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Old 03-18-2018, 07:51 PM   #1
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New to Us Chieftain Owners

Hello all! We are the proud new owners of a 2003 Winnebago Chieftain 39T. It rides on a Workhorse chassis with 8.1L Chevy. It has all the bells and whistles and has been well preserved by the previous owners with a little less than 53K miles. We just made the 130 mile trip home today and all major elements worked fine, but I think that the dash AC clutch may have given up the ghost about 30 miles from home. I've had that happen on a car once and it was the same intermittent racket (hard to describe, you just know it when you hear it) that was preceded by the stench of burning rubber. The smell dissipated relatively quickly, but the noise went on for about 20 miles and then just stopped. No issues with engine temps, trannny performance or alternator output. The other possibility is an idler pulley which would make a similar sound, but my experience is that it gives you a little warning, whereas the AC clutch doesn't. I'll take it to our local RV repair shop and get an expert diagnosis. Hey it's a 15 year old rig, I'm not naive enough to think there won't be any problems. We're happy to be members of the Winnebago owner's family and look forward to sharing and learning.
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Old 03-18-2018, 09:58 PM   #2
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Welcome aboard! While we have a 1998 Chieftain on the 'other' chassis, it was a 2001 Chieftain/Workhorse that sparked our interest in this Winnebago model. It was sitting between two versions of another brand's model that we came to see, but we spent most of our time on the Chieftain. It seemed to have handled the years so much better, and had a layout much better suited to our thinking. Glad you handled that little issue on the road with relative ease. Hopefully, you will be able to get ahead of any other parts near the end of life. There is so much to learn about these beasts! Enjoy.
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Old 03-18-2018, 10:15 PM   #3
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How do you feel about toad via dolly. I am concerned about the process when you get to a campsite, some have said that it is cumbersome and difficult to store when not in use. But it sure opens up the options for vehicles, what is your experience?
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Old 03-19-2018, 02:03 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by sho4go View Post
How do you feel about toad via dolly. I am concerned about the process when you get to a campsite, some have said that it is cumbersome and difficult to store when not in use. But it sure opens up the options for vehicles, what is your experience?
I've had my Chieftain for 14+ years since new. My a/c clutch idler bearing is going out but I haven't replaced it yet. Seems to only screech bad after a long hot 100+ deg when I stop and the a/c kicks off. I hit it with some penetrating lube and I haven't heard it in a long while. I have a 102K miles on my rig.

By the way, you will only get decent cooling with it set for "MAX A/C" where it pulls air in from inside the coach and not the super-heated air in the engine compartment.

If it still has the stock shocks, you should consider Koni FSDs, they work really well on smoothing out the expansion joints a reduce the side to side sway/lean.

Enjoy,
Bill
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Old 03-19-2018, 03:11 PM   #5
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I've got a feeling the reason the clutch failed is the compressor locked up, won't be much to salvage I'm afraid. But I'll know better after an expert looks at it.
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Old 03-19-2018, 03:21 PM   #6
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Congratulations on the new coach. Having owned two Winnebagos previously, I have a soft spot for them and loved both. With a gas coach, the tow dolly will store under the rear of the coach if you don't have a full width mud flap. Still a pain to hook and unhook in my mind, but a whole lot of people love a dolly and reportedly can hook up and unhook as quickly as I can connect a tow bar and get the car ready to tow flat. Having done both, I will stick with a flat tow.
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Old 03-19-2018, 07:26 PM   #7
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How do you feel about toad via dolly.
Every vehicle we own (including the one bought two days ago) is dolly only, so no choice for us. But, we can flip a coin on what to tow, hook up & take off. During our recent snowbird trip which involved 10 campsites, if I had to keep the dolly unhooked, we always had room on the site to not have to worry about it (mostly state parks). Now, where it is stored, the nose of the dolly tucks nicely under the MH, front or rear. Assuming you WILL TPMS the coach tires, include the toad tires as well!
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Old 03-20-2018, 06:57 AM   #8
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One other issue we had was a HWH leveling jack that is reluctant to retract to the stored position. Would the best place to share this info be in the owner's forum, the Workhorse chassis forum or just the general "motorhome" forum.
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Old 03-20-2018, 08:02 AM   #9
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Congratulations on the purchase of your 2003 Chieftain. Our previous coach was a 2003 Chieftain on a Workhorse W22 and we loved it. Like you we prefer WGO coaches. We wanted to try a DP so we traded the Chieftain in toward our present Horizon and we really like this one also.

Don
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Old 03-20-2018, 09:43 AM   #10
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One other issue we had was a HWH leveling jack that is reluctant to retract to the stored position. Would the best place to share this info be in the owner's forum, the Workhorse chassis forum or just the general "motorhome" forum.
In 2008 HWH was at the Winnie GNR (Grand National Rally) replacing springs on our coaches no charge as there were a lot complaints of slow retracting. The newer more powerful springs are tapered on both ends. If you have springs that are straight on the ends then those are the weaker springs.

It is easy to replace them yourself, thanks to some clever iRV2 members. You get a bunch of wooden clothes pins. Bend the spring sideways and insert 1/2 half of clothes pin so it creates a 1/8 to 1/4 inch gap. Then repeat on the opposite side. After you insert about a dozen or more pins the spring will be a couple inches longer and easily hooks on. Then fully extend the jack and pins can be removed or just fall out.

My rear passenger side jack was always quite slow and the last one to come up. So I added two helper springs from Lowes. They are 1 in dia and 12 in long and cost about $5-6. That jack became the fastest one to return.
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Old 03-20-2018, 11:49 AM   #11
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One other issue we had was a HWH leveling jack that is reluctant to retract to the stored position.
Put them down, wipe them down with a spray silicone lubricant. Retract, then repeat. Should notice a big difference on the first retraction, so the second is to ensure complete coverage. I usually use the spray to clean any crud away from where the rods enter the outer tube.
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Old 03-24-2018, 09:44 PM   #12
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Put them down, wipe them down with a spray silicone lubricant. Retract, then repeat. Should notice a big difference on the first retraction, so the second is to ensure complete coverage. I usually use the spray to clean any crud away from where the rods enter the outer tube.
Ok, this afternoon, I gave this process a try and, unfortunately, the passenger side front jack still stops about 3-4" off the ground. I used a 2x4 to lift the jack back to the stored position. I repeated the process three times. All other jacks store easily, even with the old style springs. There was significant resistance to the 2x4 lifting process, which makes me think the hydraulic oil is not being fully recovered from the line when the store process is engaged. I'm back to thinking that it is a leg jack hydraulic solenoid.
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Old 03-25-2018, 02:52 AM   #13
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Ok, this afternoon, I gave this process a try and, unfortunately, the passenger side front jack still stops about 3-4" off the ground. I used a 2x4 to lift the jack back to the stored position. I repeated the process three times. All other jacks store easily, even with the old style springs. There was significant resistance to the 2x4 lifting process, which makes me think the hydraulic oil is not being fully recovered from the line when the store process is engaged. I'm back to thinking that it is a leg jack hydraulic solenoid.
It's not typically the solenoid causing the problem. It's the cylinder that needs to be serviced by HWH or any competent hydraulic shop.

The easiest way to confirm whether it's the cylinder or the solenoid valve is: you loosen the cap at the T at the top of the cylinder. On one end of the T is the hose coming from the pump the other end of the T has a cap that can be removed to let fluid flow out.

If you remove the cap and the cyl still doesn't retract then your issue is not the solenoid, it's the jack itself.

If yours doesn't have the T and cap then you can loosen the swivel connection of the hose right where it enters the jack. IF the cylinder is bad then very little fluid will come out and the jack will not raise any better than before.
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Old 03-26-2018, 08:23 PM   #14
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the passenger side front jack still stops about 3-4" off the ground. I used a 2x4 to lift the jack back to the stored position. ... There was significant resistance to the 2x4 lifting process ...
I had this happen (for my driver side rear jack) after the third or forth deployment, and had to use the same 2x4 method for retraction, when I learned about the need for lubrication. With the first spray down with silicone lube, it was good.

As I understand your description, it goes down easily, which says there is good fluid flow into the jack. Assume the cylinder surface is smooth.?.?
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