Dutch Star With Broken Windshield Wipers

A broken windshield wiper on your Newmar Dutch Star? It hasn’t happened to us. Not yet. But it will. The windshield wiper system on the Newmar Dutch Star is so poorly designed. The windshield wiper system on this coach is a safety hazard.

The root cause? The wiper arms are steel and the part that bolts to the motor post is steel but the insert that the arm tightens against is aluminum. The nut that holds it together can come loose and when that happens, the arm will rotate around the insert and the arm might snap off. Or you could get lucky and the arm will wrap itself around some part of your coach.

Like what happened to this person:

You can check on the arms to see if they are loose. If you happen to have a long torque wrench, you can bring the arms back to the proper torque which varies between models and year of manufacture. For our coach it is 65 foot-pounds.

I come across so many posts on social media from Dutch Star owners that run into this problem. And they often run into this problem multiple times. A recent example:

So frustrated! In Kimball, TN and the windshield wiper is broken again! 2017 Dutch Star. Rain all night and all day tomorrow in the forecast and the nearest place to fix it is 50 minutes away. Anyone have that problem with wipers coming over windshield into the driver’s mirror? This is the second time that we have been stranded like this on the side of the highway and we could have been killed. Might take a class action suit to wake them up? Limped without wipers to safe area finally.

It is not a question of whether the windshield wipers will fail but when. The arms will come loose. Best to check on them before heading out on the road.

From our own experience, we only use our windshield wipers when we absolutely have to use them. And that means avoiding travel in bad weather conditions and treating the windshield with a water repellant coating.

It is a bit of a project to clean and treat such a large windshield. Far more effort than required for an automotive windshield. If you are wanting to go all in with your windshield, do what Pan The Organizer does. He is a detailing machine.

There is always RainX. Less work. Easier to apply. And RainX seems to repel water better than the windshield wipers that Newmar installs on their coaches.

Faster Is Better

Fast Internet. Faster is better. Every time I refer to the speeds that we achieve in our coach, I get a flurry of emails asking me questions about my setup. Within those emails are usually comments about the poor quality of park WiFi.

I do feel for the owners of RV parks and resorts. In many cases they spend a substantial amount of money to deploy a WiFi service for their guests only to receive a constant stream of complaints.

This past winter I helped assess the WiFi service at a Class A Motorcoach Resort in Florida.

On paper, the infrastructure was high quality. And yet there were so many complaints about the service. I, on the other hand, was having no difficulty achieving high-speed on the resort’s WiFi. I could easily obtain 50 Mbps and faster depending on the time of day and the number of guests in the park.

In Canada, the exact same issue. Complaints about the park WiFi. Where we stay, the park WiFi is throttled. The maximum throughput is managed to 7 Mbps per connected device.

When I connect to the park WiFi this is what I consistently achieve using some basic networking equipment:

Close enough to the managed bandwidth limit. Things change dramatically when I am on my private network accessing the Internet via my high-speed, unthrottled and unlimited cellular plan:

What I use for achieving a high-speed Internet is not for everyone. It is expensive and it is somewhat complex.

Let’s deal with why so many people have issues with their park WiFi. It usually comes down to a few basics. If those basics are not resolved, it really won’t matter if the park has decent WiFi. The Internet will still be bad. Often really bad.

Get an antenna and a router

First and foremost? Signal strength. We can think of the WiFi signal as being similar to a radio signal. If the station you are attempting to tune on your radio is too weak, all you hear is static.

The vast majority of people that connect to a park WiFi do so without using an external antenna. They try to connect directly with their smartphones, tablets, laptops or desktops.

If the antenna in the device that they are using to connect to the park WiFi has a low signal strength then the result will be the equivalent of tuning to a weak radio station: static. The speed of the Internet will be slow to unusable.

Signal strength is measured using the dBm scale and it only takes a small amount of change to the signal strength to have a dramatic and negative impact on the speed of the Internet.

A mere 3 dB of loss halves the signal strength. A park WiFi may try to achieve a standard of -65 dBm to every site which should allow for reliable and timely delivery of data packets. But if that signal strength drops below -70 dBm then so much for reliable packet delivery. And so much for decent Internet performance.

A basic minimum for getting the best performance out of any WiFi service? A good signal. And within any RV park setting, the best way to get a good signal? An external antenna. And a network router to distribute the signal. Check out this video for a decent, low-cost option:

Avoid congestion

More people, less available bandwidth, slower Internet. But what if there are traffic management protocols in place? Poor Internet may have more to do with channel congestion than available Internet capacity. The second major issue is that too many people connect to the WiFi using the same channel.

Here is a current scan of the networks that I can reach from my coach:

Keep in mind that the park has very few guests given the COVID-19 situation. On the 2.4GHz WiFi, what is the most commonly used channel? Channel 6. And what happens when dozens of people connect to the Internet using the same channel? Congestion.

Most park WiFi services run on both the 2.4 and 5GHz spectrum. Go for 5. Far less congestion and so many more channels. But to get a decent signal on the 5GHz spectrum? Yes, an external antenna. Makes a big difference.

Deal with complexity

Mobile Internet is not easy for the vast majority of RVers. The marketplace has yet to offer a simple, straightforward solution without some form of compromise. There are resources available to the RV community and I highly recommend the Mobile Internet Resource Center.

Likely the best online resource for Mobile Internet. There is a cost to become a member and, more importantly, there is a learning curve.

If you are looking for a simple and cheap way to get high-speed Internet in your coach, well, be prepared to be disappointed. Whenever I describe what I have going on in my coach the reaction is twofold: too expensive and too complex.

That said, there are many people, including myself, that are determined to have reliable and fast mobile Internet either because they are still working and they need to be online and productive, or because much of their time is spent using online resources in their hobbies, volunteer efforts or Internet-based activities.

One day soon we may have satellite Internet as a viable option for the RV community. It looks like we are getting close to a product launch. Possibly even this year.

Resetting the Magnum Inverter

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away. After spending five hours to resolve a problem that only required the press of a button.

Such is the state of the technology within our coaches. Documentation is either missing or incomplete. And that was the case in dealing with our inverter issue.

After the “AC Overload” issue happened, I immediately referenced the manual that came with the Magnum inverter. Nothing to be found there on an AC Overload. I called Magnum. They were closed and they would not be open for another 4 hours.

I consulted my good friend, Google. There were so many people that had run into issues with their inverter. Although I did not find a specific reference to our situation, a consistent theme around resetting the inverter as a potential solution emerged.

I consulted the manual again. Here is what it said:

4.4 Performing an Inverter Reset
Certain faults require that the inverter be reset. To perform an inverter reset (also known as a soft reset), press and hold the Power ON/OFF button (see Figure 4-1) for approximately fifteen (15) seconds until the Charging/Inverting Status LED comes on and flashes rapidly. Once the rapid flashing has begun, release the Power ON/OFF button. The Status LED will go off after the button is released.

“Certain faults”? They might be certain but they are not documented in the manual. Perhaps our AC Overload was one of those certain faults? I decided to perform the inverter reset.

Our Magnum inverter is located in the basement of our coach. It is mounted, upside down, between the main support rails of the chassis, in one of our slide out bays. The only way to get in there is to empty out the contents of the slide out and go in, back down, and attempt to work in a highly constricted area. I could barely get my hand into this area of the inverter. Newmar: why oh why did you put the inverter in this location?

It turns out that the reset process may require another button to be pressed. I did not find that out until 5 hours later. It cost me roughly $200 USD to learn that lesson.

I had little recourse but to bring in a mobile RV technician.

He followed all the same steps that I had already performed.

His conclusion? A bad inverter.

My suggestion? Let’s get Magnum on the line and make sure that we haven’t missed anything.

We called them and when we finally got Magnum support on the call, they told us about a second button on the unit. This one, an AC Input Circuit Breaker, marked number 16 in the manual:

When I had first reset the inverter, I had seen this knob sticking out on the other side of the unit. The markings were similar, CB INPUT 30A. It never crossed my mind that I needed to press that button. There is nothing documented in the manual about this circuit breaker. There is nothing to indicate that it needs be reset.

If I had pressed this button, it would have restored the functionality of our inverter immediately.

There are some steps to troubleshoot the inverter problem that I haven’t covered. They involve using a voltmeter to confirm DC power to the inverter and to confirm AC power from the circuit breaker box down to the inverter. I also reset the main controller by unplugging and replugging that component.

When the inverter sensed an AC overload, it somehow lost its way and it needed a reboot including a reset of the 30 Amp circuit breaker. Turns out that there are two circuit breakers for this system. One in the main fuse box and one on the inverter.

To resolve our issue required two button presses. One to reset the AC Input Circuit Breaker on the unit and the other to reset the inverter.

What was the root cause of the issue? I do not know. What created the AC overload issue to occur was the simultaneous use of a Microwave, kettle and toaster being run off the same 15 Amp circuit. That action should only have tripped a circuit breaker. I have no idea why or how it wound up causing an AC overload issue on the inverter.

If something like this happens to you, check with Magnum first. Your inverter may be fine.

Our inverter was fine and everything is now operating as before.

We won’t be running the microwave oven with the kettle and the toaster at the same time on the same circuit in the future.

I will be happy not to see an AC Overload issue again.

One RV and Home Free

Another keynote done. My friends at the Hitch House had me back again to speak at their fall event on Saturday. Six hours of driving for the two-hour segment. And probably close to three days of prep work. But I do enjoy the process of creating and delivering a presentation.

I’ve pulled a few of the slides from the deck (I had 76 slides in total).

Always start a presentation with a catchy image and title as it will set a great tone for your story. This was the title slide.

An audience wants to connect with the speaker at a personal level. I like to share a few personal details to let the audience know that we are all in this together — trying to live life as best we can.

Spoke at length about our decision to sell our home and to travel full-time in our motorcoach. This was our house. We lived in the country on 7 acres. We had about 5,200 square feet of living space and almost 2,000 square feet between the two garages. We went from all that space to about 450 square feet in our coach. Quite the change.

This was the senior executive team from my corporate life. I’m the guy in the suit on the far right. I held senior technology roles in several of Canada’s largest financial services company over the past 35 years. I spent the last ten years of my career as the Chief Information Officer for this company. And I started to sense that it was time to consider retirement.

It was this book, Younger Next Year, that made me think about retirement. Coincidently, I had just turned sixty.

I took this shot in the Great Smoky Mountains. Sink Falls. A waterfall with someone going over the edge. That sound, the sound of the waterfall, the sound of mortality, was far more present in my life back when I was working. It still is today.

Inspiration to retire came from a variety of sources including Nikki and Jason Wynne. This was their advice to me.

We had started looking at coaches way back. In 2006. I still have the brochure on the Newmar Dutch Star from that year. It took ten years before we finally got one. This was definitely a process for us and it did not happen overnight.

To get to one RV we had a decision framework with a few major considerations.

Money

How much were we prepared to spend on this lifestyle? Not just the initial purchase but for life on the road.

Lifestyle

Weekender? Vacationer? Part-time (extended)? Full-time? What lifestyle would we take on? That lifestyle will have an influence on what type of RV we might consider.

Type

Based on budget and desired lifestyle, the type of RV is another decision factor. We always wanted a Class A although I’ve often debated about jumping into a Prevost conversion.

Brand

Which brand should we buy? The RV industry is highly consolidated with three companies holding almost 90 percent of the market (Thor, Forest River and Winnebago). All of them build their products using parts from a small number of suppliers. There is not as much differentiation between the brands if buying new as some might argue. All RVs will have issues. It comes with the lifestyle.

I did point out that there has been quite a drop in inventory. The RV industry shipped 487,893 units in 2018. The forecast is for 344,790 units in 2019. That is a drop of over 140,000 units.

New or Used

We bought new. If we were to do this again, we would buy gently used but here are the pros and cons.

 

Floorplan

What floorplan will work for us during this stage of our retirement? We had a few non-negotiable items for our coach: Class A at least 40-feet in length and equipped with two washrooms and a king-size bed. This is the floorpan of our current coach.

There was a lot more content shared in the session. Lots of audience interaction and I really enjoyed the time. I closed with another quote from Younger Next Year. The rest of our life can be great. We think it is awesome right now!

 

In a couple of weeks we arrive to our site in Florida. Good friends, sun, warmth and palm trees. Life doesn’t get much better than this. I shared this item with the audience. Lorraine and Tabby enjoying an amazing sunset view from the front of our coach.

And, after a couple of hours, the session was done. I slept well that night.

Tire Pressure

Tires and inflation. The great mystery for many motorcoach owners. I found it a bit confusing when we first took delivery of our coach. Our dealer had inflated our front tires to 120 PSI and our rear tires to 95 PSI. The factory had installed a sticker which showed the steer at 120 PSI, the drive at 90 PSI and the tag at 85 PSI. After taking delivery, we took our coach to KAL tire before a major road trip — at that time I did not carry an air compressor — and they inflated all the tires to 120 PSI.  I had the coach weighed on a CAT scale and I made a guess that the tires should be 110 PSI on the front and 85 PSI on the rear. When we were at the factory earlier this year, Newmar weighed the corners of the coach and inflated the tires to 110 PSI at the front and 75 PSI to the rear.

What tire pressure should I use? Unfortunately there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to that question.

The tire pressure you should use depends on the type of tire and the weight of the coach. There is no substitute for getting the coach weighed, preferably on all corners.

Assuming that you are running a coach with a tag, here is the process that Michelin recommends to obtain axle and wheel position weights. Not necessarily easy to do on a CAT scale. Before we had our corners weighed, we did a rough calculation based on axle weights only.

We’ll use our coach as an example.

We run on Michelin XRV 305/70R 22.5 LRL tires.

Our coach was weighed with 3/4 tank of fuel, 2/3 fresh water, empty grey tank, 1/3 black tank and no passengers.

Our corner weights:

7,290 lbs. left front, 7,115 lbs. right front
8,270 lbs. left drive, 8,645 lbs. right drive (duals)
4,275 lbs. left tag, 4,345 lbs. right tag

Tire pressures need to be the same across an axle which means that we use the heaviest tire weight on an axle to determine the load/inflation for each side of that axle.

Michelin provides the following table for our tires:

A cold tire pressure of 110 PSI will support a weight of 7,300 lbs. on a single front tire. Our heaviest single front is 7,290 lbs. therefore 110 PSI would be the target tire pressure for our coach.

A cold tire pressure of 75 PSI will support a weight of 9,530 lbs. on the one pair of duals on the drive axle. Our heaviest weight is 8,645 lbs. on our drive duals therefore 75 PSI would be the target pressure for our coach.

A cold tire pressure of 75 PSI will support a weight of 5,375 lbs. on the single tag tire. Our heaviest single tag is 4,345 lbs. therefore 75 PSI would be the target pressure for our coach.

How do you get the required tire pressure for your coach?

You need the tire model. You need the load/inflation tables from the tire manufacturer. Michelin provides an online PDF which you can download here.

And you must know the actual weight of your motorcoach. You cannot determine the correct pressure for your tires unless you know the actual weight of the coach. Preferably the corner weights.

The consequence of running tires underinflated or overinflated can be deadly.

We carry a precision tire pressure gauge suitable for our type of tire which means that it is accurate to at least 120 PSI which is our maximum load. We carry a portable air compressor that can inflate tires to at least 120 PSI. We have found through experience that we cannot count on the tire pressure services at fuel stops to provide enough pressure to inflate our tires to 110 PSI.

Before any trip on our coach we check our cold tire pressure and we use an air compressor to inflate the tires as required. We visually inspect our tires for any signs of wear or distress.