Generator Access Swing-up Panel: The adjustable stops for the panel were all backed off so as to make not contact with the panel at all when locked closed, and the rubber endcaps were already deteriorated from simple weathering after less than a year. Replace the rubber caps with vinyl ones (found anywhere), and adjust the stops so they rest snugly against the panel to stop it from flopping in the wind. Picture
Roof Antennas: Over time, the two FM antennas have acquired backward leans. This is because the allen screws have loosened. They're supposed to be straight up. Point them back upright and tighten.
Front windshield: Check yours for greasy palm prints in-between the layers of laminated glass where you can’t get to them. Our right windshield was replaced under warranty. Also, the original windows were stressed internally at the top center, so the slightest chip there could set off a long crack. The replacement window doesn't show the same stress in that area.
Roof-mounted Spotlight: You must have the ignition turned on for the spotlight to work, rather than the accessory circuit. This means that if you want to check what's going on outside the coach when you're parked, you have to put up with various buzzers sounding off. I haven't felt the urge to rewire this yet, and anyway the extra wiring diagrams sent on request from Fleetwood don't show enough information. The main unit quit after a couple months with little usage but was replaced under warranty.
Air Conditioner Compressor Stall: One day the front A/C worked, the next day it didn't, and there was no obvious low- voltage situation (which will kill an A/C). The fan comes on but the breaker trips repeatedly as amp draw gets excessive because the compressor motor won't start. Both AC units (Front: Coleman Mach 9013, 13.5k BTU/hr, Rear: Coleman Polar Cub 9001, 9.2k BTU/hr) specify p/n 8333A9021 as the "Hard Start Kit" consisting of a solid-state relay (PTCR), a capacitor, some wires, and a strap. Carry a spare ($20) to easily change it yourself or have the parts there for the repairman. Check all 120v power connectors for pitting or discoloring, because that's a common cause of voltage drops.
* Entry Awning: Be careful as you extend this awning, because one end tends to remain stuck. To minimize this, shave away any excess white plastic from around the red tabs so they can slide down without interference as ours did. Your black end cap over the electric motor is probably mounted crooked, allowing excess white plastic to show toward the front edge of the cap. Fixed This can be remedied by pulling out the retaining clips, positioning the cap correctly, and then re-drilling the holes. Use aluminum pop-rivets if the original plastic rivets don’t work. Also, the cap may collect water, which fills up inside the 12v motor and corrodes the shaft enough to stop the motor from operating. I've drilled several 1/8” holes in the lowest points of the black plastic cap and one in the aluminum end cap of the motor to let collected water out. No further lock-ups after 5 years. You can add extra grease for the shaft bearing at the bottom because there are no electrical connections at that end.
Patio Awning: This awning will collect water whether open or closed. If closed, open it when the weather clears to dump the water and allow it to dry it out so mold and mildew don't form (although we've not seen any yet). If it rains when it is open, because it doesn't tilt low enough on the rear end, it can fill up like a giant water sail until something breaks. I've solved this by lengthening the distance that the rear strut can collapse. Now, water safely dumps when the awning fills, otherwise it works and looks identical to before. The modification is a little involved, so contact me for how to do this if interested. Finally, the beading used to keep the fabric in the channels will shrink toward the middle allowing the fabric will flap free and rip the stitching. I had to insert about a foot of new material to fill the void left by the shrunken vinyl.
Left Side Fuel Fill: Several of us have remarked that when you fill up with diesel on the driver's side at a truck stop, a high fuel flow rate causes the nozzle to kick the pump off repeatedly. The right side filler doesn't seem similarly affected. This is probably due to the unique bends in the left tank fill pipe kicking fuel back to the nozzle. Rotating the nozzle counter-clockwise 90 degrees (nozzle pointing toward the front of the coach instead of up) redirects the stream and will let you fill at a much faster rate.
* Lighted Grab Handles: Our entry handle light was mis-wired by the factory (pos/neg wires swapped). Also, the current draw in the LED circuit for each of the three lighted handles in the coach is set so high that these lights burn out after a couple hundred hours (rather than the usual 100,000 hours for an LED). Undoubtedly the manufacturer selected the internal resistor value to get the most light from the LED (and shortest life) without it going up in flames during the warranty period. Replace the internal resistor with a higher ohm value but same wattage rating if you want these things to last, although replacement of a burned out LED is fairly easy. If you replace the LED be sure to get a new resistor which will only allow the recommended current draw for that LED. Radio Shack has the parts for a couple dollars. The acrylic handle has surface crazing from the sun, but they don't sell just that piece. $60 for the whole assembly.
* Basement Storage Compartments: Most basement compartments allow water to pool at the bottom, causing rust and possibly mold to form on its contents. They already have water drains, but the drains are in the wrong locations. When the coach is level, find out where water would pool in each compartment and drill a small hole (about 1/8’ or 3/16”) to let the water drain. The compartment door latches may break regardless of how gentle you are with them, because some doors are not aligned well and place excess stress on the plastic latches in the closed position. They are easily replaced and are $10-20 from most RV parts suppliers. I always carry a spare. Some compartment doors can be better aligned by adding small washers under the feet of the retaining U-brackets (to bring the door out) or by re-drilling one of the bracket holes further away from the other and re-forming the U-bracket bends so it has a lower profile (to bring the door in). RaisedLoweredA square #2 Robertson bit fits the screws. Putting a layer of 1/4” thick pool-siding foam or carpeting on the bottoms of the compartments will help protect the floor from scratches and gouges and stop things from sliding around.
* Chassis Cable Ties: There is a series of Tyton "button head" cable ties that anchor into the raised rail and support a collection of hoses and cables. You may find some or all of them broken on the passenger side. This leaves the hoses and cables free to swing and chafe. Simply replacing these ties won't solve anything because the load is too great for the ties. I'm using heavy-duty nylon ties (Home Depot/Lowes, 36" length) wrapped twice, with a key ring substituting for the button head.
* Ride Height: Our front suspension (single valve on left) was set 1/2" too high. The valve could only be adjusted to 1/4" high because of where the lower control arm bracket was tack welded, but that's within spec. Both rears were exactly 3/4" too low. They're easy to adjust but potentially dangerous to work under.
* Propane Vent: This vent tube runs out below the coach in front of the right rear wheel. It is connected to the propane tank through a short rubber hose coupler and runs through three rubber-cushioned steel loop straps. Grab the tube, wiggle it, and if you hear clanging underneath, you've got broken straps. Two of the over-sized straps had already failed on ours. If not fixed, the vent tube will chafe against the mounting screw of a broken strap until a hole is worn through it, and one more strap failure can cause the tube to drop to the road. Avoid this now by replacing the three too-large straps with 9/16" heavy-duty straps.
Winegard Roof TV Antenna: The antenna assembly contacts the TPO roof membrane with four firm plastic feet that can hit hard against the roof while traveling. The ends of the antenna are flexible and can also hit against the roof. I placed small pieces of weatherstrip foam (firm black neoprene with one sticky side) where the antenna hits the roof, and there are no more thumping noises from there while traveling. The rotation angle of the handle in the coach when the antenna is fully retracted was set arbitrarily from the factory, so I unscrewed the handle and repositioned it pointing straight back when properly stowed for an easy visual check before moving the rig. But make sure antenna lowering is a part of your departure checklist. Over time, the aluminum wing flexed and broke, so I replaced it with a later version head.
KVH Satellite Dish Antenna: The bottom line is that this antenna is not suited for HDTV. I've left it there rather than have to deal with holes in the roof for now. When I decide to get Dish or DirectTV again, I'll get a tripod-mounted antenna that can be positioned anywhere on or off the coach. This way the coach doesn't have to be sitting in a specific location, which can be impractical at times.
* TPO Roof: Check the roof at least a couple times a year. Ours had split caulking seams at three of the four corners after less than a year. Also, make sure the factory continued the caulk lines fully over the top down to the sidewall. The factory uses Alpha Systems self-leveling sealant, available in beige through your dealer or with a minimum order of 10 tubes from Alpha Systems ($5 each). However, EternaBond is another way to go. Someday, rather than redoing the caulk, I'll remove it and use EternaBond in tan.
* Slide-out Leaks: The top surface of the slide-outs is a sheet of padded vinyl. All around the edges of this membrane water can leak into the slide-out if the edges are not sealed well, because the raised aluminum edging will trap water. A contributing factor is that the slide topper awnings are not centered well from the factory, and the passenger-side salon topper is undersized. Water that gets sucked into the felt backing will be drawn inside and rot the wood trim pieces. I've tried caulk like Pro-Flex around the entire edge of the slide-out top surface after cleaning all surfaces well with rubbing alcohol, but it has lifted after a couple years. EternaBond would be a good way to go. You will have to disconnect the slide toppers to get at the outer edges of the slide gracefully (drill out the end pop-rivets, wedge a steel pin into the roller after twisting some slack in the topper, and slide each end off the hexagonal bar).
Driver's Side Salon Slide-out: The motor and gearing is tragically under-powered for the left salon slide because it has to lift the slide up before pushing it horizontally, and it rolls on cheap plastic wheels rather than bearings. Keep the total weight of this slide as low as possible. Fleetwood supplies a different motor/gear now that fits but is quite expensive. See the write-up here for alternatives to buying the new motor.
Entry Steps: You can start your engine without turning on the 12v "MAIN" and "AUX" power switches, but your entry steps will remain in the "out" position without your being aware. Don't ask us how we know. One day I'll wire in a buzzer that sounds when the engine is running but the main power switches are off.
Power Gear Hydraulic Jacks: The manufacturer specifies frequent spraying with a silicone lubricant, and you have to grovel underneath to get the spray fully around the steel posts. Keeping the jacks retracted if not required and the coach is on level ground will extend their lives. If the jacks retract but one leg simply won’t come up high enough to stop the alarm from sounding (exquisitely annoying), check for a slightly low fluid level and top up if necessary. But it's clear that the level sensor can hang up and give a false reading on occasion. Because of the frequency of this situation, I've placed a cutoff switch in-line with the alarm module. WiringSwitchThere are grease zerks on the bottom of the hydraulic cylinders that require white (non-tacky) lithium grease, a couple easy pumps (helps distribute the grease if you clamp something around the gap closest to the zerk), every couple dozen uses or when they "sing" during retraction. Because the automatic leveling function is so crude and time-consuming, I always set the system to manual mode and then lift up the front end first to allow chassis twist to be neutralized (the two front jacks can always freely pass fluids to each other). Then raise the rear just enough to level fore/aft. Finally, the left or right side is leveled. I've been able to level the coach out using this technique where the automatic system would give up trying.
Batteries: Check the water frequently because they will be bubbling whenever they are being Bulk or Acceptance charged. I had acid corrosion on the tops of the batteries when one pair of batteries had a voltage mismatch to the other pair, but with new batteries acid on top is largely non-existent. Battery corrosion protection sprays work reasonably well but not as well as Vaseline. Keep the battery connections torqued to 8 lb-ft using a torque wrench. The simple hex nuts without flanges are not up to the task of keeping the connections tight because the batteries are poorly mounted and allow for a lot of movement, so you may want to replace them with flanged nuts or a split-ring lock washer. If you can bend a connector up and down with your fingers alone, it's been corroded too thin and needs to be replaced (Camping World makes custom lengths). There is a periodic battery maintenance procedure called equalization that you can only select with an optional Xantrex Freedom Remote Control Panel (lists for $160, about $100 on eBay). Installation of the remote is pretty easy if you mount the unit under the bed: PanelAboveBelow . AGM batteries are an option but cost about four times as much ($800 more than the Trojan golf-cart batteries for a set of four).
Hughes Autoformer: If you decide to buy this voltage protection device (around $500), be aware you can remount the Xantrex converter/inverter to the right a couple of inches so the Autoformer can mount on the same sturdy rails that the Xantrex mounts on. I used two steel angle irons to bridge the span between the rails for the base, and two steel straps with weather-stripping between the Autoformer and all the steel for vibration isolation and scratch protection. Mounting I bolted a 50-amp wall-mounted receptacle near the existing junction box and ran the end of the main power cord into it, making the main power cord essentially a long extension cord. The cord to the Xantrex was replaced with a 50-amp plug. This makes it easy to bypass the Autoformer if ever necessary, and the Autoformer is not modified in any way. Outlet
Engine Injectors: After 20k miles, Teflon particles built up in the screens of the injectors, leading to a complete failure of #4 injector. All six were replaced by Cat under their 5-year warranty. The Alliance 32FRT03 is a 2-micron filter as prescribed by Cat, but there is no 30-micron filter upstream as on earlier and now later engines, although this was not implicated in the failure. Suspect excess pipe sealant between the Alliance filter and connection to engine, possibly loosened by ULSD fuel. Symptoms were: start and idle okay, but severe shudder between 1200 and 1800 RPM, loss of power going up hills. At 45k miles (and 5-1/2 years unfortunately for me), the HEUI pump started shedding aluminum, which fouled injectors 5 and 6.
Engine Oil: Many coaches were delivered from Caterpillar with the oil engine overfilled, because the "22-quart" shallow sump can only hold 19 quarts without overfilling, which causes the piston rods to churn up oil. Cat C7 coaches built before 9/05 are affected, and owners should calibrate their dipsticks (14 qts to ADD, +3 to FULL, +2 for filter) and mark their Cat manuals to note the change. I'd strongly recommend you write "19 quarts max" with an indelible marker around the filler tube, because you can't assume every service person out there is going to know about the change. Ours was only two quarts too high at delivery because it had a loose oil line connection to the air compressor. Personally, I'm now going with only 17 or 18 quarts, because I've found there's much less oily blowby on the toad. Filters are about $10 from Cat dealers, Rotella T oil about $50 from Wal-Mart, and with a 5-7 gallon rigid plastic water container you can easily change the oil yourself, saving a couple hundred dollars (at least) and a couple days of grief. Just make sure the drain plug cannot drop into the container when removed. I bought some coarse wire mesh, cut out a slightly over-sized circle, and wedged it firmly into the neck of the container, after having lost the drain plug into the container the first time (despite planning the operation dozens of times in my mind). Picture Use a calibrated torque wrench to re-tighten because it's steel into aluminum.
* Engine Blow-by: Some of our engines have hardly any blow-by, but most produce a prodigious amount of sludge, oil, and vapors that are released just below and ahead of your radiator. These contaminants then get pulled upward by the radiator fan, clogging the radiator and intercooler in the process, and reducing their ability to dissipate heat. Many of us have extended the down-tube aft of the radiator (taking care not to restrict it) so the blow-by largely escapes without touching the coach undercarriage. Caterpillar has a work-around now but don't know how well it works. Clean the radiator with engine degreaser and water periodically in any event. Be aware that Simple Green needs to be fully flushed after 15 minutes or it may damage the aluminum. See the write-up on another of these pages for our solution to the blow- by problem.
Fuel Filter Sight Window: Freightliner mounts the fuel filter without knowing where the body manufacturer is going to place various components. With the Discovery body, the sight window is obscured, and is hard to drain without getting diesel oil all over everything. You can easy invert the steel top mounting plate which moves the filter up a couple inches, making it easy to see the window and a lot easier to drain the water separator. MountWindow
Radiator Grilles: The upper grille has two latches that were not properly adjusted to take up extra slack, allowing the grille to rattle. Picture The lower grille is held in place at the top by two coarse screws that will vibrate loose and fall out. I'm using the largest width nylon tie-wraps that fit instead of screws – they won't vibrate out and can be easily removed if ever required. Picture The clear coating on the grilles started peeling off at about four years. I had them sand blasted, and then sprayed them myself with exterior grade textured paint. So far so good after four years and all that heat.
* Radiator Surge Tank: This plastic tank will become seriously brittle after being exposed to sunlight for a couple years, even if it was replaced by a new tank under warranty. Picture See this link for the replacement procedure. To reduce this effect, cover the tank with something that keeps the sun off this plastic $100 part. I've got a thin ABS plate covering the area, suspended by a couple nylon straps, which can be lifted to inspect the coolant level but otherwise keeps the sun's ray from hitting the tank.
Chromed Vinyl Strip: The chrome accent strip above the radiator grille was already starting to delaminate when we bought the coach new, but we decided not to push the issue under warranty. After three years it was falling apart and looked awful. I was able to order a 9' section from Fleetwood for about $30. The old one simply pulls off, and the residual rubber adhesive can be pushed off for the most part, with Goo-Gone used for the final cleanup. However, the coach looks fine without the strip also, because the surface underneath is fully finished.
Exterior Lights: Check for looseness and trapped water. Pretty common (most of the lights along the sides held water). Make small wood backing blocks for the metal screws that only bite into the fiberglass skin and are now stripped. Because there is no provision for collected water to escape, drill a 1/8" hole at the lowest point of each lens so trapped water doesn't corrode the electrical contacts. Replace all steel screws with stainless steel to avoid unsightly rust.
* Chassis: There are two different concepts to consider here: being level, and having all four corners in the same geometric plane. For the refrigerator it's important simply for the coach to be reasonably level. But if you don't use jacks when parked (which, when used correctly can allow the front end to level out the chassis freely), make sure that one wheel is not out of the geometric plane formed by the other three. After the air leaks out of the suspension over time, the chassis will deform so that all four corners rest hard on the suspension, and a warp can set over time. A chassis twist will affect hundreds of parts on the coach and may pry out pieces that fit tightly already when the coach is level. As for the every 6000 mile chassis lube, it's doable by a handy person, but be aware that there are grease fittings at each corner (Item 7) that must not be overfilled because, unlike the other grease fittings, you won’t see or hear grease overflowing nearby until you've filled up the brake drums with grease. If you have the ABP front suspension as we do, it calls for a different grease than the other lube points. Research this well before attempting this yourself, or make sure the technician knows about these things when you bring it in for service.
Road Crown Compensation: This chassis is one of the few highway vehicles that doesn't use "cross-caster" to compensate for the pull to the right you get driving on the right side of a crowned road. Most vehicles have a more positive caster angle on the right, which causes a pull to the left, and this balances out the crown pull. Our chassis will pull to the right, requiring a constant one or two inches of steering wheel circumference to the left to correct. There are several "return to center" devices that will fix this. I opted for the Roadmaster Reflex. Read the installation procedure and review here.
Brake Lubrication: After several years you may hear "thud" sounds when the brakes are applied briskly. This is most likely lack of lubrication on the "Brake S-cam Rollers". Also, repeated over-lubrication of the "Brake Camshaft Bracket" zerk can cause the brake hub to fill with grease, ruining the brake linings and greatly reducing stopping power. Go here for a detailed write-up for both these topics.
Front Axles: To change the oil, rotate the wheel until the plastic drain plug points fully downward. Scribe a vertical line with a sharp screwdriver across the steel hub and plastic drain plug to mark how the plug should end up after re- tightening, because you don't want to under- or over-torque this plug. You'll need a pair of channel-lock pliers to loosen the plug initially and to re-tighten about 1/4" beyond finger-tight. Use a funnel (or make one out of tin foil) to drain the 90 wt oil into a suitable container. Wal-Mart has Rotella T gear oil with a convenient nozzle. Each side will take about 2.5 oz to refill nearly to the brim.
* City Water Inlet: Make sure you use an in-line water pressure regulator before connecting to pressurized city water and add a pressure gauge with a maximum pressure indicator hand (Home Depot $10), easily added at the connection to the coach using a Y-adapter. If you regularly see pressure over about 60 PSI, replace the regulator before serious problems develop. See this page for a discussion on water regulators. Use two-piece quick disconnects everywhere except for the pedestal connection to save a lot of time and twisting. Finally, when you're filling the fresh water tank, make sure the gravity feed cap behind the external locked door is removed (or at least left free to blow off), because if you allow the tank to completely fill under pressure (easy to do if you actually believe the level monitors), the tank will bulge and can permanently lift the flooring inside the coach. Finally, there really ought to be a separator between the fresh water area and the black/gray water area in the utility compartment to stop the hoses from sliding around and contaminating each other. Separator Panel
Cable TV: If you travel regularly, I'd recommend buying adapters (Radio Shack $4) to convert at least the pedestal end from a screw-on to a slip-on connector. Much easier. Picture
Holding Tanks: Get a clear 45 degree extension so you can see when the flow has stopped or whether you have something going on you need to know about. It also gives you a better angle for the sewer hose connection. When the outside temperature gets below freezing, the dump valves may freeze, regardless of how you heat the motorhome. To avoid this, wrap a short water pipe heater cord (Home Depot $20) around the valves and leave it plugged in inside the compartment. To keep critters out of this compartment, make a foam gasket that seals around the sewer hose. Picture
Roof Ladder: You will find that from the factory, the lower ladder extension has equal-length feet that are supposed to rest against the rear wall of the coach, although the wall is curved in that area. Cut an inch or so off the left foot so the extension rests equally on both sides to avoid stressing the fiberglass. Picture
Dual-Pane Windows: See the "Inside Issues" section.
Atwood Water Heater: Periodically (at least every year) drain out the solids at the bottom of the tank by turning the heater off, turning off the water supply, removing the outer access panel completely, removing the 7/8" or 15/16" drain bolt, inserting a two-foot piece of clear 3/8" I.D. tubing as the water is rushing out, and sweeping the end across the bottom until no more sediment can be felt or seen coming out through the tubing. Also, the pressure relief valve is aimed so that whenever it operates, it sprays the electrical components inside the heater panel and streaks the side of the coach. If the valve is rotated slightly counterclockwise, you can run a PEX tube down from the threaded valve through a hole you've drilled through the bottom of the enclosure to allow draining under the coach, keeping the connections free from corrosion and the side of your coach calcium-free. Picture The controller board malfunctioned by not allowing the propane valve to open, although I'd rarely used the gas heat. A new board is about $200, but the old one can be repaired by carefully chipping the away the black sealant around the large rectangular Panasonic relay ($10), and swapping it out (you must be comfortable with a soldering gun and solder sucker). I bought a new one but now have a spare for the next time it happens. Cold water showers are no fun.