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Old 06-07-2014, 09:16 AM   #1
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2005 Winnebago 38j review

I'm going to look at a 2005 Winnebago 38J with the 8.1 and Allison. The wheel base is 248", GCWR 30K, GVWR 24K with 3 slides. Anyone have this coach or if not care to comment on the ride quality, handling and power? I'm a little concerned about the weight being a bit much for the engine even without towing.
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Old 06-07-2014, 12:01 PM   #2
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Going to look at this on Monday and it's not local so I could use some help quick in order to feel good about making an informed decision while I'm there. Thanks
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Old 06-07-2014, 12:16 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by noserider View Post
I'm going to look at a 2005 Winnebago 38J with the 8.1 and Allison. The wheel base is 248", GCWR 30K, GVWR 24K with 3 slides. Anyone have this coach or if not care to comment on the ride quality, handling and power? I'm a little concerned about the weight being a bit much for the engine even without towing.
Can't help you with the 8.1 but based on my experience with out less powerful ford 6.8 and the ford 4R100 4spd tranny in our 2000 38' coach I would think you shouldn't have any lack of power issues with the 8.1.

Our travels are mostly in the N-west navigating quite a few mountain grades. Granted, we don't go blazing up those grades at high speeds, but always get where we're going....

Good luck with your choice of a coach and safe travels..
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Old 06-08-2014, 05:24 AM   #4
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We were looking at that coach with serious intent, but never found one in great shape. We ended up getting a Newmar with the same engine. Based on reviews here regarding that engine we "pulled the trigger" and have not been disappointed so far. I think the coach you are looking at has the W24 chassis. (You will want to confirm, memory is going). Which means you will have plenty of CCC.
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Old 06-08-2014, 06:16 AM   #5
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Our last motor home was a 2006 38J. We loved the floorplan. After a few years, I came to your same concern. I believe the powerplant is just marginal for the motorhomes size and weight. It ran great during interstate travel, but struggled when traveling through the mountains of the east coast.

Would I discount the whole coach based on this, NO. We think the 38J was about the best gasser floorplan Winnebago ever came out with.
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Old 06-08-2014, 06:19 AM   #6
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We have the Suncruiser 35A on W24 chassis with 8.1. I tow a Saturn that weighs in around 3k lbs and can't tell the car is behind me. Just did a 4400 mile trip that included West Virginia mountains on I64 and did not have any issues. The tranny is one of the best features on this Motorhome. I do not think you will be disappointed in the chassis/engine/tranny combo. Especially if the floor plan works for you. Best of luck and hope you find what you are looking for.
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Old 06-08-2014, 07:53 AM   #7
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I have a very similar coach, a 2005 Itasca Suncruiser 38R. Ride is good, power is OK. he 38J is a very nice coach. My wife and I are very satisfied with our 38R. We ordered in from the factory in 2005.

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Old 06-08-2014, 09:01 AM   #8
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We have the 38R W24 8.1 with Allison transmission. I have not been disappointed with the performance. It does strain while going up a 7 degree grade, but in my opinion it does pretty good.
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Old 06-08-2014, 12:34 PM   #9
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My neighbors have the 38A Itasca Suncrusier. Great coach and nice ride and plenty of power. Only thing I would suggest is u install a steering stabilzer and rear trac bar. Makes a world of difference. I had a W-20 chassis before and it's handling was about the same.

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Old 06-08-2014, 12:45 PM   #10
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My neighbors have the 38A Itasca Suncrusier. Great coach and nice ride and plenty of power. Only thing I would suggest is u install a steering stabilzer and rear trac bar. Makes a world of difference. I had a W-20 chassis before and it's handling was about the same.

Craig & Carolyn Roberts 2006 Kountry Star KSDP3910
Did your neighbors with the 38A install those? Any idea what the cost would be?
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Old 06-08-2014, 01:00 PM   #11
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We purchase our 2005 38J new and have had no problems with power pulling a 4000 pound Jeep from California to Montana with many long grades. Handles great, just noisy engine noise when we are going up grades. Winnebago fixed large front slide when it was making a grinding noise. Basement air went out, but I think I caused that hooking up to low voltage. The 24W chassis is a good one that handles and tracks well..
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Old 06-09-2014, 06:17 AM   #12
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We purchased our 05 38J new in Nov 05. We based our decision as full timers on the floorplan, which was the best floorplan for our lifestyle. We considered similar floorplans in diesels but went with gas because we are generally living in our parked for 4-6 months at a time and generally only travel between jobs.

As for the drivetrain, the 8.1 has sufficient power for the W24 fully loaded. We pull a Subaru Forester without any problems (not in the fast lane of course) through all types of terrain. We home base in the Smoky's in NC, and have crossed the rockies several times, so probably most of our mileage has been mountain driving. The biggest disappointment is the gas mileage. We were use to 8+ in our previous 93 Chieftain with the 7.4 (of course, significantly smaller with no slides), and now we struggle to get to 7mpg, averaging 6-6.5mpg. We generally drive in the right lane no faster than 57 as this seems to help a lot with mileage.

Other than a clogged valve body that locked a clutch and burnt it out in the Allison transmission (rebuilt under Allison's warranty), we have had 0 issues with the chassis. Workhorse did and excellent job with the W24.

Coach wise, the biggest headache has been the basement air. It is overly complicated and no one can fix it. The standard fix it to install yet another "hard start kit" and send you on your way regardless of the symptoms. We had a leaking condenser coil on circuit 1 that no one could seem to repair, even though your could see the oil leaking out of the coil. After the 2 year warranty expired, RV products (manufacturer of the unit) found us a repair shop in NC that they authorized to repair the unit under warranty.

Bottom line, we still have the 05 38J and while we have looked at hundreds of new coaches, we have not found one that we like significantly better. While I would love to have the additional power of a diesel pusher, our's is sufficient and we cannot justify the expense for a little better fuel mileage (especially with diesel fuel generally a lot more than gas). I would recommend the coach with the understanding that it it likely that you will have major problems with the heat pump if it has not already been replaced. But all in all, with a 9 year old motor home, this is normal.
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Old 06-09-2014, 08:15 AM   #13
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I don't think the basement air is as bad as it sounds in SWYATES post. It is important to keep the condenser clean. The thermostat can sometimes be problematic. Their problem was evidently a manufacturing defect.

We drive a gas motor home similar to the 38J in size. We have a 38G. We find this floor plan is perfect for our type of living. We don't full time, but live in the motor home 5 to 7 months out of the year. We have traveled in both the east and west coast mountains towing a Jeep Cherokee. We travel at the same speed as SWYATES and get the same mileage. We have the Ford chassis.
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Old 06-09-2014, 09:31 AM   #14
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2005 Winnebago 38j review

I am on my 6th coach and have been RVing for 17 years as a part-timer but finally went full-time. The 38J (we have the 2007) was a no brainer for us because the floor-plan was the best we had seen. (Just FYI I sold a Newmar DP and traded to this coach.) The 8.1 and Allison combo is just fine (the best gas/tranny combo out there). We lived in the Pacific Northwest and this coach has pulled mountains (Sierra's, Cascades, and Rockies) loaded to bear while towing a car. I admit it's much slower than my DP's but we are in no hurry since we full-time and to be honest taking it slow and seeing the sights is actually much more fun. Also going down the hills is great with the grade brake, kind of "mimics" an exhaust brake on a DP.

As far as the 38J goes here are the downsides:

Weight balancing - You will have a hard time not over-loading the rear axle. We have never gone over GVWR but our Rear GAWR is over the limit by about 400 lbs. If this bothers you then don't buy this coach.

Basement Storage - If you are a pack rat you will run out of storage quick, we on the other hand are the exact opposite and we still have empty storage spaces both in an out of the coach.

Basement Air - Some hate it, some love it. We have had no problem with ours but expect only about 15 degree cooling differential. Many of the cooling units have had split air ducts. Ours did and it's a pretty quick and easy fix. I did mine in about 45 minutes and it's held for over a year. As far as servicing the unit. I have to disagree with another poster. Basement airs can be serviced by ANY home heating and AC company. To help them out you need to slide the unit out which takes about 30 -60 minutes of your time to do and then they just repair it like they would your house unit. BTW, home Heating and Air con guys are usually cheaper than RV repair places

Short Queen: I'm 6'1 1/2" tall and I don't mind the short queen. I have a friend who is 6'4" and has a short queen in another coach and he doesn't mind either. Yet i know another guy who is 5'10" that hated the short queen so much he dumped his MH and bought another with with a King bed in it. This is something you really need to decide for yourself. Speaking of the bed, it comes with the sleep number, I hate those things and put in a memory foam but you may love it, again that is personal preference.

Windshield Leaks - Winnebago has had some problems with windshield leaks, mine doesn't leak but I have seen others that have and have had some serious rust issues. I would pay particular attention to this.

Windshield Wipers - Moisture can get into the wiper contacts which cause them to stay on. There are a lot of simple tricks to fix this problem but something to be aware of. Also if you leave the moisture there and do nothing (let's say you are parked for an extended period) then it can rust out the connectors leaving your wipers inop.

Kitchen Slide - The slide mechanism is strong (one of the better one's on the market) buy you need to be careful not to overload it. Everyone who has had problems with this slide has overloaded. Remember that you have to keep weight forward and off the rear axle so this can be a bit of a juggling act.

Here are the positives:

Floor-Plan - Probably one of the best I have ever seen, Winnebago really did an amazing job with this one.

Chassis - The W24 is probably the best gas MH chassis ever built and matted to a 38J it is a joy to drive. The brakes are super strong (don't ask me how I know) and the handling with no modifications is excellent.

Galley - LOTS of storage. LOTS of counter space. I have had many people's eyes light up and proclaim that they want that big of a kitchen. Of course kitchen was extremely important to us. I do all of the cooking and really enjoy being able to play in this kitchen.

Mid-Entry by the Galley - It wasn't until we owned a DP that we realized just how inconvenient a front entry door really is. If you cook outside you can walk straight from the prep area or the refrigerator out to the grill. When it rains you have a real awning to keep you dry as you enter the coach.

Windows - So many coaches have very few windows. We love to see out, we love to have the breeze flow-through the coach when it's nice out. We love to eat at the dining room table and see the whole view from there.

Build quality - Almost 2 years now and our total repairs on a 'used' coach have been 1) replace one convertor 2) reinforce a overhead cabinet that we totally overloaded. To be honest I keep wondering why more things haven't gone wrong. :whistiling: I will also say that this is my first Winnebago, I used to kind of poo-poo the brand but there are so many well thought out engineering and design aspects to this coach that I must say that I am very impressed. Just one small example is light switch placement and light placement. I am always amazed at the terrible location of light switches and dark areas in coaches, but this coach has all the switches in where they logically should be and the even have small isle lights and lights under cabinets that other coaches would not include.

I also looked at the diesel sister coach (Journey 39F) but found more attributes that I liked on the gas 38J. If you have any other questions please feel free to PM me.

PS - Since full-timing we have averaged 7.18 MPG, not great, not bad.
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Old 06-09-2014, 09:37 AM   #15
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I reread your post and you are focusing on ride, handling and power. If this is your #1 concern I would be looking at a DP. You buy the 38J for the floor-plan while you give up some of the things that you are looking for.

What are you planning on doing with this coach? If it's constant driving or part-timing when you have to rack up the miles to get somewhere ASAP (that's why I had the Newmar before this one) then it's not the right coach for you. But if you are full-timing then you are probably driving about 6000 miles a year which equates to 1% of the year you will be driving it and 99% of the time you will be living in it.

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Old 06-09-2014, 02:51 PM   #16
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Looked at the coach. Overall impression was positive . I had already seen this floor plan so knew what to expect there. For its age I was not disappointed in appearance. It was raining so had a chance to look for new and old leaks. Roof perfect but there was a leak and it was at the front corner of the slide close to driver seat. A closer inspection revealed a small hole in the fabric of the canvas on top of the slide. Could this cause the leak? Also found service records and went thru them. Lots of small things you see when new first few years to get bugs worked out under warranty. One thing I noted however was a knock sensor was replaced that caused the check engine light to come on. This was a few years ago. The dealer mentioned he also recently replaced the knock sensor cause the check engine light was on? That a red flag at all? Underside and all compartments clean. No odors in coach. Engine and Genny sound good and fired right up. Acs work good. Since it was raining and I had a couple more to see after that I did not test drive it. If decision made to purchase I will go back for a test drive and more detailed inspection. Miles a little high at 63k for an 05 but not for one that's used. Any comments appreciated.
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Old 06-10-2014, 10:07 AM   #17
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Yes they did and it made it drive like a completely different rig. No tail wag and better cornering. My W20 was the same. I could drive with one finger and long run were not exhausting when I had to do them. Well worth the money.
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