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Sneaking up on FTing in a Class A


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Hello fellow RV'ers! I just joined today, but I suspect I'm going to ramp up my involvement here.

 

I've been working on my 2000 F250 7.3L Powerstroke P/U for years, getting it ready to pull a 5'er (400 HP empty, about 275 HP towing)... then we changed our minds. Oh well... at least I have something for trade.

 

We're still in the process of downsizing and the home will go on the market this year (fingers crossed). We plan to buy a used class A motorhome before the house is sold. We can afford the payments on both simultaneously, but selling the anchor (I'm a sailor, so I think in such terms) means we pay down the MH right-quick. The goal is to be debt-free in our new lifestyle by about 2017.

 

I have a toad - a Prius (parked next to the big diesel, I'm hated by all who look in my driveway). I have experience working on diesel, so whatever we get will have a diesel pusher. I've driven a gasser Class A before, but it was for camping (24'). I'm familiar with the 1 HP per 100-lb rule of thumb, but I'm wondering what the rule of thumb is for torque, because that's the real number with a diesel.

 

I looked at bus conversions, but too many miles on the chassis spook me. I am not in the budget range to get the really nice toys, like American Eagles or similar. With class A's, I've found a lot of used units with low miles, from the era of reliable diesels (pre-DEF and DPF). My preliminary budget is about $50K, but that's considered getting a foundation to build on.

 

Here come the first of a series of questions: Do the class A's from about 2000-2005 have communication ports to the ECUs and sensors like the OBDII port on a Daily Driver? I'm not looking to do heavy modifications, I just want situational awareness with the powertrain. I notice Cummins and Cats are the weapons of choice in the holster, which I am comfortable with. What are the sought-after powertrains, including transmissions? Why? If you factor in that I can do light to moderate mechanical work (I don't know squat about transmissions), does ease of service alter the choice?

 

I'm familiar with feeling cramped in small places (sailor), but going really big has the trade-off of maneuverability, parking, fuel economy, towing capability, windage, etc... With our lifestyle and plans, we are looking at the rigs in the 34'-36' range with no slide-outs. Slide-outs are another step in getting mobile again, they are an item to maintain and seal, and they typically crowd the interior until they are extended.

 

Technology: I have the means and experience to make the rig more capable than anything rolling off an assembly line at any time, so I'm not worried about outdated features. Case in point - here's my 15-year-old truck cab:

 

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Do you have input countering anything I've said that I should consider?

 

Thank you for enduring the read.

 

Rich

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In your price range try looking at used Monaco (Dynasty, Diplomats,Windsor's)in the 99 to 2004 age range. A good quality older rig can be a great choice. Don't be afraid of miles on a well cared for rig. Ours had 102K when we bought it. Had engine and tranny completely checked out by a large truck facility prior to purchase.

We have a Cummins 350 and it just rolls down the road and up the hills like a dream. Most trannys are Allison

 

I never get the no slide thing. In 9 years we've never had slide issues. Our 5th wheel had 3 hydraulic or 2000 dynasty has one. In our MH there is no restriction of usable space.

My guy was a Sailor. He said he wasn't living in a tin can with no living areas slide

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I was a "no slides" advocate for years until I gave some thought to the idea that we spend a lot more time parked than we do moving. The extra space we get from our current single super slide makes living in our coach much more pleasant. With the slide closed for travel, we're not closed in enough to make anything inaccessible. Our current coach is 14 years old, and as far as I can tell from the maintenance records, there has never been a slide related problem with either of the previous owners. Since we've owned it, I have changed the slide switch because it was getting harder to press in one direction, but that was just a $12 part and about 10 minutes of my time. Having had the slide for awhile now, I'd likely never go back to a no slides rig.

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I'm not a diesel expert and only have had them in pickups and cars but owned a gas motorhome so I'll not comment on that but I did want to welcome you to the Escapee forums! Always good to have new folks join in so come often and comments are very welcome.

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My 2001 has the communication ports. It has the round plug in 2 locations...one under the dash and the other one is at the rear in the same area as the batteries. You can hook up the Silverleaf adapter to it if you want. Dont know how older MH are but obviously in 2001 they came with it.

If I were looking again at power trains I would look for the 8.3 or 8.9 Cummins .....both are excellent engines and pretty much all diesel motorhomes now are connected to an Allison 6 speed tranny except for some of the 5.9 cummins powered MHs that had the 4 speed. That combo I would stay away from. Not enough power especially with a 4 speed. Some of the Cats are good too but I dont know enough about them to recommend which ones are good. i'm sure someone will chime in on them.

I have heard over and over from owners how after 100,000 miles the diesel engines improve with HP, torque and fuel mileage so dont let some mileage scare you away. My MH has 80,000 miles and my mechanic does not recommend synthetic oil yet because it is still breaking in...go figure.

Slides....we would not be without slides. Also , slides will improve any resale considerations.

In all honesty if my budget were in the same range as yours, I would not discount a gas motorhome. Lots of people fulltime in gassers and are very happy. You can easily purchase a Newmar Mountain Air gas MH in your price range and they are excellent units.I have seen numerous gas MHs in your price range with 25000 to 35000 miles on them which means there is lots of life left in them considering you should be able to get 250,000 miles out of a well maintained gas engine. Also that would allow you to look at newer units.

But that is a choice you will have to make....I'm just throwing it out there. Good luck in your search and if you have any other questions we are all here to help.

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Welcome to the Escapees and the forum.

I'd look for a floor plan that works with the slide in and out, our 99 Rexhall works great in or out and the extra space with it out is wonderful. The slide has never leaked or caused trouble.

Best advice I can give is shop hard and get the layout you like before you put your hard earned cash down. The saying is "You never get the rig you really want until you buy your third one" I don't have the money to waste buying three of them so we looked long and hard and made lists of what we liked and didn't like in the ones we saw. We are very happy with the one we finally bought.

Good luck!

BnB

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Thank you all for the great feedback!

 

I can see now that I actually bring something in support of the forum - OBDII experience. I have learned these rigs have OBDII ports. They are diagnostic ports, used when the shop "hooks it up to the computer". Well... the technology has come so far in the last 20 years (since OBDII was introduced), that you just need an adapter, a smart phone or portable device, and a $5 App to read the sensors in your powertrain. Here is a Nexus 7 hooked up to an OBDII port on a 7.3L Powerstroke:

 

 

Slide-outs: I am convinced they are not an issue. I have no real direct experience with them, everybody here provided positive feedback, and nobody had negative feedback.

 

I looked at those Monacos, I like the bathroom layout on the Diplomats - getting the toilet separated from the sink has been a huge help in my household. Here's the reasoning behind it: The shower is low on the clock priority, you can take a shower any time of the day and be good for 24 hours. The toilet is top of the clock priority - delays of use are not always permitted. The sink is lower than toilet, but higher than shower - prepping to go someplace usually involves this. My children are grown, but there was a huge difference in household harmony when we lived in homes with the toilet in a separate room from the sink. Shower didn't matter so much - we could schedule around that.

 

Diesel vs. Gas: Anybody who has loaded up gas and diesel big blocks with towing or the weight of the rig, knows they have a whole different feel. The gasser gets up the hill by spinning up to high RPMs to reach the HP available up top. The diesel has torque... with the Cummins 330 delivering more torque than I can eek out of my 400HP Ford/Navistar engine. I towed with my 460 C.I. gasser, and I've towed with my 444 C.I. turbodiesel - I'm never going back to gas. My empty gasser weighed 6000 pounds and got 10 MPG (on a good day). My empty diesel weighs 8000 pounds and I get 16-19 MPG (all year round).

 

Oh... and a word on engine braking (not available on a gasser): I tripled the life of my brakes after I put that on my diesel.

 

As for engine miles, they don't spook me. My diesel now has 300K and I give it a clean bill of health with no blowby, solid compression, and it's running smoother than it did off the assembly line. Gassers - yup. 250K limit. I wasn't worried about the engine, I'm more worried about bearings, differential, steering/suspension hardware, and the like.

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Oh... and a word on engine braking (not available on a gasser): I tripled the life of my brakes after I put that on my diesel.

 

Engine braking on diesels is basically just a mechanical means of creating the compression braking that gas engines have naturally. Some gas OD transmissions pretty much freewheel on a downhill run, but dropping out of OD restores the full compression braking effectiveness.

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Engine braking on diesels is basically just a mechanical means of creating the compression braking that gas engines have naturally. Some gas OD transmissions pretty much freewheel on a downhill run, but dropping out of OD restores the full compression braking effectiveness.

That is the exact experience I have with my GMC pickup. In drive it freewheels...have to drop it to third to get it out of overdrive and then it will engine brake.

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Thank you for that feedback.

 

Yes... without Torque Converter Lock Up in the transmission, engine braking does little good. Gassers have a lower compression ratio than turbodiesels, plus a turbodiesel can withstand far more Exhaust Back Pressure without issue. I have experienced engine braking on a gasser and on a turbodiesel - not the same thing.

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Welcome to the forum from another sailor. DW and I cruised for five years back in the 1980s. No slides on our 32' cutter. :P

 

I've owned a Dodge diesel pickup with a Cummins 5.9 engine for almost 20 years and it has given us such great service that I was not at all leery of that engine on a DP. Since our pickup was a farm pickup it got a lot of hard use and it just sucked it up and kept right on. It's still going strong and I know that if I sold it I'd never be able to afford another one. :P

 

So when a Foretravel U225 came up on craigslist in the Seattle area we took a serious look at it. No slides, only 8' wide, only 11' tall and just amazingly nice inside. Also the 5.9L Cummins, the 643 Allison (4-speed) but with a Banks Stinger package and a Pacbrake. It's performance seems pretty snappy to me; I'd like a 6-speed but the 643 is pretty rugged and its all-mechanical design makes it easy to work on, too.

 

But the 8.3L Cummins is also a great engine and if you want more snap you could always put the Banks on that.

 

We want to go back to Baja and park on a beach and watch the yachties play. So we actually like the low, narrow profile of the Foretravel "Grand Villa" styles. Very streamlined, rounded rooftop, all fiberglass. And the 10.4 mpg (towing a Jeep Wrangler) over our 2,000 mile trip last winter doesn't hurt, either.

 

You might want to take a look at a Foretravel before you jump onto anything else. There are some issues with them but they're well known and pretty easily corrected and there is also a knowledgeable and helpful forum. Plus the manufacturer is still in business with employees still there who can remember how my RV was put together.

 

WDR

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Once again, great feedback. It's all appreciated.

 

I'm somewhat familiar with the 5.9 12v and the 24v, and I say familiar by way of talking to diesel buddies. I'm aware of the modifications needed to make either of them bulletproof to accept the steroid treatment. I spent my time in the trenches while "permagrinning" a 7.3L and I have decided to opt out of that exercise for my next diesel.

 

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When dealing with mountains and power boating, I have learned one steadfast rule: Go big or go slow. Fuel economy suffers greatly when a rig is underpowered, and asking for big torque out of a small turbodiesel is doable - but risky (to the wallet and one's chi).

 

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First off I have had both gas and diesel. Not even close to the same. 460 Ford gasser in a Class A 36' was marginal at best. Set the cruise on 62 and 90% of the time the gas pedal is on the floor. Not good for long life. The 7.3 Ford diesel I have is what I like and its pulling a 16,000 LB 5th wheel without a bit of problems. I should mention I was hauling a S-10 pickup behind the Class A Gasser when I traveled so that is another factor.

 

Second, if you are worried about miles MPG in these things forget it. There is no such thing as good MPG. It's just part of the deal.

 

Slides are the best thing going on the newer units. You may want to think about that a little more. If you want to upgrade in the future, trying to get rid of a no slide unit is tough at best.

 

Good luck on your future buy. And most of all, have fun when you do get what ever it is you want.

 

Dave

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Oh... I'm not expecting to parallel the performance of a Prius. I understand we're talking on a scale of 1 to 10 here, with 10 getting a push from a tailwind on the flat. I'm just thinking of 8-9 vs. 5-6. Mountain grades? That's where the diesel holds it together, but the gasser just flat falls flat. If I lived in the Midwest, I wouldn't likely give it such "gravity". But... after tackling mountains my entire driving life - I've copped an attitude.

 

With my experiences on mountain passes - If I had the money, I'd seek out a 4X4 motor home.

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First off I have had both gas and diesel. Not even close to the same. 460 Ford gasser in a Class A 36' was marginal at best.

Don't base your choice on this comment unless you are shopping for an RV built before 1998 as that was the last year chassis that you could get with this choice of engine. Ford introduced the Triton V-10 as an early 1999 model in March of 98 The first of those was 275 hp and ours was one of them but I did add the Banks performance package that significantly improved performance. More recent versions of the engine were at 310 hp and all in the past few years are 362 hp and each as a torque figure to match. Our V-10 carried us very well for nearly 12 years of fulltime and all of that towing. It went everywhere that any other motorhome could go and did so happily, our performing the smaller diesel pushers of that time, many of which were also rated at 275 hp. As time went on and pushers got bigger engines many of them could pass us on steep grades, but since I never considered this a racing event, that never bothered me at all. At the end of the 14 years that we kept our RV the total cost per mile was much less than it would have been had we paid the 50% more which it would have cost to get the exact same coach on a Freightliner pusher chassis, which was an option.

 

I figured my cost per mile by taking the purchase price of the coach(new), added in all maintenance costs, repair costs, fuel and upgrades to determine what we spent. I then deducted from that number only the money which I got when it was sold. We now have downsized to a travel trailer and are back to part time due to health issues, but if we had it to do over again, I'd still go the same way for reasons of our limited budget. Be very careful about advice from any of us because we each do what fits our circumstances and very seldom will you find someone whose life experience will exactly match yours.

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Ford introduced the Triton V-10 as an early 1999 model in March of 98... ... and all in the past few years are 362 hp and each as a torque figure to match....

 

Be very careful about advice from any of us because we each do what fits our circumstances and very seldom will you find someone whose life experience will exactly match yours.

 

Thank you for the heads-up on the nature of the forums, it's always good to share that thought. I give the same warning on the diesel forum on a regular basis - I'm with ya.

 

The Ford Triton V10 has about 420-425 foot-pounds of torque (also available in the Superduty trucks like mine). The "antiquated" Ford 7.3L has 500 foot-pounds in stock configuration. While banks can bump the numbers on a gasser, there is a whole list of reasons why a spark-ignited fume burner can't really climb out of its performance box. The turbocharger changes some of the rules, and compression ignition changes some of the other limitations. My modified 7.3L turbodiesel stands at 800 foot-pounds of torque - almost twice that of the stock 6.8L Triton V10.

 

Bear in mind - I'm in no way saying gassers are lesser than turbodiesels, I'm saying there are numbers available to compare (like cost), and one works for me and the other doesn't

 

Like you, I'm not looking to race... but when I'm pulling the Vantage grade at 108 degrees F, I'd rather manage Exhaust Gas Temperatures than engine temps .

 

I was noticing some of the rigs in my size have engines with 900 foot-pounds of torque in stock configuration - very impressive.

 

When dealing with heavy loads, I noticed many people use car and racing terminology to rate the engine. Horse Power is a calculation that uses RPM in the formula. Well... if we could spin our tachometers up to 5000 RPM like a gasser, I can promise you that the HP numbers on the turbodiesel would skyrocket. When crossing fuel types (including electric), the number to look at is torque - and the electric motor wins there. The lowly Prius has an electric motor capable of 300 foot-pounds of torque, but the only time that much torque is used, is for regenerative braking.

 

BTW, I believe DaveM mentioned the 460 because I brought it up as an example. The V10 is a more apt comparison - and I am very familiar with its 10 MPG (tops) in the exact same truck that I own with a diesel that gets 16-19 MPG.

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