Monday, April 6, 2015

Red Bay, Alabama = Tiffin Stuff, Repairs, Maintenance and Mods

Red Bay, Alabama is the home of Tiffin Motorhomes and thousands of people make the trek to Red Bay each year to have work done at the factory.

Lucy is a Tiffin Allegro Bus but we don’t come to Red Bay for the  factory. Lucy is long time out of warranty. The factory will only accept appointments for warranty work. Anything else is first come, first served. We hear stories of people waiting 4-5 weeks and beyond to get into a service bay. No. We come to Red Bay because we have established a relationship with previous Tiffin employees who have started their own businesses. They know the product, will take appointments and, in our experience, are less expensive than the factory rates.

We arrived in Red Bay on Wednesday, March 25th anticipating ~ a week stay to get everything done on our list. Our list consisted of:

  • Replacing both our air conditioners/heat pumps-they were limping on their last legs :)
  • Repairing our door awning-it wouldn’t go out, just rolled around and around.
  • Replacing the wind deflector on the coach door-the old one was plastic and ripped a long time ago resulting in a whistling sound going down the road.
  • Run 2 new coax cables from our entertainment cabinet to the front passenger bay-new hookups for our portable satellite dish.
  • Install an Air Force One braking system on Lucy and the Jeep-Rick was not happy with our previous tow vehicle braking system. Safety first.
  • Replace our wet bay floor/basin-floor was previously made of a wood product that eventually rots. The replacements are using a water-proof plastic material.
  • Annual oil, filter, fluids and generator service on Lucy
  • Front TV cabinet remodel-to better fit today’s flat screen TV’s

First stop: Custom RV where Brannon Hutchinson was going to take care of the first 5 items on our list and contract the workers who would be doing the wet bay replacement.

Custom RV

We made ourselves comfortable for the night in one of the W/E spots Brannon has on-site for his customers. Thursday morning, they pulled Lucy in Bay #1 and started work.

Lucy in Bay #1

By afternoon, Air Force One and the smaller items were complete and it was time to remove the old air conditioners and install the new. Brannon ran the fork lift while his employee balanced on top of Lucy removing the units as they came up.

Brannon running forklift with AC

Then they worked together on the installation.

AC Install

Items 1-5 were complete by 7:30 PM that day with the addition of a motion detector overhead door light. The light bulb on our old light fixture was burned out so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to replace the unit with a new, efficient LED model with motion detection. It works like a champ!

door light

As it turned out, the wet bay replacement could not be done until Monday. This left Friday and the weekend free, which turned out well for us. Rick’s brother, David, passed away somewhat unexpectedly and we had to scramble to find a place for Lucy, get plane tickets and hotel reservations and get to Plattsburgh, NY quickly. David had been ill for quite some time but seemed to be getting better recently and we were all hoping for more time. It didn’t happen.

Brannon was nice enough to let us leave Lucy right at Custom RV where they would take care of the wet bay replacement while we were gone. We are very grateful. We tied up loose ends and packed our limited winter-wear on Friday, flying out of Huntsville, AL on Saturday morning. Due to the short notice, we had to take a 3 legged flight out flying from Huntsville to Charlotte to Philly to Burlington, VT where we rented a car and took the ferry across Lake Champlain to Plattsburgh, NY. It was a long day and we were pooped but the next morning was the real eye-opener!


BRRR! It had been many, many years since either of us had experienced that kind of cold.  I’m afraid we have turned into wusses! :)

It was a hard weekend for everyone but it was comforting to have so much family around giving support to each other. The funeral was Monday and we flew back to Lucy on Tuesday.

Our return flight was much better. We left Burlington and flew back to Huntsville with only 1 layover,  Washington DC. We got back to Lucy about 8 PM, opened the door and heard the beep, beep of our electrical management system. At first we thought it had gone off when they unplugged her Monday to take her back into the building to work on the wet bay. That’s what we thought until we got to the control panel and stepped in a puddle of water by the refrigerator. We were beeping low battery and inverter fault. No power at all. After checking and finding no power outside either, Rick made a phone call. As it turned out, when the guys were done with the wet bay repair Monday evening, they shut everything down in the shop and accidently shut down the breaker that powered all the 50 amp sites outside in the process! We were back in business quickly and the only thing we lost were ice cubes. Our freezer was full and it held well for 24 hours. Any longer, we probably would have been in trouble. Our supplemental freezer in the closet automatically switched over to 12v power and never skipped a beat. Whew!

The next morning, we were at Bay Diesel for Lucy’s annual maintenance work. She passed with flying colors and is good for another year.

Then on to Chris Berry’s shop for the TV cabinet work. Chris also has 2-50 amp hook-ups (no water) for customers. We spent Wednesday and Thursday nights in his parking lot while he worked his magic on Lucy.

Here is what our old TV cabinet looked like. It was made for a big old clunky TV circa 2005. It was way too long and ugly just hanging there.Cabinet before

The way this coach was built, all the cockpit cabinets both front and sides were installed before the walls went in. Therefore, they were screwed to each other and from the outside. No way to remove them. Ever. Not a good thing if you want to do some remodeling. We were hoping to just have the middle cabinet replaced with a smaller unit. Impossible to do. Chris said most people just opted for a door on that cabinet with the TV mounted to the door. That way the cabinet could be used for additional storage. We did not want that. Storage up there was not important to us and we didn’t want the TV permanently affixed to a door.  I have a hard time seeing the screen when I’m sitting in my recliner due to the angle so our TV has always been on an articulating arm so we can swing it out if necessary.

This is what Chris did for us. He was able to cut the excess cabinet off the bottom.

Front TV cut down

Then he installed a cherry wood bottom plate which matches the other cabinets perfectly.

New bottom plate

A new frame around the “new” cabinet box and the TV was ready to be remounted on the arm.

Adjusting arm and plugging in


The black tabs you see on either side are called TV Grips and they securely hold the TV while traveling so it doesn’t swing out on that arm.


Arm makes it much easier to see the TV from the side chairs.

TV on arm

We are very happy with the result.

Although the TV cabinet was the only thing we had talked to Chris about doing for us, while we were there, we asked him about doing another cabinet for us on the driver’s side behind our recliners. There is only wall behind the chairs and we tucked a rattan “cube”  between them for additional storage. It was an OK solution but we wanted something a little nicer.

Chair area before

Chris agreed to build the cabinet so we pulled everything out and let him get to work.

Ready for new cabinet

Framework going in and Chris wiring an additional outlet for us on the cabinet end.

Installing cabinet frame

All ready for the doors! Chris even found a solid surface top that matched our solid surface. Apparently they still make the light color but not the darker edging that we have so we were happy he had one that had been removed from another coach.

Ready for doors

The finished product. We opted to go without door handles because the cabinet would be behind our recliners and we didn’t want anything sticking out causing problems. If we change our mind, we can add them ourselves later.


This looks much better, don’t you think? :)

Much nicer!

After all that, we were happy to find a FHU site in downtown Red Bay RV Park. There was much laundry to do after our trip and we were looking forward to a long hot shower. Once we got all hooked up and set up, I went in to shower while Rick pondered why our hot water heater was only working on propane, not electric. It had been working fine before our trip to NY.

I got into the shower, got all lathered up, hair full of shampoo and all of a sudden, no water. Surely this was a mistake. I waited a couple minutes and when it didn’t come back on, I wrapped a towel around me and peered out the window to see Rick looking at the wet bay in horror! Water was gushing out all over! Long story short, the shower drain pipe broke when the wet bay was replaced (it’s right above it but hidden) and no one knew it was an issue until the shower was used. The guys that did the replacement stopped by after work and repaired it. It now works great. I’m just glad we didn’t leave Red Bay fast. Sometimes, it’s good to take it slow and be sure everything is right before leaving :)

Rick traced the water heater issue over the weekend and found a bad relay. The Tiffin store was closed up tight for the weekend so we hung out and had a nice Easter, Red Bay style  :)

He bought the part and installed it today. Unless something else breaks before we get out of here, we should be on the road to see the grandkids in Tennessee tomorrow.

Hope you all had a nice Easter. Thanks for hanging in with me through this long post and thanks for stopping by.  Turtle