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Old 08-11-2016, 07:31 PM   #1
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Holiday Rambler Owners Club
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Fixing possible issues with an older DP

I'm new to this forum but have been reading here for quite some time. My wife and I currently have a RV trailer but want to upgrade to a MH. We don't have a large budget (maybe 40K - 60K at the max) so a used MH is really our only option. I'm really mechanically inclined and not afraid to work on anything and can repair just about anything. I'm a journeyman millwright by trade years ago and I like working on mechanical things and have just about every tool you can think of. I mention this because after looking at all the differences of gas vs diesel concerning maintenance I felt like yeah I'd like to own a DP but gas is a lot easier to work on so lets go that way. But after reading here and on the web I feel confident that I can maintain a DP over time. It can't be that difficult. .

Now with this back ground in mind, my wife and I pretty much decided to go with gas It's just easier for me to keep up with and what we're going to use it for makes more sense. And we can afford that type of MH. BUT...I've found a very well kept DP with a Freightliner Chassis, Cat 3126 300 HP, Allison MH3000 6 spd tranny with 93K miles for a real good price. It's in beautiful shape and the floorpan is awesome. So, not having any MH experience per sé, my question is with this many miles—I don't doubt the engine or tranny but will have it inspected—does the chassis itself at this point need anything major like a car would? Like bushings, tie rods, driveshaft couplings, differential, wheel or axle bearings, alternator, water pump, radiator replacement, slide motors and things like that? In other words all the running gear. I don't know yet if the owner has maintenance records but looking at the MH it wouldn't surprise me if he did because it's so well kept. But generally speaking, a MH that's been on the road 13, 14, 15yrs., with this config., & mileage what would be some of the major things I should be looking for and knowing my back ground now as I've outlined, would I be able to perform most of these repairs myself? The little stuff that comes up inside the coach doesn't bother me a bit. It's the big stuff I'm seeking some advice.

Any comments & advice are welcome.

Thanks in advance.

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Old 08-11-2016, 07:54 PM   #2
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I'm waiting to read the comments. My gas class c has 96000 miles on it and I would drive it anywhere. Problem is not enough use that would worry me. That isn't many miles for a diesel rig. Wouldn't concern me if it was maintained.

Mark & Carole RVM54
What a long strange trip it's been
2002 Fourwinds 5000 26Q 496 ci. Chevy towing 2004 Jeep Wrangler,2016 Starcraft AR One 18', 2016 F-150
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Old 08-11-2016, 08:07 PM   #3
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You did not mention what year the MH is with 93k miles, but in general if it was well maintained the mileage is a good thing for a 12-15 year old diesel. There will be things that need fixed or replaced as that becomes part of the territory with any age.
We purchased a 12year old diesel with 45k miles and have no regrets. I have been slowly fixing all the minor items and making sure the drivetrain is looked after. I am always looking things over for the smallest leaks or changes to stay on top of it.

For a peace of mind getting the oil and transmission fluids tested would be a first thing.

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Old 08-11-2016, 08:27 PM   #4
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I most certainly applaud your drive and intuitiveness. A D/P with 93K is for the most part, nothing to worry about. In fact, many D/P owners would rather pick that one, than a coach of the same make and model and year, with the same engine/trans, that has very little miles on it. As apparently you well know, these things are simply all mechanical and can be repaired, at just about any time and mileage. There are some that will go thousands and thousands of miles, without one break and some, that break every month. It's the luck of the draw.

Now, as for that actual mileage vs what's worn? Well, there's really no definite answer to that. All those components you mentioned, are seriously heavier duty than many of the gas coach systems/components and will go for many, many miles farther before requiring any form of service. I've got plenty of friends who have '01 through '03 Freightliner chassis coaches with that same engine and trans, that have well over 150-175K miles on them and they're still motoring down the road, all over this U.S.

Of course there's going to be your occasional wearing out of a part here and there, some lubing, maybe an axle seal, S-cam (break stuff) maintenance, etc. That's a given. An alternator, can go 150,000 miles or, it can go 200 miles and go kaput. You never know on that kind of thing. If you can acquire maintenance records on that coach, great. If not, and you having your general skills in analyzing and inspection, should have no problem in doing a thorough inspection and checking out of that coach.

Some of it will be difficult to get at for your close-order inspection. i.e. some of the engine components due to a rear radiator and, through the bedroom limitations of accessibility. At 93K, if the previous owners had a clue on how to drive it right, your brakes should be pretty darn close to perfect condition. Those normally have service lives of more than 150K, if, IF, the exhaust brake has been used effectively and often.

It's possible you may need to go through the air dryer for a service, nothing big, pretty simple and not very expensive at all. Maybe belts, tensioner bearings and idler bearings, again, no biggie other than access to them. Wheel bearings are for the most part, continuously lubed in oil so, those will go a few zillion miles normally with out issues. The larger things are oil/filters/coolant etc, that has to be changed on a semi-regular basis.

Those 3126 CAT engines are still going, in a few zillion coaches all over the U.S. with many, many satisfied drivers/owners. Ours is the younger brother, the CAT C-7 with 330HP. Almost the same exact engine with a few differences. It's been outstanding for us.

I too have done all the maintenance on ours including wheel seals, brake maintenance, oil/filter, fuel filter/ air/filter, air dryer, lube, and a whole lot more. I think you'll be very happy with that unit.
2004 ITASCA HORIZON 36GD, 2011 GMC Sierra 1500 4x4 Toad '08 GL 1800 Gold Wing
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Old 08-11-2016, 09:06 PM   #5
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We bought our first rv of any kind last year. Jumped right in the fire with this 98 Monaco. Had 74,000 miles, well maintained and kept undercover mostly. Paid $32,000 from private owner.

I am a airline aircraft mechanic so i can fix most things. Yet i took it to a motorcoach repair shop and had it inspected, all the oils and filters changed. No issues found, so now i can do the oils and filters myself, air brake maintenance and onan 7500 watt generator . I am currently having the front wheel bearings repacked and new seals, as i don't have the equipment for that fix !!! Thought about changing to oil bath bearings but we won't be driving it that much. Oil bath bearings need to be bathed in that oil every month or so or corrosion may get in the bearings. So i don't feel so bad as i do most of the repairs myself, but once in awhile i just leave it to the pro's.

I have the Cummins 325 turbo with a side radiator....much easier to work on the engine, plus the bedroom bed raises up for easy access to work on as. As mentioned above and other forums, DP engines have a long life if well maintained, plus they have the power to climb those big hills and in some cases actually get better mpg than a gas engine rv.

You being mechanically knowledgeable will see things that won't look right, but won't take much to fix. So give it a good inspection and have fun .traveling the highways !!!
Chuck and Robbin Harrison....plus 2 PB and a G Pyrenees Max,Zenie and Smokie ! 1998 38' Monaco Dynasty Duke with a 8.3 Cummins. Everyday truck is a 2010 F150 XLT 4x4 and 2016 Ford Escape. TOAD is 2004 VW Bug Conv.
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Old 08-11-2016, 09:47 PM   #6
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testing fluids

Originally Posted by Spk64 View Post
For a peace of mind getting the oil and transmission fluids tested would be a first thing.
Would using an online service be good for this? Can you refer someone? Do the results give you a good overall analysis of these components condition or do you have to go further with something like a compression test too?
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Old 08-11-2016, 09:50 PM   #7
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You can manage the DP

Congrats on (in my opinion) some sound thinking. And Welcome to the asylum :-)

Having owned gassers and diesels I can easily say that it sounds like you can more than handle the majority of DP maintenance. Some things are tougher (changing a tire, for example) but I have done everything from fluids to shock absorbers to airbags. Mostly it takes patience...again my opinion. Since I don't have access to a hydraulic lift or service bay, I have gotten handy with floor jacks and jack stands, for example. You also can't mind getting dirty dirty dirty.

I would not be afraid of the mileage that you quote at all...diesels "like" to be run and I'd really fear low miles I.e. Unused vs. use which will involve routine repairs and upkeep.

For repairs on a 98 and our present 02 DP, it has been my experience that rubber parts wear the most...belts, fittings, seals, etc. The vast majority of these are changeable without too much hassle. Same for shocks and other high wear items. Tires can be uber expensive but there are a host of other threads on that topic alone.

Just be prepared for a near continual list of small repairs. Last trip...a faucet started leaking (replaced washer and good to go). Trip before was a busted latch for compartment bay door....again an easy $15.00 fix... But the little things do add up. Before that...leaking ice maker line...$10.00 repair.

Just my perspective. I'm a maintenance kind of guy, and this site is a wealth of knowledge all shared freely (commonly along the lines of "don't' do what I just did" or the like.) So...I would say go for it and Welcome!

2002 Fleetwood Discovery 37T DP
Cat 3126B
Towing 2001 Saturn SL2
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Old 08-12-2016, 02:28 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by marjoa View Post
Would using an online service be good for this? Can you refer someone? Do the results give you a good overall analysis of these components condition or do you have to go further with something like a compression test too?

J&G lubricants is best for trans and can do engine also.
Blackstone Labs is also another good lab.
I have used both and yes they are online.
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Old 08-12-2016, 02:47 PM   #9
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Also be reminded that you won't have to listen to the engine while you're driving if you go with the DP. Might be minor but then again you might end up really appreciating this!
American Coach Tradition 2006
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Old 08-12-2016, 03:00 PM   #10
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I wouldn't be concerned if it's been well maintained, with regular maintenance. Our coach had 84K on it when be bought it in 2012, just turned over 106K and purrs like a kitten! We could not be happier that we made the choice!
Joe & Annette

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Old 08-12-2016, 04:26 PM   #11
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A lot of great comments here one thing that I didn't see mentioned unless I missed it was the generator. Assuming it has a diesel onan and not propane? Low hours are not a good thing in some cases as some have mentioned about the mileage. I put $2,500 in my 7500 Onan a few years ago and that was doing the work myself. The culprit was lack of use. They will go 1000's of trouble free hours if run. Just something else to consider when looking at Diesel vs gas.
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Old 08-15-2016, 12:38 AM   #12
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Bought a 1999 Alpine Coach last year. We were very specific in what we were looking for -- make, model and year. Found one with less than 15,000 mile on Craig's List. It sat for years with little or no use but had good bones. Suggest you consider it an adventure knowing you WILL encounter surprises. All of which cost money. If you buy a used DP for, lets say $40,000, plan on spending at a minimum an additional $10,000 to bring it up to snuff. And that assumes you are handy and do most work yourself. The list of things you need to look for before you put money down can be intimidating. I focused on the big ticket items, engine, transmission, tires, batteries, generator, refrigerator, etc. You may run across the cream puff that requires little additional money and I hope you do, but even cared for coaches because of age typically require work. But like others who have posted, you can end up with a lot of coach for far less than new or even nearly-new. We did!
Tim & Ruth
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Old 08-15-2016, 02:13 PM   #13
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Let me echo the sentiment expressed here. You can buy newer but they won't be much better.

Things happen, if it's been driven regularly, they won't happen often. As they get older some parts become no longer available. Like my dash heater core. No problem they just recored it, and so on. Chassis parts could last 300-400k miles, the exception is air bags and they can check with age, although mine are good. My first trip after retirement when the MH was 12 YO the microwave convection oven shot craps. Ordered it from Lowe's and a 30 min install. Radiator and charge air cooler is expensive, $3-5k apiece. But a recore is cheaper. As long as you want to maintain them they will keep running. The only new gizmo that might be nice is heated tile floors, no worries, they install just like as a house.

I'm handy but there is some stuff you will farm out, like my single piece windshield. It needed a new gasket and a reset in the frame opening. Just had it done two weeks ago. Set aside some bucks for things like that and enjoy!

Jim and Jennie, Cats=Bittles and Potter, 2000 Dynasty 350 ISC
2013 Silverado 4x4 Towed with R1200GS in bed.
PROV23:4 Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint.
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