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RV Front End, Brakes, and Tires

It doesn't seem that long ago, but it's been 2 years and 25,000 miles since we visited Brazel's RV Performance in Centralia, WA for some suspension work.  They installed shocks, sway bars, and worked on all the brakes -- full story here.  That greatly improved our handling, but the RV continued to be a chore to drive in a straight line because of worn bell cranks.  This worsened as time went by, so in July 2007 we really needed to get some work done. 

I had planned to return to Brazel's for this, and maybe put our RV on their Dyno too for a performance assessment; however, with us a month behind schedule we decided to save the additional 600 miles round trip and have the work done at Henderson's Lineup in Grants Pass, Oregon.  The fact that gas is over $3.00 a gallon influenced my decision, since 600 miles would cost about $250 just in fuel alone.  Another factor was that Henderson's has the best reputation in the industry for suspension work, so I had high confidence they'd do as good a job as Brazel's. 

Near completion of the work, we're in the alignment bay

Brakes:  The pedal had felt odd the last couple of days, a little soft.  The RV stopped OK, so I wasn't too concerned.  Then, on the morning we were leaving Canyonville to return to Grants Pass the brake light came on.  I stopped, got out, and opened the master cylinder to check fluid level.  The master cylinder on this chassis is in a very inconvenient and odd place. Inside the driver side wheel well, behind the frame rail (next to the engine) with a small access area.  You have to jack it up to get to it.  I was surprised to find both sides of the master cylinder almost dry.  On every other vehicle I've owned checking brake fluid was a routine task each time the oil was changed, but not with the RV.   Two different mechanics had told me the fluid level didn't need to be checked because the capacity was very large.  They were wrong.  When the pads on all 4 disks wear down to about 3 mm the fluid level drops to a dangerous level.  So I thank God that the brake light came on in Canyonville, or I'd have found myself without brakes on the 7% grades between there and Grants Pass.  A very dangerous situation.      

The front brakes had 35,000 miles, the rear and tags 25,000.  Henderson's did the following:

  • Front brakes: Turn rotors, replace calipers and pads using a high quality semi-metallic pad, inspect and repack bearings.
  • Rear brakes (duals):  Swirl rotors with grinding wheel, replace pads with semi-metallic.
  • Tag axle brakes:  Inspect, they were OK and auto adjusters were working properly

Tires:  I wanted 2 new tires on the front, and I wanted to replace the passenger side tag axle tire which was unmatched with the rest and had a slow leak.  Also, I wanted to replace the spare which was very old and unmatched as well.  I tried to find tires in Grant's Pass, however, the Michelin dealer Tehama Tire Service didn't stock the XRV model specifically made for RV's and didn't want to order them for me.  He told me he "couldn't get them" and that he had a "better Michelin tire for about the same price".  What he had were fleet tires with a hard rubber compound made for maximum miles on commercial vehicles.  Can you say harsh ride?  No thanks!  Besides, I have 9 tires on this thing (including spare) and would really like all to match.  So I looked on the Michelin web site and found a dealer in Canyonville, the Seven Feathers Truck and Travel Center.  The tire manager Ed Jack was happy to order the tires, and would hold them for me to pick up.

Here's what we did with tires at Henderson's:

  • Replace front tires with new
  • Duals stayed the same
  • Shuffled tires to replace spare and tags
  • Balanced all

Front End & Suspension:  The bell cranks were worn badly, as was the drag link.  The air bags had blown out.  Surprisingly the control arm bushings, ball joints, and tie rod ends were OK.  Here's what was done at Henderson's:

  • Replace bell cranks with SuperSteer models which have roller bearings and a lifetime guarantee
  • Replace coil springs with SuperSteer models.  Weighed each corner and used a special spring on each side.
  • Replace drag link
  • Replace one mounting bracket for sway bar which was cracked
  • Align coach - full 4 wheel alignment check and adjust front.

Bottom Line:  I highly recommend Henderson's for all suspension and braking needs on any RV.  They are not only experts at what they do they're also very nice people and accommodating to fulltimers.  Peter, the service writer, gave me a very good estimate over the phone based on my assumption of what work needed to be done.  He scheduled us for an appointment on a specific day, and they started work on the scheduled day.  They allowed us to hook up at their location and stay in the coach the whole time.  Henderson's has a nice waiting room too if you prefer, with coffee, cookies, popcorn, a TV, books, magazines, movies, etc. 

Several mechanics worked on our RV, including Rob and Eric.  Eric is the shop foreman.  Both are very knowledgeable and friendly.  They obviously take pride in their work and enjoy it.  Some RV owners know little to nothing about the coach and prefer to drop it off and pick it up when ready.  I'm not like that.  I have a strong mechanical background and given the proper tools and facilities I could do 98% of my own work.  Everyone at Henderson's, unlike many repair shops, respected me as the owner of the RV, gave me all the information I asked for, and involved me in all decisions where there were options in how to proceed with repairs.

Chris and I are very happy with them, and with the results.  Our motorhome handles better, tracks straighter, and is easier to drive.  Although nobody would describe their services as inexpensive, they give 100% value for the money spent and are very fair with labor charges where parts of the job overlap.  The positive aspect of "you get what you pay for" is validated here.  I'll be posting an "excellent" review at www.rvservicereviews.com

Photos below -- point to each one for a description and click for a larger picture if desired