Coachmen's "sweat lodge" storage bin - huge design flaw
Hate to be picking on Coachmen/FR Design dept again, but our 2019 Coachmen Pursuit has a storage bin, right below the driver's window that has huge condensation issues.
Coachmen actually installed miniature AC flex drops into two compartments on the passenger side, but this one is not one of them.
The problem is that Coachmen installed the $600 Lippert Leveling system electronic controller module on the top inside of this sweat box.
It's a metal compartment painted black inside and out, with a patch of indoor outdoor carpet on the bottom. In Florida, where it's humid, the inside of the RV is cool at night, causing this box to sweat. The blue carpet gets moldy. You can fill a sponge with the amount of condensate. Daily.
WTH was Coachmen thinking when they put that pricey Lippert controller in this torture test sweat box? Why not inside the driver side door panel?
To fix this, as best it can be done, we put foil-backed 1" thick sheet Sika foam insulation on the outside of this box (the undercarriage side, if you will.) Used Liquid Nails Extreme Glue on the panels and black Flex Tape, like you see on TV, to seal the edge seams.
A lot of measurements, cutting, test fitting, but it looks pro. Very quality.
There's a 3 inch access hole for the Lippert control cables in the upper corner of this "sweat box", too Used Great Foam to fill that, carefully.
A great improvement. 80% less sweat now. But, we will. still have to line the inside, too. You can still wipe some condensate off the inside of this "sweat box" even with the outside mostly insulated except the top section.
Had Coachmen put this expensive Lippert controller inside the driver side door panel, there would not be any issue. Seems like a case of "as long as it makes it to the end of our 1 year warranty."
We also put a thin plastic insulating divider between the controller and the metal top of this "sweat box." Its sold in sheets at Home Depot, the same kind of plastic material used in some real estate agent signs.
Insulating this compartment inside and out seems absurd, but the risk of premature failure of the Lippert Leveling controller makes it worthwhile. Or so we hope.
Anyone else dealt with this?
The Lippert slideout controller, by contrast, is mounted in a non-metallic storage bin that is "inside" and does not sweat. No rusty mounting screws there.
If you have a later model Pursuit, you might want to check yours. Electronics and dripping condensate dont mix. See pics.
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We just picked up a NOS 2020 Pursuit 29. Prior to that, we had closed a deal on a 2021 which fell apart when they screwed up the satellite dish install.
On the 2021, the jack controller was missing. The bay had moisture in it, quite a bit. We assumed there was a problem with the door seal and that on it's travels from the factory up to Canada water got in from the front wheel, or something like that. Either way, it needed a new controller.
On the 2020 that we did purchase, I also noticed high humidity in that bay. It was not wet like on the 2021 but I could see a trend.
I got this unit for my dad. So the other day he was practicing raising and lowering the jacks and putting the slide out in and vice versa. We both know full well to check that all 4 jacks are in before driving off. I did just that, and told him to drive forward 10 feet and go through it again. Something came up we were talking about something else and then he was about to drive off. I looked, and the driver's side jack was down!
We have been at a loss to account for how it was that a few minutes earlier all jacks were up and he was ready to go and then all of a sudden one, and only one, jack was down.....
I think we will have to look into moisture in that bay right away. Thanks for highlighting that!
Btw, we also had an issue with the 12v fridge blowing fuses. Upon closer inspection, they put the wrong label on the fuse panel. As such, they put a 7.5 amp fuse where there should have been a 15. I checked all the fuse wiring at that point and the wiring was correct although one wire broke by touching it. Not a big deal, but the fridge fuse position was mislabelled as tank heater.......
I did a complete solar install on the unit as well as a satellite dish install, so at this point I've been through a lot of it. In the wet bay, the light in there is on 24x7 and has no switch. We're not even sure how it was supposed to be switched from the factory.....
I also did the Cheap Handling Fix right off the bat and had to separate the steering column to get the wheel straight. This is not our first unit so we know full well that we would have to spend time getting it right.
On the whole, very pleased with the precision of the build, but....with respect to Coachmen, we initially had success getting very minor warranty items from them but now they seem intent on blowing us off.
This is very stupid behavior because the unit is under warranty and can be brought back for the shop to do it. As we all know, Coachmen then has to pay labor and the chances of it actually being fixed without the shop introducing problems are slim. So it it to Coachmen's benefit to expedite parts when they are reasonably certain the customer is not milking them.
This has started to fall apart after their sending us roughly $20 worth of hood latches. This is a shame because I personally feel the design is quite good and that the build quality is also quite good. But bear in mind, I have a Diesel pusher so its in contrast to that.
The SIKA R5 foam panels did help a lot. It's still not 100%, more like 96%, so we put a large Damp Rid tray in there, to get the rest.
We're debating continuing with this and insulating the INSIDE of the sweat box, too. My wife who has to do the work doesnt want to bother, but I do. One full sheet of Home Depot SIKA foam is enough for both outside and in, omitting the interior carpeted area.
The issue is that a black metal box absorbs heat. Place it immediately adjacent to the cool underbelly of the coach floor, add ambient humidity, and you have sweat. And then install a $600 Lippert controller in there with the constant sweat. A guaranteed failure.
So, to be clear, we only put foam on the outside, as described, using the SIKA foam, the LocTite Fuze*It Max exterior glue, and black 4" FlexTape, cut in half at 2" wide for the seams (or use full width and two rolls of tape.). All at Home Depot.
BION, we still need to insulate the inside- the top, back and sides, to get rid of all of the humidity. I dont like having to keep a jumbo size DampRid tray in there, but the moisture is finally coming out of the carpet on the bottom.
What a crap design.
Thanks for the tip on the fridge. Do you recall what circuit the 7.5 amp fuse served? Was it a simple case of pulling two fuses and swapping them?
Since it's mislabeled, how do I confirm my fridge has the wrong fuse? Is there a specific wire color feeding 12V to the fridge?
It doesnt sound good that one jack, or was it a pair of them?, extended on their own. Ghost in the machine. I wonder if turning off the big switch and unplugging and cleaning the connector cable ends with spray on electronic contact cleaner might help. Those jacks are power up, power down, so a signal was triggered somehow.
We also had issues with microleaks at every single Lippert jack orange return hose, right at the connectors.
Our controller started surging and we had a jacks down error when we stopped at a gas station. All that traced to being one quart low on Mercon 5 ATF hydraulic fluid. Our unit was low because we found microleaks at every single Lippert orange return hose connector. 4 hoses, 6 leaky connectors. Unit is 2.5 yrs old with 4600 miles wear.
Apparently, Aug 13 2018 was a bad day at the Lippert orange hose crimping station. Two short hoses had leaks at each end. Or maybe any day there is a bad day.
To spot the leak, you have to get up close to each jack's orange return hose and look for lubricant at the connector on the jack.
A gentle wiggle of the hose will produce a drip of fluid. Even the slightest pressure on the hose by the connector. This results in slimy hoses, low fluid in the reservoir, hydraulic fluid pooling where the hoses sag, and weird behavior like surging or sending jacks down.
We used forceps and Qtips to check the reservoir level, as there is no dipstick???, and then filled slowly with a short turkey baster. One fulk quart low. Then we discovered the leaks.
It was very, very, very expensive to get all 4 orange return hoses replaced. Lippert nicely sent us an identical set, but the labor cost was sky high. Certainly something the dealer should do, if you're under warranty , as its a high pressure hydraulic system.
If your hydraulic fluid level is fine, this problem may be unique to us, and its fixed now, knock on wood.
Rereading your post, I do see you mentioned the tank heater circuit as the one that should be served by the 7.5 amp 12VDC fuse. Easy to check that at the water heater and fuse panel thanks.
My wife says our steering wheel is off about 5-10 degrees, which existed pre-CHF. Is this difficult to correct? We have all the tools already, but I've never tackled this.
Is there a Youtube video?
My wife, who does all things leveling now, is also baffled by your "one jack down" issue. I'd bet money that its low hydraulic fluid in the reservoir. Must be within 1/2 to 1/4 of the black lid.
If you remove the metal reservoir cover, put a very bright flashlight against the back side of the reservoir tank and get your eyes up close, you can see the actual level with light shining thru the semi-opaque reservoir. It could be a low fluid issue similar to ours.
I'm not sure yet what we will do about that compartment. First thing will be to look into whether it's possible/practical to relocate the jack controller to the inside of the vehicle. I was debating about putting a few large air holes in that compartment to see if that would help but I haven't looked at it yet to assess the situation myself.
With respect to the jack, it was just the driver's side front that was down. VERY odd. Dad had hit the Retract All button, I physically verified all 4 of the jacks had gone up, and then a few minutes later, that one jack was back down...seemingly all on it's own.
We also had an instance where the Low voltage, Engage Park Brake and Excess Angle lights were stuck on - as we were driving down the road! These isolated incidents have caused me to question just how reliable this jack system is. Bear in mind, it's new to us, and based on these incidents, we don't trust it. Our unit is only a few months from new purchase but the service up here is terrible. It's much better for us, if possible, to diagnose it ourselves and then go from there.
Based on your info I will take a much closer look at the jack lines for weeping and check the fluid level. This is valuable info - thank you for posting it. I did see several posts from people in my travels about moisture getting into the unit and causing issues. This gibes with your experience and what I saw on the other units I looked at with respect to the compartments.....I suspect most people have not come to the correct conclusion that you have - that it's a condensation issue and moisture getting into the controller. I bet Lippert would like to know about that !!!
On the fridge issue, on ours, fuse #12 was labelled 7.5A Tank HT.
I would take that to be the heater for the grey and black water tanks. On our label, there is no listing for the fridge....
What we saw was this, after some time the fridge would stop working. We then determined that Fuse #12 was blown. Replace the 7.5 amp fuse and the fridge would come back on. After this happened a few times I put my finger on the 7.5 fuse and found that is was hot.....
We then pulled that fuse and checked for power at the tank heaters....and there was. So the label on the fuse panel was not correct. According to the fridge label it can draw ~13 amps. This is why the 7.5 amp fuse was getting hot and eventually blowing. Because we have a shunt on the negative battery terminal we are able to measure the exact draw when the fridge was on. Typical was ~9 amps or so with the odd spike to 10 amps.
We then contacted Forest River and got a fuse assignment chart (attached).
I then followed ALL 12v lines to determine exactly what they did. It turns out that Fuse 12 should be labelled Refrigerator and that it is the only device on that circuit. As such, it should have a 15A fuse. Installing one addressed the issue but made us wonder what other circuit they messed up.
The long and short of it is that the label is wrong, and the schematic they gave me is also wrong.....
Interestingly enough, on the Schematic, they say that the Fridge and the Furnace are on the same circuit. This would be silly as they are both high-draw items. Reality at the panel is that they aren't. The Schematic is wrong.
My guess is they did a production run change when they realized the original, on paper design, was not ideal...but then forgot to document it....both on the schematic and on the label....
To properly address it would mean to change the schematic and the label to match what we actually see with the multimeter based on testing each circuit At that point we would have a proper diagram of the circuits and fuses. There were other mistakes as well but they were not serious. We're satisfied, at this point, that the circuits are OK and using proper sized wire, proper fuses etc. They are just not labelled correctly.
In regards to the steering wheel....You cannot remove the wheel to re-spline it. So if you crawl under the front of the unit you will find you can sit up in there on the driver's side and you will see the steering box and the steering column. The shaft coming out of the steering box is splined and the steering column shaft is as well. So, when they mate they spline together. The two are held together by a clamp with a single bolt.
What you want to know ahead of time is which way the wheel needs to be turned (left or right) and then have the wheels straight ahead and then crawl under and remove the bolt clamping the column to the steering box shaft. Spray the entire thing with penetrating fluid as it will help a lot. Use a large flat screwdriver to gently pry the column up and off the shaft. You want to hold the column while you do this because you only want to re-seat it one spline to the left or right depending on which way the steering is off.
It's very easy to do, you can't screw it up, and we had to do it twice because I was not able to get one spline the first time. When it's done, and it's straight on a test drive, be sure that the clamp bolt is properly tightened and you're done.
It's much easier than it sounds, just go under it and take a look. Easy access too. The whole issue is knowing which way the wheel needs to be turned and then being able to turn it just one spline and then re-seat it.
Bob: A short reply because I'm taking on heat for my wordiness. I cant thank you enough for your helpful suggestions and the excellent details.
We've done the CHF and SumoSprings, so we have the tools to tackle this steering wheel issue. My wife hates that its off by 15 degrees.
We finished the mod on our "sweat box". Even with all exterior sides insulated and seams taped with FlexTape, there was still condensation being caught by a jumbo XL size Damp Rid tray. My wife was not going to insulate the interior, but she went ahead and made cardboard templates, then carefully cut pieces for the ceiling, back and sides. They form fit without any seam tape, but we plan to use silver HVAC tape.
So, the materials were only: a)one new Milwaukee hawkbill knife, b) one full sheet of that SIKA 1" foam paneling, c) one tube of Loctite Fuze*It Max construction glue, d)one tube of low expansion Great Foam to fill that 3" hole and e)one or two rolls of 4" black Flextape (one roll is not enough) for exterior seams. I also used a thin plastic piece under the Lippert controller.
Done. Dry as a bone now. Hooray!
Yes, you should report this to Lippert. I just spent time with them on my leveling system, so they may not want to get more "this needs improving" feedback from me. Plus, youre under warranty. They were very helpful.
Dinosaur Electronics conformal coats their electronic boards and they last for years exposed to the elements. I bet that these Lippert controllers are not meant to be installed in a wet environment. In the Deep South, that box is constantly wet.
I hope they swap out your controller. Thats fair. It sounds damaged and unpredictably unsafe.
Having read their manuals recently, what you describe doesnt make sense. Doesnt fit their troubleshooting guide either. Our unit wasnt driven much, mostly in storage, or it wouldve failed from this much moisture. Esp if bottom of the controller is not coated. (We didnt check. Even a light coating of silicone caulk would prevent shorting. I did this on our old Winegard switch/controller. Poor boy's after market conformal coating.)
There's room in that hollow left drivers panel at the factory to install it. Not sure about retrofitting it. Can the connectors can go back thru that hole in the back and back inside the cab? If yes, one could even put a plastic access door, like plumbers use with drywall.
Since its a $600 part, they need to change it out under warranty, IMHO. You could always do the insulation, if they wont relocate it. And, FR should do a damn recall.
Anyway, that sheet of Zika insulation worked great. I was surprised we had to insulate inside and out, but half the condensation comes from the top metal panel, the rest from the back & sides.
Lastly, I thoroughly checked our inverter fuse panel. No loose connections and no 7.5A fuses. Almost all are 15A. All is well.
I realize that by now you have our condensation problem solved, but a much easier answer is simply to drain it. We worked with the US Navy on some projects and they had finally realized that there is NO way to seal anything. You can slow down the condensation, but not stop it.
The only answer is to drill a 1/4" home in the lowest portion of the assembly and let it drain. It will not fill up with water as you might suspect, it just lets the assembly breath. There is no driver to push air and water INTO the drain hole, it just breaths.
More than 50 years ago, I had a new Honda CB 350. I got stopped by highway patrol. The tail light was out. Looked closely at it, and the light assembly had water in it, about halfway up. As soon as I hit a bump, the light shattered. Answer was to drill a small hole in the bottom to let it drain out. Problem solved.
If you are finnicky, you can get one of those one-way valve thingies to drain the cavity, but it's not necessary.
Just trying to help,
Retired engineer working full time to keep our coach (08 MADP 4528) operating.