Thursday, October 25, 2012

Windshield Washer Nozzle Blues - Remove and Replace A Broken One

Driver's Side - Still OK
    OK, so I'm a moron. I was wiping down my RV after a quick wash and snapped the passenger side windshield washer bulkhead fitting off. Great. This is the part that takes the larger hose from the windshield washer fluid reservoir pump and goes through the front of the RV the to the smaller hose that feeds the wiper arm squirter nozzle. I had some Gaffer's tape on hand and did a quick "band-aid" repair. It would likely get me down the road and back so I could replace the thing properly. Of course i couldn't actually USE the washer spray until then... at least on that side. Ah well.

Sometimes, Tape Is A Good Thing!
When I got back from the trip I had a good look at the way it was assembled. It had a nut on a threaded barrel on the back and 2 barbs holding the hoses on. Looked like a simple job to replace. Took a ride down to the local autoparts emporium to buy a replacement, that's where it got, "interesting." Seems that this part isn't all that popular and is NOT standard for anythings else. Yup, typical situation for me and my "orphan" RV. I'm beginning to get used to it. Besides, the hunt is part of the fun, right?

[Left] Old Fitting - [Right] New Bulkhead Fitting
Back to the internet to find a relacement. Of course, not having ANY idea what it was called makes for a difficult time searching online. After a long bought with various search engines I stumbled across a "Bulkhead Fitting" as used in Fire Engines! They had various sizes and shapes, but since they were mostly 2 bucks a piece I ordered 4 sets. Figuring the right one would be amongst them. As most of you know, this kind of gamble rarely (if ever) works out for me.....but guess what? This time I got one that fit! Well, the other three were useless and ended up in the parts bin...who know's maybe I'll find a use for them.

Hose and Nut Behind The Fiberglass
I began by removing the hoses. The one behind the front of the RV's front was larger and took quite a bit of force to remove. Most likely it was baked on by engine heat over the years. That  happens with a lot of rubber hoses in a hot environment. I used an adjustable wrench to loosen the nit slightly and removed it by hand. It was plastic! The new one is a much deeper stainless steel one. I guess that Fire Engines need better hardware! With the nut removed, I slid the old fitting out. Make sure you figure out a way to secure the old hose, either tape or a convenient "pinch point" so you don't have to go fishing for it later!

Getting The Broken Bits Of Barb Out
The outside hose was much more of a problem. Since it had already been broken off, there was no place to pull on to remove the leftover piece of broken barb stick in the hose. Finally, I figured out that by using a screw, sized a bit bigger than the inside diameter of the old barb I could use it to pull out the broken plastic. Once that was done, I pushed the smaller wiper feed hose onto the new stainless steel barbed fitting and it was sort of done. Sort of? Well the end of the hose was a bit stretched out from the removal of the old plastic barb so I had to heat it a bit to force it to regain it's shape. I didn't want to cut it shorter as there is really no slack in the hose.

New Stainless Barbed Fitting
The only thing left to do was testing for leaks. None were found! It's a miracle! I'll get around to doing the other side later on. This way everything will match. It's nice to have two working washer nozzles again. Now I just have to get the wiper arms to clear where I want them to. Hmmm...Sounds like another article. Stay Tuned!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Replacing Compartment Keys and Locks - (No Bagels Here!)

Several Compartments On The Right Side
Compartment locks, we all have them and at some point they will break or you'll want an extra key or some better security or, like me, want to add a lock to a storage door that was added later on. It's really not all that hard if you buy the correct hardware. Let's talk a bit about locks on RV's in general. Most of them use a few common keys. This isn't really all THAT secure, but locks are to keep honest folks out, right? You can replace these with better more secure versions, but it can be a pain. You'll want "keyed-alike" locks so you don't have to have a different key for each compartment. Much easier to keep track of with only one!

No Lock On My Oil and Misc. Storage Bay
I have a small storage compartment (really a door a previous owner added and a mounted milk crate!) that opens into my engine bay up front. It stores my extra oil, coolant and some funnels. It never had a lock, just a "twist to open" latch. I'm sure you've seen these before. Anyway, I decided it would be prudent to put a lock on this door. This style of latch is the same diameter as most of the common compartment locks so replacing it SHOULD be easy. The locks come in various lengths to accommodate the thickness of your door and the placement of the actual bar that hold the door shut. They ARE somewhat adjustable, but it's best to get the right size.

Old Twist Latch and New Lock Assembly
I just measured the length (we're actually talking about the depth of the lock here. The part that goes through the door) and bought one to fit. In the package you get a couple of keys, the lock (duh!), the nut that holds the lock to the door and TWO catches. The catches will be straight and "bent." This will allow you to adapt it to your particular door thickness. My original one was the bent style so I figured I'd just go with that at the start. As for the keys, I made sure I brought one of the keys from another compartment with me. They are usually marked on the key, but it wouldn't hurt to do a visual comparison! No, I'm not going to tell you which one I have!

Old Twist Lock Before Removal
After Removal
Next you need to remove the old latch. This is simply a matter of taking out the screw from the back of the catch (usually a Phillips OR Flat head will work.) Then, gently remove the large nit surrounding the lock barrel. After it's removed you will be able to pull the mechanism out of the door.

Lock With Retaining Nut and Striker/Cam In t=The Right Place
Next, prepare the new lock assembly. Be CAREFUL when you remove the screw there is a very good chance that the entire lock inside and all the tiny pieces and springs will fly all over the place when the small retainer plate falls out. You guessed bad! After spending some time to pick up and reassemble all the pieces you can insert the mechanism into the existing hole I started again. Make sure you have the keyhole oriented the way you'd like it to function., horizontal locked or vertical locked and key "teeth" up or down. The way it works is simple, the lock will turn and the striker/cam will engage or disengage. This all sounds complicated, it isn't!

While holding everything together screw on the nut hand tight with the striker/cam oriented the correct way. The striker/cam has a square cutout to match the one on the back of the lock so you have 4 positions. If the mechanism is LOCKED make sure the cam extends down to engage the bottom (could be side) of the compartment so everything stays tightly closed. When UNLOCKED it should move aside to let the compartment door open easily.

You MAY have to change the striker/cam to the other on supplied or remove it and LIGHTLY bend it to clear the place on your compartment where the lock engages. Ideally, you want it to be snug but not so tight as to make the lock hard to turn. Trust me, I've broken enough keys to know.
Once you have everything the way you'd like it, tighten down the retaining nut, so everything is tight. DO NOT OVERTIGHTEN as you will likely crush the fiberglass of your compartment door!! Close the door, work the lock to test it and you're done!

Main Compartment With Two Locks
While I was buying the lock assemblies, I picked up a couple of finger-pulls. My main storage compartment has two locks on it, and they are pretty tight. Once unlocked I would have to move the key slightly to one side and use it to pull the door open. Yet another way to break a key. Twice. Installing the finger-pull was an easy solution. First you have to decide which lock to install it on. I chose the back one since it looked better. Then open the compartment and set the hold open. I didn't have those when I first bought the Aero Cruiser and had a lot of "head bonks." You need to unscrew the striker plate and the retaining nut to get the lock out (watch out for falling lock innards!).

Finished Install
Once you pull the lock out of the door, place the finger-pull over the cylinder facing in the direction you'd like it to be oriented when you re-install the lock into the door. Slide the lock back into the door, spin on the retaining nut and place the striker/cam back on the lock (the way it came off!) and tighten the screw back on. You MAY have to adjust the striker/cam since you are adding a small amount of thickness to the lock. Again, so do NOT bend it while it is attached to the door, you WILL crack something and it would be bad. What started out as a lock modification may end up being a learning experience with fiberglass resin and paint. Not this time, thankfully!

This will work on any compartment and you can always buy better locks as replacements. Many manufacturers are using the cylindrical versions now. As a side benefit, when you purchase another packaged lock with the same key number you actually get two the ones that broke get replaced. almost like magic!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Thursday, October 11, 2012

This Hum Is Driving Me Crazy! - Radio Noise Exorcised!

VHS! (The DVD and Satellite is in the Left Compartment)
    A while back I replaced my entire entertainment system and re-wired all the video and audio lines. I figured I could add some "doohickys" (toroidal chokes) to eliminate the horrible hum whenever I watched anything. Needless to say, it didn't work. I like watching (and making) Television Shows and Movies, so I really needed this to work well. After exhausting all the possibilities (So I thought) I gave up. It's always been at the back of my mind though. There was a small problem with the remote control for my VHS(!) VCR. I don't use it very often, but I like when everything works. I managed to locate a "same-model" replacement and was wiring it in when I realized, NO HUM!!?!
What the.....OK, back to square one.

Oh, The Horror!
The RV is wired with grounded outlets and a few GFCI dual outlets from front to back. The ONLY difference was that the new VCR I was testing was plugged into another outlet. This wasn't the one in the entertainment compartment. I really believed the entire RV was wired properly. Be careful what you believe! It Was Not True!  I pulled everything out of the right side entertainment compartment and found, to my horror, that the outlet the power strip was plugged into was actually a cut-off, UN-GROUNDED, el-cheapo extension cord. Someone had cut off one end and wired it into a grounded outlet box. Obviously, this is a BAD practice. Without a ground, you can easily (and likely) get a hum either heard through your speakers or viewed on your screen, not to mention the fact it is BAD to have anything not properly grounded. In this case some expensive stuff was connected to sub-standard wiring. We all know that fire is a real danger in an RV. Since all of this was well hidden it would probably be too late when you smelled/saw the smoke or flame. Always better to be safe!
Wiring Like A Snake Nest

Of course, to get the old extension cord out and the new Romex cable wired in, would take a lot of work. The odd thing here is someone spent a lot of time really doing a spectacular job of running the chopped extension cord wire. It had slack where it needed it, cable stays (the loop ones you screw into wood) every few feet and at corners where the wire bent and they made a carpet and Velcro cover for the A pillar so you couldn't see the wire run at all. With all that work you'd think they'd use a grounded cord, at least!!

Ah well.

New CORRECT Box Without Cover
Once the Romex cable was run from the upper compartment to below the dash (at the passenger's knee) where there is a dual grounded oulet box. I turned off the main circuit breaker and wired the new grounded wire into the existing dual grounded outlet box. Just like you would do at home. At the other end I had a plastic outlet box and grounded outlet with a pretty cover. This was wired up next, making sure the wires went to the correct terminals. I put a healthy amount of sticky back Velcro (Hook side only) on the back of the box and affixed it to the carpeted compartment back.  You know, sometimes I really LIKE that everything in my RV has carpet on it!!

Once everything was loaded back into the overhead compartment, I re-re-re-wired the components, crossed my fingers, and turned it all on. Success! No more Hum. I don't believe I'll miss it at all.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road

Rich "The Wanderman"

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bad Mirror Mojo - Keeping Your Visor Mirror Attached

Less Than Manly Daisy
Bad Metal To Glass Mojo
Not My Feet
On a recent trip, I noticed that one of the clear plastic "Daisies" that hold the vanity mirror to the back of the passenger side visor had disintegrated. Probably happened when I was putting on the reflective windshield screen. I use the visors to hold the top of the screen tight against the windshield. Less light leakage that way. I've never really liked the "look" of them. Not all that manly, you know? Well, since only one of them was broken I figured I'd just replace it. Since I WAS at an RV show with lots of vendors, surely someone would have these.


I know NOW that you can buy them at most big box home stores.

 Ah well...
Cut Disk

Two New Disks And Some Broken Daisies
Since I didn't want to drive over bumpy roads with nothing between the glass mirror but a hard aluminum screw, I had to come up with a solution with stuff I had on hand. They say, "Necessity is the mother of invention," I couldn't agree more. I had some Kydex (a stiff plastic used mostly in automotive interiors) and a hole saw. I was beginning to formulate a plan. I took the Kydex plastic and cut four equal sized disks out. Then used a file to clean up the edges a bit.

Leftover Daisy Impression
 Not perfect, but OK for now. They would be mounted on both sides of the visor, re-using the central "barrel" and screw assembly. After carefully (every one of them broke into MANY pieces) removing the existing daisies, I gently unscrewed one of the metal bits while holding onto the mirror itself. I then threaded the new disk onto both sides and pressed the screw and barrel back through the visor. Not so easy since the visor is "squishy." Finally, it lined up enough to start the screw without cross-threading it. *Cross-threading any screw is very bad. If you try and tighten it too much, the threads will get "stripped" out, either on the screw itself or more likely the hole/nut/threaded insert it's going into. It can be re-threaded, but that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish.
Better to get it in right the first time!

All Done And Holding Up The Sun Shield
I noticed that the imprint of the daisy was still on the visor. They were there a LOOONG time. In the sun. I figure it will slowly vanish over the next few years. If you have a tip to get rid of the outline sooner, let me know. On the glass side of the visor the black disk actually looks pretty good. Transparent WOULD have been better, but I didn't have any transparent plastic with me. I'm not even sure they manufacture transparent Kydex. I did have some white, but thought that would have looked odd. What do I know? Aesthetics aren't my strong suit. I'm more of a "function over form" guy.  All in all the "quickie" repair works fine. I do not fear losing my mirror or having it shatter over the next bump in the road. This technique will work on just about any mirror that is fastened with the daisies as well as ceiling panels and wood trim and whatever else you have that uses them. I never really noticed them before, but now that I've had one break, I see them in a lot of RVs.

Most times you can find a part you need. Not this time. But, in the end, it worked out well. A little bit of ingenuity will go a long way.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"