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Isuzu Trek Owners Infoletter #4

June Y2K

What I have learned about the Trek on a 3500 mile trip from San Diego to Grand Forks, ND.

Note: First are listed the things I learned, then there is a short description of the trip and finally, trip statistics at the end.

1. Attach bolts where firewall meets coach are a weak point of the Isuzu Trek and therefore, an inspection point for owners. Everyone that knew Treks (including the SMC rep) wanted to look at that part of the coach when I asked the question, “what should I be looking for?” Some of the bolts (which go through the firewall flange into the sheet metal vertical that is attached to the coach side body) are missing on my coach but no separation was noted (24,000 miles). As soon as I get home I will find someone who can make and install a gusset with more bolts (installed with some form of glue like GOOP so the bolts stay in) through the firewall flange and into the vertical of the coach. Inspection is done by looking at the sidewalls/firewall joint through the front panel and looking forward in the front wheel wells.  Looking for signs of missing lagbolts and/or movement of the firewall flange on the wide, black sheet metal vertical. A fix seems to be to replace the ¼ x ¾ lags with 5/16 x ¾ lags and use lock washers and/or adhesive to hold the bolts in.  If significant (visible) movement of the parts is observed, a gusset with more holes/bolts may be needed.

2. Don’t go to the factory for service.  I made an appointment for some service six weeks before arrival.  I called again three weeks before arrival to add an item to the service list.  They didn’t know about me. Seems they fired or relocated the “service writer” and a new one was on the job, relocated from accounting. Now here is a service writer that’s gotta know a lot about servicing Treks, right?  She checked the records in her computer with the VIN number I gave her and came up with the original owner’s name (I had registered with SMC over a year and a half ago. She said there may be more than one computer database). What a confidence builder!

When I arrived, an hour earlier than I promised I would, she said that they were behind and wouldn’t be able to work on my Trek.  Fortunately, she called Carrier & Sons, in Eugene, 20 minutes away and they were able to work me in (window repair, water leak repair, ladder install, general coach inspection).  These people have worked on SMCs, including Treks, for years and know what they are doing.

3. FMI, in Portland, is the Isuzu truck dealer that sold SMC the chasis for the Isuzu Trek. They know the Trek very well also and have good, experienced technicians (although one of them hooked a battery cable up to the wrong terminal when servicing the house batteries which left me without an inverter for two days until I could find the 2 hours needed for me to troubleshoot the problem. Found no 12v. to the inverter, inverter charger circuit breaker popped. Then found the +12v. lead at the inverter showed no resistance to ground.  Found the inverter +12v lead hooked to the negative terminal of the house battery.  Fortunately, the inverter was properly protected because the battery charging circuit breaker popped when I plugged in to shore power.

4. FMI installed an external transmission filter (recommended by Isuzu) and replaced the internal one.  The FMI technician showed me that the internal filter goes just inside the pan on the bottom of the transmission and mentioned that if I ever high centered my rig or even “bottomed out” that it was imperative that I inspect the pan on the transmission for dents. If the pan is at all dented, it could block fluid flow through the internal filter and “fry” that $4000 transmission in 50 miles of driving. That was good to know.

5. As I am going to tow a 5000 pound pickup, I installed a transmission temperature gauge and wanted to install an additional transmission fluid cooler but we decided to wait and see if the toad causes high transmission temperatures.  It has an external cooler in that the tranny fluid goes through the engine coolant radiator.  I have never seen temps higher than 230 degrees, even in the mountains but I have not yet towed or operated in high summer desert temperatures.

6. Isuzu Treks may be made again!  Apparently, soon all GMC trucks will be made and sold by Isuzu truck dealers.  Have you been seeing GMC cab forward trucks that you swear look just like the Isuzu ones?  You have!  The GMC cab forward trucks are Isuzu totally, except for the GMC nameplate/logo. The four cylinder diesel engine comes in 135 and 175 horsepower now.  Seems to me the 175 HP engine would be a good match with the Trek coach.

7. Window Screens! They were driving me nuts!  The little plastic clips that held the screens in would break.  I finally found a little RV shop out on the desert where I could buy some.   I did but the screens just weren’t fitting right.  This trip I learned that there are top and bottom clips! All I had were bottom clips. The top clips are larger.  On screens that don’t fit tight, one uses top clips both top and bottom!   Why haven’t I read this anyplace….ever?  Anyway, all is well with the screens now.

8. Sewer hose storage.  The storage compartment for the sewer hose, located just above the power cord storage area, was never usable.  By taking out the several screws that held the tube in which one was supposed to, but couldn’t, store the sewer hose…and discarding that tube, a significant storage area was opened up for use.  The compartment is shared with the plumbing for the freshwater intake but there is still quite a bit of room available for storage.  I found that I could now store there my 10′ sewer hose, with fittings attached at both ends!

9. Leaking water transfer valve.  The valve one turns to allow the fresh water tank to fill is made of plastic, with O rings.  If one pushes in while turning the valve, it is possible to push the valve assembly out of the valve case, allowing it to leak…a lot!   The fix is an easy one, though. Just reach in through the door that encloses the sewer hose storage compartment and push the valve assembly back into the housing.   It won’t leak any more unless the O ring gets damaged in the process. Be careful when turning that valve that you don’t also push in on it very hard.

10. Flying Js.  Just before we left on this trip, I received a RVers card to the Flying J system of truck stops. The card allowed for a 1 cent discount on diesel for Rvs. And their restaurants have phone line hookups so we can access the internet and our email.   So, I’ve tried a few.  What an enigma they are!  The first one we stopped at the card reader at the pump didn’t work. In fact, it hasn’t worked at any of them yet.  One is supposed to swipe the Rvers card first, to get the discount, then swipe the credit card to which the fuel should be charged. I haven’t gotten one to work yet but that’s ok because one must go inside to sign the charge slip anyway. Most have phones at the pumps you can call and get the pump turned on. The one at Beach, ND had signs at the pumps to use CB channel one to call the fuel desk to activate the pump you want. Worked great!  Just call the fuel desk on the CB before leaving your seat in the rig and the pump is going when you get to it. Why don’t they do that at all the Flying Js?  Who knows.  The one thing that was consistent about the Flying Js was their inconsistency.  I tried to use their dump stations at two locations. At the first, the dump station was out of service. At the second, there was no water for washup which is the same as out of service. The station layout was different at each, the “deal” was different at each. Some you got a 3 cent discount for cash. At one, “cash” meant green money, Visa or Mastercard but not Discover card.  At another, all the auto pumps got the discount for any credit card.. At Bozeman, MT, their computer only allowed us a half cent discount on the RV card. At Fargo, the same thing happened but when I called it to the attention of the attendant, he gave me the other half cent/gallon in change, saying he didn’t know why the computer did that.  The first Flying J we stopped at was at Post Falls, ID.  We decided to eat lunch there so we could use the phone line at the table to get our email. All of the employees we encountered were very grumpy and the food was so bad there that it will be a long time before we eat at another Flying J. Note: this is based on only one try. Maybe others are better.  I got sick from eating a piece of cherry pie when I was seven. I didn’t eat another piece of cherry pie for twenty years!

On the plus side: is diesel cheaper at Flying Js?  Yes, probably although I didn’t research locally. Am I still stopping at them for fuel? Yes.  They also have showers (free if you buy 50 gallons of fuel at some) and clothes washers.  Its worth a try, but be wary and don’t expect perfection.  They seem to be located about 300 miles apart on the major interstates all over the country.  800-355-3063 for more info. It is most unfortunate that they do not have overnight parking places for RVs like some stops do, so we can be at least a little bit separated from the noise of idling trucks and trucks coming and going all night.

I long for the day when RVers will have access to information on fuel prices all over the country the way pilots do. One can get on the internet and plan a flight across the country based on stops for fuel at the cheapest places.  It was really needed as there can be as much as a dollar per gallon price difference at two airports 40 miles apart.

11. Valuables storage: someone else came up with this idea but I like it: for Trek owners, valuables may be stored quite safely under the mattress with the bed in the up position, and the fuse removed or a bed up/down disable switch rigged in some hidden place.

The Trip

The 3500 miles we traveled from San Diego, up through California’s central valley had a stop near Lancaster to meet the fellow who invented and sells the Bullseye satellite dishmount (we bought one). From there to near Davis, CA to meet up with an old graduate school buddy I hadn’t seen for 40 years. Then, NW toward the coast, a stop to visit Trek owners and Trek newsletter contributors Hugh and Jan McCusker and, of course, compare notes about our Treks over lunch. Then up the CA and OR coasts with an overnight in the parking lot at the dock in Bandon, OR where Tony (owner of Port-of-Call, the local bait shop, who we met in Baja at Christmas) cooked us each a whole live crab. That was our dinner…what a delicacy!  First time in my life I had a whole Dungeness crab all to myself!

We turned inland at Florence to go to the SMC factory, thinking that this would be the ‘Mecca’. It was a disappointment as discussed above. From there to Portland to get some things done at FMI (oil and filter change, tranny service, hook up manifold end of a boost gauge I installed, and a general chassis inspection/familiarization with me and the mechanic under the rig.  From there we visited Bob & Sylvia Gummersall at their beautiful home on Mercer Island (Seattle area). Bob, although not a Trek owner, is Mr. RV knowledge himself (surely you have read several of his articles in Fortunately, their rig was in the shop for some work so we spent the night, plugged in, there.

I asked Bob if he knew where the list of US Post Offices where we could have mail sent general delivery. A few days later he came back with this e: “Hi Dale, I just found the US PO page you were trying to find.  It is then put General Delivery in the Address block and the city you are interested in.  Regards,  Bob”. Thanks, Bob!

Then we proceeded North from there to about 40 north of Seattle to visit Trish’s kids, then the ferry to Victoria, with the Trek left behind in Trish’s son’s yard, for a few days in that pretty area. From there, we took hiway 20 east to central Washington and Grand Coulee where we watched the laser light show (the whole downstream side of the dam is the screen) and spent the night camped on an overlook which showed the dam and lake and the city of Grand Coulee when the sun came up the next morning.

Another notable stop was the KOA at Bozeman, MT, because adjacent was the Bozeman Hot Springs facility with many warm and hot pools and great showers. Trish and I love to swim so it was most enjoyable.  A great, remote overnight was Howrey Island, on BLM land (free), just NW of Hysham, MT, on I-94. We had a visit from a little black and white fellow we named “Stripes” and I was elevated (momentarily) to hero status for chasing him away without odor.

Then we stopped and did the loop in Teddy Roosevelt Ntl. Park and stayed in the nice campground there for $4.50. In the morning we hiked the Wind canyon nature trail, took photos of the buffalo and were on our way across North Dakota. The last night out was spent on a point with water on three sides on the north side of Pipestem lake north of Jamestown, ND.  Beautiful sunset and sunrise!  Free, too!

Some statistics:

Total miles: 3526

Average miles/day: 135

Average miles/day for the days we actually traveled: 242

Fuel used: 325.75 gallons

Average mpg: 11.33 Range: (10.2- 13.8) Cruising speed: 65 mph indicated = 60.1 mph actual (measured by GPS and confirmed by timing road mile markers)

Fuel cost per mile: $.0901. Fuel cost ranged from a high of $1.729/ gal. in CA to $1.329 in ND.

Average cost per day for RV parks: $4.78 (we boondocked a lot, some free driveways, N’tl. Forest, BLM and Army Engineers lands….Beautiful! And do-able with the Trek because it is short).  A great trip which convinced us we WILL like full-timing in the Trek in the Fall.

From an Isuzu Trek owner:

hi dale, I am Joe Gannon, and my wife Sharon and i love our trek also. We have owned it for about 3 years and it just fits our life style. We have had a few small problems, but the bed breaking down was the biggest. we travel on and off in it most of the year. we spend the winters in Az. Tex. Calf. warm areas.  I would like to join your Isuzu trek users group. Please send me all your Isuzu stuff.  we have often though about starting something like that.

We have done a few modifications to our trek they are as follows;

Installed 2 more 75 W solar panels on tthe roof

Put stops on our bed rail at the bottom to support the bed while it is down. I think this is what causes bed motors to ware out,to much weight on the motorbrake.

Installed clothes hamper in corner next to shower over the heater vent, raised it a little to allow vent to work.

Made a sliding door under clothes closet for lite storage and kind of a hide away for valuables.

I installed platform in the towing receiver to carry an small motorbike between toad. We tow a Ranger PU with a small boat on top of the canopy and most of the time i think we are over loaded, but we travel slowly and carefully and are never in to much of hurry.

Installed storage pod on top.

Installed shelves in bottom of closet for shoes and other items.

Built a small set of drawers under the dash next gear shift. works good for mounting the CB on also.

I have not done any thing to the chassis, but have been thinking about putting a set of air bags on rear. The chassis is built pretty stong to start with and didnt want to replace something that didnt need it.

I have been having a problem with exhaust brake lately. It seems to quit working for some reason and than after a while it starts again.

I don’t use my speed control to much but when i do it seems to work fine on level roads.

Looking forward to hearing from you,  joe&sharon. (tumble_weeds (at)

If you wrote about your Trek since mid April and I haven’t included it here, please call it to my attention so I can share it in the next newsletter.

Joe and Sharon: can you send me a photo of your front drawer console?

 Happy Trekkin’ everyone!