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Old 08-15-2013, 10:58 PM   #1
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Wannabee RVer

I don't know if I'm in the right place or not. Please be kind and help me if I'm not. I had some rv trailer experience many years ago but now am looking at hitting the road for a while. My wife and I had started planning to do this but she passed in November 2011. I've got a line on a 1999 Dolphin with 66K miles one owner and everything looks and sounds like he is a person who has great attention to detail. I've got a 2005 PT Cruiser for a toad but it's auto transmission so "Hello Dolly" is taking on an entirely different meaning than it ever did. I'm very good with electrical (110 and 12v - had a 24' boat on Lake Erie for years), mechanical - did my own auto repairs including timing chains etc. and repaired and built computers. I'm looking for general advice, so if you can close your eyes and get into the mental time machine, go back to when you started the motorome experience and remember how important those experienced RVers were to you I'd appreciate your help. Thanks in advance.

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Old 08-16-2013, 12:36 AM   #2
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You've come to the right place to start your info gathering. Those entering the RV life style now have far more resources for obtain information than in years past. Many of us started long before the internet became popular and loaded with numerous specific brand, multi brand and club RV forums came into existence. For the most part, thankfully with a good dose of common sense, I learned on my own and used paper maps to locate national parks. I was 18 years into RVing and was purchasing my second RV before I got connected to the internet and discovered and started using on line sites.

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Old 08-16-2013, 12:43 AM   #3
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Howdy Rick and welcome to iRV2! My condolences to you on the loss of your wife. As for being an RV newbie...hey, we were ALL newbies at one time. Sounds like you have the mechanical ability to take care of your rig, so have it checked out, check the tire dates, and make sure everything runs. See you on the road.
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Old 08-16-2013, 08:13 AM   #4
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First off, Welcome to the take-your-home-with-you-wherever-you-go society.

We purchased our first MH - '05 National Dolphin - 3 years ago and, despite various things: lightening strike, pilot error (AKA stupid ideas), things wearing out, we've really enjoyed it.

You have discovered the Oracle of RV knowledge - iRV2. You will find a "search this forum" box on the right, just above the first forum post. That's where I start. Then if I don't find what I need, I post a question on the forum that's most likely to have dealt with my question. These folks have never failed to give me good information and helped me fix, repair, replace whatever problem I'm working on.

Best wishes and happy trails.
J.J. Hayden (KN4SH)
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Old 08-16-2013, 02:34 PM   #5
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Hi Rick! I can't tell you anything about the Dolphin, but if seems to be in good shape and the owner has detailed maintenance & service records, then you should be OK. You might want to go over to the MH area of the forum and do some searching and ask if anyone knows anything good or bad about that particular model. Sure sorry about you losing your wife!

Good luck, happy trails, and God bless!
Joe & Annette

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Old 08-16-2013, 08:34 PM   #6
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Welcome to the forum. I'm sorry for your loss of your wife.

In terms of getting started with a motorhome, here are a couple of my suggestions.

1. Besides the drive train, the most important thing on your motor home is tires. I suggest learning to read the DOT code on them. If they are more than 5 years old, replace all of them. Yep, it is expensive. But tires do not do well with age and having them sit for any period of time is worse. A blowout on a motorhome is not a pretty thing. You also need to get the right pressures for them. Go to the manufacturer's website and figure out the pressures by your loads. A CAT scale will at least get you to axle weights but there can be significant variances, side to side so 4 wheel weighing is the best. I got my State police to do mine at a truck enforcement stop. THE APPEARANCE OF TREAD ON THE TIRES MEANS NOTHING for safety.

2. If belts and hoses on the engine haven't been recently replaced, I'd do them, too. Along with the engine thermostat, those are the things that will leave you sit most often after tires. A new fuel filter is also a good thing. 5 years is my limit on belts and hoses because I hate breakdowns.

3. When you start out, do it slowly by going locally to CGs and try to exercise everything on the Dolphin. Heaters, A/C, water pump, fridge, etc. Holding tanks are very important, too so it is a good idea to try to figure out if "something" has been left in them. Getting hundreds of miles from home and finding major issues is not fun. Since you do a lot of your own work, you can fix issues a lot cheaper if you have your own tools and the facilities to find parts.

Sometimes, on older units, things will work initially but as soon as you start using them regularly, they give up. You want to try to get past that point before a major trip, IMHO. A lot depends on how long the Dophin sat without being used.

4. Driving is a bit different in a MH. It took us a while to get used to keeping close to the center line. New MH drivers tend to be way to the outside of the lane. Practice in a empty mall lot early on a weekend morning and start working with the driver's side mirror to see where you are really putting the wheels. I had driven good sided U-Haul trucks but our Class A put me into a whole new driving experience. It takes time to adjust. You will likely run through construction with narrow lanes and concrete on both sides. You will save yourself a lot of agony if you have gotten adjusted before that happens. I just had a really tight one on our last trip. Centering in the lane when there are just inches on either side can really "pucker you up." Learning to back into campsites is also something that you can practice in a mall lot. Don't be afraid to get out multiple times to assess where you are until you get used to it.

5. Since you will be using a dolly, practice loading and unloading while you have help available and work out exactly how you are going to do it. Then when you have to do it by yourself, you'll be confident about the steps and the results. The dolly should follow the MH so practice the MH turns. You will likely not be able to back up easily if at all. You want to avoid situations where you will have to unload and unhook the dolly to get out of. That can take practice, too.

6. Since you are handy, you already have a set of tools. I have a 155piece Craftsman set that I carry. A cheap multimeter is really all that I use. Most of the time, your are using the Ohm meter or just detecting 12v, not trying for some precision measurement. A cordless drill and bits to take square drive stuff apart is also very helpful.

If you start going to local CGs, you will likely find a lot of folks who will eagerly jump in to help you with questions and problems that develop. It is comforting to have others around who might have had similar experiences. They can save you a lot of time and aggravation, trying to figure something out by yourself.

Best of luck with your new endeavor and don't hesitate to stop back here with any questions. I always find folks who can help with even the most bizarre situation that I run into.
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Old 08-16-2013, 08:51 PM   #7
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There is a lot of good advice here already. The best advice, start using your rig locally or within a reasonable distance. I have a friend who purchased a '99 Dolphin 2 years ago and he loves it. Camping with us at state parks and rv parks within the locale area allowed him to get used to doing what needed to be done and making sure everything worked as it should.

He ended up purchasing new tires, new rubber (belts etc) and having the oil changed, tyranny serviced and rear end serviced. A 89 point inspection at camping world eased his mind about the actual rv (furnace, refer, etc).

He is now taking longer trips to see his sons and daughters. The unit is small enough he can park it almost anywhere.

Sorry to hear about your wife.
Don (RVM19) & Mary,
Furry friends Sophia & Zander
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Old 08-17-2013, 10:01 AM   #8
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Wow! Thank you all so much. Your responses are beyond what I ever expected. (And it kinda warms my heart a little, too.)

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