Q: I have a 1997 Holiday Rambler Vacationer built on a Ford F-53 chassis with 31,000 miles on it. The problem I’m having is that the brakes drag.
While driving through town one day, I stopped for a red light, and when I started to move again, the brakes did not completely release on both front wheels. I drove about 5 to 6 miles and they began smoking. I raised the coach and could hardly turn the wheels by hand. After sitting for two days, the brakes were better, but still got so hot that I could not put my hand on either wheel cap after driving the coach.
I took it to a Ford dealership in Ohio. They didn’t know what the problem was. But they put in new wheel bearings; changed the calipers, hoses, and pads; and turned the rotors at a total cost of $1,200. These repairs did not fix the problem. Then the master cylinder was rebuilt, but I was left with the same problem. I can drive the motorhome, but the brakes drag and get hot.
I have talked with two Ford repair centers and no one knows what could be causing this problem. The front brakes still drag, and I cannot spin the wheel when it’s off the ground. The hydraulic booster brake pedal returns to full off and doesn’t seem to be a problem.
Please help. I don’t want to keep throwing money at this problem and just hoping it goes away. I would like to know what’s causing it and how to have it permanently fixed.
Bud Overholser, F251180
A: We contacted a Ford representative with your problem and here is his advice: “Take a good look at the front brake lines to see if there is any indication of a pinched or damaged area that could be trapping pressure. Next, check the brake booster to brake master cylinder push rod adjustment. If the lines look good and the rod adjustment is okay, then I would replace the master cylinder assembly.”
You didn’t mention whether the brake system had been flushed and new fluid added at any time while experiencing this problem. Excessive moisture buildup in the system can cause the fluid to become contaminated and boil as heat builds up. This creates extreme pressure within the system and may actually activate the braking mechanism without the driver pushing on the brakes.
“” J.B. and R.H.
Q: Is it practical to run my refrigerator using my Heart Interface inverter while under way in my motorhome? The refrigerator is a Dometic, model number NDR1062 (120 volts, 60 hertz, 2.7 amps). I have a 2,000-watt Freedom 458 Series combination inverter/charger, which gets its power from four 6-volt house batteries when not connected to shore power. While under way, the batteries are charged by the 12-volt-DC, 160-amp alternator. The inverter powers my rearview camera system (which is displayed through a Panasonic 21-inch television mounted above the driver’s seat). There is some additional nominal draw from the microwave and VCR.
Gerald R. Jeffers, F290654
A: The available AC power delivered from the inverter is 2,000 watts; however, this is the rating under the conditions normally disclosed on the technical data page of the owners manual or the data plate on the inverter case. It will likely state the input voltage tolerance, such as 11.6 volts DC to 15.2 volts DC, or some figures fairly close to that, and a temperature at which the inverter is rated, such as 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, meeting voltage input and operating temperatures is necessary to get the full 2,000 watts continuously.
In your case, the loads would be 325 watts for the refrigerator; approximately 100 watts for the TV; and I’m guessing between 25 to 50 watts for the camera. This would be less than 500 watts until you use the microwave oven, which could be in the range of 1,400 watts to 1,500 watts for a full-featured unit. Then the temperature of the inverter enclosure must be considered. Depending on the ventilation available and the outdoor ambient temperature, only then might the inverter be overloaded.
The Dometic NDR1062 will operate very well on inverted modified sine wave AC voltage, as the heating element is a simple resistive load. The only idiosyncrasy I have noticed is that after the refrigerator’s thermostat has been satisfied and there is no load going through the circuit board, some models will allow the control indicator lights to flash on and off, which is a moot point, as the controls are in idle while the temperature in the fridge has been satisfied.
Also note that you should operate the refrigerator in this mode only while you are traveling and remember to switch it off of the inverter while dry camping, as that load would discharge the house batteries.
Q: I want to know whether my two-wheel-drive 1998 Chevy Venture van, which has a V-6 engine and a four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive, can be towed on all four wheels without any alterations to the vehicle. I also am interested in learning as much as I can about tow bars and other accessories needed to tow a car four wheels down.
Rich Fawcett, F327620
Cape Coral, Florida
A: The Chevy Venture with an automatic transmission would not be towable four wheels down without modifications. Remco Manufacturing (800-228-2481) offers products that make it possible to modify a vehicle for towing. You may wish to contact them and discuss your options.
The May 2003 issue of FMC magazine contained an article titled “Towing Basics And Equipment.” That article included general information about towing a vehicle behind a motorhome and also briefly described the tow dollies, tow bars, and trailers that are available on the market. This article is available on the FMC magazine channel on FMCA.com (member or subscriber login required).
To obtain a photocopy of the article, please send a self-addressed, stamped, business-size envelope along with your request to: Family Motor Coaching, 8291 Clough Pike, Cincinnati, OH 45244; Attn. Editorial Assistant.
Q: This letter is in response to Keith Dodge’s question in the May 2003 issue of FMC magazine about tire monitors (page 28). In February 2000 I installed six new tires on my coach. At the same time I had the tire shop install the SmarTire wireless tire pressure monitoring system. The system came with a monitor control panel and six battery-powered sensor modules. (I think the newer systems also can monitor the towable’s tires.) SmarTire stands behind its products. My control panel failed, and they sent me a new panel within days. I’ve had no problems since. The system monitors tire pressures, tire temperature, and many other settings, and it has an audible warning signal and flashing red light alerts. SmarTire’s Web site is www.smartire.com.
David Hull, F265973
Q: I read Keith Dodge’s inquiry about tire pressure monitors in the May issue and your response for keeping watch over this critical element. This past winter, I purchased from a NAPA auto-parts store a laser device (for approximately $90) that you can aim at any surface to get a digital readout of the surface temperature. It is claimed to provide accuracy to within plus or minus 2 degrees Fahrenheit. When I pull off the interstate for fuel or for a rest, I go around the coach and take tire temperatures using the device. All tires should register at approximately the same temperature, as a tire with low pressure will exhibit additional heat that can destroy it. On my Tradewinds motorhome, I find that the temperatures of the rear tires tend to run a little higher than the front ones. Also, taking the temperature near the tread reads higher than if you take it on the middle of the sidewall.
This is also a handy gadget if you are looking for any overheating situation, be it brakes, radiator, or whatever. If you develop a bit of baseline data, it will be obvious when things are going bad.
I haven’t had an opportunity to use the device in really warm weather yet, and I am sure the numbers will go up when the temperature gets up into the 90s. But the key point will always be whether one tire shows a significant difference from its mate.
Glen Larson, F15310
A: Thank you, David and Glen, for your suggestions. But I still want to caution our members that these are supplemental tools only, and air pressure should still be checked regularly with a good tire gauge while the tires are cold. In addition, due to the possible wear and tear to the gauge during your travels, it should be verified regularly (about once a year) with a master gauge at a tire dealer. That said, monitoring devices and a heat gauge can be excellent tools for monitoring the tire pressure while traveling.
Hot Big Block Is Back
Q: I received my May 2003 issue of FMC magazine and read the “Technical Inquiries” letter submitted by Col. James Revels (“Hot Big Block,” page 30). I noted that Col. Revels was experiencing a problem very similar to what I experienced with my 1994 Dolphin motorhome. In fact, my problem was just about identical to what Col. Revels described.
I read his letter and your input very carefully. There was one thing that solved my problem after I did all the things described in the response to him. I replaced a part called a “coil pen.” The coil pen is about one inch long and locks the fan in place on the electric motor shaft. In my case, the coil pen had sheared off, causing the fan to “freewheel” when the electric motor turned on, resulting in a loss of airflow. The fan would spin as a result of friction between the motor shaft and the fan, but it would not turn at the necessary rpm to provide the much-needed cooling. To the eye it looked like the fan was doing its job, when in fact it was just coasting along. The coil pen is pushed through a small hole at the end of the electric motor shaft and holds the fan in place, preventing the fan from freewheeling. I purchased a couple of coil pens for $1 each and pushed one pen through the hole myself. I had no more problems after that.
Afterward I thought there were other big-block 454 owners who probably were experiencing the same kind of problem but may never find the coil pen. It’s not something you would immediately notice.
Michael Jackson, F288506
A: Thank you for taking the time to try to help another FMCA member.
Refrigerator Check Light
Q: I own a 1998 Pace Arrow with a Dometic RM3862 model refrigerator located on the driver’s side of the motorhome. I have been having a problem with the check light on the refrigerator coming on when I am on the road. However, the refrigerator works fine when I am plugged in to shore power. I have checked everything that I can think of “” gas pressure, etc. I did find that the tin deflector by the gas flame was bent. I straightened it and that helped some.
After having two heart attacks and open heart surgery, I recently had to have my motorhome returned home by a professional driver. By the time the motorhome got to my house, the refrigerator’s check light had come on and the refrigerator wasn’t operating. We lost all the items we had in it. I do not blame the driver, as all he was to do was to bring it back for us. I don’t want to replace the refrigerator, and I remember seeing an ad that stated “Check light gone crazy?” and listed a device that would automatically turn off the check light and restart the refrigerator. Do you know where I can get this device?
A friend of mine suggested that I install an inverter and run the refrigerator on 120-volt-AC power. But wouldn’t that be hard on the batteries?
Terry Edens, F251133
A: The controls for this refrigerator, when operating in the gas mode, rely upon feedback voltage from the thermocouple to verify that the flame is present. This voltage, normally 20 to 30 millivolts, tells the circuit logic to keep the gas valve open to sustain the flame. If for any reason the voltage drops below for a preset number of seconds, the controls stop the gas flow, as the indication is that there is no flame. This safety feature is dictated by standard codes.
The voltage created is the result of the heat of the flame. If the wind velocity and turbulence are such that the flame is constantly blown out or the flame is bent away from the tip of the thermocouple, the gas flow will be shut down.
When the refrigerator is installed on the driver’s side, there is normally more turbulence due to passing or oncoming traffic. Some have placed a 1-foot-square piece of thin aluminum at various places behind the side vent door (only while traveling) in order to further shield the burner from excessive wind.
The first thing to do is check the voltage output of the thermocouple for a reading between 20 and 30 millivolts “” the higher the better. Make sure the tip of the thermocouple is positioned above the second slot of the burner. If you are not technically inclined, this can be done by an RV refrigerator service technician.
Running the refrigerator on an inverter’s 120-volt-AC power is viable but would be a last option due to the expense. Doing this will not be hard on the batteries, as the alternator will be operating while you are traveling and you would not have to draw power through the inverter while stationary.
Q: Could you provide me with information on how I can appraise my motorhome? I am not aware of any publication that does this.
A: You did not mention whether you own a production-type motorhome or a coach conversion. If it is a production motorhome, RV valuation information is available from NADA online at www.nada.com. Information is available for 1986 through 2002 models.
Kelley Blue Book also has a Web site “” www.kbb.com “” but it does not include information regarding RVs online. Appraisal information is available in its printed Motor Home Guide, which may be available from your local library or from an RV dealer. A one-year subscription to the guide also can be purchased (three issues) for $50 by calling (949) 770-7704, ext. 22.
These sources do not offer pricing for coach conversions. Appraisal services for coach conversions can be received from Bus Solutions (formerly Bus Book Publishing) for a fee. Contact them at (866) 378-7100 or visit www.bussolutions.com for more information. You also may want to check with an RV insurance company to see whether they can point you to a source. RV Alliance America (800-521-2942), C95, is able to refer clients to appraisal services, and I’m guessing this is true of other RV insurance companies as well.
Holding Tank Monitors
Q: I read with interest the problems motorhome owners were having with the indicators in their gray and black water tanks (“Holding Tank Monitors,” June 2003, page 28). We use Digest-It holding tank enzyme digester, which liquefies all solid waste and toilet paper, including the waste that fouls the indicators. I highly recommend that others use these environmentally friendly odor eliminators and digesters.
Everett Lovell, C5661
Aqua Pines Camp Resort
A: Thank you for the information. In addition to Digest-It, there are several similar products on the market to help keep the holding tanks both clean and odor-free.
Hauling A Honda Odyssey
Q: We have towed a 1996 Honda Accord four wheels down since new, with no problems. We are now thinking about trading to the Honda Odyssey van in order to take short overnight trips. Can we tow the Odyssey four wheels down the same way we tow the Accord?
Dave McCowan, F144592
A: The Odyssey falls into the same category as the Accord. The vehicle’s owners manual advises against towing at more than 35 miles per hour and for more than 50 miles. But Honda indicates that they don’t know of any engineering reasons why it can’t be done, and they’ve provided instructions for doing so “” with a caveat that they aren’t responsible if anything goes wrong as a result. Additional information is available in the Owner Link section of www.honda.com. You could also check with a Honda dealer or call Honda at (800) 999-1009.