Newbie bought a 1982 Cruise Air

The friendliest place on the web for anyone with an RV or an interest in RVing!
If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.

Mz Chaos

Oct 22, 2012
This is my first motorhome.

I always thought of myself as a fairly intelligent individual... until now.  I am entirely out of my element.

It didn't come with an instruction manual and of course there were questions I should have asked the previous owner, but didn't know I needed to ask them until after I bought it and got it home.

That's where you kind folks come in... I hope.

1.)  I would love to know the specs on this rig.  The fella I bought it from said it had a 100 gal fuel tank for the RV - an 80 gal fuel tank for the generator (really? 80 gals????), an 80 gal fresh water tank and a 40 gal propane tank.  However, he also mentioned he had run it out of gas (runs ragged now... probably sucked up some stuff from the bottom of the tank and fouled the carburetor) and said he put some gas into it but when I went to fill it, it took only $85.00 to fill it while I was expecting more like $300.  He made it sound like he put just enough gas into it to get it home so now I am questioning the actual size of the tank.  Which now also makes me question the size of the other tanks.  And he forgot to mention the size of the grey water tank.  Google was no help.

2.)  I hate the layout and current furniture.  The hide-a-bed in there is the original (upholstery matches everything else).  In my opinion, hide-a-beds are torture devices and I'd love to replace it with a futon (which also allows for storage underneath).  I'd also like to take out the current table and chairs (which are across from the couch/hide-a-bed) and put in shelves for books and DVD's.  Now... do I have to worry about weight distribution?  The futon would weigh less than the hide-a-bed and the shelves with books and DVD's would weigh considerably more than the table and chairs.  The futon would be on the same side of the RV as the water tank... the shelves on the same side as the stove and refrigerator.  Seems like that would be a problem but before I start to redecorate/remodel I'd like to know before I do something really wrong.

3.)  I was shown the "black water" pipe but he had no hoses for it.  Is it going to be a pain in the butt to find one for an RV that old?

4.)  There is a separate battery for the generator.  He had a regular battery there... should I get a deep cycle and replace it or is that battery okay?  Does that battery work some sort of invertor?

5.)  And I am all kinds of confused on which appliances run off of electricity/battery/propane.  He did mention that the refrigerator runs off of propane but that I should switch it to electric while traveling as the pilot light tends to blow out during travel, but never mentioned the furnace (if that's what it's called in an RV) and the water heater.  I would think those would be propane/electric too but I want to be sure.

This is going to be my home for a year... or two... or more.  We (the RV and I) will be making our voyage together (from Ohio to Montana/Idaho/Washington area) this summer and I figured I'd best be prepared and ready before it becomes a last minute thing.

I appreciate your patience and whatever tidbits of advice you want to throw at me.  There's probably other "need to know" things that I don't even realize I need to know so feel free to educate me on anything you feel I need educating on.

1. I would not expect the rig to have a 100 gallon fuel tank. 60 to maybe 80 would be my guess for a gas engine.

2. Removing weight is the best but it seems what you want to do on the remodel would not make any dangerous weight difference.

3. All hoses have the bayonet type connector, you should have no problem finding a replacement hose.

4. I will leave that for the experts-not me.

5. Your furnace my have either a manual light or electronic ignition, your water heater maybe the same or be all electric. you may need to find your model numbers off your appliances  most manuals are located on the internet.

Good luck and have fun !!!!


5) The furnace, hot water heater, and fridge may work off propane - but they all require a 12v circuit for their control boards. The battery that starts the generator is the "house" battery, as opposed to the "chassis" battery for the engine.

From my limited experience, the fridge burner is pretty well protected from drafts while traveling (and might also have an automatic (DSI) ignition - so traveling with it running on propane shouldn't be an issue. Obviously at bridges, tunnels, and fuel stops, you want to make sure that it is off. The hot water heater pilot is more susceptible to blowing out during traveling. Not a particular safety issue, because it should have a thermocouple on it anyway that would prevent the burner valve from opening if the pilot went out. I don't know why you'd want to use the furnace while underway - instead just use the regular automotive heater.

If you intend on doing any boondocking, you'll want to make sure your house battery is in good health. Otherwise, your converter will supply all the 12v you'll need - from either shore power or the generator. You cannot simply remove the battery, because it acts as a filter and/or surge protector for the 12v system.

Congrats, and those of us who love RVing, think you are quite intelligent!  A few comments in addition to the good advice you already have:

100 gal would be quite unusual for this gas motor home.  60 to 75 would be typical.  And I doubt that there is even an extra tank for the generator, let along an 809 gal one.  It would normally draw off the engine tank but have a pickup that stops about 3/4 of the way down so you can;t drain the tank while boondocking and not be able to leave.

The black water hose is available at Wal*Mart and is cheap.  There are different grades (thicknesses) and most people feel spending a little more and getting a better hose is a good investment. 

Things that run off only electricity might be microwave, air conditioning, and wall receptacles.  12V is the lights and water pump and the ignition for the fridge but it still needs propane if you are traveling. Maybe the TV and entertainment center, depending on what style you have.  Seems like I have left some off both lists.  But that is a start.
It actually does have a separate gas tank for the generator.  He showed me all three places for fuel... RV, generator and the propane.  I thought that was neat.  I haven't located the gauge for that yet. 
Considering how off he was on the RV's gas tank, I'm betting the generator has maybe a 10 - 20 gal tank.  I thought the size of the RV tank plus the generator tank was suspicious.  My car is a 1979 Bonneville (she ain't so pretty anymore and she guzzles gas... but she's reliable) and I know how big that 20 gal tank is.  The thought that kept going through my mind was... "Well of course it has no under storage... with all these huge tanks under there, there could be no more room."  That was also followed by, "I am going to be sitting in a huge explosion waiting to happen." 
Although it was kept very clean, I have been itching to start scrubbing things down.  Probably a primitive urge to physically touch, familiarize myself and mark my territory.
I also can't wait to take her out for a weekend test run to see how (and if) things work. 

This is so new to me.  I have lived in travel trailers (but the water, gas and stuff was done by the flavor of the time), and I have driven school buses.  This is kind of like a hybrid of the two.  I know how one works... and I kinda know how the other works... but once you combine the two... it's a bit overwhelming at first isn't it? 

Thanks for all the help.  You folks make it seem so simple and easy. 

BTW... to add to the fun... I'll be towing my car on a 16' trailer.  26' of RV plus 16' of trailer.  That's gonna be another experience.  I can just see me chain smoking (now that I know I'm not riding in a bomb) all the way out west.
More people die from smoking than from RVs blowing up.

Sorry, couldn't resist. I quit 3 1/2 yrs ago.
Welcome to the RVForum and your new adventure!!

There are several things you really should check before starting out

  • The age of the tires; anything over 6 years old should be replaced even if they look fabulous.
  • The hitch is probably rated for no more than 3,000 lbs.  With a trailer and a car you could well be over that weight.  If so, you will need to replace the hitch with one that can handle the weights you will be pulling.
  • You will also need to calculate your total weight of both the fully loaded Cruise Air and the trailer with the car on it.  It is possible the weight could be more than your Cruise Air can tow.  Even if the numbers don't support your towing, be aware that lawyers are always looking for a way to make an accident your fault even if it isn't; being overweight on the numbers is one way of doing that.
  • I would buy all new batteries, i.e. the chassie and the house battery.
  • I would have all belts and hoses looked at/replaced.  You are talking about a rig that is over 30 years old.
  • Plug it into some electric supply and see if things turn on and let them run for a while.
  • I doubt you have an electric hot water heater; it is probably a manual light gas
  • The fridge is probably a 3 way:  electric, propane and 12 volt
We have several check list in our library of things to go through, which may help with figuring out what needs to be looked at and/or fixed.  We also have a file that explains not only how to read dates on tires; but how to calculate weights for pulling/towing.

I feel like I've over loaded you on suggestions; but as I mentioned before the rig is over 30 years old, things rust, break and wear out.  If the previous owner doesn't know how big the tanks are, I'll be he did little to no maintenance.  Also rigs that sit for long periods of time need much more "looking over" than those that are used regularly.
Again, Welcome
  Putting everything you said he said about the gas tank capacity together maybe I can put it another way.  I don't know about the true total capacity but we'll go with 100 gallons.  I think what he was trying to say was the tank holds 100 gallons total.  The engine and generator usually (not sure of your rig) but usually share the same tank.  The pipe for the generator is put in "short".  This would give you 80 gallons for engine and generator and leave 20 for the engine.  This keeps you from depleting the fuel supply while running the generator.  Again i'm not sure of the true total but this is the usual setup.  Two gas tanks would be unusual and I suspect the other may be the fresh water fill.  Follow the lines to be sure before adding fuel.   
Another thing to think about is the rear frame. Every older coach I've owned had to have the frame reworked to be able to handle a car and trailer. I'm a drag racer and have pulled with several older coachs, both claxx c and class A. Before you start pulling with it make sure the frame can handle the weight, not pretty when the frame breaks behind the rear axle. Ask me how I know. Another thing to check is the brakes. i bought a 80 Itasca on a p30 about 8 years ago, coach only had 34000 miles on it. The pads on the front brakes came loose and locked up one wheel, lucky it was in my drive way.

I recomend taking many short trips, adding length each time as you build trust, before you set out across the country. An equlizer hitch and a brake controller is a must also. My present coach has 4 wheel disk, oh what difference it makes.  Good luck and be safe.
Now I feel like an idiot.

I assumed (and we all know what that does) that since my car, which was built for luxury, towed a U-Haul trailer (I had a hitch bolted to the bumper) from WA to OH, that something considerably larger should have no problem towing her.  I never really factored in the weight of the trailer as well.  I just figured something that large would handle it.  So glad that was brought to my attention.  There I'd be... driving along some remote highway (or worse - a BUSY highway)... listening to some tunes... and *CRASH!*... there goes the rear of the RV and who knows what damage to the trailer and my beloved car.

I have already checked the hoses, the fella gave me 4 tires.  The spare really needs replacing.  Not just the tire, but the rim as well.  There is definitely a rust experiment happening behind that cover.
It was used fairly regular, but not for camping.  I bought this rig from a foster family.  They used it for grocery shopping as it was the only thing big enough to haul the kids AND the groceries.  They have expanded their family even further and so bought a larger, newer RV.  They use them like huge vans.  He kept up on it mechanically as far as the driving needs (the starter has been recently replaced and is still under warranty), but I am pretty sure the camping parts need attention.
I do need the brakes looked at and have been in touch with a mechanic to give the whole thing a once over.  I had already intended replacing the points and condenser, distributor cap, spark plugs and wires, all fluids drained and changed, all filters drained and changed... stuff like that there.  I did the same thing to my car before setting out across the country and even bought all extra hoses and belts... cuz I have the crappiest luck and I could just see me breaking down out in the middle of nowhere.  I even had extra water jugs, antifreeze, trans fluid and oil... just in case.  I'm one of those, "I'd rather have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it types.
New batteries would be sensible too.  If nothing else, I can buy a new one and just put it in the trunk of my car.  That way if one dies, I have another, but like the cheapskate I am, I can use the old ones til they die.
It was plugged in when I went to see it and he turned on various lights and things so I know that at least the outlets and all interior lights work.
The 80 gals for the RV and 20 gals for the generator makes a lot more sense and does add up to that 100 gals.  His father-in-law was the previous owner and I imagine that he just heard wrong when he was told and passed that on to me.  I guess filling the propane tanks will give me a good idea of how big that tank actually is.  I will wait for warmer weather to check out the fresh water tank.  If there is a leak, I'd rather face that in weather a bit more friendly.
............, the fella gave me 4 tires.

Please check the manufacture codes.  Just because he gave you the tires does not mean they are new enough to be driven on.  Having a blow out on a rig can cause LOTS of damage to the rig, not just the tires....water tanks......fender skirts...lines, you get the idea.  Granted you can have a road hazard tire blow out at any point; but you can lessen your odds by quite a bit by having newer tires.

One thing you might want to consider is a road service provider.  Most of us recommend Coach Net road coverage.  Here is their website:  It is around a $100.00 +/-a year, but well worth it.  You can call them for technical questions, they will come to your location and if need be, will tow you to the nearest service provider without consideration to the amount of miles.

There I'd be... driving along some remote highway (or worse - a BUSY highway)... listening to some tunes... and *CRASH!*... there goes the rear of the RV and who knows what damage to the trailer and my beloved car.

Or it comes loose and hurts/kills someone else. 

You haven't mentioned what the engine is in the motorhome is but if it is a Chev 454 then your chassis is more than likely the GM/Chev P30 which has a 75 gallon fuel tank. (At least our 1983 did)

The generator battery should also be your house battery powering the  house systems of the RV so if you replace it see the battery discussions here on the Forum about appropriate choices.

Don't worry by the time you get everything working you will not be a newbie any longer. :D
Jeff said:
You haven't mentioned what the engine is in the motorhome is but if it is a Chev 454 then your chassis is more than likely the GM/Chev P30 which has a 75 gallon fuel tank. (At least our 1983 did)

The generator battery should also be your house battery powering the  house systems of the RV so if you replace it see the battery discussions here on the Forum about appropriate choices.

Don't worry by the time you get everything working you will not be a newbie any longer. :D
Aint that the truth. All I can afford is older units. But I don't mind working on um, making um my own. Got more time than money.
i have a 16 foot tandem trailer that weighs around 2000 lbs.  i dont know what a 79 bonneville weighs but they are quite large cars. i know a small car weighs around 2000 plus pounds. my 37 ft motor home looks like a bus but it is only rated for 5000 lbs towing because it has a frame extension at the rear that the hitch is attached to. even if your mh was rated to tow 5000 lbs it is 30 years old and rust can weaken steel over that long a period. i would have an experience shop look at the hitch and frame before attempting to tow something that heavy. also i might suggest changing the fuel filter if you think it has sucked up some dirt. good luck on your new mh
(1) Congratulations on your new toy. What engine and drive train do you have? I would bet you have 2-gas tanks probley 35-40 gal and one is considered the primary tank that your generator runs off. I use to run on the tank that is not running the generator so I had plenty of fuel for the generator if I needed it. The generator should be rigged so it won?t run under ? tank as a safety to prevent you from running totally out of gas.
(4) You need to do a little research you should have 1 12 volt bat to start the engine. You should have at least 2 12 volt batteries to run the coach some people use 2 6 volt gulf cart batteries weird to get 12 volts as they generally have more capacity (the house part) when you are not plugged in or on the generator.
Most of the outer things have been answered you haven?t gotten to the other fun things like how old are your tiers has there been any regular maintnce done.
Top Bottom