November arrived, and it was time to drop off our grandson, Jace, back with his mother. That's because our next couple of weeks were going to be spent in manufacturing / repair environments to get our 36LA back in shape after the pounding it took during our first few months on the road.
For those who have been reading our blog, you know our coach was ordered with a revolutionary new rear suspension from Liquidspring. When it works, it makes our Ford F53 truck chassis ride almost like a much more expensive diesel motor home.
And when it works.
Unfortunately, our Liquidspring system hasn't worked really well since we picked up the coach back in August. Part of the problem was that we had never owned a Class A motor home before and didn't have any way to compare the ride to our new home, so we didn't realize it wasn't working as advertised. Part of it was a driver interface which looked at times like it was working, when it really wasn't. And part of it was a problem with our Liquidspring system itself.
While in New Hampshire back in September, we had a ride height sensor replaced which was giving our 36LA an error message, basically disabling the system because it could not properly adjust the ride height on both sides equally. Based on calls to Liquidspring, this was a first for them, and according to many users of this new system on Facebook and other sites, ours appeared to be a unique problem. Replacing the sensor got us a great ride from New Hampshire all the way down to Pennsylvania, where we stopped for a couple of nights and deployed our leveling jacks. But the ride height sensor appeared to fail again once we powered up before leaving our campground. Very frustrating, and it could not have happened at a worse time, as we were approaching Harrisburg, PA, home to some of the worst roads in the northeast!
Long story short, some significant damage occurred as a result of that drive (we'll detail that in our next blog post, so stay tuned!), but we made it back to Georgia to a campground we were going to stay at for a month, which would give us time to hopefully fix the Liquidspring system sufficiently enough to get us to their factory in Indiana by November 4th. Since the symptom was that any time we deployed our leveling jacks on any kind of significant slope the Liquidspring system would error out, once we replaced the sensor which showed the error we could run as along as we wanted with a working system - so long as we didn't deploy jacks. Great if we got a level site; not so great if it had any slope!
Our final day in North Georgia was a miserable one. We had some significant rain the previous two days, and more rain was expected later in the day, but there was a 2-hour window of no rain in the morning. This gave me a chance to crawl underneath our 36LA and replace the sensor before leaving, hopefully giving us a working system for the ride north. Unfortunately, we were in a crushed rock pad which still had rainwater running through it, and the 36LA was as low as it could be since the rear suspension wasn't working – yet. Oh, and the area where the sensor is attached is right by the exhaust extension and the wet bay of the motor home; the two lowest points on our chassis. Let's just say I wished I was back at my old high school weight of 135 lbs when I was trying to get underneath.
Muddy and wet from rear end to shoulders, I extricated myself from the near-prison I had entered 30 minutes previously, and thank God the Liquidspring system came up and running! Now to make the sprint to Lafayette, Indiana, hopefully finding level campsites along the way. Our first stop was just outside of Lexington, KY in a town called Berea, at the Oh! KY Campground. Nice level pull through site. Quiet. Not much in the way of amenities but they're adding a pool. But since we had made such good time (even in rain and windy conditions) we decided we could stay an extra day just to rest and recuperate. Did NOT deploy the dreaded jacks.
The next day got us to Columbus, Indiana, where we Wally-docked at a local Walmart Superstore. Once again, since the parking lot was level, no jacks needed to be deployed. Liquidspring still running great. Fingers firmly crossed, our final travel day was just a couple of hours away to Lafayette, where we were allowed to boondock in Liquidspring's parking lot.
Early Monday morning, we meet with Chad Wilkins, Customer Service Manager at Liquidsprings. First things first, let's try to recreate the problem. Of course, there's no slope to their parking lot, but Chad wants to go over our procedures to see if we can recreate it anyway. Lo and behold, we get our warning light lit up! This causes Chad to look at our procedures a bit more closely, because he knows the logic behind what his system is trying to do. And it seems as if we were doing something wrong procedurally.
According to Chad, the proper procedure for shutting down the Liquidspring system is to lower the ride height to it's lowest setting, then shut off the interface before extending jacks. We had been keeping the interface up and running at it's normal running height during the jack and slide deployment process, which caused the Liquidspring system to try to compensate for ride height as the jacks were lifting up our coach. Apparently it confused the devil out of the system, causing it to error out.
The good news was that our system was running fine. The bad news was that all our problems were caused due to a lack of documentation from Liquidspring regarding the proper way to operate their system. As Chad explained it, the RV marketplace is new for them, as is the interface that drives their system. Liquidspring has been installed on thousands of ambulances and large ore carriers for years, but those systems are simple on/off buttons, with nothing to adjust both ride comfort and ride height as the RV systems do. And there are no leveling jacks on ambulances.
Just to play it safe, Chad had new ride height sensors installed on both sides of our 36LA while we got a tour of the Liquidspring plant, we received a little bag Liquidspring swag for our troubles, and a promise from Chad that he will update his quick reference guide for RV use. It's been a pleasure to drive about 1000 trouble-free miles with our working rear suspension, and it makes a world of difference in riding enjoyment and less fatigue at the end of a day's drive.
Next, it's on to Red Bay, Alabama, the birthplace of our 36LA and the place where hopefully all our damage will be fixed by the masters at Tiffin!
We're Dave and Barbara Richard, and we're planning the ultimate retirement experience - travel the U.S. and Canada in style in a Tiffin Open Road 36LA Class A motor home, play golf and stop at every weird and wacky roadside attraction we can find.