Newmar Dutch Star Broken Televator

The Televator. It will break. I don’t know when. But it will break. Most anything that moves within our coach is bound to break sooner or later. I’ve had the following motors go south on the coach so far: satellite dish, Oasis hot water pumps (all three of them), bed power lift, front step cover, and the power seat incliner. The motors either stop working completely or they malfunction. Each time they fail, I am struck by the cheap components that Newmar uses in their coaches and the poor wiring practices.

I get it though. Newmar sources their components from other suppliers. But just a wee bit better focus on using higher quality components would make the ownership experience so much better for their customers.

As owners, we are left pretty much on our own to troubleshoot and resolve the myriad of issues that creep up when operating these vehicles. Thank heavens for the RV community. Whenever I have run into a problem I can generally count on some help from fellow RVers.

Our coach has a nifty feature in that one of the TV panels is mounted on a motorized lift. When you want to watch TV you head over to an inconveniently mounted rocker switch, press up a certain way, and the set may elevate into the viewing position. Whenever I get up to find that little rocker switch, I always wonder whether the set will lift.

Whenever the Televator does decide to fail, it is good to know that there are a number of options to replace the motorized lift. Like this one from Amazon:

It even includes a remote control feature — something that our current motorized lift overlooked. In the 2016 models, the rocker switch for the TV lift was installed in a location that was easy for the manufacturer to implement but inconvenient for the customer. That location was changed in subsequent model years likely due to customer feedback.

The process to replace the motorized TV lift?

Well, not for the timid. In our case it would require a significant amount of disassembly.

Here is what it looks like right now:

First step would be to remove the TV set from the broken motorized lift. That in itself is a bit of a challenge. The recommended approach is to remove the rear retaining screws from the outside of the coach. Assuming, of course, that the Televator is in the up position and that you can get the window screens removed and that you can open the windows. Oh, and that you have a ladder handy.

Our set has a shelf mounted on the top which can be easily removed. Likely the only part of the process that is easy.

If the Televator is stuck in the down position, your life will be a bit more complicated and you might start thinking about a replacement set. Chances are high that you could damage the panel trying to get it removed from the broken TV lift.

The sofa bed in front of the Televator would then need to be detached from the side of the coach. From what I gather, that involves opening the sofa bed, reaching into the rear cavity, and removing the retaining screws. Pull the sofa bed out and you are ready to get at the assembly.

Having worked in the constrained space of a motorcoach many times, I can imagine that it won’t be easy to get into that cavity to disconnect the existing wiring and remove the existing motorized lift. And it is likely just as challenging to get the new motorized lift into position and wire it up.

Other people have accomplished the task and they have told me that it took the better part of a day.

I’ve posted this here to remind myself that when the time comes, I can replace the motorized TV lift. If I can replace a satellite dish on the roof of the coach, I can definitely do this as well.

How To Replace Lights In A Newmar Dutch Star

Let there be light. But what happens if your lights fail to light?

Let there be dark.

A common issue with Newmar coaches is the failure of the ceiling LED lights. We’ve been fortunate. We have yet to replace any of our ceiling lights. I should emphasize the word yet.

Some owners have had to replace all of their ceiling lights. Some owners have had to replace just a few.

I know it is just a matter of time before we have to replace those lights. Like many things in our coach, they were not built to last.

Removing the existing light is a bit of work. This video shows the process:

And this thread on the iRV2 forum gives a bit more detail.

There are many sources for the replacement lights. M4 comes up frequently as a good supplier of replacement lights. For our coach, we would probably go with this specific product.

We have our coach in storage for the winter as we are stranded in Ontario due to COVID-19. I will probably wait until we have a fixture fail before dealing with the ceiling lights. I might do them all in one go which would be a pretty major project.

Bottom Of The Barrel

Peeling and flaking fabric. I’ve read about this issue on various RV forums, blog posts and Facebook groups. I’ve done some research into why the synthetic fabrics used in our motorcoach will degrade over time. For some owners, the peeling and flaking happens quickly, within their one-year warranty. For other owners, the problem happens within the first few years of ownership.

Our furniture fabric is holding up well so far. Sadly it may look like this in the not too distant future.

When we had our coach built, we were told that Newmar was using redesigned Flexsteel furniture that featured Strada leather by Ultrafabrics.

Except that Strada leather is not leather at all.

Ultrafabrics describes Strada this way:

Strada is destined to become an instant classic. Delivering a timeless appeal with an enhanced texture to match, this notable style is an enduring polyurethane option at a value price point.

An enduring polyurethane option at a value price point.

There are numerous threads on the iRV2 Newmar Forum about Newmar furniture flaking and peeling. Here is how one owner expressed his frustration:

If I knew I was buying bottom of the barrel components I would have bought from a bottom of the barrel manufacturer.

The composition of the Strada fabric is 100 percent polyurethane surface and 55 percent viscose rayon and 45 percent polyester. Ultrafabrics claims 200,000 double rubs. This is significantly above the threshold for a heavy duty fabric.

Abrasion levels can lead to the faulty assumption that the fabric will be durable and that it will enjoy a lengthy life span. Abrasion resistance is only one component of durability as many Newmar owners are discovering.

Newmar, cost cutting in this area like so many other areas, deployed a fake leather product at a “value price point” that can degrade quickly. Recovering the fabric can be costly, usually in the range of several thousand dollars. I have read reports of Newmar covering the cost out of warranty for original owners with a certain class of coach.

Do I Have To Be A Mechanic To Own An RV?

Do you have to be a mechanic to own an RV? It helps to have a mechanical mindset which, in my mind, means that you do not overreact to problems with your coach. There will be many problems, especially with a new coach, and the vast majority of them can be easily fixed. Except for things like a brand new coach catching fire.

To give you an idea, here are some of the issues we ran into with our coach over the past four years.

Leak under the kitchen sink. Easy fix.

Loose fabric trim. Easy fix.

Cracked floor tile. Required a trip to the dealer. Fixed under warranty.

MCD power shades. Never worked properly. After two years of taking it back to the dealer, we contacted MCD directly. Turns out there was a recall on the motors. Replaced at factory. They work fine now.

Winegard antennas. They all failed. Satellite and Over-the-Air Digital TV antennas. Defective motors. Both replaced under warranty although the satellite antenna was not an easy fix. I had to dismantle, ship and re-install that unit. Not fun.

Sofa bed. Broken latch. Required a trip to the dealer. Replaced under warranty. Incorrect mattress installed. We never use it so we have left it on our list of things to fix whenever we next get to the factory.

Bay doors. Newmar uses an odd plastic ring — it looks look a floral decorative element — on the retaining arm that cracks and breaks off over time. Easy fix. Annoying that they use such cheap parts in the coach.

Engine fault. Required a trip to a Cummins dealer. Easy fix for them. Engine firmware was out of date and required an update.

Defective front tire. Required roadside assistance. Replaced under warranty although it took almost six months for Michelin to finally settle the charge.

Loose lower body side panels. Newmar uses relatively small screws to retain the side body panels to the chassis of the coach. They come loose. Fortunately we caught it before the side panels could detach. Easy fix. Curious design.

Oasis hot water pumps. Not a straight forward fix. Defective pumps that ITR will not recall. Dealer replaced one. I replaced the other two. The newer designs seem to be holding up well. Having to spend upwards of $1,000 to replace defective pumps was annoying.

HWH levelling system. Required a trip to the dealer to replace a bad solenoid.

Magnum Inverter failure. Fortunately I was able to resolve with a simple circuit breaker reset. Easy fix. Just took most of a day to troubleshoot and resolve due to poor documentation. Required an RV mobile tech and a call to Magnum technical support.

Power bed. Stuck at an upright position. Newmar could not resolve over the phone. Service manager at dealer suggested a loose wire underneath the bed. Not an easy fix but it was a wire that had detached. I better appreciate sleeping on a flat bed. Such poor wiring practices in this coach.

Unintended awning deployment. This one stranded us for roughly six weeks. Awning randomly deployed while the service manager at our dealership was driving the coach into a service bay. Awning was crushed by the entrance wall. Took almost five weeks to get the parts delivered.

Latches, cabinet door arms. I keep stock of the replacement parts for our cabinet doors. These components are very poor quality and break frequently. Easy fix.

Flexsteel furniture. Power footrest stuck at an extended position. Repaired at factory.

Step cover. Travels out of track. Haven’t fixed that one yet.

Side radiator grill. Detached from coach. Easy fix.

Tank sensors. Basically useless in our model year. They misread frequently.

Multiple recalls:

467 RSB – Recall 16V 826: Power Steering Fluid Leak (potential fire hazard)
472 TSB – Slideout Motor Mounting Bolts (under-torqued).
483 RSB – Recall 17V 420: Driver Passenger Shade
486 TSB – MCD Remote Shade Motor Replacement
488 RSB – Recall 17V 497: Battery Cable May Rub Against Frame (another potential fire hazard)
493 PIB – Freightliner Lightbar: instrument panel odometer value may reset and not match the engine ECU odometer value

I came across this post on the Newmar Dutch Star Owners Facebook page:

Angela: your fun is just beginning.

I sometimes see people defending the poor quality of RVs by saying something along these lines: you are moving a house at highway speed and all that movement will cause problems.

Most of our issues had nothing to do with the coach moving and shaking down the road. Most of our issues were due to poor component quality. Most of Angela’s issues had nothing to do with the coach moving and shaking down the road. Her issues are due to poor component quality.

Pat’s comment says it all:

Comes with the territory, sadly. We’ve spent lots of time at Newmar (and other places) having issues fixed. Yes, it does help to know something about (and then some) about mechanics, plumbing, heating, AC and everything else.

Pedestal Power

What’s this? Cold floors?

End of August and the overnight temperatures have already started to fall. We check the forecast and if the temperatures are going to drop below 12 degrees Celsius — low fifties for my American friends — then we turn on our in-floor heating system. Until the cold weather starts to hit harder in the next six weeks or so, the in-floor heating is usually sufficient to keep the coach comfortable.

When we woke up yesterday, the floors were cold.

Sigh.

Something was not right in the coach. And we haven’t moved it since we arrived to our site in May.

I checked our power control monitor system. Much as I suspected, we were running off batteries. No shore power.

I like to keep our inverter running as a form of uninterruptible power. The coach will seamlessly switch from shore power to batteries in the event of an outage. However, we can only run off the batteries for so long before they need to be recharged.

Why did we not have shore power?

Yesterday was a very busy day. I was on sound for our livestream at our church and I was also on live sound for three outdoor services. I left the coach at 7:30am and didn’t get back until 7:30pm.

It was 7am when I discovered we had a power problem.

I went to the pedestal and recycled power. Basically I switched the circuit breakers off, unplugged the cord, checked the plug, re-inserted the cord and turned the breakers back on. The line showed active at the pedestal. The end of our 50-amp plug has a green LED that illuminates when it sees power.

We then checked our Surge Guard. Line 1 and Line 2 lights were on. The delay light was not blinking.

The manual highlights the Over/Under Voltage Protection feature: should voltage drop below 102V or rise above 132V for more than 8 seconds, power to RV is turned off.

The troubleshooting guide suggested a power problem. Hey, I already knew that we had a power problem!

I wasn’t able to spend any more time on trying to resolve the problem as I had to leave. I told Lorraine that I strongly suspected that we had a pedestal power problem and that she should contact the park to get it resolved.

We had a pedestal problem. The voltage was low on the one side which caused the surge protection system to shut off power to the coach. The park acted immediately and had the power restored within an hour or so.

Checking the pedestal circuit for power is relatively simple if you have a multimeter.

This video describes the process:

Thankfully the power problem was straightforward to resolve.

Lorraine thought we might have a more challenging problem to resolve like the one described in this post when we had our inverter malfunction. I was concerned that the surge protector may have failed. That would have been a costly repair.

Mechanical issues in a coach can always be resolved. Some issues can be resolved quickly and at no cost. Many issues take more time to resolve and some can also be very, very expensive to fix.

Good to wake up to warm floors this morning.