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Post Info TOPIC: I just bit the bullet and bought my first FT RV.


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I just bit the bullet and bought my first FT RV.


I just purchased this new to me 1999 National RV Tropi-Cal to full time in when I retire. Though an older RV, it only has 28K miles and looks pretty good inside, with only one owner and full maintenance records. I got a pretty good deal on it considering its condition. The carpet is a little faded but we plan on pulling it out and replacing it with a linoleum or peel and stick tiles matching the kitchen floor. We were looking for a tag axle model as we wanted one with sufficient carrying capacity for FT use. Plus we plan on adding a big, heavy, 48v solar system with about 2000 watts of solar and 8 GC-2 batteries (replacing the current 2, GC-2s with 8 fresh ones) in a couple years. I plan on racking it on the rear half of the roof (6, Sun 330-345 watt panels will only take up 15' 4" inches of roof length and 82" width so I'll have plenty of room if I rack them above all the roof protrusions). I will be removing the rear AC unit to add a 48v DC mini-split on the back and mounting the inside air handler by the back bedroom wall, blowing down the hall, for off grid air conditioning without running the generator all the time. 

I got it from PPL in Houston. They still have the unit listed on their website (though as sold) - To Me! lol10 dancingsmile

Here's a link if anyone is interested in seeing the interior.
https://www.pplmotorhomes.com/used-rvs-for-sale/class-a/1999-national-rv-tropi-cal_rv-38651

I got my baptism by fire coming back from Houston with it, as it has been a long time since I drove something this big. The traffic was horrible. I-10E was closed forcing me to detour onto I-10W toward San Antonio. Some car drivers are nice while other Houstonians cut you off and brake hard in front to squeeze their way in line. I'm happy it's got good brakes. Big rigs passing nearly blew me off the road, and it was especially dicy through the road construction zones where there's only a few inches of clearance on this wide bodied A. I have been reading about handling fixes to solve the big rig passing problem. I'll start with the "cheap handling fix" moving the attachment point of the front sway bar to the back position.

I've also decided to get a rear trackbar like this:https://www.ultrarvproducts.com/UltraTrac-Trac-Bars/UTF53V10R-Rear-Ultratrac-Trac-Bar-Ford-F53-20-22k-GVW-Chassis

I need to check the tire air pressure too, as I heard that too little air pressure and it will get a little squirrely. Several posters have recommend starting at 90 lbs and working your way down a little at a time until it feels good. If that doesn't do it I'll get a bigger sway bar and one of these brackets https://www.ultrarvproducts.com/F119K2.5-Safe-T-Plus-Mounting-Bracket-Kit that's supposed to help improve steering control.

I also found a recall that hasn't been done, so I'll have to schedule a visit with the local Ford dealer to have the cruise control cable replaced as there is a potential fire hazard with the original one. I need to check ansd see if the fridge recall has been done too, but I suspect it has as the original owner replaced the fridge board recently. The owner had meticulous record keeping, saving every scrap of paper, manual, receipt, work order, etc. in an organized expandable folder. I was just going through all the paperwork, manuals, etc. a little while ago and saw the original bill of sale with all the upgrades they added, such as 50 amp service, up from the wimpy 30 amp with ems, dual pane windows, ice maker, table and chairs vs dinette, slide topper and awnings, heat pumps vs regular ACs, etc.. It looks like I got a better deal than I thought as all warranty repairs, service, etc has been documented. It's obviously been garage kept as it is even super clean under the slide, with virtually no rust anywhere.

It's about time I got lucky for a change, as there's only so much you can learn from a carfax report. I was going to go the pick-up truck and trailer route, till the motor in my 6.4 Ford diesel died and they wanted as much to install a new one as this entire 35ft class A cost me.

I plan on pulling my little yellow Cobalt, that served me so well over the years, as a toad. I just put a new 2.4l engine in the Cobalt (after about 400k miles on the old one). Next up is a new transmission in my car, a base plate and tow bars and I'll be set. The only thing I still need to do is put my little Aliner up for sale. I guess I'll list on Craigslist unless anyone has any better ideas? 

Chip



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1999 National Tropical Class A gasser

2.4l Chevy Cobalt SS with 400k miles and counting. It will be my FT toad when I retire.



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Welcome! Please post your further adventures.

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Winnebago TT 2101DS & Tahoe LTZ, 300 watts WindyNation solar-parallel w/MPPT, 2 Trojan T-125s. TALL flag pole. Prefer USFS, COE, BLM, USF&WS, NPS, TVA, state/county campgrounds. 14 year Army vet-11B40 then 11A - old MOS 1542 & 1560.



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Looks like a sweet rig. Due to its age I would check on all of the rubber in the engine compartment, belts, hoses etc. also any critical coach seals. I would also have the tires set to the proper inflation, not what "feels" right. There are other threads here having to do with correct tire pressure, but the long and short of it is you need to know the load (weight) on each tire and set the pressures accordingly. The tire manufacturer should be able to supply this information. Maybe the dealer can weigh it for you. The sway bars and track bar (panhard bar) also should help the handling and not affect the ride. As LarryW21 said keep us posted and above all have some fun!

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Congrat's.....clean looking rig. Does it have the V-10 Gas? Or the Cummins Diesel?

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Congrats on your RV purchase. I've watched PPL's listings for some time. How were they to deal with?

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Thanks for the replies folks!

I just ordered a portable air compressor online to adjust my tire pressures. I wasn't aware that each wheel should carry a different pressure based upon the weight of that wheel. I plan on becoming an Escapee and plan on using their weighing service when I get her loaded. National says 82 psi for the unloaded weight of each tire, so I'll probably set the pressure to about 85lbs till I get each wheel accurately weighed. I've got some time, as I won't retire till the first of the year. I still have a lot of work to do in the meantime, divesting myself of a lifetime of possessions so I can hit the road. The hardest thing to let go of will be the bulk of my tools, deciding what I might have a real need for in the future.

This rig has the Ford V-10 gas engine. I wanted to avoid a diesel engine after my last bad experience with a Ford diesel. I could probably replace 3 of these engines for the cost of one diesel. The power isn't bad on flat land, but I'm sure I'll be crawling through the mountains with it - but that's ok, as I'll be fulltiming with all the time in the world, not on vacation with a tight schedule to meet. I'll do the best I can and let the traffic just go around. It burned a little less than half of its 75 gallon tank of gas coming back from Houston (almost 400 miles with the detour and through heavy traffic), which puts it in the 9-10 mpg gallon range without careful measurements or pulling a toad. That's a lot better than I expected, even though the owner said he got around 10 mpg with it. Climbing hills and pulling a lightweight toad I expect to get in the 7.5-8 mpg range. Time will tell.

PPL has some nice rigs, but in the price range I was looking at there was a lot of junk on the lot, with evidence of water leaks and in need of lots of repairs. They certainly have a wide range of RVs to choose from. I had to make trip a couple weeks prior, but the two units I was interested in were in poor shape and not suitable for our needs. I finally found a decent one and made the owner an offer which he accepted. Yay! I sent them a $500 deposit to hold it for me, as requested, till I got there. All of their RVs are on consignment, and the salespeople aren't too knowledgeable about the specifics of each rig, except for what they have in their files from the owner.

One thing I like is that they let you check out their inventory by yourself without some salesman breathing down your neck, pressuring you to buy. When you have identified a couple RVs that interest you, you go to the front desk and they will get a salesman do a quick tour of the RV with you and a test drive if not a towable unit. If you want them to go through each system to show you how it works, such as the slide, fridge, jacks, etc you must pay them $390. I chose not to do so, as I was a poor broke tramp, and anyway, if something doesn't work as expected, say you can't get the slide out, then the owner may or may not decide to pay to fix it. You can then cancel the sale and get your deposit back. If they do decide to have it fixed you must schedule the repairs, necessitating another trip to Houston (taking another day off work, the long drive, etc.) Instead I decided to save this money (as I work a lot and didn't really have time for another trip), checking things out as best I could, deciding to do any necessary repairs myself. So far I've needed to replace one fuse, a headlight and taillight bulb, a couple broken step wires, clean the lens of the back-up camera and add some ATF to the jacks - all minor, inexpensive repairs/maintenance. After you get it home there is no warranty whatsoever even if you pay the extra $390 for the inspection. So there's pros and cons in dealing with PPL. It's a lot like dealing with an individual seller but without a lot of the emotional stress - a more clinical experience. Caveat emptor.

Chip



-- Edited by Sushidog on Wednesday 9th of May 2018 07:19:07 AM

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1999 National Tropical Class A gasser

2.4l Chevy Cobalt SS with 400k miles and counting. It will be my FT toad when I retire.



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Thanks for the info on the PPL buying experience. Being in Kansas, I'd have an issue making several trips to Texas. But they do have a lot of inventory, and many seem to be at reasonable prices. I guess it's like anywhere, buyer beware.


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Sushidog wrote:

Thanks for the replies folks!

I just ordered a portable air compressor online to adjust my tire pressures. I wasn't aware that each wheel should carry a different pressure based upon the weight of that wheel. I plan on becoming an Escapee and plan on using their weighing service when I get her loaded. National says 82 psi for the unloaded weight of each tire, so I'll probably set the pressure to about 85lbs till I get each wheel accurately weighed. I've got some time, as I won't retire till the first of the year. I still have a lot of work to do in the meantime, divesting myself of a lifetime of possessions so I can hit the road. The hardest thing to let go of will be the bulk of my tools, deciding what I might have a real need for in the future.

Chip



-- Edited by Sushidog on Wednesday 9th of May 2018 07:19:07 AM


 Thought I would provide you some insight on tire pressure and setting it to the correct pressure. First any time you check pressure it needs to be checked cold. Cold in tire terms means that the temp inside the tire is at outside ambient temperature. Second it should be checked with a gauge that has been checked against a master gauge. (You would be surprised at the number of gauges right out of the box are incorrect) Most reputable tire shops have a master gauge to check yours against. If the shop doesn’t have one my opinion is to run. 

Now when it comes to checking and setting the pressures, you need to know the weight of the wheel position- that would be how you would typically travel. Once you have the weights you can then set the pressure using a RMA inflation chart which is readily available. (While I never recommend running full pressure, until you get it weighed and for safety I would recommend inflating the tires to thier maximum sidewall pressure). Here is the difference in what you stated, if as an example your LR axle would call for an inflation of 90 PSI, but the RR only needs 85 PSI you would inflate the rear tires at the inflation that the heaviest wheel position calls for. Same on the front tires too. 

Best of luck with your new rig. 



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Cool, thanks for the advise Rickl!

My tire sidewall says maximum load is at 110 psi (they are G rated). The tire pressure sticker in the motorhome say 85 psi each recommended, though the manual (I guess more generic covering several models says 82 psi). That's a huge range. I think I'll be safe at 90 psi till I have it weighed. According to the RMA chart 90 psi in each tire will support 26,780 total lbs - well over the chassis's 20,500lb GVWR, (it only weighs 17,010lbs unloaded according to the sticker) assuming they are loaded evenly - a big assumption, but I have to start somewhere. At 85 psi they will carry 25,720 lbs if loaded evenly, so it appears I'll be "safe" regardless which initial pressure I start at, even if unevenly loaded by quite a bit. I think my best bet will be to shift the load somewhat, if practical, to more even out the load carried by each tire. If weighed with full gas water and propane (such as when boondocking) the weight will change quite a bit from when traveling with near depleted tanks. It will be essential to know the exact fully laden weight though, so I don't overload a wheel or axle when I add a large, heavy solar system in a couple years. Knowing each wheel weight to help me decide where I'll place my 8 GC-2 batteries and big rack of panels, as I'm pretty much stuck where I need to mount the mini-split unit - on the very rear of the MH.

I just ordered an air compressor online for emergency inflations on the road. I know good compressors are pricey, but this one is a cheap chinese unit that looks like it will work for occasional, light use. www.ebay.com/itm/152686286541

Chip


__________________

1999 National Tropical Class A gasser

2.4l Chevy Cobalt SS with 400k miles and counting. It will be my FT toad when I retire.

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