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.

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.