Brand: Thor Motor Coach
Palazzo 33.2 Observations and Discoveries
So my wife and I (along with our little Maltipoo, who essentially runs the whole show) just finished a 4-day shake down cruise in our (new to us) ’14 Palazzo 33.2 in preparation for a 3-week trip from Chicago to California and back at Christmas, and I decided my “learnings” from the experience might help some other poor bloke survive the experience with far less hassle and frustration. We’re new to this RV thing, and my first observation is it would be helpful for converts to be some combination of a mechanical slash electrical engineer, urban planner, logistics expert, and general contractor. Oh...and it would really be helpful to be a plumber, but more on that later.
This coach is far more comfortable and capable than its entry-level, diesel pusher status would suggest. Once you get past the less than attractive vinyl flooring (which I admit is easier to keep clean than either carpet or the beautiful, white tile a close relative’s $400K coach sports), and the depressingly beige color scheme, the accommodations are more than comfortable. Our first priority (really?) was to redo the window treatments to substitute teal as an accent color, and to add a matching ottoman to make the couch more relaxing. With those changes, the coach feels quite pleasant (it was already in fantastic shape...the previous owners only put 2,600 miles on it in the 9 months they owned it, and they obviously treated it lovingly), and while it doesn’t have the fireplace, second bath, dishwasher, and upgraded surfaces available in the Tuscany line, it’s also several hundred thousand less expensive. The air conditioners are too loud, and the ceiling fans in both the main living area and the bathroom are pretty cheap, but those are minor annoyances, and I’ll simply upgrade those elements as time allows.
Inside, the Palazzo 33.2 feels larger than 35 feet, but it “drives” much smaller. At 26,000lbs. GVWR, the 300hp Cummins is powerful enough to make acceleration relatively quiet and brisk on ours, which is admittedly lightly-loaded. The tail swing is modest, at least when compared to a gasser, yet the wheelbase is short enough that it isn’t necessary to drive half way into an intersection before beginning a right turn. The Palazzo also has a lower center of gravity than models built on the larger bus chassis, and this seems to lessen the rocking motion a rough road surface can cause. And, at 12’, we were able to sneak under some tree branches on rural roads that would have been a problem otherwise. Finding temporary parking spots was also less of a hassle in the 33.2 than it can be with the larger coaches. I found I could find two, end-to-end parking spots to slide into in almost every parking lot we visited, as long as they didn’t have concrete parking curbs between them.
Our coach was delivered with 110lbs. of air pressure in all six tires, and the handling was skittish, to say the least. I’m sure I looked like my 2-year old Grandson on his riding tow...leaning far out over the steering wheel and jerking it back and forth rapidly in response to every pavement groove or wind gust...when I first drove it. Since I haven’t been able to get our coach weighed yet, I didn’t want to risk lowering the pressure too much (Goodyear’s tire charts suggest they can be run as low as 80lbs., depending on the corner weight), but I followed the advice of other Palazzo owners on online forums and lowered the fronts to 90lbs. and the rears to 100lbs. at this point. The change was dramatic! The coach now tracks very well, even in some pretty gusty winds, and there are far fewer creaks and groans from either the structure, its contents, or its owners! I’m going to get the actual weights as soon as possible so that I can lower the pressure to the most optimal level for a smooth ride and solid steering, and I’d suggest that any new Palazzo owner should make checking the tire pressure a high priority.
About the chrome lug covers holding the front wheel covers in place.... Your coach should have been delivered with a 1 5/8” T-Wrench to remove the two, dimpled covers holding each wheel cover in place (the others are welding in place). Ours was in a corrugated box in the storage area underneath the bed. That worked fine for three out of the four covers I needed to remove in order to remove and replace the valve stem covers. The fourth was apparently installed by a gorilla with an air wrench set on stun. I promptly stripped the cheap T-Wrench trying to remove it, and then switched to my largest vise grip, with no success. I simply couldn’t get enough grip on the slightly-curved edges of the cover to loosen it. I eventually resorted to drilling a small hole in the cover and threading a machine screw into the hole to give my pliers something to grip, and that worked. A replacement cap is on its way, and I’ve lightly lubed the threads before re-installing them to avoid problems in the future.
The dash stereo is connected to speakers behind the driver and passengers’ heads, but also in the bedroom at the rear of the coach. So how do you turn on or adjust the volume of the rear speakers? Good question! After an unsuccessful search for some form of volume control in the bedroom, I turned my attention to the Jensen Radio itself and discovered that the fade control (you’ll have to consult the owner’s manual for how to access these controls...my old, addled brain isn’t capable of retaining the incantations involved with accessing the function) is used to balance the volume front to back in the coach. With that solved, the sound was pleasant throughout the coach.
I’m fortunate to have a technology background, so I was able to tackle the television setup (there are three on our coach) fairly confidently, but I suspect this is an are where many will meet their match. Perhaps our particular situation presents more challenges than most, since the previous owner (bless his heart) had a retractable Winegard satellite antenna installed on roof of the coach and HD and Blueray DVD units with HDMI outputs added to the rats nest of cables and control boxes in the entertainment cabinet. I’ll eventually sort it all out and will probably upgrade the controlling equipment, but in the mean time choosing between the various inputs and outputs can be a bit of a puzzle, even for someone with some grasp of what needs to happen. In any event, there is a cable input under one of the tanks toward the front end of the wet bay that could easily be missed in a walk through (I pointed it out to the technician doing ours), so if an RV park provides a feed, you’ll need a length of RG-6 coaxial cable with F-Style connectors on either end.
The first, harder than desirable, left turn proved that a refrigerator latch is essential. Who knew? (Remember...we’re new to this!) The previous owner had left us one, but it apparently didn’t make it through the detailing process (though the rig was absolutely immaculate...hard to complain, really). We cleaned up the 7lb. bag of ice we’d tossed in the freezer only minutes earlier and ordered an even better latch than the one originally supplied through our dealer—Total Value RV in Elkhart, IN...(574) 262-4460.
No matter how well your wealthy friend’s RV toilet handles the thick, luxurious, super soft toilet paper your wife considers essential to life itself, your Palazzo’s system won’t like it. Turns out, his toilet is the fancy, macerating variety, and his wife’s assurances that there won’t be any problem will be proven inaccurate along about 11:00PM on a rainy, Saturday, long past time for a visit to a home improvement store even if one does have a toad (which, I should clarify for essential background, we don’t). Fortunately, Total Value had thoughtfully provided us with a redundant white hose and one roll of RV-approved toilet paper. The hose was sacrificed to clear the line, and we were back doing business...so to speak. The learning here? Have an extra hose available “just in case,” and follow the manufacturers recommendations on toilet paper limitations rather!
Many of the other discoveries we made were born out of the requirement that we winterize our coach before returning it to storage this trip, even though the building it’s being housed in this winter is climate controlled. Our Christmas plans call for us to retrieve the coach somewhere around the 17th of December and immediately pointing it south. Unfortunately, it could be REALLY cold that time of year in the Chicago area, so we’ll run completely dry until we hit warmer weather. Hence, our introduction to winterizing.
Learnings? Open all of the hot water faucets prior to removing the drainage plug on the water heater. I did actually need a bath at that point, but I would have preferred to do it in the shower rather than in a rather unceremonious fashion fully-clothed and crouched alongside the coach in full view of the other campers. Took me five minutes to find the plug, which had flown yards away into the neighbor’s site. Not one of my smoother moments.
I had purchased a “Watts FP-WP100 3-5/8" Winterizing By-Pass Plate” off of Amazon and I found the plastic wrench provided with the coach to loosen the water filter canister in one of the storage compartments above the passenger seat. The canister came off without a hitch, but it was only then that I discovered the filter had never been installed. No problem, I guess (we hadn’t noticed any problems with the taste of our water), but it did reveal that the “extra” filter rolling back and forth in the long cabinet above the front windshield was not, actually, “extra.” The By-Pass Plate worked perfectly, however. Highly recommended as a simple way to eliminate the filter from the system while the coach is winterized.
I elected to use the “blowing out the supply lines” method rather than injecting RV antifreeze into the lines since we’ll be using our Palazzo again in just a couple of months. Learnings? The shut off valves for the washer in our 33.2 are accessed through a panel in the driver-side bedroom closet. The shut off valve for the refrigerator ice-maker can be accessed through a removable panel (looks like another drawer without a pull) below the three real drawers next to the stove. Other than that, the process was pretty straightforward once I successfully assembled the hoses, fittings, and pressure regulator required to safely use the Palazzo’s air supply for the purpose.
A few other little bits of knowledge that might help another “newbie” avoid delays or undue concerns.... The jacking system won’t operate with the engine running. (Probably a really good idea, but it caused me a few moments of anxiety while I imagined myself unable to leave the campsite at check out time because I couldn’t lift them.) Starting the engine also bypasses the shut-off for the electric steps, which means they’ll slide out and in every time you open and close the coach door. There’s a little moon/sun icon on the right side of the radio that can easily be bumped or touched in the normal course of events. If it’s in the wrong position, the right/left/rear camera images will be impossible to see on the screen in daylight. (That little number cropped up while I was blocking traffic and desperately needed to back the coach into a driveway, but I couldn’t see a blasted thing on the screen!) And, finally, there are two metal pins dangling from chains at the top of the retractable bed mechanisms on either side of the cockpit designed to keep the bed from slowly winding it’s way down the track as one drives along. That’s a really good reason to make sure they’re used, but an even better reason is the fact that they’ll drive you completely nuts as they swing and bang against the wall and track until you’re able to find a safe place to stop again and deal with it.
We love the Palazzo! It’s a very comfortable, it handles well, and it looks really sharp. And, since we bought ours used (albeit only slightly), we feel we got a whole lot of coach for our money. We’ve read all about the slide problems some of the early adopters experienced, and it took very little research to discover that pretty much every RV manufacturer has its share of those complaints. (Read the Prevost forums for some real entertainment in this regard. Imagine how happy people plunking down a couple of million dollars for a coach feel about even more aggravating problems!) The Freightliner chassis and the Cummins engine/Allison transmission package is solid. What’s left to complain about?
Oh, I know...some of the people on these forums will treat that challenge like a full time job!