Wednesday, August 30, 2017

What To Do When You Do Something Stupid - The Memory Challenge Problem

Bad Door!
I was in a hurry. I know that's no excuse for being dumb, but it's true. I had to get a whole bunch of things done before the storm front traveled through my area. One of those things was taking a few photos to use in my articles. I took the keys down to the RV and opened up the door to get some airflow (like I do every week) while I got a few other things accomplished. Here's why stupidity takes over. I got distracted by someone asking me to take a car out of a tightly packed garage which took longer than expected. I then drove the car back up to the other house. And wouldn't you know it, forgot to close the RV door!

RV Minder A Great Idea...Most Of The Time!
This could have ended very badly for my little RV. Think of all the consequences of my bone-headed maneuver. Animals could get in. The oncoming storm could soak the interior and ruin the door or someone could get in and "hang out" inside. All bad things. So, what do you do about it? Well, I have seen lots of reminder tags that you can put on your steering wheel. They remind you to pull in the slide or the steps, disconnect water, sewer and electric, even crank down your antennas. None of them would have worked in this situation since I didn't actually go anywhere. Now that I think about it, I did something I never do, I took the keys with me instead of leaving them on the counter next to the sink. I wonder why? Probably distracted enough to not notice.

Locked Up Tight Again!
Is this a sign of things to come? I hope not! This has really got me thinking about some basic stuff, like making sure your doors are locked when you leave the RV. I often think, "Did I lock the doors?" Honestly, sometimes I can't remember, but of course, when you go back and check...they are locked. I once had a flight surgeon that told me his wife would let him go to work as long as he wanted to when he got older. At least until he couldn't remember where he was going! Now THAT I understand. As long as forgetting something doesn't cause an unsafe condition, like not turning off the gas valve on the stove when the flame is out, it's just an annoyance. better to be careful than dead.

I believe that small changes in behavior will alleviate most (if not all) these kinds of issues. Like the aforementioned "put the keys on the counter" thing, other changes would be good too. Nothing drastic, mind you, just enough to jog the old memory and fire off a few reminder neurons. Hey, maybe it was just a lack of coffee this time.....perhaps not.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Double Sided Tape AND Velcro...How NOT To Hang Stuff Wrong

I'm usually not a lazy person. Really I'm not. A few years ago I was looking for a weather station gadget to hang above my entry door. Lots of RVs have them, or at the very least, a clock. I figured something that did Indoor/Outdoor Temperatures and the time would be great. As usual, I ended up with a full-on weather station with remote outside temperature and an anemometer. Heck, I can't even SAY anemometer, but I have one to measure wind velocity. Not that I really ever use it... The base unit was a picture frame sized piece that used screws and  keyhole shaped receptacles on the back to hang it. I thought I was smarter and I didn't want any screws in my walls. Besides, all my walls and ceiling are covered in a VERY Velcro friendly carpet. I should simply be able to attach some Velcro to the back and hang it up. Sure, that worked. For a while. Then it didn't... catastrophically.

Old Tape. No Good!
You see, high temperature and humidity are the enemy of adhesives. Heat them up enough and add some humid air and they will eventually fail. Usually by getting all gooey and stretchy until whatever they are holding falls. In my case, as I closed the main entry door...all the way to the step and CRASH, broken plastic all over the place. I picked up all the pieces and realized that just the outside transparent trim plastic was shattered, but it was still working. Sort of. After a little bit of disassembly and soldering it was all OK. You see, most of the double-sided tape had come loose from the Velcro and was still attached to the overhead carpet. Time to rethink.

It's not that the tape idea was bad, but rather that I used the wrong kind of tape. After some research, I found that not all double-sided adhesive tape is created equal. In fact there are LOTS of different kinds. The trick was picking the correct one for the job. The white stuff I had used was a good name brand (3M) and was rated for indoor use. Each piece should hold 2 pounds and the weather station weighed much less than that. But the tape wasn't designed to withstand high temperatures like those found in a closed RV in the sun...for any length of time.

After looking at many competing products I bought the 3M Extreme double-sided tape, rated for indoor and outdoor use and able to hold 20 pounds. 10 times more than the other "regular" style. This stuff is sticky! Once a single side is peeled and placed on the back of whatever you are installing, press down and rub a few times to make sure it sticks all the way across the tape. After that, remove the other side of the tape and attach sticky or non-sticky Velcro right over the tape. The Velcro I have is the same width of the tape so it was easy. If you need to, trim accordingly. Press it all down again. Place whatever you are hanging or attaching where you want it and press it down securely. Done.

I didn't mess with it for a day or so, then when I want to take it off (like I would to replace the batteries) it pulled away nicely. Just the Velcro this time, still attached to the weather station unit. Result! This stuff can definitely be used on all sorts of projects. Be careful applying it to places you can see. It appears that it will be very difficult to remove!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Your Generator Won't Stay At One Speed - Now What?

The 5200 Watt Generator
    Since I put in my newest solar charging system, I haven't really been using my generator much at all. I know you're supposed to "exercise" it at least once a month, under load, to keep everything working. Usually I do. But lately I have been distracted and haven't been doing it regularly. Well, yesterday I had a couple of friends over who wanted to see my RV. While showing them around I inevitably had to explain that I run most electrical stuff from the combination of solar and battery, but big energy hogs, like the roof air conditioner, have to be run from the generator. At that point, people always ask, "You have a generator?" Yup, all the time. So I fired it up and showed them. Except this time it began to surge up and down at idle. Very annoying! I've had it happen once before and replacing the fuel filter did the trick. This time, it's my fault. I bet there is some gunk in the carburetor that has to be cleaned. It's not hard, just a bit messy.

Paper Air Filter
First, find your generator compartment and make sure the door stays open by itself. Yes, I have been conked on the head by dropping doors enough to know to check first! Then remove any covers and air cleaners that sit on the carburetor itself. usually these are pretty clearly marked and require no tools to remove. Put aside. We'll clean them while the carburetor is soaking. Now, make sure you have a container that won't melt when you put fuel into it. Styrofoam WON'T work! Glass is fine. The idea here is to drain the fuel from the carburetor, then remove the fuel supply line going to the carburetor and drain it into the container. If you have a carburetor with a drain screw on the bottom, drain that into the container as well -- it will speed up the process quite a bit.

I Have A Short Hose Connected To The Fuel Inlet
Once that's done, you need to be able to get some carburetor cleaning solution into the carburetor itself. The easiest way is to get a short piece of hose the same size as the fuel line and attach it to the inlet you just removed the fuel line from. Then stick the other end in a container filled with cleaner and crank the generator. Usually there is a starter switch in the compartment or on the generator itself. You may hear strange sounds -- it will likely start and stall a few times as residual fuel is displaced by the cleaning solution. There will be more and more smoke as the fuel is displaced by the cleaner. It's OK. Stay away from the exhaust pipe as it may backfire a bit. Once it won't run and you have sucked up a bunch of cleaner into the carburetor, reconnect the fuel line and let it sit. The longer the better. I usually do a few hours. More won't hurt.

Clean Everything!
While it's sitting, clean the air filter with compressed air or (if it's a sponge-type) wash it in a bucket. Remember to let it dry FULLY before replacing. If it's really dirty, get a replacement. Reinstall. You could replace the fuel filter as well, but that may not be needed if you have done it recently. After enough time has passed, it is time to crank the generator over to replace the cleaning solution with fuel. Make sure you have a charged battery and/or are connected to shore power since extended cranking is hard on the battery. Crank the generator over for only 5 seconds at a time and then let it rest for at least 15 seconds between cycles. That will keep the starter from overheating and your batteries from being too overworked. Eventually, the generator will start up and stall a few times until only fuel is being used for combustion. At that point, the idle should get back to normal. After it is stabilized, go turn on a load. I use the air conditioner as it's a pretty heavy duty current draw (Amps) and will work the generator nicely. Let it run for between 15 minutes to half an hour until it sounds nice and smooth.

Put all the covers back on and you're done. If it's still running rough, repeat. VERY dirty or fuel with chunks in it, cannot be cleaned this way. The carburetor will need to be taken apart and cleaned and perhaps rebuilt. Sometimes, you can get away with draining the float bowl (if your carburetor has a drain screw) and then removing it for cleaning -- if that's the only issue. Usually, if it's a clog, it happens in the tiny jets that supply fuel inside the carburetor. Those aren't so easy to get to.

Hopefully everything is working better now. All that's left is to remember to use the generator periodically so fuel doesn't go bad in the carburetor in the first place!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Even The Simple Repairs - Time For A Battery Change!

    Let's face it, everything wears out eventually. It's the nature of things. A couple of years ago I avoided a near catastrophe when one of my house batteries almost melted down in the tray. Very BAD. My chassis battery, that's the one that starts your engine and runs most of the driving accessories in your rig, was very old and was beginning to cause multiple problems and needed to be replaced. I had added an automatic maintenance charger a few years ago, but that wasn't keeping up with the buildup of resistance inside this old battery. Well, time for a new one!

To replace your chassis (or engine) battery, you first have to figure out where it is. Since my Class A is a regular gas model, the engine is in the front and the battery is mounted in front of and below the primary radiator. It's accessed by opening the "flip down" front cover. Some RVs put their batteries in weird places, like under the entry steps or in a separate compartment. Hard to replace if you can't find it! Remember this is NOT the same battery(ies) that powers the "house" portion of your home on wheels. Once you find it, you'll have to remove it.

This Will Be Replaced As Well!
Mine had quite a lot of corrosion on the terminals from outgassing so much, so before I could even remove the terminals I had to use a wire brush to remove the bulk of it, especially from around the terminal bolts. Once the corrosion was mostly clear, I found that the negative terminal was actually separated into two pieces, so had to be replaced. The Positive terminal, while nasty, was clean-able so could be reused. Remember to remove the bracket bolt holding down the battery. If you don't, you will have a very hard time lifting it out. Don't ask. I won't tell. But my back still hurts!

Putting on the new terminal is easy, just two bolts that squeeze the cable. Loosen the old ones, clean the cable end and put on the new one by tightening both bolts one at a time until they evenly squeeze. Make sure they are tight! Once the battery was out, I attached the new Negative terminal (This one has a quick disconnect knob.) and added some dielectric grease to prevent corrosion. Reattach the bracket to hold down the battery. Double check that everything fits and no wires are pinched under or alongside the new battery. There should be ample slack in any wires that connect to the terminals.

Most batteries come from the store charged or mostly so. Everything should work fine once it's installed. All in all, not a difficult job at all.

Be Seeing You... Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"