A Broken Bed?

Do you have a power bed lift in your Newmar Dutch Star? Did it suddenly stop working? Did you call Newmar and then spend the next several hours trying to make the darn thing work only to find out that it was something very basic and very simple?

I hope this post helps you out if your power bed lift has stopped working.

We usually keep our king bed in an upright position during the day as it provides a bit more space in the bedroom. At night, we lower the lift to flatten the bed. It makes things a bit easier for sleeping.

Except two nights back the bed would not flatten. It remain locked in the upright position.

I spent the next several hours trying to get the bed to flatten. It was so frustrating. There is no documentation anywhere that I could find on how the power bed lift is wired and how it operates. No manual. No troubleshooting guide. Nothing.

I even came up empty on the usual social media sources. Perhaps we were the only ones to run into a power bed lift that stubbornly refused to flatten.

It appears as though there is no easy way to manually override the mechanism. It was locked and it was not going to move. Newmar support confirmed that wonderful feature with me the following day.

My first course of action was to check for a bad fuse. That proved to be an interesting exercise.

I do have all of the fuse panel schematics for our coach including the breakdown of most of the fuses in our bus. Newmar likes to keep its customers on their toes. There are all sorts of hidden fuses scattered about the motorcoach.

There are five fuse panels and each one contains dozens of fuses. Here is one of the schematics to give you a sense of the underlying complexity of the 12V system in the coach.

I keep a substantial number of spare 12V fuses on hand along with a fuse checker and a multimeter. I checked each and every one of the panels and I could not find anything labelled “Bed Power Lift” or similar.

I found out why there was no fuse for the power lift on any of my charts.

It is a hidden fuse. It is an undocumented fuse.

I did not find that out until after my call with Newmar.

It is a glass fuse nicely hidden by the awning motor control modules in our basement bay. You can just make it out under that little black box with the two white wires.

Dead end for me. Even if I had known about that fuse when I first began my troubleshooting it would not have made any difference. The fuse tested fine.

Newmar had no idea what to do about the problem. Perhaps it was a bad motor? They told me that they would do some digging to see if there was a way to flatten the bed without power and that they would get back to me.

They did call me back. And they told me that they had no idea how to resolve our issue. However, at that point in time, I had fixed the issue.

I had decided to get inside the bed casing where the motor and gearbox are situated to take a closer look and to check on the wiring connectors to the two power bed lift switches.

We had spoken with our service manager at our dealership and he had suggested that I check for any loose connections under the bed. It turns out that his hunch was bang on — thank you Paul! — but trying to get into that area was very difficult.

It took me the better part of an hour to get under the bed assembly and to check on the wiring. There were at least half a dozen connectors down there and one of them was loose.

More than loose. The black wire had become detached from the white wire in the cable pair probably due to the movement of the power bed lift.

It wasn’t easy to get in there to crimp the wire, re-twist the pair, and reinsert the connector cap. But once that was done, the power bed lift worked.

This short video walks you through the process of the repair.

Funny how six or seven hours of time can be condensed into a minute or so. I reported my findings back to Newmar support and perhaps they will be able to provide others with a bit more help in terms of potential troubleshooting for this issue.

A real design flaw. There is no way to defeat the power bed lift short of full disassembly. Thank heavens I didn’t go down that path.

We now have a flat bed.

I did not have to sleep on the floor last night.

 

Spontaneous Combustion

It is a type of combustion which occurs by self-heating (increase in temperature due to exothermic internal reactions), followed by thermal runaway (self heating which rapidly accelerates to high temperatures) and finally, autoignition.

Can a motorhome experience spontaneous combustion?

Looks that way.

An owner of a 20-year old Newmar Dutch Star posted the remains of his coach after it had caught fire sometime during the evening on Mother’s Day.

Here is a photo of what a 2000 Newmar Dutch Star should look like:

The owner took this shot just as the liquid propane tank exploded:

Coaches do catch fire. And when they do, they are typically a complete write-off.

No cause for this particular fire has been identified. It started at the front of the coach.

Perhaps the Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS)?

Wheelingit had this post about an ATS that nearly caused a fire. Well worth the read especially if you are running an older coach.

It all started with an electrical burning smell which, as those of you who have ever experienced it know, is a rather distinctive odor. It’s a sign that something is seriously wrong with your electrical system. Either wires are loose or wires are bare, or wires that are not supposed to touch are touching, or the system is being overloaded, and/or something is melting/burning. Either way it’s one of the scariest things you can experience in an RV and it’s not something you want to mess with. Electrical fires TRAVEL and they travel FAST, and it doesn’t take long after one starts before your entire coach is a goner.

Coaches require frequent inspection and continuous maintenance. Especially as they age.

Your Fun Has Only Begun

Some free advice on what to expect when buying a motorcoach (this advice came on one of my social media feeds along with lots of people providing their own perspective):

  1. All are “crap”
  2. Lousy quality is forever
  3. Better be a decent handyman or it gets expensive real quick
  4. An older coach with low miles can be trouble
  5. A used coach usually has issues sorted out

As person after person listed their issues, one person made this observation:

You would think for the price of a bricks and sticks home, there would be better quality control.

To which another person replied:

Your fun has only begun.

A few other quotes:

We purchased a 2019 Dutch Star in June. It’s basically been in service a total of two solid months! We’ve used it only five nights. Does anyone think Newmar will extend the one year warranty since we’ve not had a chance to really test it out?

Er, no. Newmar does provide good customer support and, basically, you own the problem(s). After one year, plan on forgetting about any warranty help from your dealer. Probably best to forget about most Newmar dealers anyway. The factory is your best bet.

They are all garbage. The test is how they service and solve your problems. This is my third Newmar and they all have had many problems.

Sad but true.

This is the biggest piece of garbage on wheels we have ever owned!!!

I take it this person was not enjoying their customer experience.

Both Newmar and Tiffin also seem to subscribe to the QC by customer in MANY stories that I have heard.

Quality control by customer. Probably factored into the selling price of the coach.

And, finally, as I suspect you get the point by now, an excerpt from this editorial found at RV Travel:

ONE BIG DIFFERENCE TODAY is that RVing is suddenly very trendy. Millennials are standing in line to buy one. Most buy cheap ones that will fall apart in five to ten years, if not sooner. Truth be told, some of those entry-level RVs are seriously defective right off the sales lot but need significant work that can take weeks or months. The RV industry announced just this week that the average repair at an RV dealership takes 21 days. That’s just the average.

The overall dependability of new RVs has never been worse. In a reader poll we conducted in 2017, 22 percent of our readers rated the workmanship on their RVs as poor or terrible. That’s one out of five. If that same percentage held true for manufacturers of cars, TVs, bicycles or furniture, the companies would go bust.

The companies do not go bust. Except during severe economic downturns.

And, with the coronavirus and the stock market going kaboom, we might just see the RV industry facing a severe downturn with layoffs and cutbacks. Quality would likely go down.

Our experience with our coach has been mixed. Every time we start a drive, I pray that everything will work: slideouts, jacks, electrical, mechanical. Pretty much everything on the coach.

I never worry about my car not working.

I’ve spoken with other RVers that have the same apprehension: will the coach work this time?

Watch Those Wipers

I keep a list of things to check on the coach. Things like loose body panels, loose slideout motor mounting bolts, loose bolts pretty much everywhere around the coach. I’m adding a few more loose bolts to check.

The bolts that secure the windshield wipers.

I’ve posted before about the questionable design choices in Class A motorcoaches. In many cases, subsystems within coaches are needlessly complex due to poor design, poor systems integration and poor ergonomics.

A case in point is the lowly windshield wiper system.

Most drivers have figured out how to use the windshield wipers in a car. They are generally situated on a control arm below the steering wheel.

Here is an example:

A lot of functionality packed into a small control module but generally straightforward to use. There is a definite on and off mechanism, some form of intermittent speed control, and a pull to spray windshield wash. Some car makers are even thoughtful enough to include an automatic function that will control the wipers when the sensor detects rain.

Most Class A coaches ignore the automotive approach. The windshield controls are typically embedded in the steering wheel.

Like this one on our coach:

There is an OFF button but how do you turn the windshield wipers on? See that embedded section marked HI/LO? Give that one a try.

It will engage the windshield wipers. There is a trick. Stopping the blades to rest at the bottom of the windshield. Aside from the fact that the windshield wipers do a very poor job of clearing the rain, they will often not return to the bottom of the windshield. You have to time the pressing of the OFF button just so. Perhaps the blades will rest at the bottom of the windshield. Perhaps they will stop in the middle of the windshield. You just never know where they might land when you press the OFF button.

I’m not sure how these coach builders get away with delivering such a poor system.

An added feature of this system is that the wiper arms can break (photo from an owner of a Dutch Star):

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.

From this thread on the iRV2 forum I found out that the arms have a torque specification and I have now added this to my list of things to check. Here is an excerpt from that thread posted by an owner of a 2017 Dutch Star:

The passenger side wiper arm came loose while driving in the rain last week (and parked itself around the windshield pillar around the mirror).

I talked to both Newmar and Diesel Equipment about the problem and proper torque seemed to be the consensus. I got a diagram from Newmar Customer Service with the proper torque settings for the bolts. You can also get this from Diesel Equipment if you have the “kit” number for your particular wipers. It is on the wiper motor.

The torque for ours is 65 ft-lbs, which was hard to do with a normal socket wrench on the side of the road, but easy with long torque wrench. Both of mine were loose, so this is just another thing to add to the periodic maintenance check list.

Overloaded!

Will this story have a happy ending? I’m not sure. Last night, Lorraine had too many devices active in the kitchen of our coach. A microwave, a kettle and a toaster. Whatever device she turned on last cut AC power to the coach.

No problem. A circuit breaker must have tripped. I’ll go and reset it.

All the circuits were fine. Odd. I went over to the Magnum inverter and it had a red light with the warning “AC Overload” on the display.

Okay. I haven’t seen that before. I cleared the warning light by turning the inverter off and then on again. Still no power though.  I reset the GFCI plug in the kitchen.

Power restored.

But the Magnum inverter was no longer charging our house batteries. Turning the charger on had no effect. We were inverting only. And that meant we were running our AC off the house batteries.

That is not good. We can only do that for a limited period of time.

It was late last night when this happened and I waited until this morning to deal with the issue.

I called Newmar and they walked me through a process to restore the Magnum inverter: reset all GFCI plugs, turn off pedestal power, turn off inverter, engage the battery disconnect. Wait two minutes and reverse the process.

No joy. We could invert — using our house batteries to produce AC power — but we could not charge.

Newmar suggested running the generator.

No joy.

Newmar suggested resetting the inverter.

I emptied out our slideout tray. Laying prone on the tray, I had Lorraine slide me into the underbelly of our coach. For whatever reason, the inverter is located between the rails of the basement of the coach. Very difficult to reach and not very easy to get in and reset the unit.

I reset it by depressing the power button for 10-15 seconds.

No joy.

As I write this post the house batteries are at 11.8V and soon we will be really stuck. The inverter will cut off at around 11.2V and then we will have no refrigerator, no air conditioning, no oven and, possibly the most serious issue, no Internet.

We have a mobile tech coming out this morning. His service call will cost several hundred dollars. If the inverter is bad, that will cost us about two thousand dollars (CAD). Amazon has them in stock and I can get delivery tomorrow plus another few hundred to install.

Sigh. There is always something with a motorcoach.

The lesson of this story: do not run multiple appliances at one time. Plug one too many into your coach and you may fry your inverter and it might cost you a few thousand dollars to repair.

The service tech has another option that he will try before we go down the path of replacing the inverter.

We’ll know in a few hours if that option will work.