Detailing a Motorcoach

There is an easy way and a hard way to get a motorcoach looking its best.

I use the hard way.

The easy way is to get someone else to do it. Many of the places that we go with our coach have companies that will come on-site to do a wash and wax. Costs vary somewhat but count on roughly $500 for a wash and wax of a larger Class A motorhome.

The hard way is the do it yourself way. It will definitely take much, much longer than a mobile RV detailer. I take about 20 hours to do a fairly thorough detailing of the motorhome. When we were not travelling full-time, I would detail the coach once a year as it was kept indoors in storage for the winter months.

Now that we are outside and travelling full-time, detailing will happen every three months or so.

I will share my process for detailing our coach broken out by tools and technique.

Tools

It does take a fair amount of equipment to detail a coach. This is what I am using right now.

Ladder. The coach is about 13 feet high. A ladder is a necessity. We use this one from Camping World.

Extension poles. I have two of them. One for washing and one for blading the water off the coach. These extension poles are readily available at places like Lowes or the Home Depot.

Wash buckets with grit guards. I use two. One for the fresh soap and one for rinsing off the wash mitts. I bought two 5-gallon buckets from Canadian Tire. Grit guards can be found online from places like Chemical Guys.

Orbital polisher. I use the Porter and Cable 7424XP dual action orbital polisher available online at places like Amazon. And I use the red polishing pads from Chemical Guys to apply wax. If I need to polish the surface, I will use a stronger cutting pad like this one.

Water blades. I have two. A California blade for getting water off the body of the coach by hand. And a specialty California blade for getting the water off the body of the coach using an extension pole. Really speeds up the process of drying the coach. Find the original blades here at One Pass Waterblade. You can also find them on Amazon.

Hose and nozzle. I have a 50-foot pocket hose, folds up nice and neat, and a high-quality nozzle with multiple patterns. I picked both of them up at Lowes.

Microfibre towels. I have dozens of microfibre towels. Drying and polishing towels. I get them from places like Chemical Guys.

Microfibre wash mitts. I have handheld and pole mount wash mitts. I get them from Chemical Guys.

Clay mitt and lube. For surface preparation, I remove contaminants with a clay mitt and clay lube. For a large vehicle like a motorhome, the clay mitt works a lot better than hand holding the clay bar. I bought mine from Chemical Guys. I use their clay lube as well.

Wash soap. I have used a number of wash soaps and lately I have been using Griot’s Garage Brilliant Finish.

Wax. You might be getting the idea that I really love Chemical Guys. I use their Butter Wet Wax. Easy to apply and easy to remove and gives an amazing result.

Phew! And there is more. I have products for detailing tires, cleaning windows, polishing mirrors and chrome, interior dash, and on it goes. But, for detailing the coach, those are some of the tools of the trade. Now on to the process.

Technique

I follow three steps for a thorough detail:

  1. Wash and dry
  2. Surface preparation
  3. Finish coating

Wash and dry. I use the two-bucket system to wash the coach. This video from Chemical Guys shows you how to do this if you aren’t familiar with the technique.

Surface preparation. This step may involve claying and polishing the surface prior to applying a wax. Another video from Chemical Guys shows you how to clay a vehicle. They are using a clay bar here. I prefer to use the clay mitt for a large vehicle like a motorcoach. Much faster than using a clay bar.

If the finish has lots of swirl marks, then polishing would be the next step. Another great video from the Chemical Guys shows you how to polish. Because I have taken great care with the finish of our coach, I haven’t had to polish the surface (yet).

Finish coating. I use an orbital polisher and a hand applicator for applying the wax. With waxing, a little goes a long way. A final video from the Chemical Guys shows you how it is done. I use a hand applicator to get at the top part of the coach. I have not yet mastered the ability to stand on the top part of a ladder while operating a dual action orbital polisher.

How long does all of this take? Well, as mentioned, I will spend about 20 hours or so to wash, clay and wax the coach. I do sections of the coach over several days: rear cap, front cap, full wall slide out , passenger side slide outs, driver side bays, passenger side bays. And the roof. So important to protect the roof. I use a sealant up there though. Lasts much longer than wax.

Detailing wheels, tires, windows and chrome? I do those areas whenever the urge to clean hits me, which, oddly enough, happens frequently.

It is something I enjoy doing and, being retired, I have the time to fit it into my busy calendar.

Programming MCD Shades

Our MCD shades have had their fair share of ups and downs — sorry about the bad pun!

Newmar had issued a Technical Service Bulletin on the MCD shades and it reads as follows:

Newmar and MCD shade have determined that certain 2016 and 2017 Dutch Star coaches (all floorplans with remote-controlled power shades) and 2016 and 2017 Ventana coaches (4311 floorplan only) may experience remote-controlled power shade failures. MCD has created the attached troubleshooting instructions to diagnose the 14-channel remote and remote motors. If the original remote-controlled motor(s) have failed and currently need replacing, the motors and remote(s) will be replaced with a 15-channel remote, new remote control motors, and a two-channel bedroom remote. The driver side “Sway Shade” will also be replaced as a complete shade. Replace the bezel in the wall to ensure the proper fit of the new 15-channel remote.

Newmar included the coach numbers that were impacted by this TSB and our coach was not on the list despite us having numerous issues with the shades since we took delivery of our coach.

Right now all of the shades seem to be working however a few of them need to have their limits adjusted. As we are rolling with an archaic remote controller from 2007 — MCD has the word “innovations” in their business name so perhaps a clunky remote from before the era of the iPhone was innovative — the procedure to program the shades, in keeping with much of the technology in RVs, is not particularly user friendly.

I’m including the instructions here as I fear that MCD Innovations will drop the page that contains the instructions and I might not find them again on their website.

Directions to Link and Set Limits

If you do not have the two small holes drilled in the face of your 14-channel remote, the cover of the remote must be removed for Key 1 and Key 2 access.

  • Select the button on the 14 channel remote you want to link the shade with.
  • Start the motor by holding the learning button on the shade until it just starts beeping, then you should release the button.
  • Link with Key 2 on the Remote: While motor is beeping, press and hold Key 2 (left-hand button) to link remotely to the motor. A Chirp will be heard if successful. NOTE: In rare cases, Key 1 will marry the remote to the shade. Try this only after several attempts are made using Key 2 above with no results.
  • Program with Key 1 on the remote: Press and hold Key 1 (right-hand button) to get into the program mode. You will hear the motor Chirp.
  • Confirming the upper and lower limits: Lower the shade with the DOWN button and manually stop it by pressing the STOP button where you want the lower limit to be set. NOTE: You can bump the shade up or down (1/2” at a time) once you stop the initial movement of the shade as it first travels up or down. This allows you to accurately set the limit where you want the shade to stop. When you have the shade positioned properly, press Key 2 to confirm that limit. A Chirp should be heard.
    Using the UP button, move the shade to the upper stop position and manually stop the shade by pressing the STOP button. Bump the shade up or down to position it correctly and, again, press Key 2. You are now out of the programming mode.
  • Test the shade limits: start by pressing the DOWN button on the 14-channel remote and keep your finger near the STOP button. If the shade does not stop at the limit you set, stop it manually. If the shade stops at the limit properly, press the UP button and test the upper stop point. Again, Be sure to keep your finger near the stop button in case the limit is exceeded. If the upper and lower stop points work properly, you are done.
  • NOTE: If the shade goes UP when you push the DOWN button, you can easily change the direction of the motor by holding the STOP button for that shade and then pushing Key 1, together, until the motor Chirps. The motor should now be reversed. Test the shade to be sure it is correct.
  • If you need to Link the shade to the All Night or All Day button on a 14-channel remote, press the All Night/Day button on the remote. Hold the learning button on the shade you want to Link until it just starts to beep and release it. Press Key 2 on the 14-channel remote to Link to the remote. If the limits were set previously, those parameters are stored in the motor of the shade, so no more programming is necessary.

NOTE: If you need to clear a motor of all its limits, hold the learning button for that shade for three sets of a series of beeps. All previous limits will now be removed and you MUST manually stop the shade.

To unlink a shade for either the 2-channel or 14-channel remote: Hold learning button on the shade for 1 beep cycle only, you can then re-link to another button. The shade will un-link from all buttons (individual and all).

Winegard Trav’ler Bell to Dish

A few years back, I posted about some challenges that I had with our Winegard Trav’ler satellite dish. The dish was pointed straight up and it would not stow. It took a lot of time and searching on the web to find a way to resolve that problem.

Since then, I’ve received numerous questions about how to switch the Winegard from Bell to Dish. I did not know how to answer because I had never made the switch. But now I have.

The Winegard Trav’ler supports both service providers and, in true engineering fashion, there is no easy, documented way to make that switch.

Why make the switch? Well, if you are a Canadian snowbird, the Bell service works only in Canada. The satellite coverage doesn’t extend very far, if at all, when travelling in the United States. We needed a U.S. provider, Dish, if we wanted to have satellite programming during our time south.

I took the plunge and made it happen in our coach. Five steps.

  1. Buy a compatible satellite receiver
  2. Configure the Winegard interface box
  3. Activate the satellite service
  4. Test the switch
  5. Program the remote

Step 1: Buy a compatible satellite receiver

The Wally is the perfect solution for us. The Wally is readily available at places like Camping World or online at Amazon. The cost is low, roughly $80 USD, and the unit is compact, runs cool, and it is well designed. Dish offers the Wally as part of their mobile solution, specifically aimed at RVers. No contracts. The service is month-to-month and you can cancel at any time. Most importantly, our satellite antenna will work with Dish. No need to hop on the roof and change the antenna!

This was the easiest part of the process. We went to a nearby Camping World and purchased a Wally receiver.

Step 2: Configure the Winegard interface box

I’m not sure why but Winegard does not provide any online help to switch providers. Perhaps their view is that people in RVs only ever travel in one country.

The annoying part is that if you initiate the power on sequence, the Winegard will go into search mode and it will find the Dish satellites (119, 110, 129) but, if your satellite type has been configured as LG ExpressVu, then all that will happen is a lot of searching before the unit gives up and stows your antenna.

You have to configure the Winegard to select the antenna type and service provider. In my case, that was LG Dish 1000. I’m still not quite sure what the difference is between “LG” and “SM” but I think the “LG” stands for Low Ground and “SM” for Surface Mount. The latter probably referring to the dome style satellites.

The sequence is a bit odd and may require different steps. I had to try it a few times before I got it to work. Make sure that you start with the Winegard antenna powered off.

The Winegard interface box has three buttons on the front panel labelled “POWER”, “SELECT” and “ENTER”.

I started by pressing and holding the “POWER” button for a few seconds, until the interface displayed “POWER ON”. And then I pressed and held “ENTER” for a few seconds.

The interface will display a prompt: “Enter User Menu?” and below that prompt will be two options: “Yes No”. I pressed the “SELECT” button until the asterisk was beside Yes and then I pressed the “ENTER” button.

There will be four choices at this point: Search Mode, Diagnostics, Installation and Exit. We need the Installation option. Press “SELECT” until the asterisk is next to “Installation” and press “ENTER”.

For whatever reason, the Winegard interface will then prompt for a password. The default is 0000. Press “ENTER” four times to accept the default password of 0000.

The “Select Antenna” option should come up. Again, ensure that the asterisk is beside the “Select Antenna” and then press “ENTER”.

I then had an option to choose between LG Mount and SM Mount. For my antenna, I choose LG Mount. Again, press the “SELECT” button until the asterisk is beside the “LG Mount” option and press “ENTER”.

Another password prompt will come up. And it is here that you might get stuck. The user documentation shows “0022” as the password. Does not work on my system. I had found another password somewhere on the web, “2112”, and that one works fine.

Use the “SELECT” button to set the number and, once entered, press “ENTER”.

At that point you should see options for the service type. In my case, I could choose between four options. The one I needed was “LG Dish 1000”. Press “SELECT” until the asterisk is next to “LG Dish 1000” and press “ENTER”. A confirmation might come up next. Press “SELECT” to put the asterisk beside “Yes” and press “ENTER”.

At this point the interface should display “in progress” and “Success”.

What then?

I had no idea. I basically powered the unit off. Turned it back on. It spent about twenty minutes searching the sky for satellites and then it came back with “LG Dish 1000 *110 *119 *129” on the display.

Success.

By far the hardest part of the process as there is nothing in the manual or on the web that I could find to make this change happen. A little bit of trial and error. I was happy to see the satellites locked in and ready to go.

Step 3: Activate the satellite service

Be prepared to spend a bit of time on the phone with Dish TV. They will set up a customer account if you do not have one and you have to provide them with the id numbers for the receiver and the smart card as well as your contact information, credit card and programming choice.

I fired up the Wally before I called them to make sure that I had the receiver sending signal out to the front panels (I feed all of the source video in the front of our coach to two LED panels).

In my case, the audio/video signals were going through just fine.

There is a straightforward initialization process with the Wally. I paired the Wally remote with the receiver and followed the onscreen instructions.

Then it was a matter of activating the receiver. That was when I called Dish

I had no issues. After spending thirty to forty minutes on the phone with Dish TV, the Wally received its activation signal. But I wasn’t finished yet.

Step 4: Test the switch

You will need to test the switch to ensure that the signals from the satellite are getting through the unit successfully. If you miss this step, you might find that you are missing channels or not receiving any channels at all.

This part of the process is unique to the receiver. Dish has a page here that you can use but I found that the Wally’s interface differed. Not hard to find on the Wally, but if you do not set up the receiver properly, be prepared to call tech support at Dish.

Step 5: Program the remote

In our installation I use the Logitech Harmony Elite to control all of the sources in my AV cabinet. You can see the Harmony Hub on the upper left shelf. I have the Harmony Remote Control programmed for Apple TV, Over-The-Air Digital TV, Dish TV, Blu-Ray, and Sonos for when I stream music throughout the coach.

Programming the Harmony Remote was easy. I used the Harmony App on my iPhone to set up the new configuration. It resolved the codes for the Wally remote and synchronized the changes from my iPhone out to my Harmony Hub which then automatically updated the Harmony Remote.

So cool.

And, at that point, I could turn things on and watch satellite programming.

Good thing I’m retired. It took most of the afternoon to make this happen.

Replace Broken Drawer Catch

This drawer now shuts properly.

Getting it to do so involved a little bit of detective work.

Let’s take a look, shall we? Just in case a fellow Newmar RVer needs to replace a broken plastic catch.

Here is a picture of the broken plastic catch after I removed it from the cabinet. When it broke, it remained in the locked position which prevented the drawer from closing. You can see how the catch is closed in the casing towards the left side of the part.

I tried to return it to the unlocked position but it was a temporary fix. As long as I did not need to open the drawer, the temporary fix worked flawlessly. Of little value, arguably, as a drawer should be opened from time to time.

We have about ten new plastic catches in the coach now. It seems to be a common enough problem, these broken plastic catches. I’ve replaced two of them over the past few months. One of them this evening.

The part costs about $1.50 so there really isn’t a good reason not to keep a few in stock on board the coach.

To replace the plastic latch requires removal of the drawer to allow for ready access to the old catch and to make it easier to install the new catch.

It is not all that obvious how to remove the drawer. It took a bit of research to find out how to do so.

Let me give you the trade secret. There is a plastic lever where the drawer slide stop engages. You can see it here:

That little tab that sticks out on the right hand side? That is the lever. You will see it when you open the drawer fully. Flipping it up, or sometimes flipping it down, disengages the drawer slide stop allowing you to easily and completely remove the drawer from the drawer slide.

I thought you had to pull out the drawer and then lift it up off the drawer rails. That will not end well on a Newmar drawer. At least not with our coach.

Once the drawer is removed, it is very easy to replace the catch. Two screws hold it in place. As long as you have the same part, it is a very quick repair.

When completed, you will once again have a happy drawer. As you can see in the picture below, the new plastic latch is in the unlocked position, waiting to clasp the drawer when the drawer is closed.

Planning and Organizing

Being stranded has turned out to be a great opportunity to really focus on getting things organized in the coach. With limited space, how and where things get stored can make a big difference in daily life.

Clearly, a small space forces a certain level of minimalism. That said, we have everything we need. Hard pressed to highlight anything that we are missing aside from a repaired awning.

Being retired means that I have a lot more time available to help smooth out the ride, as it were. And one area that really needed some smoothing?

Our checklists.

There are a lot of things to remember when getting a coach ready to leave and getting it ready to arrive. I’m surprised that the manufacturers of motorhomes don’t publish checklists for their customers. I have some general documentation about our coach from the manufacturer but it is really, really superficial and it is generalized to the point of being irrelevant.

I have been revising our checklists for our coach and I am printing them out and placing them into a binder. I will follow the same protocol that pilots use when preparing an aircraft for takeoff and for landing. I will work through all of the checklist items. There are so many of them that I can’t remember them all and there is a tendency on my part to assume everything is okay and make haste to get on the road. Forgetting something in the process without a checklist is highly possible. For me.

Here is the departure checklist (still under development as I need to add the checklist items for getting our car ready for towing behind our coach):

One for testing air brakes:

One for arrival:

 

I have several other checklists. One related to getting our access point to WiFi and LTE for Internet access. Others for maintaining subsystems like our generator and heating system.

We’ll have two copies on board, one for me in the cockpit and one for Lorraine as she helps out with the circle check.

I’ve seen first hand several accidents that occurred simply because the owner of the coach was in a hurry to get going. Preventing unnecessary damage to the coach by trying to exit a site too quickly is one thing. The consequence of a critical system failure while driving could be catastrophic.

Safety first.

Otherwise we wind up in the House of Blues.