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Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Other Ten

Now, the “dark side”.  The ten things that I’m not so fond of.  Some of them can’t be helped, or maybe I’m too picky.  Other things you just have to shake your head about the manufacturers and ask, “What were they thinking?”

Then sometimes, I have to admit that there is credible evidence that there are no women on the design teams.

So, in descending order, from the least to the most “Un-fond” items on the Journey:

Number Ten – Tiny Dresser Drawers

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When we were shopping, one item was to get as many drawers in the motorhome as possible.  The Journey had a nice dresser with six drawers.  Using them became an adventure in itself.  The drawers are narrow and shallow, necessitating creative stowing of clothes, mostly by rolling them up.  Not the end of the world, but definitely something a woman designer would not have allowed.

Number Nine – Outside Entertainment Center

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It was on the Journey when we bought it, something we hardly ever use, maybe twice in five years.  A CD/Radio with large speakers, just enough to ruin the beautiful sounds of nature or annoy your next door neighbor.  I would not have ordered this item.

Number Eight – Two Piece Ladder

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This is another “What were they thinking?” item.  The ladder to the roof has the top half permanently attached and the bottom half that has to be hung on it to use it.  The bottom half, when not in use is stowed in a side compartment taking up valuable space.  I decided to remove the bottom half from the compartment and hang it on the top half, secured by several bungee cords.

I’ve heard the argument that this design is to keep kids from climbing on your roof.  It seems this is found mostly on diesel pusher motorhomes, but not on gas units or trailers.  It begs the question, “What is more attractive on diesel pusher roofs than gas motorhomes and trailers?”

Number Seven – Glued On Parts

This may be Winnebago specific, they use an aircraft adhesive glue to attach the front hood and rear engine hatch to their frames.  I’d hate to fly in a plane that uses this adhesive, because it wouldn’t be long before you’d watch your wings flutter away.

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I’ve had to reattach both the hood and the rear engine hatch with a strong, heavy duty epoxy.  Since I’ve done this, they have stayed in place rock solid.

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Number Six – The “Undippable” Dip Stick

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This is common on diesel pushers with Cat engines, the dip stick is about four feet long.  When checking the oil, the dipstick slides in fine until the last 3 or 4 inches, then it is a real fight to get it seated.  I have to twist and turn the dip stick while trying to lightly push it all the way in.  Eventually it goes in after a couple of minutes of battle.  This is just an example of a poor design and lousy quality control.

Number Five – Awning Lock Drains

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Another “What were they thinking?” item, only found on Winnebagos.  The large slides on the Journey have locks that secure them when traveling.  In a moment of less than brilliance, Winnebago engineers designed a locking mechanism that extends through the top of the slide.  Then they had to create a drain system to remove water that can collect in the lock mechanism, so they put these tiny, quarter size drain holes near the top of the slide.  The holes are so small they get easily plugged up with dust and if not cleaned out with a toothpick or pipe cleaner on a regular basis, will allow water to drip down inside the motorhome.

Number Four – Basement Storage Compartment

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And again, “What were they thinking?”  Winnebago engineers designed the basement storage compartments to come out attached to the slides.  I guess the idea was to enable easier access to the compartments by not having to crawl under an open slide.  Unfortunately this leads to no pass through basement compartments, limits the weight (300 lbs.) that can be put in these storage bins and makes them unable to accept large items like a lounge chairs.  Winnebago touted them as “Store More”.  I think they should be called “Store Less”. New model Winnebagos have gone back to the better pass through storage compartments. (Bummer!)

Number Three – Automatic Patio Awning/Door Awning.

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I suppose it is nice to be able to push a button to open and close your patio awning.  On my Journey, the awning is placed over the top of the passenger slide and is positioned to come straight out to miss the slide.  I cannot adjust it and it provides very little shade.  It is supposed to do two things automatically, close if the wind gets too strong and self dip down to shed water.

The wind sensor on top of the Journey has been looked at again and again while under warranty and never was able to work.  I finally gave up on it and ensure that the awning is closed if it gets too windy. 

The back end of the slide is grooved to dip down and shed water if it collects too much in a rain storm.

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The owner’s manual gives a big caveat that it is only for light rain.  I’ve read of many people having their awnings collapse and break, causing costly repairs when this shedding system failed.

I go by the rule that if I’m not sitting under my awning, it gets closed.

The door awning is another engineering “mis-marvel”.  It is a manual awning, cranked open with a hand crank rod (you can see the rod on the left side of the awning).

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The “beauty” of this is when it starts raining, as you crank the  awning closed, the rain water runs off right on to your head.  Pass the shampoo!

Number Two – Interior Air Conditioner Vents.

In the main living room, there are rows of vents in the ceiling which provide cool air to the space.  There are ten of them and the work very well.

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In the back bedroom, which is just about half the size of the living room, there are only two!  This makes for a stuffy bedroom, even if we shut all the living room vents, forcing the cool air to exit these vents, it is not the best solution.  We have to augment the air circulation with a portable fan.

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Number One – Select Comfort Air Mattress

No picture here, everyone knows what a mattress looks like.  The mattress in our Journey is my biggest pet peeve.  We don’t like it at all, it is without a doubt the most uncomfortable mattress I’ve ever slept on, even all the cheesy ones on Coast Guard cutters.  We put an expensive mattress topper on it to try and make it better, but no luck.  The mattress has a “gully” in the middle, between the two adjustable air chambers.  You are rolling into that gully all night.  Plus if one person gets up the other’s side sinks down, or when a person gets in, it bounces the person already in bed.

I found out there are various levels of quality in these mattresses, from cheap ones to very expensive ones.  You guessed right, the cheapest version is what was installed in the Journey.

I’ve researched the mattress and found it comes with a 20 year warranty and have sent them an email to see what, if anything can be done to rectify the lousy performance of this much touted wonderful mattress.  If we get no satisfaction from them, we’ll replace this junker with a real, conventional mattress.

So there you have it, our good and bad items that we’ve found in out five years with our Journey.  Are any of these make or break items on a new motorhome?  No, but I’d certainly shy away from a motorhome with the storage compartments we have and would make a deal to remove an air mattress and replace it with a good, conventional mattress.

Hopefully, maybe these two posts will help a new RV buyer be a little more informed about what to look for.

The bottom line question:  Would we buy the Journey again just the way it is?  The answer is a resounding YES!  It has so many good points, the negatives are just minor issues that we’ve learned to deal with or work around.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

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19 comments:

  1. Like we said before, buying and living in an RV really requires some compromising. We love our air mattress so many things are about personal preference or perhaps we have a different mattress from you. But your post gives a lot of good and bad things to think about...thanks!!

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  2. You omitted my favorite pet peeve Paul. Carpet. Who ever thought a recreational vehicle should be carpeted. Not very recreational unless your idea of recreation is cleaning carpet.
    It would also be nice if manufacturers would contact owners after about a year and do a likes and dislikes survey. Never have I heard of this happening.

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  3. Oh my. Been there. Done that.
    Over the course of about a month or so at one point, I took out EVERY SINGLE DRAWER in our motorhome and THREW IT AWAY. I saved the drawer fronts of course, for the new, machine dovetailed full sized drawers on full extension drawer sides that I then installed. I even made one drawer in the kitchen wider, since there was no good reason why it was as small as it was.
    After a couple years of putting up with the pitiful mattress. Threw it away too. Put in a half decent full sized (not that "short Queen" nonsense) one and it was a huge improvement.
    I think the carpet would have been next, but ours was in pretty good shape. Just annoying.
    The issues with the awing and storage were not ones about which I had given much though. We had a manual awning, and I could adjust it any way I wanted. I always thought those automatic ones were "cool".
    Not so much any more. Hearing from someone with actual mileage makes the difference.
    And the "store less" thing? I always wondered about that. Now I know.
    I've often wondered if those who engineer (that's generous) or design RVs actually spend any real time in them.
    Good tips all around.
    I must say too, they have some pretty well designed motorhomes on this side of the pond. They're pricey though, but just so nicely done. They can design a 28 foot motorhome that feels like a 40 footer.
    A feller can dream.

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  4. I actually like my carpet but the contact after a year or two would be a great idea for manufacturers to learn what to do better.

    Great ideas for posts Paul and you've got me thinking about my own top 10 in both directions. Thanks!

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  5. I knew you would list the mattress as your number one pet peeve. We have the air mattress too but a slightly different model. Ours wouldn't hold air but that was fixed under warranty and it sleeps much better. A regular king is 76" wide and ours is only 72" wide. That makes a difference in the way the sheets fit. We don't like wrinkled sheets so we use two strips pf elastic underneath with clips on each end to tighten the sheet up.
    If you decide to replace yours, please consider a memory foam from "Bed in a Box". We loved the foam we had in our Brave.
    Syl

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  6. Interesting. Although some of your list is specific to Winnebago, the remainder is pretty standard stuff. Those shallow bedroom drawers are a pain in the neck. I just keep underwear and socks in them. Shorts and T-shirts fit much better in the overhead cabinets.

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  7. As fellow Winnie owners, we feel your pain. There's nothing quite like having your motorhome literally fall apart in your hands, as we did when our engine cover came unglued. (I think the engine cover is the reason for the two-piece ladder. Can you lift your cover with the lower ladder section installed?)

    We purposely avoided any Winnies with "Store Less". We just didn't like the idea of making the slide motors work even harder. (And, yes, our pass-through storage would go on our "love" list!)

    Everywhere we go we talk to Winnie owners about those darn weep holes. Once we had one clog we were on a mission to share the secret with others. (Most folks don't know about them!) Putting slide locks in the roof of a slide out has to be one of the dumbest ideas ever.

    For our Sleep Number, we unzipped the mattress and replace the cheap "egg crate" filler with a 2-inch or 3-inch memory foam topper. That has helped a lot! With that improvement, our mattress is on our "love" list. (Our problem with the mattress was the wireless controller. It went out and we had so many miscues with Sleep Number that now we have a small collection of controllers!)

    Fun posts! Thanks!

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  8. I doubt that any mattress would be perfect for the buyers. You can't fit everyone with the same mattress. We replaced ours immediately.

    Actually, I'm more concerned about that airplane glue being used on airplanes. I guess next time I fly I'll have to ask what glue they use.

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  9. I remember you saying once that you hated the mattress. We replaced our paper thin factory mattress with a sleep number bed. So far we both love it. I'm a '95' and I think George is on '100'. So far no issues!
    I'm with you on the shallow drawers. We deal with it :)

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  10. That dip stick issue is my number one and I do not think there is any fix for it I tried bending the tip a little bit did not help maybe if it had a little steel ball welded to the end.
    Rick

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  11. Every time I watch Craig check the oil in our Alfa I worry that he won't be able to get that #@%& dip stick back in!

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  12. Our pet peeve with the Tiffins is the TV's being placed in such a way in the cabinetry so you can't access all the cool slots for accessories, like your SD camera card. And I can't get a headset for Eldy who LOVES to listen to the TV really loud, because we can't access the back for the wireless transmitter! We've replaced our mattress three times, and are now on a Sleep Number Bed. We agree about the ladders, hate those two part jobbies! Great idea for a blog post, your top ten faves and dislikes. Guess I'll go work on my list for another day...

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  13. If I ever had the good fortune to have an RV of any kind, the first thing I would do is pitch the mattress it comes with and get one of those 8" thick memory foam ones from Wal*Mart. RV mattresses are sometimes not standard size and the foam ones can be cut to the proper size with an electric knife.

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  14. the good the bad and the ugly..all rolled into one!..what a fine post!!!

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  15. What a thoughtful post! Being in a fifth wheel makes me happy. John has been talking motorhome for a long time but I can't wrap my mind around the idea. I wonder why people choose motorhomes so often over fifth wheels?

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  16. After reading your list, I checked out a/c vents and found out we only have two in the bedroom as well. Ours seems to work fine though and we're plenty cool.

    Agree on the dresser drawers..ours look the same. Hate them!

    We replaced our mattress with one from bedinabox.com. It's the most comfortable mattress we've ever had. We had a difficult time finding a good mattress after we reluctantly gave up the water bed. Our bedinabox mattress is their 11 inch thick rv queen mattress. It's SO comfy!

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  17. I agree with Mary about the ladder. My Winnie is a gas pusher and has the same two piece ladder since the engine is in the back. It's a real pain to get the bottom half off and on for a short person if you are parked where the site drops off in the back. (which seems to happen a lot to me)

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  18. Interesting list. I also thought the two piece ladder on the diesel pusher was so you can open the engine hatch. However I see yours opens with the ladder on. So you have to wonder if it's just a habit to make the ladder that way. :-)

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  19. I agree with most of your list - although we love the sleep # bed but we have the memory foam topper. I use the tow bar to climb on because I am too lazy to dig out the bottom of the ladder. The store less compartments are our biggest complaint. We are having to carry too much in our toad.

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