What’s our engine thinking?

Well, we all have gauges of some sort on our vehicle that tell us the REALLY important things like “You’re Outta Gas!” or “I’m getting too hot!“, but there’s a lot more information that all our newer (since 1996 or so) vehicles have that can be extracted from the on board computer (known as the Engine Control Module) and, if you have the right device, then display that data on a screen so the driver can see and monitor the engine load and performance. On diesel trucks and motorhomes, this data is sent by the ECM to a “Deutsch” connector. On pick-up trucks and passenger cars they use an OBDII (On-Board Diagnostic) connector.

One such device for diesel engines in Motorhomes is BLUEFIRE FOR MOTORHOMES.

I discovered this device and it’s associated app while visiting the Quartzsite “Big Tent” RV show in January of 2019. Their display of the user interface caught my eye and so I went over and talked to Mark Fredrickson who, as it turns out is the developer of both the plug-in adapter and the free app available for Apple, Android devices and Windows 10 computers.

This device (called the adapter) plugs into your diesel vehicle Deutsch Connector. In our case, there is a round 6-pin Deutsch connector mounted just inside the rear “hood” of our coach just over the top of the radiator (labeled Diagnostics). There is another duplicate connector mounted under the dash. These are the connectors that the mechanic would use for diagnostic purposes.

This is what our (6 pin) adapter looks like

The really sweet thing about Bluefire for Motorhomes is that the adapter is BLUETOOTH which means the adapter talks to your phone/tablet/laptop wirelessly and this means that you don’t have to deal with any unsightly wires coming out from under the dash AND you don’t need to provide any power to the adapter since it gets it’s own power from the Deutsch connector.

The BlueFire for Motorhomes App is free and can be downloaded and installed from Apple Tunes, Google Play, or the Microsoft App Stores. It will run completely in Demo mode so you can get a feel for it’s capabilities before purchasing an Adapter.

The cost of the adapter starts at $150.00 (for a 6 pin Android/Windows adapter) up to $190.00 for the 9 pin (newer motorhomes) Android/Windows/Apple adapter. You will need to look at your Deutsch connector to see if it’s 6 or 9 pin and also decide what platform you are going to run it on (Apple/Android/Microsoft).

Since our motorhome is a 2002 Airstream on a Freightliner chassis with a CAT 3126 engine and a 6 pin Deutsch, we were able to purchase our adapter for $150.00

Since the app is FREE, I urge you to download the app and play with it in DEMO mode. This will allow you to learn about all the various settings and learn about how you might want your “dashboard” to look like. To use the app in DEMO mode, from the main menu (or control panel) click on SETTINGS & then UN-check DO NOT SHOW DEFAULT DATA.

Your custom dashboard is completely customize-able. You select which gauges you want displayed, what style the gauge will be (circular, text, or linear), what colors you want, and all gauge placement. Here’s a shot of how I set up my dash for our motorhome.

My Bluefire dash on my Galaxy 8″ tablet (in demo mode)

You can see that I have 8 circular gauges, 8 text gauges, and 3 buttons on my dash. And I still have room on the screen to add more. I can even place a dynamic map on the dashboard that works off the GPS.

This is the tablet I’m using for Bluefire. My laptop was too big. I would have to set it on the dash and then I couldn’t reach it from the driving position. My Android phone is too small and it mounts on a long flexible neck that tends to bounce around during travel. This would make it too had to view the gauges, so the 8′ tablet was the way to go for me.

Here’s the base that I bought to mount the tablet. I screwed the mount right into the dash just to the left of the back-up monitor left of the steering wheel. It’s a very solid mount and does not allow the tablet to jiggle or bounce around as you travel down the road.

In the screenshots below you will see just how many parameters there are that the ECM sends to Bluefire and you can make gauges on your custom dashboard displaying ANY of these parameters.

Be aware that not ALL motorhomes ECM’s will transmit ALL of these parameters. My coach is an older (2002) and there are a few pieces of data that just don’t come across (like coolant LEVEL) because my coach doesn’t have a sensor that feeds into the ECM for that.

I DO however have a LOW WATER light and buzzer on the Freightliner dash that warns me … which by the way I found DOES work as we were climbing a steep hill, the coolant in the reservoir shifted to the back thereby exposing the sensor and setting off our LOW WATER alarm!

It’s very easy to operate. Here’s how I turn it on and start to use the system.

Turn on my tablet, enable Bluetooth and open the Bluefire app. I have my settings set to NOT bring up default values when not connected (ignition off). Start the engine. Push CONNECT on the app control panel. Push “TRIPS” on app control panel and enter the name of my trip that I’m starting. Push START TRIP. Push one of 3 buttons on Control Panel (either DASHBOARD, DRIVE, or REPAIR) to view graphical data being sent from the ECM.

DRIVE and REPAIR each have multiple screens (you can scroll up and down) that show you every possible parameter that your ECM might be sending to the adapter.

Using the TRIP function all the driver has to do is start and connect the app to the adapter, enter the name of the trip, (i.e. Chicago to St. Louis) and then push START TRIP. The app and the ECM do the rest of the work. When you stop for fuel, push FUEL FILL-UP – the app will ask you if it’s a total or partial fill. At the end of the trip push STOP TRIP and you’ll see the results on-screen and a report will be emailed in a csv spreadsheet format. The spreadsheet is amended with another ROW after each trip so all your trip(s) data is automatically saved in a nice compact format for easy retrieval at any time in the future.

Screen shot of the TRIP screen.

Here is the link to purchase the Bluefire For Motorhomes Adapter from our Amazon Associates Page. If you order from Amazon (through this link) or the BUY NOW button below, then we will be paid a small fee from Amazon and the purchase doesn’t cost you any more.

Here’s a link to their Getting Started Document that’s 23 pages long and really explains a lot. I don’t think this document was available when I started using Bluefire or maybe I just never saw it — I learned by experimenting.

For a quick look at some of the App pages follow this link to the Bluefire web site.

If you’re not already subscribed to this blog, you can easily do so by scrolling up to the top of any page and entering your email address in the block on the right side.

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If you’re curious (at any time) to know where we are at that moment then click the button at the top right of this page labeled “See Where We Are Now“.

Any questions, I’ll be glad to answer them as best I can. Please put questions and comments in the comment section below rather than email so that others can benefit from our conversation as well.

We’d love to hear from you. If you scroll all the way down to the bottom of this page, you can send us a note. Again, thanks for riding along. ’til next time – safe travels.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

herbnkathy solar install

While we were on the road this year, I made an appointment with Brian Boone to have our solar power system upgraded when we got back to Arizona.

We set the appointment for November 18th in Quartzsite. Brian worked for Discount Solar for ten years installing new systems before going out on his own.

Welcome to Quartzsite

Brian and his wife Sue are full-time RV’ers themselves and travel the country posting their upcoming locations on their Facebook page so other RV’ers can make appointments when it works for both.

Since our RV Park at Casa Grande is only 3 hours from Q, it was an easy drive for the day and a half it would take for the install. Brian was able to make arrangements with a local church to allow us to use their parking lot for the duration.

Our first night at the church parking lot

After arriving Sunday afternoon in Q, we had dinner at the famous Quartzsite Yacht Club where they had Karaoke and it was a blast!

I ordered all the equipment for the install from Continuous Resources back in October and had it delivered to me at our RV park in plenty of time to load up in the Saturn to take along with us to the install site. By doing it this way Brian doesn’t have to carry any bulky, heavy, and high priced inventory. He does however, carry a wide variety of cables, connectors, and hardware needed to complete the installation.

6 solar panels, 2 solar controllers, Inverter, remote panels, switches, and fuses

The next morning Brian and crew showed up about 8:30, set up their work station and got right to work.

Since Brian is having a little trouble with his knees lately he solicited the help of his friend Devin to do some of the work that would require kneeling and squatting.

We installed (six) 200 watt Hightec RCL-M200w solar panels on the roof, two Blue Sky 3024i controllers, two power disconnects, fuse, and a Magnum 2000 watt full sine wave inverter. Both the inverter and the solar controller(s) have remote monitoring and control panels wall mounted in the kitchen. We mounted these on the wall because we didn’t have any cabinet conveniently located that we could mount them into.

Our next upgrade will be to replace the four Trojan T-105 flooded cell batteries with four Battleborn Lithium 100 amp hour batteries but that’ll be a while since they are so pricey.

Although the job was finished Tuesday about noon in time for us to make it back to Casa Grande, we decided to stay a 3rd night because a bad wind and rain storm was headed our way. By early afternoon the temperature dropped about 25 degrees and the wind went from “still” to 20-30 mph gusts.

Look at the sky as the storm was heading in … eery

So we spent another night at the church and then headed on home on Wednesday.

If you’re considering installing or upgrading your solar system, I recommend that you check out Brian Boone’s Got Solar or Got Solar? Solar Brian on Facebook.

If you’re not already subscribed to this blog, you can easily do so by scrolling up to the top of any page and entering your email address in the block on the right side.

You can also subscribe to our YouTube channel (herbnkathyrv) on You Tube.

If you’re curious (at any time) to know where we are at that moment then click the button at the top right of this page labeled “See Where We Are Now“.

We’d love to hear from you. If you scroll all the way down to the bottom of this page, you can send us a note. Again, thanks for riding along. ’til next time – safe travels.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Finally – The Leak Is Fixed!

We bought our Airstream motorhome (2002 model) in late 2015 and shortly afterward we noticed that part of the oak trim down by the floor was stained as if it had been wet at some time in the past.

This is the 6″ wide oak trim that runs the height of the living room slide

This piece of trip runs from floor to ceiling on the slide immediately behind the driver’s seat.

Initially, before we replaced all the carpeting with vinyl plank flooring, we were not really aware of the leak because it was small and “wicked” into the carpeting under the couch in the slide. But when we removed the carpet and padding to prepare for the new vinyl flooring, we could then see the effect the water leak had on the carpet and the padding.

This shows the subfloor and the new vinyl plank flooring being installed – the spot that showed evidence of water was located behind the driver’s seat

Since that time we’ve been watching the floor behind the driver’s seat very closely anytime it rained when we were parked with the living room slide in the out position. We never saw any water when the slide was in, but it seemed anytime it rained – even just a little – produced a small puddle of water on the vinyl floor.

We’ve worked at making sure we carefully leveled the coach anytime we parked at a new location. Using the hydraulic leveling system, we would have the coach tipped slightly to the left so as to allow any water on the top of the slide to run off outboard.

Hydraulic leveling system controls
The boys at West RV in Livingston, TX in Jan ’18 installing our new slide topper

We even replaced the slide “topper” in hopes that this would cure the problem. No luck. So we resigned ourselves to the need to bring the slide in anytime rain was in the forecast. Although this is not a HUGE deal, it is inconvenient for whoever is trying to see the TV while sitting on the couch. And since this person is typically KATHY, it was becoming a thorn in MY side if it was going to rain and I decided it was time to pull in the slide!

The way our coach is designed, the TV is mounted on the left side of the cabin, so if the slide is “in” then the side wall of the slide comes in and partially blocks the TV from view of anyone sitting on the couch

But now that we’ve been basically in one place for a few months, and there’s a shop here at the RV park that has tools we can use , we’ve taken this opportunity to get into some repair and update projects …. and this slide issue is one of them.

I got a step ladder from the shop and started taking a good look at the top of the slide. I also took a good look at the bedroom slide as well since we never get any water in there. “What is it about the bedroom slide that’s different from the living room slide?” I asked myself.

Once I got up on the ladder (knees shaking) I looked closely at the bedroom slide and the top and side gaskets. The picture below shows how the side (vertical) gasket tucks in BEHIND the top (horizontal) gasket. In addition, ALL the gaskets are glued to the body of the coach from the INSIDE, so they had to be installed at the factory first before the slide was installed in to the opening. The light green metal box in the picture below is the frame opening in the body of the coach. With this gasket configuration, any water that might pool on the top of the slide is caught by the top gasket and wind (or pitch of the coach) allows it to run to the front or rear end where it then drips off the edge and onto the ground below or onto the vertical gasket (that takes the water away at the bottom). This is the way ALL the gaskets should be installed in all the slides.

BUT … Look at how I found the gasket on the front of the living room slide!

Living room slide gasket installed incorrectly

Two things are wrong here. First, the vertical slide gasket is installed on the OUTSIDE of the body opening instead of the inside. Was this installed incorrectly from the factory in 2002? Or did someone have the slide out sometime in the past 17 years and replace the gasket (incorrectly) for some reason?

Secondly, the side (vertical) gasket is “outside” of the top horizontal slide gasket. This always then allows any water on the top of the slide to travel toward the front of the coach and immediately run in behind the side gasket and on down the wall of the slide and into our living room!

Since it wasn’t feasible or practical for me to move the vertical gasket to the inside of the body opening (without removing the slide) I found the solution was to trim a little off the top of the vertical gasket so that it could be tucked in under the top gasket. I then put an ample amount of silicone sealant on the lap joint to keep it in that position.

My fix was to trim the vertical gasket and tuck it under the horizontal gasket

Right after I made this change, we hit it lucky and it rained for about 2 solid days here in Arizona. At times the wind was about 25-30 mph. And you know what?

NO WATER ON THE FLOOR!

My Airstream buddy Ed Leland down in Florida has the same make, model, and vintage coach as ours and so I’m anxious to find out how his is put together and if he’s ever had any problem with water infiltration. I know he’ll read this post and I’ll bet he’ll go right outside and take a close look!


Here’s the 100% Silicone Sealant that I used. It’s available from our Amazon Store by clicking on the image below.

Thanks for riding along …. Oh, and by the way … we have a new logo for our brand … whatta ya think?

Our new logo … We’ll use it on our web site, YouTube channel, and more
We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

repost: The Day our Heartland RV Left us Homeless

I just learned of this family’s plight this morning.  Their story is nearly unbelievable, although I’ve been reading more and more about the generally poor quality of RV’s built today.

In talking with other RV’ers (weekend warriors or full-timers) we hear time and time again about how so many RV manufacturers are pushing crap out the door.  And when it comes to standing behind the products they make, their response seems to be “who, me?”

If you’re thinking of buying that new RV, I urge you to take a close look at what’s on the used market.  The thousands you can save can go a LONG way toward changing out that outdated flooring or fixtures.  And generally the frames (although they may have a little surface rust) and the structure are made of much heavier (stronger) materials.

When you look at the older (10+ years) rigs, pay attention to things like; leveling jacks and other frame components.  Now compare how beefy they are to the ones on current model rigs.  Look at all the cabinet work inside and compare.  How many of the new rigs have real wood?  It may look pretty, but get up close and you’ll likely see (and feel) that it’s nothing more than a man-made composite covered with a high grade contact paper.

Yes, I know … the older rigs don’t have the bells and whistles the new rigs do.  But do the bells and whistles do us any good if our rig is in generally such poor shape after just a couple years that we no longer are able to use it?

Don’t believe this can happen?  Read this one couples story via The Day our Heartland RV Left us Homeless

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Kathy Asked … Are We Too Heavy?

One of the benefits of belonging to the Escapee’s RV Club is the opportunity to have your rig (and tow vehicle) weighed.  They call it their SmartWeigh service.

The SmartWeigh station at Livingston, TX

Although you can get weighed at many of the truck stops around the country, the Escapees service includes weighing of not only the rig as a whole or weighing of each axle, but also the weight of the rig (or vehicle) on EACH CORNER.  This helps the RV’er to know how their load is distributed within the RV and where you might need to move (or remove) weight to get your rig within specs for a safe ride.

The manufacturers weight rating label is typically (not always) located inside the rig either on a wall or inside one of the cabinets.  I’ve seen travel trailers that have them on the outside of the rig as well.  In any event they should be located either inside  or made of a material such that they will not easily get worn or be destroyed by weather or people.

In addition to the Weight Rating Label (glued to the back wall) in the cupboard above the couch, I’ve taped other pertinent info (like the paint color codes) on the inside of the door

The Weight Rating Label shows TOTAL weight rating with and without liquids and passengers, but NOT axle ratings

Note that the weight rating label I reference above DOES NOT indicate the individual Axle Weight Ratings (GAWR), only the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR).  This label shows the math using some known (& unknown) standards.

Our rig when filled with fuel, water, and 770 pounds of humans, still allows for a Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC)  of 1770 pounds.  But how is that weight actually distributed?

For a more complete and accurate assessment of your rig’s weight, it is important to know the individual Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) and the tire manufacturers recommended inflation pressure for given loads.  If you bought your rig new you should have it with your Owners Manual papers.  If you bought yours used like we did, you should be able to find this information online at your rig manufacturer’s (or chassis) web site.

Click here to see the data sheet for our Freightliner chassis.

From the chart that shows in the link above, you can see that our Freightliner chassis has a Front Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) of 9,350 pounds, a Rear GAWR of 17,000 for a total Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,350 pounds.  This is the TOTAL that includes the RV, fuel, water, passengers, and cargo.  I can’t explain why the sticker inside the cabinet states 26,850 while the Freightliner chassis data calls out 26,350 pounds … a 500 pound difference.

If the weight was evenly distributed, this would allow for 4,675 pounds on EACH front tire and 4,250 on each of the four rear tires.  Remember that these weight ratings are for the AXLES, not the tires.  That’s a separate issue we’ll cover further down the page.

Enter the SmartWeigh system.

The SmartWeigh “pad” at Livingston

The pad is a long and level concrete pad that the customer can drive their motorhome and toad (or truck and trailer) onto at the direction of the weighmaster.

The driver stops as directed by the weighmaster, where then the individual scales are placed into depressions or cavities in the concrete so the driver can then safely and smoothly roll forward onto the scale when directed by the weighmaster.

One of the scales in place ready to drive onto

The weighmaster moves the scales from axle to axle (1 scale on each side) and records each individual wheel weight.  Again, it’s important to know not only HOW MUCH weight you are carrying as compared to the manufacturers specification, but WHERE you are carrying the weight so as to provide the safest possible loading.

SmartWeigh also provides the owner with a detailed data sheet of how your rig compares to the manufacturer’s weight rating.  Here’s the data sheet with our numbers.

You can see that our front corner weights are under the Front GAWR by 1250 pounds but we’re a little heavier on the passenger side, so we need to move some of our cargo in the basement from the curb side to the road side.

The rear axle weighs in at 17,550 pounds, 550 pounds OVER the GAWR for the rear axle so we need to lighten the load by removing some items and/or moving what we are carrying more toward the front of the coach.

SO NOW LET’S TALK TIRES …

We ride on Goodyear tires designed for motorhome use.  The model # is G670 and the size is 275/70R/22.5.  The manufacturers data chart shows the maximum load per various cold inflation pressures.

Goodyear tire inflation chart

I generally run the coach tires at 100 p.s.i. cold inflation pressure.  You can see on the chart above that at 100 p.s.i. the front TIRES are capable of carrying 5,850 pounds.  You’ll remember that the SmartWeigh chart shows we’re carrying 3,900 and 4,200 so we’re well under the limit on the front.  We could run 85 p.s.i. and still be well within the safety margin.

Since we have “duallys” on the rear axle (two tires on each side), we therefore split the total corner weight between the tires.  The chart shows that at 100 p.s.i. we can carry 5,390 on each tire or 10,780 pounds on each rear corner.  SmartWeigh tells us we are running 8,900 pounds on the curb side and 8,650 on the road side, again well within the manufacturers load limit for 100 p.s.i. inflation pressure.  And again, we could run 85 p.s.i. on the rear as well.

Speaking of tires and proper inflation pressure, be sure to check out my post about Electronic Wireless Tire Inflation Monitors and the importance of being safe on the road and how these relatively inexpensive devices can save you time, trouble, money, and very possibly … your life!

The SmartWeigh service is available (by appointment) at Escapee RV Parks in; Livingston TX, Bushnell FL, and Congress AZ by calling one of the numbers on this page of the Escapees RV Club web site.

In the meantime … safe travels to you and yours.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

How Do We Know We’re Not Going To Freeze Down Below?

Call me worried … call me paranoid … but when winter comes (even in east Texas) and shows it’s ugly head, I worry about whether or not we are really set for any below freezing temps.

Having worked as a Realtor the last 20 years of my working life, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to see vacant homes get nearly destroyed as a result of freezing temperatures.

On the surface, everything seems fine.  But in a very short time-frame things can turn ugly in a hurry.

The video below shows a couple of steps we take to make sure that we can get FAR below freezing temps outside and still have a safe water supply in our RV for both drinking and bathing.

If you have any other safeguards that you take to protect your RV, or for that matter your sticks ‘n bricks house, I’d be interested to hear about what steps you take.

Thanks for reading and thanks for riding along.  Safe travels to you.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Suspension and Steering Upgrades To Our Coach

I’m always looking at other RV’s out there … comparing what others are driving (and living in) against what we are driving and living in.  All in all, we both are quite satisfied with our current home on wheels.  It’s a 2002 Airstream 36′ diesel pusher motorhome.  It’s built on a Freightliner Custom Chassis and is powered by a Caterpillar 3126 (300 hp) 6 cylinder diesel engine paired with an Allison 3000 6-speed electronic transmission.

It has enough room for us .. with one 13′ slide out that includes the couch and kitchen and another smaller slide out in the bedroom.  The body and the paint finish is in very good condition and now that we’ve remodeled the interior, it really feels more like home to us than ever before.

To see what we’ve done inside, you can follow this link and to take the exterior tour, follow this link

However, as the driver, I wondered if we couldn’t make some improvements to the ride and handling and so I started to read (and watch You Tube videos) on some of the upgrades that were applicable to our unit and what they would do for us.  After a few months, we finally took the plunge, ordered the components, and had a local RV shop install the parts for us.

 

 

 

 

Saf T Plus Steering Stabilizer

The first upgrade I wanted to do was to add a Safe-T-Plus Steering Stabilizer.  I had talked to other RV’ers who had installed one of these and they told me it made the driving so much easier and far less tiring.  As we criss-crossed the country over the last year, I found that I was always moving the steering wheel back and forth correcting and over-correcting every time we got a gust of wind or when a large tractor-trailer passed us.  It seemed I was always fighting the wind.  Now, after installation, the stabilizer keeps the rig running smoothly down the center of the road with very little help from me.  I can actually take my hands off the wheel totally for a few hundred feet.  The difference is amazing.

The stabilizer is a shock absorber that is self centering.  It resists being pulled all the way open and also resists being pushed closed.

It’s a very easy installation that can be done by any driveway mechanic, that is, providing you have an impact wrench, a torque wrench, bottle jacks and jack stands capable of supporting the weight of your truck or motorhome.

One end of the stabilizer mounts to the axle and the other end attaches to the tie rod with “U” bolts so it can be adjusted easily after installation if necessary.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second upgrade was the installation of a new steering Bell Crank.
The bell crank bolts onto the frame and is the pivot point that provides the 90 degree connection for the idler arm that attaches to the tie rod and the steering gear box. When the bell crank gets old, the needle bearing tends to wear and excessive play and slop in the assembly transfer and is manifested as  loose steering control at the driver’s wheel. By replacing this component, we further tightened up the front end so it only responds to my pressure on the steering wheel and not to every bump and hole in the road.

Here’s a short video that explains the difference between a factory original equipment bell crank and the Super Steer SS-100 Bell Crank

The third upgrade we did was the installation of Motion Control Valves. These are really nothing more than small orifices that install in each air line supplying air to the airbags adjacent to each wheel.  These orifices slow down the rate at which air moves into and out of the air bag. The reason this is helpful is that after installation it lessens the amount of side-to-side rocking of the coach when we drive into or out of a driveway, especially if we’re approaching the curb or drop on an angle which is typically the case.  Those of you who drive a large motorhome know what I’m talking about. It’s when you pull out of a gas station and the whole coach rocks side-to-side so violently that the cupboards fly open and out come the glasses and dishes! By slowing down the rate of air travel from one bag to the other, the violent rocking is minimized as well.

Another short video from Super Steer on the Motion Control Valves and what they do.

Here’s a short video from the manufacturer showing the easy installation of the steering stablilzer, the motion control valves, and the bell crank assembly;

Our final suspension/steering upgrade was installation of a rear anti-sway bar. The coach already had a front anti-sway bar installed, however as the guys were under the coach installing the other components, they found that all the bushings in the front bar were GONE!  They had worn to the point that they had just fallen out of the brackets. The shop ordered new bushings and got them installed along with all the other work.

The anti-sway bar is connected between the axle (suspension) and the frame and once installed lessens the “roll” so often experienced from wind and passing trucks.

The rear anti-sway bar was ordered directly from Roadmaster, as Amazon did not carry this part. Normally, it’s a pretty simple bolt-on installation, but as it turned out, Roadmaster had installed their product on a chassis SIMILAR to mine, but not identical.  Because of this, there was some drilling to be done by the shop and that took extra time since the frame is about 3/8″ thick.

But all in all, the job was completed along with installation of a new slide topper (to keep rain off the top of the slide and subsequently into the coach) and we’re “Happy Campers”.

Installing the slide topper

I know it might seem like we’ve spent a lot of time and energy updating and repairing our home on wheels, but the way I look at it, it’s still a LOT less expensive than buying a new quality-built coach and we really like being debt free.

Thanks so much for riding along with us on our journey and we hope to see you “down the page” or better yet “down the road” somewhere!

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We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Airstream Motorhome Exterior Tour

Are you a current RV’er?  Do you travel pulling a travel trailer or 5th wheel trailer? Or do you drive a motorhome and pull a car or truck behind?

We’ve had a fifth wheel trailer in the past and this is our 2nd motorhome.  We enjoy the freedom that the motorhome gives us, along with the ease of parking when it comes to our evening camping spot.

We’ve owned this Airstream motorhome for about two years now and although we’ve looked at other rigs out there – both newer and older along with bigger and smaller … we think this 2002 36′ coach is just right for the two of us and our full-time RV travels.

I made this video of the exterior of our coach to give others who might not be aware of some of the features of many class A motorhomes an idea of what to expect.  For those of you who might currently own a motorhome, it might be interesting for you to see some of the differences between ours and what you currently own.

Although there are a lot of similarites from manufacturer to manufacturer and model to model, there are also a lot of differences and this video just points out some of the features of our 2002 Airstream 365 XC Diesel Pusher motorhome.

I hope you enjoy seeing our coach and what it has to offer.  I’ll be publishing a companion video that will feature the interior and further explain some of the inside systems.

In the meantime, we just completed our interior remodel (paint, light & bath fixtures, etc) and you can see that video by following this link

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Interior Remodel Of Our Airstream Motorhome

We bought our 2002 Airstream motorhome from the original owner who was selling it in W. Virginia.  We found it on Craigslist.  We were replacing a 2003 Monaco Monarch gas motorhome because I had always admired Airstream products and I really wanted a diesel pusher coach.  This one was a little unusual in that it is green in color (we like different) and besides, it fit our budget!

Our maiden voyage was from our (then) home in Ohio to visit Kathy’s cousin Judy in Encinitas, CA.  Once we completed that trip successfully and the coach was still in one piece and Kathy and I were still talking to each other, we made the decision to go RV’ing full time.  I retired from my real estate business and we left Ohio permanently for our “home on the road” on September 6, 2016.

Since that time we’ve traveled just under 20,000 miles and gone from Ohio to San Diego, to Ohio, to Vermont, to Ohio, to Arizona, to Ohio, to western Michigan (and the UP) and back to Ohio (via Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana) and most recently down to Texas for the winter.

Where We’ve Been

In all that time and miles, we’ve discussed numerous times what we like about our new home and what we would change or make sure we would get in our “next” rig.

We’ve been to RV dealers and we’ve been to a few RV shows in the past few years and we’ve climbed in and out of countless motorhomes.  We know what we like and what we don’t like.

We’ve come to the conclusion that we LIKE WHAT WE HAVE, save a few exceptions.

The new RV’s have a lot more bells and whistles but, like so many manufactured products today, “they just don’t make ’em like they used to” and the RV industry is not immune to this phenomenon.

I’m not going to get into what we don’t like about some of the new rigs because I don’t want to offend anybody.  Our rig, although 15 years old, is just getting “broke in” with about 69,000 miles on it’s Caterpiller 3126 diesel engine.  It purrs like a kitten (tiger) and rides like a dream and looks like new (when it’s washed!)  And it’s paid for.

But, since we made the decision to keep the “big green machine” as Kathy calls it, we decided to invest some money into making it less dated inside and also to beef up the engine and suspension/steering systems.  We wanted to make it closer to perfect.

I’ll be detailing the suspension and steering upgrades in a future post, but for now I’ll show you what we did on the inside. The video below details all that we did including; flooring, wall paint, window shade boxes, wall sconces, lavatory towel racks, light fixtures, and so on.

We’re happy with our remodel work and happy with our home on wheels.  She’s only 15 years old, so we hope to have her around as long as we are on the road … and who knows how long that will be?

In the meantime, we plan to continue to enjoy our travels and workamping experience and we hope you find your travels safe and wonder-filled.

You can follow us on our You Tube channel herbnkathyrv and of course here on the blog at www.herbnkathy.com.

If you are on Facebook, join us at facebook.com/herbsells

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Foretravel Coach Plant Tour – Nacogdoches, TX

Winnebago, Avion, Jayco, Fleetwood, Airstream, Coachman, Thor, and so many other RV names were familiar to us.  Many have been around for years and years and enjoy a long history of making quality recreational vehicles.

I recently wrote a post on our Airstream factory tour in Jackson Center, Ohio when we were on our way from our Michigan summer workamping gig to our Texas winter workamping gig.

I only recently (within the last year or so) became familiar with the coach building company known as FORETRAVEL.  I realized we were going to be right past the home of Foretravel at Nacogdoches, Texas.  “So let’s go take their factory tour too, eh?”

Like the Airstream factory, Foretravel also offers low cost ($5/nite) camping for it’s customers and visitors.  We pulled in to the parking area in the afternoon and found that the plant tour would be at 10 am the next morning.  We took the opportunity that afternoon to talk to one of their in-house sales reps so we could look at their used inventory and then we also drove up the street a mile or so and met with Brad at Motorhomes of Texas to see what they had in their Foretravel inventory.

The front of the main Foretravel plant and corporate offices at Nacogdoches

Our parking spot for the night at the factory “campground”

The back of the main building showing the service and delivery prep bays

(The following is taken from “The History of Foretravel” on the corporate web site.)

“The business of building motorhomes came about not due to planning by the Fores, but by the traveling they did in their self-built motorhome.

From that modest beginning in 1967 with the 29’ “Speedy Marie” motorhome produced in the backyard of C.M. & Marie Fore, Foretravel continued to set the standard. Weathering the oil embargos of the early 1970’s Foretravel introduced the first diesel-powered motorhome in 1974.

In addition to the numerous conveniences of a Foretravel, i.e., VCR’s, central vacuum cleaners, icemakers, trash compactors, Foretravel was among the first to use fiberglass instead of aluminum, real hardwood, and a full air bag suspension.”

Foretravel continues to be a top-notch motorhome manufacturer.  At present, they make 2 Class “A” coaches – The model IH-45, selling for about $1,000,000 and the “entry level” coach labeled the “Realm” that sells somewhere in the $800,000 range.

Unlike Airstream that makes about 100 units per month and has about 1200 employees, Foretravel has only about 160 employees and manufactures about only 25 units PER YEAR!  Their paint process alone requires about 2000 man hours to complete.

Also unlike Airstream, the Foretravel factory tour allowed us to take pictures!

The “power” end of the new IH-45 coach

One of the “basement” compartments showing electronic wiring.

Two frame assemblies with basement compartments side by side

Aluminum box frame side wall assemblies ready to be mounted on basement frame box

Front end of the coach frame shows (green) Onan diesel 12kw generator

One of the side slide assemblies that will be placed into a sidewall

An entire drivers side sidewall (front end at right end of image)

Now the wall has been lifted into place on the coach basement frame ready to be attached

Basement pass through storage compartments

Aluminum box frame (front end of coach)

The power end of the coach showing one of the slides extended

Workers installing the one piece windshield

Installing one of the large slide units

Some of the features that the Foretravel coaches have that really appeal to me are;

  1. 8 (or 10 if there’s a tag axle) “outboard” air bags.  They place their air bags at the extreme outboard end of where the axle meets the frame just inside the side wall.  Most coach chassis makers have the air bags inside the wheels so the airbags might be 4 or 5 feet apart whereas with the Foretravel coaches the airbags are more like 8 feet apart.  This gives the coach much better stability and far less side-to-side rocking when driving into or out of a driveway.
  2. No slide gaskets or seals that are exposed to the exterior.  No slide trim panels that overlap the sidewall.  Foretravel uses the HWH expanding bladder to seal the slide to the outside wall.  When the slide is retracted or extended, there is a vacuum placed on the bladder.  Once the wall is completely in or out, then the bladder is pressurized to provide an airtight weatherproof seal.  This system not only provides an airtight seal, but when the slides are closed (retracted), the face of the slide is perfectly and completely flush with the sidewall.
  3. Pass-through basement storage drawers (full height from side to side)
  4. Aqua-Hot heating system uses hot water circulated through heat exchangers in the cabin for warm, quiet heat.  This is diesel powered and also provides hot water to the bath and kitchen.
  5. CAT (on older models) and Cummins 450hp and up engines along with Allison Electronic Transmissions (3000 series on older coaches, 4000 series on newer) along with driver-controlled 4-position transmission retarder.  This style retarder gives the operator far superior speed control during steep downhill grades … better than an exhaust retarder or engine brake.

Here’s a cross-section of the HWH slide bladder seal that pressurizes to seal

These next few photos show Kathy getting just a little TOO comfortable inside the new Foretravel REALM that just rolled off the factory floor.  It’s a darn shame it was already sold … aw shucks.

Here’s that REALM on the outside.  I gotta admit – I do like the paint scheme

Oh, take a look at the steps.  These are not your typical RV steps.  Most motorhomes today use electric RV steps known as Kwikee Steps made by Lippert Industries.  These high-end steps are known as “Executive” brand steps made by Braund Industries.

I was really impressed with these steps when we were at the factory.  Our coach steps are well worn and rattle a lot as we’re going down the road.   So I thought, “boy I’d like to get a set of those steps for our coach”  I did some research online when I got home.  Those steps would cost us about $5000 !!!!     Not Happnin’ !

Here’s a few pix of older Foretravel coaches that we looked at in the $125k-$175k range.  We like to look, but we’ll keep our Airstream for now.

2003 Model U-320 38′ w/ tag axle & 2 Slides

2003 Model U-320 36′ w/ 2 slides

2000 Model U-295 40′ w/ 1 Slide

NOTE: We’re doing some interior remodeling and some performance and suspension upgrades to our present Airstream coach and we’ll be publishing posts on those projects soon, once we have all the projects completed.

Oh, I almost forgot …. when we were in Nacogdoches we asked where we should have dinner that night and were referred to the Fredonia Hotel downtown.  We weren’t disappointed.  Kathy had shrimp and I had salmon.  The food was excellent, the presentation beautiful and the service outstanding.  Hats off to our server Brett.  Here’s a few pix of our delectable delights.

The dining room at the Fredonia overlooking the patio and pool

My Atlantic Salmon dinner

Kathy’s Shrimp Dinner w/ Broccoli Cole Slaw

We were good …. we didn’t take anything off the desert tray

Yes, the lounge chairs are IN the pool

The Front Lobby and Registration Desk

 

 

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy
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