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Old 10-17-2013, 12:10 AM   #1
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2003 Alpine pre-purchase inspection

We have decided an Alpine Coach must be our future! We are looking for recommendations for a pre-purchase inspection company or an experienced local Alpine Coach owner that would be interested doing an inspection in the Portland Oregon area. I am a mechanic of 30 years and have had Rv's in the past, with the help of the countless hours of reading through the threads on this site I feel reasonably confident in doing a basic inspection. However, I'd really like to have someone help to go through all the systems with experience and what to watch for. Any suggestion, thoughts or idea's greatly appreciated.

Looking at a 36FDDS , Would I regret not having the 400 hp engine?


motorhomes 2003 alpine coach black tie edition motor home
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Old 10-17-2013, 08:41 AM   #2
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Can't help with the inspection question. I would worry about the issue of clear title if the sale is due to a recent death as stated in the add. I would also get the VIN for the coach and do a Carfax or Instavin search on its history. Some issues may not show during an inspection so you may want to consider an extended warranty that would cover unexpected problems. I did this when I bought mine and it was worth it but others will argue that you should save the money and take your chances.
Personally I think the ISC is plenty enough for the 36' Alpine and even though Cummins has dropped it from its lineup spares will be available for ever.
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Old 10-17-2013, 10:43 AM   #3
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I, also, cannot assist with the inspection. But, I can comment on the 350 vs: the 400 engine. We have the 350 h.p. engine in our Alpine Coach and are mostly satisfied with the power and performance. We travel the mountains of the western United States extensively and we tow a small toad. We have only experienced a couple of frustrating times when we wished we had a little more power. We recently drove from the San Francisco Bay Area to our home in Leeds, Utah (via Las Vegas) with a STRONG head wind pretty much all the way (it is an interesting phenomenon that the wind blows from the south until we turn and head north - then it blows from the north!). We had no "power" issues and were pulling steep grades against the wind with no problems. Fuel economy certainly suffers under those conditions but otherwise, no issues. For reference, we have previously owned two coaches with the small block ISB engine and the 350 ISC stands head and shoulders above those for performace (and even fuel mileage). Hope you find someone to assist with the inspection. If you purchase, I'm sure you will join the ranks of dedicated Alpine Coach owners who would rather "fight than switch." By the way, IMHO, the price of $60K is reasonable. Happy Journey!
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Old 10-17-2013, 11:35 AM   #4
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You have come to right site for questions and help when it comes to Alpine Coach. I purchased our 2003 34FDDS Black Tie a couple years back and there are a lot of folks here with a lot of knowledge and expertise on all aspects of the Alpine Coach. A few issues I had and there were only a few were the genset. I would run it for at least 2 hours under half load and see if it has any issues. Mine needed a new temp sensor and radiator.The genset will give you codes to help you track down problems. The ISC has plenty of power for this coach, my only issue was the fuel lift pump left a small puddle a couple of times on start up and was corrected by tightening three small bolts on the lift pump. You having 30 years of wrenching experience is a big coast saver.This coach appears to have the 37" plasma flat screen if so you can upgrade to a 40" HD. I replaced mine with a 40" samsung and didn't have to change any of the cabinet, I had an 1/8th inch gap on both sides. Other than a few upgrades the coach has been great.
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Old 10-17-2013, 02:00 PM   #5
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check tire age via DOT age codes on side walls,
check roof seams fore, aft & both sides for full length,
check windows for blown seams (fog in dual pane),
Check brake fluid color & condition (if its clean & clear, that is a sign of meticulous attention to p.m.)
check air bags for cracks, shocks for signs of oil leaks (&test drive for signs of porpoising)
check front end play- wheels, drag link, tie rod (easiest w/front wheels off the ground)
check fiberglass side walls for widespread irregular look (WRV put out a very few coaches that had fiberglass troubles, none fatal that I know, but maybe two our of the ~600 i've inspected that look terrible); nice clean gloss means this is not an issue
check HWH compartment (small flap door, takes 751 key, just aft of RF wheel) for signs of slide hydraulic leaks at the pump/manifold
check slide hydraulic lines for leaks

If you want a first class PDI, take the coach to Amazing Creations in Junction City OR, Scott & Bobby rock and know a megaton about Alpines.
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Old 10-17-2013, 05:01 PM   #6
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I decided to jump in again with a couple of "look fors" in addition to what Engineer Mike mentioned for your coach that we had problems with when we purchased ours.

1. Check the refrigerator to be sure the refer side is operating properly. The Dometic 1210 fridge is famous for having the refer unit shoot craps. The freezer will operate pretty much OK, but when outside temp is over 80, the refer only cools to about 65 or 70 degrees. It's hard to test this when the weather is cool but a good technician can check to be sure that the board, electric heat element and thermister are operating properly. I ended up having to change out the cooing unit in mine.

2) Check electric heat element in the water heater. It is easy and inexpensive to replace if you need to and does not affect the operation of the water heater on propane. Also check the anode rod to be sure it has recently been replaced. If it is mostly disintegrated, replace it.

3) Check the operation of the inverter to be sure it is both charging the batteries as well as inverting the 12 VDC to 120 VAC. Turn it to invert and then run something with a good current draw for at least several minutes. I checked mine when I purchased it and thought it was fine only to learn later that it would operate OK with a small load for a few minutes but with either a good load on it or operating it for more than a few minutes, it would go into overload and shut down. If your system is equipped with the Automatic Generator Start system, be sure it is operating properly.

4) Check to be sure the Dometic roof a/c units are operating properly. Especially, check the heat pump side operation. They are controlled from the universal thermostat by selecting each zone and then either "A/C" or "heat pump." It takes up to several minutes for the heat pump units to start once they are turned on so be patient. If possible I would try to check the heat pump operation when the environmental temperature is around 40 degrees F.

5) Check the operation of the dash a/c unit. If it is not operating properly, have a qualified shop check it for leaks and recharge it. There is no way to check other than that to be sure there are no other problems with the unit but we ended up having the unit checked for leaks and recharged twice before our local diesel shop determined a flaw in the design of the system that may allow excessive heat and pressure to build up in the system causing seals and hoses to fail. Just be aware that should you purchase the unit and then have ongoing issues with the dash a/c unit, modifications may be required to remedy it.

6) Check the fuel filler vent hoses for cracks. This may be difficult to do as it is difficult to see the entire hose. Many of us have ended up having the filler vent hoses fail which causes fuel leakage when you fill to or near the top. If you see quite a bit of fuel residue in or around the genset compartment (especially the left side), chances are you have bad vent hoses. Changing the hoses is not much fun, but can be done in a day (with a full supply of various expletives you will use during the process). Yours won't be as bad as mine because the FDDS model only has one fuel filler tube while mine has two. I also found when I changed my fuel vent filler hoses that the metal tubing portion of the fill tubing was severely rusted (almost through the metal in some places). Just a FYI.

7) Check the level of the gear oil in the front wheel hubs. If the oil in the hubs is low, probability is that the seals need replacing.

In the opinion of many of us on this forum, the '03 was the last really good year for the Alpine Coaches. Even though I have had my challenges with mine, I believe you get the best "bang for your buck" with any Alpine and one of the best engineered units available on the road today. Best of luck with your adventure.
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Old 10-19-2013, 08:11 PM   #7
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Thank you for all of your reply's
We viewed the coach late yesterday and did a basic inspection
The exterior is rough, peeling clear coat at roof line, many dings and scratches, cargo doors banged up and a couple areas were repaired and not repainted to match. looks like they backed into something crackes in fiberglass around tailights and lower valance damaged I was disappointed with the overall exterior condition.No delamination found yet They have done alot of work cleaning the coach up. Apparantly it was pretty dusty and dirty I did see hydraulic fluid from underneath hyd. pump compartment area, indicating a leak,(Thanks Mike) the compartment had been cleaned up. Five of the tires had 07 date codes, one had been replaced and alignment performed. The headlights had the hazed lenses as we've seen on other alpines, the dash burled wood panels were faded to kind of a greenish yellow. The brake fluid color was ok but felt a bit thick.The interior was great, but there was leakage signs at shower skylight (stains in headliner) and also around vent in kitchen. Also missing stove top counter covers, apparently available at Aubreys in Yakima. We went for a drive, seemed to drive and ride fine. We left feeling disappointed, mainly at the exterior condition and the question as to how well it had been cared for, and thought it was better to pass on this one, however, after another fruitless day of looking at smelly over priced bombs on the rv lots I am reconsidering taking another look at the Alpine tomorrow in full daylight. I just wish the outside looked as good as the inside but I guess we cant have it all. Decisions
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Old 10-19-2013, 09:42 PM   #8
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I would suggest you not jump into this one if you are unhappy with the exterior. There are several Alpines out there for sale, so I have got to believe the right one for you is out there and available. I'll check with a couple of people I know who had their coaches for sale to see if they have found buyers. If I find something, I'll post it here. Hang in for a day or two or three!
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Old 10-19-2013, 10:12 PM   #9
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For the miles and condition of the exterior that you have described and price, I would keep looking. The interior looked ok but the overall condition seems to be lacking. Good luck.
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Old 10-21-2013, 05:23 PM   #10
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OK, a friend and member of our club does still have their Alpine for sale, and I believe it is an 05 36 ft with mid door. Her late husband took excellent care of the coach, so you will not find one in better shape, in my humble opinion. She lives in southern California, so if you think you would like more info on this one, send me a private message and I'll put you in touch with her.
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