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Old 12-12-2013, 02:16 PM   #1
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New to the forum, new to RV's

Hello everyone. I'm getting a crash course in RVing after my buddy just bought a 97 Holiday Rambler Imperial 40 WDS. There seem to be a lot of links to here when I start searching for answers to my questions, so I thought it might be helpful to join and start posting instead of just lurking.

I have a host of questions, and I'm sure it would be wise to start individual threads for each, but here are a few.

What is the "Smart Wheel" feature? what does it do?

Opinions on the 97 (last year for mechanical injection) Cummins 8.3 325hp? It seems great and very much up to the task, but we have concerns due to the fact that we don't know the mileage on the vehicle and we can't find out engine hours because it's mechanical injection, so there's no ECM to hook to for diagnostics (that I'm aware of). (the odometer resets itself to all 6's without warning ... maybe it's a sign? haha).

The Allison 6 speed would seem to be in great shape, but occasionally downshifts hard when it's cold, and feels like torque converter shudder went upshifting at lower rpms at times. Any tips or tricks or recommended service techniques? Particular fluids or additives some of the experienced RVer's gravitate toward?

Neither of us have ever had a diesel ANYTHING. I know there's more than just an oil filter and air filter to service on the engine (water separator, another oil/breather filter?? others?) on the engine itself, but what about the 7500 watt Onan Quiet diesel generator? I worry about what I can't see on it. Belt(s)? hoses? what else can fail that might need servicing? What oil(s) do the experienced folks recommend? Any oil(s) or filter(s) to stay away from?

I have a whole host of other questions, but for now, the last one is really a potential deal breaker on this rig. We are drag racers and we want to tow a short enclosed trailer (20-24ft) with a 3000lb car. Probably around 5000lbs total weight. I see the unloaded gross on the Imperial 40wds is around 26K lbs. Loaded is around 30K lbs. More than likely we will never have much more than 27.5-28K lbs RV weight. Provided I can maneuver it with a trailer behind it's 40.5' length (could be fun ... or NOT), is this a feasible set up?

We have a 28ft Pace Shadow trailer with A/C that we haul another car with all our tools, ATV, fans, spare parts, chemicals, etc., but it will be towed with my 97 Chevy crew cab 454 dually. The smaller trailer that will towed by the Imperial will be empty aside from the other car itself.

Heck of a first post eh? Thanks for any insight, and I look forward to getting to know some of you and learning from you.
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Old 12-12-2013, 03:05 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by ScottRussell View Post
Hello everyone. I'm getting a crash course in RVing after my buddy just bought a 97 Holiday Rambler Imperial 40 WDS. There seem to be a lot of links to here when I start searching for answers to my questions, so I thought it might be helpful to join and start posting instead of just lurking.

I have a host of questions, and I'm sure it would be wise to start individual threads for each, but here are a few.

What is the "Smart Wheel" feature? what does it do? Welcome to the forum! There is a wealth of knowledge here and it is not me! Smart Wheel is the controls built into the steering wheel for you to set the cruise, wipers, lights etc. You can also flash truckers with clearance light as a thank you and headlights to let truckers know when they can pull back in front of you.

Opinions on the 97 (last year for mechanical injection) Cummins 8.3 325hp? It seems great and very much up to the task, but we have concerns due to the fact that we don't know the mileage on the vehicle and we can't find out engine hours because it's mechanical injection, so there's no ECM to hook to for diagnostics (that I'm aware of). (the odometer resets itself to all 6's without warning ... maybe it's a sign? haha). Too new to MH's myself but that 666 sounds quite ominous! LOL!

The Allison 6 speed would seem to be in great shape, but occasionally downshifts hard when it's cold, and feels like torque converter shudder went upshifting at lower rpms at times. Any tips or tricks or recommended service techniques? Particular fluids or additives some of the experienced RVer's gravitate toward? Sorry

Neither of us have ever had a diesel ANYTHING. I know there's more than just an oil filter and air filter to service on the engine (water separator, another oil/breather filter?? others?) on the engine itself, but what about the 7500 watt Onan Quiet diesel generator? I worry about what I can't see on it. Belt(s)? hoses? what else can fail that might need servicing? What oil(s) do the experienced folks recommend? Any oil(s) or filter(s) to stay away from? I know there are belts and all kinds of filters throughout the whole unit but like I said earlier I am too new to a DP to be of a lot of help but I will help where I can.

I have a whole host of other questions, but for now, the last one is really a potential deal breaker on this rig. We are drag racers and we want to tow a short enclosed trailer (20-24ft) with a 3000lb car. Probably around 5000lbs total weight. I see the unloaded gross on the Imperial 40wds is around 26K lbs. Loaded is around 30K lbs. More than likely we will never have much more than 27.5-28K lbs RV weight. Provided I can maneuver it with a trailer behind it's 40.5' length (could be fun ... or NOT), is this a feasible set up? Your hitch would need to be rated to tow more than 5,000 lbs as well as the GCVWR on the MH tag. My hitch is rated for 10k.

We have a 28ft Pace Shadow trailer with A/C that we haul another car with all our tools, ATV, fans, spare parts, chemicals, etc., but it will be towed with my 97 Chevy crew cab 454 dually. The smaller trailer that will towed by the Imperial will be empty aside from the other car itself.

Heck of a first post eh? Thanks for any insight, and I look forward to getting to know some of you and learning from you.
Trust me, this will not be your last post. I keep running into stuff I don't know and have to ask about. This not my first MH but it is my first DP. Wow! It is a steep learning curve but that diesel puts out so little effort to maintain speed. No more gassers for me. I imagine your MH will get better mileage than you 454! LOL!
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Old 12-12-2013, 03:29 PM   #3
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Trust me, this will not be your last post. I keep running into stuff I don't know and have to ask about. This not my first MH but it is my first DP. Wow! It is a steep learning curve but that diesel puts out so little effort to maintain speed. No more gassers for me. I imagine your MH will get better mileage than you 454! LOL!
I flew down to Jacksonville FL to pick it up for my friend and drove it home (around 700 miles). I can tell you it gets far better mileage than a gas dually when the dually is towing. What we are hoping is that the HR Imperial will get far better mileage TOWING vs. TOWING.

The main reason for the purchase is my friend's dad is suffering from Alzheimer's. My friend (who was my next door neighbor until he remarried after his 1st wife died of complications from diabetes) and his oldest son and I all race together. His dad likes to go with us, but hates public restrooms (who doesn't lol). He's 90 years old and a WWII B29 pilot, and that's pretty much most of what he remembers these days, so it makes for some entertaining trips.

Hopefully the RV will make it more fun for my friend's dad, as well as get all of us into the RV lifestyle. After driving the Imperial, I'm seriously considering selling my home and going full time RV. I'm single, 50 years old and been divorced for 15 years. I may just build a nice shop closer to work (I commute 175 miles round trip Mon thru Fri), and park the RV inside and live in it. If I want to work on the race cars, just head out the door of my "house" into the shop. Then I could hook up the race car to my house and be much more comfortable at the track.

Lots of possibilities, but it's all WAY too new to be making those kinds of decisions at this point.
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Old 12-12-2013, 03:49 PM   #4
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You commute 175mi, 5 times a week ?
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Old 12-12-2013, 03:53 PM   #5
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ScottRussel, WOW! 175 miles! like WOW! I don't know what to say except you are as far out there as I am. I wanted to fulltime with my wife but she wants a home to go back to. I am a believer in the older DP in good condition. Ours isn't new but it is paid for. I had a specialty construction company and the crews had to travel as part of the work. I paid a per diem and they could live on the road as they pleased. Some stayed in Motels and others bought campers and MH and lived there. Short trips made no sense but some were a year or more. Those were great. Sorry I got way off topic. As you know I am learning myself although I had a 5.9 Cummins in my Dodge so I learned a little from it. Always carry a spare fuel filter and air filter so you can change them in an emergency. I got a dose of water in the pickup while fueling up one time and I went through 5 filters before I got home. BP paid to have the fuel system fixed as they knew what happened. The air filter I have heard can get wet driving in the rain and can disintegrate and can be sucked into the engine. Obviously you will want to know this BEFORE it comes apart. My service manager religiously put Power Service in the trucks I owned and all were service at 5k miles with Rotella. Can't tell you the oil weight. I use Brazels in Washington for most all of my RV stuff. There are good mechanics and can send you about anything you need for an RV.

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Old 12-12-2013, 04:09 PM   #6
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You commute 175mi, 5 times a week ?
Yes, I do, but I do it in an 03 Honda Civic that gets right at 38mpg haha. Just don't want anyone thinking I'm commuting in the Imperial
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Old 12-12-2013, 04:22 PM   #7
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ScottRussel, WOW! 175 miles! like WOW! I don't know what to say except you are as far out there as I am. I wanted to fulltime with my wife but she wants a home to go back to. I am a believer in the older DP in good condition. Ours isn't new but it is paid for. I had a specialty construction company and the crews had to travel as part of the work. I paid a per diem and they could live on the road as they pleased. Some stayed in Motels and others bought campers and MH and lived there. Short trips made no sense but some were a year or more. Those were great. Sorry I got way off topic. As you know I am learning myself although I had a 5.9 Cummins in my Dodge so I learned a little from it. Always carry a spare fuel filter and air filter so you can change them in an emergency. I got a dose of water in the pickup while fueling up one time and I went through 5 filters before I got home. BP paid to have the fuel system fixed as they knew what happened. The air filter I have heard can get wet driving in the rain and can disintegrate and can be sucked into the engine. Obviously you will want to know this BEFORE it comes apart. My service manager religiously put Power Service in the trucks I owned and all were service at 5k miles with Rotella. Can't tell you the oil weight. I use Brazels in Washington for most all of my RV stuff. There are good mechanics and can send you about anything you need for an RV.

Alan
Most people freak out when I tell them I commute that far, but it beats living in Memphis. That is a round trip BTW. It's 87.5 miles from my garage at home to the parking garage on Front Street in Memphis.

As for the Full Time RV thing, I have a 2300 sq ft brick home with an in ground pool (that I HATE with an unholy passion!). It's about half paid for, and if I sold it, I could afford to move to North MS (basically South Memphis more or less). I could build a 60'x100' metal shop fully plumbed and wired and buy an RV and both would be paid for and it would cut my commute in half (or more). My race car and all my tools and equipment are paid for already. My home is really my only debt. I have no other loans, credit card debt, or any other debt to speak of.

Not being married anymore is a bummer at times, but it has it up side. I can pretty much do what I want, when I want. My only obligation these days is to my daughter, who I love dearly, who is a freshman in college. She has said for years that I should sell my house and build a shop with an apartment on the side of it because all I do is work and race. I told her about this idea and she's over the MOON excited, hoping I'll do it this spring. Worst case, if I didn't like full time RV living, I could always borrow a few bucks and add on an apartment to the shop like my daughter always suggested.

Thanks for the heads up on the fuel filters. I've heard horror stories about people fooling around (the wrong way) with their water separators and the engine losing it's prime. I hope I never have to deal with that problem.
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Old 12-12-2013, 04:24 PM   #8
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Think I'd be buy'ing a plane, rather than a MH !
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Old 12-12-2013, 08:57 PM   #9
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Welcome to the forum! I'll throw out my .02, hopefully it will be of some benefit to you........the Smartwheel does a bunch of functions, from cruise to wipers to blinking lights. Just play with it 'til you learn it. The mechanical Cummins' biggest caveat is the lift pump, which basically feeds fuel from the tank to the injector pump. If (when) it fails the power falls way off, needs to be fixed immediately to prevent damage to injector pump. FWIW I use the same Rotella 15-40 oil in the Cummins and the Onan genset. You probably should get the Allison trans fluid changed (converter drained too) not sure on that model but probably should get the Allison Transynd fluid. The antifreeze in both engines should be tested and replenished with the anticorrosives if necessary. Get on an oil analysis program such as Blackstone. There are a couple belts on the genset, you should check/replace them cause it's a bear to do it at the track. There is a kit available from Onan to eliminate one of the belts. You'll want to check the squirrel cage cooling fan on the Onan for loose fins - they have been known to fly apart. I am a drag racer also - my coach is 42' w/ a tag axle and a 400 Cummins. I tow a 32' ATC which when loaded w/ 2 dragsters, tools and scooter weighs in at just under 10k. I had a steel-framed trailer, it was too heavy, the ATC is 3000# lighter, the coach handles it like a dream. You might want to look into a Trailer Toad, although at 5k total wt. probably don't need it. Make sure you have a trailer brake controller on the coach and keep the trailer brakes adjusted. Hopefully this has been some help to you..........just keep asking questions no harm at all........ JB
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Old 12-13-2013, 08:48 AM   #10
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Welcome to the forum! I'll throw out my .02, hopefully it will be of some benefit to you........

the Smartwheel does a bunch of functions, from cruise to wipers to blinking lights. Just play with it 'til you learn it.

The mechanical Cummins' biggest caveat is the lift pump, which basically feeds fuel from the tank to the injector pump. If (when) it fails the power falls way off, needs to be fixed immediately to prevent damage to injector pump.

FWIW I use the same Rotella 15-40 oil in the Cummins and the Onan genset.

You probably should get the Allison trans fluid changed (converter drained too) not sure on that model but probably should get the Allison Transynd fluid. The antifreeze in both engines should be tested and replenished with the anticorrosives if necessary.

Get on an oil analysis program such as Blackstone.

There are a couple belts on the genset, you should check/replace them cause it's a bear to do it at the track. There is a kit available from Onan to eliminate one of the belts. You'll want to check the squirrel cage cooling fan on the Onan for loose fins - they have been known to fly apart.

I am a drag racer also - my coach is 42' w/ a tag axle and a 400 Cummins. I tow a 32' ATC which when loaded w/ 2 dragsters, tools and scooter weighs in at just under 10k. I had a steel-framed trailer, it was too heavy, the ATC is 3000# lighter, the coach handles it like a dream. You might want to look into a Trailer Toad, although at 5k total wt. probably don't need it. Make sure you have a trailer brake controller on the coach and keep the trailer brakes adjusted.

Hopefully this has been some help to you..........just keep asking questions no harm at all........ JB
Thanks a ton! This is just the kind of information I was hoping to find here.

The smart wheel button on the top right was the main thing I was wondering about. I can't seem to figure out what it does. It just has the image of a steering wheel on it.

We will be pulling the generator and changing all the hoses and belts over the winter. I'll look into the kit to eliminate one of the belts. And thanks for the heads up on the squirrel cage fin issue. I'll check that ASAP. Neither of us has ever had a diesel generator and we both LOVE this thing!

I'm aware of the lift pump, but I had no idea it could fail the engine still run. I had always assumed if the lift pump failed, the engine would simply quit. Good to know. Any idea what the pressure should be between the lift pump and injector pump? I'd like to check it and see if it's in spec.

Dean's (my friend) current trailer is a 28ft Pace Shadow (steel). If I had to guess I'd say it's upwards of 10K loaded. 3000lb turbocharged Mustang, generator, Honda 4 wheeler, small compressor, jack stands, 2 1/2 ton jack, roll around tool box FULL of tools, 4 race car rims and tires, and 2 trailer spares and host of other items too lengthy to list.

I'm going to buy a 20-24ft enclosed just to haul my car with nothing else in it to try and minimize the weight the RV has to haul and we'll leave the heavy trailer with all the equipment for one of the duallies to haul. I'm hoping that with the Imperial at around 28K (or less) ready to go racing, with the smaller enclosed with nothing but the race car in it, it will handle it OK. The 325hp Cummins seems VERY strong compared to my 97 Chevy 454 dually or Dean's 2000 4wd F350 with V10 power.

I'm more worried about the chassis handling towing the trailer than I am the engine/trans. With the DP having so much rear overhang, and knowing the weight of the diesel and trans is back there, I just worry about overwhelming the rear suspension. I really don't want to have to use a trailer toad because I don't want to have to unhook the trailer every time I need to back it up (which is what I'm assuming you have to do, but I really don't know for sure).

Thanks again for the information!
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Old 12-13-2013, 06:03 PM   #11
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You are making some good plans there..............I think the Trailer Toad has a locking pin(s) you can put in to allow it to back up,,,,,,,,,,,the main reason for using them is to keep from buckling the sides of the coach behind the rear axle.............that's another reason I bought the tag...........but you should do fine just go easy at first then check everything carefully after a short shakedown trip............ JB
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Old 12-13-2013, 06:08 PM   #12
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Forgot to add I have a friend that tows with a mechanical Cummins, he had a hard time with lift pumps and finally put a belt drive pump on it (Enderle, I think) and used a Gilmer belt off the crank to drive it. Ran it for years like that - just pointing out there are options for that pump...........I'll look at my Smartwheel in a day or two and try to fill you in on that one button........... JB
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Old 12-13-2013, 08:04 PM   #13
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Send me a private email with your contact information. I had that exact coach and can tell you a ton of information about it and share all of the info that I have on it.
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Old 12-13-2013, 11:03 PM   #14
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I can't help you on this one either, But

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