Repairs & Mods: Fail Edition

All the main areas are marked and ready for cutting

I had planned to install a 14 x 14 skylight/ roof vent in the area above the stove. I marked the area out, located the structure, made sure I was clear of the duct work, and cut an exploratory hole to see what was in the ceiling

Wires!

Wires. Lots of wires

The main wiring bundle from the control center by the front door runs to the power supply near the bathroom and goes right through the area I want to install a skylight in. Both the 12v bundle and the 110v line are in the way

Oops

Now I have a 2.5” hole in the ceiling above the stove and no skylight. Grrrr

I think I can still salvage the project by switching to an 8 or 10 inch porthole from a boat. The round nature of portholes will fit beside the wires and cover the 2.5″ exploratory hole I made.

Stay tuned!

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Repairs & Mods Steering Edition

up and at them

I’m at it again with truck repairs. Last summer I had a new steering gearbox installed and now I’m finishing the steering system with new everything else. We’re replacing all the tie-rod ends and the idler arm in the hope that it will tighten the steering up. With almost 300,000 miles on the original parts it’s time to retire them anyway.

A lot of hammering and a pickle-fork to get to this point

When we inspected the steering system we discovered that most of the play appears to be in the new steering gearbox (new parts bad from the factory – thanks China). Still we replaced all the other bits with moving parts in the faint hope that it will cure what is probably a Dodge design malfunction. Here is a curious case: There is a mount for a steering stabilizer on the truck, but no stabilizer has ever been installed on it. I looked for one online and didn’t see where one was a stock item, but Dodge, ya know

fancy new bits

So my new friend Al (Jim & David’s neighbor) has a cool shop with a truck lift and since he is a retired Snap-On dealer he has all the best tools! I ordered the premium line of parts from RockAuto.com for truck 2.0 since I am hoping good parts will improve the steering. It took a couple hours to get the parts R&R’d and only one knuckle got busted.

More new parts

After the install we set the toe-in and took it for a drive. The low speed test (50 mph) seemed fine and the steering seemed a bit more responsive.

Clean new idler arm

The high-speed test revealed that the steering wheel was a bit crooked to the left and the steering is a bit more responsive. It feels like about 1/2 as much play in the steering wheel with the new parts. I set about fixing the crooked wheel, but I turned the rod ends the wrong way the first time so I had to crawl under there again and do it over. Seems I got it right the second time. In a few weeks I’ll have the trailer towing test drive and I hope that turns out as well as the first two tests.

If your are still playing along at home we’re up to $12,250 in truck repairs and modifications

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.