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Narrative 2008 Berkshire 390QS Motorhome by Forest River -- Part 2

Joined
Apr 28, 2018
Messages
45
Likes
2
Location
Turlock, CA
My Website
rvpics.com
RV
2015 Cardinal 3550RL Fifth Wheel
Amateur Radio Callsign
W6DEJ
#1
I know this story is getting long. I thank you for taking the time to read this far. The final chapter describes the continuing demise of our coach and increasing disappointment and frustration with the constant repairs. It is two years later and we were packed up to go the Jackson Rancheria, an RV resort in the Sierra foothills. It was our favorite short-range destination. We were ready to leave when I turned the ignition switch and was greeted with a message on the dashboard: LOW COOLANT. The engine would not start, which I later realized was a safety feature. I had noticed a small puddle under the motorhome previously but had written it off as coming from a nearby lawn sprinkler.

Of course, the first thing I did was to open the rear hatch, check around for obvious leaks then refill the radiator with water. I did see water dripping from under the engine. Starting the engine only produced a bigger leak. When the water ran out of the radiator, the engine shut down again. My next thought was that we must have blown a hose. We cancelled our reservation while I got to the task of finding the source of the leak. I found my creeper in the garage and rolled myself under the engine to see where the water was coming from.

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Even with a strong flashlight I was unable to find the source. I reached my arm up around the rear of the engine to feel for wet spots but could not find any. Finally, I decided that I needed to take a look from the top of the engine. Oh, no. This meant accessing it from the rear bedroom, under the bed, under the floor. My heart sank as I thought about whether I was up to the task. Dumb and Dumber would be no help and a Freightliner dealer would be expensive. Besides, how would I get the coach there if the engine kept shutting down?

Since I had never really examined the engine hatch before, the first job was figuring out which part of the carpeted floor was the hatch. There were no obvious seams. I removed a wood panel from the front of the closet step and discovered the heads of two very large Philips screws. I found my biggest screwdriver and began twisting them. They were very tight. Finally one of them broke loose and I removed it. It was a 5" long machine screw. The other one was harder to turn but I finally moved it. Apparently, the cover was not flat. It bent in a short 90° L-shape where it fastened to the closet frame. I tried to move it and it didn't budge. I started looking for more screws. I had the bed propped up at an angle and was a little worried about it falling on my head. Poking around the edge of what I decided was the engine cover, more screws revealed themselves. When it seemed the cover must be free I pulled up on it but couldn't get a good grip on the edges. Another seam slowly became obvious so I stuck a pry bar in the crack and wiggled it under the metal frame of the cover. It barely moved. This process went on for another couple of hours to the point where I got the outline of the top of the cover established. I couldn't budge it. Then I decided that on one side of the carpet under the bed where there should have been another seam, there was none. I would have to cut it.

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I thought to myself, "This does nothing to further the repair of the original problem. I'm busting my butt just to get to the engine so I can maybe find the leak". I persevered. After making a 4-foot cut along what I thought was another edge of the cover frame, I found that it seemed to be getting looser, but I still could not lift the cover. Finally, I took drastic action. I propped a 3-foot length of fence post under a corner of the frame from underneath the coach, then lifted the other end with my floor jack. It didn't seem to want to move at first as I slowly jacked it up. Carol was watching from the bedroom to make sure the carpet was free as it raised up. With a bang, one corner broke free. Back in the bedroom, I was able to lift that corner with the prybar and get the rest of the frame to break free. I knew it was an angle iron frame because I could see it from below. As it came up I realized that the cover was not only cumbersome but HEAVY.

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I was able to get one end up on the bedroom floor and walk the rest of it up out of the hole. Here's what greeted me.

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I could see a lot more of the engine from the top and reach nearly all of the hoses. I checked these but could find no water leaking around any of the clamps, even after refilling the radiator. I strangled the engine and reached down the back side as far as I could. I finally found a place below the top pulley that felt like a wet stream of water. I didn’t know much about water pumps at the time but after studying the diagrams I knew that the area was right where the water pump was mounted. Since I couldn’t find water coming from anywhere else I was about 90% sure that the problem was a bad water pump after all.

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During the previous few days I had posted about the problem on several forums and most responses agreed with my diagnosis. I had resisted that theory all along as I considered it a drastic repair. I found a Cummins diesel parts house in Modesto that could order a pump for me, so I placed the order. I think it was around $30. Then I went to work figuring out how to remove the old one. I won’t say it was easy, but once I found that it only had two bolts holding it to the engine, the rest was a piece of cake. I could only see part of one of the bolts with my flashlight but found the other one by feel. After loosening the fan belt, the pump practically fell off in my hand. Mounting the new one was just about as easy. I refilled the radiator and started her up with my fingers crossed. The result... NO MORE LEAK!

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Now it was time to put the engine cover back together. I was trying to be careful not to let the dirty underside touch the light colored carpet. I succeeded for the most part. Getting the frame to drop in place was not easy but it finally popped into place. Then I screwed the bolts back in and smoothed the seams of the carpet. A little carpet shampoo and it looked as good as new.

Around this time I started to notice that the paint on the roof of the nose cap was starting to fade. On closer inspection, I realized that the Gelcoat protective coat was peeling off. It grew progressively worse. The warranty was expired by a few months, but I called Forest River to see what could be done. After seeing the photos I sent they said they would repaint the affected area under warranty if I could drive the coach to Elkhart. That wasn’t going to happen, but thanks for the offer. We never fixed it. By the way, we live in a dusty area surrounded by rural farm land, so the coach gets dirty in a hurry.

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Now it was 2014. The motorhome sat beside the house alone. It was no longer fun. It had never been fun. Looking back, the dream was never really fulfilled. This RV was a disappointment from the start. We now regarded it with disdain as if it was the motorhome's fault. Over the years I read comments like, "Forest River is not a motorhome company". I have to agree with that. You expect a certain level of maintenance with any RV but this one went beyond what a customer can be expected to endure.

How reasonable is it to think that the dealer wasn't aware of the floating countertop? Should I believe that it was driven 2,000 miles from the factory, arrived in perfect condition and had no issues as it sat on the lot, presumably being test driven occasionally? Then on our FIRST trip, the kitchen came apart? Was the dealer not aware of the "clunk" when the slideout was operated? This is the way most RV dealers operate... patch it together, minimize the problem then avoid repairs. They are two notches below a used car dealer, just above a gypsy driveway paver. The customer is willing to accept a certain amount of frustration. The sad part is that they have saved for years to buy the RV of their dreams and are deliberately delivered a nightmare.

We're RVers, not mechanics. The idea is to get away from life for a little while and enjoy being in a new location with all your stuff. It's supposed to be RECREATIONAL... a re-creation of yourself so you can go back to life with a different perspective. How did the business side get so cutthroat and shoddy? Why should 'RV' and 'quality' not be used in the same sentence? And why do the manufacturers allow the dealers to ruin the reputation of the entire industry with their tricks and coverups?

We decided to go back to a fifth wheel. The motorhome was traded in. You may be surprised that the new (2015) RV is made by Forest River. That story in a coming post.

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Last edited:
Joined
Apr 28, 2018
Messages
45
Likes
2
Location
Turlock, CA
My Website
rvpics.com
RV
2015 Cardinal 3550RL Fifth Wheel
Amateur Radio Callsign
W6DEJ
#3
Be weary, Bill, but there are some good ones out there. I’m just so bitter about the experience.
Don’t think I didn’t notice your RVPics coffee mug. :D
 
Joined
May 13, 2018
Messages
15
Likes
1
Location
Virginia Beach, Va
RV
2007 Montana 3000RK fifth wheel
#4
Be weary, Bill, but there are some good ones out there. I’m just so bitter about the experience.
Don’t think I didn’t notice your RVPics coffee mug. :D
It still sits on my desk here at work but it is reserved for special visitors only!

Yes, you heard right, having a desk means I still have to go in and work every day. I also drive Uber/Lyft to make fun money for camping and to cover the unexpected (last week it was the upstairs sink springing a leak and causing the light fixture in the kitchen to drop out of the overhead and hang by it's wires.....

Visited my mom in Michigan last week, got back Saturday, put up new lights Sunday, and back to work Monday. I am playing catch up before I head to London next weekend (somehow my invite to the wedding got lost in the mail) but will be there for a week at a Maritime Intelligence Conference. It is what I get for opening up my mouth to much at the Annual Submarine Conference held at the Office of Naval Intelligence in March.....no good deed goes unpunished......
 
Joined
Apr 28, 2018
Messages
45
Likes
2
Location
Turlock, CA
My Website
rvpics.com
RV
2015 Cardinal 3550RL Fifth Wheel
Amateur Radio Callsign
W6DEJ
#5
You're a busy guy!
Someday I'll tell you about the pipe leak in our kitchen ceiling.
I'm jealous of the London trip. Too bad you have to work when you get there. Say hi to Harry. ;)
 
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