Installing Air-Lift Helper Springs

The Chevrolet P-30 motorhome chassis that Winnebago built this RV onto comes from the factory with the suspension of a 1-Ton C30 truck (at least in 1986). The leaf springs are not tailored to the the motorhome, because Chevrolet did not have any details about the specific coach being installed on the chassis.

100_0560On the longer and heavier coaches (mine is 31 feet), Winnebago would compensate for the extra weight on the springs by adding helper springs that were based on air-bag technology. Air springs are very common on large commercial vehicles (almost all “big rig” trucks use them).

After 30 years, mine were in need of replacement.

I chose to install “Air-Lift 5000” brand springs, which have a helper capacity of 5000 pounds.

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Counting down….

The time to leave for Alaska is rapidly approaching! To keep myself properly motivated and, to be honest, sufficiently panicked about being ready, I have added a countdown timer to the blog. ( Look to the right –> )

As of today, we are exactly 12 weeks away from pulling out of the driveway, and I still don’t have the rear-end of the chassis back together.

OMG!

Adding a YouTube Channel

Experimenting with video documentation too. Check out this video from last September when we got the RV moved into the workshop for it’s overhaul…

Rear Suspension Removal

The rear suspension is very important in an RV. It is responsible for carrying a large portion of the load of the coach, the occupants, fuel, water, and all of our “luggage”.

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This is the existing 30-year-old rear leaf springs. Leaf springs should have a positive arch to them (like a smile), but if you take a look, mine have a negative arch to them (like a frown). This means that they are shot, and need to be replaced.

You can use air bag helper spring kits, but those only go so far. No, it was the right time to just replace these.

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RV Overhaul Has Begun

So, the monumental task of overhauling the RV has begun in earnest. I don’t think I’ve written about the exact plan for the RV, so I’ll start with that….

The most important thing is that the RV be able to make the trip to Alaska and back. 10,000 miles round trip. And be reliable. With that in mind, most of my effort will be focused on things that make the RV reliable. Creature comforts will be lower on the priority list.

My overhaul plan centers around making the chassis sound, the engine top notch, and the appliances all work. I am starting from the bottom and back, working up and front. First, we needed to the RV into a space where it could be worked on when the temperature outside dipped into the single digits.

The Shop:

20150926_121949This is the workspace. 1 bay of a 36×40 space. It looks big now, but wait, how big is this RV?

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Affording a Whole Summer Vacation

savings_snipAnother important item to consider for a trip of this magnitude is cost. How do you go about making sure that you have enough money to take the trip?

As I mentioned in my post about saving vacation time (Taking 10 Weeks Off From Work), I simply applied the Engineer’s friend – Microsoft Excel. Things I took into consideration included fuel (both from a price and economy perspective), campground fees, RV rental or purchase, and food and other items while on the trip. Read more »

Taking 10 Weeks Off From Work?

vacation_snipAn RV road trip that encompasses over 10,000 miles round trip isn’t something that you do in just a few weeks. Even if you drive 50 mile per hour, 10 hours a day, it will take you over 20 days just in driving – 3 whole weeks of nothing but driving! And who wants to drive 10-hour days day after day? Not me!

Fortunately, the company where I work has a generous vacation roll-over policy (at least for now). I can accumulate 2.5 times my yearly vacation allotment before I start losing time. I have been with my employer going on 22 years now, so I accrue at 4 weeks per year. That allows me to accumulate up to 10 weeks of vacation time. A perfect amount for a whole-summer vacation. Read more »

The RV comes home….

Me and the RV leaving Swain, NY

Me and the RV leaving Swain, NY

When I started planning the trip several years back, I had a couple of options in mind. One was a tow-behind 5th wheel and the Chevy 2500HD truck I owned at the time. The next two options involved RVs – rent one for a whole summer, or buy one new and sell it after the trip to get rid of the payment.

All this time, I had been saving money each week into the Alaska trip fund (separate savings account – see future “planning” topic).

In the early spring of 2013, my daughter Heather and I were skiing at Swain when the mountain was partially green and the snow was half ice. Anyway, at the bottom of the hill over in the side parking lot was this RV with a “For Sale” sign on it. When we got done for the day, we stopped over there and looked around the outside and then wrote down the phone number. I called the guy later on and arranged to come down and see it up close and inside and get the scoop on it. Read more »

Welcome to the journey

For years I have dreamed of taking a family vacation to Alaska. I always said “someday”. Somewhere around 2006, I realized that unless I set a date and started planning for it, that “someday” would never come. With that, I decided to put a plan in place and make it happen.

I chose 2015 as the year of the trip. My oldest would be 15 and my (then) youngest would be 11. Both old enough to remember this adventure for the rest of their lives, and far enough out in the future to allow me to make the trip happen. Alas, life gets in the way sometimes, and now I am remarrying and have a 2-year-old little girl to round out my offspring.

The trip is still happening, and with only a 1-year delay. It will be a 9-week full summer adventure.

It is here that I will write about this trip – the planning, the preparation, and the experience itself.

I hope you follow along. If you have advice (from first-hand experience), or want to learn from mine, feel free to comment on the articles along the way.

Enjoy!

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