Category: The Leisure Travel


It’s hard to find the right place to catch up so I might be jumping back and forth a bit, this might go well with my mood as different challenges and pleasures banter my attempts at a stable peaceful world. I still have my 1996 Dodge Freedom Wide Leisure Travel Van as those that met me out on the road can attest. My Leisure Travel, the dogs and I survived some intense weather and the kind of wind that I’d think would be what they’re talking about when they say high-profile vehicles should be cautioned to not be on the road. I’m back in California now with “safe stuff” like earthquake, fires and floods, things I understand. I know what to do if there’s a fire or the ground shakes and glass and bricks fall out of the buildings. I can handle a drought being able to conserve water to the ninth degree; I can brush my teeth with just a drop and clean myself with a damp washcloth….  but hey, in the South, in the East they have wind, thunder, lightening and big huge chunks of ice they call hail. Not that pitter-patter stuff we get here that makes a nice drumming sound on the roof and makes a game of the grass for the dogs to chase and play, oh no, they get golf ball, softball, grapefruit size bombs  (or bigger) that can wipe out your windshield and put holes in everything you might consider precious. Yep I learned the word…  TORNADO…  never noticed how, torn, is the beginning of that word.  No worries, I was fine, I outran/out drove the worst, my RV very sweetly took on the challenge of long hours in intense blustery gale.  It was fine when the sky turned pitch black at 10 am and the wind blew so hard it was like being a pinball machine.  I did have a great time in the Southeast.

So, where should I start. I looked at many different Class B and Class B+but was dissuaded by their sticker price versus their build quality. My older LTV has issues such as a dead generator with no compression, an electrical problem with the refrigerator, the new carbon monoxide alarm would not stop alarming and something in the battery on-off switch beeps randomly for no apparent reason.

The LTV is comfortable and solid. It can hold up to my dogs and whatever the road throws at it. I would still like a newer rig, but I’d also like to have funds to enjoy eating and buying gas and so forth.

 

Later I’ll give a run down on recent repairs, etc etc.

My Lagotto Romagnolo breed club’s 2nd National Specialty took me south. The show was in Fort Worth Texas and having failed to attend the show back east last year due to failure of repairs with the LT, I decided to try again. Thank goodness next year the Specialty will be in California! I did make it to Ft Worth without trouble but as you’ll learn things went wrong regarding the actual showing of my dogs….  third time’s the charm, right?

My Lagotto Romagnolo Girl, Olympia.

Olympia didn’t go with me this time. She stayed with my good friends Lee and Craig.

Lee came to meet us half way between her place and mine to pick up Olympia; we’d just had a rousing game of Tennis Ball in rather warm heat!

Jeana came with to keep me company on the drive. We stopped at Camp Roberts Rest Stop Hwy 101 on the way home.

Gaviota Pass Overlook. We also stopped here in the delicious cool fog so I could pay respects to those I’ve loved and lost.

My 1996 Dodge Leisure Travel Van almost packed to go.

Mason In Olympia, washington

Mason In Olympia, Washington

I really enjoy having an RV that is under 20′. It enables me to go almost anywhere and stay anywhere. Some roads and campgrounds have a 21′ max length, that’s never an issue for the LT.  The only limitation is in handling and roughness of the ride. The handling did seem to improve over time, towards the end of my trip the LT was powering ahead without much trouble in strong gusty winds. I was actually surprised just how strong the winds were when I parked and opened the door to discover walking was a challenge and took extra muscle power; we didn’t go far. I’d say there seems to some truth in what I was told that the new steering gearbox, tires, shocks, steering gearbox stabilizer and steering damper needed time to break in. When 3,000 miles have accrued, then I will know for sure.

The LT is capable of fairly robust speeds but I generally see little merit in traveling much faster than 55 or 60 mpg unless the roadway is particularly boring. I use the cruise control a lot. I know my mother hates cruise control, but I love it.  It keeps a nice steady speed and enables me to focus on being peaceful, relaxed and aware as I drive. Particularly when having handling troubles it’s something I will always use. My feeling is that those motorist speeding along can easily see another vehicle moving at a steady clip and plan their pass without pushing from behind.

My 1996 Class B Freedom Wide Leisure Travel can go anywhere.

My 1996 Class B Freedom Wide Leisure Travel can go anywhere.

The solarize curtain linings were great! A bit messy due to my lack of sewing skill but they not only kept the interior of my RV cooler they were a simple solution to creating darkness when parked under bright lights. My old system of mounting reflectix was awkward, the curtains with their linings were super easy. On the rear windows I could close just the linings or both the lining and the shade or just the shade.  Using the lining and the shade kept my dogs comfortable which was my goal.

Another perfect addition was the little auxiliary double fan which I mounted in the cubicle which used to hold the old TV in the upper front center of the rig. I really loved it as it meant I did not to run the generator while driving to keep the house air conditioner running. The fan pushed the cold air from the regular air conditioner back to the rear. It stayed nice and cool inside. I was really happy. When I stopped I’d open the wing windows and also turn on and open the upper Fantastic vent. I wish the old-fashioned wing windows were still utilized. You can’t put your hand in there and unlock the door and if you should need to turn off the air conditioner while driving such as climbing a steep hill in 100 deg heat you can open those windows and get a good blast of air, of course it’s hot air but still a lot better than opening the regular window.

AboveTEK® Dual Head Car Auto Cooling Air Fan

12V AboveTEK® Dual Head Car Auto Cooling Air Fan, $35.00 from Amazon. These look big in the picture but they are actually small, I recommend them! The two fans swivel and turn.

Not so great was the latex bed topper. When my GERD was especially bad I found I could prop  my bed/couch part way up and sleep halfway sitting, actually kinda curled on my side with my torso lifted up.  It’s a bit hard to describe . . .  was comfortable and it worked. I still had room to lay flat if I wanted and the dogs had room to curl up on the bed in the morning . . they like to do that when they get the signal I’m awake. Dogs are amazing at knowing that instant when a person wakes, even if don’t move or make a sound, they know. The latex proved to be too bulky and too hot and just not comfortable. My wool bedtopper was all I needed. I wound up cutting the latex pad into pieces to use for dog beds.

Sand in the bed. This was an issue since we frequently went to the beach.  Mason hair does not hold sand, or dirt; Lagotti hair on the other hand marries dirt and sand and keeps it wrapped tight letting little bits fall out over a very long time (it does not come out with rinsing or light washing but eventually it all falls out in places you don’t want it.)  The best but most time-consuming solution was to shake everything out before I went to sleep each night and I finally resorted to this solution. I tried sealing off the bed with covers, blankets, towels, dog beds; sand still got through somehow making me like the Princess and the Pea, thrashing around sand irritated. Nothing like sand rubbing on your skin. I move around a lot when I sleep by learned habit. This helps me not wake with dead spots, painful cramping, headaches, or limbs completely asleep . . . most of you likely don’t have this trouble; it’s part of whatever’s amiss with my body. Moving from side to side during the night generally takes care of it.

Sand on the floor. This was the same solution. I have the rugs overlapping in short segments so it was super easy to lift them out and shake, shake, shake, did this every morning before leaving camp.  To remove dog hair I use a plastic hair removal brush or if nothing else one of the dog’s brushes works.

This trip I never used the exercise pens or crates for the dogs. Mason never goes anywhere, so I attach a light thin leash to his collar and that’s it. I know it’s cheating as the leash is not attached to anything.  He likes to be outside if it’s sunny, otherwise his favorite place is on the rear bed or one of the captains chairs. I tethered Jackson with a long line clipped to the side door. At first I was tethering Jeana as well, but she was like Mason, she didn’t go anywhere so I used the same system as Mason. If there were distractions I’d clip all the leashes to the RV or occasionally to the picnic table. My dogs don’t like to roam. They love to be with me. If I’m leaving them for some reason at the campground, like taking a shower or something, I’ll put them inside the RV.

Camped at the Rogue River: Leashes on but not attached to anything!

Camped at the Rogue River: Leashes on but not attached to anything!

If you travel with dogs the number one thing you should teach your pets is RECALL. A perfect recall is so important. Your dogs should be so happy to come when you call, whistle, raise your arm in the air (my silent recall signal)  that they just don’t think about it. 100% recall is not difficult. That means a recall when they see a deer, a squirrel, another dog, whatever it is they should be more interested in returning to you. I know it sounds impossible but it’s not. I make allowances for squirrels but only in how long it takes for the recall, the recall still happens. If you want to know how it’s done message me.

There are tons of things for second place, here are some of them. No bark, stay here, wait, let’s go potty, don’t do that, stay on the trail, ignore those other dogs, do you really have to go out now? Not your ordinary commands like sit and heel, but things that are useful for traveling. I talk to my dogs the same as I’d talk to a person that needed my care. I read a lot of studies about what scientist believe about the intelligence and communication skills of canines. I take all that with a grain of salt, no, something bigger than a grain of salt. Dogs are not as intelligent as a 3-year-old or only capable of understanding 100 to 300 words or any of that. They are not human, An adult dog is extremely capable and intelligent. Some dogs are certainly smarter and more aware than others. It’s people who make dogs dumb and sometimes helpless. A dog cannot be compared to a human. How many dogs would compare their human to another dog? Wow, is my human dumb, I’ve been telling her for 10 years that I need …  fill in the blank here….  and she still doesn’t get it. A dog is another species. They are 100% (wow I get to use 100% again) intelligent. In my opinion dogs are brilliant.  Not many other species can understand humans let alone work successfully with us in hundreds of skills and tasks. That said, try respecting your dog. No kidding, they know what they’re doing, their motivations and purposes are not the same as ours. Every dog is a bit different from any other dog. There are genetic breed characteristic and drives, inherited, learned and environmental variances and disturbances. Dogs are emotional creatures, they dream, they play, they thrive on approval and happiness. they base their actions on being dogs and doing what is normal to them. Most dogs are responsive to rewards and excellent communicators. Why else would people love dogs so much? They even emulate us. And don’t think for a moment that they don’t train us, for some people more than they train the dog.

All 3 Lagotti. Waiting until I'm ready to go. This is what they usually do when off leash and I'm not moving.

All 3 Lagotti. Waiting until I’m ready to go. This is what they usually do when off leash and I’m not moving.

Teenage dogs are a challenge but that’s normal for many creatures. It’s a time of self-discovery and development of adult personality and skills.  As dog trainers say, it may seem your adolescent dog has forgotten everything you ever taught it and will not learn; it is not true, so preserver and maintain your lesson plan. I don’t tolerate nonsense from my dogs but I allow them to be fully dogs. They bark, they run, they jump, they get dirty, they get excited. I only ask them to adopt a skill set so that we can be together and become a team. They don’t have to do it (it being what I want them to do) all the time or in all situations (except a recall.)  Mostly their job is to be a dog and mine to be a human. We get along much better that way and when I need them to do something they do it. I make it a priority to understand their language. Dogs will tell you everything. They love to communicate, they do it with each other all the time and they do it with us all the time too.

We ask a lot of them, to go against their nature to do what we want. Please don’t yell at your dog unless it’s an emergency and be patient with them. If you live with a dog teach your dog how to get along with others and what behaviors are needed in what situations. Don’t teach your dog to be a troublemaker and then throw up your hands as if You had nothing to do with it.

Leash is on.

Leash is on.

 

 

My New Mantra.

My New Mantra.

Much to my amazement the LT is on its 3rd set of new tires in less than 3 months. Yes, really!

My favs were the Michelin M/S2’s. . . loved the ride, the smoother feel, nice gripping with the new shocks, felt great. But alas a (now) suspect shop in Goleta explained how the lovely M/S2’s were causing the miserable road wander.  The owner insisted the M/S2’s could not carry the load…  that isn’t an adequate analysis: yet at the time, not having delved into the knowledge of all things tire, I believed this sincere highly touted mechanic so I switched to Michelin XPS Ribs as per recommendation from Henderson’s Line Up. The Ribs are built to last with a hard riding fit for a plumbing truck. Great tire if you have nerves of steel and no sensitive parts.  The ride turned into a Disneyland bump, crash and burn sorta thing with a nasty vibration all the way through your spine. I did not want to drive at all to the point that I preferred to let the RV sit and gather road dust.  Sleepless days and nights later and a far more complete understanding of tires, brakes and suspensions, I have BF Goodrich Commercial AT2 All Seasons and so far other than driving home I’ve not tested the ride.

The drive home from Tire Pros, felt better than with the Ribs but still very jarring;  however the tires were overinflated for the weight of my RV, hoping it will settle and that all will be good at last.

Wheel

 

I did not have a choice about the BF Goodrich Commercial TA2 All Seasons. This is the tire that Michelin recommends and the only tire that Tire Pros would allow as a switch.

 

Ergo, here’s a somewhat abbreviated recap of my story with Tire Pros.
I was fooled by Tire Pros from the beginning:  When I learned that the XPS Ribs should ‘solve’ the RV wandering and eager to be on the road, I sought a local Michelin dealer and happened on Tire Pros.  I called and to my delight, yes they had the Ribs in stock in the right size and they were on sale!  Get there early they said and they’d put them right on. I arrived at 8am to find, that no they didn’t have the tires on hand, and no there was no sale.

YES, I should have run like hell! But what they heck, they said they could order them and have them in later that day so I said ok.  They were installed and what’d ya know they did not solve the handling problem although it was improved. It was after this that the adventure of the steering stabilizer began, and then the brake forte into unknown territory.  The more things got solved the more I hated the Ribs. I longed for the sweet MP’2’s but animosity was roaring over at Tire Pros, I actually felt afraid of going into that shop. At first they had seemed so nice, esp the manager but with repeated visits and nothing made right their attitude was soundly nasty. I focused on the priority of repairing the brakes hoping somehow the Ribs would grow on me.

They did not and I began imagining how it would feel to throw away $1300 and buy new tires. Instead with encouragement from my new brake and motor shop I returned  timidly to Tire Pros to see if they would make things right. It was a disaster. I never expected a service shop to exhibit veiled aggression and to be so uncooperative. It was not until I pulled the legal card that I received action. Having learned at my new shop what a standard brake inspection requires and I mentioned this to Tire Pros…  hey I want to see the brake inspection sheet you did on my van.  That woke them up and I was offered a full refund upon approval of the owner. I attempted a discussion about the tires but was met with stupid stares and further hostility so I walked out.

A few days later the owner called me, he was not happy at my report. He will send a full refund for the brakes and has had a “talk” with his store manager. …  corners being cut, not doing the right things….  I called him back about my dilemma with the Ribs and his staff’s hostility and that’s how the tire swap occurred; he called Michelin made arrangements…  of course all this took many days and then finally it was over the 30 day limit so swapping to an approved Michelin tire was the only thing he would offer. As he told me, otherwise he’d be out the price of the tires. Well?  OK nevermind. Lame excuse to dump that responsibility on the customer.

The tire swap went without issue other than the owner keeping me waiting for several more days until he finally decided I could go ahead with the swap…  another control issue. I was not offered a price adjustment so had to contact the owner again.  He said I’d be given a $400 adjustment so, yep, had to go back again.  Once I got to the shop I was given a $370 adjustment with the excuse that I was being charged $15 a tire for labor.  Their number didn’t add up as I was also told that the adjustment was actually $450…  so $450 minus $60 is $390 and close to what I was promised. I found this disgustingly petty. In no way will I do business with Tire Pros in the future and I recommend others avoid this shop. Am waiting anxiously for their check for the brakes…  grateful that it wasn’t a worse outcome. My condolences to the owner, I’m glad he called and has made sincere efforts to set things right; however isn’t it likely that the owner sets the policy.

 

So now I have BF Goodrich Commercial All Seasons 2.  Reviews are mixed. I hope they will do. I hope I will be pleased. I wrote to BF Goodrich for a tire loading (psi) chart as I could not find one on their website. I am wondering about the MS2’s from Costco…  were these E load range?  Yes, still lusting for those tires.

Perhaps latter I will post some interesting things about tires, load and motorhomes.

Meanwhile here’s some pictures of my dogs around the lovely town of Santa Barbara.

The pups at City College

The pups at City College

Let's Go For A Walk

Let’s Go For A Walk

Flying Curls Jackson at the Park.

Flying Curls Jackson at the Park.

A Santa Barbara kinda day

A Santa Barbara kinda day

Spring

Spring

Mason

Mason…  there’s something under there which Mason takes very seriously.

Flying Curls Jackson and Jeana, Lagotto Romagnolo siblings.

Flying Curls Jackson and Jeana, Lagotto Romagnolo siblings.

Flying Curls Jeana

Flying Curls Jeana

Flying Curls Lagotto Romagnolo will be expecting Comes cordis Olympia’s 2nd and final litter this winter, currently accepting a waiting list. 

As promised here are some photos of the front brake damage before repair on my ’96 Dodge Freedom Wide LTV. Status update, what I did about prior mechanics lack of diligence and tires to follow in next post.  Thank you to everyone at  Motor Brake & Wheel Service in Santa Barbara.

Damage to the Calipers and Pistons that the first 3 shops inspecting brakes never saw.

Damage to the Calipers and Pistons that the first 3 shops inspecting brakes never saw. Why, was this not seen!  Answer: All 3 prior brake inspections were below California Bureau  of Automotive Repair standard requirements for brake inspections. Finally the 4th shop did the inspection.

 

CracksCracks1Cracks2

brake caliper and piston1

Scratches and crack forming on the brake rotor

Scratches and crack forming on the brake rotor, it doesn’t show on the photos but these rotors are very uneven and have ridges and deep scores.

Rotors1

The "NEW" Brake pads destroyed in a few short weeks.

The condition of the Brake pads Tire Pros installed after a few short weeks of very light use.

Troubled Brake Pads

Troubled Brake Pads

Tire Pros in Santa Barbara slapped on pads to badly worn and starting to crack rotors and failed to further inspect brake system. $350.  Full brake inspection at Fairview Brake and Motors in Goleta $130, alerted to below min rotors and questioned integrity of new brake pads. Failed to notice cracking, tearing dust cover for calipers and pistons, cracks, tears and chips to the calipers and pistons. Failed to provide brake inspection sheet.  Owner advised that the brakes were SAFE and would not need further work before my trip. I requested a price on redoing the front brakes including the rotors / pads and was told I should feel confident about traveling long distance including mountain driving without worry until time for next service.   That was before the brakes froze up coming down Gibraltar Road and Motor Brake & Wheel took the parts off to inspect and measure their conditions…  i.e. performed standard brake inspection.

 

Cost for inspection $35 at MB&W although I think I received a discount from $65. Ultimately I paid nothing for the inspection but plenty for the brake job.   Ist time in; front calipers, front brake pads, front rotors, sealing gaskets, wheel seals, brake fluid  $1,102.02 and 2@nd time in to complete job: new brake hoses, gaskets and wheel seals, $272.68

I noticed a pulsation in the brake pedal and steering wheel. . .had to take RV back and the shop needed to file the rotors. Drove some more and brakes started squealing and smelling…  took it back again, apparently rear brakes needed adjusting.

LESSON: Don’t expect brakes on an older motorhome will necessarily be ready to go, drive it around and test it before you hit the road.  Motor Brake and Wheel was very courteous in taking care of these issues at no charge.

How many have ever seen a brake inspection sheet?

Brake inspection Sheet
Manufacturer’s minimum front pad thickness
Right front pad thickness
Left front pad thickness
Manufactures rim front rotor
Right front rotor measurement
Left front rotor measurement
Manufactures min rear shoe/pad thickness
Right rear shoe/pad thickness
Left rear shoe/pad thickness
Manufactures max rear drum diameter
Manufactures min rear rotor thickness
Right rear drum/rotor measurements
Left rear drum/rotor measurements
Manufactures wheel torque specifications

After install
Front calipers
Front hardware
Front bearings and seals
Front brake hoses
BRK master cylinder
Parking brake
Real wheel cylinders
Rear hardware
Rear bearings and seals
Rear brake hose
Brake fluid condition

 

 

No, not finished yet with prepping my RV, sigh. My friend Tom…  I now call him Tomlettie, drove us around the day before yesterday up on Gibraltar Road, a 48-mile narrow twisty climb into the Santa Ynez mountains above Santa Barbara. Great views and very popular for rock climbers and bicyclists. One gains 3,995′ from sea level to La Cumbre Peak. Yesterday there were clouds as we climbed, very lovely, the town below us spreading out into the haze of the sea. I enjoyed myself from the passenger seat as Tomlettie handled the curves in due diligence to loosen up the tight steering gearbox.

 

Trouble didn’t start until we stared down the 7% grade coming home. The burning brake smell was stronger than I’d ever expected. When he got to his house and I started down the road to my house I found instead of a bit looser steering that I could barely steer at all! The LT was determined to head hard off to the left into some secret missive until I tapped the brakes at which point the LT wanted to head equally insistently to the right (this was the opposite of the previous brake pull to the left at higher speeds.) Fortunately I didn’t have far to go. I struggled to get home; never having stuck brakes  in the past I wasn’t sure what was wrong, I kept checking the hand brake but yep, it was off.

 

Today back at Motor Brake and Wheel I got the news from Alex ….  my front brakes were shot! The LT required a complete front end brake job: brake pads, calipers, rotors, wheel bearing, wheel seals, and still to come on Monday brake hoses. I was given a point by point list of the brake inspection which it had mostly failed. The LT is back home now, when I take in Monday for the brake lines I will ask them if they can bring the brake pedal up. . . maybe it needs more bleeding.  The brakes were so unsafe its terrifying.  How would one know when it’s taken to other “brake shops’ and given the a’okay?   I will talk about this more later and what I intend to do about it.  I have the old brake parts and photos…  I’ll post them next time. Right now I’m tired.

Today was Motor Brake and Wheel  with Barry. My friend Tom suggested it and met me there. Tom took over seeing to it that things are to go better for me and my RV! And it seems there is hope.  They spent 2 hours checking my motorhome suspension as we watched; at first it seemed there might indeed be trouble with ball joints or the tie rods, it drove wonky yet all tested good . . . that’s when Barry, the shop owner stepped in, he took the LT out for a spin and returned saying that the only trouble was the steering gearbox. As Bruce said, the steering gearbox was adjusted too stiff and while it seemed there were other troubles it was that tightness which was preventing the steering wheel returning to true and also making the steering so difficult. Barry offered to adjust it but it was discovered that the particular OEM steering gearbox for the Dodge Ram Van 35000 is not easily accessible. It’s a several hour job to drop off the stabilizers and then drop out the steering gearbox, give it a quick adjustment and then reload everything back in place. On top of this Barry mentioned that it might or might not help, it’s wasn’t a for sure thing and even if it did help once I’d driven for some time it could then be too loose and need to go through the same process to be tightened.

On the pit

On the pit

Barry took me on the road for a little driving lesson. The option to drive the LT as suggested by Tru-Line was not wrong. Tru-Line simply didn’t explain enough or provide the lesson I really needed. The steering gearbox when out of the box does not behave like the steering gearbox one normally encounters when driving, and esp this is true for the 1996 Dodge Ram Van. It’s sticks both to the right and left at “high points.” The places it sticks can cause the steering to go wonky as one would normally try to correct this erratic steering. What I learned is that one needs to barely touch the steering wheel with your hands flat and spread out alongside side the wheel, not grasping or actually holding; it’s actually super sensitive and takes very little input to cause the tires to turn. Movement will happen with bumps in the road, wind, trucks passing and so forth but the trick is to not overreact with a tight grip and cause oversteering which quickly goes haywire.  It will take practice.

Slow and steady is what’s needed, and a very light touch. He told me not to let anyone behind me push me to a faster speed that was comfortable, such as has happened to me before up in Washington with those scary bridges. Instead he said, “turn on your hazard blinkers,” that’s what trucks do when they are moving slow. Let everyone behind you know you are not going any faster and when it’s safe pull over and let them pass.

Lots of turning will loosen up the steering gearbox. It’s not so much the number of miles as how much the wheel is turned so plenty of that can be done off the freeway at slow speeds and it will help. It’s tight. I opted for this as solution…  just drive… but now with more understanding.

The other problem the brake pull, likely a result of Tire Pros lack of knowledge.  Either the wrong kinds of brake pads were used, due to the material they are made from they may cause uneven braking, or the pull is from the rotors.  I opted for a $35 brake inspection on Friday which will include swapping the pads right to left to see if the pull changes from the left to the right. Yep, should have gone here in the first place!

 

I only wish I could have kept the softer tires. I wonder if I could have. The XPS Ribs are a harsh ride, but hopefully with enough miles behind me (and whatever the brakes need) the LT can be redeemed.  Will see….   Sorta hard to believe right now, sure have heard a lot conflicting info ….  so will see!  Will be turning and turning and wondering if all this could be right.

 

Going Around In Circles …
sorry no song just a crazy RV and crazy RVer

 Posted for anyone having similar problems. 

May 03, 2016
Bruce’s Auto Repair
Installed Dodge Ram Steering Gear Stabilizer on request.
(I can return it from where I bought it from, if not found to help.)
Check for brake pull… No problem discovered with brakes or calipers.
Recommendation:  Vehicle not safe to drive, likely Frozen ball joints” (lower.)
Steering box adjusted wrong, won’t return from turn and needs to be backed off. (Too stiff)
(Bruce not able to work on ball joints due to recent knee replacement but strongly recommended replacing lower ball joints and correcting adjustment of steering gear box before driving on any trip.)
$45

 

April 29, 2016
Called Tru Line as handling was still difficult… very hard to drive home.  Recommendation from Tru Line:
Drive vehicle for 3,000 miles to let new tires and gearbox settle in.  Discovered Tru Line had also changed tire pressure to 60 in front and 70 in rear. I returned tire pressure to 55 front and 75 in rear but this only seemed to make things worse.

April 28, 2016
Tru Line
Replaced defective gearbox, no charge
(although they said they found nothing wrong with first replacement.)
Checked steering system by installing gauge to check steering pressure, equal in both sides. Disconnected steering linkage to check for binding in ball joints non detected also not leaking PS fluid, alignment is good.
Performed front steering alignment at no charge.
Both gearboxes had the same lash. Set 2nd box pre-load slightly higher.
Discovered brake pull to the left and when released van shifts to the right before re-centering.
Recommend brake system analysis.

April 27, 2016
Took vehicle to Fairview Motors Brake & Alignment for brake inspection (see Tire Pros below)
inspect Brakes $130
Discovered front brake rotors were not serviced and rotors were below minimum specification causing braking issues until pads wear down. Bled brakes again. Adjusted rear brakes. No problem found with master cylinder or brake lines.
Advised new steering gear box likely defective: steering does not self correct back to straight after being turned left or right. Recommended return to Tru Line. Also advised that dodge steering boxes are rebuilt and many of these may be defective. Mechanic said that’s why he doesn’t like to deal with these.

 

Still had trouble with straight ahead driving and overall handling. Steering wheel did not seem true not to return to center, felt I was always correcting steering and that vehicle tended to drift to the right.
Trueline suggested swapping 2 front tires
Took to Tire Pros to swap tires and they said vehicle needed front brake pads.

Had to return 3 times after install of brake pads as pedal was hitting the floor.
Tires Pros said there was air in the line. I asked how that happened and was told it was because my vehicle was old. I complained that vehicle was not stopping safely and was told that vehicle was very heavy and I could not expect anything else!!!!!

April 14, 2016
Trueline Automotive, Inc (Van Nuys)
Asked for alignment check as vehicle was still not handling well, after replacing tires 2nd time.
Adjusted tow-in
Replaced power steering gearbox
Replaced Front stabilizer shock
$774

March 31, 2016
New Tires installed
Returned LT M/S 2 to Costco
Purchased XPS Ribs from Tire Pros, $1,338

March 30, 2016
Fairview Motors Brake & Alignment
Inspect front suspension and Alignment $198
Alignment was corrected. Printout of values in book
Confirmed complaint that vehicle does not track straight on the freeway since new tires installed.
Recommendation: replace tires to better handle load.

March 2016
Returned to Dal Pozo after test drive to Placerville:  Comfort of ride greatly increased but terrible handling, could not keep vehicle in lane, very little control of vehicle. Requested alignment and analysis. Dal Pozo drove vehicle around corner, grabbed steering wheel hard to demonstrate and said there was no problem.  Refused to do alignment, refused re-inspection.

March 22, 2016
Dal Pozzo
New Bilstein shocks installed.  $175

February 2016
New LT M/S 2 tires (4) from Costco
Balancing and installation / Older tires were cupping and had too much wear. Replaced for upcoming extended cross-county trip. Trip was canceled due to problems with handling. 

June 2012 –  February 2016
No Handling  Troubles, not perfect but handling was good enough for driving in high wind conditions, even in high wind warning conditions, mountain passes and hairpin turns. Still sensitive steering, rough ride and somewhat slow to take curves on mountain passes.

June 2012
Dal Pozzo Corp. (Santa Barbara)
Finally adjusted alignment correctly and was able to drive!
Rebalanced tires and lowered air pressure to 75 in rear and 50 in front.
$80

June 2012
Superior Brake & Alignment (Santa Barbara)
Inspect and determine cause of brake trouble
Reinstall quality front brake pads (Ian’s had put trashy pads on the LTV)
Alignment
$279

Brakes pulled, would barely stop and was very scary to drive… hand brake not engaging.  Took it back several times. Superior was very nice about it and they tried lots of different fixes… brakes got better but handling was terrible; I was limping along.

May 2012
Ian’s Tire (Santa Barbara.)
Install front pads (brakes.)
Rear Brakes, brake lining, machine rear drums
$390

Ian’s botched this job and the brakes had major trouble after work completed. I eventually was able to receive partial refund… wrong brake pads were used.

June 2011
Automotive Technicians Group (Goleta)
Turn front brake rotors and resurface
Install brake rotors and caliper, repack wheel bearings and install new seals
$316  (Confused on if they did this as rotors are now needing to be replaced???  Re-Check records?

October 2010
Figueroa Brake & Alignment (Santa Barbara)
Replaced Ball Joints (upper and lower)
Installed front end steering stabilizer Shock ($124)
Alignment
$1,305

September 2010
Front End Service Big Brand Tire (Goleta)
No charge … checked alignment and adjusted tire pressure.
In spite of improvements, still having trouble with handling

September 2010
Serna’s Central Truck Service (Nipomo)
Installed rear sway bar after inspection of handling problems.
Total with tax $954   Sway bar $593 plus $42 shipping.

August 2010
Associated Tire & Brake (Ventura)
Installed 2 rear wheel spacers ($140)
Alignment redone ($70.00)
$221 total

August, 2010
Ian’s Tire & Auto (Santa Barbara)
Tires:  Coopers, $774 plus stems, weights, installation
Alignment, $80
Monroe shocks

August 2010:  took ownership of vehicle

RV SONG

Seems I’m always learning something new with my 1996 Freedom Wide Leisure Travel. Before it came to me in 2010 it was not well cared for, it was clean but neglected although well used with lots of miles;  perhaps this has had much to do with the care it’s needed in my hands. There is also living in Santa Barbara, CA. Our town does not have a local RV shop nor even a shop able to handle a small Class B on a lift. Having Bruce’s Auto is a lucky blessing and it’s back to Bruce we will go tomorrow this time as the Firestone Ride-Rite Motorhome Air Springs have sprung a leak! It’s likely a handy mechanical type could fix these themselves but given the age of the springs and my RV it could be a simple fitting or a new hose or the air shocks themselves could be failing.

The springs reduce suspension fatigue, improve the ride, reduce bottoming out by lifting the rear leveling the vehicle, soften contact between axle and frame, assist braking and handling and increases stability esp in cross winds. 

Without the springs it’s a hard ride. I generally keep them between 60 to 90 psi.

The Michelin XPS Ribs are installed and Costco completely refunded my purchase of the MS/2s.  With only a few test drives and the air springs failing results are still inconclusive. Next step is to reduce the air pressure in the tires; I’d tried a higher pressure of 80 in the rear and almost 60 in the front and will now lower this a few pounds in the rear to 50 or 55 in the front by experimentation. Also need to verify the alignment is still spot on; one step at a time.

It may be that I will not make the Lagotto Romagnolo 1st National Specialty on April 17th in Perry Georgia. It is  questionable if I will want to push to make the date.  (Planned departure was March 29th but now unknown.)  My prefered driving is leisurely and exploratory. Life has been mired in forced change and what I want is renewal. I am heavily disappointed with the struggle…  feeling it in aches and pains, short temper and mental exhaustion ….  yes, yes …..  another RV must be in my future and someday I will laugh at my adventures with the my little ’96.

Damm, yes that’s how I’m starting today’s post.  I took my motorhome in for an inspection at Fairview Motors Brake & Alignment and after owning my motorhome since 2010 I’m starting to wake up.  If you live in Santa Barbara I highly recommend this shop to understand your vehicle. I am only sad that the shop does not sell tires.

 

Those numbers on the driver’s side door panel are very important. What was happening with my LT with the new Michelin LTX M/S2 tires is due to insufficient weight load by those tires esp on the rear of my coach.

Here’s  the explanation by the mechanic:
Customer request inspect steering and suspension for loose or worn components. Customer states that the vehicle does not track straight on the  freeway since new tires were installed. She continuously has to steer it to keep it straight. Road tested and confirmed complaint. No steering or suspension problems found. The weight in the back  of the motorhome may be too much for these tires. It feels like the rear of the vehicle is swaying from side to side. the rear tire sidewalls may be too soft and have too much flex for the weight.  After checking the sidewall max load rating it is not sufficient for the gross vehicle weight in the rear. The max rating on the side wall is 2680 lbs single. the gross weight in the rear of the motorhome is 5361 lbs.

 

What all this means is that having only single rear tires (many newer RVs have dual rear tires) this softer Michelin tire bulges out at the bottom with every gust of wind in the rear end as this RV is heavily weighted in the rear. Add to this any possible sloshing of water from the water tanks and uneven road conditions, wind, bumps in the road, etc…  and the back tires as they bulge and release will create a constant wiggle on the front end resulting in the driver needing to continually adjust the steering in an attempt to remain in the traffic lane.

 

Basically these tires are not appropriate for the 1996 Freedom Wide LTV and perhaps other years. They may be fine for other similar Class B motorhomes depending on the weight distribution. My Freedom Wide LTV has a lot of weight in the rear including the air conditioner and spare tire.  In my limited research I did not find an alternative tire that would fit the 225 / 75  R16 tire size offering a greater load capacity.  (If anyone knows of one, please post.) I did learn that it possible to install a slightly larger / wider tire and this is an interesting option but not one I have much time to explore.

All is not lost however as the Michelin XPS Rib  even though of the same load rating, offers a highway tread and a steel sidewall casing. This provides a stronger sidewall able to resist the bulging of the rear tires and therefore the front end handling problem. One still needs to limit storage of heavy items in the rear (if possible.) The ride may be rougher, I don’t know but it would be worth it to correct the handling.  At this point all this is yet unproven but I am hopeful.

 

Add to my tire frenzy, the policy of Costco to claim that the Michelin XPS Rib is no longer made and cannot be ordered.  This is not true. What is true is that Costco does not sell this tire due to their arrangement with Michelin. could be the tire techs at Costco are unaware of the shenanigans of administration and policy negotiations. Nevertheless, the Michelin LTX M/S 2 should not be installed or used on the ’96 Freedom Wide and perhaps other similar rigs. Costco needs a better plan for safety. On the right vehicle these tires undoubtedly earn their merits, but on the wrong vehicle they just don’t work.

XPS Ribs.. will these tires solve my problem?

XPS Ribs.. will these tires solve my problem?

I am not sure why the highway tread is preferred however this also seems to be the recommendation. If your tire has little squares it is not a highway tread, it should look like the picture above of the Ribs.

 

My previous tires, the Toyo Open Country had a load rating of 2680 which is the same as all other options I’ve found for my wheels. I struggled a great deal with the Toyo’s but eventually they seemed to work for me. I never liked the tires however and they did cup badly. I can’t say my RV handled smoothly but it was tolerable, I got used to the delicate steering and was able to plow though wind and all. Perhaps these have a stiffer sidewall than the LTX MS/2, in any case I’ve made my decision to spend the extra money $$$$ for the XPS Ribs as advised by Henderson’s Line Up RV in Oregon …  they are expensive! Now to find some that won’t take too long to arrive….  I do have a date I’m trying to achieve and its way out in Georgia!

Before I forget here is the video where I learned how to make the solar reflective curtain linings From Wander Dano, RV STuff – Keeping RV Cool in Summer Heat Project. I had a chance to try these in partial on my recent test drive to Placerville. the sun beating through the window was so hot I did like the truckers and partially closed my front curtains… Don’t try opening the driver’s side window if you have these curtain linings attached like I did to adjust the side view mirror… the lining gets caught and you will have trouble closing the window! The lining is a good thing to add to your passive cooling system. I also tested the little fan I bought…. love this fan! AboveTEK® Dual Head Car Auto Cooling Air Fan available on Amazon for $26. I mounted the fan overhead where the original TV used to be. It’s just enough air to provide a nice cooling breeze pushing the air-conditioned air towards the rear of the coach without needing to run the rear air conditioner.  My dogs were able to ride in real comfort all the way in the back on the partially reclined couch/bed. Even Mason was content in the back with the new bilstein shocks creating a far less jarring ride.

The K9 kids

The K9 kids

LOVE the bilstein shocks! Highly recommend them. They are a big improvement over the Monroe’s. I can still feel every rut in the road but it’s smoother, gentler; the front end of my rig seems to be more in touch with the road and overall it’s far more peaceful ride.Bilstein Shocks waiting to be installed

I can’t say the Michelin M3/2’s are quite right or even right at all. but I don’t know at this point what the trouble is. My first drive after the install of the LT M/S 2’s was troubled, the ride improved with the addition of the bilsteins but not enough! The trip from Santa Barbara to Placerville is about 425 miles each way. That’s a long drive for one day, with inevitable traffic, accidents and road construction plus a few semi-leisurely stops to walk the dogs it can and does at times take 11 to 12 hours not the 6.5 hrs as listed on google maps. I’d done this drive faster in my car when I’ve been lucky to find no road hazards.

 

The route I prefer is north on the 101 to  CA 41 which cuts across the state to I-5, although I also like taking the CA 33 at times or even heading to Gilroy or the East Bay before heading inland. CA 41 is often windy and blustery, the 101 can blow strong and the I-5 can be extreme. With the older setup on my rig… with the Monroes and Cooper’s my LT would muster though high wind warnings and heavy gusts without slowing me down.  On one trip the wind was so powerful I was barely able to open the door to the van at a rest stop.

This last trip was windy but it wasn’t that bad. This was fortunate as several times I desperately wanted to turn back, I was stopped from doing this by an unbearable weariness of having to then drive through the same section of hell in reverse. Where previously I could hold the steering wheel strongly and steady, now I could not. No matter how I tried to correct the steering it was constant adjustments and near misses.

To the right, to the left, to left, right, left, left, left, right, left, right , right, never finding any sweet spot; if my attention wandered for a moment my rig and I and the dogs were swiftly tossed out of the lane, really scary with narrow lanes from construction and fast traffic. Seemed my new tires were bent on a different occupation than I’d expected! Ice skating! Slip and glide with a nice pirouette, No, no tires, not fun!  Down, tires, down. My back hurt, my shoulders ached, my eyes became glued.  My mind invented a ton of steering games… let’s see if I can just not touch the wheel more than a whisper, no… well, if I can grip the wheel super hard, maybe grab the wheel in this position, no, that position; hey get the knees in there as balance, ok, not, well try the arm rest, no.. Was so grateful for rest stops!

 

Eventually made it to my friend’s home. I’m sure she suffered for my bad mood and achy demenior.
We had lots of fun though, Lee made sure of that!  And yummy stuff to eat! Thank you Craig and Lee!

Fluffy Zak, not so sure about all this company.

Fluffy Zak, not so sure about all this company.

Olympia relaxing on the Couch

Olympia relaxing on the Couch

 

I was thinking the worst was over, I managed to convince myself the trouble was due to the newness of the tires and going home would be a snap. I did check the wind report in deciding which day to leave and am grateful to whatever part of my brain made that decision as going home was a repeat performance of stay in your lane hell; not quite as bad. I settled for a tight knuckled death grip on the wheel that allowed me to press hard on the accelerator rather than to drive slower and prolong the torture. The next day at home the wind is almost gale force so I left on the right day. When I arrived I stress ate, paced a lot and didn’t sleep much. Woke up early and started research. Came up with a list of maybe’s… I called Henderson’s Line-Up and Brake & RV Inc in Oregon; they said the Michelin LT M/S 2 were the wrong tire, I needed XPS ribs which have a steel sidewall. The M/S 2’s they said would slip and not grip the road. Fine, I checked Costco and other local shops but could not find this tire.  I called Costco when they opened and they explained that the XPS ribs were discontinued but maybe I might find someone who still had some. The tire tech felt the LT M/S 2 were the correct ones for my LTV as he’d installed these on similar coaches.  So I called Henderson’s back and we continued the conversation.  Seems Henderson’s had the Ribs but they were discontinued as not many people liked the jarring ride they produced with the stiff steel sidewalls.

Drove the RV to Dal Pozzo’s. I wanted them to do an alignment, that’s what you do when you get new tires on a regular car. As a first step they wanted to try changing the air pressure again but instead of my hoped for alignment or messing with the air pressure, we went for a very short test ride… me sitting backwards on the passenger seat I leave turned that way for one of my dogs…. I sota of put my seatbelt on …  (hold your eveys, we didn’t get a ticket.) Went on and right off the fwy round a curve.  Mechanic gripped the wheel hard,  looked at me as he wiggled the steering wheel back and forth …. nope, no problem, he said! Everything was normal.  Oh sure, it’s normal to be tortured as you drive,  my opinion wasn’t going to sway his expertise so  I placed the RV under my body like a limp tail and went home. Talked again with Costco then Hendersons in a flame of cross opinions.

Things I considered:  buying a new set of tires; installing a true track bar; a Safety T Stabilizer, rebuilding the front end, larger rims with steel walled tires for the rear, emptying the air rite assist and experimenting with differing amounts of air, same with the tires. . .  more .. less? Driving all the way to Frazier Park to weigh the weight on each tire….  and on and on.

Mom says I push through and find solutions after most people would quit….. Heck, I’m not patient, I’m stubborn and emotional. Gifted women don’t fit stereotypes. Gifted women can come up with original unusual ideas and have a superior ability to reason, generalize and problem solve, along with a vivid imagination, complex deep thoughts, abstract thinking, following multiple tracks at the same time with a high tolerance to ambiguity and complexity, highly sensitive, intense, introverted, aware of things that others are not, perfectionist and curious, not motivated by normal rewards, become outraged at injustice with a wide range of interests, strong moral convictions, visionary, persistent, with a strong need for solitude, non-conforming, sporting a sense of alienation, compassionate and so on. . . here am looking at a list describing adult gifted women and randomly copying some of the items..  and reading a lot of the pitfalls and problems.  See, I’m a victim of being myself. Can’t help being odd and overwrought; give me a problem and I will work it like a racehorse running to its death until someone stops me. Rest now, rest now little Nelly.

But not quite yet. I started calling tire shops…nope, can’t do an alignment for your vehicle… too big…… too heavy…. not enough height in our shop…. on and on. I found out why Dal Pozzo wouldn’t do the alignment, things have changed they just don’t do them anymore. My RV is little but it’s too big to be placed on normal alignment rack.  I tried a few RV places out-of-town they had a 2 to 3 week waiting list.  Then one place (right here in River City,)  said YES!!!  Yipee. My LT may not fit on their rack either but they will do it on the ground. More important they offered to inspect and evaluate the trouble and attempt a solution! Why is this so rare? I learned a lot from talking to him.There are issues to consider: a bad tire, esp since the trouble happened as soon as they were installed, alignment, maybe, wrong tires? not sure, tie rod bearings? Some other front end issue? There are things to explore.

I ate a couple of really big pieces of salmon I cooked with chopped spinach and blueberries… delicious but more food than needed… was supposed to last me a few days, but it’s all gone. I’m tired.  Stay tuned for the next installment of, woman fights back in the battle to save her aging heavy loaded van…