As most readers of our blog know, our last motorhome was a 34 foot Excursion and I believe I mentioned how enjoyable driving it was – like participating in a Virginia Reel with an intricate yet smooth blending of moves resulting in a wonderful experience. Driving our new home, until this past week anyway, was quite frankly more like dancing with an inexperienced partner who is constantly stepping on your toes. The trip from Boise to Sunset Bay, with the exception of our short stop at Crystal Crane Hot Springs was grueling.
Enter Henderson's Line-Up in Grant's Pass Oregon. Over the last couple of years I have read and heard there is ONE place on the west coast to take your motorhome for suspension and steering and that is Henderson's. They literally wrote the book and as such are the industry leaders and teachers. Getting an appointment so quickly was pure luck.
During the first step Henderson's performs what they call the Road Performance Assessment which involves the technician taking your rig out for test drive while you ride along as a passenger. This was a first time experience for me as Chris doesn't drive the RV. (My new perspective pretty much explains the fingernail impressions in the armrests of her chair and I'm sure I made them just a bit deeper.) What our technician Eric found out was just what I had endured – pulling to the right, sway and porpoising on stops. What he found after we got back to the shop was a whole different matter.
You see, Henderson's also performs a pretty detailed inspection underneath the rig and in my case found the bell crank (there was no bell and I didn't see any crank for a bell even if one existed, weird) that was far from tight, allowing the steering wheels to wobble. While the wobble didn't cause the pull to the right it did contribute to the handling and would have eventually resulted in odd wear patterns. Another find was during the alignment check. Come to find out we had been sort of going down the road sideways with the rig wanting to make a very wide sweeping turn to the right. Problem found – or nearly so. Being nearly a full inch out of square contributed a great deal to the pull to the right but like Bob Barker used to say “That's not all!”. The loose bell crank I mentioned camoflaged another contributing factor that is really not that unusual; a tire that is not really round and lastly, for probably the first time in its short life our motorhome was weighed at all four corners and was found to be just a bit lopsided. Add it all together and we have a rig that would head for the shoulder of the road at any lapse of concentration on the part of the driver. Knowing my difficulties just walking and chewing gum at the same time makes this a very dangerous situation.
The cure for all this? A little cutting and welding to straighten the out of square alignment. Replacing the bell crank with Henderson's own designed heavier duty one and finally giving the tire a shave to make it really round and of course balancing both. Lastly, to assist in tracking straight down the road and to help in the event of a blow-out we had the Safe-T Plus steering control installed. This last piece is like a sideways shock absorber, keeping the steer wheels running straight and true.
All in all, a full day at the shop and a moderately expensive solution but it was all worth while. Our drive home proved the work well worth every penny. This ungainly toe-stomping dancer has been turned into a graceful grand lady who is a pleasure to turn a waltz with. I'm looking forward to many a dance with the grand dame.
I'll tell you about our campers next time round. Just think raccoons, dog food and really thin tent fabric.