The Advantages of a Custom-Built Chassis – Part One

xc-r_chassisOne of the most overlooked aspects of a high-quality motor coach is the chassis. As the foundation of your motorhome, a well-made, expertly-designed chassis plays an important role in how much – or how little – you enjoy traveling from coast-to-coast in your Class A RV.   

Given our commitment to industry-leading quality and superior engineering, it should come as no surprise that we at Newmar choose to work with the world’s best to equip each of our diesel and luxury coaches with a custom-built chassis. After all, a custom chassis offers several benefits compared to a one-size-fits-all application.

To learn more about these benefits, we spoke with Bryan Henke, Manager of Product Marketing for Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation. A subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America, Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation manufactures premium chassis that are renowned for their exceptional ride and handling characteristics, tight turning radius and extraordinary dependability. The 2015  Ventana LE, Ventana, Dutch Star, Mountain Aire and London Aire come standard with a Freightliner Custom Chassis, while one is an option of the 2015 Essex.

Let’s start with safety. How does Freightliner Custom Chassis work to build chassis that deliver a safer on-road experience?

I’ll begin with something as simple as brakes. While drum brakes are the industry standard, we know from our testing that disc brakes do a better job of stopping a heavy Class A motor coach. Once we were able to prove that disc brakes elevated safety, it made sense for us to make them standard equipment. As a result, we made disc brakes standard on all of our products starting in 2007.

In 2013, we debuted our new V-Ride rear suspension system. V-Ride increases weight capacity to as much as 24,000 pounds, and offers enhanced roll stability for when you’re driving around a campground and your coach is rocking back and forth.

Soon, tire pressure monitoring systems will be a standard feature on each of our chassis. And not as an aftermarket add-on, but as something that we developed internally. This is a big deal because the inside rear tire on a Class A RV is rarely checked because it’s so difficult to reach, especially when you’re using a shorter tire pressure gauge intended for a car. Bringing that kind of safety technology to our OEMs is always a goal.

Finally, all chassis manufacturers are required to meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. For us, the key to going above and beyond those standards is having a large, highly-qualified engineering department with cutting-edge technology and resource capabilities. As a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America, FCCC has the tools to build a stronger, safer chassis. Our relationship with Daimler allows us to actually pull features – including safety features – and apply those innovations to the creation of our custom chassis. Having brands like Western Star, Freightliner Trucks, Fuso and Mercedes-Benz all under the Daimler umbrella is huge for us, especially from a safety perspective.

As a group, Freightliner has long focused on enhanced durability testing. How does this emphasis on longevity apply to FCCC?

I’m glad you asked, because durability testing is absolutely critical to the long-term success of every single FCCC product. Anytime we release a new design, our engineers perform durability testing. Not only do we test here at FCCC, we also have one at Bosch. This allows us to test our chassis more than 125,000 miles before one is ever applied to a vehicle. Our durability testing goes well beyond basic on-road maneuvers. We really give these chassis a heavy-duty shakedown, which is a practice that is inherently Freightliner.

Some may wonder why we’re testing a bracket that’s holding an air cleaner in place, and it’s because we don’t want to find out years down the road that there are air cleaners falling off of motorhomes. Having the capability and depth of resources to perform a higher level of durability testing is extremely beneficial for us as a group.

Building coaches that are easier and more comfortable to drive has always been a goal for Newmar. How does FCCC work to support this mission?

At FCCC, we pride ourselves on delivering motorhome chassis that are the most maneuverable, best riding in the industry. The “Custom” in our name is very important – it means working closely with the highest-quality OEMs in the industry like Newmar to ensure we’re developing and delivering to them the best chassis so they can build the best coaches. The key has been major investments. There are a lot of great products out there, but FCCC has that corporate umbrella that provides us with access to the very latest engineering breakthroughs.

Take shocks, for example. We brought in – exclusive to FCCC – SACHS shocks, which gave us the ability to tune our shocks to a particular coach. So when we take part in helping build new model or have a new configuration, we have the capability of tuning those shocks to that exact coach. If you go into our parts system and look at shocks, we have dozens of different part numbers representing our shocks because we’ve tuned so many different configurations. You can’t take a shock that we use on a Ventana and use it on a Mountain Aire because they are calibrated much differently.

When you talk about maneuverability, FCCC is the only company in the industry that’s established a maximum 60-degree wheel cut on an independent front suspension. There are other independent front suspensions out there and they do a great job, but off the shelf, they are almost never custom-tailored. At FCCC, we’re not going to grab a truck suspension, make a few tweaks and throw it on a motorhome. We work with our partners to build suspensions that achieve maximum maneuverability.

Looking back at the 2014 RVIA National Trade Show, there was a lot of buzz surrounding FCCC’s introduction of UltraSteer. What is UltraSteer and what does it mean for RV manufacturers?

fccc_rvia_4UltraSteer gives the industry the ability to offer a 45-foot coach with a turning diameter that is as much as 17 percent smaller in diameter. So if a driver is in a tight spot or needs to make a U-turn, he can maneuver his coach within much smaller confines by taking advantage of what is quite literally the best turning on the market today. If you take our 60-degree wheel cut and combine it with UltraSteer, you have the greatest overall maneuverability in the industry. FCCC is able to offer this level of innovation not just because of our breadth of resources, but because we listen to our partners and understand their needs.

Improving customer service has been the main goal of several manufacturers in recent years. What does FCCC offer its customers in terms of support?

Freightliner has invested heavily over the past few years to better meet the needs of our customers, and it’s paying dividends. While most companies have established after-hours phone systems and support centers, we decided to take things a step further by offering 24/7 factory-direct support personnel – each with an average tenure of 18 years – and making them available 24 hours a day. These men and women know our products because they’ve built our products, and in many cases are able to diagnose problems over the phone.

One of my favorite stories involves a customer calling about a problem that turned out to be a blown fuse. With help from one of our customer service representatives, the customer was able to replace the fuse himself. Many other manufacturers would’ve had the customer towed to a dealer, where he would’ve had to wait until the next day to have the a diagnosis and repair. That’s the difference having experienced experts available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week makes.

In addition, FCCC has recently introduced several products and initiatives to improve the overall customer experience. These include:

1-Home24/7 Direct

24/7 Direct is an app that provides 24/7 support through virtually any mobile device. The 24/7 Direct app lets customers call us, email us and find a local dealer – all from a smartphone or tablet.

Access Freightliner

When a customer buys a brand new coach with a Freightliner chassis, they can visit www.accessfreightliner.com and register. Upon registering, the customer will receive a passcode good for their coach and their coach alone. Access Freightliner gives customers the same access to parts, part numbers and installation drawings as a Freightliner dealer. If someone wants to look up a part or see how wiring schematics works – it’s all available to them.

Camp Freightliner

Camp Freightliner is a two-day camp held right here in Gaffney, South Carolina. RV owners love the camp because it’s truly for RVers of all levels of experience. In fact, everyone I’ve spoken with who has gone through the camp says they wish they would’ve done it sooner.

The purpose of Camp Freightliner is to empower our customers using easy-to-understand techniques and information. An RV is a heavy-duty piece of equipment and helping people better understand their coach provides a peace of mind that makes ownership a much more pleasant experience. Maintaining these vehicles is critical, and if you understand your motorhome and how to maintain it, whether or not you do it yourself, is extremely important.

Freightliner Welcome Kit

When a customer buys and registers a new coach, we send them a welcome kit. That kit contains a 24/7 Direct service card. If an owner goes to a Freightliner dealer and has their oil changed, that service and any future work can be logged by having the dealer scan the 24/7 Direct service card. If an owner ever visits a different Freightliner dealership, that dealership can use the card to see a coach’s entire service history. No more paperwork. It’s all about making service and support as seamless as possible. 

The Freightliner welcome kit also contains a USB drive loaded with everything someone would find in one of our owner’s manuals. Information is well organized and the menu interface features a very simple layout.

In the end, it’s all about making things easy for our customers. When you’re on a trip in your RV, the last thing you want to do is search for information that is buried in a manual or try and remember certain pieces of information in your head.

To learn more about Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation, visit www.freightlinerchassis.com.

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Guest Post – 10 Rules of the Road for New RVers

Recently, we spoke with Gary Lewis, Founder of RV Basic Training, an organization established to “teach RV owners everything they need to know to enjoy a safe, comfortable and incident-free RV driving experience.”

Based in Southern California, RV Basic Training offers motorhome enthusiasts located across the United States with expert instruction through the RV Boot Camp program. RV Boot Camp sends an experienced instructor to you so that you can learn in the comfort of your own coach.

Below, Gary talks about what led up to the establishment of RV Basic Training before explaining the ten rules all new RVers should know before hitting the road in 2015.

 

rvguy_trainerBack in 2001, my wife and I sold our business and decided to hit the road full time. After a year of traveling throughout the United States and Canada, from Fort McMurray in the North to South Padre Island in the South, I missed being involved and being needed. So I signed on to do motor home deliveries with a drive away company. Ultimately this lead to the position of Press Fleet Coordinator with a major RV company. We had motorhomes that would go out for magazine reviews, RV shows, photo shoots … you name it. The problem was, our units kept coming back damaged. Finally, my boss said, “Gary, no one is leaving here until you spend at least four hours with the drivers teaching them how to handle these things.” I had been a commercial driver for years, had my CDL and was very experienced driving larger vehicles. To make a long story short, I put together a program to educate our press fleet recipients on how to operate an RV safely, which is what led to the establishment of RV Basic Training in 2006.

Now that you’ve learned a bit about my journey, I’d like to share some advice that will help you to avoid damage to both yourself and your motor coach when you decide to set out on your next big adventure.

1. Understand the RV difference

RV_Difference_PicWhat is the RV difference?  It’s the fact that your Class A coach is much taller, wider and heavier than any car or truck you’re used to driving. Most cars these days are pretty small – about 15 feet or so in length – so if you’re dealing with a 40-foot motorhome, you’re operating a vehicle that is many times larger than your car.

When you’re operating a motor coach, you have anywhere from 12 to 15 feet behind the rear axle, which presents you with tail swing. On top of that, you usually have 18 to 24 feet minimum between the front wheels and the back wheels, which gives you off track. So essentially, you have to be constantly aware of the fact that your coach’s footprint is a big one. As soon as you start driving it like a car, you’re setting yourself up for trouble.

2. Always perform a pre-trip inspection

If you learn one thing from me let it be this: Always perform a pre-trip inspection. If you’re not sure how to perform a proper pre-trip inspection, you can download a free pre-trip checklist on our website. Unlike commercial drivers who can be fired for not performing a pre-trip inspection, many RV drivers fail to do so out of laziness. It’s why you’ll see RVers take off from a campsite while still plugged in to a power source or with their awnings out. If you don’t perform a pre-trip inspection, I guarantee you’re going to have a problem. Maybe not today, but you will tomorrow.

3. Know the right way to set and utilize your mirrors

Utilize_Mirrors_PicThere is such an unbelievable lack of understanding as to what RV mirrors are supposed to do and how they’re supposed to be set. When it comes to mirrors, most people assume “well it came this way; I guess that’s how it’s supposed to be set.”

One in five large vehicle accidents are connected to a driver’s mirrors. Either the driver failed to use his mirrors when changing lanes or turning, or his mirrors were improperly adjusted. There is a video posted on our website that talks about how to make a right turn without hitting a curb, and it has to do with – you guessed it – proper mirror usage. It addresses the fact that you should be using your convex mirror when turning. It’s one of the things we spend a lot of time on because it’s one of the main areas where damage occurs.

Some people believe the convex mirror should be facing downward so that you can view your front wheels, which is absolutely incorrect. Your convex mirror is meant to help you see alongside your coach. If you have a person standing at the rear of your motorhome, you should see the top of their head. If you’re able to see well above that person’s head, that means your convex mirror is set too high.

4. Master the four basic RV driving skills

Every commercial driver in North America has to master four basic driving skills: straight line backing, tight right turns, dockside backing and parallel parking. Anyone we train is going to be proficient in these areas when we’re finished with them. If you know how to perform these maneuvers, you understand the location of your back wheels and realize how large a footprint you have, which is vital. If you don’t, you probably won’t be comfortable behind the wheel of a Class A motor coach.

5. If you’re just starting out, consider using a spotter

Consider_a_Spotter_PicEven with proper training, many drivers require a little extra help before they arrive at a point where they are fully comfortable behind the wheel of an RV. One thing that can make a big difference is developing a driver/spotter relationship. The spotter alerts the driver of his or her surroundings and helps to navigate tight turns and lane changes. One of the easiest ways to maintain this team effort is with

RV Headsets that allow instant communication between the driver and the spotter. There is no delay and no buttons to press. It’s just like talking over the phone. Someone can be at the back of the coach checking both sides at all times and can communicate with the driver quickly and easily.

6. Know how to manage “tail swing”

Tail_Swing_PicIt’s a fact that for every three feet behind your rear axle, you have the potential for one foot of tail swing heading in the opposite direction that you must manage when turning. If you’ve got 12 feet behind your back wheels, which most RVs do, and you make a sharp right turn, guess what’s going to happen to whatever is sitting directly to your left? You’re going to come in contact with it. Failing to account for tail swing is a big reason many new RV drivers damage their coaches.

7. Understand the concept of “off track”

Off_Track_PicOff track is the difference between the path of your front wheels and the path of your rear wheels when you turn a corner. Take a stretch limousine for example, compared to my little red hatchback. Both vehicles have very little space behind the rear wheels. Unfortunately, the distance between those front and rear wheels is 28 feet for the limo and 9 feet for the hatchback. So when turning a corner, the limo has to go much further out because only the front wheels turn while the back wheels follow. If you don’t go far enough out, the back wheels are going to go over the curb, possibly causing the limousine to strike a nearby object. That right there is an accident caused by off track.

8. Always maintain the proper following distance

It’s a fact that when you go from 20 miles per hour to 40 miles per hour, it’s going to take you four times longer to stop because that stop is going to require four times the distance. When you double your weight you’re going to require twice the stopping distance. Double weight and double speed means you’re going to require eight times the stopping distance because it multiplies. It’s a concept known as “velocity squared,” which is the formula police use while reconstructing an accident in order to figure out how fast a person was going. Stopping and following distance is key to a safe journey no matter what kind of vehicle you’re driving, but especially if you’re operating an RV.

9. Adapt to your environment

RV drivers must know how to handle three core environments – urban, rural and highway roads. There still exist a large number of roads – particularly in rural environments – that are less than 12 feet wide because they were built before 1955. In addition, there are many highway driving challenges that are amplified when you’re behind the wheel of a 40-foot motor coach, including lane changes, merging and moving over for law enforcement. If you don’t move over and slow down when approaching a traffic stop or other incident involving the police, you’re going to get a ticket. Being familiar with the different variables each environment presents is important to staying safe – and out of trouble – while out on the road.

10. Remember the basics 

There’s a lot that doesn’t get covered in great detail, but is still important to remember for as long as you own your RV. These include:

  • Always keep two hands on the wheel, even if you have Comfort Drive™ ;)
  • Remember to keep your windows closed when your coach is in motion
  • Know when (and when not) to use the engine brake,
  • Driver fatigue is real and it is dangerous. If you’re tired, take a break.
  • Keep your engine RPMs high enough, especially when climbing steep hills in hot weather
  • Wear your seat belt. Just because you’re in an RV doesn’t mean you can drive around unprotected
  • Always remember to signal your intentions when changing lanes
  • Monitor tire wear early and often. A blowout is no joke.

 

Thanks for reading! I hope you found the above information helpful. If you have any questions for me or would like to learn more about RV Basic Training and RV Boot Camp, shoot me an email at gary.theRVguy@gmail.com or visit www.rvbasictraining.com.

2015 Newmar Coaches Continue to Garner Rave Reviews

FMC_MAGAt Newmar, our greatest validation comes from listening to our customers tell us how thrilled they are with the coaches we work so hard to design, engineer and build. Still, it’s nice to hear (or in most cases, read) positive feedback provided by the industry experts who test and review our motorhomes for the purpose of informing RV enthusiasts the world over.

So, we were more than happy to see Newmar motor coaches on the cover of both Family Motor Coaching Magazine and Motorhome Magazine for February 2015. Family Motor Coaching Magazine took an in-depth look at the all-new 2015 London Aire, while Motorhome Magazine delivered a thorough review of the 2015 Dutch Star.

According to Family Motor Coaching Magazine,

“Newmar has hit a home run with the new London Aire. Company designers did a great job of reinventing rather than retrofitting an existing model.” Click here to read the full review.

MOTOR_HOME_cover-Feb_2015-NEWMAR

Motorhome Magazine had this to say about the 2015 Dutch Star:

“All in all, the Dutch Star is an attractive package. The combination of performance, good floorplans, quality construction, attractive décor and the ability to custom select options make this motorhome a good choice.” Click here to read the full review. 

What to Do if You Have a Warranty Claim

warranty-infoRecently, we spoke with Tony Hermann, Newmar Warranty Manager and Carl Snyder, Newmar Customer Service Manager and asked them, “What should a Newmar customer do if they have a question about their warranty or need help filing a claim?” Both gentlemen shared plenty of information meant to assist our customers, including what makes Newmar’s Service and Warranty department second to none.

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The People Behind the Difference – Ritchie Diener

At Newmar, we believe our people are our greatest asset. Without their commitment to industry-leading quality and dedication to doing right by our customers, there is no Newmar Difference.

To help you get to know the men and women behind our spectacular line of Class-A coaches, we spoke with several members of the Newmar team about their roles and how they contribute to our shared success.

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Guest Post – The Road Trip of a Lifetime

RTFAD-CoachinSunLast year, my wife Lynda and I began our journey as full-time RVers, driving from California to Colorado for a family reunion in our 39-foot Newmar Kountry Star diesel pusher.

Although we’d faced some challenges over the years, what ultimately led to this cross-country adventure was Lynda finding out she had breast cancer in 2006. At that point, our lives changed dramatically.

Despite trying to work with the bank to refinance our mortgage so that we could continue making payments while Lynda was going through treatment, we were unable to afford both. After losing our home to foreclosure, we moved into a condo in Poway, California, just outside of San Diego. Soon after, we experienced another cancer scare, and my younger sister Doanne asked me, “What would you do if you lost Lynda?”

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Guest Blog – Meet The RVgeeks

RVgeeksPeter & John, better known as “The RVgeeks,” have been full-time RVers for nearly 12 years, having spent the last 10 years in their 2005 Newmar Mountain Aire.

After undergoing cancer surgery and chemotherapy, Peter realized that his life might not go according to the standard operating plan, which for many involves working until the age of 65 followed by a relaxing retirement. So he and John sold their house, cars, plane (Peter is a pilot) and just about everything else they owned, bought an RV and hit the road.

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5 Ways RVing Beats Flying

dv2074035_(1)If you love RVing, you’ve probably found yourself aboard a commercial jet at one time or another, thinking to yourself, “I sure wish I was 30,000 feet below, cruising down the highway in my motorhome.” If so, you’re not alone. Millions of people, including your friends at Newmar, would choose the freedom of the open road over a cramped airplane any day.

Still, there are some out there who feel that traveling the “friendly” skies is the way to go. For those folks, we’ve compiled a list of reasons why hitting the road almost always beats taking flight.

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