Thursday, June 27, 2013

Even The Simple Things - Squeegee!

    One of the best things about having an RV is the ability to take a hot shower, wherever I am parked whenever I want. Such a simple thing, but when I was researching my RV it was a deal breaker to NOT have a full size separate shower! Usually, I just wipe down the walls with my towel to keep the moisture level down. Of course now my towel takes much longer to dry. There had to be a better way! 

Last week while wandering through an IKEA megastore I stumbled across this under $2 fix. It's a Squeegee. Now I understand this sounds a lot like a common sense fix for an easy problem. I couldn't agree more! Sometimes the easiest things with the simplest solutions are the hardest ones to find. Have you ever looked at a problem, really studied it and just couldn't figure it out? Then later on...perhaps days  or weeks afterward it just hit you. That Eureka moment?

Take the design of this simple tool. A bit of formed plastic, a thin strip of metal and a piece of flexible vinyl (yes I know that's plastic too!) Add a dash of manufacturing and...Voila! you have an elegant and inexpensive fix for a problem that could become very expensive. Mold, mildew, rot and worse. These are some sure killers of any RV.

It's not all doom and gloom around me...well not all the time anyway! It's just that I look at the long view of any problem and try and find the easiest and most reliable solution. Something about this simple squeegee appeals to that part of my brain.

I've have been known to "Rube Goldberg" a contraption or solution that is far too complex to last very long without something going horribly wrong. However, after years of that strategy, I finally learned to spend some additional time on the planning side. No more "Scream and Leap" for me. Look at what you need from all angles THEN figure out the solution. Back to old fashioned common sense. Every time I say that to someone (well not EVERY time) they say, "It's not so common." I'd hate to think we've lost the skill and talent to do things the simple way. 

OK, so you've all figured it out....I'm using the Squeegee as an example. Don't get me wrong, it's a GREAT solution for the shower humidity problem, but it really illustrates the "Even The Simple Things Philosophy."
I'll keep finding easy solutions for things and letting you know. You keep reading!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Like Horses, Batteries Need To Be Watered Too!

Battery Drawer RIGHT of Main Entry
    Like most everyone, my RV has LEAD ACID batteries to power the stuff inside the "house" portion of the coach. Things like lights, the furnace fan, 12 Volt sockets and the refrigerator control panel (and inside light) all draw from the house battery or batteries. Since my RV is small, I have a limited space to store the batteries. At most I can fit two reasonably sized ones. Since I don't have a giant surplus of stored power (not including my solar charging system!) I always take good care of my batteries. The main maintenance chore is making sure they have the correct amount of water in each cell.

There are a few kinds of batteries installed in RV's these days. Mainly they fall into two categories:

Flooded Lead Acid - These are what I have and most folks have as well, they REQUIRE some maintenance.
Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) - A pricier and slightly more efficient technology. They require almost no maintenance and cannot usually be "topped off" with water as they are sealed.

There are other technologies that can be used. I am currently (and have been for some time) researching Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePo3) batteries. As soon as I can get these at a reasonable price AND they can be charged correctly, I will upgrade.

My Battery Storage Drawer
Bear in mind, there are 2 main types of Lead Acid Batteries: DEEP CYCLE, which is what should be used for your HOUSE batteries and Regular START batteries, these are for your engine and the CHASSIS electrical needs of your RV. The main difference is the thickness of the lead plates inside the case. Thicker is better for house batteries. They allow longer, slow amperage discharges and recharges without damage where START batteries are designed to supply large amperages (current) for very short periods of time, then recharge quickly. Marine/Deep Cycles are a hybrid of the two with slightly thicker plates. I always use "true" deep cycles since I like to have as much power available as I can get.

One Cover Removed
OK, start by turning off your charging system if you can. Just to  make sure the batteries aren't outgassing (or boiling) and to avoid having any acid spray on you. Wearing gloves and protective glasses would be a good idea too! Trust me, it's no fun! You should remove all jewelry and watches since you'll be working near the battery terminals and could get a NASTY surprise. Next, access your battery storage area. Look for a way to access your water fill opening. Some batteries have individual caps and some (like mine) have covers over multiple openings. Use a wide blade screwdriver to gently lift the covers. Put them upside down on a clean towel to stop crud from being picked up and transferred INTO your battery! Look down into the openings (you may need a flashlight and or mirror to see in them all.

Each battery manufacturer uses a slightly different way of determining whether the battery has the proper amount of water in each cell (opening). Mine have a plastic extension the reaches down about 2 inches into the cell. I fill them so the water just touches the bottom of this plastic protrusion

You MUST use distilled water. Water with any contaminants will shorten the life of you battery. Besides, it's cheap and available at any supermarket in gallon jugs.

Funnels Make This a MUCH Easier Job
Fill each opening until the correct level is reached. One of my batteries is much harder to fill. It sits behind the other one and makes life more difficult. I have a long reach funnel that just fits, making it much easier to fill. Getting the covers back on is another thing entirely!  I found that re-arranging the wiring a bit allows me to get the covers on the back battery much easier. Not smoothly mind you...but way better than the first few times I tried to return them to their proper place. Insert your funnel in one of the openings and dribble water in it a little at a time. Removing the funnel between dribbles. Overfilling is just as bad.

Now is also a good time to check the battery terminals (where the wires connect!) for corrosion. This mostly happens when the batteries out-gas and small amount of acid vapor is released. The terminals will show a bit (or lots!) of greenish blue corrosion. Clean this off with a wire brush. Corrosion will prevent current from flowing efficiently and make your charging system work harder as well. I remove the wires connected to the battery terminals to do this, but if it's not really bad, you can just clean it up with the brush.  Clean the little bits of the corroded material off the top of the battery with a rag or slightly damp paper towel.

MAKE SURE NOTHING FALLS INTO THE BATTERY OPENINGS!!  That would be bad. Enough corrosion in your battery and it will short out severely shortening it's life.

Some very bright folks wrote in to let me know a Turkey Baster also works well for this process. I agree. I just wouldn't recommend using it for actual Turkey basting afterwards!

Close the covers or caps after making sure all of them are properly filled. Your chassis/engine battery will need the same basic maintenance if it isn't one of the sealed types. I check that right after tending to the house batteries. That's all there is to it. Following these simple steps will make sure you have battery power when you need it and will likely extend the life of your batteries.

Be Seeing You, Down The Road...

Rich "The Wanderman"

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Spinning Brush - Gotta Clean Up!

Yucky Streaks.
Pressure Washing.
    Like pretty much every RV owner, I hate Black Streaks!. Since it's been raining so often here in the Northeast I have lots of water running down the sides of my RV. The byproduct of this is some nasty streaks of tree debris and air pollutants. I used to use a hose to wet it all down with a trigger sprayer, then switch to the "soap injection" function of my pressure washer to get soap all over the RV. after that I used a brush attachment on the hose to scrub the streaks away. Well, they faded at least for the most part. Lot's of work, lots of elbow grease and lots of soap and water everywhere. Including on me!

Well, I believe I've found a better way!
After wetting everything down with hose, I hit the heavy, stuck on debris with the fan shaped pressure washer spray. This dislodges lots of "gunk" and preps the surface for the soap. I also spray down the wheels at this time to get rid of as much brake dust and grime as I can. Soaping it up REALLY well is the next step. Once you've got it all soaped up. Take a step back and let the soap do it's job. It will break down as much of the dirt as it can. Patience is a virtue here. Believe me, this is NOT my favorite RV maintenance job. I'd rather be on the road, heading toward some interesting locale than cleaning and washing! However, that being said, it's a necessary evil. I want my RV to last a LONG time. I'll wager you do too!
Old Extending Wet Brush and New Attachment
The way I used to scrub the streaks off was time and labor intensive. There are chemical products that will remove the streaks as well, but some of them are very harsh on the surface of your RV (and you!) and should be rinsed off immediately following their application. Since I've applied an acrylic floor product to my RV, these black streaks are actually on top of the coating so they come off MUCH easier. Still, standing under the extending rod of the old brush with it hooked up to the hose while scrubbing up and down and sideways was a mess. I never really needed a shower or to wash my hair afterwards!

The new way!

Water Turbine Mechanism
Quite accidentally, I stumbled upon an attachment for my pressure washer that had a water powered rotating inner brush, a fixed position outer brush AND was compatible with the soap injection feature. It works by using the water pressure produced by the pressure washer's motor and pump assembly and forcing it through a simplified turbine attached to the inner (rotating) part of the brush. The Turbine lives in a housing the also acts as the end of the brush and also holds the fixed part of the brush as well. This allows water to be used to spin the brush AND wash away soap and dirt at the same time.

Spinning Brush Dispensing Soap

Now, after wetting down the RV and getting most of the heavier "gunk" off then soaping it up with the sprayer, I simply attach the spinning brush, turn the soap on and move it around. Voila! Additional soap gets dispensed (this prevents bigger pieces of dirt from scratching anything) and the black streaks get scrubbed away. All without major effort. I pretty much cover every surface I can reach. Sometimes, when the dirt or streaks are stubborn I "hover" over that spot for a bit longer to get it clean.  The pressure of the exiting water is low enough, so you don't have to worry about forcing it through any gaps in windows and doors and soaking your interior. As long as you coach is water-resistant to begin with!

Take a look at the before and after photos. All this without a huge amount of work. Main issue I had? The brush isn't really long enough to comfortably reach the roof on my RV, which is only 99" tall. Which means it will be difficult to reach the roof on a more convention coach. Plus, a longer reach is just better on your back, shoulders and arms. Less fatigue while performing a repetitive task is a good thing!

They do sell a couple of different extensions and I will likely be ordering one of those soon.

All in all, I really like this for cleaning the RV. The bristles are soft enough, so damage isn't likely to happen. They are long enough to get into the "nooks & crannies" of the sides of the RV, so that reduces work as well. And best of all? It wasn't really expensive at all (around $25) Of course, you need a pressure washer too.
You should be careful that no rocks or big chunks get caught in the brush. That could lead to a spinning scratch maker. I ALWAYS place the brush bristle side up when taking a break or finishing up. I wouldn't use this on tire treads or anywhere a small rock could get picked up. maybe I'm just being paranoid. Better careful than sorry!

They make a similar accessory for lots of brands of pressure washers and many of the generic types use the "bayonet" style attachment. With this accessory making the job so much easier, I could wash the RV much more often. That would be less work since less dirt and road grime would have a chance to build up.


Less work, more RV trip time, does a job that I hate? I'm sold.

Be Seeing You...Down the Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Party's Over - Back To Work...RV Work That Is

    Procrastination. We all do it. Some, more than others. I'm in the majority that puts off today what I can do tomorrow. Many of my projects are long term, but some I could finish in an afternoon. I just don't. Summers are supposed to be lazy, right? After last week's crazy two day 90th Birthday party for my Dad, I'm ready to tackle a few odds and ends that I've been putting off. Like a simple cleaning of the RV, both inside and out. Seems like a no-brainer, right?


Finished Skylight NOT Leaking
As usual there are forces at work which I am at a loss to explain. Perhaps it was because the rain and bad weather held off for the party or perhaps mother nature likes a cruel joke, but the rain came from the heavens in buckets Sunday afternoon. So I wasn't going to be washing and waxing ANYTHING. OK, so I did manage to vacuum the inside and verify that the new shower skylight wasn't leaking.(!) I know, I'm amazed myself. Monday was back to work. I wish I was one of the lucky ones who travel the highways and byways of this great country with no set schedule, but that ain't gonna happen unless I work hard until then.
I just checked, it's supposed to rain Friday and Saturday this weekend. Crazy. Past life Karma perhaps? I don't know. Global warming? Thanks Al Gore!

Two Breakers, Only One Connected!
What now? I have this long list of projects that I add to when I think (or notice) something that would be a good idea to get done. Sometimes, I even get to cross something off of it!. There are a few projects that have been on that list for quite a while. For example, the generator in my RV is a 5200 Watt (about 43.3 Amps) unit. It came wired into the 30 amp main circuit breaker box. Seemed odd that I only had the ability to draw 30 Amps from a 45-ish Amp generator. Weird, huh? Turns out there are two outputs (one on a 30 amp breaker and the other on a 20 amp breaker, both mounted on the generator box itself. The 20 amp one isn't connected to anything! I bought all the parts, even began writing an article about the project. I just haven't DONE it yet. Yes, I know working with electricity in the rain isn't the smartest idea in the world, so yet another week will go by without that project getting completed.

Many folks say that owning an RV is like owning a house; lots of things to fix and change all the time. I partially agree, but when was the last time you drove your stick built house and foundation down the highway at 65 MPH? I mean, can you imagine shaking and bouncing everything in your home for hours at a time? How many things would be destroyed and/or broken that would require fixing? Pretty miraculous just how little goes wrong with an RV over YEARS of use!

Ah well, enough procrastinating. I better get back to work.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"