Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Not So Uneventful Day

We arrived at our destination, which is Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Campground at Natural Bridge Station, Virginia, however, it wasn’t an event free day.  First let’s back up to yesterday morning.

If you remember from yesterday’s blog entry, we discovered that Jim and Linda Smith were in the campground with us.  So, after we had breakfast and a shower, I gave them a call.  Jim stopped by for a sip and chat, he brought his coffee and we had ours.  It was about a half hour visit and good to see him again.  Linda isn’t an early riser so she sent her regards. 

Then we hitched up the wagon and headed northeast which brings us to our first “event”.  When we stopped at a rest stop for a walk about and potty call, Judy noticed water dripping from the bottom of the truck.  At first I thought that it was condensation from the air conditioner, but I decided to stick my finger in it just to make sure.  It was coolant and it was dripping from the back of the engine on the driver’s side – not good. 

We called Coach-Net to find the closest dealer and/or diesel truck repair facility.  While the customer representative put me on hold to phone some service shops, I decided to open the hood and see if I could discover exactly where the water was coming from.  I couldn’t see an indication of leaks so I checked the overflow tank to see how low the coolant level was.  That’s when I noticed that coolant was being blown out of the overfill hose.  From there it was running down onto the skip plate under the engine and then to the back of the plate/engine where it was dripping onto the ground on the driver’s side.

I had added about a pint of fluid before leaving the campground because it was low, but after spewing out about a pint everything seemed to be okay.  Needless to say, we monitored the the temperature gauge for the rest of the trip.  After letting the engine cool down the coolant level appears to be a little low again, but I’m just going to leave it alone and monitor the temperature.  A warning light will tell me when and if the coolant level is actually low.  I hate to say it, but I’m not overly optimistic that this problem has gone away since we have been dawged with coolant issues over the past three years.

Now onto to “event” number two.  While “setting up camp” the forward jacks began slipping while leveling the front of the coach (note: this is after the truck had been disconnected from the trailer).  The drive motor appeared to be “floating”, but after checking it all out I discovered that that is how they are installed.  But, I can’t get the front to raise up without the thing slipping.  It sounded like it was jumping or stripping gears. 

I spent about four hours pulling things apart and trying determine the problem.  Fortunately the gears are okay and it turned out to be that the distribution box will need to be replaced.  Unfortunately, there is no way to get the distribution box off the shaft.  The Forest River idiots installed the leveling legs outboard of the frame so that the distribution box comes up hard against the frame when attempting to remove it from the shaft.  Not only that, they installed it incorrectly, 90* out from the proper installation so they could attach the electric motor.  If the distribution box was installed properly then the motor couldn’t be attached because the frame work is in the way. 

So, I’m going to have to loosen up the left front leveling leg, but I won’t slide it up or down without the shaft hitting a portion of the frame.  The next plan, would be to remove the shaft which means going into the gear box, but again accessibility is limited and I don’t know how the gear attaches to the shaft.  There must be a set screw somewhere, but I haven’t been able to find it and I’m not sure I could reach it if I found it.  The gear box is about 2” by 2” and has to be accessed from the top; I can only get one hand in there at a time and then can’t see what I am doing.

Another option, that would be quick and dirty (very dirty) is to burn away a portion of the sheet metal on the bottom of the front compartment so that I can loosen the leveling leg and move it outboard a couple of inches away from the frame.  Then I would be able to slip the distribution box off the shaft and reinstall the new one.  Just so you know, our next site neighbor let me look at his Cypress and Newmar installed the landing gear properly (inboard of the frame work) – it would only take me a half hour max to change out the distribution box on his rig.

It’s four o’clock in the morning and at this point I’m not sure exactly what we are going to do.  By letting the air out of the air bags on the truck and using my hydraulic jack, I will be able to get the rig reattached to the truck.  Once it is back on the truck, it will have to stay there until the problem is fixed.  I’ll call Forest River later this morning to see how “they” suggest I accomplish this task.  Also, there is a Camping World 30 miles away, in Roanoke, and an RV dealership in Manassas that sells Forest River products, which is where we are heading next.

We might just wait until we get to Maine to fix the problem.  We could buy a couple of house jacks to use to unhitch the rig from the truck – a lotta work, but doable.  A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.  So much for an uneventful 2011 season on the road.  If I do the job myself, it will only cost a couple hundred bucks; if I let someone else do it then it could run up to around eight hundred dollars since it is going to be very labor intensive – thanks Forest River.

If you are thinking of going fulltime and are not mechanically inclined I would highly recommend that you stay away from Forest River products.  I’m not sure what fifthwheel I would recommend, but I won’t buy another one unless I crawl all over from top to bottom.  Better yet, I’d make several visits to the manufacturer to review the entire manufacturing process from the time the frame entered the shop until the wax is applied to the finish.

Stay tuned to see how we get out of this dilemma.  Happy Event Free Travels To You Until We Meet Again - - - -


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  2. CORRECTED. At one time, I was a field service tech. During that time I became convinced that all design engineers should be required to work on their designs in the field. This would improve their design skills.
    Sounds like you are mechanically inclined like me. Kinda a makes me think about have a diverse selection of tools in the basement. Good luck on the repairs.
    PS photos would be cool. Travel safe.

  3. Hitch up that rig and drive it to Maine. I've got lots of tools, plenty of time, oodles of vodka, and plenty of band aids!

  4. Arghhh. Truck and trailer issues at the same time. I really FEEL your pain. I wish you a quick and painless full recovery. Gene

  5. Ouch...Not good to have problem with the truck and fiver at the same time. We hope it is an easy and inexpensive fix. You guys be careful and safe!!