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Old 02-05-2003, 02:19 PM   #1
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Motorhome Saga

All:

Well, I took the "Leap of Faith" this past weekend.

I've been lurking within the Forum for quite a while, and it's time to come out of the closet with an announcement.

After a verbal handshake with an estate executor over the phone Alpha Bitch (AB) and I flew to Phoenix, met up with my brother and his wife at the airport, and, after a long day at a mechanic shop, there was an exchange of money and signatures.

The four of us drove back to Houston with our "Brand New" 1987 Airstream Motorhome. --

Making a long initial trip might not have been the smartest thing to do, but hey, Houston is only an airplane flight away from anywhere in the U.S. Besides, we needed to get it from Phoenix to Houston some way.

Looking forward to straightening out some of my "glitches" that come with any 16 year old vehicle, but I suspect that most of them just require TLC that can only come with time.

I hope to keep this thread current with the time and costs involved with ownership for two reasons:

1. To provide a mirror for others who have been in a similar situation, (foresight comparisons appreciated) and,
2. To help any other “Newbie - Wanna Be” in their decision making process.

I have never owned an RV previously, and have been looking for the right opportunity for a couple of years. Initially trailers, fifth wheels, and motors homes were all considered, but with the five (count ‘em – five) dogs that inevitably travel everywhere with us, a motor home was the only reasonable alternative.

Dennis
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Old 02-05-2003, 03:21 PM   #2
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Congratualtions,

You've sprung for a new baby, now you too can experience an infectious case of aluminitus.
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Old 02-05-2003, 04:01 PM   #3
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Dennis,

Welcome to the group! You have found the right forum to discuss (vent) your new purchase. We are all in the same boat! Hold nothing back. Make careful use of the search feature as many topics have already been discussed. These are wonderful beasts that you love and hate at the same time. We do have a member of the Forums in Houston with a 345. I think it is a 1988 or 1989.

We travel with two dogs. They love it. They dash from the front door to the RV! My Pointer/Mut is so excited to go RVing that she leaps clear over the steps and almost kills herself crashing into the dinette.
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Old 02-05-2003, 05:15 PM   #4
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Dennis- best wishes for much enjoyment. A few of us did the flight out/ drive back in our new purchase. Mine was a 9 hour ride throught the mountains and in the rain. Loved it though.
Sorting out the problems will be easier for you after all the help available here. It sure has made my ownership a better one, and i have learned so much over the past year it seems amazing to me, considering I never owned an RV prior to this one either.
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Old 02-05-2003, 06:07 PM   #5
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What is (or who is) "Alpha Bitch"?? Hopefully a dog?

(He said it first)

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Old 02-05-2003, 09:59 PM   #6
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Weight Limitation

Thanks for the encouragement.

One of the things I was concerned about was the carrying capacity of the 345. The overhead plaque clearly stated the maximum weight is 16,500 pounds, so I assumed that “full wet” i.e. full fuel (gas and propane), and full potable water, I would still be able to carry four adults with food, drink, and baggage and a couple of hundred pounds of tools and camping gear.

I was wrong.

After I brought the unit back to Houston, removed baggage, tools, and food, drained and cleaned the potable, gray, and black water tanks, and topped off the fuel, I stopped at a scale close to the storage yard.

Empty Weight – Full fuel, no water, no driver, -- 15,164 pounds.

Add four (4) 170 lb people (680 lbs.), -- 15,844 pounds.

Add 100 lbs drinks, food, cooking utensils -- 15,944 pounds

Add 100 lbs tools and spare parts -- 16,044 pounds

Add 100 lbs of dog and camping gear -- 16,144 pounds


In order to keep the unit within the certified weight limit (16,500 pounds), only 356 pounds (40 gallons) will be available for potable water.


I’ve got a lot to learn.
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Old 02-05-2003, 11:58 PM   #7
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Hello Dennis, welcome out of the closet and congrats on your new Rig. We just picked up our Airstream Motor Home ( 1991 25ft ) the last few days of Dec. 2002. We flew to Green Bay WI from Seattle WA, then drove up to Escanaba MI (4hrs). After picking up the Motor Home at the dealer we drove back to Seattle Wa, about 2100 miles and 4 days, during a fierce Mid-West Cold spell. During the trip the wind shield wipers stopped working, we had to run the furnace day and night to keep warm in the below zero temperatures, my wife and I both caught the 24hr flu and had to stop in a rest area for a full day to recover, Crossed two Mountain ranges etc. Crazy you say? maybe, but we Washingtonians are a hardy lot. We made it back safe and can now look back at this as our first big adventure in our new rig. This is our 5th RV, 3 Airstream Trailers, one B-van. We love our AS MH and can't wait for this spring to really get out. Right now we are going through the "silver bullet" much like you are. Its been fun. Everyone at the AS dealer and camping world we have been going to really like this old classic and we have given many tours. Hope you enjoy your new rig as much and welcome!
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Old 02-06-2003, 11:34 AM   #8
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this is great. Another happy Airsteam MH owner.
I also flew to Columbus, Ohio and inspected /purchased and drove back home with my '81 28' MH in nov 2002.
This was thru the mountains of Tenn. on I-75. Did the overnight in Knoxville at a Flying J. I was impressed at how stable it was.
I did wonder about the power of the 454 but when I got to the mountains it was no big deal.
good luck with your MH.
There is a wealth of infomation here. if you don't find it ask and you will get an answer.
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Old 02-07-2003, 10:00 PM   #9
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Thanks all,

As time passes, I am more and more satisfied that I made the proper decision in purchasing this particular rig, but there was a lot of trepidation just prior to the final decision.

I was somewhat taken aback when I first saw the unit. It was at an independent automotive shop of questionable pedigree, the shop was crowded, dirty, and totally disorganized. The various mechanics were meandering amongst engine blocks, cars in various state of assembly, and, of course, the Airstream that had everything blocked. The mechanics pretty much were working on vehicles on the street, looking for tools, and wondering where the replacement parts had been placed.

Nowhere did I see a proper work area or, more disturbing, any cut sheets or manuals.

A couple of the mechanics had my soon to be rig elevated with the front rubber off of the ground by only the fully extended leveling jacks. Much worse, the jacks were angled outboard, and had taken on almost a 30 degree camber angle. There is now a permanent deformation in the leveling assembly, fortunately the frame was not skewed, the jack mounts sustained all of the damage. Of course this abuse caused at least one of the piston seals to crater. I will have to straighten it at a later date, fortunately, we found that we really did not need the levelling system on the return trip to Houston.

At this time the transfer of title had not yet happened, so I didn’t have much say in the matter. Preceding to my arrival by plane, I had requested the Seller Negotiator to (at my expense) change the engine oil, tranny and differential fluid, inspect the brake system, lube all zert fittings, pressure test all pneumatics, and repack the bearings. The shop had the rig since the Saturday prior my arrival on Friday morning. It was fairly evident they had not done much with it the first part of the week.

The PO’s estate executrix, God Bless her, had wanted to assure herself and the estate that she was selling a reliable vehicle with no hidden flaws, had somehow chosen this shoddy shop to do the checkout.

Two of the mechanics were doing something with the circuitry going to the electric dual front radiator fans. An interminable period ensued to locate various off the shelf parts (fuses, relays, connectors, etc.). Hindsight has determined they did not have a clue as to what they were doing. More on this issue later.

After the fiasco with the electricals, they attacked a deficient mechanical fuel pump. Same story, different part, first replacement didn’t fit, second didn’t work, third try was the charm.

Long story short, these yahoos took a 2 hour inspection and stretched it into an 8 hour day. Needless to say, my plans of being on the road by noon on Friday dissolved due to the fact that we were still at the shop at sunset.
With no time cards or itemized list, the shop owner charged me $330 for the items I had requested (with the exception of the gas filters). A bit high, but, in my opinion, the Preventative Maintenance had to be done prior to me undertaking a 1200 mile journey in an unknown vehicle. The Seller was hit with an $850 charge – outrageous, especially in light of the fact that truly the only progress made on actual repairs was the replacement of the fuel pump.

Enough for now, later a description of the test drive and our Saturday sunrise departure.
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Old 02-08-2003, 11:15 AM   #10
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Dennis

FWIW I wouldn't haul 40 gallons of water around, it is fairly easy to find everywhere. I drink bottled water, don't trust the water quality in most areas. My tank is unbaffled and only had plywood cleats to keep the tank from moving. 350 lbs. is a lot of weight to slosh around, you can use half of it for other things and should still have plenty to get to where you can fill it before you camp.

John
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Old 02-09-2003, 10:30 AM   #11
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When we bought out MH in 95 we had a "reputable" rv repair/dealer in Bellingham go through it. 250.00 later we bought (happily) our MH. After trying to use the microwave found it wouldn't work after 30 sec. The horn didn't work, the cruise control didn't work ( that was fixed in Rapid City by a Harley Davidson shop) go figure just a little cable, we thought the water pump was going out on our maiden voyage 5 days after we brought her home but it was fine, had a boil over problem due to a to small radiator and no fan so that was fixed. Several small but annoying things we had to deal with when we got home we tried to go back to the rv dealer and that was a waste of time. One of his managers said they do a terribe inspection job and usually charge a lot more. They are no longer in business. That is the good news. Still never regretted it
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Old 02-09-2003, 12:13 PM   #12
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I had a similar experience. The local RV shop was a pit! Dirt everywhere. Totally disorganzied. The things we asked for took forever. They must stay in business because of the lack of competition because it would not take much to knock these idiots out of business. My biggest concern was that my 345 would get dented. They had RV's every which way but loose. I was glad to get it out of there unharmed. It hasn't been back since.

The gang here at the forums quickly informed me that I needed to become my own repair shop and fix these things myself. After all, I was much more inclined to do it right and not cut corners. I'm still learning but I think I will attempt the front air bags at some point. Doing them myself cuts the cost in less than half.
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Old 02-09-2003, 12:18 PM   #13
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Amen Our door repair was one that saved us as did many other things that we could do I am a operating engineer/jack of all trades so most everything is possible.
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Old 02-20-2003, 06:52 PM   #14
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Purchase and Trip Home

I thought I’d archive the rest of the purchase and the three day trip from Phoenix to Houston.

THE PURCHASE

The PO’s rep drove the unit from the Mechanic shop (?) to her residence, and, while I didn’t drive it, I observed all of the chassis systems. In hindsight, this was a good way to survey the vehicle, since I did not have to pay attention to the actual control of the vehicle; I was able to concentrate on watching for vibrations, hesitations, and shift points. All of the chassis systems, other than the AC, Electric Radiator Fans, Cruise Control, and Rear Air Bag Compressor, appeared to be operational. We had manually filled all of the air bags on the suspension system by external sources to determine that they were functional. The Electric Radiator Fans were a non issue as they would not be needed for the trip, and I sorely suspected that the aforementioned “mechanics” were not exactly electrical geniuses as far as their rewiring skills were concerned.

The four of us, brother and his wife, AB (Alpha Bitch or Sweet Wife, term of endearment changes hourly) and I checked into a hotel for the night. For me, it was a sleepless night. I was agonizing over whether or not hand over a significant chunk of change for a rig that, in all honesty, had not presented an exceptional initial presentation. By the same token, the rig was in really good basic shape, externally, internally, electrically, and mechanically; all of the dysfunctions were relatively minor, and it appeared as if my brother and I could probably field repair any of the critical systems needed for the three day trip back to Houston…..and the price was right.

As we approached the seller’s front door at daylight the next morning, I really did not know what I was going to do, but two things suddenly fell into place as I walked into her house.
1.) It met my initial requirement – I could try this Airstream thing for a year or two and, if it didn’t work out, not take more than a nominal hit to the pocketbook. More importantly……
2.) The Alpha Bitch liked it!!!

The decision was now a no brainer.

We walked in, plunked down the previously agreed upon sum of cash, and walked out with keys and title.

THE TRIP

Prior to departing Phoenix on the Interstate, we topped off gasoline and LPG, dropped the rental car off at the airport, and stopped for supplies at (where else?) Wal-Mart. Copious quantities of paper towels, disinfectants, brushes, and other assorted cleaning supplies, along with drinks, foodstuffs, and snacks were stowed in the belly of the beast, a quick mechanical walk around, and we were eastbound and down, loaded up and truckin’.

The new rig was a pleasure to drive, the weather was perfect, the traffic was light, and the company was good.

While on the road, we spelled off driving duties and were able to pore over the various manuals, receipts, and installation guides left by the PO. The PO was an engineer, and fortunately had left an extensive library of information and documentation concerning the Airstream’s systems, repair history, and historical preventive maintenance schedule. After the first survey of the standard Chevy Chassis Manual and the Airstream Owner’s Manual, an impressive manuscript of over 400 easy to follow pages, we determined that the electrical system was apparently the heart of most of the minor annoyance glitches, including the non-op dash AC, air suspension compressor, and aux fan for the radiator. It did my heart good to attain some level of confidence that putting the rig back into first class shape was going to be neither an expensive nor time consuming endeavor.

Better yet, Alpha Bitch had mounted an impressive attack on the interior dust and grime. This is where the construction quality of Airstream really manifested itself. The patina of the solid oak cabinetry was quickly glowing as the layers of grunge disappeared into paper towels, the original colors of the upholstery appeared, and the extensive glass surfaces were once again crystal clear. The only things not salvageable were the original curtains. This was by no means indicative of the PO lifestyle; the rig had simply been sitting for almost a year exposed to the American South West elements.

That night, after an easy 400 miles, we enjoyed a traditional Mexican cuisine in Las Cruces, New Mexico. By the time we had sampled the various styles of Margaritas the waiter claimed was unique to the establishment, we believed him when he told us Billy the Kid had once eaten at the Cantina.

After a solid night’s sleep in our new motor home we were awakened by an awesome sunrise over the mountains to the east of Las Cruces. Prior to departing for the day’s journey, we inspected and cleaned electrical connections. The dash AC and Air Suspension Compressor were now operational. We didn’t touch the Aux Radiator Fan; the Temp gauge indicated a rock solid 210 degrees F during the first day’s drive.

Day two was also an uneventful 400 mile day. Taking our time, we enjoyed the passing panorama of the West Texas desert. The first fill up indicated 7.4 MPG. No oil usage at all for 400 miles. That evening, I felt confident that the Motor Home was going to become part of the family, and broke out a bottle of champagne I had been saving since the millennium; we discussed possible names for the beast.

Day three another early morning gas fill up – 7.3 MPG. Told brother to back off of the 72 MPH cruise and to keep the RPM’s around 3 grand. He successfully negotiated the spaghetti bowls of San Antonio, and handed off the remainder of the trip to me. We enjoyed an early afternoon arrival into our temporary home base of Katy, Texas. Final fill up indicated 7.2 MPG for the leg, and still no discernable oil usage, but the motor manifested a “diesel” run-on with the accompanying familiar gas odor at shut down. Carburetor inspection time!

Debriefing after the trip, we decided we had not taken any unnecessary risks nor made any significant unwise decisions. We all agreed that we should have allotted a couple of extra days for the trip in order to make time to stop and enjoy some of the locations we passed so close to (i.e. Ciudad Juarez, Saguaro, Sonora Caves, the Alamo).

The next day afforded additional time for a more thorough inspection of the engine. Somewhere along the way a 1” hose on the engine recirculating air pump had slipped off, and we also found a couple of vacuum leaks. (Cause of Carburetor and Cruise Control problems?) Further trouble shooting and repair delayed because I had to take Brother and his wife to airport for return flight to their home in Missouri.

Another AS newbie, Mike Robinson (factory new trailer) came over and introduced me to the fine art of Black Tank Dumping. After rinse and cleanup (no, we didn’t take a “brown shower”) we deposited approved chemicals in the holding tanks. Also discussed were potential approaches for the covered parking at the U-Store facility.

Quote –
“That ass end sure do make a wide swing in a tight turn.”
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