Fixing up the Motorhome

So we bought the coach 2 weeks ago. We still have not taken possession of it. I don’t know if it is common practice in the world of motorhome purchasing, but after we bought our coach, they wanted a week to go through it, do a systems check, clean it up, do the emissions and safety stuff. We also had them add an awning during this time.

As it turns out, it took a little over a week for the awning to arrive. Also, we had made a short list of things that needed looked at like locks on storage doors, and the back-up camera. Well, during the systems check the hydraulic motor (I assume the electric motor that drives the hydraulic pump) went out and they needed to replace it. I am glad it happened on their dime, not ours, but it delayed getting to take our coach home.

The wife was itching to work on it, so the first weekend after we bought it we went down and pulled 3 panels out of the bedroom area. They were this terrible mauve color. One of the things showing its age in there. So we threw them in the truck, took them home, and got to work.

Here is what the panels looked like stock:

Before-1

Factory panes

One panel was the headboard for the bed. The other 2 were on the walls. We went down to the local fabric shop and found enough material to do the headboard and maybe some throw pillows out of the brownish grey faux leather. But there was not enough to do all 3 panels. We were unable to find anything we liked that complimented the brownish grey so we went home to see what we had in storage. Luckily, the wife had some leftover material from a previous project that looked great. Catch is, it has stripes. And stripes are pretty critical for alignment. But I think we did OK:

After-1

Factory panes

Those studs on the leather piece are a brushed stainless decorative nail. That really will no go with anything in the coach just yet. But some day, all that brass will be changed or covered.

BTW, tomorrow is the day we are supposed to finally go pick up our new to us Country Coach. So maybe I will be able to get some decent pictures of it.

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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.

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

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.

Autocross MazdaSpeed3 Project #6

Another big day for the project car. We installed a few items today.

First thing was the shift weight:

Cobb Shift Weight

Cobb Shift Weight

At the first autocross, I had to hold the shift lever in second gear in all braking zones after the first run when it popped out twice. So this was a necessity. As you can see, the COBB weight is much smaller than the factory weight. Shifting did not get near as notchy as I remember it when we first designed it. So win and win.

side-by-side shift weights

side-by-side shift weights

COBB Shift weight installed

COBB Shift weight installed

Next up was a combination of parts. The Cobb SF Intake and Turbo Inlet Hose. It doesn’t make sense to do one without the other. So we did them both. It is a much bigger pain in the ass on the Speed3 than it was on the Speed6. But very similar. All of today’s fun I tried to make the wife do all the work. This was nice in theory, but I did have to get dirty a couple times helping her out. The worst part about the install was sliding the intake silicone onto the metal joint in the turbo inlet hose. That little metal joiner is so thin and sharp I cut the silicone like a half inch deep at a weird angle through all 6 layers of silicone. It sucked. But should function fine still. We ended up pulling out the battery box just to make it all a bit easier and that was an extra 5 minutes very well spent.

COBB SF Intake

COBB SF Intake

COBB Turbo inlet hose

COBB Turbo inlet hose

Installed intake

Installed intake

And for the final install of the day, the COBB AccessPort. I went with the new fancy version.

COBB AP v3

COBB AP v3

That’s right, the wife gets a nicer AP than me. And it has the fancy blue faceplate she loves so much. And because Mazda is way cooler than Subaru, they put the OBD port in an actual handy location, so it may get used for the gauges more often than mine does.

And here it is coming back from a test drive. One happy driver because she now has the whistle of the turbo.

Test Drive return with happy face

Test Drive return with happy face

Also worth noting is that you need to make sure all coilover locking rings are nice and tight. Clunking is now gone 🙂

Autocross MazdaSpeed3 Project #5

OK, today was coilover day. I am not going to go into details on how to install them. These cars are seven or eight years old. It has been covered. I will however list issues I had as I seem to have had a couple minor issues nobody else mentioned.

Totally not the coilover’s fault, but I found on the driver’s side front I had a ripped CV boot and an endlink that had bad boots on both ends. So the finish of the install was delayed by waiting for an endlink to come in stock at O’Reilley. Luckily it was there 12 hours later.

Also, worth noting is I have read that some rear spring adjustment perches are mounted on the top and some are on the bottom. Mine happened to be the kind that mounts on the bottom.

Rear coils

Rear coils

Also, due to the wheel choice I made, I had to run some 5mm spacers on the front. Turns out I probably needed about 6mm on the passenger side. But I definitely didn’t want to go any thicker than the 5mm spacers I got due to Lug stud length. I am not even completely comfortable with the thread engagement I have with the 5mm spacers. BTW, I realized at the last minute that I needed spacers. So I went to Autozone, O-Reilley, & Napa. Napa had no spacers. The other two both had the same terrible cast aluminum spacers with no machining to make sure they are even flat. And the thinnest they had for my bolt pattern was 8mm. Luckily RallySport Direct had these nice machined KICS spacers in stock that I picked up this morning. They are still universal and not hub-centric. But an ass-ton better than anything those other stores had and only cost $5 more.

KICS 5mm Spacers

KICS 5mm Spacers

Even after installing the spacers, I had a rubbing issue which you can see on the tire in this picture:

Tire groove. Barely there.

Tire groove. Barely there.

So I had to file off a little material from the coilover body. Then paint it:

Painting the fix.

Painting the fix.

All better now.

All better now.

Other that stuff, my only big complaint about the coilovers is, funny enough, something I praised in the last post about these. The top mount is recessed to allow for maximum camber adjustment without cutting open the hole at the top of the strut mount. Problem is, when you need to adjust the camber you have to drop the suspension and do some very time consuming trial and error.

After installing, I put the car on some scales and it came in with these numbers:

No driver, trunk full of spare tire stuff:

  • 3,111 lbs total weight.
  • 49.7% cross
  • 50.1% left
  • 63.3% Front

W/Driver, trunk full still:

  • 50.1% cross
  • 51.8% left
  • 62.3% front

No Driver, trunk emptied of spare tire, jack, etc.:

  • 3,060 total weight
  • 49.8% cross
  • 50.1% left
  • 64.5% front

W/Driver, trunk empty:

  • 50.1% cross
  • 51.7% left
  • 63.7% front

The scales are not mine, they are a friend’s so I don’t know how available they will be to me for future modifications. But these weights are with stock exhaust, stock intake, etc. So I may drop another 50 lbs. But I doubt it.

And here are the rest of the pics for today’s fun:

Proof that the wife works on her car :)

Proof that the wife works on her car 🙂

Passenger side front 3/4

Passenger side front 3/4

Front

Front

Driver side front 3/4

Driver side front 3/4

Look at those gorgeous meaty tires.

Look at those gorgeous meaty tires.

That's right, I did not go ricer low. Sorry to disappoint.

That’s right, I did not go ricer low. Sorry to disappoint.

 

Autocross MazdaSpeed3 Project #3

As I mentioned in my last post, I picked up some parts for our Mazdaspeed project autocross car this afternoon. I will go into more detail of each part. But here is a teaser pic of what’s to come:

Cobb-o-rama

Cobb-o-rama

Many of these I had a hand in designing, and that is why I chose them. The rest is stuff that works fine from several manufacturers, but I do kind of like to stick to a theme when possible. And of course, you can see those lug nuts. Nothing fancy there, just nicer to look at than the chrome ones that Tirerack gave us with the Enkei RPF01’s. And no, hiding in one of those boxes is not the BPV/BOV that I designed as it is not legal for the class. Kind of bummed about that as I really like my design on that piece. It’s not what I would have designed if I had full control over the scope of the project. But with the given parameters, I think I did pretty well.