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.

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.