By Russ and Tiña De Maris
This could be a cautionary tale for us all. And while the investigation hasn’t closed at this writing, it may be that the experience that befell a North Carolina RVer may actually have been “prophesied,” in a manner of speaking.
Joe McPherson of Old Fort, N.C., was piloting his Class A motorhome down a quiet back street of the town of Marion. McPherson came to a stop sign and dutifully brought his rig to a halt. He then started to make a left turn, stepping on the fuel and cranking the wheel. At that point reports say he felt a “pop” in the steering wheel and could not bring the rig out of the turn.
Police reports indicate that Mr. McPherson also had the misfortune of getting his foot stuck in the area of the accelerator and could not get it loose. The result – the errant Newmar Mountain Aire motorhome propelled itself right over a low brick wall and finally came to a stop with about a third of the rig hanging in air. McPherson himself was not seriously injured, but the same could not be said for the motorhome.
Police in Marion told RVtravel.com staff that there was considerable damage to the front end of the motorhome as well as quite an accumulation of debris (and bricks) inside the coach. It required two tow trucks to stabilize and finally ease what was left of the McPherson mobile out of its precarious perch.
We did a search of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall database, and among other recalls for 2007 model year Newmar Mountain Aire motorhomes is this one: Back in July 2006, Newmar issued a recall notice under the heading, “Steering intermediate shaft/Workhorse. This steering condition could result in a loss of steering control, increasing the risk of a crash.” Filed under NHTSA campaign number 06V280000, the recall applied to 2007 model year units.
Newmar indicated to the federal agency that on the chassis production line, nearly 100 Workhorse chassis that they eventually used for motorhomes wound up getting the wrong intermediate shaft in the steering gear. In a filing by the chassis builder, Workhorse Custom Chassis, the problem is made clear:
“On vehicles equipped with the incorrect part, the spline can strip if the steering wheel is turned with a significant amount of force. The force required to strip the spline (i.e., steering wheel input of 10 to 90 ft-lbs of torque) is more than ordinary users will experience. The failure is likely only to occur when the vehicle is stopped or tight turning maneuvers at very low speeds. This condition may result in a loss of steering control.”
While we cannot say with certainty that McPherson’s accident was a direct result of this “wrong part” scenario, if it was, wow! Joe McPherson is one of those “out-of-the-ordinary users” who had the misfortune of having used a “significant amount of force” after his vehicle “stopped” and then was in a “tight turning maneuver at a very low speed.”
We reached out to Mr. McPherson and weren’t able to make contact with him.
Here’s a case where we can’t stress enough the importance of keeping on top of recalls that affect not just your car or truck, but your recreational vehicle as well. It’s one of the reasons we publish a monthly summary of official recalls of interest to RVers. Still, that’s probably not enough. Joe McPherson’s motorhome may have been one of those under a recall issued in 2006. It’s possible his motorhome was purchased used, and the recall work (if it applied) wasn’t completed.
Yes, vehicle manufacturers are required to reach out to all registered owners of vehicles subject to recall. But we can speak from personal experience – it doesn’t always work. Recently, we put the VIN code of our personal car into the federal recall database, and there we found that a few months earlier our car had been recalled for an airbag issue. Had we been in an accident without having the recall service completed, someone in the car could have been seriously hurt or killed. We never did receive a notice from the car manufacturer, and when we made inquiries, we found that the DMV provided them with a bad address. It happens.
If you visit the NHTSA website you’ll be able to see if your specific vehicle is under recall by entering its VIN code. You can also check to see recalls by manufacturer, model and model year – which is how we were able to determine that the McPherson rig may have been one that was under recall.
Checking up on your rig when you first buy it is a great idea. But based on our own experience, it’s not a bad idea to mark your calendar and return on a periodic basis in case something has “popped up” since you last checked. It may spare you a lot of trouble down the road.