The Sun Bum

I came across this video clip on my YouTube feed. I believe it may have come from Jeff Krulik’s 1997 documentary: Ernest Borgnine On The Bus. The documentary chronicled the time Krulik spent in 1995 on tour with Borgnine as they drove across the Midwest in Borgnine’s 40-ft Prevost bus, The Sun Bum. He was clearly proud of his bus. Interesting to see how much has changed with motorcoaches over the years although the Prevost does hold up pretty well over time. Even with a “telephone” in the cockpit.

The Shakedown Trip

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The infamous shakedown trip.

That was one of the major objectives for taking our coach, the Castaway, out on an extended trip, to find any warranty issues with the coach.

The good news?

After putting almost 3,000 kms on the coach, we have only a few warranty items from the shakedown trip:

Exterior

  • Paint flaw on the driver’s side fuel tank cover
  • Missed silicone sealant under the passenger’s side mirror

Interior

  • Slight gap in a small section of tile grout (roughly half an inch)
  • Lift of a section of fabric trim on entrance door to master bedroom (about 10 inches of trim needs to be glued back into place)
  • Tile cracked under one of the recliners on the full wall slideout
  • Full wall slideout is not settling properly, out of level and requires adjustment
  • Kitchen sink is leaking

We will be taking the coach down to Newmar for a custom install of bedroom windows in the spring — we somehow missed that on our order — and perhaps we might have them address the warranty items then or we can work with our dealer on the warranty items before we put the coach into storage in the late September/early October timeframe.

We did have two other issues that occurred during our shakedown trip.

The Tire

It was unfortunate that we experienced a sidewall bulge on our first long trip with the coach. A sidewall bulge is an unsafe tire condition. Our dealer was very helpful in terms of how to best replace the tire and roadside assistance was clearly the most appropriate solution given our location. Our dealer worked with Coach-Net and they arranged for the service provider and covered the costs associated with sending a service provider out to our site in Petoskey, Michigan.

The service provider did not provide any warranty support and we are out of pocket $1,000 CAD to switch a new tire for another new tire. Lorraine is going to follow up with that service provider regarding warranty coverage and she will also follow up with our dealer. Hopefully we can get the tire covered under warranty.

The Engine Fault

We reached out to our dealer as soon as the engine warning indicator turned on. The dealer told us that we should be fine driving the coach on the yellow engine warning light. We also contacted Cummins as they are the warranty provider for the engine. They wanted me to run the diagnostic and identify the specific fault. The fault was SPN 3216 FMI 2 OC 1.

What I was told is that this fault code is set when the difference between the expected NOx ppm and the actual NOx ppm is greater than 200 ppm. The Cummins support person was concerned that this particular fault could lead to an engine shutdown.

I found out on the iRV2 forums that a number of Dutch Star owners have experienced this fault and, ultimately, the only fix is to update the software level in the engine. When we stopped at a Cummins dealer in Saginaw, Michigan, to resolve the issue, all they did was hook up a Dell laptop to the engine where they found the fault codes from when the coach had been built (they were never cleared) and the fault code that triggered the yellow engine warning light. They updated the engine software by connecting the laptop to a hidden port in the engine and once the update process was complete, the engine warning light was gone. The session at the Cummins dealer took less than 30 minutes.

Our coach was two versions back on the software. The technician was surprised that this had not been caught prior to delivery. Although the Cummins support person would not explicitly acknowledge the presence of a software bug, the technician in Saginaw told me that the initial sensitivity parameters set by the software needed to be “adjusted” to eliminate the fault and that could only be done by updating the software level.

Tomorrow I will share a few lessons that we learned in taking the coach out on a long distance trip across an international border.

Castaway Release 2.0

ECMUpdate

Our yellow engine warning light has disappeared. Why? Because the coach needed a software update. Turns out our engine was two releases backdated. A new software patch resolved the isolated engine fault.

Our first shakedown trip identified a few minor issues although one was costly — a new tire. The engine control module software update was performed under warranty at no cost.

We have made it to the U.S. Border and we are staying overnight at the Port Huron KOA. We will be back home tomorrow.

Two Tired

Tire1

Well, I hope the second new tire will be covered under warranty otherwise it will be an expensive first long trip with the Castaway.

There was no doubt that parts of the I-75 in Michigan were in horrible condition and it could well have been a pothole that caused the sidewall bulge. Whatever the cause, we had no choice but to get the tire replaced.

Trying to get the tire replaced proved challenging. Lots of phone calls between ourselves, our dealer, Newmar, Michelin, assorted Michelin dealers in Michigan and, finally, our roadside assistance service, Coach-Net. Coach-Net got the job done and covered the cost of sending a repair truck right to our campsite.

With a tire on the back of the truck, Steve, our tire repair guy, got ready to work. First, all of the power tools.

Tire2

His first task was to position the tire jack. We did not have to pull our own jacks up and we did not have to bring our slides in. Nor did we have to unhook our services.

Tire3

Steve made the job look easy, way too easy. That tire and wheel weighs in excess of 100 pounds or more.

Tire4

For sure we would not get very far with this setup.

Tire5

Steve deflated and then removed the original tire from the wheel and mounted the new tire on the wheel all within about 10 minutes. He was even thoughtful enough to inflate the new tire.

Tire6

Then it was simply a matter of repositioning the wheel and making it secure.

Tire7

And now we have a coach that we can drive again. I sure hope we don’t have another event on the I-75 going home. I may complain from time to time about the highways in Ontario but they are as smooth as glass when compared to sections of the I-75 in Michigan.

Tire8

With the tire replaced, we can begin our journey back home. Bright and early tomorrow morning. Our first stop will be the Cummins dealer in Saginaw to get a software update for our Engine Control Module. From there, we will stopover at the Port Huron KOA before making our way home on Wednesday.

Battle of the Bulge

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“It’s a good thing that you do your circle checks.”

So said Heidi, our service advisor at our dealer.

Being a bit of an OCD kinda guy, okay, a major OCD kinda guy, I walk around the coach almost every day. I check the tire pressures frequently regardless of whether the coach has been driven or parked.

As we have been enjoying our stay at the Petoskey Motorcoach Resort, I also start the day with a bit of detailing to keep the coach looking nice. I generally do a quick pass with my detailing spray on the areas of the coach I can reach without a ladder.

I was cleaning the wheels of the coach when I noticed something on the front driver’s side tire.

TireBulge2

A bulge on the sidewall, roughly six inches long, half an inch wide and rising up from the sidewall about one eighth of an inch. A bulge like this could easily lead to a front tire blowout.

How serious is a front tire blowout? I think this video says it all.

Our dealer is working with Newmar and Michelin to see how we can get ourselves back home safe and sound.

We expected a few issues with our first major trip and we have so far uncovered two: a required software update for an engine control module and a bulge in one of our tires.

Such excitement.

We should hear back from our dealer later today. Hopefully we can settle the tire issue on site.