RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

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RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby uplinked » Mon Jul 30, 2012 10:30 am

Hi guys,
I'm thinking about bringing my dusty old winnebago to the burn this year. She's 22 years old and I've done a lot of the mechanical work myself, despite being a software engineer and not a mechanic ;)

I was hoping to collect some horror stories about the *worst* possible outcomes of bringing an RV to the playa, so I can prepare myself to avoid them ;) Everyone's seen the occasional TRAILER-OF-FLAMES on the entrance road in the past, and that's terrifying, but I think I can keep myself from turning into a bomb.

What I'm most worried about is my tired old engine losing the will to live on the playa -- This happened to my compact car a few years ago, seven days on the playa was enough to zap her will to live. We got her home alright, but she never started up again. So I'm bringing a bag of spare fuses, some extra spark plugs, and etcetera, but I know I can't be thinking of everything.

Motorhomers out there, what do you do to take care of your baby? What kinds of shit has gone terribly horribly wrong for you that could have been avoided?

Cheers, see you all at the burn :)
-Leeward
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby Jackass » Mon Jul 30, 2012 10:55 am

I would definitely make sure that transmission is solid and capable of cooling itself, otherwise you may be "that guy" on fire. Big transmission cooler and make sure engine cooling system is solid too. No leaks, no rust in coolant, no leaking fan clutch, new radiator cap for good measure.
Don't worry, it'll get weird...
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby Lassen Forge » Mon Jul 30, 2012 11:06 am

Ever hear the legend of Brunhilde?

Brunhilde was an older motor home, a '71 Cortez. I had JUST got her back (from probably the slowest mechanic on the planet) with a supposedly freshly rebuilt motor and transmission, loaded all the camp gear in it, made it exactly 1/3 of the way up the sierras (after an easy cruise across the valley from the bay area) when the oil pressure started failing. *Barely* made it into Reno (with a pretty nice knock by then), got it unloaded ad a friends (who helped transport camp stuff), made it to one of those lube places, had them change out the oil (which was full of bearing flake) with some 50 wt, and wheezed it SLOWLY back to the bay area, had to grab my pickup, and haul ass back... to be there Sunday Morning Midnite... to broken camp infrastructure (including some pretty unique lighting I entrusted someone to haul up)... to set up our gig all that day for the (first) pseudo-opening that night. In the drizzle. And (fortunately for me) my 4 man mini-dome tent. For 2 weeks on playa.

If I lived somewhat local... or had a new unit with a big (diesel) motor and bulletproof running gear, then yeah, I'd do it again. As it is, I have a friend who runs his up there. But otherwise, not a frigging chance in hell. Tents don't blow up. Or throw a main bearing. ;)
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby Major Krash » Mon Jul 30, 2012 11:42 am

Camp mate had her sewage tank drop while driving home just outside of Fernley....I had the misfortune to be behind her, saw the shitty situation slowly develop, and finally got her to pull over. Somehow, I got to go under and raise it back up, and strap it down with straps for the ride home....luckily the tank did not rupture! It was dripping though.....
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby trilobyte » Mon Jul 30, 2012 11:44 am

Don't forget to read this thread, filled with a lot of great advice by RV burners.
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby kittyrodriguez » Mon Jul 30, 2012 3:21 pm

This is not specific to rv's, but we thought it was a good idea to bring a fresh air filter. We changed it after we left the playa. Not sure if it helped a lot or a little, but what could it hurt. I can only imagine how gunked up with playa dust those filters get. Don't change it till you're off the playa though.
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby vapor » Mon Jul 30, 2012 5:49 pm

3 stories . . . not horrible catastrophes, but good lessons . . .

1. Driving up several years ago towing an older (1961) trailer I pulled into a rest stop, came back from the bathroom and noticed one side of the trailer was a bit low. First thought was "no big deal, I want to get up to see the lunar eclipse tonight". On second thought I took a look and the leaf spring on one side had broken, very fortunately right as I was pulling into the rest stop ! The next day found 2 springs at a shop 30 miles away, replaced them both and arrived (safely) a day late. Lessons from that were make sure suspension parts are in good shape - a saggy old suspension can make handling on an overloaded vehicle quite dangerous. Breaking something suspension related while on the road has large disaster potential. Second lesson is if one older bit fails (could be wiring, plumbing, wood, etc) replace all similar bits as they are likely to fail soon as well.

2. Happened to be off the playa before the event opened, got a message from a friend driving a panel van up. He said "we overheated and lost all the radiator fluid on the hill up to Tahoe. Filled it up, overheated again, did this several times and it keeps overheating". I asked "did you run the engine while filling ?" He said no . . . I explained that you need to do that to make sure you have filled up completely. Once that was done no more overheating problems. Lesson learned was make sure your coolant system is completely filled, make sure you know how to do that. And of course bring extra coolant.

3. Leaving Monday evening in 2000 with a rental truck (Mitsubishi), drove 2 blocks and it stopped. Not sputtered, not any warning signs, just stopped. We checked all the fuses (our prime suspect), battery, wiring we could find under the hood, etc., no way to restart it. The truck sat on the playa for close to a week, then the rental company towed it (loaded) back to San Francisco. Turns out it was a fuse, but there was another fuse box inside the cargo area. Up front. Behind all the loaded gear . . . completely stupid place for a fuse box on a cargo truck. Lesson from that one is be sure you know where all the fuses are and have replacements.
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby Madgirl » Mon Jul 30, 2012 6:26 pm

My first burn I headed out with 7 other people (all friends of mutual friends, but none of us knew each other prior to this trip) in a 35 foot RV that one of the guys had bought on Craigslist. It was an older rig (mid-80s) but everything appeared to be in working order. We were coming from Colorado and were mostly worried about making it over the mountains....we were definitely well under the speed limit going uphill but things were running smoothly all the way to the flatlands. Then, in middle of nowhere Nevada, the thing dies. Couple of backfires and then nothing. Luckily the guy who was driving was able to get us safely to the shoulder. We initially thought it was a battery issue, so we called AAA to get a jump. Didn't take long to figure out it wasn't the battery, but the AAA guy who showed up was super helpful and was able to figure out that the distributor cap was fried and all the spark plug wires were basically crumbling apart. That wasn't something he could do anything about, so we had to call a tow truck. At this point it was almost midnight, we'd been sitting on the side of I-80 for hours already, and now we had to wait THREE MORE HOURS for a truck large enough to tow us to get there (we also had a fully loaded 10 foot flatbed trailer in tow). We were all just so antsy to get to the playa (first burn for all but one of use) and we were so convinced we were never going to get there. At some point during the wait it occurred to one of us that we probably weren't supposed to ride in the RV while it was being towed, but what other choice did we have? We weren't all going to hitchhike.....so we piled into the back bedroom, closed the blinds, and kept as quiet as we possibly could. What followed was the most terrifying hour long ride of my life. The back of that RV was swaying so hard that we were really convinced we were going to tip over. Finally, the tow truck drops us off in the parking lot of NAPA auto parts, and once he's gone, we all emerge from hiding. It's only then that our buddy who was riding in the tow truck bothered to tell us that the driver knew we were in there all along and we could've moved up to the front of the RV. When the store opened in the morning, we were able to get all the parts we needed and we were back on the road. The RV survived the rest of the trip just fine, but that's the first and last time I'll make that drive in a vehicle I don't know and trust.
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby Mosin » Mon Jul 30, 2012 6:33 pm

To avoid the most sketchy of rv catastrophes (next to rolling over on 447 of course) I suggest doing a propane leakdown test (or having one done) and making sure any RV you plan to sleep in has functioning smoke and CO2 detectors.
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby vapor » Mon Jul 30, 2012 6:41 pm

Ah, yeah, swaying while being towed . . . short story, friend of mine heading out to the burn from Utah towing a heavily loaded toy hauler trailer. Late, wanting to get to the burn, going too fast down a hill the trailer started to sway from side to side. Mostly if this happens you are well on your way to an accident . . . the momentum from the trailer swinging usually gets worse and worse, if you hit the brakes you will almost certainly end up with the trailer right next to you. Which just ain't right. In my friend's case he knew to actually accelerate and steer out of it . . . but that was due to track racing skills and a whole lot of luck. A lot of luck.

If you are towing a trailer, make sure you know what tongue weight means and how to set it, how a trailer should be loaded, have tested and working trailer brakes, ideally a weight distributing hitch and anti-sway system. And absolutely positively do not go too fast down a hill, unloading the tongue weight over a bump or due to a large wind gust can be disastrous at speed.
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby dragonpilot » Mon Jul 30, 2012 7:31 pm

My first Burn I found a couple of ladies that were looking for riders to share the expense of renting a mid-90s RV. I was just along for the ride and had no say in the number of people that were going along on this trip...10 as it turned out. We burned straight thru from home city to the Gate...like 17-18 hours...fairly uneventful in terms of mechanical issues...just some minor overheating.

The unanticipated thing was on Day #3 on the playa noticing both the black water and the grey water starting to back up inside because there were no controls on how long folks were showering and washing dishes, nor who was using the toilet. Fortunately there was enough presence of mind to stop using the toilet STAT, and a couple of us were able to drain out some of the grey water into bottles. I'm here to tell ya that the grey water was some of the nastiest smelling stuff you'll ever encounter. No one knew at the time that there may have been a tank pumping service...not even sure if such service existed then ('05).

Word to the wise when you're carrying a shitload of passengers aboard an RV, make sure you've got a handle on the toilet and grey water situation. This is not the only thing to be concerned about with an RV on the playa with a big load of folks, but one of the nastiest if things go wrong.
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby ranger magnum » Mon Jul 30, 2012 7:57 pm

Tires. Check your tires. We had the tread separate from the carcass as we arrived on playa last year. Too late to do anything about it, we just dealt with it when we left. We didnt have a spare, so the plan was to limp it to Brunos and take the bad tire/wheel off and run on one single rear.

As we hit 34, the tire started coming apart. It didnt blow, but the tread took some shit out as it was flapping. Brunos Shell station had not only a tire, but a complete wheel and tire assembly. $125 and an hour later we were back on the road.

If your tires are more than 8 years old replace them.

If you havent done it, flush your brake fluid. Brake fluid absorbs moisture and on long downhill grades it is possible to boil the water in the fluid causing brafe failure. The brakes will work again once the temp goes back down, but by then you are upside down and on fire.

I run 20/50 in my 454. There are many studies on oil types and viscosities. Google them. There are arguements for both. Personally I use dinosaur oil in the rv, and synthetic in the race car. It boils down to drain intervals. Pay more to do less or pay less to do more. Pretty much like everything else in life.
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby gyre » Tue Jul 31, 2012 12:41 am

They make sway bars for rvs and tow vehicles.

Synthetic oil isn't synthetic, just filtered.

Good brake pads are a good idea.
Hitemp brake fluid may be wise.
Don't use the cheapest.

Met a guy on 80 with a mishmosh of stuff in the back of his pickup.
Came around a curve above a cliff and the wind lifted his camper off his truck and down the cliff.
He was okay.

Michael Michael broke down near me once, in the famous rv.
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby munney » Fri Aug 03, 2012 7:12 pm

:oops: BRC 2011, I Bought a Ford 30' Sprinter RV less than a month B-4 the event.
:roll: Whilst in the process of checking out the RV B-4 purchase, the previous owner turned on the Fridge switch to show me it worked, yet he forgot to turn it off, So in the next 2 weeks, the spare Deep Cycle Battery Died, wouldn't hold a charge, etc... :twisted:
:mrgreen: On the Way to the Playa I stopped at BurnerBoy Mike's (Mike the Bike) place where he graciously gave me a NEW Deep Cycle Battery, YAY! :D
:lol: We Installed all 70 pounds of it, checked it and all worked fine, so I drove onto Reno, spent the night, hit up the last supermarket, and headed for the Playa. :cry: As this was my first journey with this New '89 RV, I didn't calculate exactly how much Gas this thing would Guzzle, Between 5-15 MpG :(
:cry: As I arived for Early Entry Sunday at 3:00 pm, I wanted to save gas so I shut off the engine. I showed my Early entry Pass, got searched and was waved on :roll: Yet the RV wouldn't turn on, wouldn't do Anything with the key turning. :lol: I flagged down a Newbee, borrowed a set of Jumpers ~ To no avail... :arrow: I then had to get some Help Pushing the RV out of the Lane in order to let the BRC population enter, as it was getting closer to 6:00 pm. :P
:lol: Thanks to all the people that helped push my rig out of the way, and to all all the others trying to help me mechanically, to no avail... :evil:
:idea: I called AAA with horrible connection and they told me they could tow me to the Gate but no further, :twisted: unfortunately I was at the Gate... :twisted:
:oops: My Doghouse Hood was Open, People were sharing the formula of Volts Vs. Amps... someone else was willing to use a tow strap and Pull me in :roll:
:o I started to get a bit nervous, :? because the Gate was now freshly open & there I was off to the side with a non-running RV. :?

:mrgreen: Out of the Blue, a Happy Hyper Dude with a Dreadlock Wig runs up to me & says, "I've got a Wrecker &I am gonna Tow you in, for Free!" :lol:
:D I got a bit extatic, and then remembered a HUGE Tow TRUCK, towing in an Mutant Art Truck passing me on 447, this same Rig needed to spend some time before hitting the road back to the bay area, so they offered to bring me in. It took a short spell to hook it up to this Brand New 50' $300,000 truck, yet the universe/Playa smiled upon me & provided a solution. It was Odd and Cool to enter the city in that manner, yet who cares how you get there as long as you get there. :P
I was camping in center camp so manuvering the 80 feet of two Giant Vehicles was tricky to say the least, yet eventually I got dropped & once again, had the help of Burners to Push my rig into place :lol:

:cry: Next was the attempts to Fix it on Playa :roll: So a good friend, RonJon, asked his Race Team's crew chief Krusty, to look at my rig. Over the Next few days, we figured that it was an electrical issue, so we replaced fuses and they kept blowing, over and over :evil: By Thursday other members of the Desert Dingo Race team showed up and took a look. :idea: Eventually someone asked what I had done recently that May have caused this, and the only thing I had done was to replace the 2nd battery. :arrow: We pulled the battery and found a tiny wire squished by the 70# weight... :idea: a bit of electrical tape later everything worked perfectly. :lol: :oops: :D

:lol: I had been working on shift that day as the Captain of Media Mecca, & forgot that I aranged a Marching Band to greet the Media and the artists after the Media Art Tour, so as I was making Victory Margaritas for all the Mechanics, the Marching Band Arived and Kicked So Much Musical Ass that my Extacy Level went through the Roof! :!: We all started Dancing and Celebrating and I started Living!

:shock: I realized that I Finally Arrived, (yes I had been there for 5 days) yet knowing that I didn't have a 10 ton PlayaWeight to Tow home, allowed me to fully be present and begin my 2011 Festivus. :P

:roll: The events of the next 5 days shall remain classified :wink: :lol: All in All, it was a Grand Experience Showing the incredible spirt of Burners :!: :lol:
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby Tiahaar » Sat Aug 04, 2012 4:02 pm

there is a hidden message coded into all those smilies isn't there munney :wink:

OK tires, drivetrain, engine, electrical, cooling have been covered...lets see...My biggest big rig breakdown was due to a cascading series of events all linked to diesel's love of growing stuff if it sits too long and is untreated. Fortunately I had spare filters, some extra fuel line, and an electric fuel pump to hook up and get things flowing again. Fresh fuel and filters is a must.
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby Tiahaar » Fri Aug 10, 2012 11:43 pm

update: small 'oh geez' moment during engine check run last Sat...pulled the airhorn lever for a test toot and it stuck wide open, vastly annoying the whole neighborhood I'm sure during the 5 minutes it took to take a panel off and shut down the darn thing. its fixed now. freekin playa dust...
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby ranger magnum » Sat Aug 11, 2012 12:12 am

Coming back in 11 (same year as the tire issue) the radiator sprung a leak. The temp gauge was broken, and didnt alert me. By the time i figured it out, it was too late. I filled the radiator with water from the nearby river, and drove until it was out again. Did this for a few hours until we reached bridgeport. Got a room, and in the morning ordered a new radiator from the local Napa Auto Parts.

Next morning, got a ride from a random burner to within 30 miles of our house. Called a friend to give us a ride the rest of the way.

Two days later, took a train to LA, where another friend gave me a ride back to bridgeport. Installed the radiator in the parking lot of Napa, and headed home. But the overheating blew the drivers side head gasket. Luckily, it was blown into the combustion chamber and not the oil galley. But it would consume about a gallon of water an hour, so every hour i had to pull over, let it cool, then top it off.

It took 15 hours to get home.

Sold the rv for $800, and bought the current one.
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby gyre » Sat Aug 11, 2012 1:02 am

Tiahaar wrote:update: small 'oh geez' moment during engine check run last Sat...pulled the airhorn lever for a test toot and it stuck wide open, vastly annoying the whole neighborhood I'm sure during the 5 minutes it took to take a panel off and shut down the darn thing. its fixed now. freekin playa dust...

I want to see the air tank and pump on that thing!

Five minutes!
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby Tiahaar » Mon Aug 13, 2012 10:56 pm

lol gyre...its a bus afterall...lotsa air tanks :D

So this counts as a catastophe avoided: I always go around and thump all the tires at each stop and feel the tires/hubs for heat (and so should all drivers) and lo and behold on one check an inner dual went thud instead of thump...got into a truck stop and had it fixed. Not noticing the low tire could have led to the other tire overheating and blowing. Blown tires are scary.
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby skippy3k » Tue Aug 14, 2012 7:47 am

Tiahaar wrote:Not noticing the low tire could have led to the other tire overheating and blowing. Blown tires are scary.


And any vehicle around you at the time thanks you as well!
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby junglesmacks » Tue Aug 14, 2012 9:05 am

gyre wrote:Synthetic oil isn't synthetic, just filtered.


Shut up, hippie.

Synthetic oil is a lubricant consisting of chemical compounds that are artificially made (synthesized). Synthetic lubricants can be manufactured using chemically modified petroleum components rather than whole crude oil, but can also be synthesized from other raw materials. Synthetic oil is used as a substitute for lubricant refined from petroleum when operating in extremes of temperature, because, in general, it provides superior mechanical and chemical properties than those found in traditional mineral oils. Aircraft jet engines, for example, require the use of synthetic oils, whereas aircraft piston engines do not.
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby gyre » Tue Aug 14, 2012 4:10 pm

That's what I have always been told, and that includes sae lubrication engineers.

I'll look into that.
Things change.
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby crstophr » Tue Aug 14, 2012 4:39 pm

2008 my first year. Newly purchased 1 Ton old diesel truck heavily loaded pulling an even older 23' travel trailer. We made it to alturas where we started smelling gear oil a few minutes before a huge BANG and the truck no longer would go into gear. We blew the transmission. Had to leave it with a local mechanic, So we decide to rent a uhaul and try to make it the rest of the way. The Uhaul was more of a 1/2 ton box truck and didn't have trailer brakes. Pulling the heavily loaded uhaul with the heavy trailer and no trailer brakes behind it was definitely one of the stupidest risks I've ever taken. I could barely hold 35mph up the hills. I refused to go more than 40MPH down hills and left myself tons of room to stop. The engine in that uhaul screamed as I wrung every bit of engine braking I could out of it being afraid to use the brakes too much. Sketchy and unsafe don't begin to cover that drive.

So we make it onto the last road before you turnoff into the playa... and not realizing it we've driven straight into the 2008 Monday wind/dust storm. I'm already having a really bad time as I'm now expecting 2-3k in transmission repair bills and I've just finished the most white knuckle driving of my life. While stopped at one point I decided to go check something in the trailer. I opened the door just as a huge blast of wind hit,... and it ripped the fucking door off. The door frame (on the door itself) had separate where a long piece of wood was attached to the hinges. Hinges and wood strip still attached to trailer and me standing there in absolute shock holding the door in my hands.

Now I'm really really not happy. Like more than wiling to just say fuck it, turn around, and go home.

So my friend hops in the trailer as the traffic starts to move and proceeds to do a heroic yet futile job of covering the now open doorway with plastic and tape. he lost that battle, but fought well. The wind just tore it all down.

Gate shunts us off to D lot to wait out the dust. I had brought along a box full of various glues. A bunch of epoxy putty combined with a few other glues and we had a newly reassembled door in the living room of the trailer held together by clamps. We waited out the storm talking to folks in D lot. I slowly, slowly start to calm down. When we finally make it into the city I rehung the door shut it and locked it. That repair has been holding for 4 years.

This was the first two days of my first burn. The next night I fought in thunder dome with a man who (unknown to me at the time) was an ex-swat team member.... but that is an entirely different story....
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby user2346 » Tue Dec 04, 2012 1:57 pm

Some advise that is worth every penny you have paid to read it here.

Before you leave, check the vehicle over, hoses, wires, tires, etc etc. One of the best tools for spotting potential trouble spots is a can of beer! Yup, a nice cold beer, or even better, 2 cold beers and a friend. Next open all the doors, pop open the hood, start the vehicle up and let it idle. Crack open the beer, and start looking around, taking note of anything the needs to be looked in to.

Another way to avert trouble is to do a little research. Because this is about RVs, I'll talk about them. Most rv are built on a one ton truck frame. Depending on who built it can also be the problem. A very common problem is the electronic ignition. Every thing is going good, then you stop for food or gas. When you try to get back on the road, the engine cranks over but will not start. On Dodge based rv it may be a part in the electronic ignition called the "double ballast resistor" has failed. It is a $15 part and can be changed in about 10 min, when I owned mopars, i'd keep an extra in the vehicle just in case. GMC/chevy's it is the electronic module in the distributor, A $30-40 part and about 1/2 hour to an hour to change out. VWs have a double relay for fuel pump that fails.

Again go and research your vehicle on the interweb, find out what fails often. a lot of times having a $20-50 extra part and a few tools can save you hours and many $$$. Every make of vehicle has a web form filled with people that know more about the truck that your rv is built on than the people the put it together, check out allpar for dodge, ford-trucks for fords and so on.

Having AAA memberships is also not a bad idea, >MAKE SURE< it covers an rv. While I know and can change out engines/transmissions, replace brakes and so on. It is still nice not to get dirty/trashed changing a tire on the side of the road when you can call and have someone else do it for you.

Lastly before you embark to on that long drive, take some short trips (like an hour or so), has sort of a shake down cruises.
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby illy dilly » Tue Dec 04, 2012 4:12 pm

user2346 wrote: Every make of vehicle has a web form filled with people that know more about the truck that your rv is built on than the people the put it together, check out allpar for dodge, ford-trucks for fords and so on.

Having AAA memberships is also not a bad idea, >MAKE SURE< it covers an rv. While I know and can change out engines/transmissions, replace brakes and so on. It is still nice not to get dirty/trashed changing a tire on the side of the road when you can call and have someone else do it for you.

Lastly before you embark to on that long drive, take some short trips (like an hour or so), has sort of a shake down cruises.

Very Very Very sound an simple advice!

We have an 89' Fleetwood Bounder 34ft on a Chevy 454 1ton chassis. There is indeed a web forum for almost every RV type out there. The one I use is a Bounder Group on Yahoo. Very Very Very helpful folks!


A Random tip: If leaving BRC on Labor Day Monday, there are no open Auto Parts places between Fernley, NV and Salt Lake City. There might be an open diesel truck repair place in Wells, but maybe not, and the NAPA affiliate in Wells is not open. Neither is the CarQuest in Wendover. The dealer ships in Winnemucca are hit or miss, the car salesmen will be there. So, if driving an RV that is likely to have trouble, don't travel East on Labor Day.

2010 I had no intentions of bringing an RV to Burning Man, until my sister bought the Bounder in July. I had to learn all about RV's, I didn't know anything about the blumbing or electrical systems. But, we spent the majority of that two months double checking all the mechanical issues. We we never tested was running the Onan Gene for more than an hour. I'd fire it up, put load on it, run around the RV putting my multi-meter on EVERYTHING I could think of. What I didn't do, was run it for more than an hour. We got it out to BRC, didn't run the Gene for the first 2 days, tell the house batteries got low, then fired the bitch up and started to run it. Sure as shit, it would die every 45 to 60 minutes. First though was "O well, no AC while we do dishes and no AC naps. No biggie we brought battery fans and squirt bottles." At the end of day 2 I realized that with out the generator charging the house batteries our water pump didnt work. FUCK! "Thats OK, we've been refilling our 7 gallon aquatainers every time they get empty, so we have 2 full containers, we'll be fine."
We ended up having to fill our blue 7 gallon Aquatainers from the shower, about half way, then the gene would die. I parked our friends car right next to the gene, then I would start her car, run jumper cables from her battery to the gene, and Jump the Onan. Had to do this every half hour for about 5 hours by Thursday of the event.
Got back to Denver just fine no major issues. In the end it turned out to be 2 things:
1. A solder point on the "Electronic Control Unit" mounted to the fire wall had broken loose. This little black box has a small board in it with a few solenoids that make sure the ignition battery is charged first, and allows the ignition battery to pull from the house battery if necessary, but that the house battery only gets power from the chassis electrical system if the ignition battery is full and the engine is running. With the points broken the chassis alternator was not able to back feed the House batteries, after the ignition battery was completely charged.

2. Most importantly, one of the plates in the house battery deep cycles was either completely jarred loose or really warped. The previous owner showed us the receipt from the batters and they were only about 18 months old when we bought the RV.... I should have had them tested anyway. So the (2) 12 volt deep cycles in parallel wouldn't hold a charge because the busted battery would drain the working battery.

Wow, really long story :shock: short, have your house batteries load tested even if they seem pretty new.
Why don't ya stick your head in that hole and find out? ~piehole
Plan for the worst, expect the best. Make the most out of it under any conditions. If you cannot do that you will never enjoy yourself. ~CrispyDave
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illy dilly
 
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby mshaman » Mon Dec 17, 2012 11:04 am

Biggest catastrophe:
Letting someone else drive early in the trip. Because our camp was decimated by the ticket situation last year, we'd been building solar arrays, refining fuel (I built a micro fuel refinery with which we make enough fuel from waste motor oil -not vegetable oil- to power the whole camp for the 2200 mile round trip), etc. until late into the night every night for the week before the burn. There just weren't enough heavy lifters left. I had maybe 8 hours sleep in 5 days.

When we finally got on the road I decided to let one of my less experienced drivers take a shift so I could sleep for an hour or so. I asked him to watch the temperature and the tach, because I'd just installed a new cooling system with about 2x the capacity of the original truck, and wanted to make sure we'd gotten all the air out of the cooling system before really working the truck hard. No big deal, you just pull over, top off the coolant after the air gets pumped out passages, and you're good.

Inexperienced driver didn't seem to understand "pull over if it gets hot" and ran it at wide open throttle, maximum boost, maximum RPM and ran the temperature up to nearly 300 degrees before the motor quit turning. I woke to the sounds of backfiring, which on a diesel is a very bad thing. He told me he wanted to get to the top of the hill--evidently pulling off where we were was inconvenient.

With a blown motor, I had to borrow a truck from a friend to haul our infrastructure out. When we got to the burn, there were 3 RV's/trailers in the camp that I had built, so my GF and I were able to find a couch to sleep on as long as we kept our stuff in the pickup. Given that I'd spent all year building accommodations for my camp mates, it was disheartening not to have the home I'd built for myself. It cost me around $7000 in parts, machine work and tow bills (not including my labor) to resurrect the Cummins diesel in my RV.

Moral of the story:
1. Don't run yourself into the ground before you even start the drive. Reduce scope rather than going on no sleep.
2. You can't carry the weight of spectators. If you don't have enough heavy lifters in your camp, again, reduce scope of your projects rather thank taking up someone else's share; you won't get there alive if you try to do too much of the work for others.
3. Take the time to stop and check fluids, re-inspect the tires and the load, etc., a little while into the trip (about 45 minutes in). Even if you're tired. Even if you just want to get there.
4. Have your most experienced driver do the first leg to make sure the truck is working well, and any legs that involve big climbs or descents. People think you can drive a 16,000lb coach with a 10,000lb trailer like you would a car, and frequently end up in a ball of fire at the bottom of the hill.
The road of life is littered with flat squirrels who couldn't decide.
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby dustyroller » Mon Dec 17, 2012 11:14 pm

well as soon as my good friends pulled up to pick me up from the bus stop they turned off the RV and smoke came pouring out of the engine! we managed to fix the problem and drove all the way to california from texas. we got ready for the burn in california for about a week then we drove out to the burn everything went great except for when we hit the hills and it only went about 50 mph.

after the burn we packed everything up and headed out....then we broke down in exodus :? we were stuck in line for about an hour telling everyone to "go around" but we made some awesome friends someone felt sorry so they gave me a GIANT peacock feather and someone else gave me a button thats still on my hat to this day! then just when everything was starting to get a little crazy i realized i was completely out of cigarettes. then out of nowhere a lady came running up to me with an entire unopened pack of cigarettes and gave them to me. then she didnt say anything she just ran back to her (moving) car. so i chased after her (because she really needed a hug) screaming "LADY WAIT"! when she finally got to her car she turned and realized i was chasing after her. so i told her how grateful and amazing she was and gave her a giant playa hug then went back to the broken RV.

we managed to (kinda) patch the problem with a t shirt and duct tape then we headed back on the road.

we made it probally 20 miles down the road before the engine got crazy hot so we decided we had to pull over and lewt it cool off. then we start driving and probally 10 minutes later same thing, super hot, pull over. so we tried again this time we made it to gerlach. but wen we got there the problems got worse. so we went and bought the biggest corndog i have ever seen and tried to fix it again.

we managed to fix it again but probally 15 minutes outside of gerlach the engine completely died! so we pulled over gave it a few minutes and tried again...nothing, the engine wouldnt even make a noise.

so we were stuck. all of our phones were dead and we were completely out of water. then out of nowhere a cop pulls up...some of us start to freak out a little bit but my amazing friend just jumps out of the car and basically says "you have to help us its your job" he was kind of startled by that. but he decided he would try and help us.

so the cop (sadly cant remember his name) says ive got you a ride to empire. then he takes 2 of my friends and drives off. at this point we have no clue what is going on. then he comes back and picks up me and another one of my friends. he then procedes to drive in the wrong lane at over 100mph flying past the giant line of burners on the road. then he says "this is your ride" he flips on his lights and this random bus pulls over and he gets behind them and says "get on there" being super confused by this situation we go and get on the bus.

we step onto the bus and see our friends on one of the couches on the bus. we run and hug them and thank everyone else on the bus for being awesome and helping us out. i try to start a conversation with some of the random new bus friends and they just wanted to sleep so one of them hands me a pillow and i pass out on their couch.

i wake up to the sound of the rumble strip as the bus driver started to fall asleep which freaked him out more than me. then i drift back to sleep after a few minutes.

i wake up having no clue where i am all i can see is a tiny gas station with probally 2 pumps and a giant row of porta potties. he stops the bus and says "bathroom break" then almost everyone hopped off the bus and ran to the potties. we get back on the bus and continue to drive. at first they said they would give us a ride to empire but when one of my friends woke me up we were in reno! they actually went out of their way to drop us off at a hotel that some of our other friends were staying at.

we check at the hotel...no rooms available. we check other hotels close by once again no rooms. so we sneak up into our friends room and when we get in there my friend that had the room made me drink half a bottle of vodka and i continued to pass out on the floor. i was then awakened with them saying we got you a cot. so i crawled up onto the cot and passed out

then the next day we tried to get a taxi to get a rental car and the taxi never showed up so we had to call another cab company and wait like 2 hours for the next cab. we had the RV towed to reno so we got our rental car got a few things out of the RV and then continued our journey back to california.

AMAZING TRIP!
do what you like but like what you do!
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby 171/348 » Wed Jul 31, 2013 12:52 pm

As the new owner of a 19 year old, 29,000 pound Behemoth with 3000 miles between me and BRC... This thread scares the bejezus out of me! :shock:

Trying to make sure we're as ready as possible I've done the following;
PA state inspection required all new tires (6) and a going over of all the brakes and whatnot (although I have no faith in that shop or anything they did at this point other than put the sticker on it) before I picked it up. I had an alignment done when they put the tires on but they said they had to go with best guess because there were no specs available for it. It went almost immediately into a different shop closer to home where I had oil changes done on the engine and generator and had the transmission serviced as well as replacing all 3 batteries.
I ordered a trik-l-start, caulk to re-do all the seams and windows and I'm on my way out to get a replacement valve for the poop tank because mine won't seal. I've lubed it inside and out, feels like it's just a rubber seal torn and in the way. It did seal once after I got it but hasn't since. Of course at least one of the bolts are SUPER rusted. Hopefully I won't have to remove the part glued to the outlet pipe, into the tank looks like it was held in by a hose clamp. There's some black goop around the bottom of the tank port smelled like lube (vehicular, not sex). And of course, as you can see, all of this is happening inside what's left of a completely rusted out insulating box.
I've got 3 rolls of gaffer tape to seal it all up right before I get to the playa, drop cloths for the furniture, plastic for the carpet, bubble insulation...

What am I forgetting?

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171/348
 
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby 171/348 » Wed Jul 31, 2013 1:36 pm

And a question I forgot to add... So I put about a gallon of bleach in the first fresh tank fill. Ran that through all the systems until I was empty (I hold way more fresh than the waste tanks can handle). Filled the tank again and flushed it out, ran lots of fresh through through the lines. Am I good to go now? Should I still not drink from the tank even when the fancy schmancy new water filter cartridge for the thingamabob on the sink arrives? If no, can I use that to cook with?
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Re: RV Catastrophes: Post your story!

Postby Savannah » Wed Jul 31, 2013 1:42 pm

I don't know about the rest, but if you can't drink it, you shouldn't cook with it either.
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