2021 Update on our Travel Supreme Cross Bracing post
I continue to be amazed at how many folks are affected by the dreaded Travel Supreme windshield issues! We still get questions on a daily basis and we get a lot of Google traffic from people searching ” travel supreme rv problems “.
We got rid of our Travel Supreme Select 41DSO in 2013 when we were going to get shipped to Germany, so our information here is pretty dated.
If you’re thinking about buying of these coaches because of the high fit and finish quality at a low price point – DON’T. We loved ours, but the constant worry isn’t worth it!
If you already have one – Precision Painting is the place to go if they’re still in business. Get it fixed right the first time, and hopefully you’ll be good to go!
We moved from the Travel Supreme to a 40′ Tiffin Phaeton for a few years, then sold it when we moved to Germany in 2019, and now that we’re back to the States we picked up a little R-Pod 180 that we can tow behind our midsize SUV.
Jim & Colette
This the first post in a series of RV projects and upgrades, and likely the most helpful for other Travel Supreme RV owners. Travel Supreme RVs older than 2007 come with a well documented problem of the windshield occasionally popping out in the upper corners, or breaking entirely! Do a quick search for Travel Supreme RV Problems, and you’ll find page after page of discussions about this.
This is due to a design flaw that allows the RV body to flex too much, and the fix is to install cross-bracing between the frame rails and the lower crossbar of the body, commonly referred to as X-bracing.
The finished brace before cleanup and painting
Think of an RV as a big long rectangular box. In a perfect world, this box stays perfectly rectangular. However daily driving, leveling the coach, rough roads, anything that twists the coach can cause this rectangular box to flex and turn into a parallelogram.
Since the windshield glass is rectangular and won’t flex, it ends up popping out of the housing or breaking when the window housing goes out-of-square along with the rest of the body. Not good!
When we purchased our coach, the windshield was completely popped out of the seal, with a 2” gap along the passengers side that we managed to seal down to about an inch and then covered with Gorilla Tape to make the 1700 mile drive with it from St Louis to Southern California.
The ideal solution is to take your rig to Precision Painting in Indiana, I believe that they do the X-bracing for around $1000. They’ve had plenty of experience working on Travel Supreme RV problems and know the coaches inside and out.
But like lots of other folks, I couldn’t make it to Indiana, and started looking at shops between St Louis and Southern California who had already done this job on other rigs and could handle mine. Not much luck. The only outfit I found in Southern California who had done one before was Temecula RV, and they quoted me $6,900 for the job! Talk about ripping off your captive audience, I have seen the same thing before in the sailing world and wonder how many people just don’t know better and get taken for suckers. When I asked for a cost breakdown, the gentleman quoted me $1200 in parts – I know from pricing this out that the steel to do the bracing costs less than $250, and he couldn’t tell me what the extra “parts” cost was. Caveat emptor.
The concept behind the X-bracing is quite simple. Weld two upright braces between the frame rails and the lower crossbar of the body, and two crossbeams in an X pattern to keep the assembly square. The Spartan K-2 chassis is the same chassis that is used on transit buses and is ruggedly built with no flex in it at all. Since the frame doesn’t flex, this support should keep the body from flexing so much.
The devil is in the details though, and if not done correctly you could end up with a well-braced coach that isn’t square and still has windshield problems. This entails checking your coach for squareness and getting it square if it isn’t already.
You can click on any of the photos in this post to view them at full resolution on Flickr.
The steps at a high level
- Measure the windshield for squareness.
- Level the coach to get the windshield square.
- Disconnect electrical since we’ll be welding on the chassis which is a negative ground in the electrical system.
- Cut the carpet back to expose the lower crossbar.
- Measure frame-to-crossbar distance.
- Cut steel to fit.
- Measure diagonal braces and cut to fit.
- Weld diagonal braces into place.
- Weld steel uprights in place.
- Grind down any excess flash.
- Mask off areas around bracing to prevent paint overspray.
- Prime and paint X-bracing to prevent corrosion and keep that ‘factory’ look.
- Fold carpet back into place and cut out the squares where the uprights it.
- Re-adhere the carpet to the flooring with adhesive.
- Reconnect electrical.
- Stand back and enjoy having saved a boatload of money!
Now that we know the rough magnitude, let’s get started!
Square up the coach
I’m sure there are very scientific ways to do this, and it’s probably easiest with the windshield out. Since I just had my windshield put back into place, I’m going to be fairly unscientific and go old-school.
The idea is that if the diagonal distances from the upper left to bottom right and upper right to bottom left of the windshield are equal, then the body is square. I also measured from the corners to the corners of the divider in the center of the windshield.
You could probably use a tape measure to measure the distances, but I really don’t care what the distances ARE, I just care that they’re equal. For me, this works just fine with a long piece of string and a piece of tape.
Tape one end of the string (or have a helper hold it) above the upper left corner of the windshield, and run it down to the lower right corner. Mark where the string crosses the corners of the windshield with a Sharpie.
Now pull the tape off and repeat with the upper right and lower left corners, making sure that the Sharpie mark in the upper right corner is at the edge of the windshield.
If the sharpie mark doesn’t exactly touch the bottom left corner of the windshield, your coach is out of square.
If the mark is on the windshield, the top of your coach is tilted to the right. If the mark is on the gasket, it’s tilted to the left.
Use your levelers to get your coach square, where the mark aligns properly. I also put a level on both sides of the coach to measure vertical squareness when I finished, and they both showed the same level.
Note: If someone has a better method of doing this, please let me know!
Disconnect the electronics
Now that you have a square coach, let’s disconnect the electrical system. Welders use electrical current to actually do the welding, and we don’t want to take the chance of damaging anything.
If you are hooked to shore power, disconnect your shore power hookups.
If you have solar or wind charging, make sure you pull the fuses that connect your controllers to the batteries so there is no current flowing through.
Unhook battery cables. Make sure you take a couple photos with your digital camera and mark the cables so you know where everything gets put back!
Unplug sensitive electronics. Probably not necessary, but I prefer to err on the side of caution.
Cut The Carpet
If you have slide-out trays, slide them out so you have unrestricted access to the area where you’ll be working. Otherwise remove everything from the general area so you have a clean area to work in.
You can find where the steel crossmember is below the carpet with a magnet, or by poking a thumbtack or small nail through the carpet. You’ll feel wood on both sides, and the steel down the center. Hang a plumb bob from the inside edge of the frame rail to determine where you’ll need to cut the carpet back. Mark this spot with your magnet, thumbtack, or a Sharpie. Now repeat on the inside edge of the other frame rail.
Now that you have two spots marked on your carpet, use a straightedge (yardstick, 2×4, level, whatever you have available) to mark a line through the 2 spots.
Draw a line 6” out from each end, this is where you will cut the carpet to.
Mark your line, and cut the carpet with a sharp utility knife or carpet cutter.
Mark and cut a perpendicular line at each end 8” long. This will allow you to peel the carpet back so the welder doesn’t catch it on fire or damage it.
Peel the carpet away from the subfloor, the adhesive that was installed at the factory is very sticky and you’ll need to tug firmly. Fold the carpet back and secure it out of the way. You should now have a bare area to work with consisting of only the lower crossmember and the subfloor.
Note that the crossmember under the flooring is only 1.5″ wide, we’re using 3″ x 3/8” wall square tube for rigidity but only the center 1.5″ of it will be welded to the crossmember. I don’t have any engineering data to prove that this is stiffer than using a 1.5” tube, but it makes sense in my head. Apologies for the poor angle on the photo.
Remove Overhead Tray
If you have an aluminum tray screwed in between the two frame rails above your head, take this time to remove it. I don’t know if it’s in every coach, but I had one in mine.
Measure the frame to crossmember distance
Measure the vertical distance between the frame rails and the cross member. In my coach this measures 20″ exactly, but your dimensions may vary slightly. If one side is longer than the other, this means that your coach is still not square, and should be squared up before continuing.
Cut the uprights to fit
Cut the 3″ square tubing to fit between the frame rail and the subfloor crossbrace and test fit. This should be a snug fit. The only real tool to perform these cuts is a metal chopsaw. You could theoretically use a hacksaw, but it will take forever on thick-walled tubing and you risk a sloppy cut.
With a level, validate that your tubing is perfectly vertical.
Measure and cut diagonal braces
With the 3″ square tubing snugged into place, measure the diagonal distances between the top and bottom of each upright. This should measure 34.25″, but may vary slightly if there are variations in the manufacturing process. The distance for each diagonal needs to be the same to ensure squareness .
Cut the diagonal crossmembers to fit. You may find it helpful to test with wood rather than the steel, then use the wood as templates to cut your steel once the fit is correct.
Remove the uprights from the coach, and lay them out for welding. Tack-weld the diagonals to the uprights and check for squareness. Fit the entire assembly into the coach to ensure proper fit. If fit is correct, finish the welds.
Also weld the 2 diagonals together where they cross in the middle for additional rigidity.
You could alternately weld the two uprights into the coach, and then weld the crossmembers into place, but I think that this approach leaves more room for error when doing the placement.
Weld assembly into coach
Fit the entire assembly into the coach, this should fit snugly. Weld to the frame rails, then to the bottom crossmember.
Once the welds are cool, grind down any excess slag from welding. You will also want to clean up the tan residue left from the welding process, and any oil or dirt on the steel that will get into the paint.
Prep and Paint
Mask the entire area off and prime and paint the crossbrace. You can use spray paint, or you can use a miniature roller brush. I actually brushed mine on and it looks fine from 5 feet away, but if I was doing it over I would use a roller brush.
Once the paint is dry, fold the carpet back to the brace, and cut out the 3″ sections necessary to fit it around the uprights.
Glue the carpet back down to the subfloor.
Notch and Reinstall Overhead Tray
Notch the overhead tray to fit around the 3” upright tubing as shown in this photo. The tray material is thin sheet metal, and can be cut with a hacksaw or tin snips down both sides.
It will take a bit of trial and error to get the notch deep enough without cutting it back too far. Fold the excess sheet metal into the upper section of the tray.
Reconnect your electronics
Reconnect your battery cables, referencing the labeling and photographs that you took earlier. Reconnecting the cables to the wrong terminals could have disastrous results!
If you pulled fuses for solar or wind power, put the fuses back in.
If you were running on shore power, reconnect your shore power.
Once everything is connected and you have power to the coach, reconnect your sensitive electronics.
Stand back, and congratulate yourself for saving a ton of money!
Update after several months of driving
It’s been several months and many miles since I completed this X-bracing, and no issues to date.
We’ve driven plenty of of bumpy California roads, twisty mountain roads up through Sequoia and Kings Canyon, and offroading on rough dusty USFS roads to our boondocking spots, and nary an issue.
There is still the usual creaking and groaning, but no windshield issues to report yet!
Another Brace Shot
Additional Updates – There’s more bracing!
Based on conversations that I’ve been having on several popular internet forums, this basement center brace is not the only work done by Bishop or Precision Painting.
They install a much larger lower frame rail along the length of the basement along the existing rail, and add diagonal braces between these.
More Travel Supreme RV Problems – The Rear Brace
Then the flimsy factory braces in front of the rear wheel is removed and a large bracket is fitted in it’s place. I actually added an additional upright brace in this same area when I noticed that the factory brace was cracked, but I didn’t include it in the blog post since I didn’t realize that this was part of the package. Photos of my bracket fix are here .
Rear Brace 1
Rear Brace 2
Rear Brace 3
Then an additional X-brace is added upright in front of the rear axle, and another X-brace upright behind the genset.
Thanks to Rick Crouch for the additional information, and the photos of the bracing on his rig. It definitely makes Bishop’s $1500 price tag start to look like a really good deal for the amount of time it takes!
Rick’s photos of Bishop’s full installation on his 45’ rig are here .
Hopefully, this post and photos will help you understand the most aggravating of all of the Travel Supreme RV problems – the dreaded windshield!