Full Speed Ahead – Full Timing!

Crazy Times but still FULL SPEED AHEAD.  I started this post with the title Full Speed Ahead – Full Timing! in 2 months!  Well,  we are now just over 1 week away from that milestone – that’s an indication of how crazy it’s been.

In reading this post, it may seem daunting to look at all the things we have done if you are a new RV owner or are looking to purchase one, however remember that we purchased Lola in August of 2014.  We started our RV research nearly 9 months before that.  We read books, went to RV shows and changed our minds about what type of RV to buy several times.

Much of what is listed below we did step by step and a little at a time.  We bought Lola early enough that we didn’t have to rush to ‘re-break’ her in and get her customized to our needs.

An overview of what we’ve done to prepare for Full Timing! RV lifestyle

The last months before full timing is crazy!  What’s crazy about it?  There are a dozen things happening, all at the same time.  All of a sudden everything we are working towards is becoming very real.  Setting up for our retirement income(s), deciding on a domicile plan, selling our house, deciding what to keep and what to get rid of… even packing up the RV!

Get the house ready to sell… Sale Pending!

Salepending

Almost SOLD!

Since January Christine has been busy painting the inside of the house while I’ve finished our grandson’s chest of drawers.  We have also been making regular trips to our favorite donation centers to get rid of clothes, furniture and nick-knacks.  We have  already had two garage sales, and donated many special things to the Cancer Society and Goodwill.  Some things we need to keep until almost the last day.

Then, early this month we put the house up on the market and it sold in 3 days.  What a relief.  We are in the last week and a half before closing now and everything (knock on wood) is going well.  Going from Sticks and Bricks to Diesel Fumes (and the great outdoors).

Retirement Planning and Finalization

Financial Planning

We have been working with a financial planner for over 2 years to evaluate our post-retirement income options.  Work and Social Security retirement paperwork is ready to go and our health plan options are almost finalized.  We have a detailed budget of our anticipated expenses, and how we are going to meet those needs.  We’ve gone through dozens of budget variations and have taken a middle of the road approach to our forecasts.  Thanks to the several bloggers who have shared their expenses and RV-Dreams for the sample spreadsheet template we used as a jump-off for our own analysis.

Domicile & Mail Service

We decided to go through Escapees and set up Domicile in Florida.  California taxes are just way too high for us.  Escapees also provide mail service so we can continue to get snail mail forwarded to us wherever we are.

Preparing Lola

Chassis Prep

For our first annual oil change at Freightliner last fall we had Sacramento Truck Center go through and change all fluids and check everything out as if she had not had any service done to her since her 2008 manufacture.  This set us back some, but we did not have any service records from her prior owner(s).  Especially since she only had 16,000 miles on her we were afraid she might not have had all the time-based maintenance done.

Communication

Staying in touch with the family is critical.  We purchased the WeBoost Drive 4G-M to extend our cellular coverage.   In addition, later this year we will be purchasing a Wi-Fi extender (probably Wi-FI Ranger).  Technomadia has been a great resource and well worth the membership for technology information, product reviews and peer-based forums.  In another post, I’ll cover how we stay in touch while driving separate vehicles, with family and friends while traveling and maintaining our online blog presence.

Entertainment Prep

Last year we also installed an HD Jack antenna extender (booster), and recently received the Channel Master so we can record over the air programs.  In addition, we purchased the Amazon Fire Stick so we can pick up our favorite Amazon shows (Bosch anyone?) that we can use with the Wi-Fi extender.  We also copied a couple hundred hours of DVDs to hard drive, and have a couple of shoe boxes full of Blu-Ray.  We also have our Amazon Kindles and our music is on an iPod that connects to Lola’s sound system.  We are now set up for a couple of years of vegging out after our walks, hikes, bike rides, kayaking, beer tasting, wine tasting, farmer’s markets, etc!

Solar Panels & LED Lights

We already wrote about our solar panel and lithium battery upgrades that will help us stay off the grid and limit our generator time here.  Recently we upgraded all the interior lights and exterior marker lights to LEDs from M4 Products that will cut our energy consumption for lighting.

Preparing for the Unexpected

We have an extended service plan for both the chassis as well as tire for Lola that we purchased when we got her.  In addition, we have Coach-Net for the specialized roadside assistance we felt RVs need.

Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)

Our review of the decision-making process to select a TPMS is posted here.

Interior Fans, Heating and Cooling

Lola has A/C and a furnace, but to keep the air moving we upgraded the kitchen/dining area roof vent/fan with a MaxxAir fan that has a built-in cover.  While we were at it, we went ahead and upgraded the bathroom fan with the same model.  We also purchased a Dyson bladeless fan that cools and heats and a small heater that uses propane bottles when we almost froze our butts off up in Oregon Thanksgiving Day.

Miscellaneous Equipment

Some of the miscellaneous equipment that has come in handy in our first trips out are:

  • ViAir RV Air Compressor reviewed here.
  • Battery Charger (purchased when we left the Toad’s lights on and left our charger at home)
  • Voltage Regulator reviewed here.

Trip Planning

Our first trip out east is NOT as much of a ‘retirement mode‘ trip as we would like.  We will be taking a trailer with some woodworking – house-fixing equipment that will be stored in northern NY – and need to be there in early June so we can work on a rental house there.  But first we have to stop in Florida to register our vehicles since the RV registration expires in August.  Since I’ll be dragging the trailer and Christine will be driving the Pilot until the trailer get’s stored, we want to make this first trip relatively quick with our only long layover once we get to Florida.

We also mapped out the major holidays for this summer and fall and made some reservations for those.  We will post a separate post on trip planning, but as teaser we purchased the Garmin RV 760LMT specialized GPS for Recreational Vehicles.

Toad (Towed Vehicle) tow bar & base plate

We decided to keep our older Honda Pilot at this time until we have a better understanding of our Toad requirements.  We purchased the RoadMaster Falcon tow bar & base plate for the Pilot so we can tow it.  Of course as I mentioned initially I’ll be pulling our little 5 x 8 trailer and Christine will drive the toad.  After that though it will be smooth sailing together!  I need my navigator close at hand!

Animal Prep

Traveling with 3 mature dogs, each weighing 65-70 lbs can be a challenge.  How much food to take with us?  What about medications?  Our strategy to start off with is to store 30 days of dry food.  We have 2 dogs that need medication twice a day.  For one medication we are going through Costco and get 3 months worth at a time.  For the other we are getting a year’s worth.  Carrots are one of their main treats, and we hope to get them at Farmer’s Markets along the way along with our greens.

Cool Shades – RV Quickshades Unboxing and Review

Cool Shades – RV Quickshades Unboxing and Review

Our (new to us) 2008 Winnebago Journey has curtains on the interior of the front windshield, the pilot’s side and the co-pilot/door. While the curtains are good at blocking light and some heat, you can’t see out of them. Shades for your RV windshield are used to restrict viewing into the RV yet allow those inside to have a view outside. In addition UV rays get blocked either on the outside of the windshield or close to the surface of the windshield reducing heat inside the RV. This will help interior materials such as the dash last longer and reduce A/C costs.

RV Shades are either attached outside of the windshield or inside. Usually the shades that attach to the outside of the RV use snaps, Velcro, magnets or twist lock. Interior shades usually use suction cups.

We narrowed our choices to 3 brands – all seem to be excellent. QuickShades, Magna Shade and Sunguard.

Coach Window Shades

Company Product Considered Comments
RV Quick Shades RV Pana Shade 108W x 46H We ordered a set of samples and just a few days after our order we received 4 samples about 4″ x 2″so we could see the quality of the fabric and the colors offered. For our sized rig the shades were $84.99.

Pros

  • They hang inside the rig so they don’t get damp or dirty from the weather
  • Initial setup is easy and installation is quick
  • They offer good privacy during the day as well
  • Good UV and heat protection (more on that as we use them)
  • Quick Delivery
  • US made
  • Warranty – “Yes”
  • Price

Cons

  • Pana Shade offers almost no privacy during the night (see our video review)
  • Their sizing PDF chart is a real hassle to use. First of all there is only one header for the columns in a 14+ page file, leaving you to either guess at what the columns mean or scrolling up and down.
  • Also please note that when they state “This chart is offered as a guide only; we have not, personally, measured all of he coaches listed in the Size Chart” they are correct.  Our rig was in storage, so I went with the listing on the chart for our pilot side window and our side screen is about 2″ too small.  It will still offer UV protection and daytime privacy though.
Magne Shade Magne Shade system The Windshield Shade package is $496 plus $29 shipping. To us it looks sleek and the reviews are very good. They offer a variety of fabric colors and styles. One concern that some people voiced was that they did not use the product as often as they would like because it fits on the outside of the coach – having to go outside to install the shades as well as challenges on storing them if they were damp or dirty. Because we have a concern about stowing damp shades away we opted not to buy Magne Shade, but they were are #2 choice.

Pros

  • Stylish sleek look
  • Large variety of fabrics  including photo patterns
  • Installation available in North Carolina
  • Claims easy setup to attach the shade to the magnets on the windshield with the supplied pole (about 30 seconds in the video)
  • Easy to clean – just hose off
  • Excellent UV/Heat protection
  • Great setup videos on the web site
  • Very good reviews
  • Warranty – “Yes”

Cons

  • Price
  • Exterior shade so it will can get damp/wet and dirty
  • Ladder required (only for installation process aligning where magnets are placed)
  • Concerns about staying on in high wind situations

We’re curious to see the privacy offered at night with this product.

Sunguard EZ RV Shades Sunguard actually sells both external shades like Magne Shade and internal shades like RV Quick Shades. The external shade offers a variety of fastener options. Stainless Steel and Twist Lock snaps thatrequire drilling into the rig, and Velcro. Their web page does not offer any details on the internal shades nor any way to order online – you have to order through their dealer.

Pros

  • External or Internal shades available
  • External shades look very sleek
  • 6 year guarantee and 30 day return policy

Cons

  • Price – $350 for Class A exterior windshield cover, $200 for interior (but sale prices are less)
  • No local dealers for us, challenge to find online

We purchased RV Quick Shades in October, and installed them in January. While we like the looks of the external shades we don’t like that we may have to store wet material in the RV.  Once we use our new shades during the summer we’ll report the heat difference with and without the RV Quick Shades installed.

Here’s our unboxing and setup video for RV QuickShades – let us know what you have for your cool shades.

CJ

VIAir 400P RV Air Compressor

VIAIR 400P RV Air Compressor

The Unboxing and Review of the VIAIR 400P RV Air Compressor:

VIAIR 400P RV Air Compressor

VIAIR 400P RV Air Compressor in the box

Unboxing

You may wonder why we are looking at purchasing an air compressor when our rig already has one built-in.  There are a couple of reasons why we decided to buy the VIAIR 400P Air Compressor.  First when we use the Journey’s built-in air compressor the diesel engine is running while we go from tire to tire checking and airing them up.  Our neighbors probably don’t appreciate this early in the morning or late at night and it’s even a little irritating to us.  Secondly this air compressor actually can  air up a tire from zero to 100+ pounds of pressure.  The tire just has to have a good seal!  Built-in air compressors often can’t fill up a tire from zero to over 100 pounds pressure.

Now, let’s be truthful here.  The manual does state that you hook up the VIAIR to your vehicle’s battery and use it while the vehicle is running so the batteries won’t run down.  However our toad (Honda Pilot) can fill this need and is a lot quieter than the Journey’s diesel engines.  In some cases you can run this off the chassis battery while when connected to shore power depending on your setup.  As a backup you can also connect it to the chassis battery and use it while running the diesel engine.  It has more “oomph” than our built-in air compressor if the air pressure is really low.  Also it’s compact.  There is no tank and as you can see in the video it’s small.

What’s in the box?

VAIR 400P RV Air Compressor

VAIR 400P RV Air Compressor

  • Convenient canvas bag with pockets and handles

    VIAIR 400P RV Air Compressor Canvas Bag

    VIAIR 400P RV Air Compressor Canvas Bag

  • VIAIR Air Compressor with battery connectors
  • Instructions
  • Tire Pressure Inflator
  • Tire Pressure Gauge
  • Air Inlet cover & Filters
  • 2 air hoses
  • Adapter

Assembly

Easy-connect hoses make it quick to connect the hoses once you figure out how they connect ;-).

VIAIR 400P RV Air Compressor unboxed

VIAIR 400P RV Air Compressor unboxed

Using it

  • Connect the RED VIAIR clamp to the positive (RED) connection of your battery
  • Connect the BLACK VIAIR clamp to the (BLACK) negative connection of your battery
  • Connect the two air hoses to the air compressor
  • Connect the air gauge to the air inflater
  • Connect the air inflater/gauge to the hose
  • Use the built-in (big) gauge to read the pressure & inflate (note the air gauge goes to zero if you remove it from the wheel’s stem)
  • Optional – double-check the inflation using a digital (recommended) or analog gauge

 

Hope you enjoyed this review,

JC

 

The following review(s) were not paid for by Viair or Viair Dealers to say positive things about Viair products. Our goal is to share with you, the viewer, honest and unbiased Viair product reviews to show what to expect when you purchase a VIAIR brand compressor.

Are you protected (Surge Protection-Voltage Regulator)?

Surge Protection, Voltage Regulator or both?

Are you protected?

We have visited many RV parks over the years and never worried too much about poor quality electricity. That is when our mode of transportation was a Volkswagen Vanagon or our antique Prowler trailer. Neither of these had much in terms of electronics that could be damaged by low or high power. We only had lights and a small fridge.

All of that has changed buying a modern RV. Our 2008 Winnebago Journey has enough electronics just in any one of the rooms to call for investing some time researching how to protect devices like TVs, microwave/convection ovens, PCs and air conditioners (just to name a few devices) from power surges and low power conditions. Both can damage electronic devices.

The National Electric Code specifies a range of 126 Volts to 114 Volts as acceptable (105% – 95%) Average is about 117 volts. High voltage can burn out fuses (if you are lucky) or worse burn out your appliances and electronics. Low voltages can cause air conditioners and other larger appliances to work harder and heat up more. Both situations can results in fires and safety issues besides damaging equipment.

In reality, if I want the ultimate protection I need to buy both a dedicated surge protector and a voltage regulator… or do I?

Our Finalists

Of the many surge protection and voltage regulator devices available these three stood out in our research.

Product

Pros

Cons

Hughes Autoformer
50 amp Voltage regulator and Surge protector

Provides 10% boost in low power
situations if power is less than 115 volts

Provides Spike and Surge Protections

Simple easy to understand
diagnostics lights

Boost indicator lights

Portable

Only 2 Year Warranty

High cost – MSRP $548.00
($520.94 at Amazon) compared with dedicated Surge protection only
devices

Hardwire installation kit is an extra $65.00

Not weather proof – must be covered if not installed inside

Progressive
Industries ems-hw50c Surge Protection

Less expensive – MSRP $431.00 ($347 at Amazon)

Remote display included

Hardwired

Open Neutral and Open Ground protection

Lifetime warranty

No Boost – shuts down power below 104 volts or above 132 volts

 

Surge Guard
10175 RV Voltage Regulator – 50 Amp

Provides 10% boost as low as 95 Volts

Easy LED status panel

Rain-tight enclosure

Can be mounted inside

 

More expensive – $660.90 at Amazon

Does not provide surge protection (Surge Guard does offer a variety of surge protection products)

1 year warranty

Other Resources used to learn about the products

Manufacturer links

Other Resource Links

 Our Decision – Hughes Autoformers 50 Amp RV Power Booster

After looking at the various options we decided to get Hughes Autoformers.   Even if the power looks good when you get to a park, that’s no guarantee that the voltage will remain good when everyone switches on their A/C during the middle of a heat wave – or when you arrive at the park and the section you’ve been assigned to has “Low Voltage” like you see below.

WARNING  - Low Voltage

WARNING – Low Voltage

Here’s the unboxing and review on YouTube.

Besides providing surge protection it boosts the power between 3% and 10% depending on the situation.  This would help out in those ‘Low Voltage in Section A’ situations. You may want to buy a surge protector anyways though – to protect the Autoformer!!!

The device came with no instructions however it’s fairly obvious how to set it up.  No manual in the box must have been an oversight because I was able to find it online – but not at the manufacturer’s website!  Plus their contact information is in a horrible blue against brown background that I can hardly read on my PC.  However the product itself seems solid and well built.

One negative is that it is not weather proof, so either must be installed inside the bay (there is a kit you can buy for this conversion) or cover it up.  We elected to cover it up for now, but will probably move it into the electrical bay sometime in the future.

The 50 amp power plug on the Autoformer plugs into the power pedestal at the park, then the rig’s power line plugs into the Autoormer.  It has 3 lights on the side – one central status light and two outer lights that show whether there is 30 or 50 amps coming in to the device.

  • Amber light – all is good – you have power and it’s within specs
  • Red Light – Park power is low – boost in progress.  It takes a few seconds for the Autoformer to analyze the power and decide whether to boost the power.

The Autoformer will boost when the park power is below 112 Volts and go into bypass mode at 115 Volts according to the manual that is posted here: Hughes_Autoformer

Always turn off the power at the pedestal when plugging in your RV power into the Autoformer or the Autoformer into the park pedestal.

You may need to supply pig-tails to go from the Autoformer’s 50 amp plug to a 30 amp park circuit if you buy the 50 amp Autoformer.

We only used the Autoformer for a long weekend and our park power was good.  We will update you with another post as we use it more and when we get the conversion kit to keep it in the electrical bay.

As always, Happy Trails!

CJ

 

Time to SHOP for first Camping trip

Shopping List for first Camping Trip #1: Home Stuff

Now that we have our list made – see our earlier post on Preparing for Camping – Making Lists – we have to decide what to load the RV with.  Yes, it’s time to shop for first camping trip.

Of course we want a comfortable home on the road with our RV.  Now go back to the list and decide what you need to buy and what you already have.

Choice 1 – move things between the house and the RV

As long as you are not full-timing (yet) like us, you will move some things to the RV before you head out each trip.  Such things would definitely include perishable items such as fruits and vegetables.  Other items may include pots and pans, clothing, towels and so on.  You may even want these items on a separate list, if you are a list-maker like me.  For us these include ‘big-ticket’ items such as:

  • Vitamix for our smoothies & soup
  • Cuisinart for just about everything else
  • Soda Stream
  • Personal electronics like phones, kindles, iPads, etc.
  • Chargers for those electronics (may want to buy some specifically for the RV)
  • Diesel Shoes (shoes I wear when walking around truck stops and keep handy on the RV)
  • Pots and Pans
  • Games
  • Selection of DVDs for grand kids and rainy days
  • Food
  • Seasonal clothes

Choice 2 – buy things for the RV

Now we come to the fun part… shopping.  Our RV has a king size bed, so our queen size sheets in our house simply won’t fit no matter how hard I try.  We purchased a mattress cover and 2 sets of sheets.  Since we are planning on full-timing we decided to buy things for the long-term, not just for weekend trips.  They included:

  • Batteries for the remotes, flashlights and weather station
  • Corelle Dishes (4-set that is enough for the two of us plus for serving or a guest that didn’t bring their own)
  • Storage – 2 sets of Snapware that we purchased at Costco and has a lifetime warranty – some for the kitchen, others that will be used in other areas.  We also purchased a set of shoe-box sized plastic containers that fit in the small storage cabinets in the living area. If you want a great perspective on storage options on RVs see Gone with the Wynns article and video – RV Organizing, Don’t be a Hot Mess.
  • Phone cradle since we use Google maps for our navigation and don’t want to move the cradle from car to RV
  • Sheets, mattress cover & pillows
  • Bath towels
  • Kitchen towels
  • Garbage/recycle bins for under the sink
  • Spice containers – we have plenty of spices so we opted to buy more glass containers and split the spices we most often use.
  • Consumables
    • RV Toilet paper
    • Holding tank chemicals
  • Vacuum – after our first camping trip thinking we could have 3 large dogs and just sweep things out while camping, we realized that does not work for us.  The house vacuüm is too large to use and store on the RV.  After watching many reviews and based on our own experience with Dyson we ended up finding a sale on the Dyson DC59 Digital Slim Cordless Animal Vacuum with a 20 minute vacuüm time and a quick recharge at Target.  We have yet to try it out camping – so as they say in TV Land – stay tuned!

Choice 3 – use things you have

If you have already been a camper you may already have a few things that can simply be moved to the RV.  For us they included:

  • Coleman stove & propane bottles
  • Extra toothbrushes & personal hygiene items
  • Snuggle blankets
  • Extra electronics chargers
  • Spices
  • Silverware & utensils
  • Sponges, sprayers, dish soap
  • Broom

If you made your list, it is pretty easy to decide what to

  • Move to the RV before each trip
  • What to buy and store permanently in the RV
  • What you already have and can keep in the RV

Next up ->  I’ll stay on the inside, but cover the front cab area.  Let our paths cross soon!

Jengle

Buying the right RV – Done!

Our Journey – Maiden Voyage

We did it!  We’ve gone from looking to buying the RV.   In August we purchased a 2008 Winnebago Journey from La Mesa RV in Davis, California.  Prior to purchasing this RV we had placed offers on RVs in Oregon and Southern California during the first week of August.  Getting information about an RV that was remote was a real challenge.  On August 8th we got an email from La Mesa and saw they had 3 Journeys along with some other brands that we are interested in at the Davis dealership.  So we gathered information from NADA and  J. R. Consumer Resources so we could have some idea what price ranges would be proper.

Buying the right RV!

On August 9th we drove to Davis to check out several RVs including a 2014 36 foot Journey, a 2008 and 2007 40 foot Journey (actually 39 1/2 feet) and about 10 other RVs that fit our requirements.  We had originally been looking at the 32 – 36 foot range and thought that the new 36 foot Journey would be great (See this post for some of the decisions we have wrestled with).  We loved the fireplace and the fact that it was brand new.  But with our long-term plans for full-timing in the RV and going back and forth between the 3 finalist RVs we settled on the 2008.  First, it only had 17,000 miles and was in near-perfect condition.  Second, the price was more attractive to our pocket-book than the new RV and third, the extra space really makes the decision of which RV to buy easy.  Since it’s a used RV we opted to buy an extended warranty and La Mesa offers a 15 day warranty on specific items.  With the 2008 Winnebago we felt we were buying the right RV.

We purchased the RV on August 9th, and picked it up on August 25th.   Between the 9th and the 25th I spent some time each evening reading the various manuals from Winnebago, Freightliner, Cummins, Norcold, etc.   On the way home from Davis after getting our 2 hour orientation and signing the final paperwork we practiced driving, turning and even doing 3 point turns around Sleep Train Arena.   We then loaded a few things into the RV then drove it to storage.

Camping!

We are so excited about our RV!  We were able to take it out on her maiden voyage on August 29th – September 1st.


For our first trip we drove to Thousand Trails’ Lake of the Springs near Oregon House California – about 20 miles east of Marysville.  I could not believe how smooth it rides and how easy it is to drive.  With the rear engine, it’s quiet in the front cab.  I must admit I was a little nervous at first, but we had an older Suburban and Prowler Trailer several years ago and this was much easier to drive.  It didn’t take long before we were more relaxed – especially once we got out of the Sacramento city traffic.

 

Once we arrived at Lake of the Springs our first challenge was to find a spot large enough for our Journey and the 10 person tent we were setting up for our daughter & boyfriend.  The first few places we tried to slide into would have been OK for just the RV, but not an RV and a large tent.  We finally located a double space that was available and set up camp.

We wanted to check as many things as possible during this first trip out because of the 15 day dealer warranty.  We extended the slides, hooked up power and water, got the awning extended then took our dogs for an orientation walk.  Both of our daughters came up with family and friends to inaugurate this milestone.  What a great weekend.  2014-08-30-1805-03-LOTS Journey-2

Our laundry list of things not working was fairly short.  On Saturday I go to make some brownies for daughter C, and could not get the convection part of the Microwave/Convection oven to work.  I downloaded the manual and tried every which way to get it to do something and other than the fan going on for a short time, no heat.  Our electricity usage  bumped up about 1 amp while the fan was running, then went back to flat line.  So we microwaved the brownies; which was not exactly the way they are supposed to be baked.  But, they did get eaten.  When I tried to get the DVD player to work I got audio but no video on the front room TV; but the bedroom TV worked so the grand kids watched Disney in bed while we prepped dinner on Saturday.

Our grey water tank for the kitchen filled up quickly and after doing some searches on some blogs found out that the two grey water tanks are not connected.  There is one for the kitchen and one for the bath.   A simple gate valve can combine the two so they will balance out.  Also, the grey water gauge for the bath holding tank never registered past empty. And on the way back home it was hot, and the dash A/C quit working.

We reported these and a few other issues to the dealer and took the RV back in for the warranty work on September 25th.  They are also installing a new replacement bedroom window that is stained between the dual panes.  La Mesa has been great to work with.

We have made a lot of purchases since buying the RV, so in the next post I’ll share what we purchased and why these items were first on our list.

as Dale Evans and Roy Rogers sang… Happy Trails!

 

Class A Motorhome Engine Types

Class A Motorhome Engine Types –

Diesel Pusher?  FRED?  Gasser?

Class A motorhomes can have different types of engines that are either placed in the front or the rear of the coach.  Manufactured motorhomes give buyers a choice of diesel engines in the rear called a diesel pusher, a diesel in the front that is a Front End Diesel (FRED) or a gasoline powered engine (gasser)  in the front.  Each have different advantages.  Here is what we have learned so far:

GASSER

Gasoline engines are less expensive than diesel engines.   They are most commonly built on a truck chassis with leaf spring suspension and Ford is the most common engine used.  The coaches generally are lighter weight and carry and tow less than most diesel-powered motorhomes.  Because of the weight capacity difference, few gasoline powered coaches have washer/dryer units and typically have linoleum  for hard flooring and not tile.  On the other hand there are many floor plans available with prices for new units well under $100,000.

Diesel Pusher (RED – Rear Engine Diesel)

cumminsHaving a diesel engine in the back allows for a quieter ride up front making it easier to carry a conversation even when going over mountains.  Diesel engines have greater torque and run at a lower RPM than a gasser.  This allows the engine to go farther between servicing and up to 5 times the mileage (500,000 miles) before typical engine overhaul.  It also allows for greater weight capacity and better performance in general – especially through the mountains.  Diesels also generally offer better fuel economy although the price of diesel is higher than gasoline.    In addition diesel engines typically use exhaust back-pressure or air-braking to aid braking and have air ride suspension systems (air bags) that means less sway in high wind conditions or when freight trucks pass.

The conventional wisdom is that for motorhome lengths that are greater than 36′, diesel is the only way to go.

With all the great features of a diesel, what’s the drawback?  First – the initial cost of a diesel-powered coach is more than a gasser.  However recently there have been some smaller (36′ or less) diesel pushers selling for under $150,000 new.  Secondly maintenance is more expensive (but less frequent) than a gasser; and it is usually easier to find a gasoline engine mechanic than a diesel mechanic.

Here is a good article by Bryan Henke of Freightliner Custom Chasis.

FRED (FRont End Diesel)

As the name suggests, FREDs have the engine in front.  Generally they do not have air suspension or air brakes and have less carrying capacity than diesel pushers – an important consideration for full-timer RVers.   Some report that engine noise is less than a gasser, but more than a diesel pusher.  Because the coach is still a rear-drive unit the drive shaft occupies a fair amount of space down the length of the basement.

Ok, that’s it for tonight… While we have not made this decision yet – we are leaning towards a diesel pusher.  Any suggestions?

Deciding on the type of RV

What type of RV is best for you?

What type of RV is best for you?

Trailer? 5th Wheel?  Motorhome?

January 23, 2014

One of the many difficult decisions that we need to make is the type of RV to full-time in.  RV decision-making is complex.  Over the past 4 months we have been able to narrow down our choices.  To do this, we went to 4 RV shows and visited a couple of dealers in Oregon and California over this period.

One thing to consider is resale value.  Currently resale values for Class C motor homes are higher because of the demand for these mid-sized RVs.  Trailers and 5th wheels also are attractive and since they have no engine their resale value is greater and maintenance is less (until you factor in the pickup or other vehicle to tow the trailer).  Check out Buying a Used Motorhome and not get burned by Bill Myers.  I think it was the best 3 bucks I spent in a long time.  He has a great discussion about the different types of RVs.

How do you FEEL?

Probably the most important consideration is how you feel in the RV.  Does it feel right for you?

The Types of RVs we considered

5th Wheel Trailers

We find that 5th wheels have some big living areas that feel more like a traditional front room that we really like.   The 5th wheels that meet our needs are large so we need a big heavy-duty dual wheel pick-up truck to haul it.  We also need a king cab so our big dogs can travel up front with us.  We do not like either of these options, so 5th wheels are out.

Class B Motorhomes

We had lots of fun times back in the ‘80s in our VW Vanagon Westfalia camper, but every time we decided to go someplace, everything gets stowed away for each side-trip and errand we go on.  Current Class B motor homes are larger and have more amenities, but they don’t fit our proposed lifestyle.  They are great for weekenders, but they are just too small for us now.

Class C Motorhomes

Class C motorhomes range in sizes up to small Class A range.  This is closer to what we like.  But we face the same problem as class B – still not enough room for us to comfortably live in with us and the dogs.  Sound like the 3 bears?

Trailers

Trailers are another consideration and we spent many weekends camping with a Suburban and an old Prowler.  However, like a 5th wheel we would have to get a heavy-duty dual wheel pickup truck with extended cab for us and the dogs.  Too cramped and we are not interested in driving around in a big pickup when we go sightseeing and exploring.

Class A Motorhomes

Type A on Dirt Road Web-rvbuiltfortwoClass A motorhomes are what our friends Judy and Jan retired in, and that was what we pictured all along.  After reading about so many people selecting the wrong type of RV the first time, we want to make sure that we don’t fall into that trap.  Class A just seems right for us.  With a slider or two the motorhome opens up to give plenty of room when camping.  Closed up, many provide enough room for the dogs and even the grandkids can buckle up when they go trippin’ with us.  Plus we can pull a small Jeep that will get us around more conveniently than driving a pickup.

 Recommendation

We spent 4 months looking before our decision was firm to go with a Class A motohome.  We used the last RV show we attended to test our assumptions.  We walked through trailers, 5th wheels and motorhomes again.  We feel good about our decision and are looking forward to the next step to narrow down our choices further.

Here is what we did:

  • Walk through as many RVs as possible to get an idea of the variety of layouts and options.
  • Look at both new and used units since there are differences in the same model over different years.
  • Write down our likes and dislikes because there are so many things to keep in mind.
  • Spend some time in the units that we like and envision living there cooking meals, watching TV, reading.
  • Check out the storage and think about where you will fit your things – such as is there space for your kayak, fishing gear and bikes?

Resources

  • RV Shows – sponsored by a single dealer or several
  • RV Dealerships – both brick and mortar as well as web inventory
  • Manufacturer websites – you can download brochures and get video tours – often for prior years too
  • Websites such as eBay, RVSoodle, YouTube, RVTrader and of course general Googling are especially good to research new and used units.  Many include videos, pictures and layout diagrams
  • Blogs and Reviews – we have found the following very helpful: FMCA, iRV2, Gone with the Wynns and RV-Dreams
  • Magazines such as Motorhome, Trailer Life, FMCA Magazine
  • Books – search online and view our expanding reviews.

Your RV is home.  Have fun with your RV Decision Making, and don’t rush.  Remember – write a list of features that you do and don’t like as you tour the various RV types and models and keep track of those that meet your needs.