Repairs & Mods Montage

Stage direction: This will flow better if you imagine it’s a time-lapse video blog. Imagination engaged!

Tiffin’s Rube-Goldberg device for opening the coach door

I’ve been helping my friends Jim and David fix-up stuff around their houses the past two weeks. They have a nice property with a house, an accessory dwelling unit (granny unit, garage apartment, et al), and a place to park three RV’s. I helped them spruce up the house to rent it out, we changed out the bathroom faucet, replaced the dishwasher, and fixed some electrical glitches

Yundi’s RV got new LED lighting throughout, and Jim & David’s RV got a new convection/ microwave oven, new kitchen faucet, and some decorative trim.

Tow bar stopped working so we rebuilt it
All better!
Two lights might be brighter than one. Plus foil because it’s fancy!
New entry light left of the speaker

I installed a new light in my coach near the front door plus I doubled the light output of the brake lights. You may recall I was going to install some used ambulance lights as brake lights because mine were so dim. I decided against that because at night they were weapons-grade brightness and I thought blinding drivers was a poor idea. I obtained some bulb holders and LED lamps so I installed those in the stock lens covers along side the original incandescent lamps. Now I have twice the light and a back-up in case one bulb goes out.

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Repairs & Modifications: Plumbing Edition

New plumbing parts

A couple issues have been bothering me since the weather turned cold and they are:

1) Running the hot to get the shower ready wastes water. It takes a couple quarts to drain the cold out of the line and get the water hot at the shower head. I’d like to recapture that water and keep it fresh

2) Once the temp drops below 10ºF the lines in the coach begin to freeze. The water lines to the bathroom run outside the heated space for a few feet and they freeze around 10º. The water pick-up from the fresh water tank is below the tank, running between the tank and the insulating skin on the bottom of the coach. That line freezes around 4ºF

My previous coach was good to -30ºF and I would like to come closer to that operating ability than I am now. One way to do that would be to remove the bottom skin and re-plumb the coach, add insulation, etc, but for now I’m going to create a plumbing circuit that will address both issues.

If there is a flow of water it has to get a lot colder before it will freeze. Running streams don’t freeze as soon as still water so I built a water return circuit to get the hot water from near the shower faucet back to the fresh water tank.

Tapped into the hot line just before the shower valve

I tapped into the hot water line near the shower with a custom made T- fitting then ran a 3/8” line to a ball valve in a place accessible from inside the coach. From the valve I ran the new water line forward through the cabinetry to the fresh water fill port. I tapped into the 1/2” vent line to the tank and connected the new water line to that.

Valve to control the flow from the hot (pressure) to the fresh tank (vent)

Now when I open the re-circulation valve the fresh water pump pushes water to the water heater, then to the shower, then at the T it flows to the valve (open position) then back to the fresh tank via the vent line.

Hot returns to the vent then into the tank

This keeps hot/warm water in the hot line all the time that the valve is open heating the pipe space and keeping the hot and cold lines from freezing. It also keeps water flowing through the fresh pick-up line (keeping it from freezing) and adds hot/warm water to the fresh water tank keeping that tank a lot warmer.

This system does required a 110V connection to keep the water pump supplied with power and to keep the water heater running on 110V. It would also work with the gas water heater system and enough 12V power to run the water pump 50% of the time.

If the re-circulation valve is opened just a tiny bit the water flows and the pump cycles on and off, running less than 50% of the time. The coach has an accumulator/ expansion tank on it to cut down on pump run-time.

When it’s not super-cold outside the re-circulation valve is only opened before I jump in the shower. It flushes the cold water out of the line and pumps it back into the fresh tank so I have hot water right away in the shower.

Since I’m in warm and sunny* California for the next few weeks I won’t have a chance to test the cold weather capabilities of the new system, but the shower pre-heat part works great!

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*. By warm and sunny I mean 50ºF and raining a fair amount. It is however so much warmer than the -2ºF I drove thru to get here

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Repairs & Mods – Suspension Edition

After 11,000 miles of pulling with the trailer low in the front and the truck dragging its butt on the pavement I decided to get some air springs to level out the system. I made an appointment at The Spring Works in Grand Junction and they installed some Firestone Ride Rite air springs.

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New Air Springs

I’ve decided to set the system up so that the ride height in the rear is the same loaded as it is when the truck is empty. Then add in the tension of the Wt Transfer hitch to bring the front down to where it was with the truck unloaded as per the Wt transfer hitch instructions.

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I started by measuring from a grove on the hub-cap to the edge of the fender well on all four wheels. The measurements are not all the same. There is about 1/2” difference from side-to-side. I suspect age as a factor in that. The front is about 2” less than the back which is to be expected.

Before air springs the trailer caused the truck to squat about 3.5” in the rear. After air springs (with 60 psi loaded. 50 psi unloaded) the air springs get the rear of the truck back up to where it belongs. Engaging the Wt Transfer torsion bars brings the front down to within 1/2” of where it was unloaded.

On the test drive the rear of the truck stayed put. It bobs WAY less than before and the ride up front is better. The front still bobs up-and-down when we drive over a rough spot in the road, but the energy needs to go somewhere.

For those of you keeping score at home this brings the truck’s trailer-towing modifications and repairs to about $12,000.

 

 

 

 

 

Repairs & Mods – Awning Edition

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Long bolts go thru the wall

 

 

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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).

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Caldwell, ID to La Grande, OR

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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!

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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!

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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).

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Nelson: Week Two

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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:

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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 –

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Slope-check on Cedar Street in Nelson, BC

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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.

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Cottonwood Falls

 

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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.

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Summit-ed!

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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!!

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Turbo off and probe in

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EGT Probe depth

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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!