Girard Awning Stuck?

Your Girard awnings won’t extend? They won’t retract? Are they stuck hanging outside your coach?

That happened to us a few days ago. And the solution for our coach was not something that you will find in a manual.

I was doing some outside work on our 2016 Newmar Dutch Star 4002. It is equipped with the Girard Nova Awnings.

Everything looked fine.

I went inside the coach and pressed the “IN” button to retract the awnings.

The awnings began to retract and, about halfway through the process, they stopped. They were stuck.

The awnings were partially deployed. They would not go in. They would not go out.

What could be wrong?

I did the usual: read through the manual, jumped on the Girard website, searched Google. And, after a few hours of floundering, I gave up and called the service manager at our dealer.

He knew exactly what to do.

Inside one of our bays are two Girard control devices. Our service manager called them “turtles”.

They look like this:

These two are working normally because the two indicator lights at the upper left are on. Not sure why the Girard engineers chose red LEDs as the normal condition light indicator. Wouldn’t a green LED indicator make more sense?

When our awnings became stuck, both those lights were off.

If you follow where they are plugged in, you will find something interesting marked on the outlet:

Well, look at that! They are plugged into a GFCI protected circuit.

Important to note: they are not plugged into a GFCI outlet. The plug is tied to a GFCI outlet. There is no reset button at this plug. We had to go hunting for the GFCI  outlets elsewhere in the coach.

Our service manager asked us to reset two GFCI outlets. One in our kitchen galley and one in our small washroom mid-coach.

He suspected that there was some kind of voltage issue that caused the GFCI circuits to trip. One of the awnings was tied to the GFCI outlet in the kitchen, the other was tied to the GFCI outlet in the small washroom.

Finding said GFCI outlets is a bit of a trick.

In our case, the GFCI outlet in the kitchen was directly underneath one of the top row of cabinets.

You can make out the two buttons in the middle of the GFCI outlet. It takes a bit more work to press reset than I expected. There is quite a bit of travel and you have to really press down.

The reset button for our outlets is in the top position. The other button is a test button. If you press that one, the outlet may not reset.

In the small bathroom, the GFCI outlet was located inside our medicine cabinet.

We tested both of those outlets to make sure they were working before heading back down to the bay which holds the two Girard “turtles”. The indicator lights on the Girard controllers were back on.

Pressing the “IN” button retracted the Girard awnings. Success.

Filed under “Not in the manual” and “The things they don’t tell you about maintaining your coach”.

Balanced

“How do you jack up the front of your coach?” he asked me.

“I don’t know.” was my reply.

I called Newmar’s customer service. They told me to put a couple of 2x4s underneath the levelling jacks and manually push down. That would lift the front wheels up and, from their point of view, the only way to remove the tire without potentially causing damage to the front suspension system.

When we had a front tire changed last year, this was not the approach used by roadside assistance. They lifted the coach on a crossbeam that has a rather large sign on it. The sign says not to use a jack.

Hopefully he did no long term damage to the front suspension system of the coach.

Roadside assistance told me that the replacement tire did not need balancing. Well, it did. I could tell by driving the coach that the new tire was out of balance. Especially at speeds of around 60mph.

And now? All balanced. Just in time for our 11-hour drive to Petoskey tomorrow.

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.

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.

Clearance Check

Space. Room to spare.

Unfortunately, many of the sites we have visited with our coach have very little space. Sites are small and tightly packed.

We first learned about checking for clearance when we visited the 1,000 Islands/Ivy Lea KOA in Ontario, Canada. It was our first trip out with the coach. We made a point of telling the KOA folks that we had a 40-foot coach and we would need a site where we could fit. “No problem”, they told us, “we have big rigs in here all the time.”

Looking at the site below, everything looks great. Getting to the site was a real adventure. Everything was very tight for space. And once we got in to this site? Well, what you do not see clearly from the angle of the photograph are the branches of the evergreen tree on the driver’s side resting directly on the roof of the coach.

Lorraine was very focused on the lower clearance of the coach when she guided me into the site that she did not look up. The coach lifted the branches over the top of the roofline and once the airbags had deflated, the branches remained propped up by the roof itself. Fortunately the branches did not damage the coach.

The only way we were able to exit that site was to have the KOA staff come and cut several branches from the tree.

Lesson learned. Or so we thought.

About a year later, we went to Milton Heights Campground to attend a Newmar Kountry Klub chapter rally. Our chapter rally was held last week. We quite enjoyed our time there.

Milton Heights is an old park with narrow roads and very narrow sites. For our stay, things were quiet and the surroundings pleasant.

Our entry into our site did not go as smoothly as planned.

Lorraine guided me into the narrow site. It was paved and, quite rightly, she wanted to ensure that the coach was positioned more or less centred on the narrow strip of pavement.

Unfortunately, the post for the water and electric service was tight to the narrow strip of pavement. Less than two feet. I hadn’t put the slides out as I had recently changed my routine when setting up at a site. Park, leave coach at ride height, turn engine off, exit coach, connect services, re-enter coach, slides out then jacks down. Thank heavens I followed that protocol.

I went to connect the services and, sure enough, there was no way that we would be able to put our full wall slide out without hitting the water and electric service pedestal.

Not enough space.

If I had followed our old protocol, we would have experienced damage to our full wall slide.

So, back into the coach. We repositioned the coach as far right on the paved strip as possible.

Just enough room to get the slides out.

A good reminder for us to really think about the space requirements for our coach. Many of the sites we visit were designed for a different class of motorhome. What I have learned is that if a campground looks tight, it is tight and it is best to walk out to the site first and check all clearances including clearances for the slides before making our way.