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Old 02-20-2012, 04:55 PM   #1
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New Member looking for advice

Hello Everyone, my wife and I are looking at getting a MH. I've narrowed it down to a couple but I'm never owned a TT or MH myself so I could use some advice.
First of all there's a 1985 Southwind 31' He says it's in near perfect shape, only the step doesn't come out but he says the previous owner told him it worked so he thinks it's a user error.

Next I'm looking at what I think is a 1990 37' Pace Arrow with 98K miles. This guy wants to do his yearly leak check, check the plugs and distributor cap and clean the carpets, which leads me to believe it's well taken care of. It's only $500 more than the MH above.

And lastly there is a 1989 32' Pace Arrow, this one has 35,000 actual miles, and a generator. The second one also has a generator. This one is $1000 less than the previous Pace Arrow.


Like I said, being new, I'd like any advice you can give me. I have a wife and 4 kids so I don't want something that's going to be a huge pile of junk.


Thanks in advance!
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Old 02-20-2012, 05:13 PM   #2
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If it were me, and these were my only choices, and knowing nothing whatsoever about these rigs:

#2, the 1990 Pace Arrow. The higher mileage on a gas motor home indicates at least the thing started and ran quite a bit, and the engine is still not at the end of its useable life The 35,000 K on the 3rd one is not actually a benefit. It often means it sat quite a bit, and sitting in a driveway is not good for a MH.

The first one- if the guy can't be bothered to fix the electric step, he probably hasn't bothered to fix other things you can't see, which are very important. He's given you a very lame and inaccurate excuse. Walk away.

If It were YOU- unless these literally are costing you pocket change, buy NOTHING until you have an experienced (vintage rig owner, perferably) RVing friend go with you to physically look over the units.

Sadly, there will be many things which you simply won't have the eyes to see. You can probably evaluate perfectly well whether it will start from a cold start, idle, run down the road and brake, but there are so many systems on the RV that you don't have the experience yet to evaluate.

Is there someone who can go with you?

If not, come back and we'll give you a checklist to help you with your first purchase. Better than nothing.

Oh, and the pictures- you may want to resize them to 1200x800.

PS- with rigs of this age, you might want to post your questions in the Vintage forum.
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Old 02-20-2012, 05:22 PM   #3
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Hi and welcome to the forum! Sounds like you've got some fun times ahead for you and the family.

These rigs are outside of my field of expertise so I'll only second the Senior Chief's suggestion to get an experienced vintage RV person to inspect them for you. It might cost a few hundred bucks but may turn out to be the best money you'll ever spend.

Best of luck to you.

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Old 02-20-2012, 06:03 PM   #4
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First welcome to IRV2

Looks like you are doing lots of looking around and that is a good thing.
I guess my question is were you able to drive any of the above motorhomes? If so how did the drive? How did the transmission shift? Did you start and run the generator? Turn on the heat? Turn on the Air conditioning?

With motorhomes of this vintage make sure you have some $$ left in the bank for items such as tires, roof along with other appliances.

Best of luck with your search and make sure to ask questions ...
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Old 02-20-2012, 06:55 PM   #5
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I hadn't thought about bringing someone with. I don't personally know anyone so a checklist would be awesome! And I'll call a round to rv shops and see if I can find someone.

I haven't driven any yet. The one with 35K miles isn't near the other 2, it's the other direction. I just wanted some pointers to be able to go into this with some knowledge.

I can't believe the great responses I've gotten and it's my first post! I can tell I'm going to like this place!
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Old 02-20-2012, 07:04 PM   #6
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Good advice so far. One gotcha that most people new to RVing don't realize is that the tires are usually replaced at a certain AGE rather than a certain MILEAGE. You often cannot look at the condition of a tire to know that it needs replacement. There is a date code on the sidewall. The manufacturer will recommend replacement at a certain age. The tires on my coach have only 20k miles on them, and they still look brand new. This year they will be 10 years old, and will be need to be replaced. At about $600 per tire, that's a considerable chunk of change.
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Old 02-20-2012, 07:08 PM   #7
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Thanks Ramblin, I read somewhere on here that there should be a date code on them? I didn't know the 10 rule of thumb, thank you!
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Old 02-20-2012, 07:16 PM   #8
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Thanks Ramblin, I read somewhere on here that there should be a date code on them? I didn't know the 10 rule of thumb, thank you!
Yeah, there's a code. I can't remember how to read it though. I read mine a while back, figured out that they were the same age as my coach (2002), never had to do it again. Someone will chime in with instructions and/or links.

Opinions about this topic vary too. Some will say to have them inspected and keep on driving if they check out OK. I have seen what a shredded tire will do to the underside of a coach, and to me it's not worth the risk.

I saw a picture of a coach where one of the inside duals blew out and broke a hole through the (full) black tank, spilling sewage all over the road. I can't imagine what the hazmat folks would charge you for cleaning that up! Not to mention the damage to the coach... For me, I'm gonna replace those 10yo tires.
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Old 02-20-2012, 09:21 PM   #9
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Hi Static, welcome to the forum. Go to Tire Tech Information - Determining the Age of a Tire for an explanation of the date codes on the tires. I agree you need to get an experienced RV tech or RVer to check out the motorhomes. Are you limiting yourself to these three?
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Old 02-20-2012, 11:27 PM   #10
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We have two kids an have gone from a TT to 34ft MH 1 slide, to 37ft DP 2 slide to 40ft 4 slides.

A few quick pieces of advice for you;

1) Don't rush into buying a unit. For every good unit out there ... you will see about 10 pieces of &*@#.
2) Find someone that you trust who knows what to look fo in RV. There are a lot of near hidden things that you could easily pass over which would make the unit worthless. Examples of this would be poor floor or roof integrety, wall delamination or faulty wiring.
3) As a bare minimum, take any units you are seriously considering to a well repected RV mechanic for a "full inspection". In our area this costs about $150-$250. It may seem like a lot of money but believe me ... the alternative is much worst.
4) Many people have talked about tires. MH tires will seldon wear out ... the side walls tend to deteriorate with age to the point that they are no longer safe to drive. If the sidewalls are starting to show signs of cracking ... be afraid. RV tires will run $300-$700 a piece depending on size.
5) In most locations, you are expected to do a full safety check on any vehicles over 10 years of age. Any "safety" items must be repaired before the unit can be registered. This would include any suspension, braking, major machanical, lights, or windshield.

I have noticed that you are looking at units from 31 to 37 in length. You are erally comparing apples to oranges. The differance in the amount of living space is huge.

Speaking from personal experience. Look very closely at living space, storage .. both inside and basement, as well as sleeping configuration.

If you are sold on a class A, I would highly recommend one with at least 1 slideout. This makes a huge differance in the amount of living space. A MH of any length with 6 people is going to get extremely crowded without any slides.

Sleeping configuration with kids can often become an issue as they start to grow. Bunk beds are a great option but did not start to become popular in class As until the late 90s or so. If you feel that sleeping configuration may be an issue you may also want to consider a class C.

Look at lots of units ... the internet will become your best friend in narrowing down the unit best suited to your family.

Good Luck
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Old 02-21-2012, 05:46 AM   #11
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Good advice given but as said do't rush into buying. The units your looking at are old and unless you know something about motorhomes don't buy. This can and will be a money pit unless you get someone to help you check them out. Without help you will regret buying and you will have spent money with little chance of enjoying what you intend to do and that is enjoying the family together. Good luck.
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Old 02-21-2012, 08:11 AM   #12
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By my neighbors experience I relay this to you ; he didnt know the gas mileage of motor homes " 6-7" mpg. 8 if your careful. Just wanted to give you heads up. Look at rv trader for price comparisons. I went to look at one advertised as mint condition and was shocked at what a junker it was. Look at roof edges and along where walls and floor meet for soft spots. Good luck , your kids should love it!
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Old 02-21-2012, 09:30 AM   #13
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Ok, here's a little checklist to help you get started looking at RVs. I recommend you use this as an educational tool ONLY- there are probably many things I missed or forgot. Look at as many rigs as you can before making any decisions- there are lots and lots and LOTS of RVs for sale these days.


Checklist for inspecting a vintage RV

**Before you check one out, call the owner 24 hours in advance, and ask them to turn on the refrigerator (it takes 12 to 24 hours for an RV fridge to cool down)**

Exterior:
1)Check the tire dates (DOT codes. Google this if you don't know how to find these). 6-8 years old and they will need replacing soon. High $ item.
2)Sidewall delamination (ripples or waves in the fiberglass on the exterior). This indicates water penetration, and internal damage, from small to extreme.
3)Lights, horn, running and sidelights. Check utility lights in storage bays.
4)Sewer compartment. Ask if tanks are empty or full. If empty, pull slide valves to see if and how easily they move. If full, ask when these were last dumped (most folks dump before they come back home from a trip)
5)City water fill and fresh water fill- check carefully for any signs of water damage/leakage here.
6)Check condition of storage bays for lock condition, rust and damage.
7)Generator; have owner start and run gennie. There are 2 start switches- one on dash and one on gennie itself. Make sure rig is unplugged from shore power and check to see whether air conditioners or microwave will run on generator power. Ask owner where generator breakers are (if they are not apparent- usually 2 of these) Ask owner when the last time gennie was run (Gennies should be run once a month for 30 minutes or more at half load or more to keep in good condition) Non-running gennie = high $ item.
8)Check the shore power cord. In a vintage rig, this will have a 30 amp plug on the end, which has 3 big slanted prongs. See if there is a 30amp-to-15 amp adapter, as well as a 30amp-to-50amp adapter to go along with. These are nice to have.
9)Inspect the house batteries. These power the inside 12 volt electrical system when the rig is off-grid. Occasionally only one 12 volt, often 2, sometimes 2 or 4 (or more) 6 volt batteries in this system.
10)Engine/chassis. Run normal diagnostic tests for an automotive purchase, i.e.: will it start, stop, idle, run, down the highway, smoke, overheat and so on. Check fluid levels and ask owner about last fluid changes. Ask owner what engine size and chassis type; as a broad rule of thumb, Ford chassis will have somewhat higher cargo capacities than a Chevy P30.
11)Inspect the roof. Look for cracking or missing caulk or sealant. Check for ANYTHING that looks as though a drop of water could get by it and into the coach. Check condition of air conditioner shrouds (expensive to replace) and vents. Check visible fins on ACs for damage. Have owner show you any repairs.
12)Have owner deploy the awning(s). (new fabric can be purchased on ebay for a couple hundred bucks)
13)Open the various hatches for refrigerator, furnace, water heater and so on. Look for birds nests, insects, crud and general disarray. When you have owner light these appliances for you, check inside the hatches for heat (you want the heat- means the propane is burning).

Inside the rig
14) Look for water stains or soft spots on walls, ceiling, under windows and in cupboards and closets. Water stains mean water intrusion and damage, small to extensive. Big $ item. Ask owner and see if he can detail leak repairs- then ask to go up on roof to inspect those repairs. There is no such thing as a small leak.
15)Air conditioners. Run each in turn, if there are 2 – most 30 amp coaches can only run one at a time and there will be a switch to select between them.
16)Refrigerator; should be running and cold. Most will run on 120volt or propane- some will run on 12 volt as well. Ask owner how to change between fuels and how to light the propane side if its running on electric.
17)Furnace. Ask owner to light this for you, and let it run for a short while.
18)Water heater: Ask owner to light this for you and let it run for a short while if there is water in coach.
19)Range: Ask owner to light this for you. ****note: if owner says there is no propane in the tank and he cannot demonstrate the workability of these appliances, you risk buying without knowing if the appliances work or in fact if the propane system itself is compromised. This can be VERY EXPENSIVE***
20)Ask owner if there is a propane leak detector and where it is.
21)Ask owner if there is a carbon monoxide detector and where it is.
22)Turn on all the various lights.
23)Check the working of the toilet. The seal in the bowl should hold standing water before flushing. Even if no water in the coach, work the foot pedal(s).
24)Check floor for soft spots, indicating water intrusion and rot.
25)Check under kitchen and bathroom sinks for signs of leakage.
26)Check working of bathroom and range hood fans.
27)Check lights on the system monitor panel (these lights will show levels on tanks, LP, batteries, etc. Note: black tank levels and often gray tank levels are rarely accurate or even working. Not an issue.
28)At some point, make sure coach is unplugged from shore power and running on batteries (12 volt system). Interior lights and bathroom fan should be working. Assume house batteries and/or converter are trashed if these do not power up. High $ item.
29)Ask owner to show you the power distribution panel. This is your breaker box for 120 volt power and fuse box for 12 volt system.
30)Ask owner to show you the battery disconnect or “salesman switch”. This switch allows you to disconnect main or house batteries to prevent battery drain.
31)Ask owner the location of the manufacturer's plaque/sticker which list year data, GVWR (gross vehicle weigh range) tire pressures and so on. Usually in a cupboard or closet, or near the driver's seat.
Check the documentation. The more original manuals you receive, the easier your life will be. A careful owner will have documentation for repairs and routine maintenance.
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Old 02-21-2012, 09:51 AM   #14
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Sleeping configuration with kids can often become an issue as they start to grow. Bunk beds are a great option but did not start to become popular in class As until the late 90s or so. If you feel that sleeping configuration may be an issue you may also want to consider a class C.

Look at lots of units ... the internet will become your best friend in narrowing down the unit best suited to your family.

Good Luck
How would a class C help with sleeping configuration? I was assuming the class A would have more space, thus more sleeping options? There is a class C that I found but I assumed the size would be an issue.
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