We recently purchased a 1976 Dodge Coachmen camper which I think is based on the B300 series Dodge chassis. The engine seems to run great and the transmission seems solid. I was wondering if anyone who has a similar camper might be able to tell me their top speed while driving on a straight highway? I'm not interested in breaking any speed records, I'm just trying to find the best speed for highway travel in order to be safe and cause minimal wear and tear on my camper. To be honest I like to drive slow - even in my car I often pull off to the side of the road to let a string of faster people go by.
My main problem is that it feels like I'm driving about 90mph in the camper when my actual speed is only 45mph. Is this normal? I think that I either have a bad rear wheel bearing or a drive shaft bearing that is going out. This noise seems to contribute to the speed sensation. I'm going to have this checked out next week. Maybe if the camper was quieter it wouldn't seem like it was going so fast? Any other taller vehicles that I've driven seem to be going slower than the actual speed, but not this one.
One thing that I've already discovered is that it's a lot less fun to pull over a full size camper on a busy highway. It also seems pretty unsafe to do so. Everyone seems very impatient and it's hard to find safe places to pull completely off of the highway.
I guess my three questions are:
1.) Normal (and safe) driving speed?
2.) Noise level while driving this era of camper?
3.) If you do drive slowly, how do you handle pulling off for the drivers behind you?
Thank you in advance for any replies.
Hi Timothy, I have a 1976 Dodge 21 ft class C MH with the 360 cid and the 727 transmission. I have the 410 rear end with 16 inch tires. I prefer to travel at speeds less than 65 mph. I like 55-57 mph. I will travel 62-63 on the freeways and not any faster. I am not in any hurry.
Several thing can cause you to think that you are screaming down the road. When I bought my MH it had sat for quite a few years and this causes the rear end gears to be only half way covered with the rear end oil, leaving half exposed to moisture build up from condensation. The exposed metal of the gears and bearings will pit. This causes the wha-wha sound and gets louder as you speed up. I changes my front wheel bearings and this did not help, but I wanted to do them any way. Next I have the bearings replaced in the rear end and that made a BIG difference. How ever my bearing races in the axle housing where bad and I had to replace the whole housing and it came with ALL new gears and bearings. This made a complete new rig out of it. I then took up the carpet in the drivers area and insulated the floor and engine cover. I now can have a conversation with my wife without yelling.
Hope that this helps. Travel safely.
My old ''77 Dodge Tioga was the same way. Very loud with the rear end ratio making the engine stay up near 3000 rpm on the highway. I did as Jack does, just go your speed and let the others go around. I've got the Allegro now and the ratio is the same on the rear but it hadn't been sitting around like the '77 did. That little engine hump didn't do squat on the sound deadening with the floor just being a metal pan right around it. Some rubber matting panels and carpet over should help.
Wow. Thanks, Ken and Cindy, Jack, and Daniel for your replies. I've never owned a camper before and really don't know anyone with any experience with one. I really appreciate all of your input and comments. I've had lots of bad bearings (automotive) in my limited lifetime, but never anything on such a large scale. The MH has been sitting for a while and I was wondering about the rear end. The rear-end oil is a very dark black color. I plan on changing it soon.
I think that the camper must have one of the problems mentioned (or more). I can't imagine driving it much more than 45mph right now.
Looking forward to camping soon. I hope to find the problem quickly.
I'll keep you posted.
Thank you all again. It's good to hear from experienced drivers.
RV's dont handle like a pro stock or Indy car. expecting zero to OMG in 4.2 seconds aint gonna happen.
I have seen RV'ers scream down the interstate 75,to 85 mph and not even think twice about it,,, ONLY to see them on the shoulder with shredded tires and body damage. After logging a couple 2 or 3 miles in my journeys,, I have settled into a comfortable 55 mph,, occasionally 60 mph,,, But Im in no hurry, and realize I am not in a small car that can stop within a short distance. RV's whether, Class A,B,or C, bumper pull or 5th, there is the added weight factor,(even with trailer brakes) and it takes a bit more stopping distance.
To me,, 55 is a safe speed to toodle along at,, enjoy the ride.
As far as rear end noise,,, its usually a carrier (gears making noise if the rig has sat awhile,,, one side of the cluster gears stay dry while the rest is submerged in oil... and axle bearings and races get dry from sitting. An extra measure as Jack mentioned is put extra insulation in the cabin driving area to reduce road noise,, makes a world of difference.....
I have a 1986 class A and it has 4.88 gears. The noise from that 454 is atrocious. When I go back together with the remodel currently underway, I am putting in double layers of sound deadening and heat reflective material.
As for driving, when on the freeway I set at 60 and the engine turns 3000 RPMs. On good ole 2 lane I run 50-55 depending on how much shoulder there is.
As with Jack and Lakota I am never in any hurry and my wife is even less. Her idea of a day's travel is to leave at 11 stop at 1 for lunch and be off the road and settled in by 3.
Personally I would replace all the bearings in the rear axle as they probably got rusted from sitting. Then put in full synthetic gear oil. Also check the driveshaft u-joints and the hanger bearing very carefully. Better to replace them now than trying to do it alongside the road. BTDT not at all fun.
wow 4.88? Glad mine got the 4.10. Can't imagine running with that.
Hi Tim, my old Palace a 78 23' C class. I have never checked mileage I don't want to know how bad it is. The old girl likes to cruse around 60-65. It is powered by a 350 SBC with some kind of cam; you can hear it loop at idle and a TH 400. I can go anywhere in Ohio on a tank of gas and I figure that's pretty good for the what I do with it. If I stressed over mileage I think I would have to part ways. LOL
Tim, back in the day (past used RV dealer and lifelong user) I drove a ton of Class C Dodge based RV's with the 360 and 727 tranny all over the USA usually with the cruise at 58 to 60 MPH and never had a problem or excess noise. If your noise is like a "whine" it could be differential gears or possibly a wheel bearing. See what the noise does as its in a hard turn versus straight ??? If its a vibration, and loading and floating affects it, it could be a U Joint or carrier bearing. If those are all fine next MUST is a good set of balanced tires, front end alignment and a sound front suspension like ball joints and tie rod ends. If those all are good that RV should drive like a dream at 60 MPH and be safe and noise free. Sure that my get expensive but maybe not if there's not too much wrong, but you cant put a price on your familys safety and security so Id have it all checked out then you can make your decision. DO NOT run old or weather checked tires and I kept mine aired to max load at X PSI which was 80 PSI for Load Range E so called 10 ply tires. Running a tire low will cause it to heat up and risk a blow out.
I just wanted to thank each of you for your awesome suggestions. I really appreciate them.
My noise problem has been diagnosed and fixed. There's a lot about that below, but to answer my original question I've decided (with your suggestions) that I'm not going to drive over 50 and probably will drive even slower than that when I get any chances. The camper just seems too top heavy for me to drive any faster.
The problem turned out to be mostly the front wheel bearings. After these were fixed the rear does have a noticeable noise which probably comes from the rear sitting half in oil as some of the members mentioned above. This noise is much more bearable and the mechanic said that it would be perfectly safe to run. I'll worry more about that over the winter.
I feel sort of foolish because I've had quite a few bad wheel bearings in my lifetime and I should have been able to tell where the noise was coming from. I also would have changed them myself if I had known that they were front bearings. I guess that sitting directly over the front wheels makes it harder to distinguish where the sound is coming from, but boy, it sure seemed to be coming from the rear. I guess that I should have jacked up the front end and given the front wheels a spin just to cover all my bases. If anyone is interested the price to change the bearings changed was $270.00 dollars. I guess that it could have been worse, however I should have been able to do this myself.
The bearings were very dry. The races were extremely pitted and were turning blue from overheating.
I'm still pleased with the camper. The mechanic was impressed with the condition of everything else. Hardly any rust anywhere and everything mechanical is in very good condition. It seems like any problems are going to be from the camper not moving enough. The camper is awesome now that it's quiet.
Thank you all again!
Timothy check to see it you have front and rear anti sway bars. Also rear air bags. Both of these help greatly with the top heavy feeling that you are are experiencing. I have both and I feel very solid.