Plumbing Into an RV Propane System

Comments 8 Standard

Steve’s giving me a break and posting one of his tech-thingy articles – yay! ūüôā

We recently purchased a portable propane campfire unit, after checking out many¬†of them during our travels.¬† Mona Liza just couldn’t wait to say, “It’s about time, what took you so long”?, since¬†I had held off purchasing one for over four years.¬† Dave and Faye gave me the final push, after demonstrating their unit and making me realize it was exactly what I’d been looking for.

We love campfires, but the smoke and the issue of getting good firewood? ¬†Not so much.¬† And of course, many campgrounds just don’t allow wood¬†campfires.¬† So I had no problem with buying a portable unit – I just wanted to get the right one.¬† Some I had seen used “logs”, but I prefer¬†the small rocks and tremendous heat this little unit provides.¬† It’s Camco part#58041, and I can say after using it for a while that we’re very happy with it.

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The basic fire pit, ready to screw onto a propane tank. But that wasn’t good enough for me!

Back to the main reason for this post РI wanted to plumb this unit into my existing RV propane system which has a 30-gallon tank, and not have to carry and refill extra tanks.

The only downside to this I’ve heard is¬†that I can’t carry¬†the fire pit¬†and tank to another site.¬† Too bad, folks will just have to come to our place if they want to enjoy it with us! ¬†And in reality, it would be easy¬†to disconnect the fire pit from the extension hose if someone else provided¬†a tank for us to hook up¬†to.

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Staring at the parts didn’t get much done, so I got on the internet and educated¬†myself

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The task was to make this fitting from the fire pit connect to a 12′ extension hose, then get the other end of the¬†hose plumbed into the RV’s system

After researching propane systems and the parts I’d need, I got the job done – and it¬†was quite simple.¬† The requirement was to safely place the fire pit¬†at least 8-10 feet from our coach on the curb side, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time setting it up.

The parts I needed were:

  • A 12′ extension hose, Camco part#59043
  • A brass tee to plumb it into the system, Camco part#59113
  • An adaptor to¬†connect between the fire pit regulator and the extension hose
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This is the brass tee that gets plumbed into the high-pressure line coming out of the RV’s tank

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I found this adaptor at an RV parts supply place. ¬†It adapts the “propane tank” type connector on the fire pit regulator to one end of the 12′ extension hose. ¬†Sorry, no part# for this one

I’ll let some photos taken by Mona Liza during the project tell the rest of the story:

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Connecting the extension hose to the adaptor…

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… then connecting the other end of the adaptor to the fire pit regulator – easy peasy! ¬†Don’t use teflon tape or any “pipe dope” on these connections

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The tee will go here, between the shutoff valve on the tank and the regulator for the RV’s system.¬†Here you can see I’ve removed the regulator’s plastic cover

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Insert the tee and tighten moderately. Test the connections with soapy water, not a lighter Рor you might turn your whole RV into a fire pit!

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The fitting where the extension hose connects (behind my fingers) has a spring-loaded¬†valve in it, so you don’t need to shut off the main valve to connect/disconnect the hose. ¬†Sweet! ¬†The hanging cap keeps dirt out when the hose is disconnected. ¬†To the right under my hand you can see I’ve replaced the plastic cover over the RV regulator at its new location

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Testing everything right to the burner before adding the rocks

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Adding the bag of included lava rocks

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The instructions specified a 30-minute “burn in” for the rocks, and everything worked great

For only another $13.00, I purchased the campfire cooktop also sold by Camco, part#58033. ¬†It’s OK¬†to cook meats or other foods over this fire pit, since the intense heat will burn off any fats or other products that drip onto the lava rocks.

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Throw some shrimp (wrapped with bacon) on the Bar-B?  Oh, yeah!

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Love it when a plan comes together.  Cheers!



Installing a Blue Streak toilet chemical dispenser

Comments 5 Standard

This is another one of Steve’s easy RV modification posts:

I installed this kit several years ago and have had plenty of time to observe how it works for us.¬† We dump our black tank at different time intervals – anytime between¬†3 to 10 days of use, spending on our travel dates.¬† What I like about this kit is that the chemical is dispensed per-flush, so it makes no difference when we dump.¬† We don’t like to drive with the odor and extra weight of black tank contents, so we dump every¬†time we depart a campground, if possible.

We’ve been happy with this system and recommend that folks¬†traveling in a situation similar to ours take a look at it.¬† Be aware that the chemical refills can be somewhat difficult to find, and we’ve only had luck locating¬†them online – meaning we must have them shipped to us. ¬†It’s not too onerous, as each container lasts between 1 – 1.5 months with normal use, so¬†we normally¬†order refills¬†3-4 times per year. ¬†The best price we’ve found for the kit and the refills was at rvupgradestore, and we’ve always received the refills from them in a timely manner.

Blue Streak kit

An image of the kit from the rvupgradestore website

I haven’t tried to price-compare¬†the Blue Streak chemical vs. “toss-in” products, but we like the convenience of this kit so much that we won’t consider going back. ¬†It keeps the odor down just fine, and we like the blue water that remains¬†in our toilet after each¬†flush.

The installation on our toilet was very¬†easy, but I won’t detail it here as yours may differ.¬† I will point out that the kit is pretty much foolproof, since the chemical moves from the tank to the toilet’s water inlet line via gravity and there isn’t much that can go wrong with it. ¬†The container has a level indicator that shows how much remains¬†in it.

Blue Streak dispenser

Even in this lousy photo you can see the dispenser is about half full

We hope to hear from folks who decide to install this system, or are already using it.



 

Replacing an engine coalescing (CCV) filter

Comments 4 Standard

This is Steve’s¬†post detailing some maintenance he¬†did recently on the coach. ¬†His mechanically-minded buddies may enjoy it, but probably nobody else.

Betsy has been intermittently displaying a fault code indicating “high crankcase pressure” for quite some time, and after a bunch of research, I learned¬†one thing I could do to possibly resolve the problem is replace the crankcase ventilation (CCV) filter, also known as a coalescing filter. ¬†Note that there is also a “coalescent” filter in the air brake system on large diesel RV’s, but the one I’m talking about here is on top of the engine on our 2008 Cummins ISL 400hp unit. ¬†A bit confusing, and even the Freightliner guys weren’t familiar with this part¬†when I ordered it. ¬†But the filter itself had the word “coalescing” printed on it, so there’s no doubt.

Engines with closed crankcase systems use this filter to prevent crankcase oil from escaping the engine and reduce emissions, and my thought was that it might somehow be getting plugged up and throwing the codes.

Since the filter is on top of the engine, the only way to access it is to remove the engine cover inside the coach. ¬†I wasn’t crazy about having a mechanic inside Betsy¬†tearing our bedroom apart, and since the filter replacement itself is easy I decided to do the job myself. According to the mechanic, it would have been about two hours of labor for him to do it, so we saved a nice chunk of change too. ¬†Win-win!

About 90% of the job involved removing and re-installing the bedroom access panels to change the filter, which was a simple 20-minute job.

We have a Sleep Number bed, so I deflated and disassembled the mattress to reduce the weight so I could prop up the bed base:

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I replaced a bedchamber a few years ago, so I knew how to take the mattress apart.  Mona Liza ran over and laundered all of the mattress components while I did the work

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I propped the bed base up with a piece of metal bar, backed up by a 2×4 just in case. ¬†If this thing lands on your back, you’re toast!

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Finding the screws to remove the flooring. You may be able to use a magnet to locate them, but mine weren’t magnetic so I just yanked them out and replaced them with new ones

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Those black plates are the 2-piece engine covers that have several screws holding them together

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That rectangular cover where my hand houses the filter. About 12 bolts attach it to the engine

CCV Filter

Here’s the¬†new filter (left) next to the old one sitting in the cover (right) . There was a spring-loaded pressure valve in the filter¬†that I suspect was the culprit – time will tell!

Since the fault code was very intermittent, it will take a while to confirm if I fixed the problem.

Diffuser (tailpipe) replacement

I was feeling so good about how that¬†project went that I decided to replace Betsy’s diffuser (tailpipe) while I was all sweaty and dirty. ¬†Freightliner somehow forgot to install a new one when I had my maintenance done and asked them to do it, so I bought the part and did¬†it myself. ¬†Another 1/2 hour of labor cost saved!

This is the 2nd time I’ve replaced Betsy’s diffuser. ¬†Although it’s ceramic-coated, temperatures of over 900¬ļ give it a limited lifespan and make it impossible to keep clean.

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That simply won’t do…

Since I don’t happen to carry an air hammer with a cutting chisel¬†in the coach, I drilled a whole bunch of small holes and then cut between them with a hammer and chisel to remove the old piece:

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Now that’s more like it!

All in all a good day for Betsy!



 

Installing an adjustable water heater thermostat

Comments 6 Standard

Like many of you who own RV’s, Steve has a list of small projects to complete on Betsy this winter, and he’ll write a short post about the ones we think might be helpful to¬†others. ¬†Here is one he’d like to share.¬†



 

If your RV has a washer/dryer and/or dishwasher this post is probably not for you, as those machines require very hot water to do their job properly.  But you may want to read on if your hot water use is limited to showers, manual dish washing and other day-to-day needs.

This installation was performed on an Atwood water heater, and the adjustable thermostat kit (about $30) was advertised as universal for all Atwood units.  It consisted of the adjustable thermostat, a retainer and spring and two wire sections with terminals that adapt the new thermostat terminals to the existing wiring.

With our recent water heater/plumbing repair completed, we were once again getting scalding hot water at the taps.  I thought it made sense to install an adjustable thermostat as a way to save some propane and electricity.  Why heat the water to a higher temperature than we needed on every cycle?

 

thermo_pic

Photo grabbed from Amazon

After cutting off half of the foam cover and removing the old thermostat per the instructions, the only slightly challenging task was to get the retainer/spring assembly tabs pushed under the front panel so the new thermostat was seated flat against the water heater tank.  The final step was inserting the two adapter wires between the existing wires and the new thermostat.

That was it for the installation. ¬†Settings on the thermostat range from “A” to “E” (a bit strange), and I had read that each letter corresponds to about 10¬ļ of temperature reduction with “E” being the hottest. ¬†The factory-installed thermostat had supposedly allowed the shutoff to occur at about 150¬ļ.

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The unit¬†was set to “C” when I installed it, and after experimenting for a couple of days I found that “B” was about right for us (which would equate to about 120¬ļ, but I haven’t measured it yet). ¬†When¬†I turned the hot water tap all the way up it was no longer scalding hot, but hot enough for a comfortable¬†shower on a cold day (which Prescott, AZ was amply supplying¬†at the time).

Now I can set the temperature up or down with a screwdriver if I need to, and¬†I’ve already noticed that the water-heating cycles¬†are shorter.¬† For about $30 and very little effort I think this modification will pay for itself over time, and it would be especially beneficial to¬†folks who primarily use propane to run¬†their water heater.



 

Water heater check valve and diverter valve replacement

Comments 11 Standard

The “guest blogger” has one more post to share, this time detailing¬†maintenance performed on Betsy while I was in the Philippines –

For several months we had been hearing a “squealing” sound in the plumbing near our water heater when using hot water.¬† Although the water was fairly hot, it seemed not as hot as before. ¬†I was just hoping it¬†would work well enough to get us into Arizona so I could deal with¬†it during our winter hiatus. ¬†It was not to be.

Recently I noticed the hot water getting cooler each time I used it over a period of a few days.  Finally, after a shower that was only lukewarm with the hot side all the way up I knew something had to be done, post-haste.  My honey was out of the country, so only one of us had to suffer with no water and no propane for a few days.  There was a Home Depot nearby for any parts I might need (or so I thought), so I got to work.

I knew the water heater was producing hot water, because when I switched it to propane I could hear it cycling normally and for the correct length of time.  So hot water was in the tank but unable to get throughout the coach.

Water heater valve/plumbing replacement

Are you kidding me? I can’t get my big strong arms in that little hole to do this job – here’s when¬†I realized the water heater would have to come out

I had read on forums that the plastic internals of the one-way check valves used in most RV’s¬†could disintegrate over time and “plug up” the plumbing, so I thought that might be the source of my¬†problem.¬† With only a small access door near the back of the water heater and no room to manipulate tools needed to do the job, I knew the unit had to be removed. This would be¬†day one without water and propane!

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After pulling the water heater out I removed the check valves, which were about¬†3 inches long and had 1/2″ NPT male threads on both ends (similar to a brass nipple).¬† They were threaded directly into the input and output ports¬†of the water heater, one situated to prevent water from backing into the tank and the other to prevent hot water from backing out of the tank and¬†into the cold water supply.

I’d read that some people had just “gutted” the internals of the check valves and not experienced hot/cold water mixing problems, but I wasn’t comfortable with that. ¬†They were installed for a reason, and I was going to keep them. ¬†Although I found some “gunk” in the check valves,¬†they seemed to be functional. ¬†I decided to replace them anyway while everything was out in the open.

Water heater valve/plumbing replacement

Cold water goes in the bottom port where that plastic elbow is, hot water comes out of the top port. The brass check valves were threaded into the tank – note which direction each one flows when you remove them. ¬†I cut off the black engine heater hoses¬†with a blade since I couldn’t reach the clamps from inside. The 120-volt wiring is in the black box in the middle

Water heater valve/plumbing replacement

The updated setup – I replaced the old check valves with regular brass nipples. ¬†The new check valves will go inline in the PEX tubing, they are very simple to install and replace. I wired the 120-volt Romex into a male plug and the female end in the compartment so I could just plug it in when I reinstall. There’s no¬†way I could have held up the water heater at¬†the compartment opening and wired it at the same time by myself

The surprise came when I removed the winterizing diverter valve while cutting out some plumbing I would no longer need. ¬†This valve bypasses the water heater when it’s turned to the “winterizing” position, preventing winterizing fluid from filling the water heater tank during the procedure.

I decided to test the diverter valve by blowing air into the ports that should be blocked with the handle set to each of its two positions.  I could hear some air escaping through what should have been a closed port.  Taking the diverter valve apart, I found that it was actually my main problem Рits internals were disintegrating, not the ones in the check valves!

It turned out that cold water was leaking through the diverter valve, thereby bypassing the water heater inlet and mixing with hot water coming out of the tank.  The more this diverter valve leaked internally, the cooler the diluted hot water got at the faucets.

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All of the connections – I wired the female end of the 120-volt plug onto the Romex. Hey, what’s Mona Liza’s¬†old sock doing in there? No wonder the hot water has had that funny smell for a while ūüėČ

Naturally, I drove right over to Home Depot and got the needed¬†parts, right?¬† WRONG!¬† When the “help” there didn’t even know what PEX plumbing was I knew I was in big trouble.¬† Back to Betsy¬†I went to do the online research that would help me get the parts to repair and¬†upgrade my system.

Water heater valve/plumbing replacement

This was the real culprit – the original “el cheapo” winterizing diverter valve. Easy and cheap for the factory¬†to install, a time-consuming pain in the @ss for me to replace!

Water heater valve/plumbing replacement

Here’s most of the plumbing I replaced. The old one-way check valves are upper left and the old diverter valve is in the middle. I didn’t get a picture of the new in-line check valves, but the link to the SharkBite site below shows them

Along the way I discovered SharkBite plumbing products – wow, what a lifesaver these things are!¬† Their check valves and other products are “push-fit” parts, meaning you just push the PEX tubing (or copper, or CPVC pipe) into the fitting and you’re done.¬† No more crimping PEX tubing or messing with screw-on ends.¬† Genius!

I’m a SharkBite fan for life now and will make all future repairs with their products.¬† Surprisingly, the PEX tubing will turn around freely after you push¬†it into the fittings, which gave me a bad feeling at first – how could it provide a water-tight seal? ¬†But I learned¬†after several hours of testing that they do not leak.

I was also able to get their brass adapter¬†that screwed directly into the back of my water heater, and all I had to do was shove the PEX tubing into it.¬† That was critical, since the connection had to be made with the water heater installed and I didn’t have¬†space in the back for wrenches and crimpers.

NOTE: ¬†Be sure to buy a PEX tubing cutter when using the SharkBite fittings, or anytime¬†you’re¬†working with PEX. ¬†These fittings require a nice straight cut, and the cutter is small and costs only a few bucks.

Water heater valve/plumbing replacement

The only handy place I could find to store the water heater during the project

Water heater valve/plumbing replacement

My little beer cooler fit perfectly in here, and I could reach it from inside or outside the rig. Hmm, do I really need a water heater?

I replaced the winterizing diverter valve with a JR Products unit.¬† It was pricey at $80.00, but I won’t have to worry about this high-quality unit falling apart.¬† It required worm-type hose clamps to hold the PEX tubing on, but since it was right at the access door I could easily reach in¬†to tighten them.

I had the parts overnighted to the RV park, and after re-doing quite a bit of the plumbing, flushing the water heater twice and generally cleaning things up, I got everything back together on the third day.¬† That’s three days without water and propane (fortunately the RV park had decent¬†showers and restrooms), and since I had to remove the heater hoses coming from the engine that help to heat the water, I couldn’t start the engine either.¬† I wasn’t going anywhere until this job was done!

Water heater valve/plumbing replacement

One task left Рget the new diverter valve mounted into the original panel at the access door.  But the hard work is done and I have lots of hot water!

Water heater valve/plumbing replacement

There we go – now it’s got that “factory” look!

To summarize, the project was to remove and replace the one-way check valves with in-line SharkBite PEX units, replace the winterizing diverter valve and replace PEX tubing and fittings to accommodate the new arrangement.  It was a great learning experience, and I hate to think what it would have cost in labor to have a professional do this job.

Now I have big a smile on my face as tons of hot water flows over me in the shower, and no more unearthly noises when I crank up the hot water Рyay!



 

Removing RV paint/rock guard protective film

Comments 22 Standard

My guest writer (Steve) is geared up to write a Betsy maintenance story, so I told the birthday boy to fire away. ¬†My birdwatching tale¬†will just have to wait a few more days‚Ķhere’s a project Steve recently completed:

If your RV didn’t come with a clear protective¬†film on the front, or if the protective¬†film on your RV is still in good shape, this article is not for you.¬† But if after a few years and a few miles of travel you are noticing pitting and discoloration that’s making you consider removing that film, you may want to read on and see how I “got ‘er done” – after lots of research and multiple¬†attempts with several different products.

Removing scotch guard film from an RV

I got a good arm and shoulder workout on this day!

This protective film has been called “Scotchguard Protectant Film”, “3M Rock Guard” and “Diamond Shield”.¬† I don’t know if these are different names for the same product, or even which one was applied to our¬†2008 Winnebago (no indication on the invoice).¬† I hope some of the details below will help folks, no matter which protective film they are dealing with.

3M Rock Guard

Lucky for me, I was able to pull all of the large sections off in one piece

I’ve read about and seen this protectant film in various stages of deterioration, and I’ve heard horror stories about how it just chipped off in little pieces when folks tried to remove it. ¬†The film on our¬†coach wasn’t too bad after 6 years of use, and with some muscle power I was able to get it off¬†in large pieces. ¬†Another¬†procedure¬†would probably be needed¬†if yours has completely disintegrated.¬† Best of luck to you if that’s the case!

3M Rock Guard removed

That’s all of it – now on to the real work!

As some of you may know, getting the adhesive removed after pulling the film off is the real project.  I tried paint thinner and then acetone to dissolve the nasty stuff, neither of which worked (and believe me it scared the heck out of me to rub acetone onto my nice paint job!).

The product that did it for me was Xylene, which evaporates more slowly than the others and seemed to soften the adhesive quickly.  I was able to get a quart of Xylene at my local Ace hardware store.

Removing adhesive on motorhome

This is the nastiest high-tech adhesive I’ve ever dealt with

Xylene

 

I found that doing this work in the shade worked best.  I thought the adhesive might get soft and come off easier in the sun or heat, but the Xylene evaporated too quickly to do its job in those conditions.

Using a cotton rag saturated with Xylene, I generously spread¬†it on a small section of the adhesive, then after a few seconds I could scrape it off fairly easily with a PLASTIC “razor” blade without damaging the paint.¬† Although I used to paint cars many years ago, I had never heard of these plastic blades and soon discovered they were¬†essential for this project and can also be purchased at Ace.

Plastic Mini Scraper

I couldn’t have done it without these…

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Liberally apply some Xylene to a small area, and wait a few seconds…

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‚Ķthen just scrape it off with this plastic blade. ¬†You’ll get used to how long to leave it on and how to scrape it soon enough, based on the weather and how much adhesive is present

After scraping off the adhesive, there were small trace amounts of it left behind that could be wiped off with a little more Xylene.  After completing each section, I flooded the area with water to dilute any chemical remnants that might possibly damage the paint.

Plan on spending several hours to completely remove the adhesive.  It probably took me 4-6 hours once I had figured out the right combination of chemicals and tools.  After that, I broke out my trusty orbital buffer and applied a nice coat of wax to make the front of the coach shine like new.

Meguiars Wax

I love Meguiar’s products, and either the liquid or paste wax can be used with¬†my buffer

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OK, now that’s the reflection I’ve been looking¬†for!

I learned that professionals will charge $300-$600 to do this for you, so I felt pretty good about doing it myself, even though it took a few tries to get it right.

Tools/products needed:

  • Muscle to remove film
  • Xylene
  • Plastic scraper blades
  • Rags and fresh water nearby
  • Buffer
  • Good liquid or paste wax
  • Patience!

Good luck, and let me know if you have any helpful suggestions to make this project easier for other folks!

~Steve



 

Winter Maintenance for Betsy – Riviera, TX

Comments 28 Standard
Eternabond tape

[Steve wrote this post, Mona Liza gets the day off!]

Like many¬†full-time RV’ers running around the country, ¬†we tend to slow down and “stay put” in a particular area during the coldest winter months. ¬†We have found it’s the best time for us to complete the many little maintenance items we’ve added to our list during the more intense travel months.

Betsy

You want me to treat you good, you better treat me good!

This is our third winter on the road, and as you know Texas is this year’s¬†state of choice after spending the winters of 2012 in Arizona¬†and 2013 in¬†Florida. ¬†Our current list of “to-do” items is¬†many, but the number of decent¬†weather days to do them has been few! ¬†I had planned to complete everything by mid-January, but it was not to be due to several weeks of cold, windy and wet weather. ¬†Thanks to better days here at Riviera, TX I’m just about back on schedule.

Note: ¬†If you don’t own a coach or full-time you may want to skip this post!

So, here’s how I’ve been spending my time while Mona Liza terrorizes the local bird population:

Installed new batteries –

My highest priority regarding mechanical maintenance was to replace all of our batteries Рcoach and chassis Рafter 6 years of constant use.  We purchased the new ones as soon as we arrived at Port Aransas, since there was a major Interstate battery warehouse just down the road in Corpus Cristi, and those were the batteries I wanted.  You should have seen our poor car sagging in the rear as I hauled over 350 pounds of batteries home!

Except for¬†the physical workout¬†of hauling 5 new batteries home and 5 used¬†batteries back to the warehouse, this wasn’t a tough project. ¬†I photographed and took notes of the cable connections, then disconnected the main cables from each “group” of batteries to the coach and chassis. ¬†After that it was just a matter of removing the cables that made up¬†the parallel connections between the batteries and then removing them.

I scraped and then cleaned the trays with a water/baking soda mixture, then applied a rust inhibitor where needed before painting everything a nice satin black.  While that dried I cleaned the cables and hold-down brackets.  Finally, I put those shiny new ones in and hooked everything back up.

Some tips (certainly not exhaustive):

  • Don’t even think about¬†doing this job without wearing safety goggles!
  • Wear the junkiest clothes you own, then¬†throw them away when you’re done. ¬†The battery acid will eat them, and I wouldn’t want to put them into anyone’s washing machine.
  • Always disconnect negative cables first, and reconnect them last, to avoid accidental arcing with your tools.
  • Use a good-quality steel brush to clean all cable connections.
  • Vaseline on the connections works well to reduce future corrosive buildup.

Re-carpeted our entry steps –

A no-brainer, and an easy project on a nice day.  Some contact cement and a brush to apply it with, and some good quality outdoor carpet of your choice.  After measuring carefully, I folded ours over the front of the steps and held it down with some metal doorway trim.

Insulated our indoor cabinets –

Well, here’s one we could do on a cold, miserable day! ¬†Also a great time to go through all of our “stuff” and clean the cabinets. ¬†I added about 1/4″ to my measurement in each direction to create an “interference fit”, and then stuck a couple of small double-sided tape squares to the back just for extra hold. ¬†We haven’t had a warm enough day to test the benefits yet, but I think it actually looks pretty cool! ¬†We got this idea from John and Pam when we checked out their installation.

Lubed the chassis –

Probably my most dreaded maintenance project – cramped, greasy, filthy job. ¬†I was happy to have an image of all the grease points in the binder I got from my Camp Freightliner class. ¬†There are several that aren’t at all obvious, including at the rear¬†of the chassis. ¬†And make sure to get the ones on the drive shaft u-joints. ¬†One thing that helped me this time was having the front end of the coach jacked up quite a bit because the site wasn’t level. ¬†It gave me much more room to crawl around.

¬†Installed Eternabond tape on¬†the¬†roof –

I finally got a nice enough day to check the drip rails along the sides of the roof, and attention was definitely needed. ¬†Rather than trying to remove all of the old sealer and replace it with new (which I’ve heard several times can result in new leaks), I bought 2″ Eternabond tape and sealed from the roof to over the lip of the drip rail. ¬†I used sandpaper to roughen up the drip rail, then blew away any dirt before cleaning¬†the area with lacquer thinner.

The edge of our roof is black, so I got the black tape to make it less noticeable (it comes in white and in various widths). ¬†This stuff isn’t cheap, but it’s supposed to be pretty fantastic and I’ll be watching it closely over the next few months to see how it holds up.

Installed a Maxxair roof vent/fan –

Although we already had a Maxxair fan installed over our bathroom, it failed and we found another model that we like better.  The old one was the 7000-series unit with the big, long hood over it.  The big advantage of it was that the vent could be opened in the rain and while driving, neither of which we do.  And believe me when I tell you that the old one was almost impossible to clean due to its complexity.

MAXXAIR ROOF

Removing the old vent¬†– you can see my bare foot ¬†– my¬†next project is to apply the roof protectant and I didn’t want to drag dirt and grass onto my clean roof!

The new vent/fan is the Maxxair 4500K, which is pretty much a direct¬†replacement for the standard roof vent opening. ¬†It also has a¬†great remote for VCI’s (vertically-challenged individuals – one lives¬†here), with multiple controls and thermostatic operation.

As you may know, the toughest part of this job is to get the old fan and caulk removed without tearing up the roof. ¬†After that, the project was very straight-forward, and the instructions that came with the unit¬†were easy to follow. ¬†It works great, and we like the “smoked” cover because it lets some light into the bathroom during the day.

Removed Diamond Shield protectant –

Our coach came new with a product called Diamond Shield installed on the front cap, which protects the paint from rock chips and other debris.  The trouble is, after several years it was beginning to deteriorate and look bad.  After lots of research I decided to remove it.  I was lucky to get the plastic material off in large sections without it falling apart, but removing the adhesive remaining on the paint turned into a long and tough project.

I have finally gotten all of the adhesive off without damaging the paint.  I plan to write a post dedicated to this project, since it has been a topic of much debate on some of the RV forums.



 

Blocks and Sunblocks – New add-ons for Betsy

Comments 29 Standard
Tire Covers

[Posted by Steve]

In between our bursts of travel to new areas throughout¬†the country, we like to occasionally¬†settle down for a while to not only vegetate a bit, but also to take on some of the little projects and upgrades that have been added to our “wishlist” along the way. ¬†Of course, I do all the actual work, but only after Mona Liza gives management¬†approval!

A couple of our most recent upgrades involved:

  1. Building a set of nice, strong jack blocks to assist with leveling Betsy, when needed. These blocks sit between the jack base and the ground to reduce the distance the jack has to extend, and they offer¬†a larger area to distribute the coach’s weight.
  2. Installing some cool tire covers that we heard¬†about from Gay and Joe of good times rollin. ¬†We didn’t really like our old tire covers and have been hoping to find something better.

Jack Blocks (set of 2) –

We have tried a couple of the “indestructible” jack block products available out there, which Betsy promptly destroyed. ¬†With Betsy’s rear jacks holding up close to 22,000 pounds, those¬†products can either flex badly out of shape or aren’t tall enough to allow the jack to gain the needed additional height.

Jack Blocks

My finished blocks – the handles make them easy to carry

I¬†wanted something that was tall, wouldn’t buckle, was fairly light and wouldn’t take up a lot of room in our compartment. ¬†Here’s what I¬†did:

Each set of 2 blocks¬†required a half sheet of 3/4″ exterior plywood. ¬†I’ve built only 2 blocks so far, to see how they work and determine if we need 2 more. ¬†The plywood can be purchased in half sheets from Home Depot, which is nice if you have a small car like ours and can’t fit a whole 4’x8′ sheet in it. ¬†While at the store, get some construction glue, about twenty 3″ galvanized or deck screws (and the bit to drive them) and 2 cheap drawer handles like the ones in the photo. ¬†That’s all of the materials, and it¬†shouldn’t set you back more than $40.

Jack Block

Home Depot (and probably Lowe’s) carries these half-sheets of 3/4″ exterior plywood. One of these will make two blocks

Cut the half sheet into eight 12″x12″ squares. ¬†Stack them into 2 stacks of 4 squares and drill a couple of starter holes into each of them. ¬†Drive two of the deck screws into the holes – this step just keeps the stacks square and together while you drill the rest of the starter holes.

Building a Jack Block

Using 3″ galvanized or deck screws worked out just right

Drill the rest of the starter holes into the squares. ¬†I figured¬†9 screws on each block would be plenty, so that’s what I did.

Completed Jack Block

I used 9 screws in each of my blocks – these aren’t going to fall apart!

Take the blocks¬†apart, but be careful to lay them so you’ll be able to stack¬†them back together the same way.

On one block, squirt or brush the construction glue liberally onto the mating surfaces of the four pieces of wood, then stack them back together as they came apart.  Now screw all of the deck screws in until they are flush with the surface and wipe off the excess glue.

Assemble the other block, then install the handles. ¬†I offset my handles toward the “ground”, thinking it would be easier to pull them out with my awning rod. ¬†I’ve heard of folks attaching a length of rope to each block so they can pull it out without using a rod, but I didn’t want muddy rope that I would have to store away when it rained.

This is a simple and inexpensive¬†project, but¬†you will need to own or borrow a saw to cut the plywood and a drill to drive the deck screws. ¬†After several uses, my blocks are holding up well – even on uneven surfaces. ¬†Although I realize they won’t last forever, they’re so cheap and easy to make that I won’t mind doing it every few years.

Tire covers –

This upgrade requires only your wallet and knowing what size tires are on your coach.

We owned a set of typical fabric tire covers for years, but we were never happy with them. They were bulky, got dirty and full of bugs, and they allowed condensation to build up on our nice wheels in humid conditions Рnot a good thing over time.

Tire Wheel Cover

Typical wheel covers – anyone want to buy our old ones for cheap?

As soon as I heard that Magneshade started¬†offering tire shades, I picked up the phone and ordered four of them. ¬†This small company makes everything custom, and the quality is excellent. ¬†We’ve enjoyed¬†a full set of their¬†exterior magnetic window shades for years, and these¬†tire covers are attractive, compact, and just plain cool.

Magneshade Tire cover

You hardly know the tire covers are there, and I can show off my nice wheels (when they’re clean)

Dressing up a Motorhome Tire

Installing the covers is easy, if we do it prior to dumping our air bags which makes tire-to-wheel well clearance very tight

For our large 22.5″ tires, the cost was just under $200 for a set of four, shipping and tax included. ¬†It’s hard to tell they are even on our¬†rig, and I can attest to the fact that they will stay put¬†even in tremendous winds – as we found out a couple of weeks ago. ¬†You might want to check these folks¬†out!

 

Up next:  Back to our travels, the hikers paradise РGreat Smoky Mountains