Thursday, October 20, 2011

First Steps of Progress at Tiffin

This blog entry is a story of good news/bad news. The good news: we’re starting to make progress in solving several problems. The bad news: there are a lot of big problems!

We arrived in Red Bay, Alabama a week ago today. Red Bay is the home of Tiffin Motorhomes, where our Phaeton was built. The Allegro Campground at the Tiffin Service Center (93 FHU sites, plus 8+ partial) was full, as was another campground in town (10 FHU sites), but we parked across the street at a car/motorhome wash/detail shop for $20 with 50 amp electric and water hookups. Chris McKinney, owner of the shop, has a site on each side of the building, and he even gave us a patio table, two chairs and an umbrella (which the wind blew over, so it’s laying on the ground). There was no extra charge for the pond, either!


We were told it would probably be 3 days before we could move into the campground, where a full hookup site would be $20 per day (up from $10 last year). The good news is that we got a site the next day.


We were also told it would probably be Wednesday before we could go into what’s called “Express Bay.” This means that, if you don’t have an appointment, you are put on a waiting list for Express Bay. When your turn comes you move into one of the 49 work bays with a team of technicians, and they do as much of your list as they can do in 3 hours. It was today (just one day later than expected) when we got our turn.


The team went over our list and determined what they could do right away or soon, mostly upholstery. Three replacement windows are on order and will be installed when they arrive in a day or two. Three of the bigger items require specialists to work on them in a specified bay with the tools and equipment to do the job. One is to replace the outside floor of our large slide-out. It’s been scraping the tile as it moves in and out, and materials have been coming off. This picture shows underneath the slide.


Here’s some of the material that keeps coming off.


The entire slide will have to be removed from the coach and laid on its side. The floor will be replaced, then the slide will be reinstalled. This can be done within a workday, so we won’t have to stay in a motel. We were put on a waiting list for this job, with no estimate of when it can take place.

The second big job, and the main reason we came to Red Bay now instead of waiting for a more convenient time when we were traveling east for other reasons, is to get the floor under the water tanks replaced. This is a potential problem with all Phaetons and Allegro Buses built 2007-2010, so there’s a large number of motorhomes needing the work done. Tiffin recognizes the problem was in using the wrong material for the floor and will fix it for free, but it has to be done in Red Bay. If you have the work done elsewhere, you have to pay for it. And there’s a long waiting list to get into one of the three bays where this work is done. Here are some replacement floors waiting to get installed.


We first noticed the problem in mid-June while we were in Homer, Alaska. (Thanks to our buddy Dennis Hill for pointing it out.) The floor can be seen sagging between the support joists, and the flooring is deteriorating around the corner of the sewer bay pan.


Don called Tiffin and they said “Come to Red Bay and we’ll fix it.” Don said we were over 4,000 miles away, and we had other travel plans before we could make the trip. They said “Don’t worry, the tanks won’t fall out.” Famous last words. Here’s how it looked (on the other side of the coach from the above picture) in September when were were in Rapid City, SD. The wet spot is from the fresh water tank that’s leaking through the overflow valve because it’s sagging so much on that side. We drained it to take the weight off.


The bottom of the fresh water tank can be seen at the top of the close-up below. I’d say it was very possible for it to fall out!


We hired a good mobile repairman who’s done work for us before. He lifted the floor and tanks with a hydraulic jack and braced everything with angle iron.



Now we felt safe driving another 2,000 miles (traveling via Laramie, Wyoming to see Don’s son and wife, then Albuquerque, New Mexico for the Balloon Fiesta) to get to Red Bay.

While we were in the service bay today, we had the techs check the radius where the roof meets the outer walls of the coach. There have been reports of this curved piece cracking on motorhomes similar to ours. The verdict: yes, our coach has the problem. So we were put on yet another waiting list for this specialized repair, the 3rd of the big jobs.

We got on the longest waiting list, that of the wet bay, when we first arrived last Thursday, and were told it could be 3-4 weeks before we can get that fixed. We’re now hoping that everything can be done by mid-November. We’ll almost certainly be spending Halloween and my birthday (Nov 5) in Red Bay.

Meanwhile, when we were in Arkansas on our way here we discovered that the sunroof on the car had broken again! This time it seemed to pop upward and doesn’t look like it was caused by a falling object.


We had a light rain at the time, so we covered it with a garbage bag and duct tape. The tape kept coming loose, so we added more duct tape and are trying the get this repair done while we’re in Alabama.


This isn’t the happiest way we like to live our life on wheels, but we’ve gotta do what we’ve gotta do! At least we’re not raking leaves or shoveling snow. And we’re both healthy, as is Shadow.