Lance Update!! OMG!! It’s Happening!!

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It’s been a while since we’ve provided a Lance update on his head gasket problem. Much of the reason for that was that we didn’t have anything new to share… but now we do, and it’s great news. Not to spoil the ending, but here are the three main points:

  1. When all is said and done, Lance’s engine repairs will be done under warranty.
  2. The method of repair is going to be to replace the engine with a new one (Booyah!!).
  3. Hilltop Chrysler Jeep Dodge is freaking awesome.

For those of you keeping score, Lance has been out of commission since December 27th of 2018. No joke. We’re over three months in, so I’m ecstatic to finally be seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

Before I dive in, let’s make sure you’re all caught up. Start with these first:

Part 1: Man Down! Lance is in the Shop!

Part 2: Lance Soap Opera Continues!

And now, back to the update…

This is the last known photo of Lance as a working, functioning RV. Mel was driving, so I blame him.

About Lance’s Warranty

Back in December when Lance blew his cool, it happened at… get this… 59,900 miles. I couldn’t believe it. I was certain we’d be out of warranty by the time I got him in, so I took a picture.

Check out that temperature gauge!

After a little research, it turns out that Lance actually has a 5-year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty arranged by Winnebago through Chrysler Fleet, but I didn’t know that at the time. I don’t know if all model years of Travato have the 100,000 mile warranty, but ours does. Verify that information for your own vehicle before you rely on it.

But the other thing you should notice from that picture is the temperature gauge. Or rather the non-working temperature gauge.

Just moments before taking that picture, the dash had lit up with a “Coolant Temperature High” message and a bunch of beeping. Yet notice where the needle on the “Temperature Gauge Placebo” is. Just a hair below halfway! That’s where it ALWAYS is. 100% of the time:

  • Cold start in Calgary in February? Temperature just below half.
  • 7000 RPM for 12 hours towing a boat in Phoenix in August? Temperature just below half.

Not kidding.

This brings me to this nugget of wisdom for everyone:

The temperature gauge in your ProMaster is less than worthless, apparently by design.

To know what the actual temperature in your engine is, you’d need to install a ScanGauge, or just go by intuition. If you were to cover that original gauge up with a smiley-face sticker, the resulting complete ignorance would actually be more useful.


If you have a picture of your ProMaster temperature gauge at anything except just below half, I’d like to see it. But I digress. Let’s get back to Lance.

When we left off in our last update, Lance was making his way from Stoneridge Chrysler-Jeep-Edsel-Hindenburg-Waterworld and headed to Hilltop Chrysler Jeep Dodge. The experiences at the two dealerships couldn’t have been more different. The crew at Hilltop has been all over things since Lance got there. We’ve been getting regular updates – unsolicited – from the service manager at Hilltop. We’ve also been getting regular updates from our case worker at Fiat Chrysler. Things are happening!

Lance at Hilltop.
(I suppose that’s the hill in the background?)

Forensic Analysis

But, of course, there’s a procedure for everything, and Hilltop has to follow procedures. They’ve been careful to do this all along to make sure that everything will be covered.

First, before just tearing Lance’s engine apart, they needed proof that the head gasket was failing. They did this by going to their smog shop to sniff for hydrocarbons in the coolant reservoir. They found lots.

Am I reading that right? 552?! It should be zero!

And at some point, while doing one of these tests, Lance belched up a gallon of coolant all over the floor. How embarrassing.

Jeez. Can’t take him anywhere…

OK. So they had proof something was wrong inside the engine. They got authorization from the warranty folks and tore into it.

They sent me a bunch of pictures of what they found. I’m not a car guy, but I’m calling this “not good”.

Lots of “gunk”. Probably not supposed to be there. And the valves look different from one cylinder to the next.

And apparently, it had been happening for a while, from the looks of the solidified pink antifreeze residue.

Just guessing, but that pink stuff in the engine is probably not normal.

And there was some longer-term damage. At least that’s what I gather from the .010” gap where I’m pretty sure things should be flush.

I know I wouldn’t accept .010″ of runout on my table saw. Probably not good in an engine.

OK. Definitely some damage and a problem there. But what was the cause?

Hilltop kept going.

They hit something when they tested the thermostat. It didn’t open at 200+ degrees. And apparently hadn’t for quite a while. So the official diagnosis was:

“Blown head gasket and warpage, caused by chronic overheating, courtesy of a bad thermostat.”

I’ll interject here that if the temperature gauge actually worked, I might have noticed this thousands of miles ago. But it doesn’t, and so I didn’t, and so Lance has been suffering in silence for a really long time.

A Quirk with the Warranty

So when Myron (the Service Manager at Hilltop) called to tell me all this, he also filled me in on a peculiar twist with the RAM warranty. While the engine was warranted to 5 years and 100,000 miles… the thermostat is only warranted to 3 years or 36,000 miles. (!)

Myron’s fear was that since the failure was due to a non-warranted part, that the whole enchilada wouldn’t be covered.

I’ll admit it. When I heard this, I blew a head gasket myself!

Why on earth would you put an essential, non-warranted part on an engine with a much longer warranty?!?!? Further, there is no maintenance or replacement schedule for the thermostat. If there was, I certainly would have had it serviced as appropriate. I wouldn’t shut up about this for days.

Well, Myron eventually talked me down. He and I worked together – each of us calling FCA warranty to plead our case. (Because let’s face it, the thermostat warranty thing just doesn’t make any sense.) I’m happy to report that FCA has agreed to cover the repairs under warranty.

Further, these engines really don’t like excessive heat, and the recommended repair is to just replace the engine with a new one. Parts are on order.  So in addition to my regular updates from the Service Manager, I now also get updates from the gal who orders the parts at Hilltop… amazing!

Work should begin this week when everything arrives.

The Hopefully Happy Ending

Once Myron and the crew of superstars at Hilltop get done with Lance (they’re just repairing him to stock condition), then Lance will head back over to Gordon at Edge Motorworks to have his second alternator re-installed.

Stef and I will be hosting our group of Winnebago-driving cycling enthusiasts at the Sea Otter Classic again this year, which means we’ll be not too far from the Bay Area in a week or so. We’re super hopeful that Lance will be ready to go by the time we leave the area.

Fingers crossed everyone!


For the final Lance update, CLICK HERE.

James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he's not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or - that one time - doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he works for a large IT company.

    65 thoughts on “Lance Update!! OMG!! It’s Happening!!

    1. Chuck

      Hello James and others. Thanks to all for the posts about the temp gauge situation and adding the ScanGauge2 or 3; which I ordered and received my ScanGauge3 last week and had one question – do I need to purchase an OBDII splitter so I can plug in both the Travato ODBII existing plug that is tied to some of the van systems and the new SG3 so they can both be plugged in and working at the same time?

      1. James - Post author

        Yes. If there is something currently in your OBDII port, you’ll need a splitter in order to be able to use your Scan Gauge as well.

    2. richard labat

      James, 7000 RPM for 12 hours? Are you sure about this? That must be “red line zone on the RPM correct? How much does your boat weight?
      Thanks for the info! I love your work here!

    3. Dennis

      The temp gauge not reading correctly is an understatement. Driving off the lot brand spanking new for only 20 mins my Hymer Aktiv blew the head gaskets and warped both heads. They replaced both heads $5500+ but good thing the RV dealer paid for it. I only had the new rig for 20 mins! 3 weeks later I get it back. Oh when it blew the head gasket the temp gauge NEVER went passed the halfway mark.

    4. Emile Bakker

      What I don’t understand is that modern thermostats will remain open when failed. You would have noticed poor heater performance since you’re getting maximum flow through the radiator regardless of engine or outside temperatures. Have you experienced this prior to the head gasket failure?

      1. James - Post author

        This thermostat failed and remained closed.
        I have video of the tech bench testing our old thermostat from Lance, which remained closed even well over 200 degrees F.

    5. Brian Prince

      I just installed the Scangauge II. I watched the temperature rise on the Promaster gauge and compared it to the Scangauge. It tracked as I would expect and so I think my Promaster temp gauge is working correctly. I have a 2017 Promaster.

      Does the gauge have issues in the high temperature range?

      1. James - Post author

        My issue is that the ProMaster gauge never moves. It’s always “normal”. See the pictures in the comments below.

    6. SteveSS

      James, a clarification please. Was your gauge frozen at the 1/2-way mark even when the engine was stone cold, or did climb to that mark as the engine warmed up?

      1. James - Post author

        I’ve honestly never seen the gauge at anything besides just a touch less than halfway.
        But when the vehicle is off, the gauge is at zero. So I know the gauge DOES move. Just never seen it. I think it jumps to just-less-than-halfway within a minute of turning on the vehicle.

    7. Amber Baldwin

      Good grief what an incredible story. I’m glad you got what you needed from this and they are covering under warranty. I’m going to look into that thermostat issue on mine. I know I’m leaking coolant but Ram says there’s no leaks. Huh?? I have to put coolant in every 15-20 days.

      1. James - Post author

        I’ve heard from a few owners with leaky radiators. That’s a lot easier to deal with than a head gasket repair.
        I would take it to an independent shop to pinpoint the source of the leak, then just show the RAM dealer for a warranty repair.
        (yeah, that’s not how it’s *supposed* to work, but whatever gets the job done…)

    8. Richard Nichols

      For me, the question is how often does this happen and is there some preventative steps we could take to prevent it.

      I don’t want to buy a Promaster and find out it’s a common problem and there is no way to prevent it!

      1. James - Post author

        I don’t know if this is a ProMaster “thing” or not. I just know my story.
        I have heard from a few other owners with leaking radiators.
        My advice – and it’s pretty general – is to have your cooling system inspected and serviced regularly. That should include testing the system for leaks. Also – replace the thermostat every 30k miles, whether it needs it or not.

    9. Keith Messinger

      I saw Lance at Edge Motor Works yesterday so I guess your new engine is working. I was at Edge to have one of my coach batteries put back in after it and the battery tray bounced out of the battery box, Note to all. Check the nuts that hold the battery tray in place,

      Some of the streets here in Dublin have dips and bumps that will almost lift the Travato’s rear-end off the pavement! And in doing so it will bounce your house batteries out to be dragged until you can stop.

      1. James - Post author

        Yikes! Glad nobody was hurt dragging a battery around!
        And yes, Lance is getting around under his own power now. It won’t be long until he’s back and winning grand tours!… Uh. I mean camping! lol.

    10. Tom Vertrees

      I am presently using an OBDII bluetooth scanner on Amazon
      BAFX Products Bluetooth Car Diagnostic OBDII Reader Scanner OBD Scan Tool for Android
      with the Torque APP They is probably one for Iphone also But you can set up realtime digital gauges on your phone or tablet I also have an ELM324 bluetooth scanner. They both work great. I needed it when I drove a Land Rover Discovery, they are notorious for blowing head gaskets if overheated. Now I guess I need to use one on the Travato.. Thanks for the update and Info .

    11. Pat

      Food for thought, since our temp gauge doesn’t move after engine warms up either. I became suspicious when I noticed it didn’t go up even when going fast uphill in the summer with air conditioning on. I turn the air conditioner off and slow down now since I don’t believe it, and think it’s best to do what I’d do if the gauge moved. Weird that the temp gauge not covered by a longer warranty.

      1. James - Post author

        I’m actually not sure about the temp gauge and warranty. Since it is intentionally programmed not to work, I don’t think it much matters.
        Probably smarter to go with your gut, which it sounds like you do.

        1. Paul Alan Jackson

          Hey James, am I understanding you to say it is “intentionally programmed not to work”? If that is the case cannot for the life of me understand how they could even contest the warranty issue after 100K. This just does not make any sense at all!!!!! Totally understand your Blown HEAD Gasket…..I would have blown mine as well. But as they say here in Stratford, ON….”alls well that ends well” So good to hear of positive resolution, great Dealer and loved the Edsel, Hindenburg, Waterworld on the first gig……LMAO

        2. James - Post author

          Yes, you have it correct.
          The temperature gauge, in my opinion, is designed to reduce service visits. By only revealing when there is *dangerous* overheating, people won’t be concerned about “hot-but-still-within-normal-parameters” readings.
          Again, this is just my opinion.
          But by doing this, they obscure information until it is too late. I would have certainly noticed “really hot all the time, but barely within normal” temperature readings.

          And I still don’t understand why dealers love to stack on name after name after name. 😉

    12. Sam Pellegrino

      Peggy: I have a “ScanGauge2” that I’ve used on my 2016 Winnebago Travato (RAM 3500 Van) and now on my 2017 Travato. They have set-up and worked fine in both cases since first installed (connected to the OBD2 port under the left side of the dashboard).

      I sent James a photo (hopefully posted in this comment) taken in Sept of 2016 on I-15N between Barstow and Las Vegas. On a long uphill, the transmission has downshifted, so RPMs are elevated to hold 70+ MPH.

      The stock analog Temp Gauge is indicating just below mid-point.
      Indicated Outside Temp is 96F.
      Scan Gauge shows Coolant Temp (WT) at 229F, Intake Air Temp (IA) at 121F. (ignore TPMS warning light on dash).

      That 229F reading had me focused on watching to see if any Excessive Heat issue was building on the long grade. It held there, and only moved lower as the grade leveled-out and the transmission shifted up. No crisis. I’d be blind if I relied on the Vehicle’s Temp Gauge.

      Scan Gauge gives me much more intel than analog gauges on dash. Worth every penny.

    13. Norbert Gonzalez

      James Steph that is fantastic reference Lance getting New engine. How cool is that keep us posted.

    14. Karen Mueller

      Thank the Lord that Lance didn’t cause a major accident. I’m most happy that repairs are being made at no charge to you. I wonder who pays for the stress this has caused. Yes, just wondering.
      Most important say hi to our Mel.

      1. James - Post author

        We’re glad it will all turn out OK in the end (we think…).

        I said “hi” to Mel. He… well… He’s a cat.

      2. Jose A. Suarez

        Do you think that in addition to install the Scangauge, should we replaced the thermostat every 30K miles?

        Perhaps make that a routine maintenance item.

        I will check with the FCA since it would be not be considered originally installed.

    15. Mark Underwood

      Thanks for documenting Lance’s illness and operation. I hope he gets well soon. I would get the temperature gauge replaced with one that works.

        1. John sargent

          Look at ultra gauge, less money similar capabilities, have used one on other cars, works great

    16. Scott Nelson

      James & Stef – I see u promote coachnet. we’ve had so many problems with our 2017 Winnebago era 79x that winnebago graciously provided a top of the line, premium coachnet 5 year extended warranty that provided a huge comfort level 4 us. well, their marketing literature looks great but their perfornce falls far short. we are quite disappointed. in fact, their coverage has left us with many out of pocket expenses. for example, I ubered home after a recent service drop off because it was less expensive than renting a car. they don'”t cover Uber even though it saves them. money. go figure. moreover, it seems like their. complicated claims process is cumbersome and focused on avoiding payment, or under paying 4 covered expenses. oh well. love our RV, luv winnebago, but find RVing 2 be a full time service endeavor, we are currently on repair #79, having blindly purchased the vehicle in August 2017 from a local dealer, conejo rv, thousand oaks, CA. our bad! some of. the. repair stories are hilarious… sort of. see u on the road? maybe if the rig. is. out of. the shop. 🙂

      1. James - Post author

        We haven’t used CoachNet for any warranty work. We don’t purchase extra warranties because I do all my own work.
        We have used them for roadside assistance type situations. That has always worked out well for us.

    17. Isa

      Glad to hear that they are covering you for this fix!! How did you find out about this extended warranty? Is this for anybody or just online influencers?

        1. Isa

          Hey James!

          Just got a response from Winnebago who claims they never heard of this. It’s a 5yr 100,000 mile warranty.

        2. James - Post author

          I believe the warranty may have changed sine we got our Lance years ago.
          Most users will blow up the miles well before the years anyway.

      1. Sam Pellegrino

        Isa: The Warranty is part of the purchase of the Winnebago Travato model. It is a contract benefit worked out between Winnebago Ind. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) who produces the RAM Brand vehicles. It is actually described as “FCP5100 / Fleet Commercial Powertrain Plan / 5 years/100,000 miles.” It is a somewhat typical Warranty, with a raft of exclusions, with the exception of a longer time frame and mileage limit. We’re seeing that Travato Owners pile on the miles, easily running past 10,000 miles per year in many cases.

        1. James - Post author

          The twin beds are extremely comfortable for sleeping. A bit less ideal than a dinette for working, but it’s getting me to stand more as my table works from a standing position.

    18. Louis Edwards

      James – have been following your dealership tour; and checking the clearance between our belt (driving the Nations alternator) and the coolant hose. Also, notice that your in AZ. If you get out to Las Cruces, NM, shoot us an email. We’ll treat you to authentic Mexican food and show you our Sprinter project. Louis and Judith Edwards

    19. Ivan Y

      Let me say first off that I’m very happy that (knock wood) you and Stef are getting this resolved in the proper way. After all of the pain with this, you definitely deserve a little good news. (Try taking a long RV trip using a new tow vehicle where the main bearings were installed backwards. Likely a similar level of unexpected “remote fun”.)

      Having said that, this sure makes getting a Travato a much harder sell, at least in this household. (My wife was already not a huge fan of Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep quality to begin with.)

      The cynic in me also wonders how much having the story chronicled on a popular RV blogging site helped gain the attention from the corporate Powers That Be. (Again, nothing negative implied about you folks, but I know that consumer product companies are often very sensitive to negative press on social media.)

      On a positive note, at least ProMaster owners now know to keep a watchful eye on their temperature gauges!

      1. James - Post author

        That’s one of the two biggest take-away from this for everyone:
        1. Get a scan gauge if you want to know the actual temperature.
        2. Proactively replace your thermostat every 30,000 miles even though it’s not called for.

        Of all the dealerships we’ve been to, the only one that took notice of our blog at all was Haddad Dodge (the first one). They reached out to us.
        I guess “” is plastered on the side of the van, but I honestly think most of them don’t bother looking.

    20. Scott Baldassari

      My temperature gauge is always in that same spot, and you got me wondering as to whether it functions at all…
      Then I remembered our trip through death valley with 120 degree temps, and pulling up the western slope (where the national park actually has warning signs posted about overheating your cars engine). At that point, the temp gauge did read high. I turned off the air and turned on the heat, which cooled off the engine…

        1. George Larson

          Tough crowd… 😉 Will get ours replaced at our RAM Dealer since we’re ready to cross 40,000 miles.

    21. Willlie

      A new engine in my 2008 GMC Sierra was $8,000. And please get an after market water tempreture guage!!

        1. John A Sillasen

          ‘Sbout time indeed. I don’t drive my 2015 RAM ProMaster 1500 extended length cargo van much in the winter months in Southern New England but do start it regularly. Did your temperature gauge ever go to cold at start then gradually warm up to its go jo further position or does it just stay mid-temp? I know when to shut mine down to keep the battery up at least when the temperature gauge goes up to warm.

        2. James - Post author

          Well, it does drop to zero when I turn off the van, so I know the gauge at least has the capability to move up to the “just less than halfway” point.
          I’ve never timed how long that takes though.

    22. Patrick Maundrell

      Wait a minute, I was under the impression the Second Alternator’s Belt cut into the Radiator Hose causing the Coolant Leak and the overheating situation. What happen to that story?

      1. James - Post author

        That did cause an overheating episode 40,000 miles ago. It was repaired to spec by a dealer.
        Apparently, this was something else altogether.

        1. Eric Wilder

          James, I am a retired & disabled military veteran who has been looking into a van every. I was interested in this sell because I have been curious if I can store my mobility scooter under the bed instead of bicycles. The other issue would be possibly installing a handicap lift package. I will be doing some research into this matter. Looking to travel to see kids and grandkids.

    23. Aaron

      Great news James & Stef. I don’t think I’ve ever seen our temperature gauge move on our Trend, so now I’m a little worried. Last summer we had a lot of drama and multiple visits due to Winnebago’s coach wiring working lose in the back of the engine.

      What would a new engine have cost?


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