Untidy Toilet Revisited
Q: I had a 1996 Gulf Stream fifth-wheel trailer that had the same problem as David Todd described in his letter (February 2002, page 28). By inserting a bent rod down the toilet drain, you can catch the down tube. By raising the rod up and down, you can determine how much space is there. My down tube was only about 2 inches off the bottom of the tank. A massive amount of water was needed to flush.
Bob Eckel, F255263
Elk Creek, Virginia
A: Thank you for your comments.
Oil Change Or Not?
Q: I am wondering how difficult and how much of a hassle it would be for me to change my motorhome’s engine oil and lube the chassis. I have a Cummins 330 ISC diesel engine. I change the oil in my cars, but I have never changed it in the motorhome. Is this advisable for a do-it-yourselfer, or should I have it done at a truck shop? I think it would save a ton of money, but I don’t want to do the wrong thing.
Wendell Elms, F291132
Wichita Falls, Texas
A: Changing the oil in a diesel motorhome engine is no more difficult than changing the oil in an automobile engine. Two cautions to keep in mind: be sure you use the grade of oil specified by the engine manufacturer (this can be found in the owners manual); and be sure you use the correct type and size oil filter. I recommend that you use the filter supplied by the engine manufacturer or its recommended substitute. Also, be aware that you will need to properly dispose of the used oil (quite often this can be done at the location where you purchase your oil or at a recycling center).
Lubricating the chassis is a bit more tricky. You will probably need a flexible hose on the lube gun, and you will need to observe the lube chart and check off each lube point as you do it to make sure you service all of them. In addition, you must use the type of lubricant specified for each lube point “” sometimes one type of lubricant will not meet all the requirements. When you are servicing the motorhome, do not depend on the vehicle’s leveling jacks to elevate the motorhome, and be sure the wheels are safely and sufficiently blocked. Before you decide to do this work, compare the costs. You might be surprised at how little you would save.
Finding Motorhome Leaks
Q: I am hoping that you can help me. I believe I saw an article in Family Motor Coaching magazine about a device for locating water leaks in motorhomes. It is a high-volume, low-pressure fan that is temporarily installed in a roof vent. The inside of the coach is slightly pressurized, and then soapy water is used to provide bubbles to locate the leaks. Can you help me contact the manufacturer?
I have a water leak in the roof of my 1988 Blue Bird Wanderlodge, and neither I nor the factory has been able to find it so far.
Steve Saraga, F273181
North Palm Beach, Florida
A: The article to which you are referring was published in the February 2001 issue (page 112) and was titled “Detecting Water Leaks In Motorhomes.” In it, the author, Evan Powell, described the Sealtech 430R leak detection system. The article noted that the device costs $2,500 and is available factory-direct only, but some dealers are offering the testing service to customers. The article also noted that Sealtech might be able to help RV owners find a testing facility. The contact information for Sealtech Manufacturing is 2-5705 Sidley St., Burnaby, BC, Canada V5J 5E6; (877) 736-1166; www.rvleaks.com
Q: I own a 1993 36-foot Kountry Star made by Newmar Corporation that has given me several years of good service. However, I recently had a major breakdown while on a short trip, and I wonder if you could offer me some advice as to what caused the problem. Since it occurred, I have had three different opinions.
My problems started when I had a double blowout on the right rear of the motorhome. My emergency roadside service put my one spare tire on, at which time I turned around and headed for home (I did not want to risk having a flat without a spare). I had traveled approximately 30 miles on the one tire without exceeding 45 mph when a motorist pulled alongside and yelled that the right rear of my RV was on fire. I immediately pulled to the side of the road and put the fire out with my fire extinguisher. Upon further investigation, I found that the tire was leaning on the right side of the rim and the wheel was pointed outward at a 5-degree angle.
It could not be towed on the rear tires, so I had to have it loaded on a flatbed truck and moved to a repair shop, where a service technician advised me that the fire was caused by leaking fluid from the rear end.
The fire caused no damage to the house portion, but the rear end of my motorhome had to be replaced (the axle was almost melted). I also was told that driving on one tire was too much weight for one rear wheel. Another person told me that there was a good chance that the rear end was faulty to begin with.
I would greatly appreciate it if you could tell me what caused this. I paid $3,375 to replace the rear end and almost $700 for six new tires.
Robert Gordon, F179168
Bryans Road, Maryland
A: I hate to add to your burden, but I have a question myself: Have you ever had your coach weighed? And not just for total weight, but for the separate weights of the front and rear axles and each side of the motorhome? Your problem sounds like a classic case of overloading to me. As indicated by what you’ve written in your letter, my opinion is that at least the right rear of your motorhome was more than likely overloaded.
With both tires on the right rear being blown out, you should have parked the coach until a second wheel could be mounted. The leaking fluid was most likely differential fluid being forced out of a damaged wheel seal that was overstressed due to the overloaded condition. On the other hand, it could have been brake fluid from a line that may have been torn when the tires burst. These fluids have distinctly different odors, so those familiar with the smell can distinguish them that way.
Your coach has given you 10 years of good service. If the rear end assembly was faulty, it would have gone out long ago. My advice is to weigh your motorhome before you attempt another trip “” no matter how short “” and determine what changes you might make before loading your motorhome the next time.
Towing A TrailBlazer
Q: Can the Chevrolet TrailBlazer be connected to a motorhome in such a way that its brake lights and taillights can be controlled from the motorhome? Can you provide me a schematic or tell me how to obtain one?
Lorence Wittke, F85816
Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada
A: Blue Ox offers the Tail Light Wiring Kit (part number BX8811), which allows the towed vehicle’s brake lights and taillights to be used while it is being towed behind a motorhome. The kit includes a diode block to protect the towed vehicle’s electrical system. Representatives at Blue Ox also suggest the Bulb and Socket Tail Light Wiring Kit (part number BX8869), which bypasses the towed vehicle’s electrical system altogether and operates directly from the motorhome’s power. To purchase either of these kits, call Blue Ox’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 425-5382 to find a dealer in your area. You also can order these kits from Towing World by calling (800) 566-9869 or by visiting www.towingworld.com.
Q: What solution do you suggest for a frozen Damon? Here’s the problem. We live in Minnesota and, therefore, need to occasionally park in very cold (-20 degrees Fahrenheit or colder) weather. Even with the furnace working to keep the inside of our 2000 Damon Challenger (Workhorse chassis) nice and toasty warm, the outside compartments freeze. I am speaking of the low-point and sewer drain compartment especially. According to the factory, that cavity should be kept warm by the air circulating from the bathroom (which is directly above the cavity), but that’s not happening. When I tell this to the salesperson, the response I get is, “Well, these rigs really aren’t meant to be used in subzero weather.”
The only solution I have come up with is to plug in a tiny 110-volt AC space heater, but I don’t like that solution. Besides, this works only when the coach is plugged in.
Would a 12-volt DC heater (like a dash heater) work? Could it be wired directly to the fan motor on the furnace?
We are contemplating trading in this motorhome in favor of a diesel pusher. Are any motorhomes better than others for use in Minnesota winters? Which ones, and why?
We are also looking to buy a new vehicle to tow our boat “” and we want to be able to tow the vehicle behind the diesel motorhome as well. I especially like the Acura MDX. Do you know what would have to be done to tow it four wheels down? I see from the February 2002 magazine that Saturn is tied with Jeep as being the most often towed vehicle among FMCA members (17 percent), but it really isn’t powerful enough to tow a boat. What about the Jeep “” would it be better or easier than the MDX?
Gary Martini, F287410
Maple Grove, Minnesota
A: If you can’t route an auxiliary add-on heater duct directly into the sewer drain compartment, a 12-volt heater would be your best bet. Just be sure the power wire is fused and large enough to handle the constant load safely.
As far as recommending one motorhome manufacturer over another, the answer is much more difficult. It’s too subjective and too personal. Check out each manufacturer’s R rating for their coaches and choose the one that suits your needs the most. Talk with fellow FMCA members who live in Minnesota and the surrounding states and see what other people are saying about their motorhomes.
Again, personal preference enters in in terms of the choice of a towed vehicle. Both the Acura MDX and several Jeep models are approved by their respective manufacturers for towing four wheels down behind a motorhome (see “Towables For 2002” in the March 2002 issue). You’ll want to check the tow ratings of the vehicle you select to ensure that it is rated to handle the weight of your boat.