Q: I have a Caterpillar 3208 turbodiesel engine in a 1987 Vogue motorhome. The odometer says the motorhome has 100,000-plus miles on it, but I’m guessing it’s closer to 125,000 miles, since the odometer didn’t function properly when I bought the coach in January 2001 (the clock says 3,300 hours).
I recently made a 2,500-mile trip and the motorhome used six quarts of oil. Last summer, during a 7,300-mile trip to Alaska, I put in 16 quarts. The fastest I drive on the highway is 60 mph. My concern is the amount of oil that the motorhome seems to be using.
I have found only one thing about the engine that seems to be out of the ordinary (but I’m no diesel specialist). When we’re traveling and the engine is allowed to idle for 45 minutes or so at a stop, and then we continue on the highway, the exhaust blows a cloud of blue smoke for about two or three miles. Otherwise, the exhaust seems clean. I know it has to be using oil while traveling, but the only indication is as I just described.
I have not had a compression test done, but the engine seems to have plenty of power. Can you give me any ideas what might correct the problem without having to do a costly major repair? As you can imagine, replacing or overhauling the engine would not be a minor undertaking.
Fred Rhom, F292017
A: I have two suggestions, but first a question. Are you sure you are not overfilling the crankcase? Every engine has an oil level at which it “likes” to operate. If this level happens to be a quart or so below the full mark and you keep bringing the level up to the full mark, the engine will “throw” out the excess. On your next trip, check the oil level at every fuel stop, but don’t top it off each time. Check to see whether it maintains a certain level. Obviously, if the level keeps going down each time, you have other problems. Overfilling the crankcase also may result in oil foaming, which can lead to inadequate lubrication of some parts and excessive crankcase pressure. The latter could produce oil vapor that is forced out through the road draft tube and/or burned by the combustion process in a closed crankcase system.
Second, extended idling shortens engine life, uses more fuel, and, in your case, appears to burn crankcase oil. It also can lower engine temperature and cause the oil to be contaminated with fuel and moisture. If you’re going to be stopped for longer than five or 10 minutes, shut the engine down.
Q: We own a 1998 37-foot diesel-pusher motorhome that came equipped with Michelin XRV tires. After having the inside right rear tire blow out through the inner sidewall the past two years (same tire location), we are thinking of changing to Michelin XZE tires “” same size and load range. Do you see any problems in doing this?
Karl Lape, F297564
A: Not if, as you say, the tires are the same size. Once they are on the coach, and the coach is loaded for a trip, make sure the inner sidewalls of both sets of duals have plenty of clearance. You also may want to look closely at your driving habits. Do you drive too close to the right shoulder, sometimes allowing the outside tire to slip off the pavement? There is a theory floating around that the reason the inside right rear tire seems to blow more often than the other tires is that when the outside tire is allowed to drop off the pavement, the entire weight of that corner of the coach rests on just the one tire “” drastically overloading it.
Q: Could you recommend an RV tire pump that I can carry in my motorhome?
Don Cunningham, F230760
A: I’m guessing that you probably have an auxiliary generator on board. If so, you have a full spectrum of electric compressors from which you can choose. Many retail and automotive stores carry air compressors. Just make sure the compressor’s maximum output exceeds the maximum tire pressure listed on your tires’ sidewalls by more than 20 percent so that it will “top off” your tires more quickly without struggling at the higher pressures.
Q: We have a 1998 Beaver Patriot that has some water stains on the padded, upholstered interior walls. We’ve tried all-purpose cleaner sprays and even used (very carefully) a steam cleaner with the upholstery wand. We’ve managed to clean up most of the stain, but the walls are still left with water marks at the edges of a cleaning stroke or any place we missed or didn’t overlap. We love the coach, but these water marks are unsightly and are driving us nuts. HELP! We do our best to reseal all windows and doors, but these stains got by us and we would like to get the interior walls back to looking like new.
Jim & Kathy Maggi, F271797
Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota
A: Several years ago we had a similar inquiry from an FMCA member, and after the letter was published, we received several suggestions from other members. One was to spray the spot with club soda but do not rub or wipe it. Another reader had experienced success after several applications of Spot Shot Instant Carpet Stain Remover. Spot Shot is now a WD-40 company and should be available at stores where carpet cleaning products are sold.
Whatever product you use, make sure to test it on the fabric in an out-of-sight location to make sure it’s compatible with your coach’s material.
Perhaps readers will have other suggestions to share. If all else fails, you could contact your coach manufacturer or dealer about replacing affected sections.
Towing A PT Cruiser
Q: We are thinking about purchasing a PT Cruiser with an automatic transmission, and we need to know whether it can be towed four wheels down. We’ve seen PT Cruisers being towed by other RVers, but, of course, we don’t know whether those vehicles have an automatic transmission or manual shift. Also, if they are towable, does the speedometer continue to turn? That is something we don’t want happening. What is your best advice on this?
Ray Lewis & Bonita Cross, F272534
San Marcos, California
A: According to DaimlerChrysler, the PT Cruiser is towable four wheels down only if it is equipped with a manual transmission. Since you’ve specified an automatic transmission as your preference, you will have to use a tow dolly or trailer when towing. Or, you could have a lube pump installed, which would make the vehicle towable four wheels down (available from Remco Manufacturing, 800-228-2481). The odometer in the PT Cruiser is electronic and, therefore, will not accrue mileage while being towed.
Q: On FMCA’s Web site a short while ago, I saw an article about towing a vehicle behind an RV. The site also had a list of companies that provided base plates, tow bars, and other accessories. How can I find this information again?
A: Perhaps you are thinking of the towing information that appears in the “Motorhoming Guide” that is posted on www.fmca.com. An article listing suppliers of towing equipment has not appeared in the magazine recently; however, we do plan to publish a towing equipment article later this year.
In the meantime, you also may want to consult FMC’s Business Directory for names and contact information of companies that offer towing equipment. The Business Directory appears in the January and June issues of FMC magazine each year. It also is available in interactive form on FMCA’s Web site; click on the Business Directory button on the blue navigation bar that appears on the left-hand side of each page on www.fmca.com.
New Coach Shopping
Q: I have owned several motorhomes through the years, but I need some advice on buying a new coach. I currently drive a Vogue that is in mint condition and I have no major complaints, but I’m looking for a coach with a better ride and a shorter turning radius.
I have researched the subject about as far as I can. I am considering a coach with a chassis that is built from the ground up by the manufacturer and called a monocoque design. However, I haven’t ruled out the Workhorse, Freightliner, or Spartan platforms.
Among my considerations are riding and driving characteristics. I do not want a mushy ride. I want a ride that is firm, with minimum side-to-side sway, and that covers rough roads without earth-shattering impacts. I hope to find a 40-foot 2000 or 2001 motorhome.
I realize that I must drive and decide for myself, but through your experience, I hope that you might have had some good impressions that stuck in your mind. I’m not asking you to recommend a specific coach, because I assume you are not permitted to make such recommendations, but I would appreciate your comments and observations.
Edison Kaderly, F21223
A: You’re right; I can’t recommend one coach over another. However, I can offer a few suggestions that might help you to narrow the field a bit.
If, as you said, turning radius is important to you, contact each of the manufacturers on your list and ascertain what the turning radius is for each motorhome. While you’re on the phone with the manufacturer’s representative, find out the location of the nearest dealer that carries the motorhomes you’re interested in. Once you’ve collected all of your information, take a few days to visit the dealerships and do a ride-and-drive evaluation of each coach. Find a route near the dealership that meets your needs and provides all of the different types of roadways that concern you, and follow that route. But don’t just drive the coach “” ask the salesperson or someone else to drive it for you also. While the other person is driving, carefully and safely switch positions inside the coach so you can listen to its noises and feel its road manners from wherever you or your passengers might ride.
While on this ride-and-drive, stop at a public scale and weigh the motorhome. Compare the actual weights to the motorhome’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and gross axle weight rating (GAWR).
This “road test” should provide you with all the answers you need. One more thing: I know you mentioned that you’re considering only 2000 and 2001 models, but you may be happier in a newer coach with all the recent innovations. In addition, Workhorse recently introduced its diesel-powered chassis, which should be on dealers’ lots by the time you read this. That’s one more choice to throw in the mix.
Stalling And Surging
Q: I have a 1990 Itasca motorhome with a Ford 460-cid engine. For the past six years, I have had a problem with the motorhome’s engine stalling and surging. This happens only when the engine is idling. Sometimes it just quits. I have spent approximately $2,000 trying to find the problem, but no one can figure it out.
There is nothing to indicate when the engine is going to stall; it just stops running. This does not happen all of the time. It may do it one day, and then not do it for a week or more. When I restart it, it will shut down again. The only way I can get it to keep running is to use the gas pedal and pump it. When I do this, it begins to surge. If I keep this up, it will eventually smooth out and run okay. It does not shut down when it is going faster than idle.
I am at a loss as to what could be causing this problem, and no one can solve it. Maybe you have heard or experienced a similar problem and could help.
Rick Schramm, F114183
Canyon Lake, California
A: You mentioned that you’ve spent $2,000 trying to eliminate the problem, but you didn’t elaborate on what was done to your engine. However, I think the first two things you should do, if you haven’t already done them, is to replace any fuel line filters and replace the fuel pump. If you’ve taken the motorhome to a service center, make sure the technicians have run a computer check for its history. Another option is to have a recorder connected to the computer port that will store all of the engine data while you drive. Hope that the problem occurs while the device is recording.
Q: I am trying to locate a source of information that will provide me with the wattage output of 12-volt DC light bulbs. Currently, our motorhome has some very bright 12-volt DC lights, and I would like to have more control over the lighting.
John Spear, F315611
A: The specifications on automotive DC bulbs and lamps can be found on the back pages of automotive lamp application catalogs in auto parts stores, as well as in auto-electric establishments.
I am very familiar with the situation of the RV lamp lens or shade being damaged by the heat generated by using an incorrect bulb. If this is the case, and it happens while on shore power, the DC voltage from the converter may be too high.