Shoehorning a viable generator into a 40 year old motorhome is not one of those easy things. Unfortunately having a viable generator is important.
If you are one of those that enjoy tinkering with old motors the original Onan Power Drawer design really is a good one. Just such a cute Ole Troll! And I mean that with the best intentions, I’m not telling you to pitch your in fact both coaches I drive have original Onans in them but make no mistake… we have had a prayer meeting and these Trolls know the first time they decide to get finicky or just give me problems… OFF with their heads will be my response!
With the definition of a generator being “an emergency standby device” I will lay odds the Red Cross doesn;t have a 40 year old generator sitting there waiting for a disaster. No, even with little use AGE is our opponent.
Today, our vintage RV’s are witnessing a renewed interest in updating and actually using these classic motorhomes again to carry your family or do whatever it is you have found one of these things useful for. That’s a good thing, a great thing in fact because this exposure will help keep our classic machines viable but along with this owners expect a certain level of reliability and usefulness of their coach and brother, a motorhome here in the US.. especially in the south is not a fun thing to travel in without running the roof AC… which means the generator needs to create the AC power we have grown to expect in our lives.
So it plays out like this… a coach is purchased and in fact it all works as it drives away from the previous owner… remember what this machine is and how old many of it’s parts are. There was a list of things that had been addressed on the coach, the list you should really seek would be of all the things have not been touched and especially a list of all original 40 year old parts on board! Oh, but that’s another huge subject… lets stay on generators…
So your Onan Troll (I mean that in a good way.. well as good as I can) because in their day they were top of the line and engineered into the GMC beautifully. Problem with not having a universal sized compartment is replacing the generator with another type is not easy. Because the compartment was made for one specific machine, other machines may not fit nearly as well and this is one huge problem installing different generator into a GMC motorhome and as far other “off shelf” generators fitting into a 23′ coach generator compartment… Forget about it!… they don;t make them shaped like that…
Why try and find a new generator? You could rebuild your old one guaranteed to work as well and be as reliable as an old generator can be… which can be woefully short for the expectations of most people. Just because something this old works does not mean you should or even could rely upon it… come on man, you would not drive on a 15 year old tire… or would you? If something needs to really be something you must rely upon it’s best if it’s new. Sorry but as for reliable electricity in our lives… as folks pointed out recently with all this terrorist stuff… our work would stop without reliable AC power so you need to prepare yourself to have that reliability.
If you DO rely on an original Onan power drawer like I do, understand it’s no ones fault but yours if something happens like it usually does when you need it most! And that certainly goes for operational generators.
Folks in the UK and Europe have it made… well the RV dealers do… most units do not carrt an on board generator.. everything is 12 volt and open vents. Hey but us soft Americans need power to make us happy!
Specifically for the GMC motorhome, chances are if you seek a full restoration or even a really reliable one, “generator” will be an issue you must address. Just cause it’s working does not mean it’s good to go and if you DO follow diagnostics a good % of you guys need to replace your aging generator. When it stops for no aparent reason, won’t run the roof AC, smokes or leaks you must understand you will be putting time into it…. time is money so don’t spend a dollar to save a penney. Yes, generators can be expensive and chances are it will ding the wallet but you also need a working motor, transmission, brakes, etc. so generators for most of us need to be in that list of critical systems…
As you can see up top, the usual Onan Marquis box generator will go in not only with no battery but little to no servicing room! There is an Onan “Microlite” series but their past reliability to me is still tainting those units for me. For this reason, we have been using for over a decade water cooled Honda 6000watt EV-6010 and the 4000watt EV-4010. The 4010 especially for the 23′ MC coaches in that their compartments were so small.
Of course anything can be done with “cubic dollars” and an unlimited labor budget, the trick is to find and install a generator that can be used in your application economically and reliably.. oh, and something easy to service and get parts for.
Honda is a big company and there were over 500,000 of these generator made so finding one while they are not everywhere can be had and with Pinellas Power Products supporting the units with parts and service information we still feel these Honda generators is the way to go.
If this is something you are interested in, watcg Ebay and Craigs list. If you see one call me and I’ll tell you what you need to know to make it yours in your generator.