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RV Tech Savvy: Brake Failure Warning

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

You asked MotorHome:

On a return trip from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the brake system on our motorhome failed. We were able to safely reach a truck stop and a trucker found brake fluid on the ground. The wrapped brake line had rusted and broke. Apparently, moisture gathered inside the heat shielding and caused the corrosion. It looks like an engineering goof.

Fortunately, repair was made the next morning and we arrived home safely. Pennsylvania requires annual inspection of brakes, tires, etc., but no way would a tech be able to detect a corroded brake line under the wrapping. I reported the incident to Ford and its reps said they will check further for recall.

George DeMoss | Hatboro, Pennsylvania

Our Expert’s Reply:

Thanks for sharing your experience and warning. Owners in regions with frequent rain or high humidity, or where salt is used on the roads in winter are most at risk. Obviously, you should never drive with a brake failure. Owners can report a safety defect at www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/VehicleComplaint or call 888-327-4236.

Trailering a Vehicle

You asked MotorHome: We are new to RVing. We own a 2017 Thor Hurricane 34F motorhome. We see many motorhomes on the road towing a dinghy vehicle behind. We are wondering about the pros and cons of trailering a vehicle rather than towing one. We own a 2018 Cadillac XT5 that we could tow on an 18-foot flatbed trailer that we would use for other tasks. Seems like this would be similar to trailering a boat, and be less wear and tear on the vehicle being towed. I understand that the motorhome’s gas mileage would suffer some. Wouldn’t there be less resistance from the dual-axle trailer than from the drivetrain of the Cadillac? Any suggestions and insights will be greatly appreciated.

Roy and Laurie Scherrer | Pikeville, Pennsylvania

Our Expert’s Reply: Dinghy towing is indeed popular, and we publish an annual dinghy towing guide (www.motorhome.com/download-dinghy-guides) that lists all vehicles approved by their manufacturers for towing with all four wheels on the ground (also called flat towing, or recreational towing). Trailering does reduce wear and tear on a towed vehicle, especially the drivetrain components and tires. It also allows virtually any vehicle to be brought along, even if it is not approved for dinghy towing. Some motorhome owners opt to transport their dinghy vehicles inside enclosed trailers for additional protection. However, the overall and hitch weights of these trailers usually limit towing to larger diesel motorhomes. Fuel economy will, of course, suffer more as you add weight. The trailer axles may roll somewhat easier than the car’s drivetrain, but the difference will be negligible and the added weight of the trailer will more than offset any reduction in rolling resistance.
Weight ratings are important. Your motorhome’s hitch receiver rating is 8,000 pounds, the gross combination weight rating (GCWR) is 26,000 pounds, and the maximum gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is 22,000 pounds. Therefore, you need to weigh your motorhome to determine accurate towing capabilities. For example, if your motorhome is loaded to the maximum GVWR, you only have 4,000 pounds remaining capacity for a trailer and car (26,000 minus 22,000 = 4,000). Another serious issue is hitch weight.
According to Thor customer service, the motorhome has a maximum allowable hitch weight rating of 800 pounds. Motorhomes like yours have a considerable amount of rear overhang, and this causes hitch weight leverage to be multiplied based on the distance from the rear axle centerline. Exceeding the hitch weight rating could lead to structural failure. If the weights and your budget allow a trailer, consider one made of aluminum, which will save hundreds of pounds. Using a tow dolly is another, lighter alternative, considering the XT5 is not approved for dinghy towing.

Residential Refrigerators

You asked MotorHome: We are considering the purchase of a new Winnebago Intent motorhome that has a residential-style refrigerator (it does not run off propane when there is no electricity). The Winnebago is equipped with a 1,000-watt inverter and two house batteries. A Winnebago rep told me, according to their tests, the refrigerator should run about 48 hours on the two house batteries when fully charged. We often dry camp for up to 10 days at a time. We use a generator about four or five hours a day to make coffee, use the microwave, watch TV, etc. We could run it more, but we enjoy camping the way we do. In our current motorhome, the refrigerator would run on propane using a minimal amount when not on the generator or camping with hookups, and we have had no problems. My wife likes the idea of the larger refrigerator, of course. We are concerned about keeping the house batteries charged. Would we have to run our generator more than we do now? Will the house batteries recharge completely?

I am hoping you can tell me in simple terms if the 1,000-watt inverter and house refrigerator will do what I want it to do. I know that if we are just traveling and spend nights at an RV park with hookups that there should be no problems, but I am not sure about dry camping.

Gary Epps | Edmond, Oklahoma

Our Expert’s Reply: Upgrading the electrical system for off-grid camping is quite common, so if you like the motorhome, there are things you can do. The battery charging capacity of the power converter determines, for the most part, how long it will take to recharge your batteries with the generator or shorepower. According to Winnebago, the Intent has a 55-ampere charging capacity, so the batteries should get recharged well before your 4-5 hour genset run is over. Deep discharges (greater than 50 percent) shorten battery life, so I suggest maintaining them above that level. There are a couple of other possibilities for keeping battery power up to snuff while dry camping. First, as with any system, the batteries are the foundation. You can consider increasing the size of the battery bank, and/or employing a new technology like lithium, which will give you better run time with lighter weight.

Lithium and AGM don’t off-gas, so they can be installed anywhere, including in a compartment. Then there’s charging off the grid, and solar is the most common go-to off-the-grid power source for RVers. There are numerous choices for RV solar photovoltaic systems from companies like Xantrex Solar, Samlex Solar and more. AM Solar in Springfield, Oregon, is a great resource online for sizing and equipment information at www.amsolar.com. Battleborn Battery and Trojan Battery are good resources for AGM and lithium battery information.

Towing a Nissan Armada

You asked MotorHome: Can I tow a 2017 Nissan four-wheel-drive Armada behind a motorhome? What needs to be done to the Armada and what are the approximate costs?

Denny Setzer | Tyler, Texas

Our Expert’s Reply: This model is not approved by Nissan to be flat towed behind a motorhome. Therefore, it is not listed in MotorHome’s 2017 Guide to Dinghy Towing. According to Remco, a leading authority on modifying vehicles for towing, it must be towed using a trailer. The cost will depend on the price of the trailer. Unfortunately, flat towing may cause severe damage to drivetrain components.

Ride Improvement — Comment

Have a tech question?This comment is on “Ride Improvement” in the October 2018 issue. We have a 2000 Winnebago Chieftain 36W on a Ford F-53 chassis. I am the third owner. The previous owner told me that he was running 120 psi in the tires, which were load range H. The ride was rather harsh, to say the least. In checking things out, I found the manufacturer’s data panel and noted that the tires were the correct size; however, the data panel had an “F” after the tire size. I took it to mean that the tires should be load range F. I changed all seven tires accordingly and inflated them to 80 psi as per the data panel. The change to the quality of the ride was dramatic! The coach now rides so much better. It was the best improvement I have made.

Bruce Bretschneider | Peoria, Arizona

The Ford F-53 motorhome chassis of that era came with 19.5-inch wheels on the 18,000-, 20,500- and 22,000-pound GVWRs and (according to the F-53 Fleet Guide manual) the tire size was 245/70R19.5. Your coach should have the 20,500-pound GVWR. According to Winnebago technical services, you are correct — the tires should be load range F. That said, why did the previous owner increase the tire load rating? Often RVers do this to hedge against tire blowouts, especially if they are at the GVWR or are overloading the rig. The LR-H tires are a harsher ride when fully inflated, but another option would have been to weigh the motorhome and reference the tire load/inflation table, available from the tire manufacturer, and adjust the pressure accordingly. That may have made the ride a little more appealing. I also have to wonder if the original wheels were rated for 120 psi. But, you’re in good shape with the original tire size. Nice work!

Towing a 2019 Honda Fit

You asked MotorHome: Please let me know if my new 2019 Honda Fit with manual transmission is safe to flat tow (all four tires down). My 2010 Fit with manual transmission towed flat like a charm.

Russell Green | via email

Our Expert’s Reply: Models with the manual gearbox are towable; those with the continuously variable transmission (CVT) are not. Per the owner’s manual:

Models with manual transmission: Your vehicle can be towed behind a motorhome. Perform the following procedure before towing your vehicle:
1. Shift to Neutral.
2. Release the parking brake.
3. Turn the ignition switch (or power mode) to ACCESSORY. Make sure the steering wheel does not lock.
4. Turn off all electrical devices. Do not use any accessory power sockets. This can prevent the battery from running down.

Whenever in doubt, always consult the owner’s manual. Look in the index under towing, flat towing, recreational towing or dinghy towing to find out if your vehicle is towable, and if so, what is involved.


Ken FreundMotorhome DIYRV TechRV Tech Savvy

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