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:

Changes to format

WordPress decided to go and change the way media is put into my posts sometime in the last few months. I would have noticed this earlier if I would have posted more regularly, but I didn’t, so it went unnoticed. It is less automated now and I was having trouble finding their replacement method to make it consistent with my previous format. I have since discovered that they pretty much have no replacement method other than kicking it old school and manually adding a link to the photos.

What this means: Pictures are back to appearing smaller, but clickable for the larger version to open in a new window just as they were before. What their change was doing was taking my 1920×1080 pictures and scaling them to fit the width of the post. So, I went back a few posts and updated them with the new older format. So no real updates here, just cosmetic.

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.

Modified Marlin XT-17 .17 HMR

I have been wanting a .17 HMR for years. But could never justify purchasing one as the round is almost as expensive as a .223 yet barely has better range than a .22LR. But I have always loved how small and sleek the round is and how pleasant the rifles are to shoot.

Savage 93r17TRR-SR

A couple months ago, the range near my house had an event  sponsored by Sportsman’s Warehouse where all of their firearm and bow vendors were invited. And most of them accepted. When you arrive, you buy tickets. Each caliber cost a specific amount of tickets per shot or per group of shots. Like any true keeper of testosterone would do, I spent quite a few tickets on the Barrett .50 and the Savage chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum. Well, I also got to shoot probably 10 other rifle calibers (and a bunch of pistol as well). But I always found myself wanting to shoot that Savage 93R17TRR-SR. I hogged that thing up for a good 10+ tickets worth. I think each ticket got me 5 shots.

So as soon as I left, I went straight down to Sportsman’s Warehouse to buy one. All they had in stock was a different 93R17 that felt like it had a little kid’s stock on it. Or some horrible abortion of a gun with a laminate thumbhole stock made with bright red and blue wood. The basic little kid version was $230. The abortion was a little over $400. They couldn’t even get me a price on the one I shot at the event. So I talked to another gun shop which quoted me around $480 for the one I shot at the event or $440 for the version without the terrible quad rail thing the TRR-SR has.

Wow, over $400 with no scope or ammo or anything? I could get a decent gun in a real caliber for that and I REALLY want something chambered in 25 WSSM.

Well, weeks went by and I came across Cabela’s running a deal on a silencer ready (like the TRR-SR) model for just $230. So I called them to make sure it was in stock and drove straight there. Turns out, it had the same kid’s stock, and while it was a threaded barrel, it was a skinny little needle dick barrel. However, right next to it, was a Marlin. It had a very basic cheap wood stock. But it had the fat barrel. I felt it, and wow, it was actually made for an adult. The stock was slick and about slipped out of my hand and right through their glass display case. But it had a trigger that is supposedly very similar to the Savage (the Cabela’s employee told me they were identical, this is not the case) and a couple sling swivels so mounting a bipod would be easy. It did not come with sights at all which I think is good as it makes for a cleaner look and does not leave an easily rusted hole in the barrel.

Stock Marlin XT17

The Marlin was just $20 more than the little kid Savage with the needle dick barrel. It wins. I took it home. And the next day stripped it apart to get ready to paint. After taking all the components off, I spend about 15 minutes sanding the stock to rough it up so the paint would stick.

Pulled apart for paint

Here is the stock after the first coat of paint:

After 1st coat

And here is the stock on the gun put back together all painted and dry after 2 days of coating then allowing to dry:

Painted stock on Marlin XT17

As soon as I bought it I began the search for the scope. I have typically had cheap scopes. However, after purchasing a Vortex Viper for my .300 Win Mag, I have been spoiled and must have better glass. I wanted to stay under $300 as I did not want the scope to cost that much more than the gun. Especially for something that realistically is useless over 300 yards. Under $300 you get all the Chinese garbage that is surprisingly overpriced such as: BSA, Barska, NCStar, etc… Over $300 you move into some decent scopes, but usually lower power until you get around the $450-$500 price range. I turned to Natchez who I have purchased scopes from before and found the winner. A Weaver V24 6-24×42 that can focus down to 50 feet. Turns out this is the same scope that my cousin uses for silhouette competition. It was on sale for $270 off from the regular price of well over $500. Granted, they can be had for about $340 online, but $270 was still a great price.

Weaver v24 6-24×42

Now since I was already paying shipping from Natchez, I figured I would add some rings and a bipod to the order. The bipod I got last time for my .300 Win Mag was out of stock. As was every variant of that bipod. So I took a chance and ordered a UTG OP-1 Picatinny mount bipod. It comes with the picatinny adapter and an extension for the sling mount. It looked pretty slick and was cheap. Turns out it is very solid feeling. It does not swivel, but I found I dislike swiveling bipods.

UTG OP-1 Bipod w/Picatinny mount

And slap the whole contraption together and we get this:

Marlin XT-17V w/Weaver V24 & OP-1 Bipod

Marlin XT-17V Modified

All said and done, I have a gun that should shoot just as well as the Savage, I think looks just as good,  with a quality scope and decent bipod for around $70 more than the Savage would have cost me without any accessories.

MazdaSpeed6 BC Racing Coilovers

My Mazdaspeed6 got some yummy wheels, next it was time to remove the monster truck factor. After researching some springs, it seems most of the spring replacements are crap. They are either designed for the standard Mazda6, and actually have lower spring rates than the stock MazdaSpeed6 springs, or they are too low, or they are way off where they need to be for shock valving. The only viable option for spring replacements is about half the price of full coilovers. So I decided to just bite the bullet and get the real deal. Sort of.

I went with the BC Racing Type BR coilovers. They have a spring rate of 10K front, 8K rear. Which seemed to be the closest to the stock spring rate ratio from front to rear. It’s not a race car, so that was the extent to the calculations I did for required spring rate. And while the spring rates feel pretty good, so far I am not super satisfied with the coilovers. I will admit, I have done nothing to remedy my dissatisfaction yet, and they may actually be fine.

After reading instructions on how to install the coilovers, which state at some point that you may want to take a sledge to your car out of frustration, I decided to let a friend’s shop do the work. If I had a lift and a back-up ride, I may have attempted it myself still. But Noah at Solid Autoworks gave me the bro discount, so I let him deal with the headaches. Turns out the instructions I had read were not far off. It took about 6 hours to do the job, just over 5 of which was spent on the rears.

Lowering was done to a look, not a spec. As I said, this is not a race car, I was not going to worry about roll centers and such. I just wanted this car to look nice. And it does. I am very happy with the way it turned out.

Now if I could just get some pictures of my car in decent lighting. Anyway… Onto the coilovers. The coilovers have 32 adjustment clicks that adjust mostly compression, like most cheap coilovers. The colors are great. They are a very good looking setup. The adjustment clicks are positive and smooth. and the adjustment knobs have a nice tactile feel to them. Included is I believe 4 different sizes of spanner wrenches for the various spring perches. Everything fit pretty well. No complaints there.

Now for what was not so good: shock length is separately adjustable from spring tension. This is a great thing on the front as you can adjust ride height without pre-loading the springs unevenly. However, on the rear, it makes adjustment tricky. Ride height is adjusted via spring pre-load. And with the shock having adjustable length, it is difficult to determine where they should be set. We left them set where they came from the factory. As it turns out, I suspect it is incorrect. Main bump stops were shortened, and the shock has it’s own small bump stops. The rear feels very over-sprung, or under-damped, you choose your favorite. And on bumps which involve high speed damping, the suspension definitely feels like it is hitting the bump stops. Which bump stop I do not know. But worse than that is after that high speed event, the shock is unable to stop the oscillation of the chassis in the rear.

The shocks had the damping set at 15 click down from full stiff. So pretty much right in the middle. I would try upping the stiffness in the rear to see if it could control the oscillations, however they put the adjustment knob on the top of the shock which once installed is very difficult to get to in order to make any changes. Even if you take the wheels off, you have to have 9″ long skinny fingers to get up in there to twist the knobs. Or you can spend 5 hours dropping the suspension out and putting it back up in.

So not only do I need to sped a ton of time trying to get the bounciness under control, but then I also have to determine if I have the length of the rear shock set incorrectly. And of course changing one, may actually affect the other just a little. Even though they are affected by different suspension events. So yeah. Car looks pimp, I love it. Ride needs improving. I am still convinced the spring rate is fine, but the damping rate may not be able to get right in the rear.

Pace Day 2011

Looks like I will finally be attending a car meet, after a couple years of inactivity. This is a Utah car meet down in Orem. Turns out it is only a few blocks from my mom’s house. And she was wanting to see the kids anyway. So we both win this weekend.

Here is a video from Pace Day 2010:

Based on that video, it looks like there was some pretty cool stuff last year. I know a few Mazdaspeeds will be there. And I have heard rumor of that orange Caterham with the SR from the video driving around the Orem area, so I assume he will be there again. So, if you happen to be in Orem and/or happen to be in the mood for checking out some sweet cars, come check it out this Saturday.