Carefree Travl'r Awning - Diagnostic & Repair - Dutchmen Owners

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Old 05-03-2016, 11:07 PM   #1
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Carefree Travl'r Awning - Diagnostic & Repair

Ok boys & girls... gather 'round and I'll tell you a story.

I know many of us have a Travle'r awning from Carefree of Colorado on the side of our rigs... especially those of us with toyhaulers. And I know from previous posts that some of us have had issues with the awning really being noisy upon deployment & retraction... loud squeaking that seems the arms are really binding on the tracks. We've discussed lubricating them, and various ways to get them to operate more smoothly.

Well, I've got good news & bad news...

The good is that I now know what's causing it... or at least, what was causing mine, which was getting worse & worse over time. The bad news is explained below:

I've got 2 of them on my rig... a long 17' wide one as my main awning, and a smaller 8' one that covers my rear side door to the garage. This shorter one began getting noisy after a year of ownership, and had progressively grown worse er the last year. I tried cleaning the tracks regularly, spraying the rollers with dry-lube, and eventually even smothering the tracks with marine-grade (water resistant) grease to get them to run smoothly... mostly to no avail.

Well, upon arrival to my latest RV site a couple of weeks ago, I began the process of setting up as usual... part of that process being to extend the awnings. It had rained pretty good over the previous 2 days, and I wanted to air them out.

The main awning extended just fine... but only the rearward arm began extending on the smaller one. The arm for the motor-head side just moved away from the wall, and stopped. So of course, I stopped trying to extend it, and began trying to diagnose the problem. I could go outside, and manually pull the arm open with no problem, so it wasn't an obstruction.

After a few more checks, it appeared to me that there just wasn't any force being exerted by the gas shock.

A call later in the day to Carefree tech support confirmed my diagnosis, and a new shock was ordered. It arrived a few days later, and this is where the "real fun" began...

Below are the instructions from the service manual on how to replace the shock...



Seems simple enough... it just not a job for one person. So I asked a fellow camper if he'd be willing to help when I tackled it today, and he said sure. I explained what was gonna happen, and told him that it shouldn't take more than 10-15 minutes. Ha... right!!

Got as far as Step 11, and that's where I got stopped cold. Even with the arm extended to full length, the shock was still about 2-to-3 inches too long to match up with the clevis bolt... and with 85 lbs of pressure on the shock, there was no way to compress it by hand to get it to fit.

I'll not bore you with what all we went thru for the next 2 hours or so... but after a lot of trial & error, 2 broken tools, and a bit of cursing, we finally got it installed.

So coming back around to the "good news" I mentioned earlier. The awning both extends & retracts whisper quiet now! No noise at all.

And the bad news is that... if your awning is really making a lot of noise going in & out, I'll bet you've got a shock going south. With no pressure (or significantly less than needed) being exerted bye shock to open the anwning, all of the weight & pressure of the thing is being transferred to the roller bearing on the track... and the protesting is what you're hearing. The old shock that I removed was completely gone. I could easily push the rod in with my hand, and it does not even try to rebound & extend.

So that's my story... and I think I can now safely say that the shock is the cause of all the noise.
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Old 05-03-2016, 11:32 PM   #2
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What a shocking revelation!

My Concord has a Dometic 9100 on it, very similar to the Carefree Travl'r.

Aaron
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Old 05-04-2016, 01:06 AM   #3
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Did I miss the part about how you managed to get it compressed enough to hook it up?
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Old 05-04-2016, 01:53 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by sundancer 87 View Post
Did I miss the part about how you managed to get it compressed enough to hook it up?
No... figured I'd been long-winded enough.

At first, we tried putting the end on the side of a crescent wrench, and using it as a bar to slide down the track (which compressed the shock), but we couldn't find a way to keep it compressed as we slid it off to install on the clevis.

What we eventually ended up doing is basically removing the hex-head screws to the roller bearings, which released the arm from the track completely. Then we pulled the arm all the way down, which flipped the arm completely over. Hard to describe, but we got the strut attached.

Then the fun part was trying to reinstall the arm... under tension... thru the roller bearings, and back on the track.

All in all... what was supposed to be a 15-min job, with one man holding the unattached roller tube while the other man did the work, turned into a 2+ hour pain in the ass.
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Old 05-04-2016, 02:01 AM   #5
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That makes you the 'go to guy' for sure! Glad you diagnosed it and repaired it all on your own. Now you have more money to spend since you didn't have to leave any at a dealer.
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Old 05-04-2016, 02:37 AM   #6
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Knowing what I know now, I would fabricate a tool before beginning... or since I don't have a shop anymore, get a machine shop to make it for me.

It would resemble the claw side of a hammer, except flattened. The challenge is that it needs to be a strong metal, with the space between the claws just large enough to allow the threaded bolt end of the strut to pass through (while using the shoulders of the barrel as a brace), and yet thin enough to allow enough threads to show to get the thing started into the female clevis.

With that, the barrel end of the strut could be placed in it at an angle, and then pulled down along the track... compressing the strut as it went... until it's in place near the clevis. Once engaged, and the first threads are screwed & caught, the tool could be removed, and the barrel could be tightened.

That would save one from having to disassemble the ram from the track like I did... and would allow it to be a simpler & quicker job.
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Old 05-04-2016, 03:43 AM   #7
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Thank you!

So, as I'm reading your posting the light bulb is going off in my head. For a LONG time our awning has has made noise and I've tried it all with no effect. When I read your post I remembered that sometimes when putting the awning out the left side does not extend right away, I sometimes have to "help" it with a push. Sounds like I need the shocks! Are they specific to each length awning? How mush are they? Thank you for posting this.
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Old 05-04-2016, 05:06 AM   #8
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In the past I've used a ratchet tie-down strap to compress shocks on my truck. Works like a charm. Can't be much different for our awning shocks - or is it? What if you didn't follow step #8 and NOT extend the shock - would that work any better by having it already compressed?
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Old 05-04-2016, 08:05 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rcharrette View Post
So, as I'm reading your posting the light bulb is going off in my head. For a LONG time our awning has has made noise and I've tried it all with no effect. When I read your post I remembered that sometimes when putting the awning out the left side does not extend right away, I sometimes have to "help" it with a push. Sounds like I need the shocks! Are they specific to each length awning? How mush are they? Thank you for posting this.
Randy
On the shock/strut body (black portion), you'll see the length and PSI stamped on it. I had to use these numbers to get much stronger ones for the bed after we added a residential mattress.
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Old 05-04-2016, 08:59 AM   #10
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Thanks for the write up.... Are those 37 inch or 42.5 inch shocks. I am going o look at doing this replacement soon.

After reading your write up, it has occurred to me that this is exactly what have been hearing, basically a shock that just doesn't want to work...

Thanks again,

Cale
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Old 05-04-2016, 12:28 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by azdryheat View Post
In the past I've used a ratchet tie-down strap to compress shocks on my truck. Works like a charm. Can't be much different for our awning shocks - or is it? What if you didn't follow step #8 and NOT extend the shock - would that work any better by having it already compressed?
I was thinking along that line also. If one could predetermine the needed length only extend to that length. Of course this is only speculation...............
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Old 05-04-2016, 01:20 PM   #12
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Tom,

I replaced a strut, by myself, on the larger awning last year. It had just been replaced under warranty, but the knuckleheads at CW used a pair of pliers on the chrome plated shaft, and scored it. A few cycles and it either tore the seal, or the gas leaked out. The instructions are pretty clear about not using tools on the strut shaft. If I recall correctly, I removed one end of the awning at the motor end, and placed it on a ladder to hold it. Caution, it's pretty heavy. The next challange was to get the side arm to fully extend, in order to install the fully extended shock. Gravity was pulling the bottom part down, closing the arm. I used rope looped around to pull the bottom roller up, and fully extend the arms. Could probably use a tie down from the motorcycle to better secure the arm in the fully extended position. With the arm fully extended, I was able to install the strut. Then remount the awning end with motor. About an hour, most of which was figuring out how to get the arm fully extended.

The guy I worked with at CareFree was great. I explained what I needed, and that the original repair was done under warranty by CW, who botched it. Not CareFree's fault, but he sent me not one, but two struts, for free. Great company! I travel with the spare, just in case.
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Old 05-04-2016, 02:51 PM   #13
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The shock arrived fully extended in its wrapper from Carefree. With the ends (which have to be removed) it measured 42", with a pressure rating of 85 lbs.







You can order it from Carefree... here's the link. (Item #6)

https://www.e-carefree.com/ecarefree...r?productId=32


Paul...
I had no trouble fully extending the arm... well, at least extending it until the roller-housing on the track reached the clevis, at which it wouldn't travel any further. But once I was there, the shock was at least another 2-to3 inches longer, and there was no way I was gonna pull/compress that shock with just my hands. It was just a freakin mess.

Again, knowing what I know now, I'd make a tool beforehand as described above. That would've made the job much, much easier.
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Old 05-04-2016, 03:06 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by ATCguy View Post
Knowing what I know now, I would fabricate a tool before beginning... or since I don't have a shop anymore, get a machine shop to make it for me.

It would resemble the claw side of a hammer, except flattened. The challenge is that it needs to be a strong metal, with the space between the claws just large enough to allow the threaded bolt end of the strut to pass through (while using the shoulders of the barrel as a brace), and yet thin enough to allow enough threads to show to get the thing started into the female clevis.

With that, the barrel end of the strut could be placed in it at an angle, and then pulled down along the track... compressing the strut as it went... until it's in place near the clevis. Once engaged, and the first threads are screwed & caught, the tool could be removed, and the barrel could be tightened.

That would save one from having to disassemble the ram from the track like I did... and would allow it to be a simpler & quicker job.
Tom,

As I was reading your description of a tool for the job, I thought of a slimmed down bar clamp with little hooks instead of a soft pad. Better get yourself a patent, I see a market in the DIY guys.
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