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Old 10-06-2020, 10:28 PM   #1
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1987 32.5' Airstream 325
Windsor , Ontario
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1987 325 MH died on the road....help!

I have taken two trips with my MH this year. Both trips to the same local about three hours away. On my first trip in June, no issues on my ride up, parked for a week and drove home. About twenty minutes from home I noticed a definite lack of power, sort of stalling. I kept my foot on the gas, without accelerating, and the engine recovered. This happened two more times before I got home and I reacted the same way and powered through it. Took it in to the garage to see if I could find the issue and fix. I thought it might be starving for gas so I had that system checked thoroughly for leaks, blockage etc. All fuel systems checked ok although the venting seemed to be struggling. They found that my gas cap was sticky and cleaned it up and starting seemed to be much better. With the gas flow better and starting more solid I thought that we were good.

My trip to the same park in September had no issues on the way up. 2.5 hours of good strong travel. On the way home the unit stalled while in transit and I had to pull over. I had to trickle charge the battery to get going so I thought it might be the battery. My negative terminal was loose and quite hot, so I took it out and hitched to town to buy a new one ( or at least check it) . Autzone verified that the battery was good so I thought a better connection should do it. I had good strong turn over but did not seem to have gas. Hitched back to town to make sure I had enough gas to start (gas gauge is not very accurate).

Got it started and drove to fill it up. Got back on the road and after five minutes started feeling that dreadful lack of power. I tried to continue but the engine started to back fire. I knew I could go no further so I pulled over and had it towed two hours home.

I'm Thinking that there is are break in the wiring somewhere that fails intermittently. Does not seem to be a fuel issue. I am absolutely sick about this as this i the third trip back to the mechanic and we are no closer to finding an answer. I have recommended that all wires be checked for continuity. He noted that the battery terminals on my second and third batteries could clasp the terminals better but I think those don't affect the motor operation. I did have a alternator failure and the way it failed (with the back firing) was reminiscent.
Mechanic has said the alt is charging fine.

I want to see if anyone has experienced a similar or same problem. I don't know where to start with this and with such an excellent knowledge base my Airstream mates may have a solution.

Thanks in advance to any suggestions or responses.
Regards, Chris
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Old 10-07-2020, 12:04 AM   #2
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Gas or diesel engine?
Any Belts slipping or showing wear from being misaligned or stretched? Timing belt getting ready to fail? Plugs fouling? Air filter full of sh**? Try to think about weather - outside temperature and humidity. Does it happen on level straightaway or in hilly terrain? If you sit for an hour or two after it acts up and then try to restart the engine does it get better, stay the same or get worse? Contaminated fuel? In an abundance of caution I treat my diesel to an occasional anti-algae treatment due to being in Florida.
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Old 10-07-2020, 06:03 AM   #3
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1994 30' Excella
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Thats is hard to deal with. So sorry! I have experienced similar problems with 3 different MH's, so my guess assuming you have a carburetor is fuel. You said they checked everything fuel related, you sure they did?
The most common overlooked filter is the inline filter inside of the carburetor, which I experienced to cause just those intermittent issues. How many filters do you know about? There may be a hidden one on the rail and another one at the rear fuel pump (assuming you have that additional pump). The first filter inline needs to be canister type filter and not a super fine micron inline filter.
MH #1: Inline filter inside carb clogged
MH #2: first filter before rear fuel Pump clogged due to it being too fine
MH #3: Sludge in first canister type filter from dirty fuel tank causing intermittent power issues, especially at idle
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Old 10-07-2020, 06:36 AM   #4
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My 345 has the rear electric fuel pump, even though you could hear it running I found it was not pumping fuel, I disconnected the fuel line on the exit side and turned on the pump and no fuel would flow. The result was that on any hill it would loose power and back fire through the carburetor. I had to keep trying to feather the throttle to match the flow of fuel through the mechanical pump. Just an idea to check. This happened when I purchased the Motorhome bringing it home from Florida to Ohio.
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Old 10-07-2020, 06:40 AM   #5
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I can't remember....1987 still have a distributor?? Look down inside the distributor at the pickup wheel for the HEI hall effect switch. If there is crud and it has a rusty look, it's time for a new distributor.
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Old 10-07-2020, 06:43 AM   #6
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Replace the ignition coil. I've had symptoms like that and they were signs that the coil was starting to fail.
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Old 10-07-2020, 07:54 AM   #7
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2000 30' Excella
GTA , Ontario
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Quote:
Originally Posted by realpank View Post
I have taken two trips with my MH this year. Both trips to the same local about three hours away. On my first trip in June, no issues on my ride up, parked for a week and drove home. About twenty minutes from home I noticed a definite lack of power, sort of stalling. I kept my foot on the gas, without accelerating, and the engine recovered. This happened two more times before I got home and I reacted the same way and powered through it. Took it in to the garage to see if I could find the issue and fix. I thought it might be starving for gas so I had that system checked thoroughly for leaks, blockage etc. All fuel systems checked ok although the venting seemed to be struggling. They found that my gas cap was sticky and cleaned it up and starting seemed to be much better. With the gas flow better and starting more solid I thought that we were good.

My trip to the same park in September had no issues on the way up. 2.5 hours of good strong travel. On the way home the unit stalled while in transit and I had to pull over. I had to trickle charge the battery to get going so I thought it might be the battery. My negative terminal was loose and quite hot, so I took it out and hitched to town to buy a new one ( or at least check it) . Autzone verified that the battery was good so I thought a better connection should do it. I had good strong turn over but did not seem to have gas. Hitched back to town to make sure I had enough gas to start (gas gauge is not very accurate).

Got it started and drove to fill it up. Got back on the road and after five minutes started feeling that dreadful lack of power. I tried to continue but the engine started to back fire. I knew I could go no further so I pulled over and had it towed two hours home.

I'm Thinking that there is are break in the wiring somewhere that fails intermittently. Does not seem to be a fuel issue. I am absolutely sick about this as this i the third trip back to the mechanic and we are no closer to finding an answer. I have recommended that all wires be checked for continuity. He noted that the battery terminals on my second and third batteries could clasp the terminals better but I think those don't affect the motor operation. I did have a alternator failure and the way it failed (with the back firing) was reminiscent.
Mechanic has said the alt is charging fine.

I want to see if anyone has experienced a similar or same problem. I don't know where to start with this and with such an excellent knowledge base my Airstream mates may have a solution.

Thanks in advance to any suggestions or responses.
Regards, Chris
Hi Chris.

You need Fuel, Compression and Spark. To run at maximum efficiency.

The diagnostic approach is to determine which of the 3 did you loose?

It sounds like fuel delivery ( but with out "feeling it and seeing it" hard to tell

1. Fuel delivery to the Carburetor - lines- pump- filters

2. Fuel delivery to the engine - carburetor - vacuum leaks - intake gaskets - EGR issues


To Start I would perform a fuel delivery test. As it could be a weak pump, plugged screen, filter, or a perforated line allowing air bubbles, Look up the Fuel spec's for example (1.5 gallon a minute). Test at the farthest away from the tank ( this way you test filters and connections) and run a "extra" hose into a bucket and time it. ( At my shop we have a volume tester) does it pump
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Old 10-07-2020, 11:13 AM   #8
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X2 on the ignition coil. The maiden voyage of our 310 was interrupted by a failing coil, symptoms got worse as the engine got hotter until it finally quit completely. To me, backfiring says ďignition problemĒ as fuel is getting into the motor and detonating at the wrong time.
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Old 10-07-2020, 11:40 AM   #9
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All of the above needs to be checked out. On two previous MH had similar issues with the EGR valve and fule pump.
Don't know if the 87 has a throttle position sensor. Ours went out on our 1994 Airstream Land Yacht MH. Did the same thing as you are describing.
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Old 10-07-2020, 12:51 PM   #10
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1987 325 MH died on the road.-reply

After looking at your problem message and the replies, I would add the following:
  • gasoline ages just as poorly as diesel, although with different characteristics. If you don't keep your tank full and exercise the vehicle regularly, you need to add fuel stabilizers and water absorption chemicals to the tank before storage. The modern alcohol plus gasoline mixture draws moisture even worse than the old gasoline and the alcohol also is corrosive to metals and the old rubbers that made up pre-'90's fuel systems. Water can pool in your fuel tank (with both gas and diesel) and depending on your tank's pick up point, can run normally or choke out the fuel supply with water.
    • if your vehicle runs fairly well going uphill or on level ground and poorly going downhill, I would look here first.
  • gas fuel tanks from you vehicle's era and forward can have a duck foot filter at the bottom of the fuel pickup in the tank. These can clog and clear intermittently. Depending on direction in tank, they could choke or flow depending on angle of vehicle although this is rare.
  • old fuel lines should be replaced with newer materials more resistant to alcohol if yours is a gas rig
  • all fuel filters from inside the tank to inside thevcarb should be checked and replaced per maintenance schedule or more often if the vehicle sits most of the time without being driven.
  • a bad coil or failing distributor can cause backfires and loss of power, but I would think these would show up during any long drive and you should have had problems outbound as well as homeward-bound.
  • backfires are generally caused by incorrect timing or incorrect fuel mixture (generally over lean of fuel to air). Vacuum leaks can also drive over-lean conditions, but again, I would expect this to have been a problem on the trip out as well as the trip back.
Good luck on this. One last FWIW, don't be in love with one mechanic. If you are back for round two and your guy isn't sure where to look next, you may have the wrong guy. Look for a GOOD truck shop for your mechanical support. The top part of your rig may be a tiny home but the bottom is a truck, pure and simple.
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Old 10-07-2020, 01:31 PM   #11
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The new distributor idea is a good one. Except for plugs and plug wires these distributors contain pretty much the entire ignition system, including the coil, and are not that expensive. I carried one as a spare on our Alaska trip.
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Old 10-07-2020, 01:41 PM   #12
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I bet your totally confused now.....to many possibilities of what could be wrong. Without throwing out a lot of money and replacing parts that donít need to be replaced I suggest you either find someone that can diagnose your problem or you do it yourself. It could be a lot of things or 1 thing thatís wrong. Do you have the ability to do it yourself ? If no, then find someone who does.
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Old 10-07-2020, 02:37 PM   #13
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2000 30' Excella
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobmiller1 View Post
I bet your totally confused now.....to many possibilities of what could be wrong. Without throwing out a lot of money and replacing parts that donít need to be replaced I suggest you either find someone that can diagnose your problem or you do it yourself. It could be a lot of things or 1 thing thatís wrong. Do you have the ability to do it yourself ? If no, then find someone who does.
I agree Bob
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Old 10-07-2020, 02:45 PM   #14
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1994 30' Excella
1992 35' Airstream 350
Austin , Texas
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Quote:
Originally Posted by realpank View Post
....
I want to see if anyone has experienced a similar or same problem. I don't know where to start with this and with such an excellent knowledge base my Airstream mates may have a solution.

Thanks in advance to any suggestions or responses.
Regards, Chris

The man asked and some of us replied and shared their experience and offered free advice. And yes, its free advice and should always be looked at with scrutiny.
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Old 10-07-2020, 02:46 PM   #15
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Talking

Quote:
Originally Posted by bobmiller1 View Post
I bet your totally confused now.....to many possibilities of what could be wrong. Without throwing out a lot of money and replacing parts that donít need to be replaced I suggest you either find someone that can diagnose your problem or you do it yourself. It could be a lot of things or 1 thing thatís wrong. Do you have the ability to do it yourself ? If no, then find someone who does.
And for today's heavy weight bout in the RED corner THE PARTS CANNON and in the BLUE corner DIAGNOSTIC TESTING.

Alright when you hear the bell give it your best and I want a good clean fight.

Good luck.
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Old 10-07-2020, 03:00 PM   #16
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1987 34.5' Airstream 345
Auckland , New Zealand
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Hi Chris,
My 87 345 had that loss off power problem seems when ever it felt like it ie no apparent rhyme or reason, talk about loosing confidence in taking these beasts out for a walk:}
Well as it has just been said this leads to total confusion so sorry if I add to it but read on how I sorted mine!
I have tried to write this as simply as I can but it has produced to many words to explane something so simple, best over the next day will take some photo's and let them do the explaining.
Here is the posible cause,
(prob1) a gas tank needs to be deep - narrow and short.take a look on the ouside off any commercial Truck!
Take a look at yours, its the opposite its shallow -wide and long.
(prob 2).The fuel sloshers around and if low say around 1/4 full that external carter electric pump strapped to the rear 31 feet away is no good at sucking air or fuel as it is sucking up from the inside bottom and over outside top causing air pocket into the input side off the carter Ellectric Pump ie intermittent fuel supply.
(Prob 3) after thirty odd years the coatings are breacking down and rusting inside off tank so there goes your new filters ahhhhh the airstream MH gas tank has caused more MH resale's than any other single part,
You just end up not trusting it in traffic.
In short I fitted a red marine tank fitted right up front where that old weighty n dangerous torpedoe LPG tank once sat. Steepest hills Longest hills up or down now I have full confidence it won't cough splutter n pass out.
If any one is ever interested in photo's i'll post with details..

Rus
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Old 10-07-2020, 03:40 PM   #17
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I had a very long problematic trip to Ontario Canada and back to SanDiego, it did the exact thing as you described. Several times a day, We finished, the trip by traveling at night. My problem was fuel delivery, when things got hot outside I had problems, it was vapor lock. The fuel would vaporize before it reached the pump. I re did the entire fuel delivery system including a in tank pump.
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Old 10-07-2020, 05:32 PM   #18
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I see 5 votes for fuel delivery, 2 for ignition coil, and 2 for distributor.

I would replace the $20 coil as preventative maintenance if it's original, and then make sure the fuel delivery system is clean and flowing well, my $.02
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Old 10-07-2020, 06:48 PM   #19
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If you have GM engine the module inside the distributor will do what you are describing. Intermittent at first and then gets worse eventually quitting altogether. With the distributor cap off very easy to change.
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Old 10-07-2020, 07:28 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kdfulsome54 View Post
If you have GM engine the module inside the distributor will do what you are describing. Intermittent at first and then gets worse eventually quitting altogether. With the distributor cap off very easy to change.
That's what I was referring to above. I suspect ignition over fuel. The HEI module, with hall effect switch is inside the distributor. Could be just the module, but at this age, inspect for any lateral movement, or play in the distributor shaft. The reluctor on the shaft also gets rusty and screws up the individual cylinder ignition timing, often causing a "backfire".....its actually more like a cough or an inconsistent dropout.
Usually, it will eventually die, and wont restart for some period of time after cooling down a bit.
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