Archive for May, 2010

Northwood: Go back to wood!

May 11th, 2010

Well.. well.. well. What a fun day I’ve had. I spent about eight hours lying on my back in gravel inventing new curses to throw at Northwood after seeing the mess on the bottom of our camper. For future reference, according to the manual, Arctic Fox campers are not designed to be ‘lived in’, have the slide put out without jacks or have any water in any of the tanks while not in a truck bed. Also, their customer service folks have pointed out that ‘no one builds anything square, except maybe a picture frame.’

We had a few problems early on, but they seemed like just small issues. About a year ago, we were at the factory in Oregon and asked them to fix a ground bolt that had sheared off. The service tech pulled the water heater, replaced it and sealed it. He, however, neglected to actually replace the ground bolt. While there, we asked about the reason our camper is not actually square side to side and received the above quote as a response.

Two days ago, our fresh water tank fell through the bottom of the camper. Can you guess what I’m thinking about their overall design and build quality? I called them just to vent, not expecting more than the ‘we know that will break, so we put it in the owner’s manual’. That’s exactly what I got.

Northwood MFG bad weld!

While pulling off the bottom of the camper, I found broken welds in every support throughout the camper. In fact, there was a broken weld directly under… wait for it… nothing. Most of the supports had more than one broken weld… every one of them had at least one weld broken on the passenger side… where the slide is. The average number of broken welds per brace was roughly three.

Most of the broken welds were just broken beads. I only recall seeing a couple where metal had actually sheared. Speaking of the metal, I had to bend a few pieces to get the wiring out of it while working on replacements. I managed to SNAP a piece of the aluminum with nothing but my hands and feet.

So, I have lots of little bruises from lying in gravel, but all six broken and completely under-spec’d braces have been replaced with two by fours. Tomorrow, Jenn gets to help support some shower board material to replace the luan that had to be broken in order to come out and we’ll have an enclosed camper again. Hopefully, nothing moves into our sub-floor in the meantime.

Pile O' broken Northwood underside support crap
Our new underside - courtesy of Johnny!

So, if you’re thinking of buying from Northwood, ask them to send you an owner’s manual so you can read their escape clauses first… and ask them just how many days a year the camper is designed to be used. Sadly, I forgot to ask.