We spent 30 years in the North Georgia area, and never did we have as cold a winter as we experienced from November thru January. Each month was a quick move to the top of the hill to fill our depleted propane tank, and our heated hose was plugged in every day but three.
Needless to say, we were NOT amused.
But we did get to see Jace a whole bunch, so there's that.
Finally, it was time to leave. Our next firm destination was Tucson, AZ, both to have a much needed slide mechanism replaced on our bedroom slide, and then to spend a month in the warm sunshine of the Phoenix area for a month in March. Mainly to thaw us out from North Georgia!
OK, to the slide issue first. Our smaller bedroom slide is moved by a company called Schwintek. They have been the go-to company for smaller slide systems in the RV world for years, mainly because they are virtually the ONLY slide system company for smaller slides in the RV world. Our larger slide is handled by a hydraulic system due to it's size and weight.
The Schwintek system is poorly designed, at least for full-time RV living as far as I am concerned. It's rails and gears are lightweight aluminum, uses small gears, and relies on a complex ballet between 2 small motors and a weak camshaft on each side of the slide. The motors move until a voltage spike ensues; usually when the slide stops at the end of an extension, or stops when it is brought in for travel. The problem comes when the slide, for whatever reason, binds when coming in. This bind creates a voltage spike as well, so guess what happens?
Yup! The motor in question stops moving, putting the slide out of adjustment. A simple but cumbersome procedure is then needed to re-synchronize the motors, usually a few times to get everything back in business.
Our bedroom slide would not re-synch properly, causing the slide to need a stopping and starting routine to get it in and out, and making it uncertain whether it would work every time we stopped for the night. I think part of the reason why this system fails so often is because it's built for part-time RV-ing. Let's face it; our slides come in and go out on a significantly higher basis than part-time RV-ers experience. Theirs might go out 2-6 times per year, while ours can go out 2-4 times per WEEK.
It's a poorly designed and engineered system, but it was the only one available unless manufacturers wanted to run hydraulic lines to every slide.
Enter Brian Vroom of Tucson, AZ. Brian's dad bought a Tiffin Allegro Bus diesel motorhome a year or so ago, and on his very first trip in it, the Schwintek slide failed on him - twice. Being a mechanical engineer, Brian looked at it and said, “I can do better than that!”
And so he did.
Bigger gears. Deeper guide tracks for the gears. Thicker camshaft. Stronger motor. His system counts revolutions on the gear instead of waiting for a voltage spike to indicate the right placement in or out. And finally, he allows for the system to be disengaged from a bad motor so that the slide can be pushed back in by hand, because he locks his system onto his solid rails.
He's poised to revolutionize the RV slide industry. He has expanded his one bay operation in Tucson by adding an installer in Red Bay, AL where Tiffins are made, Tiffin's service center is replacing Schwintek slides that exhibit 5 or more mechanical failures, he's added an installer in Connecticut, and two in California, and he's looking to expand into the heart of RV country – Florida. Rumors abound that Tiffin is going to drop all installs of Schwintek slide systems in favor of Vroom, which would be another game-changer for Tiffin and Vroom.
The Vroom system replacement is a bit pricey at $2,975 (tax included) per slide, but given just one service call on a Schwintek slide will set you back between $1,100 and $1,500, the peace of mind knowing your slide isn't going to fail at the wrong time is well worth it. We just spent 12 days traveling across the country waiting for our appointed service day without moving our bedroom slide in or out. 12 days of no access to clothes because the slide bumps up against out dresser drawers. 12 days of climbing over the bed to get to my side of the bed, or get to the main bathroom to take a shower or get much-needed laundry done.
12 looooong days . . .
So how did everything work out?
Beautifully! They began promptly at 7:15, and were done by about 2:30, including the clean up. As they began to disassemble our slide, they showed me where the original Schwintek mechanism on my side of the slide was already beginning to bind up and could no longer be moved by hand when disconnected from the motor. It was ready to fail completely.
Now, our bedroom slide moves smoothly, with no herky-jerky movements, and moves straight as an arrow. They showed me how they reinforced our slide walls to better handle the stops when extending the slides that can warp the slide walls.
And our slide is so quiet now coming in and out! A larger motor helps because it no longer labors like the under-powered Schwintek motor, but it's also due to the smoother mechanism now locked in place. Bottom-line, this is how an electric slide should operate. When I mentioned how quiet it was, Brian looked at the moving slide, smiled and said, “Yeah, it's happy now”.
And so are we.
Next up: Some views on the way to Phoenix . . .
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.