The RV Adventures Continue:

One of the reasons I started this category was so that people new to RV buying could learn from my mistakes and find out exactly what purchasing and owning a used motor home entails. I think today’s post is the beginning of a possible series of these lessons.

The 3 things to cover this time:

  1. Preparing for the first trip
  2. The voyage to the destination
  3. The voyage home

First of all there is the preparing. We bought all the things we thought we needed to stock the motor home up one. Cups, utensils, drinking water, camping chairs, etc. Then came time to fill the fresh water tank. I put the hose in the fill hole, and turned on the water. After a minute or so, water was overflowing somewhere around the center line of the coach. I assumed because it was full. Of note: the gauge inside showed the fresh water tank was full before I even started, but the warning voice thing tells me the fresh water supply is empty. So there is some sort of discrepancy already. At this point I go inside and turn on the water pump to test the sink. Nothing. I got a tiny drizzle for about a second. That’s it. Keep in mind, the dealer supposedly checked all this out. Well, at this point there was a noise outside the wife noticed that turned out to be some pipe near the water heater that had a plug removed. We turned off the pump and screwed the plug into the pipe and turned on the pump again. Still nothing. Well, this trip is just a day trip and we can go without water this time. So I will dig through the owner’s manual and see if I can find out what I am doing wrong. This topic is to be continued another time…

Second is the voyage North. For this trip we went a whopping 50 miles or so from home to an autocross. This was one of our main reasons for getting a motor home was to take kids with us to these races and have a place for them to hang out. I got in the motor home and started it idling for a bit since it essentially won’t run until it is warmed up due to the ECU cutting almost all power until water is up to temp. I get in, back it out of the driveway, and pull up to the stop sign in front of my house. There is this annoying beeping noise. It does this if something is not in travel ready condition. I looked all over, made sure the slide-out was fully retracted. Made sure the steps were in and the door was shut fully. Made sure there was no warning lights anywhere. Tried turning off the coach and restarting. Tried running the generator. Tried turning off the house battery. Nothing made it go away. Don’t want to be late for the race, let’s just go. Hopefully the noise will stop. Well, about 5 miles from home, I stop at a stop light, light goes green, I step on the throttle. The engine died. I tried restarting it and on the 4th time it finally fired back up, the noise was gone, and she ran fine all the way to the destination. Curious. I asked some people when I got home what it could have been, nobody had any clue. My best uneducated guess is that maybe the glow plugs were stuck on and got cylinder temps high enough it detonated and the ECU shut me down. Hell, to be honest I don’t even know for sure that the 40e even has glow plugs. I assume it does.

And lastly, the voyage home. After the race, I loaded up the kids, pulled the slide-out in, started the engine. That noise did not come back. Everything worked great while we were there. Except for the water of course. Just after I got on the freeway, the little voice tells me there is an alternator charge failure. Oh, this is great. Bitch couldn’t tell me this like 100 yards earlier before I got on the freeway. I looked down and saw that the tach bounced a couple times then went to zero. I can’t think of a lot of things running off the chassis battery other than maybe some lights, and the ECU, so maybe it will last. I kept an eagle eye on that voltage gauge. Normally, it would run at about 13V. But it was sitting at 12V, sometimes dropping to 11.5 then coming back to 12. Once I got off the freeway, when I would stop at a light, the voltage would drop to 11 at every light and slowly come back up to 12 while I drove. The little voice repeated herself every several minutes reminding me that my demise was inevitable. But she made it home without much drama (other than me stopping for a red light and locking up brakes, next time I will just run it if I have that much time). I plugged in the battery tender and it is keeping the battery good for now. I checked the belts, they are super tight, I assume that is normal for this big of an engine, but again, I don’t actually know. Just add it to the list of things I am learning by becoming a long haul trucker overnight J

Now my plans are to learn more about the water system by reading the owner’s manual in more detail. And I can do this while my coach sits at a service center getting once over. I know the dealer supposedly did it, but I don’t know how much I trust them. So I am taking it to a place that works on semi-trucks primarily, but is authorized by aftermarket warranty companies to do coach work. They also happen to be the state’s Detroit Diesel service center. I will have them do an oil change since I have no clue when it was done last. I will have them check out the alternator. And lastly I will have them just give the drive train a quick inspection to make sure all is well in Country Coach land. Oh, another thought for the new guys; the oil change on this sucker is about $260. This seemed a bit high until I did some research and it looks like this engine requires 30 quarts of oil. That’s right, almost 8 GALLONS of that black gold. I guess $260 isn’t that bad after all.

On a side note for new guys that are thinking of doing the insane like me and jumping from never having owned a motor home to owning a 40’ diesel pushing monster coach. She drove like a dream. So smooth. So quiet. So easy to keep in the lane. But braking an air brake chassis after racing a 3,000 lb car on race pads, can cause for some missteps / miscalculations. I will leave it at that, but mention, be careful when braking a behemoth like this.

BTW, the race went well, I got second in class if you care. Woot woot!

You can find previous posts in this series here:


Adventures With Our New To Us RV:

First of all, much has happened lately, but nothing I felt like writing about on the blog. However, I do miss writing on here so I decided to start a new series on the blog focused on our experience with buying a new RV. I have never had an RV prior to this. Of course family members have, but that of course is not the same. The wife had an old trailer she did some work on to fix it up. But overall we are fairly new to this.

We were looking for something used due to not only the initial cost seeming astronomical to us, but also because the value of new RV’s seems to drop very quickly and we were not willing to take the loss that quickly on our first RV experience. Besides that we had a fairly low monthly allowance we were giving ourselves to play with this new RV. I will cover that in more detail in later installments.

For this first installment, I will cover where we were prior to purchasing an RV which will also lead to the thought behind why we wanted an RV. Also, what types of RV we were considering. I will probably cover what we decided on in the following post as this has grown to be a bit longer post than anticipated.

The wife and I are both from families that enjoyed going camping when we were young. As adults, we have our kids that we want to provide those same experiences for. We also have a couple big dogs, as seen previously on this blog. We had a small SUV (Honda Pilot) that we use to take the family around town in and also on camping trips. As you can imagine a Pilot is fairly small for 6 people and 2 Great Danes. At first we took the kids camping with just a basket in our receiver hitch that carried coolers and the tents and other supplies. That worked out OK, but it really limited how much stuff we could take. No guns, or fishing poles, or outdoor games would really fit. And even with just that setup, the rear suspension on the Honda was reaching its limit.

So we bought a trailer. Not a camping trailer mind you, but a cargo trailer. The thought behind this was I had a kart that I was racing and if we got a trailer I could stop paying for a garage at the racetrack and have the added bonus of being able to carry more stuff when we go camping and also be able to use it as a tent if weather got bad. It’s an 8’ x 12’ with the tall ceiling so that it has more head room and the longer ramp for the kart. I think we took it camping just a couple times. It was handy for the racetrack, but once I got out of karting to autocross with my wife, it became obsolete. For camping, it was nice being able to haul more stuff. And it was not bad for finding a spot to park as it is fairly short. But we had a couple catastrophic incidents with the dogs that kind of turned us off of camping in a tent. Packing up a tent full a Great Dane diarrhea is not a lot of fun. And without a hose, cleaning it out before hand is not an easy task. So that, combined with our new hobby of racing the wife’s car, my resurrection of wanting to train with guns more, and no longer racing a kart, the cargo trailer was relegated to being our storage unit where we store the saw, seasonal yard equipment, and various other seldom used items to save room in our garage.

Later, we upgraded to a larger SUV that was capable of towing 9,000 lbs rather than the 3,500 the Honda was rated to tow. It not only gave us more room, but got almost the same mileage, and should be able to tow much more easily. The Honda showed signs of that trailer being a bit too much for it when we were moving into our new house across town. The transmission started acting odd, and we never exceeded what it is rated to tow, so it should not have been acting up. But that told us, we should get something bigger which might allow for us to get a camping trailer someday. But the camping trailer was pretty low on the priority list at the time; we really just wanted something bigger and stronger than the Honda.

That leads us to where we are today. We are now proud new RV owners. So what did we decide we needed an RV for? Number one was taking kids with us to races and having a place for them to stay cool and safe and being forced to participate a bit more than they do now. Yes, forced, because somehow we managed to have kids that have no interest in cars or racing. Not that we force them out of their box often, but those kindles and laptops are becoming a problem in my mind. Number two was being able to take the kids on vacation. Every year my kids go over 500 miles away to see their mom for the summer and we could make a vacation of it. Also, there are many other places we would like the kids to see. I think this may have been kicked into gear by our trip to Alaska this summer which made us realize again, how little of this amazing country our kids have seen. And number three was my gun training. When I do these events, the wife either stays home with the kids or they stay at relatives’ houses while I am out playing. Having an RV would allow for the family to be close by, and allow us to do a bit more together in my downtime. It may even allow the wife to have some fun shooting with me. And again, if the kids had any interest in it they could as well.

So we have an SUV capable of towing a reasonable amount. But fifth wheels are out since it is not a truck. That leaves us with a bumper tow trailer, or a class A, B, or C motorhome. Class B motorhomes are out because they cost more than class C and sleep fewer people. That left our choices to trailer, A, or C.

Advantages of a trailer: we would be able to drive our truck into town while on vacation. It would sleep enough for a reasonable price. Also, at camp sites we could disconnect and park the truck next to the trailer if necessary for shorter spots. The downsides are: we could not tow the car to races, so either me or the wife would be in a different vehicle. The water and propane capacities are really limited on bumper tows, as is storage space. Mileage on the truck would be fairly low while towing. Camping is not highest on the priority list, racing is. So that hurts the trailer.

Advantages for the class C motorhome: The whole family could travel together. They are short enough to fit in most camp sites if you get a shorter one. If we buy a high mileage one you can get them for a reasonable price. Most of them can tow 3,500 lbs which is more than the car weighs. And they have decent storage. They also have a ton of sleeping space due to the bed above the driver’s seat. Disadvantages being: To be affordable, they have to either be old or high mileage. They get about the same mileage as the SUV does towing. They have the same small water and propane capacity as the trailers. Even though they have a lot of sleeping space, the overall space is limited. And when camping, you have to break camp to drive into town or go do anything unless you towed a vehicle along. This is a disadvantage for all class of motorhomes.

Advantages of the Class A motorhome: The whole family can travel together. Most can tow the same as a class C, but if you go a diesel pusher they can town even more. They have even more storage than the Class C. They can have a ton of water and propane capacity in them. When configured right, they can sleep as much or more than the class C, but also have more room while traveling. Diesel pushers get reasonable mileage, gas ones do not. They can be had in a huge variety of lengths from 24’ all the way to 45’. Disadvantages being: like the class C, to be affordable they are either old or high mileage. If you get a big one, it won’t fit in most public camp sites. Our back yard is only 38’-2” deep, and the highly desirable diesel pushers are usually too long to fit in that space.

Of course this did not cover all advantages and disadvantages of each type, but it covers what was high on our priority list. We have already made our decision and our purchase, so we are not looking for advice on the choice of vehicle, this series is just about our experiences and some insight into our thought processes that help produce said experiences. Right or wrong, we are in it for the long haul, and hope that our family has some fun and educational experiences because of it. I am sure it will be a huge learning experience for me. And I hope that we did not bite off more than we can chew. The wife is happy to have a project to fix up and I am happy to have something else to write about in detail on here.

MazdaSpeed3 A/C not working

So one day the air conditioner stops working on the autocross car. I start the car and have the wife turn on the A/C to see if I can see the clutch kick in. I can’t really see anything. The pulley is close to the side of the chassis, so maybe the lighting is just bad. Then the wife thinks she sees something.

This does not belong there...

This does not belong there…

This was sitting on the front undertray of the car. Hey, I think she discovered our problem 🙂

Autocross MazdaSpeed3 Project #9

Results are in from another autocross. I ended up 6th overall. I was 3rd in class. But to show you how close our class is, 4 of the 5 cars in our class were in the top 7 overall. That is from a total driver count of 76. This is overall PAX results.

After my fourth run of the morning session I was second overall and first in class. Then that fast little Cobalt beat me on the fifth run, and I was unable to improve on my fifth run. That pushed me down to second in class and third overall.

Then came the afternoon runs. I dropped about a half second off my time. Unfortunately, a few others dropped significantly more and pushed me down the list. We only got three runs in the afternoon and I decided to let the wife take all three of her runs prior to me taking all three of mine. My first afternoon run, where I dropped a half second, felt pretty good as far as grip goes. Both runs after that felt very greasy. I tried cooling off the tires between runs, but that didn’t help. So I am assuming it is all that stupid topseal or whatever they call it that is on that racing surface at this site. I think I just missed out on prime time for good times.

Overall, I had fun and while not stoked on the results, I can’t complain too much about being 6th out of 76 in the wife’s school bus. And after my 1st run in the 49’s I knew there was a 47 in it. And I got there. So that is somewhat gratifying. Especially when others in my class seemed to think I was being optimistic when I said we could get there. Unfortunately, 2 of them got there more forcefully than me.

Now. How could I have done better?

  • I should have stiffened up the rear anti-roll bar. It is still set to soft and I was fighting understeer all day.
  • I could maybe have played with rear shock settings but I honestly don’t think they would have made enough difference.
  • I am still trying to figure out tire pressures. Right now I am happiest with 39 front, 37 rear. However, that combination was terrible at the last race site. So I think I have yet to figure out ideal. Time to pull out the shoe polish I guess…
  • I am still trying to get used to the way the differential works on this car. Sometimes it helps pull me in under throttle, sometimes it pushes me out. I think this will just require more seat time to nail down.
  • Mental. I was not focused at all at this event. I had a bad headache all day, and I let that occupy my thoughts far more than I should have.
  • Traction control. I forgot to turn it off for the first few runs. And at least 1 run was a complete waste because of it.

Autocross MazdaSpeed3 Project #8

Cat-Back exhaust for the MazdaSpeed3

Cat-Back exhaust for the MazdaSpeed3

Today Cara put on her exhaust. She wanted more responsibility on this task and I let her have it. The original exhaust had a split all around the pipe right before the second silencer. We worked together to try and pull it apart at that joint, but even after pulling it out like 2 1/2 inches it still wasn’t apart. And I am pretty sure that even if it had, we were not going to weasel the silencer up and over the rear sub-frame. So I pulled out the saws-all and let her go to town. She was pretty apprehensive. But took it like a champ and cut that bitch apart. At this point, the exhaust came off pretty easily. We also installed those Cobb exhaust hangers I mentioned in an earlier post. They are a bitch to get on. But she made it happen. The job ended up being a lot more work than she anticipated. All I did was help pry on things a little and jack up the car and collect tools. Cara pretty much did the rest on her own. So now when the bumper melts, it’s her fault 🙂

Another pretty flange and hanger

Another pretty flange and hanger

More pretty welds

More pretty welds

Fortune Auto 500 coilovers for the Subaru

Fortune Auto 500 coilovers

Fortune Auto 500 coilovers

This Saturday, we autocrossed the Mazda. Then Sunday we installed the Fortune Auto 500 series coilovers on my Subaru STi. This also allowed me to put my Wedsport SA-15R wheels on.

Front strut with spare lower sleeve for rear.

Front strut with spare lower sleeve for rear.

The Fortune Auto coilovers come with a shorter sleeve for the rear. I am not sure what you would need these for as they give you the same shortest setting. But with less support. So yeah, not sure what those are for, but I did not use them.

Optional radial bearing mount

Optional radial bearing mount

I got my set with the optional radial bearing mounts to help the spring not bind up and get noisy while turning. Too bad the color doesn’t match, but they seem to be pretty smooth.

Now the reasons I went with Fortune Auto:

  • Digressive valving
  • Internals made by BC, but assembled, dynoed, and supported in the states
  • Upgradeable to double adjustable if I decide I want to.

Those are the main reasons. But I had some other personal quirky reasons for choosing them over some of the others. I went with 8K front and 8K rear spring rates. Which is balanced much higher in the rear than stock. We will see how I end up liking that on the street. But so far it is really nice. Firm, yet responsive. Never feels loose at all. But I have not pushed it too hard yet.

Adjuster on the rear

Adjuster on the rear

Install took less than 3 hours. Everything went pretty smoothly other than forgetting to remove the rear top hat nuts prior to installing the shock then realizing I had to redo that one. That’s right, even perfect people forget. 🙂

I also still had my friend’s corner balance scales so I was able to corner balance the car a bit. That added around another 45 minutes to the job. Upon first check I was very left biased on the front. I ended up just adding a bit of pre-load to the right front to even things out.

Heavy Pig

Heavy Pig

And yes, I could have evened out that left bias and I could have put more effort into making it better when I am sitting in it as once you add me to the mix the cross balance goes to about 50.4%. But for a street car. It is plenty good. But wow, what a pig! 310 lbs heavier than the Speed3 with basically the same power at the crank.

Rear shot after a wash and coils and wheels

Rear shot after a wash and coils and wheels

And here she is in all her glory. YUM! Wheels are WedsSport SA-15R 18×9.5 +38 which weigh just under 20 lbs each. Tires are Bridgestone RE-11 265/40-18. I had to roll the rear fender to get them to clear. Even with the coilovers. The front did not need a roll or spacers or anything.

Yum from the other end.

Yum from the other end.

I do wish the wheels were bit more bronze like in the pictures on WedsSport’s website. But either way, they look pretty good. And the new stance makes me really want to drive my car again.

Autocross MazdaSpeed3 Project #7

After washing all the war wounds from the wheels

After washing all the war wounds from the wheels

So yesterday’s autocross went pretty well. My main rival in the class was not there. However, a kid that beat him at our first event with the Mazdaspeed3 was there and I beat him at this event. Granted, it was only by 0.020. But a win nonetheless. I ended up 2nd in STX. 0.250 behind the winner. And I also ended up top 10 PAX. I did no suspension adjusting. I should have stiffened the rear bar. But I wanted to figure out these new tires first. The poor wheels had quite a bit of cone damage. So we had to wash it tonight. I hit 5 cones. And Cara hit 12 on record and I think another 3 off record. I think Cara needs more time to get used to the handling and new found power. She ended up just shy of 6 seconds behind me. But this torquey little monster was a bit of a handful on this course. Especially for someone with just 2 autocrosses under their belt.

So as I mentioned in my previous update. I felt the BC’s would be plenty good enough to get me to where I was fighting with the leaders. And with no tuning and brand new tires and a bunch of new power and whatever else trying to make things difficult, I got there. Now once we get things all sorted, I think the car will be amazing fun. BTW, more power mods will be coming soon. Also, if this were not the car delivering kids to school, I would have gone stiffer on the rear springs. But for now, it works.