Letter 1

Isuzu Trek Owners Infoletter #1

October 1999

RE: There aren’t very many of us but I have greatly enjoyed hearing from you about your Isuzu chassis Trek and your experiences with it. It has helped me to know what kind of preventive maintenance I should be doing and what my options might be. Having owned airplanes and a cruising sailboat, I have a great appreciation of the value of an owners organization in alerting me to potential problems and how to prevent or fix them. So, since there aren’t enough of us to have a proper subgroup, or even a e-list, I thought perhaps an email to all of us would do for now. So, here is an accumulation of the pertinent items about our special Treks that have been sent to me recently. If you email back, you may do so with your email reply function, in which case your email will come just to me or you can send your e to all of us by choosing to reply to sender and recipients (or some such directive, depending on your email program).

If any of you wish to not receive such email, just let me know and I’ll take you off my list. If you know of any Isuzu chassis Trek owner with email capability that is not on this list, please let me know and I will add them. As far as I’m concerned, Norm Biggs may use any of the contents of this e for the newsletter (many thanks for doing the newsletter, Norm!). I hope I haven’t broken anybody’s trust by making the contents of their e’s to me this public. I hope this perpetuates because I sense that most of us are interested or even hungry for information about our rigs. The contents below are topical in the title (bolded, for easy scanning), followed by the contributor’s name and e address (within the < > marks). If you can add anything, or have questions, please continue this. Here goes:

TOWING, SUSPENSION, BED, BATTERIES, TIRES

John/Joann Figueras < yet in the owner’s directory) We have a ’94 Isuzu diesel Trek, 24′ and love it. We usually travel about 3 months a year, and made only one trip without a dinghy. Since ’95 we’ve been towing a Geo Tracker (4WD, stick shift, with manually-locking hubs) — the lightest 4WD we could find!

When towing, our fuel consumption is increased by about 1 mpg, and our pick-up reduced noticeably. But we’re not in a hurry, and for us, our increased mobility with the car is worth it. On very steep mountains in the west, we have unhitched the car and driven it separately. (We had anti lock brakes and Steer-Safe installed on the Trek.)

The Steer-Safe (or Safety Steer–I’m not sure which we got) is a damper, spring- or hydraulically-loaded, attached from the steering assembly to the chassis. It is a safety precaution that will keep steering under control in case of a front-tire blow-out. It also decreases steering sensitivity–that is, the steering is less sensitive to small adjustments of the steering wheel. This means that it is easier to steer a straight line and steering approximates in feel to what you find in a standard automobile. When we first got the Trek, I was not happy with the steering–it required constant attention, seemed much too light and required constant small corrections to steer a straight line. The Steer Safe made a big difference.

YES–if you buy new tires, by all means have the front end aligned. And if you are considering something like Steer Safe, the front end must be an alignment before the unit is installed. As Joann said, our front tires were showing uneven wear and we put on new tires (front only) at 45,000 miles, which I think is still pretty good mileage. The rear tires still look like new, so we did not replace them. As I recall, the alignment job was not exorbitantly expensive.

Joann was a little off on the weight of our Tracker–it is about 2500 pounds. Presumably you can tow up to 4000 pounds. Frankly, I would worry about braking with anything heavier than what we are towing. Braking is definitely and noticeably not as certain when our little car is hooked up.

About the bed–we’ve had NO trouble with it, but others have. Apparently, some gears have slipped off tracks, which bowed out in the middle, letting the bed fall. We watch the allignment of ours. At first I worried, as you do, about ‘what if’ we can’t raise or lower the bed; there is a method, I’ve heard, to do it manually, but I don’t know what it is. It has something to do with removing the name plate on the side of the bed. If/when you get the details from someone who knows, I’d love to have them. I have a plan, though, if the bed fails in the down position: I’ll handle the gas and brakes while John lies on the bed and steers.

We have replaced both our house batteries at separate times, which is not a good idea, (we have over 50K on our ’94 Trek), but we want new batteries. We’re thinking about 4 golf cart, but that requires enlarging the battery holder and we would still have to water them, or two glass mat batteries, that do not require watering. (Adding water is a pain in our Trek.) We’ve had two 75w solar panels since ’94, and we bought a third, which isn’t installed yet. We love the solar for boondocking!

We replaced our front tires last spring in FL because ours were wearing very unevenly. I’m constructing a list of additions to our coach to send to Bill for publication, and when I have it ready, I’ll send you a copy.

TOWING, BED, SUPPLIES, LARGE FUEL TANK, COMMUNICATIONS

Al Readdy <readdy (at) mail.escapees.com> I tow a 4 door sidekick and get about 12mpg w/wo towing. When we get into hilly country, I disconnect and the wife drives the sidekick.

I always drive with the exhaust break on. That way if I have to stop quickly I don’t have to think about putting it on.

If your electro bed does not have 4 safety “pins” when in the up position call the factory and the will send them to you–requires drilling a hole in the 2 rear tracks. Mine are painted white.

Each gear that sticks out from the bed has 2 Allen set screws to hold the gear to the shaft. I was told to make sure the screws were tight and to check them every so often. Also, should the bed fail in the down position, undoing the set screws allows the 200+ lb bed to be raised–with the help of some strong people and 2×4’s. The factory has hidden a fuse–in my ’93–in the up left cabinet drivers side behind the inside left side panel–toward the outside wall. Why??? I guess as an added safety factor. [how do you like my description of where the fuse is!!!] NEVER try to move the bed with anyone on it. By the way, all this info was give out at the one home coming rally at the factory. You should join the Family Motor Coach Assoc and the Safari chapter of same. Safari rallies are held on the east and west coast each year.

Communications: We are not full timers. Am on road about 6 mo a year. This year left home base 2 May, went to Newfoundland, presently in MA–friends and relatives and right now dealing with Floyd– and plan to be back “home” mid/late Oct. Since I don’t like AOL I use Concentric Net on the road. Two hours of internet a month is $10 and the 800 number is $ 0.08/min which goes against the $10/mo. At “home” use a local ISP. So, for a non- email address I use the Escapees RV Club free email address and have them forward email to which ever ISP I’m using. The Concentric Net 800# did not work in Canada so I signed up with a Canadian ISP that had an 800 #–once again Escapees forwarded email to that ISP. Many campgrounds now let you use their phone line to dial an 800 # for email. Escapees is a good RV group with a lot of support and about 16 parks and is good for full timers. and serious RVers. Check there web site (www.escapees.com) for more info.

I get filters and parts for Isuzu via UPS from FMI, Portland OR 1-800-927-8750–ask for parts. They are helpful and give Trek owners a discount–when ordering tell them you have a Trek.

I replaced the stock fuel tank with a 57 gal replacement from Transfer Flow in OR. Now I have a 400/500 mile range–which is nice.

When climbing hills, I shift out of OD at about 45 mph.

CRUISE CONTROL PROBLEMS, TIRES, ROOF, TRANSMISSION

Floyd Rainey <FM_Rainey (at) compuserve.com>

My cruise control never did really work properly. It would drift off set point slowly sometimes, would hunt when resume was used, and would not accelerate above the set point when it was signaled to do so. I quit trying for a long time, then decided I would see what I could do to fix it. No luck so far.

Safari installed the Acme cruise control actually a discontinued Eaton product) Isuzu was not involved.

I have 36,000 miles on the unit. No tire replacement yet. No sign of tread wear , no side wall cracks, very little pressure lose. If I decide for sure to keep it, I will consider replacing them next spring, as they will be seven years old then also. I had to have the fiberglass roof replaced in 1995 due to numerous tiny cracks in the fiberglass. It was done at no cost to me. They even sent a driver to pick it up and returned it to me when completed! No problems with the roof since.

I had a problem with the automatic transmission down shifting for no reason. It took a long time and a lot of trouble to find the cause. An Isuzu dealer in Kansas City, MO finally replaced the transmission mounted inhibitor switch and that seems to have corrected the problem, at least for the last 6,000 miles. All 0f this was done at no cost to me also.

I have talked to the factory, Acme, and Eaton but no solution yet. It might be of help, if it is not too much trouble, to check with the other owners with whom you are in touch. Could you also ask them if the low vacuum alarm buzzer sounds when the key is turned on after a prolonged engine shut down?

TOWING, BATTERIES

Fpetersen <FPeter3350 (at) aol.com>

I am a newbie, and know nothing. I bought my Trek from it’s first owner, who did tow a small Honda pick-up. I do not tow but I wish I did, because it would be so much more convenient. Unfortunately I own a mini-van (too big to tow) and don’t fancy buying another car. I’ll trade you Treks! Do you have any problems, etc.? My batteries seem to die too fast.

TOWING, SHOCKS, WIFE DRIVING, ROOF LEAKS

Mary Ellis <Jmmellis (at) aol.com>

We towed a small 95 Saturn on flat to rolling ground only, not nearly enough power for big hills or mountains. Towing cost about 2 miles per gallon from usual l2.5 miles. Saturn great, put in neutral on accessory and go. We were original owners, have about ll4,000 on rig. Traveled all over US, to Alaska, the Canadian maritime providences and visited Armour, South Dakota where my grandfather homesteaded, hunted buffalo, taught school, and my father was born in l883. I hope to resume to resume travel in our “Tiger. My driving experience was very limited.

You need to INSIST that Trish drives your rig. Bilstein shocks a great addition. Will be glad to try to answer any other questions about rig or travel destinations we enjoyed. The shocks were a great improvement. The rough bouncing on bad interstates caused me GREAT back trouble. That bouncing also led to a major problem with the floor on which the pilot and copilot chairs set. It’s attachments to the main body (fire wall) were not sufficient. After several repairs, it took a trip to factory in Oregon to have it fixed correctly. It was a construction defect in all the 92 Treks. Maybe it was corrected before the 94s, but the factory was well aware of their mistake.

Have had few mechanical problems but did have major leak from tiny pin hole that was very difficult to find. After 3 different repair shops failed to find it, Jim found and applied ELASTOMERIC 880 Roof Coating to that spot. Has coated the whole roof several times since. The leak caused the carpet ceiling to become loose. A head liner shop applied glue with a long thin tool to reattach.

TOWING, DINGHY BRAKES

Jerry and Carol Rucks <Gcrux (at) aol.com>

We do normally tow a Ford Escort with a minor reduction in mileage ( aprox.1 mpg ). We have seen people towing full sized Jeeps with the Isuzu. What you need to check is if you need braking on the towed vehicle. You will notice a reduction in braking effectiveness with the tow attached. The states vary in their rules, and there have been some good discussions in the RV magazines in the past few years about braking on towed vehicles.

Clay Behrens < (not Izusu chassis but good info)

CATALYTIC HEATER

Of all the modifications I have done, this is one of the more enjoyable. It will keep my 2830 comfortable without additional help from that monster Suburban.

Addressing your questions:

1: I have the Olympian 3100 A, portable with leg set.

2: I purchased a safety shutoff and quick disconnect set from Noel Kirkby(a good guy!!!) at RV Solar Electric in Scottsdale, AZ. Tapped into propane from hot water heater in bathroom and out under bottom closet drawer. With the six foot flexible hose (included in kit) we place the heater either in kitchen or bath as needed.

3: Water vapor does not come from the heater, it comes from us humans. We keep one roof vent cracked and sometimes the sink window 1/2-3/4″ when using the heater.

4: Thermostat in my opinion is not needed. We set either high, low or in between as needed. No more noise, heat going outside, or battery drain. Feel free to contact me for more input if necessary.

LARGE FUEL TANK, TOWING, PROBLEMS WITH FURNACE & STEP, OIL CHANGES

Ken Harmon <kharmon (at) rt66.com>

The fuel tank is a Transfer Flow 54 gal. tank sold by a company in Chico Calif. We bought our Trek in Junction City Or. two years ago and went directly to Chico to try to get a tank installation. It turned out our motorhome had the jack controls located in the fuel tank area and they could not make the installation. We returned home and had the jack controls relocated and I installed the tank. As I recall the price was just over $600 for the tank and installation kit. When I purchased my tank they told me it was one of the last three they had in stock. If you are interested in getting a tank for your motorhome let me know and I will look up my paperwork and get a name of the person to talk to.

Currently we mount a motorbike on the front of our unit and do not tow. I plan to tow at some point and have purchased a tow bar and brake system but have not located a base plate for my 79 VW Rabbit.

No catalytic heater in our unit but would be interested in hearing about an installation. We carry a portable electric heater that we use when we have shore power available. The only appliance problem was with the furnace. It has a over temp switch behind the grill (below refrigerator) that malfunctions and stops the unit from running. I purchased a replacement switch and installed it. Seems to have corrected the problem.

The step problem occurred when the unit was driven through light mist or just as a rain started. The step would just extend and later on when the road dried out it would retract. Unfortunately it extended one day while I was passing a rock in the driveway and it mangled the step. I installed a new step and still had the problem. Safari and the step manufacturer had no idea what the problem was. I finally traced it to the magnetic door switch wires in the right rear wheel well. The wire connectors (2ea) were installed with the receptacle side down so water could collect in them. When they filled with water and the two connectors touched it sent a signal to extend the step. I removed the connectors, solderedand taped the wires, and it corrected the problem.

I try to do some of the lube, oil and filter changes myself but sometimes they need to be done on the road.. I had one in Key Largo that cost $250 and another one in Portland for $200. Ouch! If you have the transmission and filter done it costs even more!

Hope this answers some of your questions. We just returned from the Safari homecoming rally in Harrisburg where we enjoyed talking to other trekers. We think the 94 is one of the best coaches Safari built and we like our unit the more we use it.

TOWING, CATALYTIC HEATER, REVERSE OSMOSIS WATER PURIFIER, TIRES, BATTERIES

Trish & Dale DeRemer <deremer (at) aero.und.edu>

I too, am a newbie so know nothing but what I am learning from other Trek owners so I can offer nothing but years of systems experience with boats and airplanes. Thanks for the good words about towing. I am going to be towing a heavier vehicle (a Dodge Dakota 4×4) but am willing to accept the slower going for the convenience of the greatly increased storage area (it has a topper) and 70 gallon fuel tank in the back in which I can put diesel for long trips and forays into places like California where the price of diesel is out of sight and the quality is questionable. I am anxious to hear from anyone about dinghy braking systems. What kind to buy?

I am installing a catalytic heater as it is silent and doesn’t sap the house batteries, and am planning to install a reverse osmosis watermaker which we’ve had for years at home and can’t hardly get along without as it makes such good water out of some really terrible stuff (we live in Grand Forks, ND and the water comes out ot the Red River of the North….pretty grody stuff). As for the reverse osmosis unit: The process is successfully used to make what is essentially distilled water from any quality of water up to and including sea water. It involves getting water molecules to pass thru a membrane from the contaminated side to the pure water side. The saltier the water, the more pressure is needed to ‘push’ the water thru the membrane. Sea water takes about 800 psi and fresh water takes 40-60 psi with the saltier water taking more pressure or the yield is less if the pressure is lower.

When we started using R.O. water, a small miracle sort of happened: we found we were drinking more water, the dogs were drinking more water and the house plants went “Ahhhh” and started flourishing amazingly. Been doing it ever since!

The unit we have is sold by Shaklee, so you need to find a Shaklee dealer to get current information on it. It was about $300 when we bought it several years ago. If you decide you want one, our Shaklee dealer may have a used one (with new filters in it) for less….let me know. The carbon pre and post filters are supposed to be replaced once a year and the R.O. membrane unit once every two years and its a little bit expensive….about $125 for all three. The unit is about 15″ high, 12″ wide and 8″ deep. It has an integral tank that holds about 1.5 gallons of finished water and I installed an overflow hose that we run into a 2.5 gallon drinking water plastic jug (like u buy in the grocery store). The unit hooks up to the kitchen faucet for supply water, and drips the overflow “bad” water into the sink. I plan to rig it up in the Trek so the overflow “bad” water goes back into the fresh water tank or, optionally, into the sink. I’m not sure yet how I will mount it but somehow above the galley sink. I am also not sure how well it will make water with only 40 psi (regulated water pressure) into the Trek….will just have to see but the water is so good and will be consistently good regardless of the water supply that it is sure worth a try! I am also not sure how it will work if we are not hooked up to a campground water supply….time will tell ! It is either that or buy about 5-10 gallons of drinking water per week at the store. Even then we don’t know what we are buying….there has been a lot of publicity recently about questionable quality of water from that source.

I also am planning to replace the tires, altho there is only 20,000 miles on them as everything I read says that they can’t be trusted after 7 years. If they blow at high speed, they tend to trash the parts of the coach near them. I am going to replace the house batteries (which are original equipment) with golf cart batteries because the present ones are OEM (old) and we plan to do a lot of dry camping….the golf cart batteries are almost double the capacity.

We will become full timers in the Trek this time next year. Right now it is still in So. Calif. where we bought it so we can enjoy Xmas break (almost 30 days this year) and Spring Break in it, out on the Calif desert.

I am anxious for anything you can tell me about what you have done to your Trek, how many miles you have on it, and any problems you have had with it. The magic bed makes me kind of nervous (don’t get me wrong, I love to lie in it and watch the stars at night and watch the sunrise!) but….if it fails in the up position, we are sentenced to sleeping on the couch and…if it fails in the down position….we go nowhere until it is raised and I’ve heard it weighs somewhere between 250-500 pounds (different sources). It would be nice to have some sort of manual (or, better yet, power screwdriver driven) retraction system as a backup.