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Old 07-28-2020, 10:03 AM   #1
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Seat Fire

I have decided to share a recent experience I had. I was at Newmar for 2 1/2 weeks dealing with a wet basement issue as well as other warranty issues. I made this trip by myself because it was much easier for me to stay in a hotel by myself than it would be with my wife and two dogs. When I left Newmar and got around the corner ( 3 minutes ) from the service center, my Freightliner dash board chimed 3 or 4 times. I checked all my gauges then looked over to my camera monitor and it was flickering. I called Newmar and was told to bring it back in. After checking all connections, a new camera monitor was ordered and installed within two days. Within these two days of waiting to replace my monitor, my drivers seat stopped working. A new 30 amp fuse/breaker was put in and I was able to move the seat back and forth. I left Newmar to head back to North Carolina after three weeks at Newmar. I made my first fuel stop just north of Indianapolis. It was then that I noticed my drivers seat was not working again. I got my fuel and checked the seat, the seat was working again but my camera monitor flickered again. As I got off of I 465 and onto I 70, I entered a construction zone, two travel lanes no shoulders or pull offs, just jersey barriers on the left and on the right. Traffic was heavy but moving at 55-65 mph.

It was at this moment that I first started to smell smoke. So at 60 mph I was hoping/praying that the smell was coming from something outside the coach that I passed. My butt started to get warm, very warm and the smell was getting very strong. I looked to my left and to my horror, smoke is pouring out of my shoulder seat belt slot. No exit or shoulder to pull off in sight. (I am visually and physically boxed in by tractor trailers on my left and in front of me and no shoulder on my right.) The entire drivers area is filling with smoke and now both smoke alarms are sounding. At this moment I realize it is my seat that is on fire (and has my hand gun in the back pocket.) I put on my 4 way flashers and start to slow down. At this point, the right side jersey barrier comes to a end. I was able to pull onto a section of grass, get out of the seat and grab a small kitchen fire extinguisher from a kitchen cabinet. This small extinguisher saved the day because I was able to get the small nozzle into the shoulder slot of the seat and knock out this very smoky electrical fire from the shoulder slot and under the seat. I called 911 and the fire dept responded as well as a state DOT truck and a state trooper. The fire dept did not need to do anything and said I knock it out very nicely. I got an escort off of I 70 to the next exit which happen to be Mount Comfort RV exit. A tech came out and cut some wires, I pulled both driver and passenger seat fuses. Needless to say I was pretty shook up from this. I called Newmar and they were at a complete loss for words. They told me I could leave it there and they would come and get it or I could bring it back to Nappanee. I wanted to bring it back and talk with them in the morning. The next morning Roger Watkins, Team Leader and Ken Miller, Director of the Service Center both seemed VERY concerned about this whole thing. I decided that just leaving the coach at Newmar was the only option. Ken Miller asked me how can Newmar make this right with me. Ken was aware that I had had multiple Newmar and Freightliner issues with my new 2020 Londonaire (many more then I ever had with my 2016 Dutchstar). Of course they would replace the seat and I asked that they go over this coach as if it just came off the production line, hoping to head off any any additional issues before they arose.

Having spoke with Ken and Roger this week, it seems one of the wires from the seat was chaffing on the frame of the chair. Ken Miller said that a Villa representative would contact me and that Villa would examine the passenger seat also. We are heading to up Newmar this weekend to pickup our Motorhome and head out for a 2-3 month trip, fingers crossed.

Lessions learned from this. The first thing: FIRE EXTINGUISHERS need to be out and seen at all times. I keep 5 extinguishers inside the motorhome and 1 large one in the forward passenger compartment. Because the two in the kitchen are always visible to me this is where I went to first. The one hidden next to the passenger seat (comes with RV) didnít dawn on me at all during this whole time (out of site, out of mind)

Second: Know where you are. You need to be able to give emergency personnel accurate location quickly. Be aware of what direction are you going, mile markers, exits or land marks.

Third: The few times I travel alone to FCCC in Gaffney or Newmar I always keep my computer, car keys, wallet, gun and anything that I may need to grab in a hurry on the passenger seat in case of a emergency.

Fourth: Because my wife always puts the step platform up or down and I was by myself, I fumbled with getting the platform down as the coach was filling with burning foam. I will look to change that to maybe a red rocker switch.

Fifth: Shutting off the 12 volt. I didnít do this and since it was an electrical fire, it should have been done immediately.

Sixth: After I called 911 and put out the fire, I called my wife and told her the coach caught fire.Then, as police/fire were showing up, I hung up on her, leaving her to wonder what the hell just happen. Not a good idea to call a spouse till after everything is done and under control. 😉

In closing I believe/hope this was a one off incident that could have ended far worse.
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Old 07-28-2020, 10:22 AM   #2
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Hoo Boy! Talk about being on the hot seat! Lucky you HAD a fire extinguisher available to you.
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Old 07-28-2020, 10:34 AM   #3
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Hopefully the smoke order has diminished and not in all the soft surfaces throughout the coach. As in small house fires, the smoke does more damage than the fire and hard to remove. I know the DW nose is more sensitive than mine. Glad you are safe.
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Old 07-28-2020, 10:43 AM   #4
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I had this exact same issue with my 2019 Canyon Star driver seat. However, I found the problem while I was under the seat working on it because it stopped operating. I just happened to notice the seat main power cables cables squished up in the seat operating mechanism. I installed additional covering on the cables and wire tied and routed them so it won't happen again. I still check both seats every now and then just to make sure things are still OK.

You did a good job handling the fire and I'm sure glad I found mine before it came to that.

I'm a firm believer that when a fuse or breaker fails it's usually for a reason that needs to be found and fixed. Newmar should have done that instead of simply changing the breaker/fuse.
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Old 07-28-2020, 06:53 PM   #5
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Note to self ... Check the seat wiring!!! Check the extinguisher(s).


Glad you are OK. Please post Newmar resolution when all is done, we are curious how they handle it.
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Old 07-28-2020, 08:51 PM   #6
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When I had my seats replaced at Newmar (bad upholstery), I was shocked at the tangle of loose wires found under each seat. There seems to be one or more separate connectors for each seat function, and they are all just hanging in and around the framework. The tech and I had a devil of a time getting all the seat functions to work reliably. And I've had intermittent problems ever since. (But no blown fuses.)

FlexSteel builds (built) the seats. I imagine the same frames are used for a variety of different seat models, with different active functions, It seems that with every added function, a new set of motors, heaters, wires, and connectors are just ADDED, rather than INTEGRATED into a cohesive design.
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Old 07-28-2020, 09:15 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bandcworkhorse View Post
When I had my seats replaced at Newmar (bad upholstery), I was shocked at the tangle of loose wires found under each seat. There seems to be one or more separate connectors for each seat function, and they are all just hanging in and around the framework. The tech and I had a devil of a time getting all the seat functions to work reliably. And I've had intermittent problems ever since. (But no blown fuses.)

FlexSteel builds (built) the seats. I imagine the same frames are used for a variety of different seat models, with different active functions, It seems that with every added function, a new set of motors, heaters, wires, and connectors are just ADDED, rather than INTEGRATED into a cohesive design.
Villa made the seat in question. FlexSteel is ceasing, or already has ceased production of RV furnishings. If you had similar problems with a FlexSteel seat, I'd say the problem is on Newmar's end, as that is the common factor. Based on descriptions of the wire routing and lack of bundling/support for the wires, that's 100% on the coach builder.

One can spend a half-mil on coach and get the same workmanship as a $10k travel trailer.
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Old 07-29-2020, 11:12 AM   #8
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This story is terrifying. So glad you are safe and sound. This could have been much worse. I had a daytime running light module fire in my old coach. Thankfully we were able to put it out. Like you....our extinguisher is always nearby. Great idea on having a "ditch bag" with all your essential items though. I will be getting a back pack setup today. And will be checking my seat wiring as I just had them both replaced under warranty. Looking forward to hearing the resolution by Newmar. These coaches love to burn down. If you go to any RV salvage yard they are almost exclusively populated by coaches that have been on fire. Check out Visone's web page. Scary as hell.
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Old 07-29-2020, 12:01 PM   #9
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It seems to me that someone put too large a fuse in to keep it from popping the original fuse. Arcing should have blown the fuse but because someone took a shortcut to fix it, your seat caught on fire.
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Old 07-29-2020, 01:54 PM   #10
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A horrifying story! Bad enough it happens, but right in an area that is nearly impossible to stop in (though I would have.) So glad you are OK.

I carry four extinguishers inside the coach and one large one in a bay outside. Anyone that is relying on just that little one they provide by the door is taking more risk than I would.

I think my answer to Newmar on how to make it right, based on all the issues you have had, would have been "A new coach!"

Best wishes on your upcoming trip. I truly hope it's incident and breakdown free.
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Old 07-29-2020, 02:33 PM   #11
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Wow! Glad you were able to get pulled over in time to put a stop to the fire! I have two extinguishers on board. I think I'll get a couple get a couple more.
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Old 07-29-2020, 04:03 PM   #12
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Some very valuable tips for all of us. Thank you for sharing. I see new fire extinguishers in my future!
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Old 07-29-2020, 04:12 PM   #13
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If investing in fire extinguishers, invest in a foam extinguisher for tire fires! 10 years ago, we helped a guy on the side of the road whose 5th wheel tire was on fire. Hit the tire with 5 conventional extinguishers and zero effect on the fire. The whole 5th wheel caught and was destroyed.

A large foam extinguisher is now part of my arsenal.
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Old 07-29-2020, 04:21 PM   #14
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That sudden jersey barrier break may have been more of a blessing than you realize. Think about it, as you say, you have no where to pull over due to the jersey barriers. Had you not reached that break and been forced to just stop in the lane of traffic next to the jersey barrier, would you have been able to make an emergency exit with the coach door right next to the jersey barrier. I love the fact that Newmar installs an actual emergency door rather than just an emergency window, but if that was on the DS and you could not open your front door, you still would have been struggling to get out of the coach with the passing traffic. Yes, despite the very unfortunate event, you were still being smiled upon favorably! Glad you're safe, and I hope that everything else looks up from here.
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