By Ken Freund
November 28, 2016
Filed under RV Tech Q&A
We use our motorhome for specific trips each year. We winter in the South, a trip of about 3,600 miles. The oil and filter are changed during the trip as it’s black, and again on our return home. Early summer we take a 10-day trip, about 300 miles. Late summer we take another similar trip of about 300 miles. The motorhome goes into storage for three months after the late-summer trip. Should we do an oil change after the late-summer trip? In December we head south again. We’re concerned about oil acidity. The oil used is 5W-20 and is conventional oil, not synthetic.
David Ginsberg | Via email
Long highway trips are not as hard on oil as short trips and frequent cold starts. The two oil changes per annum should work for you. I would change it once before it goes into storage at the end of the summer, and again before you return home from your trip down south. It’s not just acidity that is a concern, but also the fact that more sludge forms if the oil is dirty when the engine is stored.
Batteries Keep Going Dead
I own a 2001 Winnebago Class C on a Ford E-450 Super Duty chassis with a Triton V-10 engine. While on a trip, I stopped to get gas, and then found all three batteries dead (coach and engine batteries). I jump-started the motorhome and left the fuel station, and had it towed to a shop, where they replaced the alternator. I spent the night there with the motorhome hooked up to shorepower, and checked the charge on the engine battery in the morning and all seemed OK.
I set off and went about 175 miles when I noticed the voltage gauge dropping off. I pulled over and all of the batteries were dead. I took the alternator to a NAPA store and they said it was good. I had them check all three batteries and they said they were good, but needed charging. I convinced them to give me another alternator, which I had installed.
About 150 miles later, the same situation happened. I finally made it to my destination by stopping every 30 or so miles and charging the batteries with those in the dinghy vehicle. I decided to fire up the generator once I got enough juice in the batteries, and drove home with no problems. It seems to me that shorepower and the generator are working OK, but what is going on while driving under normal conditions?
Rodger Hermans | Seattle, Washington
When you are running off shorepower or the generator, the batteries are getting charged by the onboard power converter. However, when you are running solely on the engine, all of the power has to come from the alternator. Apparently you have not been getting sufficient power from the alternator. Did the fellow who changed the alternator the first time test its output before and after he replaced it? What were the readings? I’ve seen cases where more than one rebuilt alternator was faulty, but it’s rare. If in fact the alternators have been good, then the wiring harness and/or charging circuit has a problem. You need to take it to an experienced auto electric shop. I suggest that until you get it sorted out, obtain an inexpensive digital voltage tester (from an auto-parts store) that plugs into the cigarette lighter/power outlet and monitor the running voltage. Running voltage should be above 13.4 volts and below about 14.8 if the alternator is working properly.
Workhorse That Whinnies
I own a 2003 Tiffin Allegro motorhome powered by a Workhorse gas engine. What type of fuel works best? The engine sputters when the accelerator is first applied, or when I put a load on the engine.
Dan White | Parker, Colorado
These engines are designed to run fine on regular-grade gasoline, and do not have a history of being finicky about gasoline. Typically, what people blame on the gasoline’s chemistry or quality turns out to be an ignition or fuel-supply problem. That’s not to say it’s impossible to be a gasoline problem, but it’s not likely. You might have a load of old fuel, or perhaps a dollop of water has accumulated from condensation or a contaminated supply tank. However, these engines are known to have two fairly common problems that lead to drivability concerns, and I suggest you check these first.
First, have the spark-plug cables and connectors carefully inspected. They’re going on 14 years old, and are prone to heat damage near the exhaust manifolds, as well as from general deterioration. While you’re at it, make sure all maintenance is up to date according to the service schedule in the owner’s manual, and check the spark plugs for condition and replace as necessary.
Another area is fuel supply. When was the last time you replaced the fuel filter mounted underneath? Probably never. When I replace it, I pour the contents out backward (out the inlet) into a clear plastic container. This allows you to visually inspect for any accumulated crud in the fuel system that may be trapped in the filter, clogging and reducing flow. It’s also a tip-off if water/dirt has gotten into the tank. When I install a new filter, I mark the housing with date and mileage using a black felt-tip marker, so it’s easy to know how old it is the next time it’s checked. I also enter all work into a vehicle logbook with date and mileage.
Bad Fuse, Huh?
My husband and I recently purchased a 2016 Winnebago Fuse, with a slide-out rear bed. For the first two days, the bed slide worked well. On day three, the slideout alarm continued to sound even after the bed looked completely pulled in. We brought the motorhome in for service and were told it was a bad fuse (no pun intended). Now, two months later, the alarm is going off again, which is supposed to mean the slideout is not fully in. It appears closed and we have tried changing the fuse but this has not worked. Should we have the alarm disconnected if the only purpose is to go off if the slide is not completely pulled in? Is a bad fuse a common occurrence with slideouts?
Tricia Hayden | Cranston, Rhode Island
Slideout problems are among the most common glitches we hear about across all brands. It stands to reason, as they are arguably the most complex part of a motorhome coachwork. When they said a “bad” fuse they should have differentiated if it was burned out, cracked, corroded or otherwise faulty, but not from electrical current overloading. If a fuse is “blowing” it likely means that the slide mechanism is binding and overloading the motor (which blows the fuse). The slideout installation on your coach uses a Schwintek in-wall slideout mechanism driven by a pair of 300:1 ratio motors.
According to Winnebago’s tech services, there’s no audible alarm or sensing equipment onboard that alerts the driver that a room is extended (or extending) while driving. The audible alarm that is employed on certain motorhomes alerts the owner that the driver and co-pilot seats are not locked in the forward-facing position. Another possible alarm would be for the leveling jacks being extended when trying to drive away, but your model motorhome isn’t equipped with a leveling system. According to factory records, you or your dealer have not contacted Winnebago regarding this repair. This repair should be covered under warranty and I suggest you contact the dealer as soon as possible.