Our RV is a 2003 Country Coach Allure First Avenue “class A” (bus style) motorhome that is 36 feet long. See here for specifications. It has a Cummins ISL diesel engine in the back, so it’s what is known as a “diesel pusher.” Diesel pushers typically have more power and a smoother and quieter ride than motorhomes with the engine in the front. The turbocharged engine has 370 horsepower and approximately 1,200 pounds of torque, providing ample power for a RV our size. We average about 8 miles per gallon.
Our motorhome has large tanks for extended travel and living: 110 gallons of fuel, 106 gallons of fresh water, 75 gallons for grey water, and 59 gallons for black water. It also has two full pass-through bays and other compartments for ample “basement” storage and an 8 kWh generator if needed to supplement our other electrical power sources. We have an air suspension system — with air bag leveling (no jacks) — and air-powered brakes.
As of April 2019 our RV currently weighs 28,925 pounds with full diesel and fresh water tanks and all of our belongings and the two of us aboard. Our GVWR, or maximum weight permitted, is 33,200 pounds, so we’re doing well in staying under that limit.
We purchased our motorhome in August 2018 from a private party in Eugene, Oregon, with just over 75,000 miles on it. Country Coach was a high-end motorhome manufacturer (their slogan was “The World’s Finest Motor coaches”) that, unfortunately, ceased production in 2009 — like several other high-end RV manufacturers of that time period, they could not survive the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 — and they subsequently sold their assets to Winnebago. Some parts and service are still available from Winnebago, plus there are many non-factory shops nationwide that can service the motorhome if necessary. In addition to other updates, the prior owners had in late 2017 installed new tires (six total) and shocks and had the engine and hydronic heating system overhauled and maintained. Despite having a well-regarded Country Coach professional do a pre-purchase inspection for us, we later found that he missed some engine and other issues that should have been noted prior to our purchase and we have had to have those items repaired.
We tow a 2012 Honda CR-V “four down,” meaning all four tires roll on the ground and no trailer or dolly is required. Our Honda has an Air Force One supplemental braking system that takes advantage of the air brake system of our motorhome by using that system’s compressed air to proportionally apply the Honda’s brakes as the motorhome’s brakes are applied. Even though our Honda weighs about 3,600 pounds, we cannot feel any difference between towing or not when in the RV, which is a testament to the power and handling of our motorhome. When towing, we’re glad our motorhome has a rear view camera to let us see that the Honda is still back there!
Our significant upgrades
Solar, Batteries, Inverter – In November 2018 we replaced the single 8D chassis (starting) battery with a Lifeline AGM (completely sealed and maintenance free) deep cycle/starting battery. In January 2019 we had AM Solar install seven Zamp solar panels on the roof (providing 1190 watts of solar power), a Victron inverter and a Victron solar charger, and five 100 amp hour (total of 500 amp hours) of lithium (LiFePO4) Battle Born batteries (replacing two 8D flooded lead acid batteries) for our “house” battery system, thus making us capable of living off-grid.
Refrigerator – Immediately after the solar and battery upgrade, in January 2019, we had our 12 cubic foot propane/electric RV absorption refrigerator, original to the motorhome, replaced with a Samsung 18 cubic foot standard household refrigerator (model RF18 ) that runs 100% of the time off of standard AC electrical power provided by the Victron inverter (when running off of our batteries) or a campground electrical hookup. This upgrade removed the most frequent cause of RV fires — overheated absorption refrigerators — and allows our propane to be used only for cooking with our gas stove top. We ended up with a significantly larger and more efficient refrigerator.
Lighting – Updated Sept. 2019: We’ve replaced all of our incandescent (mostly halogen) lights (inside and in our basement bays), all of our under-cabinet fluorescent lights, and most of our ceiling fluorescent lights with LED bulbs and tubes, primarily sourced from M4 LED products (highly recommended for their excellent quality and service). We haven’t yet updated a few ceiling fluorescent fixtures that we rarely turn on (we’ll upgrade those as each one burns out).
Audio System and Rear Camera Monitor – Our coach came with a Bose 321 audio system that played the radio and CDs and featured two large speakers that hung down under cabinets in the front of our coach. Those two speakers were always becoming loose despite our multiple attempts to keep them firmly attached. Our coach also came with a single-DIN Pioneer dash system that featured a motorized swivel-up screen for our rear camera. Both systems were missing many modern touches, including Bluetooth capabilities. The Pioneer’s LCD screen had poor quality compared to modern options. In August 2019 both systems (and the troubling Bose speakers) were removed and replaced with a new Pioneer AVH-2550NEX double-DIN dash-mounted system that has all of the modern features and a 7 inch high resolution LCD screen that shows our rear camera image beautifully. The new system includes new Rockford-Fosgate speakers and a Kenwood subwoofer/amplifier (installed behind our dash on the passenger side). The area where the Bose system was installed was turned into an attractive and functional “glove box” setup. The Bose subwoofer (large but not very effective) was removed from the back of the storage cabinet under our cooktop, freeing up a considerable amount of storage space.
Tank Monitors – Our coach’s original tank monitors used in-tank sensors and showed levels using dots of light under 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, full indicators, but were usually inaccurate because those types of sensors often become fouled or shorted by the “stuff” in the tanks. In August 2019 we had that system replaced with a Garnet SeeLevel II system that uses patented sensors applied to the outside of each tank. The sensors “see” into each tank from the outside and cannot be fouled or shorted. The system features a monitor that displays the exact percentage level for each tank. The monitor was installed on our existing control panel and fit perfectly where our old inverter panel (no longer used) was originally installed, for a nice factory appearance.