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Old 02-13-2003, 10:20 PM   #1
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Talking Got it! And now the real questions begin...

Well, picked up my new baby yesterday and drove it home!!! What a great feeling - this is my first RV, and its just so cool to have a giant new machine to play with...

Before they sold it to me, they discovered that the fridge wasn't getting very cold, so they gave me the option of replacing the cooling elements in the 22 year old fridge, or putting in a new one at cost, with free labor. I had them put in a brand new 8 cubic foot Dometic, that actually looks like it fits better than the orginal

So far I've put a grand total of 70 miles on it, and now the questions really begin. I've got a few different ones, and rather than spread them out over the various sub-forums, I'll just put them here. If thats considered a breach of etiquette here, plz let me know...

1) Its got an airbag rear suspension. Can anyone recommend a good place (seattle area) to get checked out? Or is there a simple way to pressure-test it yourself? It feels really soft... And the compressor makes an ungodly racket. However, those might be normal - I've never driven something with airbags before.

2) and possibly related, it seems to bottom out pretty easily (when leaving a parking lot with a slight incline, for example). Is that normal? Those drag wheels on the back are getting a workout

3) I had one scary moment going up a rather steep hill, when it felt like the fuel was cutting out. Is that a sign of a weak fuel pump, design flaw in the tank, or something else? Other than that, the engine runs really strong (if the speedo is to be believed, it'll do 70 without straining).

4) So on those super-cool aisle lights (~2" diameter half-chrome, half frosted floor lights), what sort of bulb do they take? Only one of mine is currently working... I tried to replace it with what looked like was in there, a type 89 bulb, but that just blew the fuse... And it doesn't look quite right, the socket has two contacts at the base.

5) The best I can do for a reward for reading this far is that I've got two extra manuals for the original Dometic Fridge. I dunno if people here are fanatical about original documentation, but I'll mail them to anyone who would appreciate it.

Thanks!
-sam
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Old 02-13-2003, 11:18 PM   #2
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Air Bags

When we first got ours we took it to Brents in Federal Way and had it checked out he is very honest and has NEVER tried to sell something that wasn't needed also has ideas for fixing or upgrading. E)mail me if you need more info.
Congrats and welcome to aluminitis
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Old 02-14-2003, 06:57 AM   #3
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[Quote]
(if the speedo is to be believed, it'll do 70 without straining).
[Quote]

I hope Peter doesn't read that! I did 75 on my trip home (and a few times since) with mine and Peter has never let me forget it. 65mph seems to be his limit! The good thing is that my speedo is broken. Ignorance is bliss! I just watch the RPM's and engine temp.
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Old 02-14-2003, 07:14 AM   #4
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sound like shocks might be needed to correct the bottoming out. the good news is they are reasonable to buy and have installed.
The compressors are noisy, that is fairly normal. The airbags can be visually checked for inflation...they should just about fill out the mounting area, if you search threads here I believe Peter posted photos some time ago of his inflated bags.
The front bags can be checked with a tire gauge and should have 55lbs in each.
As for the fuel cutting out..you might have that intermittent rear fuel pump problem that has been mentioned in these pages as well. I changed fuel filters, and cleaned the carb which was really in need of that when i got mine.

Also the floor lights take a single filament small 12v auto bulb. I found some at my local auto parts place that were a bit brighter than the ones replaced, they work well and don't get too hot to melt the covers.
You pull the holder out and the bulb pops in. The only one that gave me ahard time was the step area, where it has caulking around it.

Welcome to the crew! Hope you enjoy your new huge toy.
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Old 02-14-2003, 07:24 AM   #5
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ahhh, my favorite subject: speed. Btw, Fred , 3500rpm equals about 72mph on my rig.
Sam, I would recommend that you get to know your airbag system. I believe your 81 still has the 2 leveling valve system, versus the 1 leveling valve system on the later coaches. The reason why your air compressor makes such a racket is the mounting. Look for missing or worn out rubber gommets.
I installed a $7.- inline pressure gauge to better understand the system.
Low pressure on your airbags could be part of the reason for low rear clearance. Installed skid rollers would lower that point even more.
You can measure your inflated Airbags, 8-10 inches from bottom to top plate would suggest that you are within inflation specs, depending on your model.
Keep an eye on the road ahead, some inclines should be taken at an angle rather than straight on.
I installed a secondary manual controlled fuel pump by the fuel tank.
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Old 02-14-2003, 11:47 PM   #6
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OK, made a little progress

update:
rear airbags appeared completely deflated after sitting for a day - sounds like thats not normal. However, after starting the compressor, they inflated to be 8" tall and firm. Turning off the compressor didn't result in any audible air-escaping noises.

However, the front airbags were at 20 and 30psi! Tomorrow I'll bring those up to 55 and see if a) that pressure holds, and b) what it does for the ride.

And the aisle lights wanted a "90" bulb. I have no idea what that "89" bulb was doing in there (other than blowing the fuse).

Also taking her on a quick overnight trip tomorrow over to the coast, with some friends. Hopefully nothing major will crop up from that, but I want to shake it out a bit before heading down to cali.

-sam
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Old 02-15-2003, 07:08 AM   #7
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Sam, if you soap the entire rear air system down and still don't find a leak, your problem is in the air compressor itself. The old 2 piston compressors tend to leak internally.
This can be fixed by installing or replacing a small inline check valve, which looks like a fitting.
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Old 02-15-2003, 03:57 PM   #8
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Peter- its ok to cut the line and install a pressure gauge, to monitor the air bag levels? Mine seem inflated ok, but my compressor is still on the list to repair, and I am not sure of the pressure I have when I fill from the air pumps. The manual warns about the coach dropping suddenly when the pressure is out of the bags or the links are adjusted. Don't want to have it sitting on my chest.
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Old 02-15-2003, 07:39 PM   #9
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I have found these airbags to be high maintenance and tempermental. They are probably the source of your soft suspension problem. You can check the lines yourself ( soapy water ) if your wiling to crawl under you rig and get a bit dirty. The one-way check valve between the pump and the bags is a great fix for the worn pump scenario. You very likely have a leak in the air lines pay particular notice to any connections. I had 5 warranty problems with a brand new class-b van, all related to these airbags. I took it to Les Schwab tires, they did a leak test for free. Camping World in Fife also did good work fixing the warranty items. I finally spent an afternoon re-routing the air lines and running a line to the dash for an air gauge so I could monitor the system. Camping world sells a nice kit and will also install it for a reasonable price. Try Jet Chev in FedWay for powertrain and chassis work. They sell and service the heavy trucks. Might be worth them doing a check of the carb/fuel system since you mentioned the stumble, going up that hill. Could also be an electrical problem? I found the best place for any "odd" light bulbs is NAPPA. I went all over town for those amber dash lights, finally found them at the local NAPPA.
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Old 02-15-2003, 10:15 PM   #10
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Alan, a quick and easy way to install a cheap inline pressure gauge is right at the pressure regular (grey box).
You have to depressurize your air system, unscrew the pressure regular and install the gauge. You may or may not need some male/female couplers to reconnect the pressure regular on the other end of the pressure gauge.
Evan's in dash pressure gauges is the real way to go, just a lot more work and many more feet of pressure lines to worry about.
And yes, the rear will drop 2-3 inches when the airbags are deflated. Any work under the vehicle should always involve proper frame support. (I will remind myself next time I am crawling around there)
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Old 02-16-2003, 10:21 PM   #11
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my 84 did the gas starvation thing on hills and i replaced the gas filters one in the carb and one on the frame rail . havent had any more problems . the air bags are another beast. pump is noisy that is a good sign even if you have good rubber feet to dampen the vibrations . the compressor will leak . i went thru the hassels of fixing mine and later on i had to put a inline check valve at the compressor. seems that the compressor pumps a lot of moisture into the holding tank and that eventually causes corrosion to the check valve installed on the input to the tank. if you ignore the maintenance on the system the compressor will burn out and thay will get you attention if you install a like compressor.
and do put jack stands under the unit to stop the frame from squeezing your body. might not kill you but is a tight squeeze getting out. i like the in line check valve i couldnt find any of those but found a commercial unit that was twice the size. wouldnt mind getting a saource for one..also dont buy any suspension parts from air stream unless you have to . parts are available from heavy truck supply parts. i try fleetpride and then chevrolet truck div. ask here and you might be supprised to where parts are avail. lol
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Old 02-16-2003, 10:22 PM   #12
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peter where did you get the check vakve???
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Old 02-16-2003, 10:47 PM   #13
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Old 02-16-2003, 11:15 PM   #14
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Blackbox:
If you are at all inclined to do-it-yourself you really need to call Secretarial Services, Sidney, Ohio at (937)492-8885 and get a copy of your service manual. Mine cost $75 and it's worth every penny.

Also see Helminc.com to see if your Chevy chassis manual is still available. My '85 AS needed an out-of-print '84 chassis manual so I bought the '85 manual for $66.50. Great info.

My rear air bags had problems as well. After some work, I found a previous owner had screwed up the compressor safety relief valve to the point that most air was just blown off. The dash low air idiot light wire was disconnected at the compressor

Once I sorted it all out it works just fine (but my tag axle unit is very different from yours).

I did install a pressure guage but I got to look into that checkvalve deal. Gotta' see where he got it.

Jim
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