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Question for Diesel Pusher Owners


wtmtnhiker

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Wife and I have decided that we want to sell our 5th wheel in favor of a diesel motorhome. We've been searching now for about 1 1/2 years. I bought the RV Consumer Group's RV Price and Ratings Guide to help us in our research. The guide came recommended by other forum members.

Last spring while in North Carolina we test drove a 2007 40' Winnebago Tour. We were on a good secondary road and managed to get it up to 55-60 MPH. There was a cross wind of approx 35 MPH. The motorhome was very difficult to keep in my lane and wandered excessively. We didn't buy it because I really didn't like the way it handled even when the wind died down a bit.

The RV Price and Ratings Guide recommends buying a motorhome with a wheelbase to length ratio of at least 70%. They get this by dividing the wheel base by the total length of the vehicle. The Tour had a ratio of 56% yet the guide gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars for handling (very good) which seems to be a contradiction and not at all what we experienced. Conversely another motorhome we looked at but did not test drive ( a Tropi-Cal 370LX) had a ratio of 51% and the guide gave it 1.5 out of a possible 5. Saying it could be fatiguing for most people because the vehicle could wander and be difficult to steer most of the time which is exactly how the Tour felt like it would be after a few hours of driving.

To those of you with experience operating and owning diesel pushers do you think there was something wrong with the Tour I test drove or are they typically hard to control in windy conditions? What do you think of Tropi-Cal? I had never heard of it until this month, I know that they are now out of business. The guide gives it a pretty good rating except for handling. Thanks for reading.

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Guest THE TRAILERKING

Could have had issues. Possibly even bad shocks, tires, other suspension issues.

As for the Tropical...................There's lot of stuff to choose from so I wouldn't fall in love with the first thing you find.

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My wheelbase is a 208" and length 415" That make mine a 50% one.

I have only had it 13 years & 2 months. And haven't noticed any fatiguing yet.

I did put a Safe-T-Steer on it within 800 miles of buying it. But that wasn't for any steering problem.

No problem with wind. I do watch for semis passing as that takes just a little steering input. But after a while it is just natural to do.

 

With a DP don't over correct the steering or you will be all over the road.

 

Does that outfit use a different ratio on gassers? Since their overhang behind the axle can be much more then a DP for the same length.

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Do they say anything about % of weight GAWR on front or rear axles?

I just weighted a couple weeks ago and front weight is 85% of the GAWR and rear 98.8%.

No, they are just dividing the wheelbase length by the overall length to come up with a percentage with 70% being the benchmark. Nothing else in the equation.

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I would recommend test driving a few more for comparison. My Eagle on a Spartan chassis handles very well. Wind doesnt really bother it unless it is a very high wind. However when you get real rutty roads combined with high winds any vehicle will be a handful. That's when you need to realize its not a sports car and slow down a bit.

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Our Beaver handles exceptionally well and, as others have said about theirs, winds aren't noticeable unless they're quite strong and blowing at a right angle to our direction of travel. The wheelbase to length ratio is 0.56.

 

IMHO the particular chassis matters more than generalized statements. I've been told by dealers that our SMC-built chassis is known as one that drives rather well.

 

One thing to bear in mind is that these vehicles are never going to drive like cars; I do think some of the complaints arise from people who expect their MH's to drive like their toads!

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Regardless of what the so called experts say, its got to feel right to you. I've never put much faith in the RV Consumer Group, since they don't actually do any testing themselves. They simply rely on some mathematical formulas and opinionated input from others to reach their conclusions & ratings. They always seemed to be more interested in selling their ratings, rather than actually testing rigs.

On the other hand, large motorhomes ride differently than the vehicles you're used to. The chassis maker, not the motorhome manufacturer, determines how it will ride & drive. There are several different front end suspensions used by the various chassis makers, and they all feel different. Also, just like the rest of the motorhome, saving dollars on some of the expensive front end components is sometimes put ahead of ride quality. When I replaced my brand new steering bellcrank on my Freightliner XC chassis, with a heavier duty version, it made a world of difference in the steering and reduction in "wandering". Tire selection and proper tire inflation also has a significant impact on ride & steering. Keep test driving and keep track of which chassis brand and which front end suspension options you like or dislike; and ask them to verify the tire inflation pressures before you head out.

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My recollection is that the RV Consumer Group has always recommended a wheelbase to overall length ratio of at least 55 percent or so but nowhere near 70‰. Are you sure about that? Maybe it's something new about one particular type of a rig.

Yes it says "We consider all highway control ratings under 60 to be substandard and possibly dangerous for travel under average highway conditions. We recommend only purchasing RV's with a minimum rating of 70." It's at the bottom of the page on all the ratings. That's why I found it odd that they would give the Winnebago 4.5 out of 5 when the ratio was only 56. I guess as suggested I need to drive a few more.

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Yes it says "We consider all highway control ratings under 60 to be substandard and possibly dangerous for travel under average highway conditions. We recommend only purchasing RV's with a minimum rating of 70." It's at the bottom of the page on all the ratings. That's why I found it odd that they would give the Winnebago 4.5 out of 5 when the ratio was only 56. I guess as suggested I need to drive a few more.

This is off the top of my head but I suspect any rig with a 70 % wheelbase to length ratio is either going to be a real short gasser or much more likely a DP.

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I am in the tag axle group. I have had both. When the wheelbase is too short, crosswinds can create havoc when driving. The wind pushes the rear one way and then pushes the front. Makes for a see saw ride.

 

But IMHO this is more of a wheelbase to total length issue then it is a tag vs single axle issue. Our MH has a 56% wheelbase to length ratio and is very "well behaved" in cross winds up to ~40 mph.

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As some have already said, don't go just by numbers as there are quite a few factors to consider some of which are:

 

Weights - if unequal can apply a bias to the directionality

Tire Pressure - similar to weights but also can add differences in recovery.

Longitudinal balance/loading - similar to weights but applies along the length of the rig.

 

Experience of the driver WITH THAT PARTICULAR RIG. New drivers tend to over correct and/or be stiff at the wheel. I for one was the biggest contributor to my rig's unstable behavior and it wasn't until I finally relaxed with the inputs that it became a real joy to drive.

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Yes it says "We consider all highway control ratings under 60 to be substandard and possibly dangerous for travel under average highway conditions. We recommend only purchasing RV's with a minimum rating of 70." It's at the bottom of the page on all the ratings. That's why I found it odd that they would give the Winnebago 4.5 out of 5 when the ratio was only 56. I guess as suggested I need to drive a few more.

 

Call RVCG and ask, but I suspect there's more that goes into their "highway control rating" than just wheelbase to length ratio alone, so one will not necessarily equal the other.

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Guest THE TRAILERKING

 

Experience of the driver WITH THAT PARTICULAR RIG. New drivers tend to over correct and/or be stiff at the wheel. I for one was the biggest contributor to my rig's unstable behavior and it wasn't until I finally relaxed with the inputs that it became a real joy to drive.

This for sure....

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Call RVCG and ask, but I suspect there's more that goes into their "highway control rating" than just wheelbase to length ratio alone, so one will not necessarily equal the other.

Lou is exactly right. The ratio is only part of the information used.

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