Cloudy Ice Cubes
Q: Thanks for publishing the ice maker article by Bill Hendrix in the March 2003 issue (page 68). I would like to know how one can make, or get, clear ice cubes from the ice maker.
Gene Rawlins, F137199
Santa Ana, California
A: I’m not sure that I can give you a very good answer, since I have never had cloudy ice cubes made with the several ice makers I’ve had in our motorhomes. But it would seem that the cloudiness is coming from either air or minerals in the water.
If your problem occurs only from time to time, I would suspect minerals, and most likely calcium, as it is prevalent in the Southwest. A water softener might solve the problem. If you have cloudy ice cubes all the time, I suspect air, and, if so, an accumulator or a pressure tank might help. Perhaps some of our members who have had a similar problem can provide some insight.
Holding Tank Monitors
Q: It seems to me that holding tank monitors in use today rely on the fluid to be the conductor for the gauges. In my opinion, this has always proved to be notoriously incorrect and a consistent headache. Why haven’t the holding tank manufacturers utilized the float-type sender found in fuel tanks? I would think these would be much more accurate.
Bob Barada, F184182
Walnut Creek, California
Q: We have been involved with various motorhomes since 1993, and I have never met an RVer who was satisfied with the holding tank monitors. Is it possible that there is a very simple answer to all the problems? The system is not user-friendly. Couldn’t a more reliable system be used, one that would be easier to maintain? In this day of electronics and digital processing, why is it so difficult to come up with a reliable design?
Mitchell Keppler, F257607
A: While a floating sender (similar to the ball float in your stationary home’s toilet tank) can work well in a fuel tank, a fuel tank has no solids (at least, we hope not) floating around in the fuel. However, both black water and gray water tanks do have solids, and they would come in contact with the floating sender and corrupt its reporting capabilities. The present multiple-contact system is the most efficient system in use today. What will be available in the future, no one can say.
Tow Bar Information
Q: A short while ago I found an article on www.fmca.com about flat towing behind a motorhome. It included a list of companies that provide base plates, tow bars, supplemental braking systems, etc. Can that information be included in the Web site again?
A: The information you are referring to is still on FMCA.com. You can find it by clicking on the “Motorhoming Guide” link on the blue navigation bar located on the left-hand side of all pages on FMCA.com. Once the “Motorhoming Guide” page appears, click “Towing” and you’ll find all types of towing information.
In addition, the May 2003 issue of Family Motor Coaching contained a story about towing, which included many companies that provide towing products and accessories.
Another source for finding towing products is to consult FMCA’s “Business Directory” for information about companies that offer towing equipment. The Business Directory appears in the January and June issues of FMC magazine each year. It also is available on FMCA’s Web site; click on the “Business Directory” button that’s also on the blue navigation bar on the left-hand side of each page on FMCA.com.
Q: I have a question about hydroplaning in a diesel pusher. First, let me explain what happened. A couple of weeks ago my wife and I were traveling eastbound through western Illinois on Interstate 70. The temperature was approximately 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and the road was very wet (and had been for several hours) with water pooled on the road surface. We were keeping up with trucks moving at approximately 70 mph with the cruise control operating and the exhaust brake on.
Suddenly, the coach seemed to sideslip to the right. I immediately disengaged the cruise control and the sideslip stopped. I was able to regain control immediately and continue unaffected. However, I did slow down to 62 mph. All was fine until we started down a slight grade and I felt a momentary sideslip again when the exhaust brake kicked in. After I disengaged the exhaust brake, the trip continued on normally, albeit at a slower speed. Can you tell me if this is unusual or just a danger of driving on a highway with standing water while using the cruise control and the exhaust brake?
My experience with diesel pushers is limited to 15,000 miles — not all that much experience. However, I have never had this occur before, and I am concerned about this being a peculiarity of my motorhome. The tires have good tread, and the tire pressures all around were in the 115-pound range. The tires on my coach are low-profile 175/70-22.5; the four rear tires are Toyos with 30,000 miles of wear, and the front tires are Michelins with 4,500 miles on them.
I believe that I’ve learned several things from this experience: First, don’t try to keep up with the trucks in all instances; second, turn off the cruise control and exhaust brake when driving with standing water on the road. Is there anything else I should do to prevent this from happening again?
Bob England, F305067
A: An instructor/director with the Indiana Highway Safety Commission pointed out several commonsense facts on the subject of hydroplaning. First, no amount of weight or pressure can compress water. (It is similar to being on water skis on the highway.) The tread design on large truck tires may be better at displacing water away from the tread than motorhome tires, which may ride on top of the water on a smooth asphalt surface. He also said that speeds above 40 mph can contribute to hydroplaning.
Also, your idea of turning off the cruise control and the exhaust brake is a good one. We have seen cautions against using an exhaust brake during wet or icy road conditions.
In reality, hydroplaning is a phenomenon of nature’s laws; we just have to live with it. By the way, hydroplaning can occur on concrete road surfaces as well as on blacktop.
Some tire engineers recently indicated that hydroplaning is also a function of the tires’ condition — tread depth, siping depth, air pressure (too much or too little) — but they still cautioned against higher speeds through standing water. The best advice is to slow down when driving in wet conditions.
“” J.B. and R.H.
Q: I need a list of vehicles that can be flat-towed behind an RV.
A: The January 2003 issue of Family Motor Coaching magazine contained an article about vehicles that can be towed four wheels down without significant modifications (“Towables For 2003,” page 66). The information was compiled from a survey of manufacturers and contains their recommendations in that regard.
This list pertains only to 2003 model year vehicles. The 2003, 2002, and 2001 articles are available to FMCA members on FMCA’s Web site “” www.fmca.com. (Member login is required.) FMC also published articles for 2000 and 1999 model year vehicles in the March 2000 and March 1999 issues of the magazine, respectively, but these are not available on the Web site.
To obtain a photocopy of any of these articles, please send a self-addressed, stamped, business-size envelope for each article, along with your request to Family Motor Coaching, 8291 Clough Pike, Cincinnati, OH 45244, Attn. Editorial Assistant.
Ford Fuel Pump
Q: I have a large type A motorhome on a 1995 Ford F-53 chassis. On a recent trip from California to Texas, my coach had to be towed in to Gila Bend, Arizona, after the “check engine” light illuminated and the engine surged, backfired, and finally died. At the time, I was slowing to enter town and the engine was not under load.
Mechanics at the only garage available on a Sunday (no Ford garage at all) diagnosed the problem as a clogged inline fuel filter. The technicians claimed they had recently worked on four other Ford-based motorhomes with identical problems.
I had no more trouble until approximately 1,500 miles later on the return trip. When I turned off the interstate in Williams, Arizona, the same problems returned, except that the “check engine” light never illuminated. Again, on a Sunday when mechanics were scarce, I managed to find one who changed the same inline filter.
We returned to California with no further trouble. Technicians at my local Ford dealership expressed extreme doubt about the inline filter being the problem and claimed the “check engine” code only stores information as long as the light remains on. (Is this true?) The technicians diagnosed the problem as an intermittent fuel pump. Also, they reported no obvious contamination in the drained fuel. Unfortunately, I have no way to find out whether the repairs fixed the problem except to wait and see if the motorhome falters again. I’ve seen complaints about Ford fuel pumps, but these concerns almost always referred to a total failure, not an intermittent one. It would seem logical that an intermittent failure would most likely occur when hot and under load. In my case, heat was present, but not the load. Do you have any ideas on the subject?
Finally, why are these pumps placed in the fuel tanks where their replacement costs at least triple if not quadruple? A friend has advised me to add an external inline pump that could be switched on, like a boost pump in airplanes, if and when the regular in-tank pump appears to be faltering. Any ideas on that?
Dave Ledbetter, F278623
Sun City, California
A: First, do not install an extra fuel pump. It would be a waste of money and may possibly foul up the rest of the fuel system. The fuel pump is placed in the tank for several reasons. It allows the pump to operate cooler. Also, by “pushing” the fuel rather than “pulling” it, the engine is much less likely to suffer from fuel starvation during the heat of summer (vapor lock). The higher line pressures required by electronic fuel injection can be met by pushing the fuel rather than pulling it.
A recorder must be attached to the OBD II port to record engine data. Once the ignition key is turned off, the data is lost.
Q: I note that there are significant changes in your coverage of Dodge trucks in the “Towables For 2003” article and chart published in the January issue of the magazine. Heretofore, the Dakota 4×4 was towable with both manual and automatic transmissions; however, you’ve dropped the automatic designation this year. Is this correct? Also, none of the Dodge trucks, neither the Dakota nor the Ram, was towable in the manual 4×2 configuration — they have, up to now, specifically stated that towing in neutral was restricted to a maximum of 25 miles and only in emergency situations on the 4×2 chassis. Has something changed this year?
Peter B. Wakefield, F265633
A: After publication of the January 2003 magazine, we discovered a typo on the chart that affected the Dakota. In fact, the Dakota four-wheel drive with automatic transmission is towable for 2003. The information we publish comes directly from the automobile manufacturers, and DaimlerChrysler did not provide information as to what prompted the addition of the Dakota 4×2 with manual transmission and the Ram 1500 4×2 with manual transmission to the list.