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.

Winchester RV Repair

November 13th, 2008

Spice rack built by Winchester RV Repair

A couple of months back, we posted about three guys that got laid off from the Northwood of Virginia factory and have gone into the repair business. Well, we still needed a few things fixed because of problems with our appliance vendors and had a few days left on our warranty, so we figured it would be a good time to visit Bruce, Jerry and Roger again. I’m happy to say they had about a half dozen RVs in for repairs – primarily insurance claims and warranty work. Fortunately for us, everything they had sitting was because they were waiting for parts to arrive, so they had some time to work on our fan and air conditioner without having to wait.

We’ve been working on their website for a few days and instead of trying to figure out how much to charge a start-up that we really want to see succeed, we talked them into doing some customization on the camper. You’ve seen my oh-so-humble efforts on the liquor cabinet, so let’s just say I was thrilled to see what they made of my request to add a spice rack. And here I was about ready to buy some wire and plastic contraption from Wal-Mart!

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Home Improvement

October 1st, 2008

I posted back in April about our table upgrade that has saved my sanity, but I figure it’s time to cover a few more minor modifications that have improved our enjoyment of the camper. Also, we’re about to be engaged slinging fried chicken for a couple of weeks and we’ll probably be rather quiet in the blogosphere.

I’ve really got to say I’m still very happy with our choice of camper and options. We’ve looked at quite a few both before and after we made a decision and I still haven’t seen one (yeah, I know Paul will tell me to look at his Snowriver) that I would be happier with for fulltiming.

Added shelving to main closet

We had a couple of things customized on the camper that have made life a lot easier. One was getting a wet bath instead of a dry bath. For starters, it’s very easy to clean a wet bath. The only thing you really sacrifice is having a dry place to store towels and toilet paper. It’s also a good idea to buy a squeegie to swamp out the bathroom after your shower. But what we got in return for a dry bath is a wardrobe that’s two and a half feet deep, three full length drawers and a shoe cabinet.

After we quit work, I found I didn’t need hanging clothes anymore and built a cubbyhole system inside the wardrobe. Now, I have four shelves for clothes, a liquor cabinet and a handy place to store our bows which we previously had to squeeze behind the backseat of the truck. Rene has been asking me, for months now, where we hide the booze and I finally have a good answer. With some wiggling, I can get roughly eighteen liters of booze in the liquor cabinet. Just right for a couple of unemployed, homeless folks, right?
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Factory quality repairs on the east coast?

September 26th, 2008

This place is huge and everything is for sale, from welding equipment to bolts.

We had to have a few repairs done recently, and after talking to the factory out in Oregon, we were pointed to a dealer in Amherst, Virginia. I was getting a bit scared when the lady there mentioned that their repair guy only worked for them part time. However, she told me she had recently sent some folks up to the factory in Winchester for repairs. Now, this struck me as odd since I’d just got off the phone with the factory in Oregon and they’d confirmed that the Winchester factory was now closed. It turns out that three of the senior guys are starting a repair facility and are still working out of the Northwood factory for the time being!

I can’t recommend Bruce, Jerry and Roger highly enough. Between them, they’ve got something like 102 years of experience manufacturing RV’s for Fleetwood and Northwood. Both times we’ve dealt with them, they have been very professional and extremely fast while managing high quality repairs. In fact, I’ll go so far as to give out their phone numbers for anybody on the east coast that needs some excellent work done.

Phone: 540-542-6140

Cell: 304-268-2339

The RV Pros: Bruce, Roger, and Jerry.

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Winchester, VA

May 4th, 2008


We dropped the camper off with the Northwood guys around 7:30AM and needed to kill some time. Luckily, as the factory was very nearly closed, they allowed us to leave the cats in an unused stairwell for the day.

Wednesday evening, we had stopped at a Civil War battlefield next door to the Opequon church where we ran into a retired teacher who proceeded to fill us in on the history of the church and the surrounding area for about an hour as well as suggest a few things to see in town the following day. On advice of our Presbyterian tour guide, we aimed to get out of town before the festival got started if possible as we have had our share of festivals and fairs.

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