Category: Repairs


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. 

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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…

I purchased my 1996 Freedom Wide LTV from my fiance’s aunt in 2010 after joyful talking how this rig was in perfect condition and well cared for, only needing a new set of tires and a battery.  My fiance took the RV to his mechanic and for $60 I was told there were no problems and was advised what a great deal it would be.

I erroneously thought that the difficult handling and sloppy steering would be “fixed’” with some new tires, I knew nothing about RVs; the existing tires were in poor condition as the rig had spent too long sitting in one place. I believed my partner, I believed my partner’s mechanic and I believed this dear aunt that everything was good and I was getting an incredible bargain. Aunt was eager to unload as she could no longer make the payments due to medical bills and although she had been “trying” to sell for a very long time, it was explained that this was because she had little time to show it.  So even though the LTV wasn’t exactly what I wanted I made the purchase based on the low cash price feeling that the rig would stay in the family and being my first RV I would enjoy it.

If you’ve followed this blog you know how I suffered for my ignorance! You also know those people in my life are gone, but I’m still here and so is My little LTV. Here are some of the repairs, I know I’ve left some out . .  but you’ll get the gist. .

June, 2010
Dodge Dealer (Santa Barbara)
Tail lamp replaced $119

I requested a full inspection upon purchase: Dealer estimated $4,500 min for repairs only on the vehicle, the Dodge Ram Van 3500 itself (not including tires and battery.) Overall condition was discovered to be poor. I declined service.

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

On request Ian’s refused to install wheel spacers saying there were not recommended. They went as far as to tell me I was crazy in nice terms to even think of such a thing…  according to them the wheels would fall off… no kidding! I’d called Leisure Travel Van in Canada and asked for help; they were very friendly in 2010 explaining that there was a reason they no longer used this Dodge van… After a brief lecture on weight distribution it was their recommendation from others with similar trouble to install wheel spacers.  This turned out to be one of the simplest and best fixes for the horrible handling, but not all that was needed.

Ian’s also installed Monroe shocks, cannot locate receipt for this.  I learned at this time that my van based RV was neither a “real” RV nor was it a van. RV shops did not want to touch it and the majority of car repair facilities would not touch it.

August 2010
Automotive Technician Group (Goleta)
Oil Service & 21 point inspection
Oxygen Sensors replaced
Throttle cleaned
Spark Plug Wires replaced
Cooling system flushed and cleaned
Water Pump, Thermostat and Timing chain replaced
Total: $2,060 including tax

August 2010
Ventura RV Service (Ventura)
Repair leaking water heater (hot water for the coach)… discovered to be corroded:
Installed new water heater tank, door kit and cone seal:
Parts & Labor $743

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

 

September 2010
Serna’s Central Truck Service (Nipomo)
Installed rear sway bar after inspection of handling problems.
Total with tax $954   Sway bar cost $593 plus $42 shipping.
Advised replacement of malfunctioning air conditioner … unable to be serviced.

 
October 2010
Windshield was in terrible condition, very limited visibility…  it was scratched in large circles as if someone had taken a scrubbing agent and tried to “wash” it with heavy grit. Finally had it replaced… had to be done twice, first replacement windshield was defective.
$250

 

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

 

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

 

May 2011
Bruce’s Auto Repair (Goleta)
Replace water pump pulley and water pump (again)
Vehicle overheating.
$334

 

June 2011
Bill’s RV Service (Ventura)
Remove Old Cell phone antenna.
Replace coach fresh water filer.
Oil change and service generator, generator will not start.
Repair Sewer Leak and gray/black tank valve.
Install New Sewer Hose. (Sewer was leaking.)
$570

 

June 2011
Automotive Technicians Group (Goleta)
Wiper blades
Turn front brake rotors and resurface
Install brake rotors and caliper, repack wheel bearings and install new seals
$316

 

June 2011
Automotive Technicians Group (Goleta)
Replace Tensioner Pulley and Serpentine Belt (other, not so old belt kept as spare) fix for high pitch whining noise when pressing accelerator.
$186

 

August 2011
Bruce’s Auto (Goleta)
Install AC Power converter.
I purchased the converter as the original converter would not run modern electronics. Bruce kindly installed it. This was very difficult as he had to work all cramped up on the floor due to bad placement of the converter box.
$400

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 severe trouble after work completed. I eventually was able to receive partial refund after much argument from Ian’s but not without crying, shouting and who knows how many visits. This woman will not be told off by know everything but completely wrong bully mechanics…  so there. Don’t go to Ians.

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 and rig did not drive straight, would barely stop and was very scary to drive… hand brake not engaging.  Took it back over and over, Superior was very nice about it and they tried lots of different fixes…  brakes got better but handling was terrible; I was limping along to shop after shop, eventually I got tired of it. It was a terrible experience as I’d intended to drive out to Michigan to take part in the UKC (United Kennel Club) invitational.  Olympia was #3 Lagotto in the country for that year and was invited to compete. We never did make it…  all my money was wasted on mechanics.

June 2012
Dal Pozzo Corp. (Santa Barbara)
Finally adjusted alignment correctly!!!
Rebalanced tires
$80

June 2012
Bruce’s Auto
Trip check/ oil,  fluids, including fixing sewer hose
Repaired rear window   Note window broke again a few months after repair
$165

February 2013
Lara’s Auto Repair
Decided to try a new place… as rig was STILL overheating going uphill and losing power., unable to run air-conditioner and it was hot….  had to abort trip and limp home.
Oil and filter
Spark plugs
New Thermostat (again)
Differential plug
Ignition wires
Distributor cap and rotor
New Radiator and cap
$1543

Had to bring it back for new coolant temp sensor for the computer (Bruce advised)
$70

In this period of time… my LTV was actually running and handling ok.  Had it serviced just for normal maintenance / oil change / trip checks etc. Or else I tossed out bills from 2014   ????

 

I do know I had it trip checked at Bruce’s and then it needed servicing as soon as I arrived in Placerville.

May 2015
Master’s Automotive (Placerville)
Vehicle overheating up steep grades
Replaced fan clutch
$117

February 2016
New LT M/S 2 tires (4) from Costco!
Balancing and installation
Price not listed on receipt, think it was around $840
March 2016
Bruce’s Auto
Trip check / oil change
Check brakes
Fix seat level
Lower Driver’s side seat belt
Service generator
$260
Repair rear window regulator, shim
$78

 

Currently waiting for new shocks (Bilstein’s) which will be delivered today?

Well shocks are supposed to be here by 8pm and it’s 7:50…  probably will not arrive and I paid extra for expedited shipping. <can you see the face I’m making>

There are major items not on this list as Frans has provided his engineering genius to all kinds of fixes including (but not limited to):

Installing coach battery on/off switch within cabin, easily located under rear view mirror
installing lots of 12 Volt power plugs (much-needed and used!)
Replacing house air conditioner.
Reinstalling closet door including door strip.
Repairing doors, cupboards and locks.
Troubleshooting refrigerator failure (works now.)
Removing original 1996 tube TV and installing 12 Volt TV and rotating mount in rear of coach.
Installing wiring and easy switch for cable vs on air TV reception and (more) auxiliary DC power plugs in newly created storage box where old TV used to be.
Remodeling for easier access: water, power and TV connections for house hookup at campgrounds.
Installing backup camera. Love my backup camera!
Installing mounts for modern electronics and onboard equipment as needed.
Attaching mount for a little outside table.
Writing schematic for new house power unit (Converter.)
Troubleshooting electrical failures and fuse troubles.
Assisting in figuring out the many mysteries of this particular RV.
Took off bolts holding back and side windows from opening.
Giving rides back and forth to mechanics, in and out-of-town.
And providing emotional support when I was ready to give up.

 

Also not on this list is the work that Gabriel of Quality RV did in repairing the damage from a hit and run to the side of my vehicle.  In addition to repairing the fiberglass body and paint, he removed most of the rust and replaced the cracked white molding strip and also cleaned and painted the engine.  Gabriel came up with a work around for the broken passenger seat lever (I have not been able to find a replacement but his team fabricated a repair.) His team also cut out the dip in the gas line to the generator; the dip was causing faulty starts to the generator.

I’ve repaired or modified lots of little things including for insulation and comfort. The side view mirrors continue to be a problem and will likely need to replace.  Some interior touch up painting is needed. Most if not all, screws, bolts and so forth including door fixings have been replaced. I’ve added high quality floor mats to the driver and passenger sides although I am not pleased that they can still hold a stain.

 

 

A song for you my little LTV

Love my baby – Wizkid

 

I didn’t give up on you!

 

 

Found a quick delivery for new Bilstein shocks…  they are on their way!  I’ve long been weary of the Cooper tires with the Heavy Duty Monroe shocks; they are okay but I’m eager for a better ride.The Coopers suffered cupping which according to my tire shop indicated insufficient shocks for my vehicle’s load; I had plenty of use out of them.  I’ve come to understand that the Cooper/Monroe combo is easily obtainable as stock fit for the Dodge Ram 3500; however the van is not really a van when it’s a motorhome. For anyone that has this motorhome of similar vintage you’ve probably come to learn that there is too much weight in the rear which causes the wild steering as these vehicle age.  The GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) from what I’ve found (have not been able to do any real-time weights but I would like to)  is listed at 9,200 pounds for the motorhome; the Dodge Ram Van alone is listed at 6,400 lbs. If anyone knows different please post but going by those numbers it certainly doesn’t make sense not to use the Bilstein’s even if they are more difficult to obtain, my local tire shops cannot sell them or order them but actually they are not at difficult to find; I ordered 4 shocks from the ShockWarehouse http://www.shockwarehouse.com/   They have an online chat which I used to ask questions. This is what I ordered, I asked for speed shipping otherwise shipping would be free. :

2 Bilstein B6 4600 Heavy Duty Shock Absorber Dodge B200 Front 24-014014
Item: 24-014014 
$89.84 $179.6
2 Bilstein B6 4600 Heavy Duty Shock Absorber Dodge B100 Rear 24-184670
Item: 24-184670 
$92.53 $185.06

Sub Total             $364.74
Discount Code (CB10)      – $10.00
Shipping (3 Day) $19.95
Invoice Total      $374.69

I found them just a little bit cheaper on Amazon from the same company but I went ahead and purchased from ShockWarehouse directly.  My shop will install them once they arrive, if you’re handy and good with a jack you might be able to do this on your own. My shop quoted $175 for the instal.

I’m hopeful that these along with the new LT Michelins will significantly improve the ride and drivability of my LTV.  Currently with the new tires the ride is difficult, I can feel every grunt and cracked nuance of the terribly maintained Hwy 101 though Santa Barbara. Where ‘o where are our transportation dollars going!!!   Well, that’s a different subject. I worked as a transportation planner for both County and City and obtained my masters in public administration and I will be happy at a future date to discuss a few salient spicy tidbits….  but later.

Up next I will continue the modifications I’ve made
After that I will review what I’ve done to improve the overall handling of my Dodge van RV. When I first brought home my motorhome it was drivable but only barely. I really did not think  I would be able to get it home that day as it wandered all over the highway wanting to choose for itself which lane, or rather lanes to take. Every passing truck or car shook us out like clothes hanging in the breeze to dry, and the wind!  The wind was impossible.

Right now it’s time to walk the dogs!