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Old 03-17-2006, 12:53 PM   #1
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I started my hunt for a steering centering product several months ago when I discovered that the coach's steering isn't like a car that wants to return to wheels straight (what can I say - this is our first RV!) No - I'm not trying to mask a steering or chassis problem. Freightliner in Gaffney did a four-wheel alignment, my ride height was checked, Freightliner did a road test and I run the correct tire pressure.

I have been unhappy with the constant steering attention required for the coach. Turn loose of the steering wheel for a moment and you might be headed for the road shoulder - or not. Sometimes I can turn loose of the wheel for several seconds and the coach tracks straight.

Due to the fact that the 2004+ Horizon/Vectra have independent front suspension, our choice of a steering centering product is rather limited. In fact there is exactly ONE product that I'm aware of that can be fitted - the Howard Precision Steer Wheel Control System.

Little did I realize that my coach was going to be the very first Freightliner ZF IFS Howard install . Basically all this meant was that the linkage/linkage mounting had to be custom designed - somebody always has to be first I suppose!

The Howard factory stopped doing factory installs of RVs effective 1/1/06 so I went to their nearby (15 minutes away from the factory) designated factory-surrogate, Iron Horse RV.

Terry of River City Products (Howard) measured and fitted up a foam board template early in the week for the custom linkage. They had the plates/linkage built a couple of days later and yesterday (3/16/06) a test fitting was made. Only a little tweaking was necessary and Terry brought a part back this morning for installation.

We were finished up about 2 pm today and did some static tests and then went out on the freeway for a road test. There was very heavy traffic and a gusty wind but I can for certain say the product works. Center the coach steering so you are tracking straight, push the trim button and then you can move the steering wheel left or right and the wheel will return to center by itself.

On a crowned road or in crosswinds I can now trim out the steering so it tracks straight. It will take a few hundred miles to have a better opinion of the product - I'll post a follow up in two or three weeks after I have more experience. I also will be putting up pictures of the installation on our web site soon.

How much? Expensive - around $4k installed out the door (plus free camping at Iron Horse and a cookout on Friday afternoons!)
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Old 03-17-2006, 12:53 PM   #2
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I started my hunt for a steering centering product several months ago when I discovered that the coach's steering isn't like a car that wants to return to wheels straight (what can I say - this is our first RV!) No - I'm not trying to mask a steering or chassis problem. Freightliner in Gaffney did a four-wheel alignment, my ride height was checked, Freightliner did a road test and I run the correct tire pressure.

I have been unhappy with the constant steering attention required for the coach. Turn loose of the steering wheel for a moment and you might be headed for the road shoulder - or not. Sometimes I can turn loose of the wheel for several seconds and the coach tracks straight.

Due to the fact that the 2004+ Horizon/Vectra have independent front suspension, our choice of a steering centering product is rather limited. In fact there is exactly ONE product that I'm aware of that can be fitted - the Howard Precision Steer Wheel Control System.

Little did I realize that my coach was going to be the very first Freightliner ZF IFS Howard install . Basically all this meant was that the linkage/linkage mounting had to be custom designed - somebody always has to be first I suppose!

The Howard factory stopped doing factory installs of RVs effective 1/1/06 so I went to their nearby (15 minutes away from the factory) designated factory-surrogate, Iron Horse RV.

Terry of River City Products (Howard) measured and fitted up a foam board template early in the week for the custom linkage. They had the plates/linkage built a couple of days later and yesterday (3/16/06) a test fitting was made. Only a little tweaking was necessary and Terry brought a part back this morning for installation.

We were finished up about 2 pm today and did some static tests and then went out on the freeway for a road test. There was very heavy traffic and a gusty wind but I can for certain say the product works. Center the coach steering so you are tracking straight, push the trim button and then you can move the steering wheel left or right and the wheel will return to center by itself.

On a crowned road or in crosswinds I can now trim out the steering so it tracks straight. It will take a few hundred miles to have a better opinion of the product - I'll post a follow up in two or three weeks after I have more experience. I also will be putting up pictures of the installation on our web site soon.

How much? Expensive - around $4k installed out the door (plus free camping at Iron Horse and a cookout on Friday afternoons!)
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Old 03-17-2006, 12:59 PM   #3
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John, glad you are pleased at this point.
Worst ever is to buy a product and be disappointed. Looking forward to your update..Be Safe and
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Old 03-17-2006, 01:07 PM   #4
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Hey John,

Was the steering that bad before?

Our coach seems to drive like its on rails. The only time it is even a little fidgity is when the wind is blowing very hard from either side of the coach.

Glad it helped, but 4k

Good luck in your travels!

Cheers
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Old 03-17-2006, 01:49 PM   #5
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Good job John....

Thanks for being the guinea pig....
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Old 03-17-2006, 05:20 PM   #6
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Ditto from me too John. I'd like to hear more from your driving perspective as you take her out for awhile. Keep the post alive when you have more on the subject.

Thanks!!
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Old 03-18-2006, 09:44 AM   #7
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John, I beat you by 5 Mo. Had the Howard system installed on my 04 Horizon, which also has the IFS, in Oct. at their facility in San Antonio. They did a great installation and you are going to love the system. There really is much less fatigue when driving. After driving approx. 3000 miles with it, I wouldn't be without it.
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Old 03-18-2006, 09:58 AM   #8
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That's GREAT news Bob....

Even though John was before me,at least he can't lay claim to the "first" position....

Bad enough he was before me!!

Congrats on all the safe miles Bob...

(maybe change the "just joined" signature??)
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Old 03-18-2006, 10:36 AM   #9
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Bob, Would love to get rid of the "just joined" signature but I don't know how!!!!!! Any suggestions?? With computers, I need all the help I can get.

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Old 03-18-2006, 10:39 AM   #10
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Hmmmmm.....now whatcha think?

Go to your profile and under "edit profile" add what you want again in your "signature" area...
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Old 03-18-2006, 11:52 AM   #11
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<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by CADUCEUS:
John, I beat you by 5 Mo. Had the Howard system installed on my 04 Horizon, which also has the IFS, in Oct. at their facility in San Antonio. They did a great installation and you are going to love the system. There really is much less fatigue when driving. After driving approx. 3000 miles with it, I wouldn't be without it.
CADUCEUS
04 Itasca Horizon 40 AD </div></BLOCKQUOTE>Isn't that fasinating!! I wonder why Terry of River City acted (and stated) like this was the first one of these he has ever seen He told me at first they couldn't do the install, then he talked to 85 year-old Dee Howard and Mr. Howard said to go ahead.

We have as of today about a 300+ mile experience with the Howard and I'm quite pleased with it. We got into some gusty cross-winds here in SW Texas and after trimming the Howard, the crosswind effects were greatly minimized. Not eliminated of course due to the variable wind direction and speed, but I think I was actively steering at 20% of the amount that I would have without the Howard.

So far, so good!
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Old 03-18-2006, 12:22 PM   #12
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Kind of weird they'd forget....both Horizons too!
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Old 03-23-2006, 11:01 AM   #13
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John:
Sorry to hear that after you had a front end alignment especially by F/L that it did not correct the problem. I would have to say that they either did not align it properly, or if so and still found that it wandered they did not correct it by rotating the front tires. What is a common problem with tires is that if they were out of align for sometime and then you have it aligned, you can have a situation called radial pull. A simple fix for that is to rotate the tires. I have a 2005 Vectra with IFS and it only wandered because of the front end needing alignment and the radial pull. After alignment it was much better, but not quite there yet. So the tire shop rotated the front tires and the problem was gone. Sorry they did double check their alignment job or try the tire rotation before you went to a third party at an expense of 4K to correct a problem that shouldn't of existed on a new front end design (IFS from F/L)
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Old 03-23-2006, 01:31 PM   #14
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Kenbt - I really don't think that we had a steering issue; in other words I think our chassis was performing nominally. As I said in the very first post in the thread the coach would track straight many times which lead me to believe that we were within normal operating parameters.

My biggest gripe about the handling is that there is no "center" feel for the steering; in other words you turn the wheel a little one way there is no resistance to give you a feel for wheels straight unlike a car.

What a difference the Howard PSC has made - we are now in Arizona and the winds were extremely gusty today off the port stern quarter while traveling; I could trim the Howard so that I just needed to make small infrequent corrections. I could easily steer with one hand - most of the times two fingers would have done it.

I realize there are coaches out there with a lot of suspension/alignment and wheel issues, I really don't think we are one of those.

After about 800 miles of driving experience with the Howard PCS, we are just thrilled with it .
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