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Old 12-05-2008, 06:07 PM   #1
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CAUTION Late Alpine owners!!! Steering box mount issue

I really don't want to be an alarmist, but I was shocked and appalled when I saw it on my coach. I was just in for an alignment and having the caster set higher at a very good shop that I know here in Oxnard. When the mechanic was having the steering wheel turned back and forth to check for play in the steering he called me down into the pit to show me the steering box. The bracket that the steering box mounts to was flexing a good 1/2 to 3/4 inch. Upon closer inspection, the frame where the bracket attaches was also flexing.

I am quite sure that my 2002 did not have this problem, as this same mechanic had checked it. I think that at some point in time WRV must have started using lighter metal for the frame and the steering box mounting bracket.

I know that while moving there will be a lot less stress on this assembly, but it will be very hard to check while rolling. My concern is that at some point the metal will fatigue and crack. I also have a concern for those of you that have installed the Safety-T-Plus, as I think that it would put more stress on this assembly.

I would recommend that everyone look at their's to see if this is a common problem and if any coaches with a lot of miles on them have any cracks forming. It is easy to check. With the coach in neutral and the park brake on, have someone turn the steering wheel to the right and left about 90 degrees each way. While they are doing this look under the coach at the steering box and check for movement.

I will post a photo of my bracket if anyone requests it. I have someone here that thinks he can beef up the frame and bracket. As soon as I see how that works out, I will post photos of the fix.

For anyone who checks, please post a reply with your findings and what year your coach is.
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Old 12-05-2008, 07:36 PM   #2
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Dale & All,
I have not crawled under the thing to see exactly what you are talking about, so I don't know the layout.

However, could we not just have a piece of plate steel cut and punched out to fit behind the steering box to strenghten the frame and the area. The plate could be cut bigger than the steering box with additional attach points to spread the stress load over a larger area.

However, it should not be welded to the frame, because the heat would again change the tensil strength of the underlying steel. Matching existing bolt holes would be the perferred method of assembly.
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Old 12-05-2008, 07:46 PM   #3
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Dale, thanks for the info. I will look at my coach to see if it has the same problem. Can you tell me who in Oxnard did your alignment. I live in Moorpark and am in need of an alignment. What is the going rate for an alignment? Do you have any spec as to what they should set these coaches to or does the shop have all of these details?

Thanks,
Mike
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Old 12-05-2008, 08:15 PM   #4
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Mike,

It is Daniels Tire Service, a Goodyear tire dealer. They are at 1040 commercial Ave. Oxnard, 805 659-2157. Their alignment guy is Juan Perez, he is excellent at heavy duty equipment alignment.
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Old 12-05-2008, 11:04 PM   #5
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thanks Dale
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Old 12-06-2008, 04:44 AM   #6
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Thanks Dale for the information. I have an appointment in an alignment shop in Gilbert, AZ (Spectrum Suspension) as the left front end of my 2008 is and inch or so lower than the right and they are going to level it up and also check for parts to add the motion control units and check the shocks..the later two won't get done until after January ($). Will have them check the steering box also. Mel
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Old 12-06-2008, 06:08 AM   #7
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Originally posted by dgerstel:
I also have a concern for those of you that have installed the Safety-T-Plus, as I think that it would put more stress on this assembly.
digester, I can only speak to the Safe-T-Plus steering damper. It is my opinion that when you are going down the the road that the STP attenuates road anomaly input through the tires and improves your stability and overall driving comfort.

The STP's forces are applied to the front frame mount and the center of the tie rod. Given the possibility that I might have a steering issue the STP can only help in that regard and I don't see much downside.

The steering shaft which enters the steering box directly outputs to a pitman arm which does apply all the force to the steering box bolt mounting locations. You do not feel these stresses due to power steering. As the Pitman arm translates forces through the drag link it does call on the steering knuckle to move the tie rod one way or another.

If the STP is providing sufficient centering force to cause the mounting plate to over flex this would indeed be a problem but I would doubt that the STP would be doing the majority of the weight transfer. Move those 2 huge tires and rims on the ground along with the steering gear and now you have a little bit more weight than ~350 or so pounds of centering force exerted by the STP.

I like the sandwich theory however I have seen where once mounted, the sandwich plate absorbs and transfers energy to its periphery and then impacts the structure that it is mounted on. You might still get flexing but over a wider footprint. Fabricating and welding in place a hefty piece of mounting steel and remounting the box maybe the best solution. But where do you get these guys that can do this type of work?

In closing the Alpine Coach and my coach use the same model STP. (BIG Blue)
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Old 12-06-2008, 06:51 AM   #8
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DriVer,

You are right about the STP taking stress off of the steering box from movement applied by the wheels back to the steering assembly. I think it is probably a great product, under normal circumstances. This I am quite sure is not normal and hope that it might be just 2007's and later. My concern was for when turning, particularly at low speeds. As I stated, "I know that while moving there will be a lot less stress on this assembly, but it will be very hard to check while rolling." Due to the amount of flexing and movement I saw, I am very concerned about how much it might be flexing during normal in-town or mountain driving.

Upon seeing this problem, I called my good friend, Joe Zacarro, who was in the trucking business. He was familiar with this sort of problem and referred me to a mechanic who only works on HD in-town haulers. He plans on adding a plate inside of the frame rail to stiffen it. The main flexing is coming from the open end "box" bracket that the steering box mounts on. This is where the main work will be needed and we are not sure yet, just how this will be done.
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Old 12-06-2008, 01:28 PM   #9
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Dale et al,
It appears that I am reporting the first field test and low and behold the steering box and frame do appear to move. I had Cathy move the steering wheel many times to insure that I saw what I thought I saw. We have Apex 1 the first one off the line and we took delivery Nov. 15th of 05. I could not estimate the amount of travel but would guestimate 1/4 to 1/2 inch. My test was on gravel with the coach aired up.
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Old 12-07-2008, 05:54 AM   #10
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Is it possible we could get an opinion on the issue from Tiffin (Gary Jones) via the ACA?
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Old 12-07-2008, 07:34 AM   #11
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Wayne.....Gary Jones has web site with all their contact info. www.jonesandsonchassis.com They are located in Union Gap, WA
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Old 12-07-2008, 09:38 AM   #12
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It would be interesting to see what Gary Jones has to say. I am curious to see if the earlier coaches have the steering box mounted differently, I wonder if the design was changed after he left WRV.
I don't think that a steering box should have any movement in its mount. I could even live with a little movement, but what I see is too much. Depending on how much movement there is while driving, the coaches handling will be affected. I will be interested to see if there is a noticeable difference after I get the box mount stiffened up.
I plan to take a video of the movement before I take it over for work. This is just for my information, as it is very easy for you to see if your coach is affected.
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Old 12-07-2008, 10:01 AM   #13
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Dale & all,
Gary Jones has a very interesting site, and I am guessing he has/had something to do with the design of the Peak Chassis from the comments. If he comments on this issue, he can shed light on this I hope. In fact, he may be able to offer a solusion and instll that for us, since it involves tight quarters and big assemblies moving around (assumed). I will go up this week and take a look at mine, but my guess is (2006) manfacture, it will move, can you provide a picture of what I need to look at please.
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Old 12-07-2008, 10:13 AM   #14
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Dale, when was your coach made? Mine was actually made in 2006. Would it qualify for some kind of recall, which Monomoy would have to pay for? Sounds like he assembly you refer to should also be added to our annual maintenance schedule for inspection.
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