Tag Or No Tag?
Q: I’m looking at a new 2002 40-foot motorhome with a slideout. The 2002 model I’m considering has a tag axle, but the same model in 2001 did not. Both motorhomes are available currently, and both are equipped with 450-horsepower engines. What are the advantages and disadvantages of a tag axle, assuming, of course, that everything else is equal?
Gene Buehler, F175439
A: The predominant reason for adding a tag axle is to better distribute or carry the weight of the coach. You’ll need to weigh both models to determine which one has the cargo-carrying capacity that best fits your needs. The disadvantage of a tag axle is that you have more tires to replace and more weight to move. And, in some cases, the motorhome’s turning radius and tire wear can be affected by the additional pair of tires. Also, although I doubt that this will concern someone in a 40-foot coach, the tag axle can cause traction problems on roadways with loose material, such as mud, gravel, or snow, and the reduced weight on the drive wheels can cause them to spin.
Q: I would like to tow a 1998 Kia Sportage with a manual transmission (either a four-wheel drive or a front-wheel drive model). I have seen Sportages being towed behind other motorhomes, but Kia dealers have told me that they have no knowledge on how to flat-tow the vehicle. If you have any information on how I can do this, would you please tell me?
Bobby Flowers, F74721
Auburn, New York
A: According to my information, Kias equipped with a manual transmission are towable. However, they shouldn’t be towed faster than 55 mph. The front-wheel-drive model should be stopped every 400 miles, at which time the engine should be started and allowed to idle for several minutes to ensure the proper lubrication of internal transmission parts.
Towing An Explorer
Q: I am looking to buy a 1997 Ford Explorer with automatic transmission and two-wheel drive to tow behind my motorhome. No one seems to know whether this vehicle can be towed. If it can be towed, what are the appropriate procedures?
Ken Lydiksen, F276223
A: In order to tow this vehicle, you would need to make modifications. You might want to contact Remco Manufacturing “” (800) 228-2481 “” and talk with them about the towing products that they offer. Four-wheel-drive Explorers manufactured starting November 15, 1995, are equipped with a GEM (Generic Electronic Module) that can be reprogrammed by Ford dealers to allow the vehicle to be towed. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t apply to the two-wheel-drive version.
More Brake Fade
Q: I had exactly the same brake fade problem for exactly the same reasons as noted by Scott Kostenbauder in his “Technical Inquiries” letter (January 2002, page 25).
I had the front brake calipers (including caliper pins) and brake rotors on my 1989 Ford E-350 type C motorhome replaced. In addition, I had the front wheel bearings repacked (the grease was black, but the bearings were okay).
The brake system on my coach is a “split” hydraulic system; that is, two separate brake circuits feed off the master cylinder, ostensibly for the purpose of providing some braking if a failure occurs in either the front or the rear brake hydraulics. When I had my encounter with sudden brake loss, the brake pedal went straight to the floor. I let up and stabbed the pedal again, and it went back to the floor. I admit that I did not “pump” the brakes, since at the time I was more interested in stopping the coach by any means at hand. I geared down the transmission from “drive” to “second” and then, after slowing somewhat, from “second” to “first.” At the same time I was gearing down, I was exerting all the force I could on the parking brake pedal. Between these two actions, I was able to bring the coach to a safe stop.
What neither I nor my mechanic understands is why the over-center piston in the dual braking system did not shift and light the brake light on the dashboard? A second question is why I didn’t have some brake pedal by which I could engage the rear brakes. My mechanic told me after repairing the brakes that the rear brakes were not adjusted properly, meaning there was excessive space between the brake shoes and the drums.
I have subsequently learned that this Ford occasionally needs to be backed up while applying aggressive pumping action to cause the automatic adjusters to take up the slack. Perhaps my two quick pedal stabs to the floor did not take up the poorly adjusted rear brakes. This seems to be a plausible explanation as to why the split brake system did not react the way I thought it should.
Ford E-350 coach owners should have their rear brakes inspected and adjusted if needed. Poorly adjusted rear brakes could indirectly lead to an accident due to the front caliper/pin corrosion problem. And if the front brakes drag and boil the brake fluid in the front brake system, a rear brake system that’s not adjusted properly may not be ready to take on the full load of stopping the vehicle.
Mike Paul, F161801
A: When the brake fluid “boils” inside the lines, air is injected into the fluid in the master cylinder as well as in the lines. When you push down on the pedal, you merely compress the air without forcing any brake fluid into the wheel cylinders. If anything like that happens again, always have the fluid drained and replaced with DOT 3 fluid as soon as possible. Don’t just top off the fluid; the entire system should be purged of all brake fluid and new fluid added.
Ford issued a Technical Service Bulletin (91-20-8) in 1991 concerning brake systems on the E-350 chassis. The bulletin relates to replacing the factory brake piston in the calipers with a newer designed phenolic brake piston. Your local Ford dealer should have access to this bulletin. In addition, my contact at Ford noted that 11-year-old chassis may require a more aggressive pedal action to force the adjusters to do their job. However, if this is the case, perhaps you should have complete new brake assemblies installed on your rear brake backing plates.