This year is 'Do It Yourself'. The economy and the stock market's low yield is forcing many people to maintain and repair their own 'stuff'. The Motorhome is a house that requires maintenance to 'keep rolling'. Think what all would happen if you put your house on wheels. The previous post told the details of the 'Atwood' water heater repair, as we prepared for a Texas trip..
Part one, Awnings :
The room slideout units (2 on our coach) have awnings over them to keep out the water during rain with the slides at the 'out' position. Unnoticed, the UV radiation had rotted the light colored thread used by Carefree of Colorado during the stitching process. The 1.5 inches of exposed fabric then came loose from the 'C' channel holding it tightly against the coach wall.
According to the Carefree of Colorado website, this model 'Ascent'? is supposed to have a metal cover to shield the fabric from radiation when closed. During the last few trips, the wind during the night, rattled the awnings enough to tear the sun rotted edges near the 'C Channel. Note; power them 'in' during wind, to possibly save this job.
Note: I sent a comment regarding the premature UV damage of the stitching, to Carefree of Colorado. Lets see if they respond.
Note: Laura from Carefree responded with a question about the model numbers. They are beneath the fabric when it is wrapped on the tensioned end of the tube. Luckily the fabric is removed and at the local repair shop. I asked about the numbers location being visible when the fabric is in place.
Laura said the same nylon/cotton thread has been used by Carefree of Colorado for 35 years.
"That is the way it has always been done", is sometimes the problem.
My question "Isn't there a NEW more UV resistant thread"?
Laura sent the complete parts breakdown of the SOC II model awning assy on this coach. No UV cover is shown. I will have to improvise to cover the 1.5 inches of exposed fabric.
I called Andresen's Awning on 2524 Graceland Dr NE, Alb NM 87110. (email only) De-De said the cost was approximately $79 to repair, and $200 for remove and re-install. I got out the ladder, repeatedly moved and repeatedly climbed, and finally got the fabric off both slides by myself. Working alone is far more active. You have to play the part of both the 'good cop' and the 'bad cop'. (Robert on TV's 'Everyone Loves Raymond')
The easy part was opening the two slide outs about one foot. This gives you a place to set the heavy parts so you don't drop them to the ground. Removing the five screws (two on each end, one in the center) that hold the metal wind cover shield and caps on the Care Free of Colorado
awning assy was next.
While working at each end, loosen the two small pinch screws that retain the roller end brackets into the coach wall brackets. Also remove the small screws in the C Channel, retaining the nylon beading in place. (Two ladder moves, one for each end). Move the ladder to the center (remove that lower cover retaing screw), in order to balance and lift the heavy aluminum cover (on this model) onto the top of the slide, then from there, lift to the rooftop.
Now the tricky part. The long heavy aluminum roller drum is under internal torsion spring tension like some garage doors. DO NOT remove either end bolt. I did and it startled me when it 'unsprung' (not good to jump while standing on a ladder). The easiest way to find out which end is under tension is to grab the roller and twist it to slack the awning. The bolt that is holding pressure, is at the end that requires CCW (looking at the end) twist of the drum to slacken the awning. The engineers should have painted it red or at least taped over that bolt with red tape. Best to leave the end trunion bolts tightly in place. The drum will be easily slid off of the free trunion end.
Using a pair of drift punches or strong rods of at least 1/8th inch diameter, as spanners, insert into the holes and rotate the drum, in step sequence CCW, increasing the torsion pressure, to roll the drum, winding up the internal spring, slackening the awning enough to work with the unit free of tension. Tape the one punch or rod that is now wedged firmly against the mounting bracket, into position so it doesn't fall out while you are working with the drum.
Laura sent a detailed explanation from Carefree of Colorado. It suggests using a cotter pin to insert into the drum and spring trunion assy after it is wound up to slacken the fabric. I used that method on the other coach with great success. I left the cotter pin in place to prevent further 'billowing' and traded in the coach. The holes did not line up correctly on these SOC II awning assys. The center trunion hole is further in than the outer tube hole, good luck with this 'designed in' flaw.
Be sure the 'bead' retaining screws are removed from both ends of the 'C Channel' on the coach wall. The 'bead' holding in the awning, will be stuck. Use a small hammer (tape it to prevent scratching the finish of the coach) to tap a thin piece of flat metal or a very long 1/8th rod to tap the poly 'bead' rod back and forth in the channel. Once it is loose, the job will progress easier.
Loosen the small locking screws holding the tensioned drum mounting bracket into the wall mounted frame. Rocking the big drum roll will ensure it is now ready to slide out toward the tensioned end (with taped punch) of the wall mounts.
Grab hold of the big drum in the center (another ladder move). Rock and slide the entire drum tube in the direction of the opening of the 'C' channel, and away from, off of, the 'free trunion spindle' bracket end. Leave this bracket in the wall mount. Slide the entire drum and it's bracket, in the direction of the spring tensioned end (where the punch is firmly taped in place). Eight inches of sliding the awning in the channel, and holding while sliding the heavy drum, is a little tense, hold up the weight firmly. When the end comes free of the wall mount bracket, roll the entire assy up onto the roof of the slideout.
Move the ladder to the punch and bracket end. Gradually unwind the fabric by rolling the drum assy. On each revolution, the fabric will need to be worked out from under the bracket where the punch is holding the tension (reason for tapeing). When the drum groove is pointing up, is clearly visible, and the fabric is all loose on top of the drum assy, (will require more ladder moves) slide the entire fabric toward the open (non-sprung)trunion end. Slide both of it's beads (one is in the drum groove), toward the end of the 'C' channel as you are sliding it out from the drum as well. Toss the fabric to the ground.
Now the drum should be laying on the roof of the slide. The aluminum cover should be laying on the roof of the coach. Take the fabric to the awning repair shop or 'Do It Yourself'. Be sure to use the most UV blocking thread available. Black is the best color for blocking the sun's destructive radiation. Either make a new awning, using the old one as a pattern, or repair the old one if the fabric is still strong and not fragile. Be sure to re-stitch all of the awnings edge hem in heavy black thread. Sunbrella
is extremely high quality fabric. You may even want to order a new fabric from Carefree of Colorado.
The nylon/poly 'bead' insert will possibly require replacement, in part or in entirety. I need only one extra foot of replacement per awning due to hard brittle, sun exposed ends. Andresens installed a complete new bead. The rest is covered in the 'C' channel and still flexible. After the fabric is back and ready to install, slide the 'bead' into the sewed tubular ends of the fabric. Now you can easily carry it up the ladder and slide it into the 'C' channel (flare and file any sharp corners off the insert end) and the drum groove at the same time, reversing the removal procedure.
The instructions sent from Carefree of Colorado, suggest tightening the torsion spring (if loose) by using the tensioned bracket as leverage (out of it's wall mount) held by a vise grip pliers. Scary.. I used a staged system of my wife powering the slide out to wind, lock with 1/8 inch pin, loosen end bolt. (tube requires 1/8 inch end gap to align single trunion hole with outer tube hole) Power in to slacken fabric, turn trunion (locked to tube with short pin or screw) and tube to wind fabric, Tighten trunion bolt. Carefully relax tension by twisting tube CCW and remove 1/8 inch tube lock pin each time BEFORE next power out, Repeat several times to increase tension to specifications (approx 10-13 turns of tube?). Place red tape over tension lock bolt. It's best to have two ladders and at least two people. It can possibly be done alone..but I don't like it. Fabric gets sucked into slide opening, requiring several more ladder moves. Recheck the fabric tension sometime after usage. To block the UV, I taped all along the exposed sewn edges, from C channel to uder the awning cover, (wherever exposed to sun) using rows of wide Gorilla tape. Not sure it will withstand UV any better or even withstand the wind. Note: it is now covering all sewn repairs and exposed fabric and is doing extremely well.... Thank you Gorilla.
Part two, Other tips, and more included in following comments
as I learn from experience:
You may desire to climb on the roof. If so keep in mind that the most fatal accidents to U.S. men over 65, is falling off 'the front' of their RV's. (who keeps those stats?) While up there, check the caulking at seams of the roof. ALPHA
is the best 'self leveling' caulk for RV roofs (sold at RV dealers). Clean out the dry and weathered cracks, cutting away any raised edges. Flow the ALPHA into the horizontal crack and it will take care of it's own 'leveling' process. Vertical use requires non-sag formula.
There are several Manufacturers
of easy to install, roof vent covers. After destroying one raised standard vent cover, we installed an aerodynamic vent cover over it. Good for rain protection and driving with vent open. (which destroyed the original flat vent cover)
If water leaks in through ceiling AC vent during rain, do not panic. Remove inner vent cover and duct cover, Retighten the four AC mounting bolts from inside. The thick foam seal has most likely compacted and let in water. It can also be replaced easily if old and leaking. Condensation in ambient high humidity, also causes water to run off roof or leak through ceiling vent when AC is operating. Tighten bolts. Noise from roof AC may be caused by fan contacting sheet metal framework in roof AC assy. Remove top cover and realign fan motor. If not re-aligned as soon as noise starts, the squirrel cage (black plastic) will grab the metal flange and seize. The motor will stress and fail.
One other easy maintenance job, treating the dry wood cabinetry. Tung Oil works well, just wipe it on with a very small piece of cloth and let it dry a day. It is dry in NM, so nothing takes long in the evaporation category.
A low quality fiberglass home furnace air filter, works to reduce intake of dust through the cab heater vent. I duct taped a cut of home furnace vent, dust filter over the heater air intake. It 'may' need replacing sometime after many years. I also removed the furnace intake vent and layered more free flow fiberglass furnace filter to reduce dust in the furnace.
The old Blue Ox
Aladin tow bar is great. Lubricate often with Teflon enhanced Silicone (Home Depo). Blue Ox does require various baseplates for each tow (toad). They now come with safety cables. On most cars, removable plastic front bumper covers are the norm.
'Do It YOurself' is ok if you are well equipped with tools and agile, but special plastic rivet tools are sometimes required to replace the plastic bumper covers. A well trusted Collision Repair facility, Crown Coachworks
is able to install baseplates more reasonably than most busy RV dealers in New Mexico.
It is also far cheaper to have a professional 'wirerope' facility, fabricate spare safety cables (I carry a spare set, including all connectors and latch pins). New cars have computers that can be adversely affected by voltage from an outside source (even with diodes). Better to use separate, isolated tail lights. A set of LED (much brighter) trailer lights from Harbor Freight ($40), includes the wiring. No need to do more than open all doors and hood of the 'toad'. Start with connector in front near hood latch (leave enough to connect to coach trailer light receptacle, or make a seperate 'pigtail').
Run the color coded left and right wires along through the fender openings from under the hood, down through the open door jams, and out through the rear seat area into the hatchway or trunk. When the proper light position is determined, use either large suction cups fastened to the lights (some light assy's at Walmart come that way) or fabricate light brackets, to spring clamp in place. (we have luggage racks on the Jeep) When all is placed as desired, connect the wire ends using weatherproof crimp or snap connectors.
On our previous Georgie Boy Motorhome... of far lesser quality, the factory must have been in a rush and perpetually ignored quality control. Among a myriad of other problems and gremlins, the black and gray water drain valve, was not anywhere near the drain opening below it. A stop along the first trip route after purchase, showed just how far off it really was.
With the weather nice in an Arizona parking lot, I sat on a small bottle crate, and patiently drilled and sawed away the lower compartment floor opening. This moved and greatly enlarged it, to allow the drain hose to be installed. I went into the nearby Home Depo and bought a large PVC flange, mounted and caulked it into place with a removeable cover, threaded and tethered onto its lower end. Viola, a perfect lineup and we were able to 'dump' the holding tanks at the next RV dump.
This present coach was designed with a little more attention. I added a clear, bayonet twist-on section, to the dump tube, (see when it's clean) and a secondary knife valve below the clear section, for back flushing of the black tank with gray water. The black tank has a little flushing sprinkler mounted inside. It seems to have stopped spinning this last year. (Nice feature, wish it still spun). Update: a good drive on the last leg of a trip, while sloshing around a rich mixture of soapy water, solved the problem. works fine again.
Try the 'recycled' 100% 'Natural Value' 2 ply toilet paper from the various organic health and vitamin stores. It is earth-friendly, disolves quickly and costs far less than the RV specific store brands. I reinforced the somewhat flimsy outside control valve bulkhead with aluminum 'angle stock', bolted in place. (The flimsy design bugged me).
Also the black water release valve was angled wrong and pulled hard (could eventually have broken), so I sawed a short piece of 1/2" aluminum tubing at a 45 degree, placed the opposing halves on either side of the bulkhead to provide a nice easy-pull angle to the valve release handle. I have modified many features to suit my technical background. Some day the rig will be perfect and we will be too old to enjoy it. :>)
An effective set of windshield wiper protectors is cut from a piece of preformed foam pipe insulation or the 'Noodles' from kids swimming fun (Dollar Store). The UV and weather is kept at bay and the expensive wipers last far longer. A set of UV protective wheel covers can be fabricated from construction foam board with aluminum skin. They are light, easy to handle and will blow away if not held in place with some type of framework or supports. Some people make them from plywood.
I also have effectively used the tire covers from Camping World. We have snap-on poly fabric wheel covers but they are light-porous, they do hold the foam board in place though. 'Purcell Tire' note; Do not let your tires sit on concrete for extended storage periods. It tends to dry out the oils from the rubber, and premature tire cracking will be the result. Use a plastic shield under each tire.
To keep the coach batterys at full charge, I also installed on the roof (leave a sufficient air gap), a set of three 'Amorphous' solar collectors from Harbor Freight. Use a quality voltage regulating device (fused) and buy the panels seperately. One blew off while crossing the high bridge from North Padre Island. I now check the mounting often. The single 15 watt replacements are available with Harbor Freight,s part #01 for $54 plus shipping. Each is rated (exagerated) at 15 watts.
The upscale, blue Polycrystaline type are far more efficient, but cost substantially more. When covered for the winter with a fitted RV cover (Walmart online, shipped to store or home), I use a Black and Decker heavy duty computerized 'with automatic float' charger from Walmart. Don't forget the chassis battery, use a fused jumper if parralleling or better yet, a seperate charger.
Check the electrolyte levels in the batteries often. Add distilled water as often as neccessary. Charging eventually boils away the water, shortening the battery life. I use a pressured bottle in combination with a small hose and a mirror to watch the level rise in each cell, so as not to overfill past indicator ring. Using a Walmart cigarette lighter plug in digital monitor, watch the battery bank charge while camping as well. Closely monitor 'over and under' charge using a battery guide.. (available at Interstate Battery Co)
Never let them go under 12.1 vdc, or their life will be shortened greatly. Over charging will have the same effect. In place of incandescent, use as many LED lighting fixtures as possible. The current (amperage) draw is significantly less than incandescent bulbs (heat inneficiency) and even flourescent. I have replaced the many little various 'indicator lights' with 12v LED's from Radio Shack. A power 'inverter' is useful for changing 12vdc to 120vac. Only use for short term, a low amperage home appliance, like a small tv or video player (monitor the battery voltage).
Conserving precious power should be taught to everyone. The LCD and LED tv's are mizerly on power in comparison to the older CRT's. To say nothing of the substantial weight savings. Never take electrical power's convenience for granted. The govt is using CO2 as an excuse, while trying mightily to exhorbitantly tax it, take it away from and ration it to the avg consumer.
I change my own oil and have had great luck with Walmart Super Tech Synthetic. (Shell corp, last time I called their question line) Greasing the 14 fittings takes a six wheel creeper on a concrete surface, or a rug, moved and rolled out at each drive shaft universal joint and front suspension fitting. I use the hydraulic landing gear to raise the coach.
It is high enough to slide under without it, but easier to reach when in the raised position. Do not forget to change the oil and filter on the auxiliary Generator (APU).
Use factory grade pre-mix coolant in the coach radiator to avoid electrolyte (electrolysis acidity) problems with the cooling system. I also flush out the power steering and brake systems fluids at intervals. Transmission fluid change is at a longer intervals.
Noting our personal shopping habits, I feel no guilt for temporarily stopping overnight at Walmart parking lots when traveling. A study showed that the 'average' RV traveler (they periodically stop overnight), spends about $80 dollars. I repeat, 'average'. The high dollar items (tires, battery's, etc) purchased by many RV'ers affects this amount. Not all is spent in each overnight stop.
Overwhelmingly RV friendly Texas, among other states, does not discourage this practice. Some states have strong lobbying against it (ARIZONA). The RV park associations demand the traveler spend $$$$ per night at their locations. Some areas have vagrancy and drug problems (Grant's Pass Oregon), Preventing any transients from abusing this priviledge, makes law enforcement easier. When in doubt, ask management.
Sovereign Land Indian Casino's for example, have overnight arrangements (even in Arizona). State Parks, National Parks, National Forest (even in Sedona Arizona), Corps of Engineers are our favorites (see their guide map). City Parks are many times open to overnight RV'ers, and some even have had water, electricity, and holding tank dump sites.
Mead Kansas and tornado devastated little Greenberg Kansas were very nice. Avoid 'noisy' truck stops. Some nicer highway rest areas are OK for a short sleep stop. In some areas, be wary of strange acting, sometimes desperate transients, and keep your concealed weapon handy. Do not become paranoid, but do not become a victim of statistics. 'Stay out of the 10:00 news'.
Without applying all of these 'Do It Yourself' plans, we would never be able to enjoy this exciting yet fun lifestyle.
The fishing streams and lakes, including the oceans and mountains, are calling. Texas State Parks do not require a license to fish. Bring your gear or buy some in their little shops, they are reasonable.
Watch for our next post in this greatest nation in history.
"One Nation Under GOD. The United States of America"