Rule #1 of RV Life: It’s Always Something

its-always-something.jpgI used to be a runner …. trained for and completed more than 25 half marathons, 6 full marathons, even two 50K ultramarathons. Early on, my more-experienced runner sister shared a truism about running events:  It’s Always Something. Conditions are never “perfect” for a race. Maybe the weather is less than ideal (hot, cold, rainy, windy), or you are experiencing a wardrobe malfunction (something chafing or not right for the conditions). Maybe the race organization is less than stellar (poorly-marked course, too few water stops, disorganized start/finish) or the course is too crowded. Maybe the terrain is different than you trained on, or perhaps you just don’t feel 100% that day. There is always something. But you learn to roll with it, persevere, and aim to finish despite the issue du jour.

RV life seems to be the same. We bought one of the nicest RV’s available from a manufacturer with an excellent reputation and two year warranty. But it seems that SOMETHING is always broken, glitching, malfunctioning or otherwise causing some level of aggravation.  All of the time.

Some of the issues we’ve experienced are due to our own learning curve. For example, the day we were panicked over our generator not charging the house batteries — that was caused by the Spartan shop not re-engaging a breaker after generator service. Later, we thought our house batteries were shot, but discovered that the auto-gen start settings were incorrect (they were resetk to default during the aforementioned service). After the programming was adjusted, the system has oworked well since. We’ve learned how to recognize and correct this type of problem.

Other items are to be expected due to the stresses of being in a moving home. We’ve encountered a window shade mount falling out, kitchen sink faucet handle broken, wall board popping loose in one spot, tear in slide topper, etc. Many of these problems are cosmetic, minor, or easily fixable, just part of daily life on the road.

And, I guess you have to expect that all of the bouncing around can reduce the life of appliances and accessories.  The JBL sound bar on the outside TV isn’t working. Our rear Girard awning is out of commission – it trips the circuit breaker when we try to extend it. Our Samsung microwave went out and had to be replaced. The rear Coleman air conditioner unit failed and was replaced. Our Winegard Trav’ler satellite dish motor has failed and been replaced twice! Dealing with these issues under warranty is a bit of a hassle, but they don’t stop our progress. It’s more of an inconvenience – and usually incurs some expense on our part.

But we’ve also had serious issues that stopped us in our tracks. Like, severe (undiagnosed) tire alignment issues which forced premature (emergency) replacement of the steer tires and, later, the tag axle tires. We might have recognized the issue earlier if we’d been more vigilant, but we just didn’t expect the alignment to be so severely out of spec on a brand new coach. That learning experience was not cheap – new tires and alignment ran north of $3000. And then there was the day our Blue Ox tow bar failed on the road. THAT just shouldn’t happen. Still, we figured out solutions on the fly and were able to stay on track.

This last issue though, just about sent Jeff over the edge. When we fired up the engine to leave Cosby Tennessee after sitting for a month, the Check Engine Light came on. A call to Spartan customer service revealed that the error code was related to the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) head in our diesel emissions control system. We have an appointment at the Spartan factory in a few weeks, so customer service thought we should be fine to make it there, just keep an eye on it. What the customer service did NOT advise was that every time we re-started the engine, the computer advanced the severity of the code. By the time we reached our campground destination, the Stop Engine Light came on, rendering us effectively immobile – more than an hour from the nearest repair facility. The engine was perfectly fine, but due to EPA regulations, the computer was throttling the engine because it thought we had no DEF.  ARRRRRGHHH!

Jeff’s worst nightmare is having the bus towed – a non-trivial exercise that includes disengaging the drive shaft! We’ve heard horror stories about damage incurred due to towing. The idea of being towed an hour away to sit in a repair shop parking lot for days waiting for parts wasn’t exactly life inspiring either. So, after considerable research, several calls to Spartan and not a little angst, a plan was developed. Although the needed part (a new DEF head) wasn’t readily available, Spartan arranged to drop ship the entire tank assembly (containing the DEF head) to us. Once we had that, emergency roadside service was dispatched to swap out the tank unit at our campsite. As we are still under warranty, it was done at no cost to us. We were good to go!

We set off to our  next destination, my home town of Anderson, Indiana. Not 15 miles down the road – you guessed it – the check engine light came on again. Same error codes – no DEF.  By the time we reached Indianapolis, the error was already advancing in severity and de-rating the engine, so we headed directly for the nearest Cummins service center in Indy. It was Saturday and nothing could be done until Monday, so we unhooked the toad, packed up Pumpkin and drove to my sister’s house to wait out the weekend in comfort. Monday, it was revealed that the DEF pump supply and return hoses had been reversed during the tank swap, causing the DEF pump to suck air. A simple fix, and we were back on the road. Since this particular problem was caused by human error and not equipment failure, we had to front the almost $500 repair cost, and are being forced through a convoluted process to get reimbursed. We are now sitting in our nice Anderson campground for several weeks, hoping that this particular problem is permanently fixed. In the next few weeks we have service appointments at both the Entegra factory AND the Spartan factory, which should address any and all pending warranty repair items — including fixing the rear slide out which got tweaked during our Brown County DEF repair process and currently won’t fully retract. <sigh>

The moral of the story is that this life is not for the easily frustrated. Due to the variables and stressors involved in moving the beast from place to place, failures WILL occur, with regularity. There’s nothing that can’t be fixed if you throw money at it, but some aggravation is inevitable. That’s part of the price of living this life of exploration and adventure. You have to roll with it, persevere and endeavor to travel on, despite the issue du jour.

Because it’s always something.


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