The Job Jar

There is always something. A truth in the world of the Motorcoach owner. Ongoing maintenance and resolving outstanding issues are an integral part of the ownership experience and, if you don’t set your expectations accordingly, then the lifestyle is going to be frustrating.

After completing a journey of several thousand kilometres from Canada to Florida, I expected to have a list. And I do.

Oasis heating system. I’m really not very happy with ITR. They delivered a heating system which included defective pumps and, rather than do the right thing and recall the faulty pumps, they let their customers experience pump failures and then they make them pay an inflated price to replace them. I’ve replaced two of the three pumps. And, predictably, when we needed heat, the third pump failed. I will replace that pump at my leisure sometime over the next few months. We won’t need furnace heat while we are in Florida. Here is one of many threads about the faulty pumps from ITR.

Blue Ox tow bar. Tow bars, at least the one we own, require regular servicing and inspection. When hooking up our coach, I noticed that the coating on one of the arms was flaking and exposing bare metal. The arms were also very stiff in terms of movement. Time for lubrication and a careful examination to ensure that there are no cracks or fractures in the product. RV Geeks shows you how to lubricate the tow bar:

Tank levels. We never cared for the system that Newmar installed on our coach. Tank levels are shown in one-third increments. Not particularly accurate. Less so now. Despite careful maintenance of our tanks, the sensors for the gray and black tanks have malfunctioned. On our list is a replacement of the factory system with the SeeLevel system. Their sensors are externally mounted and the SeeLevel product is far more accurate than the factory system.

In-dash radio. Simply put, I find the Clarion in-dash radio awful. Terrible ergonomics combined with poor sound quality. I won’t use the radio’s navigation system. Time to replace this device.

Tire pressure gauge. I had been using a trucker gauge but it was really off when setting the tire pressure. For example, when checking the tire pressure on our toad, I had measured 33 PSI on the gauge. Our tire pressure monitors, in-vehicle and through the coach’s onboard TPMS, showed 40 PSI. I’ve already crossed this one off the list. I purchased a high-end precision digital tire gauge: Longacre 52-53028 Tire Gauge Digital 0-125PSI. Despite the expense, I have a weird sense of calm knowing that the tire inflation levels are precise.

Air compressor. We have a Porter and Cable air compressor. It is a big beast. Heavy. Loud. And very slow to inflate. Time to replace this one.

Sewer hose. We bought a new one and now it is time to get another new one. They don’t last and Lorraine really doesn’t like the design of the current one. I have been debating getting a SaniCon system.

Network upgrade. I have been using two network environments within the coach. One for the 2.4G and cellular (Winegard). One for 5G (Ubiquiti). Time to consolidate to a single system. I ordered this system from Livinlite. Arrives next week.

Bike carriers. We have a couple of bikes that we need to carry as we travel. Time to get a hitch and bike rack for the toad.

Update checklists. I have comprehensive checklists for operating the coach. Over the past 10,000 or so miles, there are a few revisions that I need to make to the checklists.

There is always something.

Girard Awnings Randomly Deploy

Behold, a Dutch Star approaches. Lorraine was away. I was busily dealing with some network configuration and programming. Head down for the most part. Hunched over my keyboard, clackity-clack-clack. Solving the world’s greatest technology issues one keystroke at a time. Although things were not going particularly well for the world’s greatest technology issues at this point in time.

Heaving a deeply dissatisfied sigh, pondering whether to destroy every last bit of silicon in every computing device within my grasp, I decided to turn away from my 4K display, covered as it was with technical gobbledygook.

And, just in case you need a bit of clarification on what exactly defines technical gobbledygook: language that is meaningless or made unintelligible by excessive use of abstruse technical terms.

Care for an example?

Where were we? Oh yes. Technical gobbledygook. All over my monitor. Too horrible to share.

I looked up from my computer just in time to see this Dutch Star slowing down in front of our site. The driver was looking very intently at our coach. I mean, yes, it is always nice and clean. And certainly people have slowed down to take a look. But this gaze seemed different to me. Almost if we had occupied his site.

He stopped.

Right in front.

I looked more closely to consider the situation. And then it struck me.

“Henny!”

Henny and Carole were our neighbours when we were at Myakka River Motorcoach Resort in Florida. What were they doing here, in front of my coach?

Henny had been at the Hitch House, a Newmar dealer about a 10-minute drive from our site. He had asked them if they knew me, which they do quite well, and if they knew whether I was in the area, which they did.

He made the drive up to say hello which was so nice. Wonderful to see him.

We talked about some of the issues that he had experienced with his coach, a 2018 Dutch Star, including a random deployment of the Girard awning. He had his rear awning randomly deploy. He now has it strapped with rope on the roof to hold it in place until the factory resolves the issue.

This thread is still up on the iRV2 forum but nothing further in terms of a technical service bulletin or recall for the random deployment of Girard awnings. I suspect that the incident count is still relatively minor compared to the overall population of coaches. Newmar is treating the issue on an individual basis.

The source of the problem seems to be poor wiring practices where the awning motor control modules connect to 110v power. A grounding issue can cause the awnings to randomly deploy.

It happened to our coach and, before we had the problem addressed at the factory, we simply unplugged the motor control modules from the 110v outlets when we were travelling in the coach.

Our issue was resolved by the Newmar tech redoing the grounding wires and running wires up to two motion sensors on the roof of the coach presumably to defeat voltage to the awning motors when the coach is moving.

Hopefully the 2019s and above closed the issue.

Newmar Customer Service Experience

A little over two weeks ago. That was when we had our three-day service at Newmar. I had posted a few details about our experience and I wanted to go into a bit more detail in this post.

I’ll begin by saying that Lorraine and I were totally impressed with Newmar’s Customer Service Center. The Newmar team members, to a person, were so diligent and caring that it was actually surprising. The experience at a service bay, whether it be at a car dealer, RV dealer or truck dealer, is often like a visit to the dentist. Not only is the final bill painful, but the experience is nothing to write home about either. Unless you opt for the nitrous oxide, which, sadly, is not offered by the vast majority of service centres.

I sent the following to the Newmar team after our visit:

Lorraine and I would like to provide our thanks to all of the team members we met during our time at the Customer Service Center. Everyone did such a great job servicing our coach and made the experience for us so enjoyable. We were particularly grateful for the extra effort to fit in the recall on our MCD shades as well as a few of our other last minute items — very much appreciated.

We knew we made a good decision when we ordered our coach back in 2016. Coming to the factory reaffirmed that decision.

There were five things that made the visit an exceptional one.

Personal touch

Newmar has a service centre hostess and she looks after all of the details to ensure a pleasant stay. This includes everything from getting directions to the camping area, recommending local restaurants, and making sure that we were comfortable during our wait times in the customer lobby, which, by the way, is beautifully finished.

We were assigned a service technician and he was with us the entire stay. He took down all of our issues and concerns and kept us updated on the status of our service throughout the length of our stay.

Attention to detail

I was able to walk in and check on our coach anytime during the day. There were between 3 and 5 technicians working on the coach every time I came to visit. They all took pride in the quality of their work and they were more than willing to explain what they were doing and why. Aside from the chassis and RV service items detailed in this post, we had two other issues that needed to be resolved: our awnings and our MCD shades. Newmar covered both under goodwill.

The techs completely redid the ground wiring on the awning motor control modules and they ran lines up to two motion sensors on the roof to ensure that the awnings would never randomly deploy while the coach was moving. Those motion sensors act as a failsafe against any potential triggering of the awnings. They replaced one track of lighting to restore the factory look and they reprogrammed all of the awning controls and wind sensors.

Despite a bit of confusion around the status of the recall of our MCD shades — Newmar was showing that our dealer had already replaced them, which they had not — Newmar contacted MCD, cleared up the confusion around the recall item and ensured that we had new motors for our shades along with the new remote control. No more reprogramming of shades.

Along with all of these items, we had a few other minor issues that we mentioned to the team when we arrived: the passenger seat footrest would not fully retract, one of the rear body panels had come out of alignment, a small hole in the roof, all of which they repaired without charge.

There were a few other items that the team wasn’t able to fit in and we will get those looked after another time.

They did all that we had asked them to do along with several other items that we had added to the list once we arrived.

Professional work environment

There is something about a clean and well organized space that talks to the quality and professionalism of the work.

The service bays at the Newmar Customer Service Centre are amongst the best that I have ever seen.

Those floors literally gleamed. The interior, holding 52 service bays, is well illuminated with easy access to any of the coaches. A safe and pleasant environment for service techs and for customers coming in to check up on their coaches.

Free camping

Unfortunately, our appointment was scheduled before the opening of the new campground so we had to make do at the old sites a few miles away. That said, we had a place to park our coach with full hook-ups and decent WiFi. At the end of each service day, a driver would bring the coach back to the site and set almost everything up — jacks down, slides out, electrical service attached — for the balance of the day. Coaches would leave at 6am and be back by 3pm. There was a nice community of Newmar owners along with convenient access to the plant tour. The new campground will be a few steps above the current site with concrete pads, paved roads and gated access.

Plant tour

We took the three-hour plant tour. Held each morning, this is the tour to take if you want to see the entire production process from the bare chassis to the finished product. We gained an appreciation for how much of the work is done by hand. There was not one robotic device that I could see in any part of the main production process. The factory takes delivery of the chassis and then builds out every coach by hand.

When we left the factory, we were thrilled to have our coach back to a “like new” state. I highly recommend the service at the Newmar factory just keep in mind that you need to book your appointment well in advance. About six months ahead is a reasonable target.

Weights and Corners

Weights and corners. Finally. Yes, we have weighed our coach several times over the years but only axle weights. Front and rear, including the tag. Getting the corners weighed is the recommended approach.

This was one of our CAT scale readings:

Steer axle was 14,160 lb. Drive axle was 24,380 lb. Total weight of 38,540 lb.

I took an educated guess and set my tire pressures as follows: 110 PSI on the steer, 90 PSI on the drive and 85 PSI on the tag.

One of our maintenance items at the Newmar factory included adjusting the ride height of the coach. That was an item we added to our list when we arrived here. I’m glad we did because I finally had a qualified recommendation from the manufacturer based on the weight of our fully loaded coach.

Our corner weights:

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

Newmar set our tire pressures at 110 PSI for the front axle and 75 PSI for the back six tires, significantly below my inflation levels for the rear tires.

I debated that number with the service technician as I thought the Michelin XRVs — we run 305/70R 22.5 tires — had a minimum inflation of 85 PSI. I was wrong. You can run them at 75 PSI.

I will be interested to see if I can feel a difference in how the coach feels on the road with the ride height adjustments and the change in tire inflation.

I was pleased to see that our corner weights are well balanced left to right.

Front axle: 50.6% left and 49.4% right.
Rear axle: 48.9% left and 51.1% right.
Tag axle: 49.6% left and 50.4% right.

We still have about 5,500 lb of additional carrying capacity with 1,000 lb on the front and 4,500 lb on the back. More stuff for the coach!

Our hitch is rated for 15,000 lb and our toad weighs in at just over 4,000 lb.

I check our tire inflation every time we drive and we have a TPMS that measures temperature and pressure. I had to reprogram the tire pressure limits for the rear six tires given the changes from the factory. With all of the maintenance and work items largely complete, we have a coach that should perform like new.

Tomorrow is our last leg into Canada. 450 miles of driving, roughly 7 hours not including breaks, fuel stops and customs.

Newmar Kountry

Newmar Kountry. Different than I imagined. More industrial, with sharp contrasts between bleak and stark and clean and modern. Old meets new perhaps.

Let’s start with the old. Customer coaches currently park for service in a bleak and stark gravel lot.

We are parked here, on site 15.

Rustic.

We have a full service pedestal, with 50 amp electric, water and sewer.

The immediate area consists of buildings bounded by chain link fences topped with barbed wire.

The head office is not too far from where we are parked.

Understated.

It is clear that Newmar does not overspend on production facilities. We have a plant tour tomorrow and that should give us a better look at the operation although I won’t be allowed to take pictures.

I did, however, spy a Newmar Super Star, the new Super C model, in one of the fenced-in areas. I clambered up the fence to snap a photo before an Amish dude tackled me to the ground. Fortunately, as I was tumbling to the ground, I was able to eject and swallow the memory card. After performing a different form of ejection protocol, I was able to develop the following image of this new coach.

As far as I know, there are only two of them in existence. Haven’t seen the other one yet.

Every morning, for the three days of service, we are up at 5am to prep the coach for delivery to the new customer service centre. This building is located a few miles away from the production facility. That would be the new part of Newmar. They are building 60 or so modern sites in a gated area for customer coaches. Concrete pads, fully paved, adjacent to a modern, state-of-the-art 50-bay service facility. Should be open soon. Just not now.

We drive our coach to the service area where it is taken to its assigned service bay, bay 41, with oversight by our service technician, Dean.

We are feeling the effects of the time zone changes coupled with the lack of sleep. Waking up at 5am really does feel like waking up at 2am right now.

We then spend the day in the pet lobby of the facility.

The lobby areas are nicely designed. Clean and comfortable.

We can check up on our coach at any time by simply walking over to the service bays.

We’ve made a number of friends here as we generally pass the time by sharing coach war stories.

But you never know who you might meet.

Back in December of 2016, I had posted about a Dutch Star catching fire due to what would later become a major recall item for Freightliner. You can read that post over here.

A couple entered the lobby this afternoon. Their 2016 Dutch Star was in for some maintenance work. And we began talking and sharing some coach war stories. Their story was dramatic as they shared the time that their coach caught fire shortly after they started the engine. Their story was very familiar to me.

I asked them if they had read about a similar event on my website. Not only had they read it, it was their coach and they left a number of comments on that post.

Small world.

They are still in the same coach. The fire damage was resolved.

They have quite the story about how they had to challenge the manufacturers to do the right thing. Thankfully, they pressed hard which resulted in a safer coach for many of us.

Our maintenance items are very minor in comparison. The service team here has been outstanding in every way. They have done an excellent job on our work items as well as on the 3-year maintenance service.

And the Girard awning issues? Fully resolved.

Newmar installed a ground correction system to remedy the potential random deployment of our awnings.

The LED lights on the awning are just like factory now.

All like new.

Makes me happy for some odd reason.