Repairs & Mods – Awning Edition

IMG_2076

Awning support pulled loose

Our coach has a 20-foot Dometic awning on it. I’m not a huge fan of awnings in the west because thunderstorms have a habit of ripping them off of coaches. The shade is nice, but as soon as the wind kicks up, or if you walk away for 10-minutes, the awning gets torn off by a micro-burst.

IMG_2077

A 1/4″ luan & glass skin won’t hold the lag-bolts

That said, our awning has a mid-span support because it’s so long and that awning support got pulled loose while doing its job. There is suppose to be a plywood backer (according to Outdoors RV) behind the skin into which the coarse-thread lag-bolts are screwed, but alas my coach is missing that piece so the lag-bolts just blew the glass skin and the luan plywood out.

IMG_0854

Dometic’s latest patch for awning support 2.0

Outdoors RV sent me the latest version of the mid-span support (Thanks Todd!) and that hardware package has a 3/16” aluminum backer plate which gets pop-riveted (oscar rivet) to the luan/glass skin then the coarse-thread bolt goes thru that. It looks like version 2 is better than version 1, but not enough better for me to mess with it.

IMG_2118

Long bolts go thru the wall

 

 

IMG_2120

Plenty of room behind the oven to hide the hardware

I opted for the heavy-duty custom version. The awning support is on a section of the wall which backs up to the microwave cabinet inside the coach. So, I pulled the microwave out and drilled thru the wall, thru a 1/2” plywood backer plate I made, and installed thru-bolts from the awning support to the plate inside with toggle bolts (I used them because Peter gave me some. Save a trip to the store).

IMG_2119

Lots of sealant

The backer plate rests on the top-plate of the wall and picks up that structure as well as the luan, foam, luan, glass sandwich of the wall assembly. I sealed the holes and the outside of the awning support with copious amounts of clear silicone. I’m fair-certain the awning support will stay put for awhile this time.

IMG_2122

Big out-of-focus toggle nuts

After having revised the awning support I now wonder what the awning arms are affixed to. Is there anything backing up those lag-bolts? I hope so, but likely not.

As a side-note when I pulled the microwave from the cabinet I discovered that the front feet were missing from the oven. The only thing holding the weight of the oven-front were the tiny-little screws in the trim cover. Sad. Very sad. I made some new feet before the oven went back into the cabinet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

Advertisements

Caldwell, ID to La Grande, OR

IMG_2073
Home-again for the RV.
I’ve been planning to visit the factory that built my coach since late spring, but the temperatures in eastern Oregon were over 100* most of the summer so I stayed away. Now that fall has arrived and temps are in the 70’s it’s time for a visit.

We arrived in La Grande on a Sunday morning and spent the day riding on the Mount Emily Recreation area. What a wonderful place! I rode Red Apple and MERA loop. About 9 miles of sweet single-track riding. There looks to be plenty of riding on the mountain to keep a rider busy for a month or so. The trails were in great shape too. The single track is still single and there is ample top-soil, very few rocks or roots. Perfect for me!

IMG_2072

Monday morning at about 05:30 workers began arriving at the factory. I know this because we camped in the employee parking lot Sunday night. Around 7:30 I saw Todd, the service person I’ve been talking to for a few months now, at the RV parked in the lot next to us. I introduced myself and he took a look at the reasons I brought the coach to the factory.

A little back-story here before we go on. I’ve been trying to get the dealership Ketelsen Campers in Wheat Ridge CO to fix some warranty issues. Their response has always been “bring it in and leave it for a couple months and we’ll get to it”. That does not work for me since I’m using it all this year. Ketelsen is a Camping World owned company and they have taken on all the worst qualities of their parent. They have also taken to blaming manufacturers for the delays they create. I’m guessing it’s to keep RV buyers from actually getting any warranty work through the dealer. Like cable companies and banks – make it too hard to get anything done and people give up and go away.

Now let us contrast that with the OUTSTANDING service I got from the manufacturer! Todd has always been on top of the situation. When I have questions Todd gets me answers. When I asked him if I could bring the coach by and have him look at my concerns he said yes indeed (and he recommended the Mt Emily riding area – sweet!). The day I arrived it just happened that a customer had canceled their service visit so I got their spot in the schedule. Man! Sometimes I am so lucky it freaks me out a bit!

I gave Todd the coach in the morning and signed up for the factory tour at 10. Kevin took a half-dozen of us on a walking tour of the factory floor and we got to see how the RV’s are built. Very impressive! I have had a few campers and trailers and I figured out how they were built by working on them. This is the first time I’ve seen how they are built from the beginning and Outdoors RV’s are very well made. A lot of the info is in the brochure and on their website so I won’t go over that information here ( ttp://outdoorsrvmfg.com/) .

It was impressive to see how the components like frame, floor, walls and roof are attached to each other and to have Kevin tell us why certain parts are made from different building materials so they can flex without separating (remember it’s a house undergoing an earthquake each time it gets moved). That days tour was about 3 hours because of all the questions we had for Kevin. The tour ended about 1 pm and my coach came out of the shop at about 2:30. Not bad timing.

The afternoon and evening were spend getting back to Caldwell so I could go to some meetings on Tuesday in Boise.

 

RV lighting update!

DSC_0876
My co-camp-host neighbors at Tongue River State Park have a 2009 Tiffin Phaeton Class A motor-home which had eight florescent fixtures lined up on the centerline of their coach. The old fixtures were failing due to age and the light they gave off was murky and well, florescent. The old bulbs allegedly produced 800 lumens each for a fixture total of 1600 lumens (x 7 = 11,200 for all of them).

IMG_2041

Jim and David, owners of the coach, had seen other Phaeton owners replace their dated fixtures with LEDs mounted on oak trim which matches the cabinets in the coach. These light assemblies may be available on the internet – I didn’t really look because I could make them better!

We started by finding some Falcon LED lights with push-button switches sourced by Genesis Lighting on Amazon. We choose the 3 1/2” 210 lumens 12v light (links at the bottom). Don’t worry that 210 x 3 is not equal to 1600 lumens cause those old buzz-lamps were not getting anywhere near 1600 lumens.

IMG_2031

The old lamps were 19” x 4.5” and they left a mark in the fabric covering the ceiling so we made some oak trims which measured 20: x 5.5” (Oak 1×6) to cover the footprint of the lights we took down. We cut the oak (14 feet of it procured at a local big-box store) into seven 20” boards and one 15” board (The shorty went in the entry way). After routering a 3/8” radius round-over on the face of each board, to match the round-over on the cabinets, we stained them to match the color (In our case golden oak) and poly-ed them with three coats of semi-gloss (plus one coat on the back to seal it).

IMG_2030

We drilled each board in three places to run the wires from the back of the light through to the back of the trim board where we connected them with line-splices. We then drilled four holes through the board which lined up with the light-mounting holes so we could send a screw through the light mounting hole all the way into the ceiling of the coach. Once the light covers were installed they covered the screws holding the trims to the coach. I love hidden fasteners! We also put four dabs of clear silicone on the back of each trim before we screwed it up which will adhere to the ceiling fabric and help keep the lights from coming loose.

IMG_2035

The end result was a set of lights that put out about three times as much light as the old tube-lights. Because there are switches on each LED they can be turned off individually to reduce the overall lighting scheme. The lamps we choose are also dimmable so with a switch replacement they could all be dimmed in unison. Now, I can do the math and figure out that 4,830 lumens is not 11,200, but the apparent light available in the coach is far greater than the old fixtures. Maybe it’s the higher K temperature of the LED’s or the murky covers over the old lights – don’t know for sure – but it is far better now than before.

IMG_2037

We puttered at this for about 5 days, but if you got after it you could likely get it done in two. If you want to take the short-cut start with some 20” x 5.5” drawer fronts and all you need to do is drill and mount the lights to the drawer fronts then attach the assembly to the coach. FYI LED lights are polarity sensitive – if you hook them up backwards they don’t work.

IMG_2039

LED light sources:
https://www.amazon.com/Facon-Dimmable-Cabinet-Switch-210Lumens/dp/B075KCYS6L/ref=sr_1_1/146-4838806-6784030?ie=UTF8&qid=1534637675&sr=8-1&keywords=3+1%2F2+inch+led+puck+light

https://www.amazon.com/s?marketplaceID=ATVPDKIKX0DER&me=A16G53YHOQFM2H&merchant=A16G53YHOQFM2H

.

Nelson: Week Two

IMG_1950

I rode the Morning Mountain area again and managed to pedal the entire climbing route up Bottoms Up and Upper Bottom to the Giveout Creek FSR. I came down via the top part of Placenta Descenta then switched over to Turnstiles because it was so much fun to ride down it last time. Apparently there was a Stage race the day before and the ever-so-polite Canadians had posted this sign:

Screen Shot 2018-07-15 at 16.33.41

If you want to be Canadian you must say please, thanks, and sorry.

One of the features I like about Turnstiles is the high-bank turns. I don’t ride them, but they are fun to see –

IMG_1952

That’s not a fence, it’s a wooden burm and it just ends there on the right. After that riders just fly it out and enter the next drop.

IMG_1959

View from Pulpit Rock

Next day I went for a hike up to Pulpit Rock then on to the Flagpole. I figured I’d get an early start and beat the heat and the crowds. Since it was a Monday I thought I’d have the place to myself but apparently not. Pulpit Rock is a popular climb with the Get-In-A-Hike-Before-Work-Crowd and the main lot was full when I arrived. I parked in the overflow lot and began the 40-minute climb up what is essentially a staircase that ascends through a dense forest. The view from Pulpit Rock is worth the climb. Hikers are rewarded with an Above-The-Airplanes perspective of Nelson. Really, we watched planes fly past and they were lower than us.

IMG_1961

View from the Flag Pole above Pulpit Rock

At Pulpit Rock I met up with a fellow-camper Charlie and his dog Ziggy from the campground we’re staying in and we opted for the climb to Flagpole Lookout. It took us another 40 minutes to climb that section. The view from even higher is even better. The trip down is when I wished I had hiking poles. The steep descent was a challenge to my calves. On the way down we met the late crew coming up the trail with their kids in tow.

IMG_1968

Looking down Hall Street in Nelson, BC

Day after that was a bike day and a get some work done on the truck day. I dropped truck 2.0 at the shop near the Kootenay River and hopped on the bike for a climb through town. As I mentioned before Nelson is steep. Like Moab the traction is great (Nelson has paved streets) and like Moab, Nelson has a lot of steep climbs. Cedar Street is pitched up at 13* and I was down in granny-gear spinning away to climb it. In the end I climbed 206 meters in 1.65 Km (675 feet in a mile). A twenty-something passed me near the top on her road bike and a local guy powered by on a downhill bike just as I reached the summit. It helps to be a mountain goat if you live in Nelson.

IMG_1966

Slope-check on Cedar Street in Nelson, BC

DSC_0855

Cottonwood Lake

Easy-hike day
After a serious hike the other day and a hill-climb yesterday I thought an easy hike was in order so I strolled around Cottonwood Lake and Cottonwood Falls. The lake and the falls are about 8 km apart and both are worth a look-see. The lake is south of Nelson on hwy 6 and is a watery oasis in the trees. There is a fishing dock and a few picnic tables around the edge of the lake. The railroad turned foot path runs down beside the lake and extends from Nelson to about Spokane, WA (if you are dedicated and stead-fast).

The falls are in Nelson not far from the visitor center (about a block from the weekend farmers market). The falls were inviting with their cool water-spritzed air on a day that reached into the high 80’s F. Cottonwood Falls Park is a flowery sister-park to another park in Japan and gifts from the oriental park adorn the Nelson one.

DSC_0856

Cottonwood Falls

 

IMG_1980

Cabin at the top of Red Mountain

Riding Rossland (pronounced Roslyn if you are Canadian or British)
Took a scenic drive over to Rossland, BC and parked at the Centennial Trail paring lot on top of the town. From the easy Centennial Trail I turned off on Moe’s and began the climb to the top of Red Mountain via Larry’s, Miner’s, and Redtop (upper). After a scenic bonanza at the summit I made the second-best choice of descending via Dreadhead. Dreadhead is an old downhill course and has many vertical drops, rocks, and roots without any ride-a-rounds. A much better route would have been to go back the way I’d climbed or perhaps to descend via Redhead. At any rate it made for a grand day out and I got in my 1.5 hour climb for the day.

IMG_1997

Summit-ed!

IMG_1979

Rossland, BC from Red Mountain

Repairs and Mods:

If you are following the saga of the EGT probe you may recall that I procured all the parts I needed yet was unable to remove one of the nuts from the turbo. I found a shop, Hywood Equipment Repair, in Nelson willing to take on the 1/2 hour task. They expertly removed the recalcitrant nut/stud and had the truck back to me before the manifold was cold. It took me about 3 hours to remove the turbo, drill the manifold, and put it all back together again. About $150 in parts, $65 cdn to remove the stubborn nut, and 3.5 hours of my time to complete the install. I wish the shop that replaced the turbo had told me I needed this before it was too late for them to do the work, but now it’s done and I can see if I’m cooking the engine. Hope NOT!!

IMG_1971

Turbo off and probe in

IMG_1972

EGT Probe depth

IMG_1974

All back together again

 

Tech report: There was WiFi at the campground which was a little slow but worked for most things. The cell service switched from Verizon to Rogers and Rogers’ data service is too slow to be of any use as a hot spot. It works for calls, texts, and getting maps, but if you want to update your blog – forget it!

Repairs and Mods

IMG_1902

Whenever I see and old truck still chugging along it gives me hope for truck 1.0

I was having some trouble with the truck not wanting to start, which I suspected was due to a fuel or air leak. I took it to Bodacious Diesel in Golden, Colorado and sure enough the fuel system was leaking in three places near the filter housing. It also needed brake work on three wheels, steering work, and front suspension work.

Screen Shot 2018-06-13 at 18.54.02

Truck 1.0

I thought about just donating the old truck and getting a new one, but Jeremiah said there was nothing wrong with the 5.9 liter, 12-valve engine that some new components would not fix. He explained that the fuel system was not delivering enough fuel (low pressure at the lift pump, worn out injectors, etc) and the stock turbo is too small to really pack enough air in the cylinders. Part of that is age (24 years) and part of that was the very de-rated nature of the 5.9 all those years ago. Since fixing the current truck is about $30,000 less than getting a new one I went with the repair idea (really hoping that wasn’t my second-best choice).

That didn’t stop me from looking at new trucks though. I test drove a 4×4 Ram 3500 dually (diesel) and a 4×4 F-250 crew cab (gas). Both of them rode like a truck; bouncing down the road the same as my current truck. I had hoped suspension technology had improved to the point where a 3/4 ton or 1-ton truck could ride like a 1/2 ton, but no.

The regular cab Ram and the crew cab Ford both had the same apparent turning radius as current truck so no difference there either. The Ram is about the same height off the ground as current truck though the F-250 is much taller. The gas Ford was very quiet with no load though when towing the forums often say stuff like “the motor screams (diesel guys)” or “the motor sounds like a mustang (car guys)”. The 6.2L’s peak HP is at 4500 rpm so for diesel peeps that’s screaming. There are also opinions about it hunting/shifting, but guys who run in manual mode say that solves it. Maybe if I really need 4×4 in the future I’ll have to pony up the dough.

The current/ repaired truck will have a new and bigger turbo (58mm vs 35 mm), a FASS fuel system from the tank to the injector pump, a performance attitude adjustment system in the injector pump to increase fuel-flow, new and bigger injectors (50 HP more), and a new bigger exhaust system to get all that money out the tail pipe. Jeremiah promised that it will pull better than the 6.2L Ford and he said I could have it back tomorrow (7-working days after I dropped it off).

DSC_0797

New turbo charger

DSC_0795

FASS fuel pump and filters

DSC_0796

Peek-a-boo! The new electric FASS pump and filters

DSC_0794

Attitude Adjuster. I have it set at 4 (200 HP)

I’m really hoping I didn’t just go all sunk cost fallacy with this whole shebang so stay tuned to see what tomorrow brings!

(scene: The setting sun is bottom-lighting the clouds. Orange glow on the eastern horizon fading to pink, to gray, to black … )

The next day

(scene: The mid-day sun is beating down on the parched earth. Even the shadows are hiding under trees trying to escape the unrelenting rays of the sun.

I picked the truck up on time as promised. I’m very happy about that, so happy in fact I’m going to say it again. Bodacious Diesel had the truck ready at the time they said it would be ready. I’m happy about that!

While Jeremiah was figuring up my total bill Sean took me for a tour of the truck version 2.0. Sean had tuned the truck to run well and not smoke too much. I’m not a fan of smoke and that was something we talked about before they set it up. The attitude adjuster has a dial in the cab which changes the amount of fuel the injector pump draws on each stroke. More fuel, more air, more heat, more go.

And more go it does! There is an on-ramp to the highway where I normally would get up to 60 before merging with traffic so to test the unloaded truck 2.0 I floored it when the light turned green and was heading north of 80 mph before I took my foot off the fuel control pedal.

The power band on truck 1.0 was between 1500 and 2000 rpm and above 2000 it just went flat. The only reason to go above 2000 was on the shift between 2nd and 3rd because the gears jump too far and if it’s not above 2000 it would be about 1200 in 3rd. Lug, lug, lug.

Now the power band is from about 1800 to 2500 with a serious kick at about 21-2200. Enough kick to set me back in the seat!

Truck 1.0 was governed at about 2250 rpm even though Cummins says the peak HP on that year was at 2600 rpm. Truck 2.0 has 3000 rpm springs in the gov so it can get to the peak HP rpm.

A few things I noticed right away were the high-pitch high-speed pump sound the new FASS pump makes. It flows a ton of fuel to feed the thirstier injection pump and the bigger injectors, but it is audible in the cab at less than highway speeds. Once we’re going 60-ish the wind noise and all the other diesel truck going down the highway sounds cover up the pump sound. The new injectors don’t leak fuel so when I take my foot off the fuel control pedal the rpm’s drop fast. I’m learning how to shift all over again. Also I have to be careful not to floor it anymore because it will spin the tires on the unloaded truck 2.0

Towing Road Test with about 8,700 pounds of trailer

From a standing start at the bottom of the on-ramp we were doing 60 at the top. If there hadn’t been so much traffic I could have been going even faster at the merge point.

It seems that at highway speed – for me that’s about 64 mph (1800 rpm) – the pedal is only half way to the floor instead of the 3/4 to 7/8 it use to be. Everything spools up and revs up faster than it use to. On hills where I had to floor it just to keep some speed now the cruise control just handles it. If I use the fuel control pedal I tend to speed. It is a huge improvement!

I found some instructions for the attitude adjuster online (it didn’t come with any) and the instructions say 4 (middle of the range from 1-8) is best for towing. That’s 200 hp. The 8.5 setting puts out 395 hp.

Next week we head into the mountains west of Fort Collins and take on some mountain passes. Stay tuned!

 

Chaffe CR 194 to Wheat Ridge, CO

IMG_1880

Looking out the window at the nice motel

After 2 nights boondocking in the cool quiet mountains it’s on to the big city for some warranty work on the RV and a visit to the dentist.

We left early Sunday morning to beat the traffic. In Colorado you have to leave early on the day before a holiday weekend ends or you will be stuck in traffic for half a day trying to get into the city. Really sad 😦

The drive was nice. We had a big ole tailwind blowing us across South Park and up and over Kenosha pass. The winding decent down-canyon along the South Platte River was green and the river was flowing strong. There appears to be more snow on the northern mountains than there were on the southern ranges near Salida, but even at that there is not much snow on the high peaks anywhere in Colorado. News reports say 2017/18 is the fifth-driest winter on record.

The boys (all 4 of us) are a bit freaked out that we are in a Motel instead of the RV. The RV needs a roof repair and we can’t stay in it while the shop works on it. In addition to the warranty work (which I might say more about when I write a long-time review of the Outdoors RV) we’re getting a Maxxfan installed.

We checked into the Pet-Stain Motel 6 near where the RV is being repaired and didn’t like it one bit! The area seemed like a good place to be robbed and the motel was so bad I didn’t take my shoes off. Everything was sticky! Long-story-short I moved the RV to a better area for the night and took it to Ketelsen Campers the next morning. We got a much better room at the La Quinta in Westminster for the remainder of our stay. MUCH nicer motel! King-size bed, fridge, microwave, aahhh.

One of the first rules of RVing is if the area gives you the creeps – Get Out of There!

 

 

Expedition Vehicle

Tom’s Expedition Vehicle Build:
Part of the reason I came to Arizona in May was to see Tom’s truck. While I’m here mooching electricity off of Tom’s family I though I would chip in on the Expedition Vehicle Build. This post is mostly about cutting in the windows. If you want to follow the whole build you can see it at https://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/2009-chevy-medium-duty-4×4-kodiak-ambulance-conversion.191535/

DSC_0731

The door window stays. The other window will be removed.

The house-part of the truck had only one window on the curb-side to start with and it was in the wrong place for the interior design. Tom planned the windows so a person standing inside can see out without needing to crouch down (A feature most coaches lack in every way). That meant the windows needed to be placed high on the walls. First Tom cut in the rear street-side window, then we cut in the forward street-side window. We needed the cut-out from the forward street-side window to plug the hole left behind when we took out the factory curb-side window which was too low and in the wrong place.

DSC_0736

Removed the window and plugged the hole with a cut-out from the other side

Once we plugged the factory window opening with the cut-out we could cut in the new window openings for both curb-side windows. After the new window openings were cut in we added structural supports on the inside to carry the roof load to the floor and mitigate any diagonal-load issues.

DSC_0739

Cut two new openings

The end result is a very spacious and airy living space with ample cross ventilation. The windows are at eye-level when standing inside and also at eye-level when sitting on the raised dinning area. Given the height of the truck and the raised windows it’s also very difficult for someone outside to look inside without standing on a 6-foot ladder.

DSC_0743

Two new windows in the correct place

DSC_0729

Tom and his dad cut in the window on this side

DSC_0735

Tom admiring his handy-work