then moving the lock and unlock button up and down.

The lock assembly looks like this:

doorlocked

I pulled as hard as I could and I moved that lock up and down. I repeated this action roughly a dozen times until it became apparent that the door was not going to open this way.

I was then told to find someone who might be able to push the door from the outside.

Okay. Here we were in a Flying J without anyone nearby. We were the only RV in the RV section. Everyone else was about 100 feet or so away. How would we get their attention?

Or, do we try to use the escape window? Or exit out the rear bath door?

Lorraine went to the back of the coach, opened the bathroom door and called out for help.

A couple of men wandered over to give a hand. They both pushed hard against the door from the outside while I was pulling the door from the inside and, at some point, and I am still not certain how it happened, the door opened.

Newmar could not offer a reason for the problem. All they did say was that the door has a two latch position mechanism. We knew that from experience. If we closed the door using a normal to light pressure, the wind noise would be very pronounced in the cab while the coach was in motion. A really firm pressure engages a second latch and tightly seals the door. No wind noise.

Did we use too much pressure to close the door?

I have no idea.

We were worried about being locked out again?

Absolutely.

I’ve jumped on the IRV2 Newmar Owner’s Corner to ask for some help. I’d like to know whether there is anything we could do to prevent this from happening again.

This little adventure took about an hour from when we stopped the coach to when we could get out the door. Once we were able to fuel the coach, we were finally ready to go again.

All part of the ownership experience.

Update: it turns out that the resolution is pretty simple and I am not sure why Newmar did not point this out when we called them. One of the forum members gave us this insight, unlock the deadbolt and door lock BEFORE you pull up on the handle. Otherwise you may get stuck. I checked with Lorraine and she cannot remember if she unlocked the door before pulling up on the handle. She has tried to open the door while it was still locked several times before so it probably was the cause of getting locked in. One more item to add to the checklist. When exiting the coach, always make sure the door has been unlocked before pulling up on the handle.

Airstream Basecamp

basecamp

We will be heading out to the RV show in Hershey next week. Billed as America’s largest RV show, we are looking forward to seeing a lot of the new models.

I have a bit of a soft spot in my heart for the Airstream travel trailers. Their designs really bring back memories of when I was growing up, probably because of all that aluminum. It looks like something from the 1950s or 1960s although the first Airstream was built in 1929. You can find an interesting history of the Airstream trailers here.

The folks at Airstream were kind enough to let me know about their new Basecamp travel trailer.

They market the trailer this way:

Loaded with innovative features that will satisfy and amaze both the experienced long haul traveler and the weekend warrior who is just getting back in their adventure groove, Basecamp is the result of nearly a decade of planning. With comfort and convenience in mind, Basecamp allows campers to stop wondering and start wandering.

This is one of their marketing photos of the new trailer:

basecampmkt

The Basecamp looks like the type of unit that would appeal to an active, younger couple without children. What fascinates me about the design of this particular trailer is the attention to detail and the use of space.

Within that really small footprint is a kitchen, a washroom with a shower, and a living and sleeping area. 16 feet long by 7 feet wide.

basecampflrpln2

 

Check out the details behind the floorplan here.

I hope they have one on display at the RV show. It would be cool to see one in person.

Mirrors

mirrors

Being able to work with the mirrors of our coach has been a bit of a learning experience. Seeing what is happening around the coach is critically important. It took me a bit of time to learn the best way to position and adjust our mirrors.

The mirror on the passenger side of our coach extends in front of our motorhome.

RWC_3801

Apparently, most coaches have this mirror set incorrectly.

The best way to check is to stand in front of the coach and look down the passenger side. The inside of the head of the mirror should look like it is just touching the coach. When it is set flush to the side of the coach, you get the best overall view. When we received our coach, our mirror was set in too far.

The mirror on the driver’s side of our coach is swung around to the back.

RWC_3791

A number of Dutch Star owners do not like this look. They think it lacks symmetry and some people have rotated the mirror forward. The driver’s side mirror is on a short arm so I am not sure how well it would truly balance the look of the coach. I also wonder whether the corner post would get in the way when positioning the mirror properly. I suspect that Newmar went with the short arm for a reason: to maximize visibility and to give the driver’s side a bit more maneuvering room.

My driver’s side mirror remains swung around to the back. The mirror is aligned in the same fashion as the passenger side mirror so that when I look at the mirror from the front, it looks as though it is just touching the coach.

With the mirror heads positioned properly, there are a few additional adjustments.

With the flat part of the mirror, I move it until I can just make out the side of the coach along the inside edge. I do not need to see very much of the side of the coach with my flat mirror. I adjust the flat part of the mirror so that I can see the horizon at about one quarter of the way down. I do not need to see a lot of sky when driving.

With the convex part of the mirror, I adjust it so that I can see out horizontally to the ground and the side of the coach.

I’m still learning how to drive confidently with the mirrors. I use them far more frequently that I would ever use the mirrors of a car. And that makes them far more important for driving safely.

Testing Air Brakes

AirBrakes

This was from an article on air brakes in the September issue of the Family Motor Coaching magazine:

Let’s assume that a 200-horsepower engine is needed to accelerate a vehicle to 65 mph in one minute. For that vehicle to come to an emergency stop in 6 seconds (one-tenth of the time it took to reach 65 mph) requires 10 times the acceleration force, or 2,000 horsepower. Chassis builders take this into consideration when designing a braking system and determining a chassis’ gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR).

However, if the brake on just one wheel is out of adjustment or not operating, up to 25 percent of braking capability can be lost. Therefore, to ensure safe motorhome operation, the braking system should be tested regularly.

For someone whose driving style leans toward heavy engine brake usage and minimal service brake usage, chances are good the service brakes will not be in proper adjustment and won’t be very effective when they are needed most.

I tend to lean toward heavy engine brake usage and minimal service brake usage. Checking the air brakes is an important part of our Pre-trip Inspection.

This is my approach to testing our air brakes which is based on the air brake training that Lorraine and I did for our commercial driver’s license.

1. Make sure the coach is secure with the parking brake engaged

(In our training, we were told to also use a wheel chock. For our coach I do not chock any of the wheels)

2. Test the low air warning indicator
  • Ensure air pressure is over 90 PSI, if not build air pressure
  • Engine off, key on
  • Pump the service brakes
  • Warning at 65 PSI is good
  • Warning below 55 PSI is defective
3. Test air pressure build
  • Start Engine and run between 600-900 RPM
  • Reduce air pressure to 90 PSI
  • Time from 90 PSI to 120 PSI
  • Less than 30 seconds is good
  • More than 30 seconds vehicle is defective
4. Test air pressure governor settings
  • Build air pressure to maximum and note cut-out pressure
  • Cut-out must be between 120 PSI and 135 PSI
  • 120 PSI is good
  • More than 135 PSI is defective
  • Pump down pressure 20 to 30 PSI until compressor cuts-in
  • Cut-in should be at 100 PSI
  • 100 PSI is good
  • Less than 90 PSI is defective
5. Test air loss rate
  • Release parking brake
  • Apply service brake and shut engine off, key on
  • Time for 1 minute and note any loss of air pressure
  • 1 or 2 PSI loss is good
  • More than 3 PSI loss in pressure is defective
  • Re-engage parking brake
6. Test parking brake
  • Ensure parking brake is engaged
  • Start engine, select drive
  • Attempt to move the coach forward
  • Parking brake holds is good
  • If coach moves than parking brake is defective
7. Drain air tanks

(Our coach is equipped with automatic moisture ejectors so I don’t do this step every time)

  • Shut off engine, key on
  • Drain front wet tank for 5-10 seconds
  • Go back to gauges, see if any change to PSI
  • Drain 2nd valve for 5-10 seconds and check for oil, sludge, water
  • Drain 3rd valve for 5-10 seconds and check for oil, sludge, water
  • If valves work – then coach is good
  • If valves do not work then coach is defective