Lola’s in the shop – Watch your rear!

Oh No!  Lola’s in the shop

A reminder to Watch Your Rear!

When we left Hershey, Pennsylvania in our race to the north  I brushed up against a power pole.  Yes, I’ve watched the great tutorial from The RVGeeks on watching the rear overhang when turning.  It’s a great video showing how easy it is to clip something on your rear quarter when making turns.  With our 40′ RV are especially mindful about this.

What Happened?

I was pulling out from a small 2 lane road onto a busy rural highway.  The morning traffic was busy in both directions and I was so focused on the traffic that I missed one important point… the power pole that was very close to the corner of the intersection.   As I pulled out I misjudged the amount of ‘off-tracking’ of the rear wheels compared to the front.  I was almost into oncoming traffic when I cut the wheels to move into my lane.  However, when I glanced into my rear view mirror I missed the fact that a power pole was on the corner and as I came around I felt a bump and stopped.  I had brushed up against the power pole.

Well, just wonderful.  I had driven nearly 4,000 miles from Sacramento to Florida then up to Pennsylvania, and another 2,000 miles before starting our journey in Lola without issue.

After Christine let me know that the power pole was OK, I backed up a tad.  The person in the oncoming traffic lane spotted my predicament and stopped.  This gives me room to pull out into the oncoming traffic lane and swing past the pole correctly.  We pulled into a truck stop down the road and checked out the damage.  The rear 2 basement compartment doors have damage, and we had a scratch along the trim of the passenger slider and the awning.

Our plan was to take 2 days to drive from Hershey to the St. Lawrence river in northern New York.  However, I was not certain that the slider was OK and didn’t want to take a chance that we would get the slider stuck at our planned stop north of Syracuse.  Since we are traveling to our cabin it is a lot more convenient to manage the repair there.  So, we decided to push on and drive the 400 miles in one shot.

In Northern New York… now what?

We arrived in Louisville in the early evening and did a closer inspection of the damage.  In some respects, it didn’t seem as bad as I initially feared.

Now we needed to figure out how to get Lola repaired… hopefully before the renter arrived to the cabin in early July.

The closest Winnebago authorized repair shop was in Syracuse, but that’s about 3 hours away.  That would be a challenge to check in on the progress or if questions came up where we need physically inspect work.  There are larger towns on the Canadian side of the border in this area, so I broadened the search to Cornwall and added RV collision repair since RV Repair by itself brought up A/C repair, engine repair etc.

First Steps

We contacted BGM RV Repair in Chesterville, Ontario and talked with the owner Brian.  He requested pictures and we detailed what we saw in an email and took more pictures showing the door damage from the front as well as viewed along the side so he could see how much the doors are pushed in and that the brackets are damaged.

We then contacted our insurance company – GEICO – and they scheduled a claims adjuster to visit us the following week.  That gave BGM RV Repair a chance to put together an estimate in time for the adjuster to have some more information to work with.

Next is to unpack Lola.  The basement area will be open and worked on, and the slider may get some work done, so these will need to be empty at a minimum.

We received the first estimate from BGM RV repair early the next week before Glenn from GEICO arrived.  It included the labor costs expected and a listing of parts – but no part prices yet.

Once GEICO reviewed the damage and let us know that having Lola repaired in Canada is okay, we met with Brian in Chesterville before taking Lola there.

They have a nice repair facility set up specifically for RVs.  They handle a bit of work from some of the dealers in the greater Ottawa area, and Brian felt that the work will be completed in the time frame we required (if all the stars aligned).  So, we drove home discussed weighed taking Lola to Camping World in Syracuse or BGM RV Repair in Chesterville.  BGM is closer, is a good facility and meets our schedule.  That afternoon we were back in Canada with Lola traveling to BGM RV repair.

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Lola’s in the shop.

Preparing to Repair

Brian immediately ordered the parts required to repair Lola.  Since he has dealt with insurance companies, he understood that it would take a while before he saw a check – especially since GEICO didn’t have Canadian offices.  That was good, because it took a few weeks for GEICO to assign an International Adjuster to review the case, and for Winnebago to build the replacement doors.

While waiting for the replacement doors, BGM prepped the damaged area.  Of course most RV’s today have complicated paint schemes.  Lola has 4 different colors in her swirls!  This is where the art of blending in the colors comes in.

Delays…

If you have ever had work done on your RV you know that delays are more typical than everything getting done on time as expected.  Delays are the norm.  When you think about it, RVs are really custom vehicles.  Product units are in the hundreds or maybe a few thousand.  Cars on the other hand are produced in the hundreds of thousands are parts are plentiful in most cases.  For automobiles that are built in the past 10 years or so you can often go down to an auto dismantler and get a used door.  Not so for RVs.

Winnebago boasts having the plans and molds for RVs for many years and models.  Even with that said, that does not mean the parts are on the shelf!  It takes time to schedule the build and get them shipped out.  In our case the doors arrived in the nick of time to meet our schedule, but they forgot to include the brackets, hinges and a few other parts.  Everything needs to be in place for BGM RV repair to do the paint job.

Our renter arrived and we got a motel room for her and her pooch for a few days, but when it became obvious that the delay was going take longer we have too look at alternative lodging.  A few weeks ago our good friends Pat and Martha graciously made us the offer to stay with them if needed.

Current Status – Lola’s in the Shop (Still)

Right now, BGM RV Repair is expecting 3 missing parts possibly today (July 8th) or Monday.  Then it will take 3 days to finish the prep and paint the side.  We could have Lola as early as next Thursday… then a day of packing and we might be on the way to Maine on Friday!  We are lucky to have a cabin to use for the first 6 weeks of this repair process, and friends to take us in after that.  Without that we would have had to explore other options such as living in Lola in the repair yard or finding a place to rent.

What else did we do while in Northern New York?

For the most part we had lots of repairs and improvement to do in the cabin.  Since it looks out over the St. Lawrence Seaway, we see lots of local and Great Lakes ship traffic.  We also installed over 300′ of fencing in the back yard and visited Ottawa.   Here’s a summary we put together for our grandkids.

 

Happy Trails…

Soon to Maine!

Trippin Engles

Camping Trip #2 – Fantabulous or Disaster?

Our second camping trip… Finally!

After we bought our Journey in August, we’ve had one opportunity to take our coach out for a camping trip, until this past weekend.  We had thought there would be plenty of opportunities to camp this fall, however it spent almost 3 weeks at the dealer getting the initial ‘prep’ done before we took it out the first time.  Then Christine was off to New York and when we were all set to take the Winnebago out the 2nd time on November 14th an air leak forced us to take it in to Freightliner.  We decide not to take the RV up to Oregon for our family Thanksgiving dinner.

December 12th – All set to go to Lake Minden – Nicolaus, California

On Friday, December 12th I picked up the RV from storage and we got loaded up.  We stopped by Sacramento Valley Truck center, filled up with Diesel and weighed the RV.  The last time I took the RV to La Mesa they put more air in the outside dual tires, and according to the information I had from Toyo and the RV recommended weight, it was too high.  Both of the dual tires need the same pressure.  When I weighed the Winnebago the first time back in August I had too much weight in back.  If you are at 90% capacity in your coach overall, then the weight at each axle should be at 90% of capacity.  When loading up the RV today, I moved more items towards the front and now I want to check the tire pressure for our new weight.

At only 33 miles away and on the flat-lands this trip should pose no issues.

WRONG!

Friday, December 12th – Lake Minden

The weather for the weekend was perfect for December.  The forecast is for showers Friday afternoon, then a mixture of cloudy and sunny weather for the rest of the weekend.  No more rain until Monday.

We had remembered all of our kitchen gadgets – Vitamix for breakfast, rice cooker/steamer to make some soup and the Cuisinart to shred carrots for the dogs (something we add to their dog food).

About 5 miles from Thousand Trails Lake Minden the Tire Pressure Monitoring System’s beeper went off with a high pressure condition for one of the dual tires.  The pressure was still well within limits for the tire at warm running temperatures – reporting 116 lbs pressure.  To be safe, I pulled off at Riego Road.  I realized I had put the sensors on the opposite side of the coach than what the monitor was displaying.  Other than that everything looks OK, so we drove on to our camping spot.
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I was planning to finish the videos on the Hughes Autoformer and the RV Quick Shades, but the rain started so we decided to crank up the TV antenna, kick back and veg out.  TV reception was great, but Christmas music on Sirius was better – that along with listening to the rain come down.

Saturday, December 15th – Lake Minden

After feeding the dogs, having breakfast and then taking the dogs for a walk I was ready for some fun.

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Jeff, Kadie & Danny

 

Lake Minden has a lot of cropland and walnut orchards around.  A bit soggy but the dogs loved it!

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Around the swampy creeks

 

Nice evening reflections…

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Sunset @ Lake Minden

 

Lake Minden

Lake Minden – From the farmer’s perspective

I am looking forward to learning more about the RV, and the first thing I wanted to check out was the weight of the RV and calculate the correct tire pressure; then make sure all the tires are inflated properly.  At 9,320 lbs on the front axle and 16,960 on the rear axle we were at 90% for both axles.  Looking at the Toyo chart, that puts me at 93 lbs. all the way around – that makes it simple!   Tire pressure management is done when the tires are cold.   Even sunlight shining on the side of the tire can make a difference in tire pressure.

The Journey has an air compressor used for the suspension, and there is a fitting by the generator that can be used to fill up tires etc.  However, to use the air compressor the engine has to run to maintain the compression.   Since I am not the fastest at this stuff – and I am being careful taking off the TPMS sensors so they don’t fall between the dual wheels (they are unscrewed and taken off to use the air gauge and to inflate/deflate the tires).  I do the front tires first since the sensors are easy to access.  Then do the co-pilot rear dual tires.  The outer dual valve stems are reversed, so the opening faces the inside.  This is a bit more of a challenge and I have to take of both sets of sensors off because they are on the wrong sides of the coach.  I could re-program the monitor, but since I’m taking all the sensors off anyways I’ll just swap them.

When I move over to the driver’s side rear dual wheels, the inside  tire shows no pressure. The sensor, manual and digital air gauges all read ZERO.  This was the tire that had shown over pressure on the way up.  It will not build up any pressure at all.  I shut down the RV – by this time I am really tired of hearing the engine idle while I air up the tires.

One of the great things about RVing is the people you meet.  Kelly, one of our neighbors a few RVs down stopped by after seeing me out with all my air hoses and still struggling with my chores.  Kelly and his wife have been RVing for about 4 years now after retiring from Exxon.  He thought that my built-in air compressor did not have enough oomph to fill up an empty tire.  He had purchased a passive in-line pump from Les Schwab that increases the output of the Journey’s air compressor.  This didn’t help, and we realized that we could actually feel the tire wiggle on the wheels. Yikes, it was off the rim!

Kelly also mentions that there is no way 93 lbs is enough pressure for an RV of our size.  We need to follow the chassis label (110 lbs @ max load) and it should be much closer to that pressure.  Great… did I under-inflate my tires?  Uncertainty leads to worry.  What if I ruined my tire and possibly put the coach and family in danger because I mis-understood what tire pressure to keep in the tires?  I feel like a dunce.

Warranty?  What Warranty?

We have an extended warranty on our tires, however after calling USA Travel Care’s tire warranty service the the tires themselves are covered and up to $50 for towing.  Roadside repair is not covered.  My USA Travel coach extended warranty covers up to $300 for towing when I have a flat, and my RV insurance has unlimited towing.  Seems like a simple solution, eh?  Get towed and have the flat fixed.  That way the warranty covers the cost.  I have no idea how much a tow will cost us.  After a call to Geico they decide it’s covered but it’s getting late so we decide to call back on Sunday to get towed and get the tire fixed.  I called Les Schwab and they don’t tow RVs (remember this for later in the story).

Sunday, December 16th – Lake Minden

After having breakfast and taking the dogs for a walk I’m back on the phone with Geico. They call around, and after over 4 hours off and on the phone with them (partially because of he poor cell coverage for AT&T at our location – we keep getting dropped) they finally locate a service that will come out.  They will be there in 2 hours.

Great!  We start packing up, get unhooked from water and stow our things.  I lower the antenna and put my tools away.  Then I stand back and check the RV.  The antenna is still up.  Well, crap.  I go in, and try to lower the antenna… it’s lowered all the way according to the crank.   I wind it up, then lower it down again.  When I go outside, it’s still up – proud and dandy.  I go back inside and the handle for the antenna comes off in my hand, and it’s jammed tight now.

This is not good.  We don’t want the antenna to get ripped off and damage the roof.

Okay, I have not been up on the roof yet, and that is one of the things I wanted to do so I can check the seals around the vents.  I am a little apprehensive about getting up on the roof.  As I have “matured”, my balance is not the greatest, so I have to be careful going up on the bricks & sticks house roof to clean the gutters etc.  Here’s a pretty smooth, curved surface with no gutter.  I get the A-Frame ladder out and check out the side.  There is no way I can reach anything from the side on the A-Frame ladder.  So on to the back of the coach and up the rear ladder.  The roof is in good shape… and not slippery at all.  I make my way along the center line of the coach roof to the antenna.  I don’t see anything on the antenna to ‘fix’.  There is a geared sprocket like thing but it won’t move. Fortunately there are two pins with a slip washer on them. I take them out and the antenna comes down, then I put the pins back in holding the antenna in place.

As I scrabble back to the rear ladder I inspect the seals and overall condition of the roof. Everything looks good.  I think it should be easy to replace both of the fans in the kitchen and the bathroom.  Both are noisy, have to be closed when it rains and the rear fan’s gasket is loose.

Down the ladder and back on safe ground!  Whew.  I’m feeling good.  Two major achievements this weekend so far.  We tested out our heating systems – the furnace worked both on propane as well as electric, and our new Dyson fan worked great to maintain the temperature.  And I inspected our roof. We also managed to record some power usage using our Kill-a-Watt meter.

Things are really going good.  Another neighbor stops by, and they have just retired 3 weeks ago and are gradually making their way down the west coast starting from Seattle.  They have been getting rain all the way down.  Their older Bounder has had NO PROBLEMS at all.   Hmmmm.  Well, we’ll get the bugs worked out of our Journey.

He spoke about CoachNet and heard good things about them, and I can see the advantage of working with a company that understands RVs – especially newbies like Christine and I.

Geico calls back… the towing company can’t tow us.  So they are back calling around to find someone to give us a tow.  Finally after a few more dropped calls and exchanges they contact a company that can tow us – but not until Monday.  I was instructed to call back at 8 a.m. Monday.

We continue to pack up and I notice there is a bunch of soot by the water heater vent.  We heard the water heater go on, but didn’t have any hot water.  However we have an electric water pot and that served us OK.  Now I know the reason we didn’t get hot water – something’s wrong with it.  Another thing to add to the list to get fixed.

In the meantime, Christine needs to be able to go back to work on Monday, so we contact River City Indoor RV storage where I dropped off the Honda Pilot and asked them to pull it out; then contacted our daughter and asked her to pick me up and take me home to get the keys before picking up the Pilot so I could take Christine and the dogs home.  I go back to Lake Minden just as it is getting dark after Christine fixes a great dinner.  Danny, our Golden Retriever and I spend the night so we can deal with Monday’s adventures.

 Monday December 17th – Lake Minden

Right at 8 o’clock I call Geico and they call the tow company dispatcher.  The tow company reports that a diesel can’t be towed, and Geico calls around for a company that can bring or repair the tire on-site.  While I’m waiting for Geico I call CoachNet.  I want to know if I sign up for service, how long before I can get covered.  They report that coverage starts the next day, even for a ‘pre-existing’ condition ;-).  I get signed up for their premium service that includes the tow vehicle.  Just in case…

Geico calls back, and report that the only place that can provide service is Les Schwab.  Since they don’t have an agreement with Geico, I would have to contact them myself, pay for it then get reimbursed.   Ha!  Didn’t I call Les Schwab early on?  But I asked the WRONG question.  I asked if they TOWED RVs, not did they provide on-site service.  I called Les Schwab and talked with Danny.  He was out in an hour.

 Rescue at Lake Minden

All set for the dramatic ending for the Rescue at Lake Minden?  With Jeff and his side-kick Danny the Retriever and Danny from Les Schwab as they are the key characters.  What’s the plot though?

Danny from Les Schwab got all set up and was going to take off the outer dual wheel, but couldn’t find his air wrench.  Evidently his pickup was taken in to replace the catalytic converter and someone had taken out the wrench and not put it back.  No worries though.  Danny crawled under the coach and using a thing-a-ma-jig that looked like an over-sized leaf blower he popped the tire back to the wheel, then aired it up.  And I do mean POPPED! When he put the TPMS sensor back on the wheel he could hear the air leaking.  Well that answers that question!  To be safe, he follows me back to Sacramento so he can check the tire & wheel at the shop.

Les Schwab – Sacramento

Back at Les Schwab Danny removes the wheels and check out the tire & wheel.  All looks good.

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So I ask him about my tire pressure.  I show him the weight report and he types in some numbers from the side of the tire and comes up with…. (Drum roll)… 93 lbs – front and back.

What a relief!  At least I was right in my research on tire pressure.

What a great Les Schwab story. 🙂 and actually what a great weekend camping.  Not only did we get a chance to get the RV out, we learned lots.

Took the Journey back to storage and the rest is for another day.

Postscript

Over the next few weeks I have done some testing on the TPMS sensor, and now I’m not certain whether it’s the sensor that’s bad or the valve/valve stem.  More research on our next camping trip!

RV Repairs Complete – Time for Camping?

Repairs Complete – Camping Trip #2 coming up

My gosh, after purchasing the RV in August I thought we would have been out camping at least once  month.  Here in November we are almost ready for camping trip #2 now that we have completed our RV Repairs.

Sacramento Truck Center

Freightliner Oasis service center in Sacramento (Sacramento Truck Center) did a great job.  Lawrence kept us informed of the progress and it was ready to pick up on Tuesday – although we had to wait until Wednesday to pick it up because of work commitments.

It’s funny that because of a newbie mistake on my part we identified a relatively minor issue – the air line leak in the dash that lead up to identifying a second potentially more serious issue with our front right brake having had a hub seal leak so the brake and seal were replaced.  First – the start-up procedures I understood was that I should turn the ignition on and all the lights should go off then I start.  Actually what I’m looking for is the ‘Wait to start’ indicator (a coil on our dash) to turn off, NOT all the lights.  Because I was still not confident about the start-up process and the display lights I paid more attention to what was going on and noticed the air leak at the dash.

When we took the Journey into Freightliner I decided to have them do an external inspection and they found the brake issue.  This leads up to a couple of things we (re)-learned.

The books and blogs we read indicated that a 3rd party inspection is important before purchasing a used RV.  This confirmed that!  A dealer “certified” RV is not worth the paper it’s written on, though I must say that  the dealer we purchased our RV from gave us 15 days to drive (and have the RV inspected).  We decided not to have a separate inspection and purchased an extended warranty instead (which we would have done anyways).  We did take the RV out and provided the dealer with a ‘laundry list’ of things to fix which they did.  However we are not experts especially when it comes to the chassis and diesel engine.

Have an inspection before you buy a used RV

The bottom line here is that if you are purchasing a used RV you should always get a third-party inspection unless of course you have the qualifications  to inspect the RV  yourself.  Secondly an extended warranty can pay for itself. We have had about $2000.00 of warranty payments so far on our RV – half the cost of what the 3 year extended warranty cost.

Start-up Checklists

Now I am going through the Freightliner chassis checklists and trying to figure out how to complete these.  The Journey is our first diesel vehicle and much of the vocabulary is new to us.  After spending some time looking though the chassis manual, the Cummins engine manual and blogs I think I’l invest in a DVD instruction set to help us understand this .  I figure the $100 for 6 hours of DVD instruction on basic RV maintenance from Home on the Road will be beneficial.  First I can decide what maintenance I can do myself since I’m fairly handy.  Secondly I’ll have a better understanding of what’s going on when I talk to a professional.  Look for a full review on the DVD set once I order and watch it.

Sounds like a good article for other new folks.  It’s probably simple stuff once you’ve done it once.

Happy Trails!