Wednesday, December 19, 2018

LED Headlight Upgrade - Easy AND Beneficial!

    A few years ago, I had begun an article that would talk about upgrading old style headlight bulbs with "new fangled" HID (High Intensity Discharge) bulbs and ballasts. Wrote a good portion of it, then never got around to installing them to test! Since then, the cost of LED bulbs has dropped, and dropped AND dropped! So a set to replace your aging headlights (and other fixtures) has become inexpensive enough to give it a whirl. I did, and am MUCH impressed. It was pretty easy and went well...sort of. There were some teething pains. I'm going to save you the trouble I experienced. Read on!

First, of course, is the cost. The high power ones (around 8000 Lumens) can be had for around 27.00 a set! That is crazy inexpensive. I looked on Amazon for my bulb type and ordered them. Almost every conceivable type is represented, so you shouldn't have any problems finding your specific one. READ THE SPECS! Not all of the LED bubs are created equal. Lumens, Color Temperature and cooling fans will vary, as will the way it mounts in your headlight housing. For me, I like the warmer color of incandescent bulbs, so I looked for ones with a lower number (<4000K) If you want bluer light, go higher. Daylight is 5600K. I wrote up a whole explanation of this when I replaced my inside lights with LEDs.

Comes Complete.
Once you've received the correct ones for your RV, installation is next. Take out your old bulbs. Typically there is a cover over the back of the bulb housing then a plug must be removed before you can unclip or unscrew the bulb retaining mechanism. On mine, there was a rubber cover over the plug, which I removed, then pulled out the plug. Next was a spring wire clip holding the bulb in the housing. I simply pressed it down and left to remove the spring tension and gently removed the bulb. Try not to touch the glass as the oils in your fingers will cause uneven heating/cooling of the bulb and it will crack and end up useless. That is, IF you will ever use them again. I carry my old ones as spares. Just put them in the box the LED's came in. Nicely padded and secure.

Another Set. Hey, I Bought Two!
Installation was easy. The LEDs have male wire pigtails on them which plug into the female headlight wiring harness connectors the old bulbs used. Insert the bulbs back into the existing holes, reattach the mechanism and you are done. Well..almost. Here's where I ran into some trouble. Once I had them both installed, I made the mistake of remarking to my friend how easy it was to do! I flipped on the lights and realized the pattern was perfect on one side, but backwards on the other. What I mean, is that the pattern of light projected toward the road was upside down, the "sweet spot" was great in the left side, but the right side had the spot off the road. There is a tiny Allen head set screw holding the bulb assembly into the specific mount, so all you have to do is loosen the screw, rotate the light and put it back in. Of course, it would have been nice for the instructions to TELL you that before everything is buttoned up...but was cheap enough.

The difference is nothing short of amazing. More light without gaps in coverage, better aim and it does not blind oncoming driver...or folks in front of you. The high beams have an extended range for those really dark and lonely highways. Bottom line? They work. 'Nuff Said.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Fire Safety! - Do On-Board Fire Extinguishers Expire?

    While I was in my RV a few days ago checking my smoke detector's battery, I figured I should make sure that the fire extinguisher was still "in the green" on the gauge. It was. Then I got to thinking, "I've had this fire extinguisher for at least 7 years." It's a common ABC dry chemical style available at most big box stores. It got me wondering, "Is it still good?" I mean, they aren't all that expensive to replace. So if you believe in the "better safe than sorry" school of thought, why not replace it? Is there anything on the market that's better? After a bunch of research I found some things out. Read on!

See The Fire Extinguisher, Bottom Left
Most manufacturers recommend inspecting each extinguisher at least once a year for damage and constant pressure. It's easy to do. Look at the extinguisher: Is it dented, the handle broken or perhaps the nozzle cracked? If so, replace it. That's obvious. Look at the gauge: Is it still indicating the same as when you purchased it? Is it at least in the green? If not...replace it.  Also recommended is to flip the extinguisher over and give it a good shake and "thump" to loosen the powder inside and prevent caking. All that being said, most manufacturers recommend replacing it when it is between 5 years and 15 years old. I am not so sure I would trust my or my RV's safety to a 15-year-old (or even a 10-year-old!) fire extinguisher. For around $20.00 or so, you can easily purchase a new one.

Which one to buy? Well, the least expensive is the dry chemical (powder) style. They will put a fire out (HINT-Aim at the base of the flames,) but do make a pretty big mess. The powder itself is very fine and gets into everything. But it sure beats the alternative! There are quite a few other types. As a pilot I've used various mixes of HALON fire extinguishers for decades. Unfortunately, they are hard to get now since Halon hurts the ozone layer. Halotron is similar but even more expensive. The other issue is they only work on Class B and C fires. What does that mean?

In the world of fire safety, Class A is trash, wood, and paper, Class B is liquids and gases, and Class C is electrical fires. In our RVs you really need all three. Look at it this way: If you have a fire and must discharge your extinguisher inside, it WILL make a mess. But letting it burn would cause MANY more issues, not to mention being life threatening!! After my almost battery fire, I became a firm believer in fire extinguishers as a precautionary measure.  Be safe. Replace!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

No Cover This Winter - I Bought A Big Fabric Building! - Was It Worth It? Part - 2

 Well, let's start off by saying this installation session did not go as well as I would have liked. Instead of a fully functional, completely covered fabric building, I have a frame. Anchored to the ground with one end attached, but not well. That end panel took 3+ hours to get on! Why? Why was this so difficult? I followed the instruction manual carefully and measured at least twice for each step. That's when I discovered some issues with the manual/instructions and the contents of the kit. I'm not saying NOT to purchase, but be aware of the problems BEFORE you get in too deep.

The manual I had downloaded from their website was one version, the one in the box was another. The pictures don't always match the instructions. That's really not all that terrible. The instructions really need to be rewritten to include the changes in the kit contents. The worst part of it? The manual is often NOT in the order it should be. So, for example, it says to do one thing and in the line AFTER it says to do something else BEFORE you do the first thing! Sometimes multiple sentences down. That's an issue, if you are trying to put it together step by step. I must have read through the manual 25 times and I still had problems remembering the steps.

Sometimes the instruction manual would explain how to do something that wasn't there. For example, there is a wind brace mounted on a diagonal across the end two arches. Good idea! When you put the end/door assemble on it says to remove the wind bracket bolts and slide the end of the brace through the slit in the end fabric. No problem, sounds simple. Except there aren't any slits! It never mentions you have to cut them yourself. It's an easy thing to do, but scary when you have to take a leap of faith and decide to do it yourself! There ARE three slits in the fabric to accommodate the top center rail and the two side rails. Of course, after putting the center one together, the other two will not line up. They were several inches off. Why???

Then there was the turnbuckle debacle. On either side of the end fabric installation there is a place to hook a turnbuckle that you tie the rope that goes through the door/end. It's already installed in the end panel, but you have to be able to pull it tight enough so when you tighten the turnbuckle it snugs the door down and prevents it from rolling over and off the frame. Good luck with that. The rope is almost impossible to get tight enough and the fabric slides off the frame as you pull on it. In any case, the slits in the fabric that WERE precut would not line up at all. After much angst and stress, we managed to get it close enough to put the bolts back in and snug it down.There HAS to be a better way. And if there is, it should be in the manual or at least online in a FAQ or TIPS section on their website.
In order to close the zippers on the two roll up doors at this end, the frame had to be pushed in from both sides and manipulated until it wouldn't break the zipper. This was all AFTER we measured, as the manual tells you to, 22 feet across from vertical to vertical. We were EXACTLY at 22 feet on each set and the diagonal measurements matched. So, what was the problem? I still haven't figured it out. Maybe when I start putting the other double door end panel on I will find it's a bit different and fits better. Who knows, maybe it was a manufacturing goof.

Well, this is now going to go into a THIRD week. Stay tuned...should be fun to watch us try and finish this in the rapidly dropping temperatures and significantly colder weather!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"