RV Tech Savvy: Installing a Child Seat in a Motorhome


I have a 1999 Winnebago Chieftain with a sofa that has three lap seatbelts. Are there any kits available to install a three-point child seat?

B.J. Walworth | Ellicott City, Maryland

This may be a problem. All of the floorplans I have seen for your year and model motorhome have a sideways-mounted sofa with a window directly above it, which precludes mounting a shoulder harness above the couch. I found an article from Winnebago Life, which covers this subject. I’d also like to hear from readers on this subject and their solutions.


Chassis Stability

I recently purchased a 2019 Forest River FR3 30DS on a Ford F-53 chassis with a Ford V-10 engine. This Class A motorhome has a tendency to “roll” from side-to-side depending on various road conditions. I have installed a Safe-T-Plus steering control on the front axle and a Roadmaster sway bar on the rear axle. The motorhome comes with a front sway bar on the chassis from the manufacturer. What can I do to tone down or eliminate the roll tendencies? Maybe replace the factory shocks with better ones as someone suggested, or maybe install air bags on the rear? I hate to keep throwing money at this problem.

Ron Jacobs | Ormond Beach, Florida

The Ford F-53 chassis has some issues with ride and handling. The fact that the aftermarket offers a wide variety of products to improve ride and handling of these chassis is a good indication of how many people find the stock chassis to be — shall we say — less than perfect. Before people run out and start spending money to change things, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of what each component does. There is some overlap of what components do, so please keep that in mind. It’s also a source of confusion for many people. I also recommend making one change at a time followed by a good test drive so that you can isolate the result after installing a component.
The Safe-T-Plus unit you have is designed to help steering track straight, rather than pull to one side or “hunt” from side to side. It won’t prevent the motorhome from leaning to the outside of the curve when turning, or from wind gusts. The springs hold up motorhome weight, and the stiffer the spring, the less a motorhome of a given weight and size will lean to the outside. But you don’t want to install stiffer springs because the ride will suffer. Stiffer shock absorbers will also help slightly to reduce leaning, but again stiffer shocks add expense and will likely result in a harsher ride. The most effective way to reduce leaning (the roll axis) is with anti-sway bars. I think the name is confusing, because many people consider sway to be akin to fishtailing, which is on the yaw axis, not the roll axis. These bars don’t significantly affect straight-line ride quality; the shocks, tires and springs mainly do this. They only function to resist leaning. The stock bars are a cost compromise, as are many components. The factory-supplied front anti-sway bar is 1.5 inches in diameter. I suggest upgrading this to a thicker aftermarket bar. Hellwig (800-435-5944, www.hellwigproducts.com) offers its model number 7217 heavy-duty front anti-sway bar for your rig. Roadmaster’s (800-669-9690) front anti-sway bar for the F-53 is part number RM-1139-140.

Probably the best fix, albeit the most expensive, is a product from LiquidSpring. The LiquidSpring system is a Compressible Liquid Adaptive Suspension System (CLASS). Frequently used by transportation industries, the LiquidSpring system is also available in models to fit motorhomes. A review can be found at www.motorhome.com/motorhomes/motorhome-gear/suspension-transformation.

Last, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what is called the “Cheap Handling Fix.” Google “Cheap Handling Fix for Ford F-53 Chassis” and you will find many references to this simple modification. Here’s an example: www.youtube.com/watch?v=MozieIP58PY. This changes the leverage ratio of the stock bars and many people are satisfied with the results. Modify your coach at your own risk, and be safe.


Electrical Gremlins

We purchased a 2015 Thor Challenger 37KT in 2015. On our first trip, we went to Texas for three months, then to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Everything worked perfectly in Texas; however, on our second day in Pigeon Forge, the transfer switch quit. We could run the air conditioner and appliances with the generator, but not from shorepower. We went from there to southern Indiana, and I managed to get the switch replaced at an RV dealership under my Thor warranty. We stayed at my daughter’s house for 10 days and didn’t use the RV until we left there for northern Indiana, where we had an appointment at the Thor service center. On our way, we stopped to visit friends and discovered the converter was defective. I called Thor customer service (which was about a 90-minute drive from where we were) and the person I talked to actually came down with a new converter and changed it out right there in the RV park. That says something for Thor customer service! At any rate, after he installed the converter, we discovered the inverter wasn’t working either. We also noticed my batteries had been overcharging and had boiled almost dry. I check my batteries regularly. What I want to do is replace the two 6-volt batteries in series with four 12-volt batteries all in parallel or, at least, two 12-volt batteries in parallel. And, yes, I’m still having problems with those 6-volt batteries. I can charge them up completely, but they won’t hold a charge.

William Van Winkle | Purcell, Oklahoma

Have a tech question?The fact that you had so many electrical problems at once makes me suspicious. I think you may still have an undiagnosed situation, which was the underlying cause of these maladies. The electrical system might have been damaged by something like a major electrical surge. This could have come from a lightning strike to the power grid, a vehicle taking down a power pole and shorting out wires, a surge when power was being reconnected, or myriad other causes. The failed components should have been carefully examined (if necessary, by their manufacturer) to determine the cause of failure, and the entire charging system tested for proper operation before or at the same time as new batteries are installed.

Have you had the old batteries tested on a computerized battery tester? I would recommend having that done to ensure the batteries are bad. Replacing the 6-volt batteries with 12-volt batteries is fine, but you won’t have the reserve capacity in the 12-volt batteries that you do with the 6-volt, nor will you have the same resistance to deep discharge cycles as the 6-volt. The 12-volt batteries will be less expensive, and if you’re not doing any boondocking, it won’t matter much. I would recommend you purchase an RV surge protector/energy management system to help protect the motorhome from future shorepower insults.


 



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