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Old 02-10-2015, 08:41 PM   #1
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How will it handle mountains?

Hi all,
About 3 months ago I purchased a '89 Chieftain 33RT (yes, twin beds, not queen in the rear). I'm in Virginia, and in a few months will be heading out to preach the Gospel - once I've finished remodeling/repairing the interior, resealing the roof, and after the baby's born. Since my circuit involves going from here to Illinois, then to the Black Hills, there's no way to avoid the mountains west of here. Aside from a big trip I'm hoping to make to my college graduation in Salt Lake City, I don't anticipate going over the Rockies, but I know that Sandstone Mountain in WV has 7% grades for 5-6 miles.

My family will travel fairly light; we only have a few dishes, ~7 changes of clothes each, a few cleaners, and then the ministry stuff (some binders/paper, a keyboard, and hopefully a small sound system soon). And of course our bedding, a laptop, a single phone. At the moment we don't have a toad, and don't know whether we'll be able to get one before we leave.

My driving habits with the Class A will be to stick close to 55mph even on the interstate to get the optimal fuel economy, except going up hills - when I'll let it go slower if need be to keep down the heat. Moves will be about 2 days a month in Summer/Fall, leaving Virginia in July, Illinois-SD in August, SD-KS (or Utah, not positive yet) in Sept, on to KS in Oct, and then wintering in OK Nov-June, after which we repeat.

Considering that we have the 454 with < 7,000 original miles, and I'll be sure to do a full tuneup including oil and transmission fluid changes, how well will the new (to us) JesusMobile climb the mountains? I know I can put it in a lower gear coming down and have less wear on the brakes, but I also know that our last attempt at the circuit completely blew the transmission in our G20 conversion van pulling a homebuilt 32' TT. I didn't notice any power problems when I drove 30 miles home, but there aren't any large hills between there and here, and the previous owner did say it had problems going up hills. Is that just because people like to go 70mph all the time?

Thanks,
Sam
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Old 02-10-2015, 09:18 PM   #2
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Some general ideas

1) In hot weather when going up long grades you will need to turn off the dash air ... start your genset and run the roof air ... you will need to keep the temps comfortable for your offspring

2) When climbing LONG GRADES make sure that you downshift the transmission and keep the RPMs up so that your engine does not overheat
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Old 02-10-2015, 10:03 PM   #3
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As SkiGramp said, keep the RPMs up, you want to run at peak torque, which for the 454 is 2800-3000 RPMs. Max gas mileage slower speed. We live in the Midwest but go to MT every year and pull several passes and while we are running with the truckers, we get over them just fine. This is not a race so don't worry about how fast you are going, the 454 has plenty of torque to pull any pass, at lease we have never powered ours out. PTL & GB.
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Old 02-11-2015, 05:34 AM   #4
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You probably overheated the transmission, and likely didn't have either a secondary transmission cooler or a temperature gauge. Your new '89 Winnie is too old to have OBD2, so you can't use a scangauge, but you can add a simple aftermarket transmission temperature gauge. Using this will indicate whether you need an additional tranny cooler. Spend around $50 each for a gauge and cooler and you can have some peace of mind.

Also, consider an aftermarket gauge for the engine coolant. I have found that the OEM dashboard gauges on the GM chassis tend to be inaccurate.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TeamJesusSam View Post
... but I also know that our last attempt at the circuit completely blew the transmission in our G20 conversion van pulling a homebuilt 32' TT...
Sam
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Old 02-11-2015, 07:08 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TeamJesusSam View Post
Hi all,
About 3 months ago I purchased a '89 Chieftain 33RT (yes, twin beds, not queen in the rear). I'm in Virginia, and in a few months will be heading out to preach the Gospel - once I've finished remodeling/repairing the interior, resealing the roof, and after the baby's born. Since my circuit involves going from here to Illinois, then to the Black Hills, there's no way to avoid the mountains west of here. Aside from a big trip I'm hoping to make to my college graduation in Salt Lake City, I don't anticipate going over the Rockies, but I know that Sandstone Mountain in WV has 7% grades for 5-6 miles.

My family will travel fairly light; we only have a few dishes, ~7 changes of clothes each, a few cleaners, and then the ministry stuff (some binders/paper, a keyboard, and hopefully a small sound system soon). And of course our bedding, a laptop, a single phone. At the moment we don't have a toad, and don't know whether we'll be able to get one before we leave.

My driving habits with the Class A will be to stick close to 55mph even on the interstate to get the optimal fuel economy, except going up hills - when I'll let it go slower if need be to keep down the heat. Moves will be about 2 days a month in Summer/Fall, leaving Virginia in July, Illinois-SD in August, SD-KS (or Utah, not positive yet) in Sept, on to KS in Oct, and then wintering in OK Nov-June, after which we repeat.

Considering that we have the 454 with < 7,000 original miles, and I'll be sure to do a full tuneup including oil and transmission fluid changes, how well will the new (to us) JesusMobile climb the mountains? I know I can put it in a lower gear coming down and have less wear on the brakes, but I also know that our last attempt at the circuit completely blew the transmission in our G20 conversion van pulling a homebuilt 32' TT. I didn't notice any power problems when I drove 30 miles home, but there aren't any large hills between there and here, and the previous owner did say it had problems going up hills. Is that just because people like to go 70mph all the time?

Thanks,
Sam
Your my hero Sam! May angles protect you and your family as you serve our God. Here is something you might enjoy looking through: http://www.winnebagoind.com/resource...eftain-bro.pdf

When I was new to volunteering I worked in Virginia. One thing I learned is, if you find a flat spot God didn't pit it there.

Now, about the hill climbs in your coach. With that three speed transmission, the 454 is going to go slow. Just accept it. Even my DP could only do about 35mph on some of the long 7% grades, especially as we gained altitude where power is robbed by the thinning air. Watch the temperature gauge and pull over often if needed. Be careful not to over rev the engine as you downshift.

We are at Indian Hills Camp in Jamul, CA at the moment. What you are doing is so vital and is part of the work this camp is doing. San Diego is their main outreach. Places like this will give you refuge as you travel and serve.

God be with you.

Rick Y
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Old 02-11-2015, 07:41 AM   #6
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Thanks all,
I guess now I know what I did wrong with the van... I wouldn't let it downshift because I thought the high rpms would overheat the engine. I also discovered a hole in the coolant reservoir, so it was a double whammy.

I like the idea of temperature gauges. Does anyone know if there are also aftermarket fuel economy gauges? I don't trust the one in my dash since it says I'm getting 20mpg when idling.
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Old 02-11-2015, 08:43 AM   #7
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Rick,
My phone took forever to post my reply, so I missed your response. I had found that brochure while I was looking at the camper on Craigslist (it was listed for $3200, and by the Grace of God I was able to talk them down to $1500, which was all I could afford to pay), and it's really neat how similar it was to what the camper looked like when I got it. Of course, I've done some tearing out - my wife and I wanted a Queen bed, so to have a place for the kids (they'll be 6 and 2-3mo when we start), we tore out the bathroom sink and wardrobe, and are going to be building bunks today or tomorrow. We also pulled out the sofa and chairs (sofa was broken, chairs weren't our style and seat belts wouldn't work with child seats; we're hoping to find some conversion van seats to put in, or we'll build a L-shaped sofa to make sure we have enough seating if a few extra people want to come along on some trips), and some cabinets. Later this week as I have time I'll be posting videos I've taken so far as well as videos I'll continue to take to show progress. In Jesus' Name, we'll have it all done next week and be able to tackle the other issues (brakes and tires especially) to get it road-legal.

At this point, for stopping points, we only have one candidate that isn't a paid campground (my aunt's house in Illinois). We aren't affiliated with any organization, so we don't have the benefit of being able to rely on funding from them; we'll be relying on student loans for my graduate degree (it's an online college, so I get a disbursement for room and board), what I can make with computer consulting and developing Android apps (if you have any ideas for one, let me know; my BS degree will be in IT once I've finished it in another month or two, and I've been developing software since I graduated HS in 99, but am having trouble coming up with good ideas that aren't already done to death), and on a much smaller level, donations from people we reach out to.

God Bless,
Sam
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Old 02-11-2015, 09:09 AM   #8
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Hey Sam...

Is there any chance of you posting pictures of your remodel progress.. I would love to see it!

I don't have a MH, but I do tow a fifth wheel. My 99' dually had all the aftermarket gauges in it, when I used it to tow to Pigeon Forge, TN a few years ago. Climbing all the hills on I81 southbound to get up to Blacksburg, had me towing by the gauges. Keep your transmission temperature and engine coolant temperature happy and you can go just about anywhere.

I would also recommend that you go ahead and get an appropriately-sized stacked-plate transmission cooler and install it. Better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.
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Old 02-12-2015, 10:10 AM   #9
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I noticed you were concerned about weight and have limited your clothes and dishes. One thing you can do at no cost is to reduce the amount of fresh, gray and black water that you are carrying. One gallon of water weighs over 8 lbs.
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Old 02-12-2015, 01:31 PM   #10
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Hi Sam and Welcome to the Forum!

You mention tune up and oils but on an older coach the brakes should be a primary concern. At the VERY least a full fluid flush is in order and a complete overhaul with new hydraulic components would not be unreasonable. Master cyl, calipers and rubber hoses are all beyond their service life, regardless of the low miles. Age and moisture contamination will have compromised the system. Be safe Bro!
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