Climb That Mountain

Everest

Or, five things I learned from detailing our 40-foot coach:

Lesson 1: Patience

I had estimated about 24 hours when I first planned our approach to detailing the coach. I’d say I was closer to 30 hours to complete the job. Applying the paint sealant by hand and then buffing by hand takes considerable effort and time. Especially when climbing up and down ladders. I had to reframe my reference in terms of how long it would take to detail the coach and I had to be attentive when on the ladder. No rushing!

Lesson 2: Tools

Getting the right tools for the job makes the experience a lot easier. Still, I missed one very critical tool.

I had all of the requisite cleaning supplies to wash the coach down prior to applying the sealant. I listed all of those supplies in this post. With all of my planning, what tool did I miss?

My Porter Cable 7424XP Variable Speed Random Orbit Polisher.

I have one in my toolbox for detailing my cars. Why didn’t I use it on the coach? I’m a bit baffled. Maybe because I thought it would be difficult to operate high on the ladder. Maybe because I thought it would be difficult to keep my balance and I might drop the polisher, or I might fall. Maybe because I was worried about getting caught up in the power cable.

Whatever the reason, I would not do this job again by hand. I would learn how to safely work with the Porter Cable polisher.

The most useful tool? The water blade. I have a smaller handheld water blade but I am going to purchase the 18-inch blade that I can mount on an extension pole. The water blade literally made drying the coach a breeze.

Lesson 3: Weather

The paint sealant I was using, Rejex, is sensitive to the weather. RejeX should be wiped on, allowed to dry for 10-20 minutes until it forms a haze, wiped off, then allowed to cure for 8-12 hours. Rejex also does not like the heat. 85F/29C or lower. And Rejex does not like the rain.

Weather in our area can be quite volatile. Even though the weather forecast predicted no rain, the day I was working on the driver’s side of the coach, a thunderstorm came rolling in just as I had finished the last section. It poured. Looks like the paint sealant held on though. If the weather is unstable, best to wait for a better day.

Lesson 4: No Pain, No Gain

This type of job does exercise an entirely different set of muscles. When you spend 8 hours or more working non-stop on a motorhome, you will feel the pain. I was unable to finish the whole coach on a long weekend. Day two was the driver’s side and on day three I was too sore to continue. I finished the passenger side the following weekend. If the muscles are too sore, it may be too dangerous to be perching on ladders 10 or 12 feet up in the air.

Lesson 5: Satisfaction

I have to say that when I finished detailing the coach I had this sense of a significant accomplishment. Like climbing a famous mountain, I did it!

Masterpiece

Masterpiece

The Newmar Full-Paint Masterpiece Finish is one of the most stunning and durable in the industry.

It is also one of the more demanding finishes to detail because of the overall size of our motorhome.

I started to detail the Castaway yesterday. I was able to complete the rear cap, the front windshield and the lower front cap. The rear cap turned out to be fairly straightforward.

The weather has to cooperate. It is always best to wash and detail a vehicle when it is cool and there is no direct sun.

I used a two bucket system for the initial wash. Both buckets have a capacity of 5 gallons and both buckets have a grit guard. The grit guard fits in the bottom of the bucket and extracts grit from the wash mitt. The dirt settles at the bottom of the bucket so your wash water stays clean.

One bucket holds the wash. I use Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash and Shampoo and Conditioner. Terrific product.

The second bucket holds rinse water.

I have a microfiber wash mitt and a microfiber wash pad on an extension pole. Given the height of the Castaway, I have to use a pole to reach the top areas of the vehicle.

I gave the area a good rinse and then washed the rear cap from the top down. I refreshed the wash mitt and the wash pad frequently. On the top area of the rear cap, six times and on the bottom area of the rear cap, six times. I refreshed  by rinsing out the pad or mitt in the rinse water bucket and then loaded new soap from the wash water bucket.

Once washed, I gave the area another good rinse. And then it was time to dry.

I have a lot of microfiber drying towels. They absorb so much water that I was able to do the rear cap of the Castaway with three towels. For the upper part, I had to be on an 8-foot step ladder, barely high enough to reach the very top of the coach. I carried two towels with me. One to absorb most of the water and the second to lift off whatever water remained on the surface.

Given the width of the rear cap, I had to reposition the ladder four times to cover all of the top areas.

Now that this area was clean and dry, I could apply the paint sealant. I am using Rejex for the coach. From their website:

RejeX is a water-clear, thin film polymer coating designed to provide an ultra-high-release surface. RejeX is commonly used as a paint sealant providing a high-performance alternative to conventional wax-based products to maximize protection and shine on vehicles of all sorts, including aircraft, cars, motorcycles, boats and RVs.

Very straightforward product to apply. Just like a wax, a small amount of product gets applied to the surface and, once it dries to a haze, buff to a high-gloss shine.

Rejex wants 12 hours to cure so I had to check the weather to make sure I would get those 12 hours. And I did. The rear cap looks great. I spent roughly 2 hours on the rear cap.

The front cap was a lot more involved because of the windshield.

For the windshield, I clayed the glass, I polished the glass, and I applied two coats of water repellant followed by a lengthy buffing session. The water repellant was challenging to buff out. I used Griot’s glass treatment products all around.

Because the windshield is so large and so high, I had to use the step ladder for the entire process. I divided the windshield into four zones and went to work. All told, it took about 4 hours just to do the windshield.

As I started to run out of time, I could only apply sealant to the bottom half of the front cap.

The water repellant is impressive. I could see the morning dew literally run off the windshield.

My mission later today? Complete one side of the Castaway. I am planning to tackle driver’s side.

Details, Details

Detailed

The Castaway is a big coach. Particularly when compared to a car. It is so tall that a ladder is needed to reach the almost 13 foot high roofline. With a length over 40 feet, the coach has somewhere in excess of 1,500 square feet of surface area.

I love to detail my car. I have all of the tools and finishing products necessary to deliver an awesome car show shine.

When we took delivery of the Castaway, I declined any form of paint treatment by the dealer. That part I would do myself. After all, I love to detail my car. And I have all the tools.

I am now having second thoughts.

I washed the coach last week. It was a really, really big job that took a couple of hours to complete. And I did not dry the coach. I ran out of daylight and decided to let the water sit, something I would never, ever do with the finish of a car.

I have a package arriving from my friends at Auto Obsessed which includes the following:

  • Griot’s Garage Glass Cleaning Clay
  • Griot’s Garage Speed Shine
  • Griot’s Garage Glass Polish
  • Griot’s Garage Glass Sealant
  • RejeX Paint Sealant
  • Microfiber Premium Dryer Towels
  • Griot’s Garage Micro Fiber Wash Mops Heads

The long weekend is coming up and my task is to detail the coach.

I’ve decided to break it down into 6 phases.

Phase 1. Front Cap

The biggest part of dealing with the front cap of the coach will be the main windshield. With such an expansive area of glass, I need to make sure that I have eliminated any and all water spots etched into the surface and polished out the minor imperfections prior to applying a sealant. I will use the glass cleaning clay to remove surface contaminants. The clay requires a lubricant which is where Griot’s Speed Shine comes into play. Once complete, the windshield should be free from road film, oil, tar, grease, water spots and the remains of splattered bugs.

The fine glass polish will be a second pass on preparing the windshield for the sealant. The sealant increases wet weather visibility as it creates a hydrophobic surface to repel water. It also makes it easier to clean material off the windshield. As we enjoy a wonderful, panoramic view from the flight deck of the coach, enhancing the visibility and clarity of the windshield is at the top of my detailing list. Even for a new coach.

Newmar applies a shield to most of the front cap. Called a Diamond Shield, it is basically a protective film against stones and bugs. The front cap will be hand washed, dried and then treated with RejeX Paint Sealant. RejeX is a thin, polymer coating that protects the paint finish for up to six months. It has a high refractive index so lustre should be on par or better than most waxes.

I think this part of the job will take about 4 hours.

Phase 2. Rear Cap

The rear cap of the coach will probably be the easiest and fastest part of the detail work. 2 hours should be more than enough time to wash, dry and treat the rear cap. The toughest part of this job will be cleaning and treating the long mudflap at the bottom of the coach. It spans the full width of the coach and it hangs below the bottom frame.

Phase 3. Passenger Side Slideouts

There are two slideouts on the passenger side of the coach: the living area and the stateroom. The stateroom is the smaller of the two. Nothing too complicated here. I am going to guess at roughly 4 hours to wash, dry and treat the two slideouts.

Phase 4. Driver Side Full Wall Slideout

There is only one slideout on the driver side but it is a large one. It basically spans most of the length of the coach. This one slideout will take about 4 hours.

Phase 5. Passenger Side

Lots of details to worry about on the passenger side with multiple compartment doors, stainless steel accent trims and a large surface area. I will be happy if I get through this side in about 6 hours.

Phase 6. Driver Side

This side will be a little easier than the passenger side as the full wall slideout occupies most of the space leaving just a small area of the coach to wash, dry and treat. It also holds multiple compartment doors and stainless steel accent trims. Probably a 4 hour effort.

All told, it may take about 24 hours to detail the coach.

I have Accuride wheels with Accu-Shield aluminum wheels. The wheels do not require any polishing or treatment. I will wash them of course but I won’t be spending any time polishing or treating the wheels.

The tires are fine for now. I want to pick up some product for the tires once I have had a chance to do a bit more research.

Wish me luck on this project.

 

Cross Border Expedition

JungleCruise

We have booked our second expedition for the Castaway. This one is a bit more of an adventure. We will be travelling about 1,000 kilometres to Petoskey Motorcoach Resort in Michigan.

Our first trip was very successful and it was also very local. We traveled only 50 kilometres to our campsite. Short drive and a two-night stay.

This expedition will be more of a test. We will be following this route:

Route

We will be breaking the drive down into two segments. The first segment will take us across the border and we will stop for the night at the Port Huron KOA. That will be about a 5-hour drive and whatever time it may take to get through U.S. Customs.

We have never crossed the U.S. border in a motorhome before. And we have never brought our dog across the border.

Tabby is a wonderful golden retriever and very friendly but she has no passport.

What do we need to bring our dog across the border?

Tabby must be healthy, and she is, and she must have a valid rabies vaccine certificate. The certificate has to be issued from a licensed veterinarian and includes the following information:

  • Breed, gender, age colour, markings and any other identifying information
  • Date of rabies vaccination
  • Expiration date of vaccination certificate or date that the next vaccination is due
  • Veterinarian’s signature

The CDC website outlines all of the requirements for bringing a dog into the United States.

What about crossing the border in an RV?

We will need to have our passports.

We may have to prove residency so we will have copies of our Property Taxes as well as some utility receipts.

We won’t travel with any food. We will pick up what we need once we cross into the United States.

We are only staying for a week so we do not have to worry about hitting the 182 day visitor limit. Once we start snowbirding in the United States, we will have to fill out a Closer Connection form and send it to the IRS so we are not held liable for U.S. taxes.

And we will make sure that we have U.S. travel packs for our mobile devices.

The second segment of our drive will take us to the beautiful Petoskey Motorcoach Resort. We have a great site reserved for the week. As we have not yet set up a toad, we will be renting a car. The folks at the resort will arrange to have the rental car brought out to our site.

The trip back will be a full day of driving — probably about 10 hours or so depending on traffic and any delays at the border.

We will be heading out in 4 weeks.

 

Checklists

Checklists

The Circle Check and motor coach pre-trip inspection is an important part of every trip on the Castaway. And we conducted our circle checks. That said, we rushed things along and we did miss some items.

Update: I’ve had a few people ask me for pdfs of the checklists below. Here is the Freightliner checklist. And here is our checklist.

Freightliner, the company that manufactured the chassis of the Castaway, provides a comprehensive section on Pre- and Post-Trip Checklists in Chapter 9 of their Operator’s Manual. You can download the pdf from this link (select the Recreational Vehicle Chassis Operator’s Manual).

This is their recommended approach to the pre-trip inspection:

PreTripChecklist

Hang on because our pre-trip inspection will be a bit more detailed. I am putting it into a checklist form on Evernote to allow either Lorraine or myself to use a tablet and literally check off each element. If we have missed any important element, we can readily add it to the checklist.

Our Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist:

Approach Vehicle
No leaning or leaks
Nothing under the coach

Enter Vehicle
Check previous log, notice any repairs needed/completed, any issues that need checking
Locate Insurance Card and Vehicle Registration

Engine Compartment (Engine Off)
Look for fluids on ground or dripping from the engine or transmission
Check Oil Level
Coolant reservoir: sight glass level, radiator cap, secure, no leaks
Power Steering Fluid Level; no leaks, gear driven, securely mounted
Water Pump: no leaks, gear driven, securely mounted
Air Compressor: no leaks, gear driven, securely mounted
Belts: no cracks, frays, proper tension (no more than 3/4″ of play)
Pulleys: no chips, cracks, welds, securely attached
Hoses: not cracked, no bulges, no leaks, clamps secure, no loose connections
Alternators: securely mounted, wiring properly attached and not corroded
All Clamps and Fittings secure, tight
No Leaks (anywhere)

Preparation for Starting Coach
Adjust: Driver’s Seat, Mirrors (left & right), Steering Wheel (tilt & telescope) lock in place
Check Seat Belt Operation: Seat belt must be securely mounted, adjustable, latch properly, and in good condition (not ripped or frayed)

Safe Start Procedure
Coach is in neutral, parking brake is on
Apply Service Brake
Ignition start
Observe Oil Pressure Gauge shows normal pressure normal and temperature rising to normal
Check Amp/Volt Meter working and showing normal output
Turn On Lights (in & out), Flashers

Inspection of Entrance Area
Check door operation from outside, hinges securely attached, door seals intact, no glass damage
Stair Treads: fastened securely, no hazards
Handrails: present and securely fastened
Step Courtesy Light: operational

Right Front Wheels
Rim: no cracks, bends, weld, or damage
Right Front Tires Tread Depth: must be 4/32″ minimum, wear pattern even, no recaps
Tire Condition: Check that tread is evenly worn, check sidewalls for cracks, abrasions, bulges, or other damage
Tire Inflation: check the air pressure with a gauge
Valve Stems & Caps: not missing or damaged
Lug Nuts: all present, free of cracks, tight, show no signs of looseness (no rust or shiny threads)
Hub: oil/grease seal behind rim, no leaks
Splash Guards: attached and secure, no damage

Front Air Brakes
Inspect rotor, brake pads or drum and linings
Check for wear, oil/grease, or damage, secure and bolts tight
Check Air Chamber not leaking, cracked or dented, securely mounted
Air Hoses, Lines, & Fittings: secure, no leaks, worn or damaged
Air Tanks: secure, no leaks

Front Suspension
Air Ride Suspension: check for damage and leaks
Shock Absorbers: secure and no leaks

Right Side of Coach
Check All Lights, Reflective Equipment: clean, functional (not cracked, broken, or missing)
Clearance Lights (amber lens)
Turn Signals and Flashers (amber lens)
Windows: closed properly, no damage to glass
Compartment Bay Doors: Check all, open and close properly, latch securely, interior cables not frayed and secure
Front Bay: Check Safety Triangles (3) or Flares (6)
Fuel Tank: secure, fuel cap(s) are tight, no leaks from tanks or lines
Under Bus Frame: Check for damage
Exhaust System: intact, no leaks

Battery Compartment
Hold Downs: secure
Cable Connections: tight, no corrosion
Cell Caps: present
Battery Box: secure
Compartment Door: operates correctly, fastened securely

Right Rear Wheels
Rim: no cracks, bends, weld, or damage
Right Rear Tires Tread Depth: must be 4/32″ minimum, wear pattern even, no recaps
Tire Condition: Check that tread is evenly worn, check sidewalls for cracks, abrasions, bulges, or other damage
Tire Inflation: check the air pressure with a gauge
Valve Stems & Caps: not missing or damaged
Lug Nuts: all present, free of cracks, tight, show no signs of looseness (no rust or shiny threads)
Hub: oil/grease seal behind rim, no leaks
No debris between tires, duals evenly spaced
Splash Guards: attached and secure, no damage

Rear Air Brakes
Inspect: rotor, brake pads or drum and linings
Check for wear, oil/grease, or damage, secure and bolts tight
Check Air Chamber not leaking, cracked or dented, securely mounted
Air Hoses, Lines, & Fittings: secure, no leaks, worn or damaged
Air Tanks: secure, no leaks

Rear Suspension
Air Ride Suspension: check for damage and leaks
Shock Absorbers: secure and no leaks
Drive Shaft: check not bent or cracked, secure and U-joints not loose or worn
Splash Guards: attached & secure, no damage

Rear of Coach (Top to Bottom)
Check that all external lights and reflective equipment are clean and functional
Clearance Lights (red lens)
Brake Lights (red lens)
4-Way Flashers (amber lens)
Back-Up (clear lens)
Reflectors (red lens)
Rear Bumper: secure, intact
Exhaust System: intact, no damage or signs of leaks such as rust or carbon soot.
Tailpipe: secure, not damaged or twisted, secure

Left Side of Coach (Repeat from Right Side)
Rear Wheels: repeat
Air Brakes: repeat
Drive Shaft: repeat
Clearance Lights: repeat
Windows: repeat
Turn Signals, Lens: repeat
Bay Doors: repeat
Under Bus, Frame Check: repeat
Front Tires: repeat
Suspension: repeat
Splash Guard: repeat

Front of Coach (Top to Bottom)
Check that all external lights and reflective equipment are clean and functional
Clearance Lights (amber lens)
Turn Signals & Flashers (amber lens)
Inspect Windshield: no damage to glass, sealed securely, no illegal stickers or obstructions
Wipers & Wiper Arms: check hardware, blades, hoses, clips, all secure and operate smoothly
Windshield Washers: must operate correctly
Headlights: low and high beams
Front Bumper: secure
Mirrors & Brackets:securely attached, no cracks or broken glass, no stickers or obstructions to view

Inside Coach Walk Through
Fire Extinguisher: charged, dated, securely mounted
First Aid Kit: present
Overhead Compartments: Check function, secure and clean of debris
TV Monitors: secure, not loose
Seats: secure
Floor: clear of debris, hazards
All loose items secured
Satellite dish retracted

Driver’s Area
Shades: left and right operational
Windshield: no damage to glass, clean, no obstructions
Primary Panel: all instrumentation operational
Driver Heat and Defrost Fan/Temp tested
HVAC Control Panel
Fog Lights
Mirror Heat
Hazard Warning Flashers (indicator light on dash must be working)
Headlight Switch
Mirror Adjustment: properly adjusted
Fast Idle
Tag Axle Air Dump
Engine Brake configured properly
Emergency Parking Brake Release Show Location
Steering Wheel Area Tilt & Telescope Lever: locked
Check Steering Wheel Play: no more than 2″
Check Electric Horn: must test
Turn Signals: indicator light on dash must be working
Air Horn: must test
Wipers/Washers: check for proper function
High/Low Beam Head Lights: must check (indicator light on dash must be working)

IMPORTANT NOTE Checks of brake, turn signals and 4-way flasher functions MUST be done separately. Have copilot help check outside lights

Travel Mode
Levelling Jacks retracted
Wait until ride height is achieved
Slides in
Visually confirm slides are fully retracted

Air Brake Check
Start with air pressure up to maximum (governor shut off) then shut off engine
Open door and window to hear any air leaks

1) LEAKS: fully apply and hold foot brake pedal, hold foot brake pedal for one minute, check for no more than 3 psi air loss
2) ALARM: Turn ignition on and keep pumping brake until ‘low air warning’ alarm light and buzzer activate
3) BUTTON: continue pumping brake until brake valve button ‘pops’ out

Parking Brake Check: with parking brake ON, put bus in gear and apply slight accelerator pedal to be sure park holds.
Service Brake Check: determine brakes are working correctly and do not pull left or right, drive forward at 5 mph and apply brakes, should not pull to left or right and coach should stop smoothly and sufficiently.

Ready to hit the road!