Monday, July 25, 2016

Tiffin Paint Factory & Windshield Shop

It's Monday and the plant is back in action.
The last time I was in Red Bay I did not get a chance to visit the painting
facility where they paint the busses so this time I put it on my must see list.

After leaving the assembly line the newly minted bus travels about 5 miles
to Belmont, Mississippi to the Tiffin Paint Facility.

Upon arrival, the first step is sanding, more sanding, then dusting,
and finally the bus gets masked to protect from overspray.

Proper masking is critical and it is detailed work.   Too little and paint gets on mirrors,
window trim etc...  too much and some surfaces do not get painted.
The people who mask these busses are craftsmen in their own right.

The amount of masking is incredible.   The entire roof, all the equipment on the roof,
the antennas etc...  it all gets protected from paint overspray first.

There are 3 production rows with 4 paints booths along each row and a baking
room at the end of the row.  The paint booths are actually massive rooms about 70 feet long,
30 feet wide and 20 feet tall.   Each one has a massive ventilation system and automated
scaffolding that the painters ride up and down and forward and backward as they spray.

In between these three production rows is clear space from end to end for busses 
to move about the building and undergo QC checks etc.

In all there were about 60 busses inside the facility undergoing the painting process.

Here you see a bus in the first paint booth getting the first two coats of base color.
This buses main color will be silver with stripes.

After the 2 base coats, the bus moves to the next station in between two paint booths.
It is here where the masking is applied to allow the next color - the first of two or
three additional colors that will be applied for striping.

After the stripe masking is applied the bus moves forward into another paint booth and
the first accent color is applied.

When it leaves this booth, more masking will be applied to allow for the next
accent color to be applied.

Here, on another line, you can see the masking being removed from a bus that
has 3 colors applied,..  The white basecoat and black and grey striping.

After all the colors are applied, the bus then goes into an oven and gets baked
at 150 degrees to harden the paint.    

After baking, the bus then enters the first of two clear coat booths.
The colored paint when applied is flat (not glossy).   The clear coat
both provides a deep gloss finish plus UV protection for the paint.

After the first two clear coats are applied, the bus moves to a sanding booth
where a light sanding of the entire bus is completed to smooth any imperfections and help
deepen the shine and depth of color.

Finally, after light sanding and dusting, the bus enters the final booth
where 2 coats of super clearcoat are applied.

There are Quality Control processes at each station, and other processes that I have
left out as there were no units at those stages when I visited,  but after 5 days in the paint shop
out of the other end comes that bus you saw in the fist picture.

My visit to the paint shop gave me a greater appreciation for the product own.

Getting back to CRB I was settling in for a day or two waiting for the windshield shop
open up and just a short while after arriving my phone rang and they told me to come
on over to bay 46.

So after closing up the slides and disconnecting my utilities, I pulled into my assigned
bay.   As soon as I did the windshield guys went to work.    By the time that I
managed to grab my camera and get outside to take a photo, they had already
removed the windshield.    It took them about 4 minutes to take it off.

Within another 10 minutes or so, the gaskets were cleaned, re-positioned, and
the new windshield was put in place.

Below they are adjusting the positioning and setting the seal in place.

Within about 20 minutes they had the windex out and were cleaning the new windshield.

Like all the other stations...   It is well stocked with all the parts needed for 
servicing the over 65,000 Motorcoaches that Tiffin has produced over the years.

Having competed my trip to bay 46, I was now done with my list for
Red Bay.   The bus is at 100% perfect condition and its time for me
to start planning my re-entry path to home.

On the way home I am going to take a slightly different route this time and
enjoy some of the scenery.   I plan on making it a 3 day trip home
rather than two.

With the bus at 100% its time to start thinking about or next adventure.
In August we will be going up to NY for work, and then continuing up into Canada
to visit Quebec, and the Canadian Maritimes and perhaps take the ferry
to Newfoundland.

The cooler weather will be a nice treat.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Wild times in Red Bay

I am back at the Tiffin Motorhome Service Center in Red Bay, Alabama.
Some of you may recall that I was here last August.

I'm here for some routine maintenance, some minor repairs to the coach,
and an upgrade to my satellite antenna.

One of the great things about Tiffin Motorcoach's is the fact that they have
this service center where you can come and have work done by the same
people who build it.

Many times if you bring an RV to just any dealer, the guys working on your
rig are also getting their on the job training on your coach.

The entrance to Camp Red Bay (CRB) as it is called.

You arrive, check in and fill out a list of what you want done, and then get on
the schedule and wait your turn.

There are about 100 spaces for RVs here, plus many more in RV parks in the area.

The service facility has about 50 service bays dedicated for all facets of repair needs.
Windshields, Paint, Tile, Welding, Mechanical, Slides are a few of the specialized
bays and then there are general repair bays.

I arrived on Saturday after leaving Freightliner in SC and the waiting began.

On Monday I had an appointment nearby with Nick Brewer, a Tiffiin employee 
who does after-hours work to have my satellite antenna changed to a different kind.

While he worked on the coach, I talked to the locals....
In this case some 3' tall ponies.

Nick does entertainment system work for Tiffin by day.
His workmanship was impeccable.

While he worked, a neighbors dog came strolling in.
I made the mistake of petting her and all of a sudden I had a new best friend
who would not leave me alone :-)

Two hours later he was done.
I had swapped my in-motion dome type for a stationary only type antenna.
The benefit of the stationary antenna is a bigger dish that works better in rain,
plus can receive all three satellites at once.

The new dish up on the roof.

As luck would have it,  I was called into a bay on Tuesday afternoon.  Many
days before I thought I would get in.

I was in the bay thru Thursday afternoon.
After 3:30pm you move back to your site for the night and then back into
your bay by 7am.

You might also recall that last winter I lost a panel off of the side of the coach.
While here I had the replacement aluminum panel painted.



Good Craftsmanship is about the details...
Notice how the screw is painted to match the stripe.

After finishing up in the service bay I had to wait to get into a welding bay.
My service man had found a small item that needed welding.
Fortunately I was able to make it into the welding bay in a couple of hours and
the welding was done in about 10 minutes.

I'm now back in my space waiting for the windshield bay as I need the windshield
replaced due to a crack received this winter.

There are 3 bays dedicated solely to windshields here
and I'm hoping for Tuesday or Weds to be done with mine.

In the meanwhile I'm going to hit a few of the sights that I missed my last time here.

First on my list is the Coon Dog Cemetery.

Established in 1937 by Key Underwood as a final resting place for his faithful
Coonhound "Troop"  It has grown over the years as a sort of Mecca for
deceased Coonhounds from all over the country.

Currently there are about 185 graves.

Once a woman from California inquired why he didn't allow other breed of dogs
to be burried here and he replied:

"You must not know much about coon hunters and their dogs, if you think we would 
contaminate this burial place with poodles and lap dogs," he responded. 

Many of the gravemarkers are quite interesting.

My visit to the Coondog cemetery concluded, I returned to CRB where
I am back again in wait mode.

Tomorrow I hope to make it over to the Tiffin Paint shop and show you
how they put these fantastic paint jobs on these coaches.

And of course..  show you how they replace my windshield.

Then after that...  I head back home.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Camp Freightliner - Gaffney, SC

Back on the Road

Weds morning I headed out of Dodge...
My destination about 380 miles southwest in Gaffney SC just a tad
southwest of Charlotte on I-85.

It is here in Gaffney that the Chassis for the Motorhome is made by
Freightliner Custom Coach in a 200,000 sq ft manufacturing plant.

Near the factory Freightliner has set up a school and service center
devoted exclusively to the custom coach line.

Coming here you are assured of getting the cream of the crop in mechanics
who understand your chassis inside and out.

Since I wanted to go to the Tiffin Factory in Red Bay, Al for some repairs,
and FCCC is pretty much on the way - I was on the wait list to obtain a seat in the
factory class taught to Chassis Owners.

When FCCC emailed me that a seat became available I jumped on the opportunity.

Entering Gaffney it becomes evident what is grown around here.

The School & Service Center is located next to the Community College in a very nice area.

The class covers numerous areas of the chassis including operation and maintenance.
It is geared for the owner and taught by a long time factory mechanic who
really knows these chassis's inside and out.

The course included a ton a material including a 400 page binder with a lot of the information
tailored specifically to my unit.

I had heard that the first day starts off a bit slow but by the second day you are
being force fed  information by a fire hose and I have to agree.

I personally wish that the pace would have started off quicker and then
the second days info could have been covered a bit more in detail
but overall I still have to say that it was very worthwhile I was able to learn quite a bit.

The waiting list for service is currently about 6 weeks out, so when I arrived I asked
to be put on the "work-in" list.    If they have some extra time they will "work you in"

The second day I was able to get the Bus in for its 3-year service so all is set
for the part of the motorhome that actually takes us down the road...  the Chassis.
It got professionally serviced by some of the best in the business and at a very
reasonable price to boot!

Two of my classmates. 
Patricia & Sarah.

The tuition included lunch both days and dinner on Thursday.
Tonight (Friday) I went for some takeout and tried some of the local barbecue.

The Service center has about 20 spaces with 50 amp service and a dump station on site.
The price is free so that can't be beat.   
All sites are first come and, of course, are for people who are scheduled, or "work-ins" like me.

Tomorrow - Saturday - I will make the 450 mile trip west to Red Bay
and just like last year - take my place in line waiting for my turn to get
some factory Maintenance on the other part of the Motorhome - The Coach...
The part that we live in.

The picture below illustrates the two parts of the motorhome.

I have some modifications to be made, some painting of an access panel that I lost last
winter in California, and some minor maintenance.

While at the factory this time I plan to visit the paint shop that I did not have time to
visit last year.

See you in Red Bay.