Motorhome dead …

We left Dale Hollow on Thursday July 1st and headed to Lexington Kentucky Camping World. We had made arrangements ahead of time to buy and install a new Sleep Number bed there because it’s priced at $300 below the price at the Sleep Number store. Further, if we ordered it from Sleep Number direct online, there would be no way to get rid of our old mattress.

Alex at Camping World of Georgetown (north side of Lexington) was great. He had the boxes ready and waiting for us. He and I pulled our old mattress out of the coach and got it into his dumpster and he and another young fella brought the two large boxes into the coach for us. Then it was our job to figure out how it went together.

Not a lot of room to work – See how Kathy’s a little flustered?

It had been raining all the way up to Lex from Dale Hollow and was still raining hard at Camping World. We just parked in the lot, fired up the diesel generator, turned both a/c units on high, and dug into the instructions. It took us about two hours to get everything hooked up and inflated since we had to read the instructions and we didn’t have much room to unpack things in the confines of the coach. But now that we are “experienced professionals” we can install yours in likely less than an hour!

Our plan was to move the coach down the street to Cracker Barrel where there is RV parking. We’d have our dinner there, spend the night, have a good breakfast before heading on up to Ohio.

As we pulled down the Camping World driveway to head around the corner to Cracker Barrel, the coach lurched and slammed to an immediate stop. It was as if we hit a brick wall! But I was able to put it in neutral and re-start the coach. It idled fine and we were able to make it the two blocks to Cracker Barrel.

In the Cracker Barrel parking lot for the night w/ all the other RV’ers

HAH! The best made plans ….

We went on into CB for a Comfort Food dinner as we were feeling kind of nervous about what was to come in the morning.

We stayed the night comfortably although I was thinking all sorts of terrible things about transmission (expensive) and engine (super expensive) problems that could be diagnosed.

I needed to do some research on what the problem was and try to figure out what the next step should be in the morning. I went to my favorite source of information for all things technical related to RV’s. It’s www.irv2.com. irv2.com is an owners forum that has a whole host of sub-forums that are specifically focused on; brands and types of RV’s, areas of interest (i.e. appliances, heating/cooling, solar, body/paint, technology, drive trains, engine types/brands, and transmissions)

I decided that this seemed to be a transmission problem because the shifter panel (It’s an Allison 3000 electronic transmission) showed a flashing “X” instead of “D” or “N”.

Within the Allison transmission sub-forum I found where an owner had posted that the transmission needs a good clean 12.6 volts to the TCU (Transmission Control Unit (Computer)) in order to operate. When the coach would shudder to a halt, all the warning lights on the dash would light up like a Christmas tree. They blink erratically along with the warning buzzers and chimes sounding erratically. It acted like a dead battery problem although I was always able to restart the engine.

Thanks again to irv2, I found the Allison diagnostic routine and trouble codes published online. The procedure produced a Code 35 which told me that the TCU had a “power interuption”. This further confirmed my suspicion that the problem was most likely a loose or corroded connection somewhere between the battery box and the TCU.

In the morning I made a couple phone calls and talked with Freightliner in Lexington and they told me that there was an Allison dealer just up the road about 4 miles from where we were parked at Cracker Barrel. I called them (Clarke Power Services), talked with Steve in their Service Department and told him we’d try to limp up to see him.

Turned out we couldn’t make it more than just out of the Cracker Barrel parking lot and just started to turn the corner into State Route 60 when we crapped out again.

I called our Escapees RV Club Roadside Assistance Service and they sent out Roberts Heavy Duty Towing to take us down the road to Clarke Power Service.

Although we had to wait a couple hours for the tow truck to arrive, the time spent wasn’t a total loss. We used this time to move some things we’d need over the next week or so from the coach into the car. We had to copmpletely empty the fridge and freezer into our cooler and cold bags. We had to pack a few clothes, all our meds, important papers, cell phone chargers. Being that we didn’t really KNOW how long we would be homeless made the “take with” list a little difficult to determine. We used the rest of the time, walking back into Cracker Barrel for breakfast!

CB’s yummy Breakfast Scramble with ham, bacon, & taters

We had a pleasant surpise while we were eating breakfast. The waitress came up to our table (as we were finishing eating) to tell us that our meals were paid for. Turns out, when Kathy went to the ladies room earlier, another customer commented on her Glacier National Park shirt. The lady said they used to live out that way. As they talked, Kathy told her about the mechanical problems we were having and that we’re waiting on the tow truck. They told the waitress that they wanted to pay our bill and then they left so we didn’t get an opportunity to thank them so we’re doing it here – Thank You so much!

WOW – Fast Service!

Steve from Clarke Power Services emailed me this morning to let me know the coach is fixed. The technician found a junction box mounted along the frame that had worked loose and the wires inside were corroded and loose as well. He repaired the junction and placed the wiring into a new box and tested. All is well in the world.

We’ll head on down to pick it up and get it back here to Ohio. My hip replacement surgery is scheduled for July 22nd and the doc says it’ll be a couple weeks long recovery until I’ll be able to drive the coach at which time we will be heading west to Oregon to join our Escapees RV Club friends for a 10 day long rally along the Oregon coast.

So long for now, thanks for reading and riding along. Take care,

Herb & Kathy

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).

If you need to use Bluefire on a pickup truck or other vehicle with an OBDII connector, then order the appropriate adapter from the link in the box below.

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.

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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.

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

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

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

Airstream Factory Tour

Our next workamping gig is at the Livingston, TX headquarters of the Escapees RV Club.

We left Ohio this morning after spending about 10 days visiting family and many of our good friends (we didn’t have time to see everybody), checking in with our doctors, doing a little banking and helping our daughter and son-in-law with some tasks that needed done at their new home, (our former home that they purchased from us a couple months ago.)

We’re taking a leisurely drive to Texas, I mapped it out asking Google Maps to “avoid highways” so that we will stay on the state and county roads and not the interstate.  It’s not that I dislike driving the interstate, but since we have the time (2 weeks to get there), we thought it might prove to be a little more interesting going through some small towns and rural areas along the way.

Our first stop was in Jackson Center, Ohio where the Airstream travel trailers are made.  We have a particular interest in Airstream since our Class A diesel motor home was made by Airstream back in 2002.  Unfortunately they quit making the full size Class A coaches in 2006 when the bottom dropped out of the country’s economy.

Map to Jackson Center, OH

The tour started at 2 p.m. in the front lobby and our tour guide (Don) shared a lot of knowledge with us as he had worked at the factory “forever” as he put it and retired 28 years ago but is still employed as one of the tour guides.  He knows the shop, the folks on the shop floor, and everyone knows him.

The group standing in the lobby listening to the introduction

Kathy in the gift shop – Go figure, eh?

A really cool desk made from the back end of an Airstream trailer

There’s a color TV in the back of that trailer mock-up

The main lobby at the factory and service/parts center

Sadly, they wouldn’t allow any pictures of the production floor, so I was only able to get a few outside pix and one of the service garage.

Wally Byam started building Airstream trailers in 1931 out in California and in 1952 the company was moved to it’s present location at Jackson Center, OH.  Don shared with us that they build about 100 units a week, currently with a backlog of about 2500 trailers.  The folks on the floor work a 40 hour week, 4 nine hour days and a short 4 hour day on Friday.  They’re paid starting at $18/ hour and the plant is clean and bright (but noisy!)  We were all given ear plugs and safety glasses.

They continue to introduce new models, but their most popular units are the 16′ Bambi and the 23′ Classic.  Their newer models include the very popular BaseCamp and the Nest.  Although we saw some new, not yet released models, our tour guide could not talk about them and whisked us along on the tour.

Leaving the front lobby, walking past the 24 bay service garage toward one of the plant buildings

Finishing up the plant tour, walking past a new unit that Don couldn’t talk to us about, not yet introduced

The back side of the service garage with an old Argosy motor home in the distance

Inside the service garage (24 bays). Notice how clean and bright it is. The inside of the plant is likewise bright and clean

That’s Kathy with her bag of goodies from the gift shop (go figure)

Our spot for the night at the Airstream “Terraport” along with about 20 other units. They have two circles for campers.

The tours run Monday through Thursday at 2 p.m. and run about 1-1/2 hours.  I’m sorry I couldn’t share photos from the production floor, but that’s company policy.

Whether or not you own an Airstream (or dream of owning one), this plant tour is interesting and enjoyable.  If you find yourself in Ohio on a weekday, take a drive over.  I think you’ll enjoy seeing how their quality products are made and the pride the employees put into their work.

Our Home On The Road

We’re excited about our new “home away from home”.  We drove to Parkersburg, WV late last fall and came back with this 2003 Airstream “Land Yacht XC 365”.  It’s a quality custom built coach (36′) built on a Freightliner Custom Chassis and powered by a CAT 300hp diesel engine along with an Alison 3000 Electronic 6 speed transmission.

Fitted with leather interior, full bath w/ large shower, washer/dryer combo and all the other typical features of custom coaches of this vintage.  With the rear engine (quiet) and air bag suspension, she rides and drives like a dream and we’re so looking forward to heading out to the west coast this spring.

Stay tuned for more as we get closer to our departure date (scheduled for April 1, 2016)

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