The year was 1968. A gallon of gas was 34 cents, the Green Bay Packers were victorious in Super Bowl II and bands like The Beatles, Diana Ross and the Supremes, and The Doors dominated the Billboard Top 100 charts. And a man named Arthur J. Rouse took a chance by releasing a buyers guide with content aimed at the motorized RV market. The rest is history.
MotorHome’s 50th anniversary celebration is in full swing, and it’s too big to be confined to the magazine. That’s why we’ve posted some web exclusive features here, including that inaugural issue of MotorHome Life, along with retro advertisements, departments, and other fun odds and ends. You can even check out a selection of some of our favorite covers from the last half-century. Be sure to check back for new content, and we thank you for making MotorHome the top choice for travel, tech and lifestyle — for the RV enthusiast. Here’s to 50 more years!
The Chevrolet Corvair Ultra Van evokes imagery associated with the massive aquatic mammals, and owners of the rare coaches are happy campers
The year 1960 ushered in an era of change in the United States. Upheaval was in the air, from John F. Kennedy’s election to the dance explosion of Chubby Checker’s “The Twist”— not to mention the naming of the air-cooled Corvair as Motor Trend’s Car of the Year. It was this last development that captured the attention of aircraft designer Dave Petersen, who had been dreaming of building a new kind of motorhome. He envisioned a motorhome that would be light and nimble, and highly maneuverable, while providing its inhabitants a wide, unobstructed view. Chevrolet’s new groundbreaking rear-mounted power package was exactly what Petersen needed to complete his vision. Four months later, his prototype Ultra Van (then called the Go Home) was born.
For its time, the Ultra Van was remarkable. The Class A industry was still in its infancy, and most motorhomes were versions of a truck chassis with a “trailer” bolted to the top. The Ultra Van was different. Built like an aircraft, it had no frame or chassis. The rounded front and rear were constructed of a composite material, while the center section was a series of C-shaped ribs to which the aluminum skin was riveted. Cast-aluminum A-frames were mounted in the front wheel wells, doubling as a platform for wide bench-type seats. The engine was tucked under the large back bed, creating open space for a wet bath and a full galley. A unique under-floor design integrated the aluminum tanks into the structure, adding to its strength without substantially increasing weight. The result was a surprisingly roomy 22-foot-long, 8-foot-wide motorhome with more than 6 feet of headroom that could be powered by a minimal 80 hp. All of which would certainly qualify the Ultra Van as a classic ride — even if it didn’t look suspiciously like a cartoon whale.
A true blast from the past — a five-motorhome Ultra Van convoy (including Mini Mo and Whale) turned plenty of heads in the middle of the Arizona desert.
It’s a distinction that modern-day owners embrace, referring to their motorhomes lovingly as “whales on wheels” and some even naming them after the marine mammal. It seems that to see an Ultra Van is to love one — at least for all the owners we have met. Carl Jones still remembers the first time he came across one on eBay.
“I said, ‘Fran, you’ve got to take a look at this’,” he remembers.
She came over and looked closely at the screen. After a minute she said, “You know, it’s so ugly that it’s cute.”
It was all the license he needed. Now they are the proud owners of Righteous Coach, a 1968 Ultra Van and the couple’s first motorhome. That was seven years ago, and it took three years of what Carl refers to as “rehab” to bring the motorhome back to life.
“It has been rebuilt, re-floored, reupholstered and repainted,” he says with a laugh.
It was a renovation made possible by the Corvair’s popularity with collectors. Carl notes that, despite its age, several companies still manufacture or supply rebuilt parts for the engine and Powerglide transmission used in the Ultra Van. For Carl, the trick in taking on such a restoration was having the ability to do the work himself — a sentiment echoed by every owner I interviewed.
“When you buy an Ultra Van, you need to understand you’ll be in for a lot of work,” agrees Chuck Hansen, who purchased his 1969 motorhome, Whale, with wife Cyndie in 2007. “You have to be adventurous … and it helps to have a credit card.”
In their case, the two were already self-proclaimed “Corvair nuts,” but did not know much about RVs. When they picked theirs up, Chuck began by taking it apart until he found something that worked.
Thar She Blows! Only 330 Corvair-powered Ultra Vans were produced before production ended in 1969. A dozen or more are currently available on the used market, ranging in price from $500 for a true project to $22,000 for a turnkey motorhome. To learn more, check out the Ultra Van Motor Coach Club (UVMCC) website www.corvair.org/chapters/Ultra Van.
“I took it all apart,” he says, only half-joking.
Updates included disc brakes, air suspension and a 3-liter fuel-injected engine, rebuilt by a Corvair expert, that has twice the power of the stock counterpart. Cyndie, with the help of the couple’s daughter, did the interior reupholstering, and Chuck replaced the flooring and the air conditioner. The original cabinets, stove and generator remain. The Hansens also added a few whimsical touches, like a colorful whale clock, to enhance their themed décor.
Along with Cyndie’s 1964 red Corvair, Whale frequently garners attention — and accolades — at Corvair shows.
The original retro dash and between seats table on the Mellos’ Mini Mo.
The Hansens aren’t alone. Molly Bacon and Chris Brown even got an award for Turkel, their 1968 Ultra Van, at a Volkswagen show. Invited because of Turkel’s air-cooled engine, they were competing against 125 VW campers and modified Bugs, and didn’t expect to be recognized. Instead, “we got the Host Club Choice Award,” Molly says proudly.
It is no wonder. Turkel is a little like a time machine — one step inside and you are transported back to the early 1970s. A previous owner decorated the motorhome with a vintage gold color scheme and shag carpet, to which the couple added period-correct touches like an original lava lamp, a green glass 7-Up bottle, 1960s-era throw pillows and a 1970s camping cookbook. Everything is a blast from the past, right down to the melamine tableware.
The Ultra Van’s galley as seen in the Jones’ Righteous Coach.
Despite its vintage appearance, Turkel is definitely travel-worthy. Purchased in 2014 for less than $5,000, it had a fresh rebuild on the air-cooled, 95-hp Corvair engine, and the generator and air conditioner have been replaced. For the latter, the couple chose a high-efficiency Coleman unit with a heat pump that could be powered by a lightweight 2.6-kW Kohler. Their power needs are minimal, as they chose to forego a microwave or a TV.
“Simple is better,” Chris says, and Molly agrees. “We want to get away, leave some of the world behind.”
Getting away is also at the top of the list for Ultra Van owners Jerry and Patty Mello. They bought Mini Mo, their 1968 motorhome, in 2009.
“I’ve had Corvairs since 1975, so I knew about the motorhomes, but I didn’t really want one,” says Jerry, who was instead looking for a vintage Corvair Rampside to restore.
Chuck and Cyndie Hansen pose with their award-winning Corvair vehicles, including their motorhome, Whale.
The purchase of an Ultra Van was his wife’s idea. She pointed out that a motorhome would be more comfortable and functional for travel, and they started their search, eventually purchasing one that was the victim of an aborted renovation. It had been sitting in storage for years, its interior totally gutted — headliner down, panels off, insulation removed — and its exterior in dire need of repair.
Jerry began by replacing all the wiring, adding a second alternator and separating electrical systems for automotive, RV and AC loads. He also added a dual-fuel generator, air conditioner with heat pump, power rack-and-pinion steering, and upgraded the brakes and the suspension. Then he tackled the exterior with the help of his brother, a former aviation metalsmith and body shop owner. They replaced “about half” of the aluminum skin, repaired the compound curves and repainted Mini Mo — a job Jerry estimates at about 500 work-hours.
Lifting Whale’s nifty rear door reveals a convenient place to store larger, bulky items.
“I’ve had every threaded fastener off this motorhome at least once,” he says.
The result is more than just a “modern but retro” look — it is a fully functioning motorhome. Last year alone, Patty and Jerry spent 102 nights in Mini Mo on the road, traveling and attending rallies and shows. Because fewer than 80 of these motorhomes are still on the road, owners are on a first-name basis, and most are active in the Ultra Van Motor Coach Club, over which Jerry Mello presides, and Carl Jones calls “Ultra Vans and the crazy people who own them.”
It might be true that you have to be just a little crazy to take on a 50-year-old motorhome, but it only takes one look at the Ultra Van to understand why these couples made that choice. With its Corvair heritage and its unique body, the “whale on wheels” is the ultimate classic ride.
I had the same problem (as in the March letter) with my 1995 Conquest Class C on a Ford chassis. I discovered that it varied from gas station to gas station. Then I figured out that if I parked at the pump with the front and far side lower than the filler tube, it would fill properly. A lot of the gas stations are not 100 percent level. I assumed that it was a vent tube problem, but could deal with it by circling the pump and coming in from a different side.
Bruce Watson | Bloomington, Minnesota
You know the saying about “assume.” Yes, I’ve experienced this a number of times when filling, and it wasn’t always apparent that there was a slight slope. Thanks for sharing your experience.
Diesel Emissions Maintenance
We own a late-model coach with a Cummins diesel. It amazes me how many Cummins owners are told about adding the blue fluid (diesel exhaust fluid, or DEF) but nobody told them about the preventative maintenance (PM) services on diesel engines. There is an article from Heavy Duty Trucking about the filters for the diesel particulates, which is very interesting. It’s another [thing to consider before buying] a diesel coach with a Cummins engine; taking care of the diesel particulate filters.
Stephen Calderwood | Boring, Oregon
The online article you referenced, “What You Should Know About After Treatment System Maintenance,” at www.truckinginfo.com, is aimed at trucking fleet operators and assumes that the vehicles will reach high mileages typical of commercial trucking. As the author notes: “ … diesel particulate filters, diesel oxidation catalysts, selective catalytic reduction systems and their associated hardware have proven pretty reliable over time.” The article goes on to state that the estimated safe diesel particulate filter cleaning interval is more than 350,000 to 400,000 miles for most trucks. The vast majority of motorhomes do not rack up this kind of mileage, so this should not be of great concern to most typical owners. Adding DEF can be a nuisance, but the cost relative to the overall operating cost of the vehicle is not that significant, and makes a huge difference in reducing exhaust emissions and therefore cleaner air.
We own a 2005 Fleetwood motorhome with two Coleman Mach 3 air conditioner units controlled by a single Coleman RV Comfort ZC digital thermostat. Two to three times a year, while running the units, our thermostat will make a popping noise and will instantly give a digital readout of “00.” This effectively shuts off any cooling, as it turns off the compressors. It does, however, allow the fans to continue running. If we are in the motorhome this is no big deal, as we can reset the thermostat by momentarily turning off the house batteries, but this could spell disaster for our dog in hot weather if we are away. When this first started happening, I contacted Coleman and got in touch with one of its engineers. The engineer said that although this problem is rare, it does happen from time to time on some RVs. He told me that there is some sort of radio frequency interference (RFI) inside my RV, which is causing the thermostat to go into diagnostic mode. He kindly sent me the latest thermostat and radio noise choke filter, free of charge. When this did not help, I called him back. He told me the following items could be causing the interference: fluorescent tube lighting, TV antenna booster, bad inverter/charger and CB radio. I removed all the fluorescent tube lighting and replaced it with LED strips. I replaced the TV antenna booster with a KING Jack antenna and booster (I power down the booster when the RV is unattended). I eventually replaced the Xantrex Freedom SW inverter/charger (when it quit working) with a Magnum PSW inverter/charger. My CB radio is a non-issue, as it is only used while traveling. Another RV tech told me that any battery charger can emit a radio frequency, so he told me to disable my Magnum’s battery charger when it is not needed, which I have. Unfortunately, none of the above measures have solved my problem. I have been dealing with this issue for years. Can you help?
Craig Post | Upland, California
What you describe is a known problem with this unit, and you’ve pretty much exhausted most of the common fixes for this. You may be near a strong external source of RFI, which is beyond your control. Another possibility is that you have an intermittent faulty connection. I suggest checking all the connections and wiring to the air-conditioning units, circuit boards and thermostat as carefully as possible. Of course, make certain you have a good 12-volt DC power supply, and consider buying a desktop 12-volt DC power supply. Then, wire the system to that, instead of the coach power supply, and test it to see if it still happens. Next, I would consider replacing the control boards, one at a time. Buy one new board and replace one, but keep the old one. If it happens again, swap the second one and test it.
LP-gas Line Flex
We own a 2008 Jayco Melbourne, which we really like. It has a propane stove in the slide and I wonder if the process of opening and closing the slide puts any fatigue on the gas line. Do RV manufacturers take any preventative measures to prevent fatigue and avoid a rupture?
Terry Chellis | Wooster, Ohio
RV LP-gas systems have flexible hoses wherever they must flex or bend. These are typically well-made and have a good track record of holding up. However, it doesn’t hurt to inspect them from time to time. I suggest you add this inspection to your checklist, especially if the motorhome has been stored for a while.
F-53 Ford Noise
In the March issue, you responded to a two-pronged question from Mark Schall (“Concerns on an F-53 Ford”), the second part of which had to do with a loud noise coming from the engine of his Ford V-10 6.8-liter on the F-53 chassis. We, too, are the owners of a Fleetwood Bounder 33C with that engine, though ours is on a 2013 chassis (2014 Bounder model year). We bought the unit used with 20,000 miles on it last summer. When going up a 10,000-foot elevation pass with about a 7 percent grade, we had the same issue Schall did. All of a sudden, a loud noise came from the engine (you can describe it as a whistling, or a jet taking off). It scared us, but we didn’t lose power and no gauges were showing abnormal. We went over the hill and everything quieted down with no more problems.
Upon returning home, I did some searching online and saw that others had the same issue. However, there seemed to be no solution found, but the word seemed to be that at high load the fan clutch kicks into overdrive, causing the noise. By the way, we did check that all the belts were tight when we returned. Last winter we went down to Arizona, and climbing the mountains I kept the speed and rpm down, and once I heard the engine start to act up, I slowed down before it started up again. In summary, if you could track down whether this is something that is “just the way it is” or if a fan clutch may be bad, there are a whole lot of people who have that issue that would love to know. Climbing a 10,000-foot pass with the doghouse cover off to see if it will do it again is not really a viable option.
Nick Spence | Durango, Colorado
The noise describe as “a jet taking off” is almost certainly the mechanical fan coming on when the fan clutch engages or, as you describe it, “kicks into overdrive.” Normally it freewheels until a temperature sensor causes the fan to engage, which usually occurs on long climbs and in hot weather. It’s perfectly normal and, in fact, necessary to keep the engine cool enough for safe operation. The noise level also usually increases when climbing a grade due to downshifting, which raises engine speed.
Motorhomes that have extra space for stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and all your outdoor gear
We’ve all got stuff. Lots of stuff. Some of us may even have too much. And, especially while spending time in a motorhome, that stuff can add up. It can not only affect the livability inside the motorhome — requiring gymnastics and as-yet-unheard-of yoga poses to navigate the aisles — but it can also cause the motorhome to become overloaded, which can have disastrous consequences.
As a result, one of the decisions to make before hitting the road (along with where you’re headed) is exactly how much of that stuff you should take with you. Space, of course, dictates our final decisions, as does the realistic occupant and cargo carrying capacity (ROCCC). And, unless you’re a minimalist, chances are you’ll have to leave some of your favorite stuff behind.
While we would never recommend bringing along everything including the kitchen sink (a motorhome already has one of those, after all), there are many motorhomes that can accommodate quite a bit of stuff, from outdoor gear to recreational toys to tools and furniture. But, you don’t need a 45-footer or a toy hauler to enjoy a floorplan with extra room to spare (though that may help). We have gathered a group of motorhomes here that have the capacity, space and storage to allow for all the extras you’ll need to enjoy the trip. And now that you know stand-up paddleboards are a great way to enjoy the outdoors while exercising and burning some calories (as are canoes, kayaks, bicycles and the like), the motorhomes included here are a great starting point to enable you to begin your new hobby (or enjoy it more than ever) by seamlessly blending your favorite recreational pursuits — while at the same time staying within the weight limitations of a highly livable floorplan.
Coach House Platinum II 241XL
With 10 different floorplans to choose from, the Platinum II 241XL from Coach House is sure to provide a configuration that works well for on-road performance, living and bulky-item storage. Buyers who opt for one of the rear twin-bed layouts (two beds that can become one larger bed for sleeping) should find more than enough room for storage in the rear aisle, while exterior storage compartments offer enough real estate for an inflatable kayak or SUP. Premium floor coverings, stainless-steel appliances and a Truma AquaGo continuous water heater are all standard, as are the 3.6-kW LP-gas MicroQuiet AC generator, Wi-Fi booster and power box awning. Driving conditions are improved with the power-assisted steering and in-dash GPS, while campsite rocking and rolling is reduced by the standard Equalizer stabilizer system. Coach House motorhomes are sold factory-direct for maximum value, come with full-body paint (with optional Premium upgrades available), and feature the upscale craftsmanship for which the manufacturer is known.
With exterior storage totaling 156 cubic feet — in addition to the 151 cubic feet of storage inside — Fleetwood’s Pace Arrow LXE 38N offers plenty of room for bulky items without sacrificing on luxury. And seeing as how the 38N floorplan offers two bathrooms, convertible bunk beds and an adjustable king-size bed in the master — the crew you bring along will no doubt find that space necessary. Things inside will seem wide open thanks to the 84-inch soft-touch vinyl ceiling height throughout. The full-wall slide — one of three total slides on the 38N — makes aisle storage an easy affair. But livability is where the Pace Arrow really shines. A full bath serves the bunk area, while an en-suite full bathroom off the master runs the full width of the rear of the coach. A 43-inch LED TV in the living area is mounted above an electric fireplace, while the galley features an induction cooktop, pantry and residential refrigerator. The 38N is built on a Power Bridge chassis, which allows for what the company calls the industry’s largest pass-through chassis storage.
By building the Berkshire XLT 45A on a Freightliner XCR raised-rail chassis, Forest River was able to include a relative surplus of basement cargo storage. All baggage doors are fully insulated, and owners with SUPs or kayaks — or any large, bulky items — can take their pick of one large bay with café-style doors that can accommodate a large slide-out tray, another bay right behind that which could house a tray of its own, and a third compartment that could easily swallow most outdoor gear. But, when the coach you’re piloting is nearly 45 feet of luxury on wheels, storage is rarely an issue. The Berkshire XLT is Forest River’s flagship motorhome, and the 45A bunkhouse is outfitted with top-shelf appointments. All countertops are polished solid-surface, the flooring is polished porcelain tile with accents and the appliances are all residential-grade. Two full bathrooms and a variety of configuration options make this a great motorhome for families and those who like to bring along guests. New for the model year is a Truma AquaGo continuous water heater, which makes the coach all-electric; however, one interesting wrinkle is that the manufacturer will include a compartment for a customer-supplied LP-gas cylinder to allow for campsite grilling. The Berkshire XLT also boasts a 15,000-pound towing capacity, should your SUP preferences evolve into that of an actual boat.
After 50 years in the RV industry, Jayco continues to pride itself on customer service, offering peace of mind long after the initial purchase by including a two-year limited warranty on its vehicles. Plus, motorhomes like the Redhawk 29XK are equipped with the JRide Plus system, improving overall ride and handling even with additional cargo aboard by employing Hellwig helper springs, rubber isolation body mounts, Bilstein monotube shocks, jounce bumpers and stabilizer bars, combined with air brakes, computer-balanced driveshaft and rear air suspension. Inside, the Redhawk 29XK offers plenty of sleeping space for six to seven happy campers, including a walkaround queen bed in the rear. A large U-shaped dinette can easily accommodate the whole family, as can the surplus of counterspace and storage areas, while the linoleum flooring makes for easy cleanup or stress-free SUP transport. When the party moves outside, a large 16-foot awning protects owners from the elements, while the heated holding tanks help with all-season enjoyment. The Redhawk also includes a standard backup camera integrated into a third rear brakelight for added convenience. Further highlights include a 7,500-pound tow rating, a one-piece fiberglass front cap and spacious pass-through storage.
When you think motorhome storage, a compact luxury Class C without any slideouts may not immediately jump to mind. But when it comes to a balance between maneuverability, livability and innovative use of available space, Leisure Van’s Unity Island Bed is tough to beat. At just over 25 feet long, the Unity is easy to drive right up to the dock, and its 63 cubic feet of exterior storage — including the rear full pass-through compartment — has a decent amount of space for your bulky aquatic adventure items. The interior of the Unity is designed around the rear walkaround 54-by-74-inch bed, and the clever usage of the footprint (and curved doors) makes the rear of the motorhome feel like its own master retreat. The Unity also features a split dry bath, plenty of interior storage (including a pair of wardrobes in the bedroom) and upscale curved cabinetry. LED lighting, whole-coach water filtration, Corian countertops and the Truma AquaGo comfort plus water heater are much appreciated. Outside, frameless windows and Euro-inspired front and rear caps adorn the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis, which also sports bi-xenon headlamps, collision prevention assist and a standard in-dash GPS system.
With almost 500 square feet of living space, the quad slide, bath-and-a-half Newell Coach 1642 is a virtual penthouse on wheels. But its luxury doesn’t mean it can’t accommodate outdoor equipment: dual pass-through storage bays up front measuring 92 inches deep by 45 inches wide will be more than enough for your floatables. Each tray is controlled via a handy remote, allowing access from both sides of the coach. Inside, everything about this coach exudes luxury, from the limestone tile flooring to the underlit quartz countertops in the bathrooms to the premium leather furniture. Two TVs reside in the front salon area, while a 49-inch TV entertains in the bedroom area. Plus, there’s a fourth TV on an articulating arm in the exterior storage bay. The galley features dual stacked pullout panty cabinets for plenty of food storage, in addition to a Fisher & Paykel DishDrawer dishwasher, garbage disposal, Wolf-brand two-burner cooktop and GE Monogram refrigerator/freezer. And did we mention the stackable Whirlpool washer/dryer located amidships? All this on a motorhome with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 63,000 pounds.
With factory-direct pricing and the ability to customize any of its nine floorplans, Phoenix Cruiser is a good choice for RVers who want to be more hands on in the design process. Phoenix says its motorhomes — like the 2552 — are more aerodynamic than other Class C’s due to their low center of gravity, shorter profile, and curved fiberglass walls and roof. All that adds up to an enjoyable driving experience, even while the storage areas are stuffed to the gills with recreational equipment (staying within weight limitations). All-LED lighting illuminates the interior, and cabinets come in your choice of hickory or cherry hardwood. Most selections of interior appointments are your own, but the 2552 is standard with a U-shaped dinette and two 32-by-74-inch beds located just off of the large rear bathroom. Outside, a pullout storage tray is rated for 200 pounds of gear, while the rear cap also features a large side-to-side storage compartment for the shorepower cord and bulky items. And, for a more custom storage option, Phoenix can even attach a roof-mounted rack for your favorite toys.
A division of Erwin Hymer Group North America, Sunlight RV manufactures the Sunlight Van Two Class B that has clearly been designed with access to adventure in mind. The fully equipped no-nonsense interior is thoughtfully laid out and features a rear dinette and bench seating that can convert to a single king-size sleeper or two twin beds. The galley features a 3.1-cubic-foot refrigerator, microwave and two-burner LP-gas stove, while the spacious bathroom with shower, toilet and foldaway sink is a great use of available space. The captain’s chairs up front both swivel to turn the front of the Van Two into a dining area, which frees up the rear of the motorhome for storing kayaks, SUPs and the like. Optional EcoTrek lithium batteries and 200-watt solar panels enhance the Van Two’s ability to perform off the grid, and climate control is via an 11,000-Btu roof-mounted A/C and an automatic LP-gas heating system. The Sunlight Van Two is available at Camping World locations nationwide.
Furrion stereo components and a MORryde TV mount move the audiovisual experience to higher levels of pleasure
RVing is no longer only about going outdoors. It’s about having all the comforts of home, especially if you spend extended time in your RV. Additionally, many folks today consider their electronic connectivity an extension of themselves, so their motorhomes are starting to reflect that identity with individualized electronic immersion.
In the not-too-distant past, electronic entertainment systems for RVs were marginal, to say the least. Even though some RV stereos would promise things like USB and Bluetooth connectivity, the firmware and components were rarely up to the task and often out of date. But demand for new and better systems has not escaped the manufacturers, and new motorhomes often have a selection of good components to choose from, and in some cases, excellent components. And RV owners who would like to upgrade also have access to these improved components.
1) The original entertainment system, which consisted of a basic DVD stereo and a TV held to the wall with a vinyl strap for transit, was adequate but needed to be updated. 2) Removing the stereo revealed the wiring harness and RCA connections to the factory-installed TV. These had to be changed to a new harness, and an HDMI cable was added for the HDMI-ARC feature. 3) The original TV has a basic nonlocking articulating mount that didn’t reach out far enough for good viewing from the couch or the theater seating. Also, there wasn’t enough wiring for the entertainment system to connect to the TV.
One of the relative newcomers to the American RV market is Furrion, an Australia-based company that joined with Lippert Components to provide mobile-optimized electronics for the RV and marine industries. To check out some of the latest offerings, we upgraded the entertainment system in a test RV, which has a large living area with an electric fireplace.
The original system included an inexpensive 26-inch TV on a simple mounting arm above the fireplace, and the buckled strap that secured the TV for travel had scratched the screen. The stereo was basic RV fare with a DVD player and inexpensive 8-inch single-cone speakers mounted in the ceiling in the living room, bedroom and exterior wall under the awning.
We had added a satellite system and Blu-ray player, with audio that fed to the stereo, and HDMI and RCA (component) cables that fed through the cabinet up to the TV. Any streaming device, like an iPhone or iPod, was connected using a 1⁄8-inch double-male stereo cable to an AV input on the front, because the USB provisions were even older than our iPod. The functionality and sound quality of the system were OK but certainly nothing to excite the senses.
To upgrade the system, we evaluated the type of components that would make sense for the RV and mounting options. In many cases, component upgrades can be a simple replacement, but not in the test RV. This became more apparent after we received the components we picked, but more on that later.
4) The framed wall, designed for the old TV mount, was modified for the new mounting bracket, which attached to the wall in the center behind the TV. We stripped the wall and added a 2×6-inch board for this modification. We used 2×6 lumber because that was what the manufacturer had used in the wall, but the TV is light, and smaller dimensioned lumber could have been used. 5) Upon opening the wall, we found bad coax connections that were the source of an annoying static condition. We replaced all the connections with professional-grade RG-6 connectors. 6) Additional HDMI cables were routed to the entertainment center; one existing cable was reused, along with the component cables for connecting to the system components, including the Furrion stereo.
The first consideration was to upgrade the TV. After taking measurements, we could fit a 32-inch unit comfortably on the wall without it overwhelming the space; the next size up, 48 inches, was way too big. We wanted an LED HDTV with several HDMI inputs and component connections. Because the TV was to be mounted in an RV, we wanted it to be well made to handle the abuse on the road. In addition, we wanted a stable TV mount that would allow us to eliminate the strap.
From a componentry standpoint, we wanted a stereo with good sound, a DVD player and HDMI connectivity, plus inputs and outputs. We wanted additional connectivity, like the stereo in our truck, so we could use Bluetooth, USB and a front auxiliary input. The stereo also had to support multiple speaker zones, so the bedroom and outside speakers could be isolated, and we wanted to upgrade the speakers to improve the sound in the living room, especially while watching TV.
After studying the options from Furrion, we chose the FEHS32D9A 32-inch LED HDTV (MSRP $502.95), the DV3300 stereo head ($297.95) and the new FSBT43S-BL sound-bar speakers ($105.95/pair). To mount the TV, we went to MORryde, a company well known for its RV-suspension upgrades, for one of its wall and cabinet mounts. For this project, we choose the TV1-087H self-locking articulating-arm mount ($154.99).
The TV and stereo head work seamlessly, as designed. They connect via HDMI with ARC (Audio Return Channel), which allows audio produced by the TV to be sent back to the stereo so it can be heard on the stereo speakers. All the components, including the Dish satellite receiver, Blu-ray player and VCR (yes, we still have one), feed directly to the TV — all but the VCR using HDMI. In addition, the over-the-air antenna and park cable connections come to the TV from the Winegard SensarPro digital signal-booster unit.
Summarily, anything watched on TV is heard in stereo through the sound-bar speakers; no audio connections need to be made to the stereo. The two units communicate in the background, so a change in the input of one reflects in the other. When a DVD is inserted in the DV3300, the TV will turn on and go right to the correct input. Play a Blu-ray disc, and the TV and stereo will change inputs.
The DV3300 stereo has full Bluetooth connectivity with most smart devices and features NFC (Near Field Control), a convenient way of pairing an NFC-compatible device just by touching it to the Furrion label on the front of the stereo. The Bluetooth connectivity not only supports phone functions (a microphone is on the front of the stereo) but also allows audio streaming from the wireless device. In addition, by downloading the iOS or Android Furrion EC Control App, the DV3300 can be controlled from a smart device, making it possible to stream and select music, and control the DVD player, the radio tuner and just about every other function from another room or even out under the awning.
7) The finished TV installation required moving the receptacles and cutting the stone facade. We filled in the remaining holes with putty later. The large hole in the panel was disguised with matching laminate tape acquired from an RV-surplus store. 8) Rewiring the stereo head was easy but required modification because the new unit had two speaker zones instead of three, which required adding a Pyle PVCS2 speaker switch. 9) Once the speaker switch was installed, the living room speaker bars were on “A” and the bedroom and outside speakers were on “B,” further split on the Pyle switch and marked. 10) The Furrion speakers can be hardwired or connected using the included spade terminals.
The Furrion sound-bar speakers are a marked improvement over the original round paper-cone speakers. Designed as an alternative to the company’s large sound bar, these are designed to replace the ceiling speakers found in most RVs, and with the separate tweeter, provide much nicer sound. An optional subwoofer is available from Furrion to make the sound even better; however, in our case, there was no place to install it without losing cabinet space, and we’re already self-conscious about volume-related thumping disturbing the neighbors, so we opted not to install one.
Furrion’s universal remote is provided with the TV, and it does an excellent job controlling all the components. Just about every feature of the stereo can be controlled from the TV remote, including answering and hanging up the phone. The stereo also comes with its own credit-card-size 48-button remote, which controls everything on the DV3300, but the larger TV remote and mobile app are better options.
Installing the system required quite a bit more work than was originally anticipated and called for some extensive wiring and carpentry. Once the system was laid out, we discovered a few things that could not be predicted in advance. None of these issues stopped us from upgrading the system, but many more hours of work were involved.
First, the original TV was mounted to a simple swing-away bracket that was attached to framing in the fireplace wall to the right side and center of the TV. The new MORryde bracket was much heavier-duty, and it mounted dead-center behind the TV, which is relatively universal. In this case, there was no mounting support in the wall. In addition, there were no HDMI cables running from the stereo and the Blu-ray player to the TV, so those had to be routed.
11) The hole from the original speaker had to be opened and adjusted for the new speaker. This was a better option than pulling down the ceiling panel and cutting in a new opening. 12) The new speakers look good and sound better. 13) The stereo head attaches with four screws under the lower faceplate, which snaps back in place. A new cabinet style to fill in the larger hole from the old stereo was as close to the original as possible; larger holes were filled in later with matching putty.
All this required removing the faux-stone facade, the fireplace and the upper-cabinet lauan paneling. Once the wall framing was accessed, a 2×6-inch backer was added. This also allowed routing of the HDMI cables down to the stereo cabinet.
In most cases, you won’t be able to strip the wall where the TV attaches, so knowing where the TV backers are and what they can hold is important. Finding the backers in a wood-framed cabinet or wall is easier; RVs with laminated side walls should have aluminum plates built into the wall that are location marked. A call to the RV manufacturer may help identify TV-backer locations and how much they can hold, but only a few will have this information available, so don’t count on it. Attaching to cabinets and countertops is much more straightforward.
Wiring the DV3300 was a little more of a challenge in that the stereo has a two-zone-speaker setup instead of three. In this case, we still wanted to be able to separate the inside and outside speakers, so we shopped online for a Pyle PVCS2 in-wall speaker switch (around $14) that allowed us to split the second speaker output into two: one for the bedroom and one for the outside speakers.
When switching wiring harnesses from the old stereo to the new, switch one circuit at a time. Feed the second speaker output to the input of the speaker switch, then attach the two sets of speakers to the A and B positions, respectively, and you’re done.
We had to locate RV-cabinet stock to fill in the hole where the original stereo was mounted and make a base for the DV3300. The back of the DV3300 is a single-DIN size case, and the stereo attaches to the cabinet via four screws on the lower section of the face, underneath a removable plate.
Installing the sound-bar speakers took some careful consideration and modifications as well. Our original idea was to install them in the fireplace cabinet above or below the TV. We came to realize that the cabinet was not “tight” enough for speakers, and with the faux-stone facade, we were concerned about vibration noise. To compensate, the living room speakers in the ceiling were replaced with the sound-bar speakers.
While the wiring was adequate, the hole was not the right size or shape, so after careful measuring and cutting with a hole saw, space was made for the tweeter, and the slight gap left by the original speakers was masked with matching ceiling-seam tape, purchased with the cabinet stock at an RV-surplus warehouse.
The Furrion equipment, built and tested for the rigors of RV and marine use, works as promised and provides a satisfying entertainment experience. The MORryde TV mount is rock solid, locks in place and allows the TV to be pulled out and turned toward the couch or theater seating so there’s no neck twisting to see the screen. All in all, the result was a tight installation that looks and sounds far better than the previous setup.
Buy a coax stripper, crimper and professional RG-6 connectors, and always use RG-6 cable.
Shop at RV-surplus warehouses for supplies and components such as screws and laminate tape for cabinetry.
Stepping up with these coverings enhances privacy and improves climate-control efficiency
Over the years, motorhome window coverings have come in a variety of choices: curtains, Venetian blinds, pleated shades and Roman shades. In the past few years, roller shades have gained wide acceptance as the window covering of choice in motorhomes for their ease of operation, reliability and visual appeal.
In the world of RV roller shades, perhaps no brand is more recognizable than MCD Innovations. Founded in 2003, MCD produces roller shades that are used by many motorhome manufacturers, and are available in manual and motorized formats. The manual shades use a speed reducer to slow the shades while retracting quietly. An auto-stop mechanism limits how high the shade will retract so it can be accessed easily at the bottom of the valance. MCD’s motorized shades contain a 12-volt DC motor located inside the shade’s roller tube that’s controlled by a switch or a remote control. The tubular motors are quiet, and the upper and lower stop limits are programmable.
 The length of the shade assembly determines the number of mounting clips needed.  Shade assemblies are easily removed by prying off the mounting clip tab with a flat-tip screwdriver.  The learning keys are metallic, with a black button, or covered with red or clear plastic.
MCD’s American Solo Shades are a single-shade unit using Clearview Solar Screen (day) or a 100 percent light-blocking (night) material. The day shade is a finely woven black mesh fabric that provides UV protection and reduces solar heat transfer. Night shades are available in several colors of vinyl or decorator fabrics. American Duo Shades have a day and night shade in one unit; both can be operated manually or with a motor, or one shade can function manually, while the other is motorized.
 Cable ties are often used to keep the Learning Keys from hanging below the valance.  Clearview Solar Screen fabric day shades can easily be seen through from the interior yet still provide privacy.  Sway shades offer full coverage of raked cockpit windows.If your window coverings are worn, broken or just plain unsightly, MCD can custom build roller shades to fit. The first step is to determine whether you will self-install the shades or have them professionally hung at MCD’s manufacturing facility in McKinney, Texas, or by one of its certified dealers. The McKinney facility has 12 RV spaces with electrical hookups where customers can park overnight while their shades are updated. Upon arrival, technicians take all the necessary measurements and quote a price. The shades are custom-built and installed — the entire process usually takes about five days to complete.
Installing roller shades in the living area isn’t difficult for someone who’s handy. However, due to the complexity of windshield shades, MCD recommends having them installed by trained technicians. Owners who want to self-install a windshield shade should call MCD’s technicians and discuss what’s involved. Careful measurements will need to be taken before placing an order. MCD’s order form, found on its website, provides detailed measuring instructions.
Installation begins by removing the valances, the existing shades and the mounting brackets. The mounting clips can then be installed, either to the top of the valance, the bottom of a cabinet or to the ceiling at a distance of about 3⁄8-inch from the window frame. Be sure to mount the outermost clips no more than 2 inches from the end of the shade. Verify that the shade will not hit any obstructions when operated.
 Wiring for powered shades can be tucked inside the valance.If the shades are motorized, a 12-volt DC power source must be added. The shade motors will require power and ground wires, and can be controlled by adding a generic switch or with a dedicated MCD remote control. If you’re not experienced with wiring, it’s best to have it done by a trained technician.
The shade is attached to the clips by inserting the edge of the mounting rail closest to the window into the clip first, and rotating the shade assembly upward until the front edge of the mounting rail locks into place. Reattach the valance and the installation is complete. Motorized shades will need to be programmed.
Programming the shades isn’t difficult. MCD provides excellent instructions in the owner’s manual or on its website in the Technical Information area. The shades can be programmed to individual channels for single shade operation or multiple shades can be programmed to the same channel allowing them to be raised and lowered at the same time by pushing one button. The 14- and 15-channel remotes include “all day” and “all night” buttons that raise and lower the respective shades at the same time. The two-channel remotes can also control multiple shades on each channel.
 An Allen wrench is used to loosen the bracket setscrew.  The brackets slide off the mounting track. Two screws hold the motors to the bracket.  A white-bodied motor is standard in new American Roller Shades, and features low-voltage protection that eliminates the chance of losing its programming.Motorized shades in the cockpit area contain a safety feature that limits the shades from being lowered too far when the motorhome’s ignition is on, preventing the shades from blocking the driver’s vision. These dual-range motors need to be programmed once with the ignition on and then with it off. The lower limit for “ignition on” should be set above the driver’s eye level so the shade can be used as a sun visor while driving.
Whether new MCD shades were just added or they were installed at the factory, maintenance and repairs are not difficult. The AutoStop mechanism and spring tension on American Series manual shades made since July 2009 can be easily adjusted. Depending on the model, adjustments are made by rotating a dial at the end of the roller tube or by pushing in and turning an adjustment slot with a flat blade screwdriver. The adjustment slots are located at each end of the shade, and the shade may need to be removed before adjusting. Spring tension adjusters can be either a black slot or dial. AutoStop adjusters incorporate a white or gray slot or a black dial with small white marks.
 The new 15-channel remote (left) is smaller than the 14-channel unit (right) and has an LCD display.  The faceplate of the remote is removed to change the batteries.MCD manual shades come with the AutoStop and spring tension properly set. Shades with dial adjusters may need to be reset over time. All new American Roller Shades are fitted with slotted provisions that should not need readjustment.
Although failures are uncommon, a spring assembly or AutoStop mechanism can be replaced by removing the shade and pulling the shade material down slightly to lock it in place. After the bracket setscrew is loosened and the bracket can be slid out of the mounting track, the faulty mechanism can be removed from the roller tube using a pair of pliers, if necessary. The slots in the new component are aligned with the keys in the tube and then slid in. All that’s left to do is to reinstall the bracket and shade to complete the repair.
Replacing a motor in a powered shade also only takes a few minutes. But in this case, the setscrew on the bracket is loosened but not pulled out of the mounting track. Once the two screws that hold the motor to the bracket are removed, the bracket is pulled slightly out of the mounting track, providing enough room to remove the motor from the bracket.
Installation is the opposite of removal.
It’s important to order the correct motor if the shade is remote-controlled. The red-bodied motors will only communicate with the older 2-channel and 14-channel remotes. The new 2-channel and 15-channel remotes require a white-bodied motor.
 Programming buttons and batteries can be found by removing the front cover on the remote.  The manual shade adjustments are in the center of the brackets. The gray color shows this is the AutoStop adjustment.MCD also manufactures specialty shades for the screen door and cockpit windows. The screen door pull-up shade comes with a Clearview solar screen, or a light-blocking night shade, and mounts to the interior of the door at the bottom of the window. These shades are available only in manual operation and come in several styles to cover most window shapes.
Sway shades are a specially designed manual or motorized shade for windows that are wider on the bottom than the top. A conventional shade that pulls straight down would leave the bottom forward corner of the window uncovered. The Sway shade fabric moves forward as it is lowered. The forward edge of the shade is cut at an angle to match the window. The result is complete coverage and privacy.
To remove dust from Clearview day shades, vacuum using a soft brush attachment. Stains and stubborn dust can be removed with water and a soft bristled brush or sponge. Hard-to-remove spots might require the use of a mild soap solution. Vinyl night shades should be cleaned with a microfiber cloth or color-free paper towel and water. Mildly soiled fabric night shades should be cleaned with a wet sponge. MCD recommends Woolite Pet Stain & Odor Remover + Oxygen to remove tough stains, followed by Scotchgard upholstery spray after cleaning. Be sure to let the shades thoroughly dry before rolling them up.
The MSRP for American Roller Shades varies by length and whether the shades are motorized or manual. American Duo manual shade assemblies vary in price from $150 to $370, while American Solo manual shade assemblies are $75 to $185. Motorized shades controlled by a switch add $115 per shade to the manual price, while remote-controlled shades add $165 per shade. A 15-channel remote is $165 and a 2-channel remote is $35. Screen door shades sell for $90. American Duo windshield shades, up to 98 inches wide with a maximum drop of 65 inches, have a price of $795, while the American Solos retail for $395.
Although upgrading isn’t inexpensive, MCD American Roller Shades offer reliability, increased privacy, heat reduction and ease of maintenance, which all adds up to make a strong case for this type of interior improvement.
Today’s holding tank products can make foul odors a thing of the past
With every passing year, it seems the RV experience becomes more like residential living. Manufacturers are constantly striving to incorporate features that mimic the home, including high-end furnishings, stainless-steel appliances and upscale fixtures. But the one place that still detracts from the pleasures of life on the road is the black-water tank. At home, we simply flush the toilet and the deal is done — but in an RV, constant care and maintenance is required to keep everything working correctly and smelling fresh.
Thankfully, the RV aftermarket understands that sewage isn’t anyone’s favorite subject, and is always inventing new products designed to make holding-tank maintenance as painless (and odorless) as possible. Today, there are literally dozens of products available, which can make choosing the right one for your needs somewhat of a challenge. Just remember that, regardless of the many products on the market, they can still be broken down into two categories: The natural variety that uses friendly bacteria to break down and digest waste and tissue, and the chemical variety that may contain formaldehyde, dyes and perfumes to break down waste and control odor. From there, it’s simply a matter of the delivery method: liquid, powder or premeasured drop-in (aka toss-in). There are even products designed to clean and deodorize the gray-water tank as well.
Because everyone has their own preferences, and most RV centers carry a comparatively limited product line (they can’t stock everything, after all) we’re presenting this guide to the most current holding tank products. Even here we can’t cover every product each company makes, but a visit to any of these websites will guide you to a multitude of choices. Happy flushing!
Advance Research Chemicals Products Inc.Oxy-Kem4
Looking for a sewer solution that’s safe, environmentally friendly and offers deodorization properties for black- and gray-water tanks? Oxy-Kem claims its Holding Tank Treatment is scientifically proven to clean and deodorize tanks, sinks, drains and sensors up to five times better than chemical, enzyme and formaldehyde products. Available in a package with 12 drop-in Paks, Oxy-Kem is easy to use — you only need to drop one Pak down the toilet along with a gallon of water after dumping the black tank (additional Paks may be needed during periods of heavy usage). For gray tanks, tear open one Pak and pour half down a sink and the other half down the shower drain, along with a quart of water (after dumping). Each drop-in Pak is designed to treat up to 60 gallons of water.
Camco’s RhinoFLEX is said to knock the beast right out of your motorhome’s holding tank with a Bacteria/Enzyme formula that digests waste and breaks down tissue for easy biodegradation. Featuring a fresh pine scent, RhinoFLEX harnesses the natural process by which nature digests waste, and only activates in its presence. The advanced formula also contains a buffering agent to prevent acid formation and septic odors. In addition, RhinoFLEX offers a long shelf life, is not temperature sensitive and is biodegradable. It’s economical, too, as just 2 ounces treats 40 gallons. Available in drop-in and liquid forms, from 8 to 64 ounces.
TST stands for “Toilet Stays Tidy.” OK, we made that up. The truth is, Camco’s TST RV toilet treatment products are said to break down waste and tissue and stop odors for up to seven days — and they don’t contain any formaldehyde. They’re 100 percent biodegradable and come in both original and Blue Enzyme versions in liquid and drop-ins. Plus, TST is also available in new Hibiscus Breeze, Lavender and Lemon scents. TST Grey Water Odor Control, meanwhile, removes grease buildup in the gray-water tank as well as sink and shower drain lines, leaving a fresh lemon scent. Other product(s): TST Drain Valve Lube with Coco Oil (16 ounces).
Established in 1926, Century Chemical will actually be a century old in a few years — and has been manufacturing RV and marine holding-tank products for more than half that time. In addition, the company makes products for aviation, charter bus, portable and residential septic use, so you could say these people know their way around a toilet — or at least what goes in one. Century Chemical’s Travel Jon Holding Tank Deodorizer/Cleaner has that deep-blue color we all know so well; it’s biodegradable and contains no formaldehyde. Travel Jon helps break down waste and tissue, and the highly concentrated formula (only 2 ounces per charge) contains detergent to help keep the holding tank clean. Other products: Travel Jon Blue Max toss-in packets, Travel Jon Waste Digester.
Dometic manufactures nearly everything for the RV lifestyle, and a few years ago thought, why not get into wastewater? Wait … that didn’t sound right. No, the company thought, why not offer our own line of holding-tank products? So it did. One of its more innovative solutions is its 3 ’N 1 Bowl Cleaner & Tank Treatment which, as the name would imply, actually serves three purposes. Drop one of the handy 1.5-ounce packets into the toilet bowl and it quickly dissolves, releasing effervescent cleaning action and a fresh lavender scent. We know — that’s only two things. But then, you use a brush to clean the bowl, flush and the contents treat up to a 40-gallon holding tank.
Premium Holding Tank Treatment 5
When you want high-performance gasoline, do you get regular? No way … you go straight for premium, right? With that in mind (sort of), Dometic offers its Premium Holding Tank Treatment, the company’s strongest chemical for reducing odors in an RV waste tank. Available in a variety of liquid and drop-in versions, Premium Holding Tank Treatment is formaldehyde-free and is said to work in the harshest (read: hottest) conditions for five to seven days. The product’s additives also break down waste and help tanks rinse cleaner during the draining process. Other products: Clean ’N Green Holding Tank Treatment and Gray Water Tank Treatment.
In nature, bacteria break down and digest waste without perfumes, dyes or detergents. Noticing this, Eco-Save products created Eco-Save Dry, a bacteria/enzyme-based product that works in black- and gray-water holding tanks — and like Mother Nature, uses no perfume or surfactants. In fact, the company claims that the product actually enhances the digestion of waste in septic systems, so you may actually be helping the environment every time you dump the tanks. It’s important to note that the environmentally safe, non-staining product does not actually clean the holding tanks, but it does reduce solids, controls odor and lubricates valves. It’s inexpensive, too, as an 8-ounce jar treats 30-35 tanks of waste. Other products: Eco-Save Concentrate, Eco-Save Fragrance Enhanced, Eco-Save Original Formula (liquid).
If you can clean it, wash it, wax it, protect it or deodorize it, Star brite has it. The company opened its doors in 1973 with just one product: Star brite Auto Polish. From there, it did what any sensible company would do, and expanded its product line to include marine, aircraft, motorcycle, RV and other markets. Its aptly named Instant Fresh Toilet Treatment comes in Lemon Grove and Pine Forest scents, and was formulated to quickly break down waste, remove odors and lubricate valves. Formaldehyde-free, non-staining and biodegradable, a 32-ounce bottle of Instant Fresh treats 320 gallons. Other product(s): Star brite toilet bowl cleaner.
It sounds like a superhero from a parallel universe, but Thetford’s Aqua-Kem is actually the No. 1 selling holding-tank deodorant of all time, according to Thetford. Likely standard equipment in your first new RV, Aqua-Kem liquefies waste and breaks down tissue fast to prevent clogs, while powerful detergents clean tank walls and drain lines. Aqua-Kem works around the clock in all weather conditions, and is now available in new Garden Mist scented toss-ins. Formaldehyde is one of Aqua-Kem’s ingredients, but the company maintains it is biodegradable and environmentally safe when disposed of properly. Available in liquid, powder and toss-in forms in a variety of sizes.
Eco-Smart, Eco-Smart Free & Clear
Effective and safe for the environment? That’s smart. Eco-Smart, actually. Original Thetford Eco-Smart is a non-staining, green, formaldehyde-free formula that quickly breaks down and liquefies waste and toilet tissue — and provides odor control — while a detergent additive helps keep tanks clean. Eco-Smart Enzyme Formula is an orange, non-staining holding-tank additive with a natural enzymatic deodorizer. Eco-Smart Free & Clear, meanwhile, offers the same benefits as the above but is fragrance-, dye- and formaldehyde-free, and is 100 percent biodegradable. Eco-Smart products are available in liquid or toss-in form. Other products: Aqua-Kem DRI, Aqua-Kem Shotz, Aqua Foam, Campa-Chem Natural, Campa-Chem Original, Campa-Chem Shotz, Drain Valve Lubricant, Fresh Water Tank Sanitizer, Grey Water Odor Control, Level Gauge Cleaner, Tissue Digester, and Toilet Seal Lubricant and Conditioner.
When bacteria don’t get what they want, they punish us by producing foul odors. But, when Odorlos is added to the holding tank, it provides these nasty little critters with a continuous supply of nitrates, the best alternative energy source to pure oxygen. So they’re happy, and you’re happy. Scent-free, formaldehyde-free and 100 percent biodegradable, all it takes is 1 ounce for every 10 gallons to prevent odors and to break down waste and tissue. The product is available in a variety of liquid forms, dry packets, a 6-pound tub of dry product and quick-dissolving drop-ins.
Pure Power Blue/Green 5
Why be satisfied with some power when you can have Pure Power? Pure Power Blue and wintergreen scented Pure Power Green are chemical-free, bacterial-enzyme holding-tank treatments that perform in all temperature conditions. Powerful BioBlastPlus technology provides odor control in extreme temperature conditions and will keep holding tanks clean and fresh smelling. Pure Power liquefies all waste and toilet paper, and just 2 ounces treats 40-gallon black- or gray-water tanks. Also available in Bio-Pouch Toss-Ins. Other products: Pure Power Toilet Bowl Cleaner, Sensor Power Sensor Cleaner.
Walex may not be a household name, but the company specializes in waste management and odor control for portable sanitation, residential septic tanks, environmental applications (landfills/waste treatment facilities) and, of course, RVs. Its popular Bio-Pak product uses a natural enzyme formula that starts working immediately to control odor, break down solids and liquefy toilet paper. Packaged in a resealable slide zipper bag containing 10 drop-ins, the formaldehyde-free formula is available in Alpine Fresh and Tropical Breeze scents.
Porta-Pak, meanwhile, offers similar benefits and is now available in two fragrances: Fresh Scent and Lavender Breeze. Other products: Bio-Active Holding Tank Treatment, Commando Black Holding Tank Cleaner.
Most of us associate bad odors with the black tank, but a neglected gray-water system can create a funk all its own. Not to worry — Elemonate Grey Water Deodorizer contains the same odor control formula found in the company’s Porta-Pak Holding Tank Deodorizer, plus special enzymes designed to deodorize and dissolve grease, and to break up fat and food particles in gray tanks, garbage disposals, dishwashers, sinks and shower drain lines. Just drop the tablet into the sink or shower, turn on the water and watch it dissolve with a lemony-fresh scent. Packaged in individual portion-control bags of five inside a resealable slide-zipper bag.
When it comes to handling foul odors, experience definitely counts — and Worldwide Monochem’s name has been synonymous with holding-tank products for the RV, motor coach, aviation and marine industries for more than 55 years. So even if you haven’t used it in your motorhome, you have likely been thankful for its presence in recirculating and portable toilets. The premeasured, 2.25-ounce, moisture-resistant foil packets are simple to use — just pour the contents of one packet into the toilet, and T-5 will immediately begin combating odor-causing bacteria. Other products: Dyna-Bact toss-ins, L-10 liquid toilet chemical, L-10 NF liquid toilet chemical, T-5 NF (non-formaldehyde), T-5 Squeeze & Pour liquid.
Cues taken from Dynamax’s big brother models transform a Class C motorhome into a nimble luxury machine with high-tech features
When you look at the model lineup at Dynamax, a builder that specializes in luxury motorhomes, you won’t find conventional design. The company started its venture into RV manufacturing 21 years ago by mating a commercial, executive-class truck cab to a sleek body that really turned heads. My first encounter with a Dynamax was early on in the company’s history, and during a 2,500-mile test journey, I made a lot of friends with guys who loved the boldness of the design, but many of the women were less than enamored, until they stepped inside.
At the time, it was hard to define whether this luxury motorhome qualified as a Class A — certainly the level expected of higher-line coaches — and the company was adamant that it wasn’t a Class C. The experience made great happy hour conversations everywhere we stopped.
Fast-forward and the company has branched out into building Class C motorhomes with the same level of luxury, and clearly there’s no controversy on classification. The Isata 4 Series is as classic a Class C as one can get, especially since it’s built on the venerable Ford E-450 cab and chassis, and the 25FW we tested meets all the criteria, only notched up with Dynamax-style flair.
The floorplan elements are not unique to the industry, but after the Dynamax people pulled design cues from its big brother motorhome models, the aura changed dramatically. Here, form and function blend beautifully with the warmth of the décor and the feeling one gets that this Class C is top shelf.
At 27 feet 5 inches long, with some of that space allocated to the engine compartment and cockpit, there are some livability limitations, mostly in the seating configuration in the living room. Fortunately, some of the space constraints are mitigated by the optional swiveling cockpit seats. And optional booster cushions can be placed on the cockpit seats when facing the living area, which make the seating surface much more comfortable.
Since space utilization is paramount, the front section of the motorhome is shared by the dinette and opposing galley. The proprietary Dream Dinette, with thick cushions and quasi-wraparound bolsters, allows for couch-like habitation and a place for two occupants to watch the 32-inch LED TV nestled in the cabover bunk. When converted into a bed, the surface easily sleeps one adult or two kids.
In true Class C fashion, the cabover can sleep two on the 52-by-81-inch sectionalized mattress. There is 29 inches of headroom up there; cup-holders and a storage area are in place for users to stash a decent amount of items. When not in use, the mattress stacks to make more headroom in the cockpit for easier passage to and from the living area.
Dream Dinette has thick cushions and bolsters for support when stretching out to watch the TV mounted at the end of the traditional cabover bunk.
“Compact” is the operative word describing the galley. It took some planning to prepare meals, but the front-mounted flip-up extension saved the day. Fitted under and on the rich-looking solid-surface countertop is an assortment of cabinets and drawers, a stainless-steel sink with a high-rise faucet and a three-burner cooktop with a folding glass top. One of the lower cabinets is huge, and allows access to the contents from the entryway and in front of the galley counter. And, believe it or not, there is even a trash chute built into the structure with a nicely concealed “plug.”
Above the counter are additional cabinets and the microwave convection oven. There’s no range hood, but the nearby MaxxAir power vent suffices, per code, for removing steam and smoke. The RV refrigerator and pantry are adjacent to the galley counter.
What makes the limited amount of floor space work is the full-wall slide on the driver’s side. Occupying this large slideout is the aforementioned dinette, the wardrobe closet and queen bed — divided appropriately. And while the flooring is not unique, the choice of the plank pattern in shades of gray, brown and white, works visual wonders. At the confluence of the lower front and upper back sections of the floor is a sweeping S-shaped divider that gives the impression that the interior is bigger than it really is. It takes a little acclimation when walking to prevent a misstep due to the raised floor in back, but the learning curve is quick.
Serving as a practical divider between the dinette and rear bed is a gigantic wardrobe closet. Those who like to take along a lot of stuff will be in heaven. Hang-up clothes can be stored in compartmentalized areas that provide enough room for any clothes hog. The front section is lined with cedar and has a drawer below the closet floor. Typically, the front seat bolsters will be stored here. To make the deal even sweeter, a sensor-controlled light makes finding clothing in the dark a breeze.
In keeping with a “bigger is better” design mantra, those who like to linger in the bathroom will relish the exceptional floor space. The roomy shower with an Oxygenics showerhead and flex curtain take center stage. While residential-quality fixtures complement the bathroom, the plastic toilet, albeit a large model, is incongruent with the status portrayed by this motorhome. There’s good storage space afforded in the bathroom, but the counter has limited room for essentials, although it’s rather long. Lingering in the shower, to take advantage of the pulsating showerhead, is supported by a Truma AquaGo instantaneous water heater, which encourages longer showers and time in front of the stainless-steel sink. Another MaxxAir power vent, with rain sensor, takes out the steam and clears the air.
The bedroom is understated, but it works well without the overdose of froufrou items that can be superfluous to RV living. Space limitations at the foot of the bed require the use of a folding mattress, which is very comfortable. At 10 inches thick, the gel-infused memory foam mattress offers great support. Although the bed is tucked tightly into the confines of the slideout, there’s enough room for a small nightstand on one side and a longer version on the other. Across from the bed, on a rather barren wall, is a 32-inch LED TV. Even though the area is not fancy, strategically placed windows offer a more open feeling than expected. Privacy is afforded by pull-down roller shades used throughout the interior.
It’s easy to establish that the Isata Series 4 is earmarked for those who relish creature comforts, but Dynamax goes one step further by injecting enough electronic features to make any technoid happy. Beyond the Bluetooth-controlled entertainment system with zoned speaker controls is a multiplex wiring system that’s tied into a touch screen. The Precision-Plex system controls just about anything in the motorhome that’s connected to electrical power. From the screen, the user can control the lights, check tank levels, open and close the awning and slideout, operate the AC generator and turn on the water pump. Without going into infinite detail on all the abilities of this screen, let’s just say, “There’s not much left untouched.” The system also has the ability to monitor 120-volt AC amperage input and shed loads as needed to prevent overloading the circuits — a welcome addition since there’s only 30-amp service into the motorhome.
Swiveling cockpit seats help create conversation area in the front living area.
The Precision-Plex system is supported by an app that can be downloaded to an iOS or Android device and paired via a Master Controller. Once paired, the systems can be controlled by a handheld device within Bluetooth range — a feature that soon becomes one that occupants can’t live without. Icing on the cake is the optional solar system comprised of two 100-watt panels and a 30-amp controller. The solar system is coupled to a pair of 12-volt AGM batteries and a 1,000-watt power inverter.
There is an expectation that outside storage would be somewhat limited in a Class C this size, but here the opposite is true. While the amount of space is not extraordinary, and will still require preplanning when sorting out what to take along, there’s enough space for essentials, and pass-through areas to handle longer items that aren’t too tall. Seamless Rotocast compartments are accessed via lateral doors fitted with heavy-duty adjustable latches.
Utility access is well thought out for easy hookups and to keep the hoses and cables organized. A narrow door opens down, exposing the city water hookup, black-tank flush, outdoor shower and a remote Precision-Plex monitor panel. A second access point within the main door offers a clever way to route the hoses. Interestingly, the hookups for cable/satellite TV and 30-amp power are outside of this compartment. There’s also an access door for the LP-gas fill, and the dump valves are in a compartment that allows the hoses to be stored neatly.
Huge bathroom is an unexpected feature. Shower is roomy, but narrow counter is on the small side.
Full-body paint and pleasant looking graphics tie the accessories and compartments together neatly, and the armless patio awning is a nice touch. Aluminum wheels, in lieu of the stainless-steel liners, would be a good option the company should consider for jazzing up the exterior aesthetics.
From left to right: Controls for the optional hydraulic leveling system, power inverter and switches are mounted in the entryway. The touch screen, tied into the Precision-Plex control system, is within easy reach. The Command Center, solar-panel controls and stereo are mounted above the entry door.
Fit and finish of the Isata reinforces the Dynamax reputation for building higher-end motorhomes targeted at discerning buyers. Construction follows proven techniques using aluminum framing and 1½-inch laminated side walls with block-foam insulation. Roof trusses and the floor are framed in aluminum; the roof is capped with one-piece fiberglass. Gelcoat fiberglass walls have Azdel composite backing and the windows are dark tinted and frameless, which add to the modern look of the exterior. The test chassis was fitted with optional automatic, four-point hydraulic leveling jacks, which is a great investment in convenience and one that most owners will find indispensable.
Flush-mounted compartment door hides exterior TV, which can be viewed from the patio. Speakers are mounted in the side wall.
Ride quality is certainly a product of workmanship, and interior noise on the road was kept to a minimum. This, in big part, is due to the proprietary DynaRide suspension upgrade that employs airless rubber shear springs to smooth out the bumps normally associated with the Ford E-450 chassis and improves handling characteristics. Additionally, the company uses a beefy Hellwig rear sway bar that helps reduce body roll in turns, especially when dips in the road exacerbate the conditions. Driving the Isata was a pleasurable experience, also attributable to the lively performance of the V-10 engine, which was relatively fuel-efficient, turning in a respectable 10.80 mpg under careful driving on open highways.
While the Isata 4 Series has a lot to live up to, given the legacy of the company’s larger luxury motorhomes, the long list of standard features and pinpointed option choices put this Class C into a desirable category targeted at those who are willing to pay for upscale amenities but prefer to travel in a more nimble motorhome.
The Recreational Vehicle Safety & Education Foundation (RVSEF) has announced it will offer a Hands on Driving class at the 2018 RV Technical Education & Safety Training Conference scheduled for September 27 – October 1, 2018. The conference will take place in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. The three-hour course is designed for individual instruction, and RVSEF says it will have a few units on hand for use.
The course includes sections on pre-trip vehicle inspection, maintaining space, backing skills (straight line, 45-degree, serpentine and parallel parking) and overall driving skills (mirrors/blind spots, setting up for turns, looking ahead and road signs).
Space is limited. To register, visit www.rvsafety.com and click on conference.
Every motorhome owner’s toolbox should have some type of fabric tape for everyday repairs. Such tape is ideal for temporary fixes (and some that are a little more than temporary), and its uses are almost endless. ShurTech has rolled out T-Rex Tape, which is formulated with durable materials to hold longer and stronger than other brands, according to the company. T-Rex Tape is comprised of three layers: a UV-resistant polyethylene skin; an interwoven fabric scrim that provides strength while still being able to be torn by hand; and a double-thick adhesive designed to be effective even on rough and dirty surfaces. T-Rex Tape is available in gunmetal gray, black and white, in rolls that are nearly 2 inches wide and vary in lengths from 12 to 35 yards. MSRP ranges from $5-$15, depending on the size and color of the roll.