Wednesday, October 31, 2018

How To Winterize And Pre-Clean For Next Season - Work Smarter NOT Harder! 2018

Getting Ready For Winter
    After my last trip of the season a day ago, it came time to shut down all the RV systems. Drain and winterize the water system, unpack the fridge and move all the food out. In addition, I like to clean and sanitize the interior so it's mostly ready to go next season. You would be surprised, or maybe you wouldn't(!), at the amount of mold and mildew that can develop inside an RV over the winter season. I do my VERY best to prevent anything like that from happening and also include critter intrusion prevention to the mix. What works? What doesn't work? And, most importantly, what are the easiest methods to do all of the above?

So Much For My Nice Black Hooded Sweatshirt!
Once the hard core winterizing of all the major RV systems is done I move on to the "pre-prep" items. Let's start with the easiest, and for me, the one I hate the I get a bleach-based cleanser and some gloves and begin wiping down the inside of the fridge. Pull all the shelves both on the door and inside. Make sure you wipe down any residue you can find and make sure the bleach mixture gets into the nooks and crannies, then make sure it's wiped off. Careful of your clothing as bleach will...well...BLEACH out colors pretty easily. I ruined a brand-new, expensive hooded sweatshirt this year. So I know all about it! Next wipe down the walls, "ceilings" and "floors" of both the fresh and frozen compartments. Once done, wipe down the seals and the outside. Figure out a way to hold the fridge slightly open over the winter months as the air circulation will help reduce mold and mildew growth and keep smells to a minimum. I also have an activated charcoal cube hanging inside as well as a box of baking soda to be extra sure!

Next, work on the toilet. Clean the inside and outside with your bleach cleanser. Make sure you get under the seat and cover as well as the entire outside housing down to the floor. I have a smooth floor surrounding mine, so I wipe all that down as well. Getting to the back can be a bit of a problem, but do your best. Mine had a lot of accumulated dirt and grime back there. It will also give you a chance to check for leaks from the hoses leading to the toilet. Once done, pour in some RV antifreeze over the blade valve to keep it moist and lubricated. Move on to the shower stall. Clean the entire thing, top to bottom. Pull the rubber mats, if you have them, and clean underneath. Lots can grow on and under them! Check around the window (if you have one) for any growths or dirt and clean. Clean the lavatory sink and cabinets. I usually end up with toothpaste remnants in places I didn't know could have them!

In the main living area and bedrooms, wipe down the cabinets and walls to get rid of dust and dirt buildup. Then I move on to the carpets. Vacuum everything you can! So much dirt gets tracked in during your trips, you will be surprised how full your vacuum will get just doing this simple cleaning. Make sure you empty it and clean the filter to maintain maximum suction. This will save you the time of going back over the carpets again and again. I use a 12 Volt canister vacuum that I wrote about a while back. It works great and I really don't have that much floor for carpet anyway. It's also A LOT easier to do the walls and floors with it.

As for Critter prevention...while you are cleaning, check for any leavings and points of ingress. Fill those with steel wool or patch the hole with silicone sealant if it's small enough. Later on, I'll write up an entire article about critter proofing and prevention both during the RV season and in between. Stay Tuned! It's always sad to perform this cleanup, but if you do it now it will be easier to get going again in the spring. I can't wait!

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Emergency Roadside Repair! - Part 2

    Last week I began a trip I believed would be wonderful and relaxing. Likely the last one of the season for me. It started with a bang, and not in a good way! A hose ruptured and put me on the side of the road. Well, that was just the beginning of what the universe had in store. Next up, the incredible disintegrating rear brake. I made it another 400 miles down the road before I decided to stop for the night at a mountaintop rest area someplace in South Carolina. About 500 miles from my destination. While slowing down, my brake warning light lit up and my pedal went to the floor. Now what?

After getting some sleep, I awoke and began to try and figure out what happened. Seemed like my vacuum brake booster had stopped working and the pedal was at the floor. I thought that since I could still stop, but I pulled off the hose at the booster and tested for vacuum with the engine running it was fine. The brake reservoirs were very low on the back circuit and BEHOLD I had a stream and puddle of fluid behind one of the back wheels. Well, that was it, the rear left brake was toast. I followed the emergency guys back to their shop and worked out a repair schedule. Little did we know that it would be our erstwhile home for 2 days!

Typical Auto Parts Supplier
It wasn't that they weren't nice nor accommodating, rather the surroundings were...well a bit "repo yard." After a long disassembly period and short diagnosis time, a bunch of parts were needed, Problem was none would get there until the following morning so, stuck again. This time, we had power, but not enough to run the air conditioner. The pace in the shop, was...well...leisurely at best. All I wanted to do was get back on the road. The parts (most of them) arrived near the agreed to time, (most of them anyways) We were then stuck waiting for the mechanics to finish and we waited and waited. Nothing I could do would speed up up the  process, so we waited some more, hoping for a fix to get us moving quick;y. Not to be. After two days most of the parts arrived, bit some didn't. We  finally got out of there and got onto our destination without delay.

The bottom line is not everything that needed to be fixed was. I am still riding on worn bearings (inner and outer) on the rear passenger side. They could fail at any time. I MAY have purchased the correct bearing from an auto parts store but no guarantee they are correct for my Aero Cruiser.

Wish me luck!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Emergency Roadside Repair! - Part 1

After The First Repair, Before The Second
    As many of you know, I am traveling down to Florida from New York this week with my helicopter in tow. Unfortunately, this trip hasn't been going all that well, mechanically speaking. After getting everything ready and then starting out late we got about 1.5 hours down the road and into the State park lands in Pennsylvania and the rubber hose on my engine water pump ruptured. This was quite a surprise. First the huge vapor cloud that obscured my rearward vision, and the fact it happened at all. You see, I had just had someone replace the pump and I had told them to replace the bypass hose as well. Obviously, they didn't and I didn't check their work. Sad that I would have to...but there it is.

The Offending Hose!
Once stopped on a stretch of I84 at the crest of a hill with my lights/emergency flashers on, I attempted to diagnose the problem. I looked underneath the engine and was dismayed at the large quantity of coolant everywhere. Especially under the BRAND NEW water pump. Of course, the first thing that came to mind was it wasn't sealed properly and had failed. Back up inside the RV I removed the engine doghouse/cover and got a huge cloud of coolant vapor all throughout the RV. Great, I remember how difficult that stuff is to clean off windows. *SIGH* Anyway, as the engine cooled down, I was able to figure out that the underside of the water pump bypass hose at the 90 degree bend had ruptured and sprayed piping hot fluid all over the engine and underside of the cover. What a mess. Usually, I have a spare for every hose. Not this time. Of course, Murphy is the eternal optimist.

The Bypass Hose
After calling the PA State Troopers to apprise them of the situation, they assured me that they could get help to call me in the next few minutes. They did. Outstanding job guys!! A mobile tow/repair person called me straightaway and I explained the problem, he showed up within 20 minutes with an assortment of hoses and extra coolant. Of course, the ONLY one we needed for the fix, he didn't have. He then proceeded to REPAIR the existing hose to get me off the road and to a lot by his repair facility. A new part would be ordered and at his facility by 8:30AM. It got there at 8AM! He was incredibly professional and had an exceptionally friendly demeanor. I was back on the road by 9:30 AM with a freshly bled coolant system and a new friend.

I've been saying (and writing) for MANY years about the importance of carrying spare parts and enough tools to work with them while traveling. Dark and desolate roads with no cell service will leave you to fend for it was in the "olden days" of motor travel. It's a good idea to be prepared. Better to "Have it and not need it, than need it and not have it." Don't suffer "tripus interruptus" like I just did. All over a small $1.45 (plus shipping) part.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Bulb Check! - Sometimes They Are Out And You Don't Even Know.

Nice Tail!
    I only had one tail light working. I don't know when it stopped working, but since we have yearly DMV inspections and mine is due by the end of October, it could have been almost a year! Yup..never noticed. That's bad. I know I should check all my lights (and oil/fluids/air) before each trip, but sometimes I only do SOME of those items. I know...I'm bad. From now on, I will be fully checking my rig before I move out. It's a smart thing to do. Well, what about changing light bulbs in RV lights? Sometimes it's really easy. Sometime it's not. My tail lights between. Here's what to do.

Big Chunk Of The Tail
Take a look at your tail lights. Are they separate lenses, one big lens, are there screws holding lenses on to a separate assembly? None of the above? Well, the first thing to do is gain access to the bulb itself. In my case, it was a bit more complicated. I had to remove the entire tail light assembly from the back of the RV, lens, reflector, everything! They are about 2 feet long, with 4 sections of wire harness coming out, so that was awkward. Thankfully, they aren't all that heavy. Once removed, I could see a bunch of sockets on the back that push in and twist to remove. As long as you line up the curved slots properly. Mine have 2 smaller curved pieces and one larger one, so they will only come out when everything is lined up. Even then it required a bit of...finesse.

I should have found a small table or something to lay the lights on after they were removed so I didn't have to keep holding them up. Ah well, next time. I managed to get all the light bulb holders and bulbs out of the fixture. HINT: Remember which bulb socket goes in which hole! (Don't ask.) It was pretty obvious which one wasn't working. The bulb was broken. And sharp. (Again, Don't ask.) After the bleeding stopped, I found another 1157 type bulb and replaced it. Didn't work! Hmmm...Upon closer inspection, the bent metal strip that makes contact with the metal ground of the bulb was broken off. I soldered on a small piece of wire to make contact and it was fine. I SHOULD have replaced the socket, but my tail lights are sourced from a 1989 Mercury Sable (mounted upside down!) So I would have to research a bit to even find out what socket it was! The fix should hold for a while. At least until I get back from my long trip next week. Of course, I will be checking operation each time I stop. Well, maybe not EACH time, but more frequently for sure!

With everything working, I put all the light sockets back in the lens/reflector housing and gently put it back on the RV. All done. Mostly. After putting the acorn nuts back on the assembly, I noticed one side was dimmer than the other! Huh?!? took it back off and looked at the terminal. No difference at all, voltage wise. After fiddling a while it turned out to be a bad/loose ground coming out of the trailer hitch wiring! That was a couple of hours of hunting... So I fixed the ground and (since the tail lights were back off, I replaced all the bulbs with LED versions. MUCH brighter now and less Amp draw to boot.

All in all...pretty easy. You can bet I will be checking my lights/signal before EVERY trip! Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...shame on me!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Electric/Induction Stove Tops - Better Than Propane?

Typical Propane Burner
    Recently, I had to replace the 240 Volt AC electric stove top in my house. The glass surface had cracked at some point and the crack had finally expanded across the whole face of the stove top. Ah did last 25 years, so I got my money's worth. While removing and replacing it with a newer model (still with a glass top) I noticed it could run on either 120 or 240V. Of course, at the lower voltage it wouldn't heat as fast, but would work. What about using these in an RV (without a glass surface obviously!) -- is that possible or even desirable? Or do you prefer a propane gas model?

Vintage Stove Elements
In the old days, electric stove tops were pretty simple, a coil of heavy  gauge metal that heated up when you passed electric current through it. You adjusted the temperature by changing the amount of electricity going through the coil. Later on, they began mounting the coils below a glass top so the surface was smooth and uninterrupted. Later still, you were given a choice of traditional knobs or touch controls. All this is great and works well. But what about in an RV setting? First of all, these type of stove tops use a lot of power. Usually between 1000 and 3000 watts of power! That isn't feasible in an RV unless you are going to run a decent sized generator or always connect to shore power. That, in and of itself, would put the kibosh on electric stove tops for RV use. But wait! There is another type that may be worth a look.

My Small Induction Cooktop
Induction cook tops are VERY efficient: 84% energy transfer versus, best case, 74% for traditional electric cook tops. The efficiency translates to faster cooking times which reduce the overall energy use. A 2000 watt electric stove element uses about 320 watt-hours to boil 2 quarts of water in about 10 minutes.  A 2800 watt induction unit boils 2 quarts in about 5 minutes, using 225 watt-hours. If you reduce the power level to 1300 watts it just about doubles the time back to 10 minutes, so it is a bit more efficient. Compare this to a propane burner. It will do the same job in 8 minutes or so and requires about twice the power overall. Of course, you need to convert from BTU's to watt-hours since it's gas.

My Newly Installed Glass Cook Top
For me, the replacement would be useless. I rarely have that much power to spare while boondocking and propane stoves require no electricity. I already have a large, frame mounted propane tank on board so I'm good. It is way cool to watch an induction cook top boil water quickly even if you need a ferrous or magnetic bottom on the pot to get the ideal energy transfer. It's also really neat from a technology aspect. That's why I have a portable one. I like to cook in my RV, from simple recipes to complex meals. Breakfast is always a favorite! You can't beat the almost infinite temperature control of a gas valve. You can get close with induction.... Still, not ready for prime time on board my RV. 

As always....YMMV!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"