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Old 02-24-2015, 07:24 AM   #1
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1997 American Dream remodel

Having gained so much valuable information from IRV2 over the past couple of years but having little to offer, my wife and I thought we might "give back" by sharing with everyone the refurbishing of our 1997 American Dream. We've never posted here before, so mistakes will occur and we appreciate everyone's patience.

We purchased our American Dream in 1997 from Ken Ware at Lazy Days in Florida. We were particularly interested in American Coach because of their reputation and we needed more beefcake because we were planning on full timing. At the time we had a Holiday Rambler Vacationer, our first coach, which we used on vacations and weekends. That motorhome was fine, but on a trip to the Blue Ridge mountains we learned that, for us, a more substantial coach would be required, especially after coming down the mountains.

American Coach at the time built mostly 40 ft. coaches. Lesser known was their 36 ft. coach option, which they built for a short period of time. This intrigued us because of the horsepower to weight ratio and ease of maneuverability. This era American Coaches were built of all steel, which we also appreciated. After much haggling with Lazy Days, we made the purchase.

Jump 17 years later and 118,000 miles under our belt and again we found ourselves asking the question of what coach comes next. To get a better understanding of what is available now, we set out to see for ourselves by touring factories. We've visited American Coach, Newmar, Newell, Thor, and Foretravel and talked to many owners. After deciding we wanted something different, something that was now vintage, we took a deep breath, decided to pursue refurbishing our coach, and immediately called the factory.

I'll be posting our story over the next few weeks, beginning at the start of the process and continuing until the completion, including pictures where they can be found. Now if only I can figure out how to post pictures!

Our hope is that some folks out there can benefit from our experience. With it all said and done, we would do it again.
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Old 02-24-2015, 07:55 AM   #2
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Good luck keep us in the loop
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Old 02-24-2015, 08:09 AM   #3
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I want to follow your adventures. our 2011 gtown left us looking at new dp's but decided the depreciation was just to much . the 2 things we dislike about our coach was sofa and dinette booth so replaced the sofa w/2 recliners and booth w/table and 2 chairs
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Old 02-24-2015, 08:18 AM   #4
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Pic test

Here is a pic of the ID tag and coach.
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Old 02-24-2015, 09:33 AM   #5
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Welcome to irv2. Looking forward to seeing your posts on the refurbishment.
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Old 02-24-2015, 12:37 PM   #6
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Some background on maintenance

Within a few months of purchase, we traveled to the factory in Decatur, Indiana, a place we sometimes refer to as our third home. When we bought the coach we made a commitment to have it serviced at the factory. We've even planned mini-vacations to Indiana specifically for service. There isn't much in Decatur other than Fleetwood, but the folks are super nice and we've made a number of friends there throughout the years. If you talk to long time American Coach owners, some will tell you it was the service that sold the coaches, not the salespeople. In the early days you would arrive at the service center on Patterson Avenue, only to find the staff cooking steak for you for dinner! Service was over the top - they were very proud of the American Coach product and wanted the best for their owners. Chassis service that could not be performed at American Coach was done in Charlotte, Michigan at Spartan. This coach sits on a Spartan Mountain Master chassis. Although I did routine maintenance myself (oil and filter changes, seal inspections, coolant additive maintenance, etc) we always tried to take a trip to the factory once per year. I've got maintenance records that literally fill two notebooks.
It should be noted that the coach has been stored indoors, in heated storage. The coach doesn't travel in Winter.
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Old 02-24-2015, 12:53 PM   #7
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Buy new or refurbish - It's all about the walls

When it comes to putting money into older coaches, a question always arises - the condition of the exterior walls. The expense today of replacing walls is almost prohibitive at the factory, so our decision to move forward hinged on the condition of the walls. Since new, we had what I learned was something called telegraphing in a couple of places. This is a slight concave/convex shape in a few areas of the walls, the result of negative pressure exerted on the walls when they were vacuum sealed during construction. It is cosmetic only. What's in the walls is another story - steel. Being an all steel coach, rust is a possibility. If there had been leaks through the years in the seals, it would show in the form of delamination.

We took the coach to the factory and asked the service manager, whom we've known for years, to have the walls inspected closely and report on their findings. It took two people half a day to inspect the walls. Needless to say we were anxious. A bad wall would certainly spell the end of this restoration. When the report was finished, the inspectors met with us and relayed good news - they could find nothing negative in the walls. The comment was made that this outcome was the direct result of sealant inspections annually.

With this hurdle complete, it was time to get started.
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Old 02-24-2015, 03:17 PM   #8
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waiting to see pictures thanks
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Old 02-24-2015, 10:44 PM   #9
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1997 AD remodel

stkt, I solute yours and your wife's ambitious endeavor to rebuild your American Dream. We have a 1999 40' American Dream, our first MH and love it so far. We are the 3rd owners and the previous owners took good care of it. We're thinking of replacing the jackknife sofa with a fold out sleeper. We will be following your rebuild and would like to know what your plans are, what you might replace or upgrade.
Please keep giving us all your step by step progress.

Thanks, Dustdevil
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Old 02-26-2015, 08:50 AM   #10
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Generator

Thanks Dustdevil Its nice to know we're not alone when it comes to these older ACs.

The generator had reached 1,000 hours, and although we had experienced zero problems, the generator was on the list to be part of the coach refurbishment project. Timing was great, since Onan said it was time for a major service. "Major" on this coach means the generator had to be removed from the coach, not a quick and dirty task since these era coaches did not build the generator on a slideout.

The coach went to Cummins Bridgeway in Grand Rapids, Michigan for the generator project. The folks there were great. Removal of the generator revealed some surface rust and dirt on the chassis that could not otherwise be addressed with the generator installed. I cleaned the entire area, started to prime and eventually paint when the world suddenly came to a halt. The shop manager spotted me working under the coach in his shop - he was not happy. Right in the middle of my scrape and paint project he promptly told me I couldn't work under the coach. I begged for an exception but then the conversation morphed into lawyers and insurance companies. I guess the mechanics felt sorry for me because they agreed to finish the scrape and paint, as you can see in the line item attached. The end result was a cleaned, primed and repainted area that was otherwise inaccessible, along with a generator good for another 1,000 hours.

Was it worth it? There was wear on the belt and the valves did need adjustment. Cummins said they've seen this model generator with 8,000 hours, so hopefully the trouble free experience will continue. They made a point to tell me the worst thing to do for this generator is to let it sit more than 90 days without running under load.
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Old 02-26-2015, 09:53 AM   #11
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Battery Control Center

We had read some horror stories about the Intellitech Battey Control center over the years, and true to form, we had begun having problems with what we thought was a solenoid sticking. I took one apart (first pic) to find wear and corrosion but it still tested out ok. After searching the internet we found Mark at M&M Electronic Repair in Ohio. Mark told me to remove the unit from the coach (second pic shows the control center with the front cover removed but prior to removing the box from the coach) and send it to him. In addition to replacing some diodes and solenoids (third pic), Mark completely went through the unit to make sure things were working correctly. Finally, we found someone who can do board level repairs in a world of throw away electronics! The battery center was back to me within two weeks. It took less than an hour to reinstall and it is working like new.
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Old 02-26-2015, 10:45 AM   #12
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remove the box

Did you remove the whole ECU or just the board?
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Old 02-26-2015, 02:39 PM   #13
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Battery Control Center

Hello Searchinferu,

I removed the entire box. Mark wanted everything so he could run complete diagnostics before sending it back.
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Old 02-26-2015, 02:52 PM   #14
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I'm signed up for the ride.. I can't wait to watch your process..
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