OK, so our first major excursion is now complete, and we're back in Georgia to drop off our 3 year-old grandson to his mother. We've spend just about one month on the road (as opposed to sitting and loading the RV for the first couple of weeks, and it's time to give the low down on how our Open Road 36LA (and us) have handled the road.
Tiffin build quality and overall quality – 4.8 out of 5 stars
After the initial leak in the shower, pretty much everything manufactured by Tiffin has met or exceeded our expectations. We've identified a couple of areas of woodwork that will need to be addressed in our first visit to Red Bay, but everything else from cabinets to floor to basement bays is pretty solid. The new dinette chairs for 2020 are wider and are more comfortable, and the extra chairs are sturdy and more than ample enough for any sized guest.
Water systems – 4.9 out of 5 stars
Plumbing is solid, and except for the exceptionally long time to get hot water to the kitchen sink or shower, works very well. The swivel on the kitchen sink is pretty free-flowing (wonder if that is normal or can be tightened down somewhat), and the wet bay works well. Interesting that the black tank flushes with significantly more force than the gray tank, but getting that part done faster doesn't bother me in the least!
Air cooling and heating systems – 5 out of 5 stars
Both A/C's cool very quickly (although we haven't had many days in the high '90's yet) and the furnaces and heat pumps work as advertised. The fireplace is pretty much essential to take the chill off of the living area first thing in the morning.
Kitchen appliances – 4.6 out of 5 stars
This score would have been higher, but the new gas cooktop, while looking great, is pretty weird with the elongated center burner. It might come in handy someday, but I'm not sure when that day will come. The residential refrigerator is great, and the new latches Tiffin uses to lock it closed are working fine (and we've been down some very nasty roads – more to come on that).
Hydraulics system – 4.9 out of 5 stars
The main slide has performed flawlessly, and the levelers have been almost perfect. One leveler in the rear seems to take more time to raise than the others. It usually takes me hitting the auto store button a second time to get the job done.
Carefree awning – 4.8 out of 5 stars
Haven't used it much due to the weather being windy where we've traveled, and it would have received a perfect score if not for the wire that got caught in the front arm support. Tore the wire out of the side of the awning when it got stuck when deploying, but caught it before it could cause too much damage. Big shout out for the automatic rain drain feature which collapses whichever end has the most water weight on it to relive the pressure on the fabric and arms.
Entry steps – 5 out of 5 stars
Hesitated even mentioning this category, because I'm sure at some point this will become a problem and didn't want to jinx things!
Truma AquaGo Comfort hot water heater – 4.8 out of 5 stars
This would have received a perfect score if not for it failing to provide hot water on our last night in New Hampshire (and boy did we need showers that night!). We were at 44% propane level in the coach, so we're not sure if it's an issue with lower pressure from the tank or not, as we filled the tank the next morning on our way out and it has worked fine since.
TV's and other electronics – 4 out of 5 stars
TV's work great. DVD player works fine, unless you want to run it via the remote. Pointing the remote at the IR receiver gets a response from the receiver, but nothing happens. A work in progress.
Liquidsprings rear suspension – 0.5 out of 5 stars
When it works, it's a marvelous technology, but it has only worked a total of 3 travel days out of 12. And when it doesn't work, you have NO SUSPENSION AT ALL on the rear end of your coach! The problem has been some faulty ride height sensors on the driver's side of the 36LA. I'm convinced now the unit wasn't working from day one until we found out it was leaning significantly to the left after leaving Hershey, PA on our way northbound. And unfortunately we were heading up to New England; home of some of the worst roads in America. Needless to say, our home took a beating on the way up, and unfortunately on the way back down, even though we had the ride height sensor changed out in New Hampshire.
Now, to Liquidspring's credit, they have shipped us replacement sensors whenever we have needed them, and done so overnight, but when you're on a schedule with a 3 year-old, you just can't add an extra night at a campground waiting for a new sensor to show up which may (or may not) work when you install it. Liquidsprings claims they got a bad batch of sensors from a third party supplier, and recently shipped us out a new one from a new supplier, so we'll see how this one works.
Unfortunately, the damage that was caused by having no suspension on the rear running on some bad roads is considerable. Minor damage to the bottom panel of the Splendide washer (the unit rocked into the bottom of the cabinet and broke off the snaps to the cover). Major damage to the exhaust tailpipe (lost it completely somewhere on our last travel day back to Georgia), which then allowed hot gasses to meltdown the right side of our wet bay, opening it up to the elements in three separate areas. I'll have to get a new tailpipe and heat shield installed before we can travel again, and figure out who takes care of the cost of the wet bay.
Needless to say, Liquidsprings is not high on out list of third-party providers right now. And sadly, I don't know if the latest sensor will work for a while, or fail again shortly. I have zero confidence in that system right now.
Adjusting to full-time RV living – 3.5 out of 5 stars
There's a certain frustration when you travel with a 3 year-old that can skew your patience level with new things, so I'm sure that this score could have been higher. I'm rolling with the punches a little bit better than Barbara is doing, but then I'm the one who has done the majority of the research beforehand in hopes that I could cope with the inevitable breakdowns and glitches that come with an RV. Not that any level of research could have prepared us for a complete disaster with our Liquidsprings. Still, I think that some of the issues would have been easier to live with if it were just the two of us and we had a rear suspension that worked.
Overall, it's a beautiful home on wheels (the comments we've received from fellow campers and campground staff are always appreciated), and it's running about as well as I imagined it would. And I know it's early. But I optimistically figure things can only go up from here.
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We're Dave and Barbara Richard, and we're living the ultimate retirement experience - traveling the U.S. and Canada in style in a Tiffin Open Road 36LA Class A motor home, playing golf and stopping at every weird and wacky roadside attraction we can find.