Went from a 36 foot DP to a 23 foot CoachHouse on a Ford E 450 chassis. Mileage isn't all that much better but much easier to drive, wash, etc. Pretty much like driving a big car now - - and like you, it is just me and my pooch.
I removed the rear leaf springs on my class C and installed a true air bag suspension made by Reyco Granning. About three grand worth of parts, and a couple weeks of pretty hard work (for an old guy).
System comes with ride height valves, compressor, etc. Biggest challenge is to make sure you are buying something that will fit without having to move tanks, gensets etc.
I have a complete writeup on the process I went through - - If you'd like a copy, contact me at email@example.com - - While my system is on a class C, the excercise is gonna be about the same thing on a class A - - just bigger parts and such.
No question but what it made a big difference in the ride quality.
On the 101 to I-5 question. Hiway 20 is usually pretty good. It crosses just above Clear Lake.
299 from Arcata to Redding can be pretty steep and winding. So can 199 from just South of the Cal/Ore border to Grants Pass OR.
Both those roads can be a little white knuckled for the more cautious types among us - - but certainly passable.
I replaced the entire rear leaf suspension on my 23 foot CoachHouse with a true air suspension made by Reyco Granning. I realize this was on a E450 van chassis and not a class A, but the excercise is just about the same in any case. Quite a project and would suggest that on most any chassis, the problem is space and clearance so you don't end up having to move a waste tank, gas tank or genset.
I have the whole procedure written up on a lengthy pdf if anyone is interested.
For Gjac - - I THINK but am not positive, that the last J71 systems were installed around 2006 or so. I've never seen any sort of timetable on this subject, but I do know that some coach builders may sit on a chassis for more than a year before it goes out the door as a new motorhome.
I'd suggest that DRIVER over on the IRV2 forum might have the most accurate answer to that question.
Perhaps this is a good opportunity to post a "State of AutoPark" message. This is OUR take on the history - - Nothing official.
The "old ones," made from about 89 thru about mid 94: These are what we call the Version I AutoPark, and they run off of the power steering pump pressure. Amazingly, many are still out there ticking, but we get few requests for help on them. So far, parts and repairs are still going on with no major issues that we've heard about.
The Version II: Made from about mid 94 up to around mid 98. This is the system with a separate pump and reservoir. Up until sometime in 2001, the pump was still under the coach, but then got moved up under the utility hood at the front - - driver's side of the radiator. Version II got morphed around mid 98 and they removed (sadly) the floor pedal that allowed one to manually set or release the parking brake. They also made some significant circuit changes at that time.
We call the post 98 AutoParks "Version III." From a repair standpoint, they differ from the Version II by the lack of the foot pedal, and a different electronic circuit and some different switching - - including the addition of a yellow push-pull switch on the dashboard.
The Versions II and III comprise what is called the J71 AutoPark family. They are the ones that are most famous for locking up, failure with the Rotten Green Switch, etc.
The J72 AutoPark system, is a totally different bird. It exists in far fewer numbers, is made by Carlisle, and at present there is a fair amount of turmoil surrounding parts and service for this unit. We do not provide any measureable support for the J72 at the AutoPark Library.
We believe that statistically, the huge share of the AutoPark problems occur with the J71 - - and this is the focus of interest at the AutoPark Library. We DO continue to provide support for the earlier "all hydraulic" Version I units however.
We feel that we've seen most of the maladies with the J71, and will continue in our belief that coach owners, with some help and information, can do the huge majority of needed repairs. This assumes that one has the basic mechanical skills of Do-It-Yourself shade tree home fixers. In most cases, the tools needed are also pretty common.
In addition to the typical repairs, we have also come up with some "Workarounds," that enhance operation,service or use of the J71. These include such things as:
1. The Genie Lamp accessory - - Which gives you additional dashboard information on what your AutoPark is doing. This accessory can be built and installed by most coach owners - - about twenty bucks worth of parts from Radio Shack.
2. Mechanical cagers - - These allow you to release a locked up J71 by turning a bolt - - Instead of pulling clevis pins or cutting cables.
3. Electric pump motor conversions - - These allow you to convert the pump motor to one with thermal protection. An issue with the MTE pumps that have been used instead of the more prevalent Parker pump.
4. Hex adapters made of steel in place of the soft (easily to strip threads) aluminum ones that hold the RGS.
Our latest activities may speak most directly to the OP's question about "What else is lurking out there?" In addition to all the troubleshooting and repairs we've become so familiar with on the J71, we've lately seen a new problem that until the last year or so, has been rarely heard of - - LEAKING HYDRAULIC ACTUATORS. This is a new "ball game" for AutoPark owners, and involves failure of the hydraulic seal in the actuator cylinder. Historically, most of the places you might take your RV for service, have claimed these cannot be repaired and require total replacement of the actuator - - often at the expense of 1200 bucks or more.
Be of stout heart and good cheer, however. Again, this is an area where most users can participate in the repair options and save himself almost all of the really big dollars. It is however, what we are firmly convinced is an AGE RELATED malfunction, so we're pretty confident that all J71 owners will be faced with this fixem job at some point.
In conclusion - - We expect that all J71 systems will at sometime, need some repairs. Just the nature of the beast, but no different than most of the other systems on your RV. The good news is, that the owners can in almost every case, participate in the process and save probably ninety percent of what they would otherwise have to lay out.
The AutoPark Library will be glad to share information on any of the above issues. In almost every case, we can help you step by step through the troubleshooting and repair of your system.
We can be easily reached by contacting - - firstname.lastname@example.org
Be advised that most procedures involve data sheets and file sizes that are waaayy too large to allow "online fixes" within this, or other forums. Regular email works the best - - sometimes supplemented by phone calls.
Feel free to contact us at the above email address with any comments or questions.
Wish I had known of the possibility of adapting Koni FSD shocks to the E-450. Probably would have tried that.
I'll have to go looking to see which ones I DID buy, but I'm pretty sure they were the only Koni's available for the 450. They were pretty pricey by the time they got revalved. My memory says it was like 165 bucks apiece to send them back to Koni for the revalve.
The Reyco Granning kit was very well thought out and complete. The BIG problem is getting all those goodies tucked into the small available space. It was a lot of work as it was and would have been too much if I'd have had to move a tank or genset.
In response to pnichols question about ride and handling of the Reyco Granning rear suspension conversion:
Handling was great before the conversion and has remained so. The ride is much improved. The OEM suspension was way too stiff for the weight of the small CoachHouse. After installation of the Reyco unit, I added Koni shocks - - then sent them back for re-valving to soften them up some - - spendy.
The installation was a big project for me, but I'm glad I did it myself. There are too many places where I think a service shop might tend to cut corners on this project. Doing it right is very time consuming, but worth the effort in my opinion.
I installed the Reyco Granning system on my 23 foot CoachHouse - - E450 chassis.
I did an extensive writeup on the project describing the installation in detail.
Anyone interested can request a copy - - email@example.com
I have a 2001 CoachHouse with the V 10. After reading a LOT of the histories that are published online, I chose to proactively install steel thread inserts on all ten cylinders. And yes, there are only about three threads in each hole - - a definite shortfall.
I used the TimeSert system for my job - - again after some research. There are several options here but if you're gonna do something this labor intensive, you might as well use the best kit.
Yes - - a lot of people have never blown a plug. But, there is a guy in California that has built a full time business around installing these inserts. I believe most of the problems are with the earlier engines, and at some point they pretty much cured this problem.
I have a pretty extensive data sheet written up on the replacement procedure I did. If you'd like a copy or more info, contact me at:
Contact us at the AutoPark Library. We can help you diagnose and fix your problem. About 90 percent of the AutoPark malfunctions can be fixed by the owner if he/she is OK with some pretty straightforward do-it-yourself mechanical stuff.
Roger - - aka oldusedbear