Steep Driving

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jozee

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I took a daytrip on a harrowing drive to the mountains east of San Diego for a festival at Lake Woolford (sp?).  This is only my second trip in my 32' class A (998 Allegro).  After spending about five hours at the lake (and many folks using my restroom) two things happened on the return.  1: I had some really nasty smells (coming down the mountain) from the black tank.  In addition to the very stressfull hair pin turns at heart stopping heights, I had this horrible smell, and began to think something might be horribly wrong with my plumbing.  The black tank was about half full.  The smell went away after we leveled and got on the freeway.  Is this normal?
2:  I definitely smelled burning something (maybe brakes) shortly after we started our descent.  I was careful to use my gears to slow down, but had to stay on the brakes (on and off) for about 7 miles of very steep terrain. By the time we leveled out, I was thinking that I might have something smoldering  in the coach, but it went away after about two miles of level driving.  Is this normal?

Any tips on driving mountain roads will be very helpful, even if they don't specifically pertain to my questions.


 

Jim Dick

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Jozee,

When driving in the mountains a rule of thumb is to use the same gear going down that you had to use climbing the mountain. Sometimes you might have to gear down even more. Be sure your speed is reasonable as you start down.

Not sure what might have caused the smell from your black tank. It does happen occasionally. The burnt smell is not normal unless you really used the brakes a lot. If it was really bad you might want to have them checked to be sure all is OK. Since it went away after you got to the bottom of the mountain it sounds like brakes.
 

Woody

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Since this was only the second trip you have taken in your coach it is possible that the brakes were new when you bought it. This happened to me when I bought my used coach a few years ago. I had to drive it over 200 miles home and several times after getting on the brakes a little hard I pulled into a rest area and smelled the burnt smell. When I had the coach checked out after I got home the mechanic explained the pads were new and that probably accounted for the smell.
One thing all new drivers I believe do at first is underestimate the weight of their coach going down a steep grade. Start out at the top at a slow speed and use the gears to keep the speed down.

Woody
 

Jeff

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We expeprienced a burnt oil smell after heavy braking and discovered a leaking rear axle seal. Grease seeps into brake linings and burns under heavy braking.

If your coach sat for awhile it may have cleared up but if not you can see eveidence of the leakage on the inside wheel.
 

John From Detroit

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I remember a song where the singer is a truck driver, says "I started pumping up the brakes and saw them go in a big puff of smoke"

One of the rules of braking your way down a mountain is once you apply the brakes,  Do not "pump" them but keep a stead pressure till you don't need them any more  The reason is simple, you let air in there they can burn.

Another is avoid Cottonwood Canyon rd. (You described it nicely)  What road were you on.

If you are really worried, have your brakes inspected...  As for my trip down the above named road to be avoided, Brakes did just fine, no problems there,  I did have some "hot brake" smells espically from the towed's rear brakes but nothing to get excited about,  I'm going to back off on the towed brakes a bit
 

Bob Maxwell

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Jozee,

Sometimes when we've been parked in a MH we forget to put enough water into the bathroom sink before we leave to fill the p-trap below the sink. It will block all gasses that have access to the drain line from the sink and gray water can even get rancid. If you have a black water tank with a cut over above the tan to the toilet and even the shower, the p tram with water helps. Also a rubber 5' diameter stopper over the shower drain was something we used. The combination stopped the aromas for us.
 

Ned

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John In Detroit said:
One of the rules of braking your way down a mountain is once you apply the brakes,  Do not "pump" them but keep a stead pressure till you don't need them any more  The reason is simple, you let air in there they can burn.

Nonsense, pumping is the accepted procedure to avoid burning up the brakes.  Constant pressure will almost certainly overheat the linings or pads and you will lose ALL braking action.  Pumping allows the brakes to cool down some between applications.
 

Jeff

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Ned:

All the wisdom I've gotton is to use smooth, constant braking down to desired speed and then get off brakes to allow them to cool down until next application. (No pumping OR constant riding)
 

Ned

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That's slow pumping.  Apply, release, cool.  A prolonged application of the brakes WILL heat them up.
 

Carl L

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Since none of the motorhomers here mentioned the following, an old trailer trash would mention them:

1.? Are you driving a diesel unit?? ?If so, it should have an exhaust brake on it (aka jake brake).

2.? If you are driving a gasoline unit, or a diesel with an exhaust brake, go down the grade in 1st gear!? The engine will make a lot of noise and you will rev up the rpms.? However, if you keep things around 3000-4000rpm on the tachometer, all will be just fine and you will not use the brakes as much.? ?If things flatten out you can shift up to 2nd, and then 3rd.

3.? Why are you on such a miserable road?? There is a way to avoid miserable roads.? ?The Mountain Directory lists all the really miserable road stretches in the west.? No RV driver should be without a copy and should read it prior to starting out.? ?They are found at Camping Worlds and online at www.mountaindirectory.com.  Click on the foregoing and see what I mean.

 

Ron

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If you allow the diesel to RPMs up to 3000 you could be in for trouble.  Ours never exceeds 2400.  Also a jake brake is not the same as an exhaust brake.  A jake brake the valve timing is altered to turn the engine into a compressor to give braking an exhaust brake has a flapper valve in the exhaust to restrict exhaust flow.  Not all diesels come equipped with some type of engine braking.  It is important to know the equipment you are operating and its capabilities.


 

Carl L

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Ron said:
If you allow the diesel to RPMs up to 3000 you could be in for trouble.? Ours never exceeds 2400.? Also a jake brake is not the same as an exhaust brake.? A jake brake the valve timing is altered to turn the engine into a compressor to give braking an exhaust brake has a flapper valve in the exhaust to restrict exhaust flow.? Not all diesels come equipped with some type of engine braking.? It is important to know the equipment you are operating and its capabilities.

I bow to your superior knowledge in things diesel.? ?However, I am surprised that I was the one to bring the subject up.? ????
 

Tom

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Carl,

FWIW fuel to my Cummins ISC engine gets shut off above 2400 RPM. So then it's effectively freewheeling and there's no engine braking effect anyway.
 

Ron

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I don't recall it being mentioned whether the rig is gas or diesel.? I think replies were addressing procedures that are applicable to both.? I am glad you did bring it up since it is a very important aspect since diesels do not have the same engine braking action as gas engines unless equipped with an exhaust or engine (jake) brake. The reason for this is in a gas engine whether carb or injected there is a butterfly valve to regulate air flow.? When you let off the accelerator the butterfly valve closes and the engine pulls a vacuum against the air restriction cause by the butterfly valve.? A diesel engine the fuel air mixture occurs in the cylinder and there is no butterfly valve to control airflow through the engine.? Each cylinder has the same amount of air volume whether power is being generated or not. No air restriction at all.? Basically very little drag or reduction in speed when the accelerator is released.? An exhaust brake simply places a restriction in the airflow so the engine has to work against this airflow just as the gas engine has to work against the inlet air restriction when the accelerator is released.? A engine or jake brake simply changes valve timing to cause some or all of the cylinders to become like a compressor thus giving the braking power.
 

jozee

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Carl Lundquist said:
Since none of the motorhomers here mentioned the following, an old trailer trash would mention them:

1.  Are you driving a diesel unit?  If so, it should have an exhaust brake on it (aka jake brake).

2.  If you are driving a gasoline unit, or a diesel with an exhaust brake, go down the grade in 1st gear!  The engine will make a lot of noise and you will rev up the rpms.  However, if you keep things around 3000-4000rpm on the tachometer, all will be just fine and you will not use the brakes as much.  If things flatten out you can shift up to 2nd, and then 3rd.

3.  Why are you on such a miserable road?  There is a way to avoid miserable roads.  The Mountain Directory lists all the really miserable road stretches in the west.  No RV driver should be without a copy and should read it prior to starting out.  They are found at Camping Worlds and online at www.mountaindirectory.com.  Click on the foregoing and see what I mean.

1.  I am in a gas rig, and don't have an exhaust brake.

2.  I think that I was going down in 2nd gear.  I was afraid of the noise in first.  I like Jim's suggestions to use the same gears going down as going up.  I was in 1st alot on the climb.  I only have eight cylinders in my Chevy engine, so it was a long slow haul.

3.  I was talked into going up there by some non-RVing friends who said that they had traveled the roads, and that there was only "a mile or two" of switch backs. I will never travel unfamiliar roads again.  Although it was a beautiful sunny Sunday, I didn't see a single other RVer once I started my climb on the back road (which probably only took me to about 3000 feet or so, but on two lanes with tight turns, low guard rails, and rocky cliffs trying to scrape me on the way up, and huge drops off my right side on the way down).  I did see a bunch of four wheelers lined up in my rear view mirror that probably wondered what the heck I was doing up there.  And there was a trailer park at the end of my trip, so somebody has hauled some park models and mobile homes up there (probably with a guide and chase truck).  Thanks for the tip on mountain directory.  I will always use it for future trips.
 

Carl L

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jozee said:
1.? I am in a gas rig, and don't have an exhaust brake.

2.? I think that I was going down in 2nd gear.? I was afraid of the noise in first.? I like Jim's suggestions to use the same gears going down as going up.? I was in 1st alot on the climb.? I only have eight cylinders in my Chevy engine, so it was a long slow haul.

3.? I was talked into going up there by some non-RVing friends who said that they had traveled the roads, and that there was only "a mile or two" of switch backs. I will never travel unfamiliar roads again.? Although it was a beautiful sunny Sunday, I didn't see a single other RVer once I started my climb on the back road (which probably only took me to about 3000 feet or so, but on two lanes with tight turns, low guard rails, and rocky cliffs trying to scrape me on the way up, and huge drops off my right side on the way down).? I did see a bunch of four wheelers lined up in my rear view mirror that probably wondered what the heck I was doing up there.? And there was a trailer park at the end of my trip, so somebody has hauled some park models and mobile homes up there (probably with a guide and chase truck).? Thanks for the tip on mountain directory.? I will always use it for future trips.

1.  OK, we are both in the gasoline world here and can forget all that diesel jazz.  ;D

2.  1st is a noisy gear.  You get a lot of engine noise and a lot of gear box whiining.  However, 1st works.  Just keep an eye half cocked to the tachometer and touch your brakes to keep the rpms in a reasonable range --- probably somewhere in the 3000s depending on your engine.    Driving down in the same gear as going up is a good rule of thumb which works only if you have driven up the grade previously.  Treat all grades guilty until proven otherwise and go a bit lower than the start looks like.  If you have to shift up or down, apply the brakes as you shift.  When you go up a hill do not lug your engine with too high a gear, downshift before lugging begins.  Most automatic trannies will downshift if you stomp on the accelerator.  Stomp, down shift and go ahead in the lower gear.

3.  Never trust the judgement of non-RVing types in evaluating a road.  The mountain directory is like gold if you use it rightly.

Anyway relax.  If you have an RV you have bought a pass to life in the slow lanes, at least in the hills.  I have a 23 foot TT and a light truck with a Ford 5.0L V-8, the immortal short block Ford.    For one example, I take Siskyou Pass on I-5 at the Oregon border in 1st gear doing 30-35 mph in the far right lane.  I notice while there in that lane there are darn few Class A land yachts and big bruisers pulling 5th wheels that pass me.  Make that darn few none ackchewally.  ;D
 

jozee

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San Diego
Thanks everyone for the sage advice.  I love having a crew of experts here to lean on.  You guys probably have no idea how important you are to us newbies, but you are.

I do pump my breaks, probably holding down for three or four seconds to slow the rig down and then up for three or four seconds while gliding.  When I was in a hair pin turn, I slowed the rig down to about ten miles an hour (maybe less!).  That took a little longer (and a little stronger) pressure than three or four seconds at some point.  The only time that I ever gave the rig gas on the whole descent was coming out of those turns.  There were just no level spots on the way down to give my poor brakes a break.

The reason this is so important to me is because I am going to the Colorado River (near Parker) next Sunday for a few days, and I was thinking that I would take the 8 east out of San Diego, which climbs to about 5000 feet, and has some twisty turns (not as bad as the ones that I just experienced) and some long descents with out a leveling off period.  It is a four lane road all the way, which I know that I can handle (now!), but the descent has me intimidated.

I know that if you have been to Quartzite, that you may know this route.  Since we are still in the "steep driving" string, I will ask this question here...

Do you think that I should take the 8 east to the AZ 95 out of Yuma, and cut north to Parker?

Or, do you think that to avoid the climb on the 8, I should take 15 (215) north to the 10 east through congested Riverside and Palm Springs?  This is the route given by the resort.  They suggest that I get off the 10 east freeway and cut north on 177 at Desert Center, that turns into 62 where my campground is.  I don't know 177.  Looks like I could stay on the 10 and cut north on California 95 out of Blythe (and then take 62), which looks like a bigger road.

On the way back we will definitely go through Quartzite, even though it is out of the way.  My son loves the rock shops with the fossils.

I think that I will go to mountain directory (maybe it has dessert roads also) to check out the 177.  Also, I think that Woody is right.  The brake shoes, I was told, are new.  They could be getting broken in.  Just in case, I will check for the axle seal leak as Jeff suggested, to make sure there are no leaks.  I will just get under the rig and look.  Should be pretty obvious.

If you are familiar with these routes (I have made the San Diego to Lake Havasu trip many times in a car, but usually go through Glamis on the 78, which is out of the question), please let me know what you think is best.
 

jozee

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San Diego
Carl Lundquist said:
3.  Never trust the judgement of non-RVing types in evaluating a road. 
Thanks, Carl!
I am putting your quote down in my log book, on my check list, and as a daily reminder on my outlook calendar.  Wish I had talked to you before I took the trip.  But boy, I sure did come to find that "whatever doesn't kill you only makes you stronger".  I feel like I got a ton of experience in one scary day trip.

jozee
 

Jim Dick

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Hi Jozee,

Never, never trust a non RVer when it comes to which roads to travel! The best place to ask the question is right here. Many have been on those roads and will be able to give you first hand advice from an RVer's perspective.

Sounds like you did very well in spite of being new to the RV. Another lesson learned! :)
 

John From Detroit

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Ned said:
Nonsense, pumping is the accepted procedure to avoid burning up the brakes.  Constant pressure will almost certainly overheat the linings or pads and you will lose ALL braking action.  Pumping allows the brakes to cool down some between applications.

I suspect we are using the same word to mean different things... Pumping is briefly applying, then releasing than immedeatly reapplying over and over.

Smooth constant pressure till you slow down and get to the bottom of the hill is what I was taught by professionals
Then Get completly off and, as you noted, let them cool down
 
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