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From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: QUALITY was adventure
Date: Sat, 11 Mar 2000 00:29:46 EST
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel

GWH wrote:
> Looks like the old age syndrome is at work here... "they don't build
> em like they used to".  " I remember when"  ..

I think you're right.  I can think back on the 68 Holiday Rambler
pickup camper we had when I was in high school.  Seems like all the
plumbing fittings blew loose while we owned it and with the
pressurized water tank system, that meant 20 gallons of water all
over the camper each time it happened.  Shore power was supplied to
the camper through a fixed male 15 amp plug that was mis-wired.  I
don't which was funnier the first time we went out and dad plugged
the thing in to an outlet that ended up having a 100 amp fuse behind
it - the extension cord popping from one end to the other like a
string of fireworks or dad trying to out-dance it :-)  Two of the
crappy jack legs pulled out of the thin wooden mount points.  The
converter would not power the normal camper loads - we'd have to
turn all the lights off occasionally to let the little battery
charge up.  Back then, Holiday Rambler was supposed to be the top of
the line.

The problem is simple and probably insurmountable.  Making RVs is
still a cottage industry involving mostly hand assembly.  There is
not enough market for mfrs to adopt either automotive production
techniques or their process controls.  People won't pay for the kind
of labor necessary to get first line quality from hand-assembled
coaches.  Look at how Rolls does it and the cost of a Rolls to see
the difference.  Until we are willing to pay Rolls prices for our
RVs, we're going to have to accept something less than perfect and
we're going to have to do our own homework on the particular RV we
are considering buying.  Anyone who thinks that mfrs can be forced
to achieve the same quality level as with modern cars at a price
most of us can afford are fooling themselves.  

One reason I like used vehicles so well.  Assuming the vehicle is in
good condition, the previous owner has paid to debug the thing while
taking the big depreciation hit.


From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: Workhorse Chassis Auto Parking Brake Defect
Date: Thu, 22 Jun 2000 02:25:51 EDT
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel

Scott Houston wrote:
> I honestly mean this when I say thanks for the replies everyone. Good or
> bad, I haven't been a customer of this industry long enough to know what is
> considered normal vs. egregious as far as customer service goes. I think my
> "expectations curve" is slipping downward in a hurry, but that is why I
> posted to begin with, to find out from all of you who have been at it much
> longer than I.

I think that your expectations curve is far too high.  Let's put
this in perspective.  Your average tin-can intermediate car with a
few options and all the safety- and eco-nazi mandated equipment
costs, what, $30k?  More than that for a pickup truck.  These
vehicles come with an assortment of problems, though not as bad as
in the past.  Now consider the motorhome.  It's many times a big,
many times as complicated and many times as complicated, is
hand-built by cottage industries and yet, those of us who aren't
rock stars rarely pay much over $100k for the rig.  Something's
gotta give.  It's invariably build quality.  An RV maker simply
can't invest in all the automation and quality the car makers can
when it can be amortized over at most, a few thousand units.  As an
RV owner, you do one of three things:  You learn to accept this and
enjoy the good stuff, you get pissed off and get out of RV'ing or
you become an angry crusader who will remain unhappy and who will
muck it up for everyone else.  Look at your car or truck, observe
all the custom-made parts, particularly the heavy forged or cast
parts and contemplate what a motorhome would cost if it had to be
built to that same level of quality.  I know I couldn't afford one.  

The second thing you need to know is that unless you have or acquire
the ability to fix things, you're going to be very unhappy in a
consumer-grade RV.  That's just the way it is.  You don't need to be
able to overhaul an engine or change out an axle but you do need to
be able to troubleshoot electrical, mechanical and plumbing items. 
If you can't or won't do this, you will either be unhappy or you'll
need to buy a very high end unit.

> We got towed 70 miles to a Workhorse dealer after the first highway
> occurrence, spent 3 days in their parking lot, and after believing they got
> it fixed, had the brake come back on another 40-50 miles down the road in
> another harrowing near miss.
> We finally got it limped back to our dealer at home, who is also a Workhorse
> dealer and they are still trying to find the problem. Again, it is a
> troubleshooting nightmare because it is so intermittent, and they can't get
> it to repeat the problem consistently. The only test is to take it back out
> on the highway and have another potentially fatal episode.

You're likely going to be frustrated with dealer service. 
Unfortunately if the diagnostic computer can't pick out the problem
and changing out black boxes can't solve the problem, most dealer
mechanics can't fix it.  They're set up to do parts changeouts and
charging by the flatrate book.  Yeah, I'm cynical but I have
experience. And I think about the local Chrysler dealer's lead
mechanic holding his previous position as a cook in my

You're probably going to have to help them out by doing some
troubleshooting of your own and keeping careful records of what
you've done.  Or find an independent mechanic who can.

> >The auto park brake is automatically applied when parked, so I don't how it
> >could "slam on" while parked.
> Pardon the confusion.
> a) Sometimes it came on and stuck on while driving.
> b) other times it would not release when I shifted from park (when it had
> not been stuck "on" previous to going into park).

This is a very important clue.  Now I don't know anything about the
Workhorse chassis but I am a good diagnostician.  This tells me that
something is wrong in whatever component detects when the
transmission is in "park".  Probably a switch on the transmission. 
Or it could very well be a chaffed wire that occasionally hits
against ground and activates the circuit.  If that's the case, the
dealer will likely NEVER find it. If I owned the rig, I'd buy a
factory service manual and start noodling things out using the
classic divide and conquer process.  The simplest thing you could do
is to find where this signal originates and hook a test light to it
so that you can watch it.  If it's a chaffed wire, it's likely that
you'll see flickers of contact before it makes a good enough
connection to activate the brake.  If you can catch the rig when the
malfunction is stable (not intermittent), then the problem becomes
easy to find.
> Needless to say "b" is no big deal vs. the clean out your drawers experience
> of "a" ...
> > From: Chris Bryant <>
> >Living in a small town, I have two customers that have had
> >this happen. One was able to crawl under the rig, and disable the
> >parking brake himself.
> Oh, how I would have loved to have been able to disable the entire parking
> brake mechanism. However, the workhorse tech guys VERY clearly explained how
> wrong and dangerous that would have been as there is no difference between
> Park and Neutral as far as the transmission's concerned on this chassis.
> Without that auto parking brake, you will roll just like you're in Neutral
> when you're in Park. Since I didn't think I was quick enough to stop, hop
> out the side door and chock the wheels before the coach rolled into
> something it shouldn't have, I ruled out that option.

I wouldn't.  What I'd do is find out where the brake activates,
remove the wire and then hook up a temporary switch that will
positively interrupt the signal.  If it's a solenoid, my temporary
switch would hook to the solenoid terminal and the other side would
hook to the wire I removed.  This way, when the switch is open,
there is no possible way for the brake to activate.  When it's
closed, the brake works normally. You drive with the switch open and
close it before parking.  I would ALSO equip the switch with a light
that would monitor the wire coming to the solenoid.  That way, you
can tell when the system is malfunctioning.  Once it does, then you
can stop at your leisure and troubleshoot.

> >The other was driving at the time- the park
> >brake engaged, exploded, the rig caught on fire, he suffered a heart
> >attack, and they are still fighting with various people on the
> >settlement (basically just paying off the rig).
> Thanks. Even I appreciate a little humor after all of my whining ;-)
> (you were making that up, right?)

I suspect that he wasn't.  Chris usually doesn't use dry wit.

> > From: charles <>
> > Get your manual on the chassis and find the toll free numbers
> > listed in it.  If you get the run around ask for Michel Madill.
> Workhorse knows all about us (see above). I sure appreciate the name,
> though.
> > From: Hugh <>
> > I go with you guy's also. First you have to work with the dealer and
> > manufacturer.
> Point very well taken, and that is exactly the route I'm going. I'm just
> concerned as hell about them ever really tracking down what is causing the
> brake problem. My other fear is what this trauma has done to other systems
> in the coach and in particular, the drivetrain.

Trauma?  C'mon guy, get real.  Nothing more or less than locking up
the brakes.

Look, you can either act like some dumbass consumer who raises hell
up up the ladder, makes a lot of people unhappy (including yourself)
and in the end not be satisfied or you can take primary
responsibility for locating the fault and then tell the dealer's
parts changer what to fix.  An intermittent problem like this is any
mechanic's nightmare.  You simply can't pull in and say "fix it". 
There's no magic wand to wave to somehow reveal "it" to them.  You
have to help.  Like I said before, I'd render the system incapable
of locking the brakes at speed with the switch and then I'd learn
about the system and start trying to collect data with which to
isolate the problem.  If you really can't do any diagnostics, then
I'd suggest finding an independent mechanic and use him as a
consultant.  An independent is much more flexible than a dealership
who has to operate within the mfr's rules.  It is very likely that
the mfr can be persuaded to pay the consultant's fee once he finds
the problem.


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