Friday, October 25, 2013

Balance of Power

Like a broken record, the same scenario kept repeating, I'd make sure the start batteries were turned on, check for 24V everything would appear alright, engage the lazy sounding starter and she'd fire up with 28V showing on the gauge. We'd head down the road blissfully ignorant that come morning, when we're far from any jumper cables or, when we were smart enough to remember them it was the most embarrassing situation possible, hit the button and get the dreaded "REARRRR-click click click". Let's see, brand new batteries?, "yep", disconnect switches?, "ya", 24 V alternator  functioning properly? "sure." What could it possibly ####### be? It wasn't until I was headed home after dark, the night of the airbag replacement that the problem showed it self.  Electrical System 2 which runs the basic 12V driving accessories comes from a tap off just one of the two 12V batteries hooked in series to produce 24V. Since you're drawing power from the positive side of the last batt in the series, it creates an imbalance thereby overcharging the first batt and undercharging the last batt. The cure is an equalizer and while I'm sure that the previous owners of our coach pulled their hair out over this problem, It is a problem no more.

Finally, 13.7 volts to the headlights!

Older Vanner Model 60-50 scored on ebay for $80

Nice and simple hookups.

You gotta love when a device has the wiring diagram printed on the side. Here's some arrows with labels so you can wrap your mind around it. The newer models are said to be much more accurate but my readings showed both batts having identical voltage (13.7V DC) at idle and the newer models cost five times as much. I hope this helps someone out there struggling with battery imbalances. It can be frustrating to say the least.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Pictures are fun.

Mapping out one of the three electrical systems, not fun.

Installing old emblems is fun.

Not fun..

Organizing the 7 foot  tool drawers is pretty fun!

Cargo door dents, not so fun.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Generator Work

Do you have an old Onan? We do and for now, it's enough since our focus is to not be dependent on the generator as our only source of power. It is merely a backup/emergency generator.
With 6.5K watts, it will run one roof AC at a time which is fine for going down the road in the heat of summer since we only use the front roof air during transport since our coach has no engine powered air conditioning. The previous owner had installed this great rolling tray that makes routine maintenance access a breeze.

The old Onan deluxe remote start panel however was not working properly. The hour meter, battery condition meter and run light were not functioning at all. Without proper hour readings it's hard to know when to change the oil and perform scheduled maint. 

After a lot of searching, this schematic was the best info I could find for this older unit. If you don't know how to read schematics it's pretty hard to make out what the hell to do next. In our case, the harness was complete but there were three wires with ring connectors that were disconnected and I had no clue...

When all else fails, show me pictures. This is what I could not find. The finished, working unit after an hour of deciphering. I really hope this helps someone out.

This was about a 2 hour project if you don't count the time spent on Google digging through PDF files. Every little system that I fix makes the finished product so much better and I'm learning at light speed how why and where every system functions.

De-cluttering the dash

I can't stand idiot lights and these were no exception. They were disconnected long ago and since I had made the opening for the double DIN sized Kenwood out of two existing holes, a regular DIN stereo and a CB, the fit and finish looked a little rushed.

Had some black leather I had skinned off an old couch that was headed for the dump so I removed all the lights, cut out my leather and with some 3M spray adhesive made this panel a lot less busy. I left enough leather on the inside of the double DIN opening to take up the slack left by the previous components and the result was a nice snug, rattle free panel.

Air in the Spare

Hidden behind the front bumper.... a full size spare that only had 50 pounds so I brought it up to 70 which is under the recommended but as old as this tire is, (will be replaced before we leave) I didn't want to chance blowing my face off.

Air bag/bellows replacement

My GOOD friend Paul setting the bottle jack.

3/8" air line was not enough to feed the 1" impact so we drove back to my house for a 1/2" line.

Not a lot of pics were taken of disassembly cause we were busy but as you can imagine, it was not a "shade tree experience". Basically 6 bolts and a precarious air line and the old bag was out.

the new bag offered up some new challenges and through the use of big zip ties and WWE wrestling tactics we force a submission.

 I'm not going to lie, this took us 4 hours from start to finish without a book and having never done one before, confidence was weak at best. Now that it's done though I think we could get it down to an hour per bag for the rest of the 5 remaining bags which are in fair shape but will need replacement before our full time adventure.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Backup cam/ Towed cam

When we had our 1984 Southwind we purchased and installed this wireless backup cam system off ebay from China for around $100. We used it with the monitor it came with for a couple years without any problems and it ran all the time since we used it as a rearview to keep an eye on our towed Jeep. I powered the rear transmitter and camera using the clearance/tail light circuit instead of running a new dedicated power source. When we sold that RV, I kept the system because it had worked so well. 
Flash forward about a year and we've gone from a 27 footer to a 40 footer with zero rear visibility. We had planned ahead and already installed the new Kenwood DDX 370 for it's upgradeability so fitting in our old cam system was a snap.
I mounted the cam right below the center clearance light and drilled for the wires, ran them through and siliconed around them for a good seal. The small transmitter and camera were then connected into the clearance light harness for 12V supply. Done in the rear!

Next it was time to power and connect the cam receiver into the back of the Kenwood head unit. I powered the cam receiver via the same switch that turns on the clearance lights, plugged in the yellow video cable to the "reverse" input on the back of the Kenwood and then went into the head units setup menu to change the protocol to manual reverse cam button control. Now I can be listening to music and still keep an eye out back on our Towed.   
We didn't end up using our old 7" monitor for this install but I'm sure we'll use it for something. Again, I am a passionate American and I wear American made boots but I can only afford to do so because I buy my electronics intelligently from the most affordable source. Don't get stuck on stupid. 

Pressure washing the radiator

Since we had replaced the engine coolant thermostats it was time to move onto the radiator which on our 4905 is located on the left rear of the coach. Since our cooling fan is direct drive and our louver system is disabled in the open position, the only thing standing between us and efficient cooling is the radiator. I wish I would've taken more pictures as the mud and sand boiled out of this thing but you'll just have to imagine it. I would estimate that this perfectly clean looking radiator core was holding at least five pounds of crap. I cleaned row by row paying close attention to my angle of attack so as not to damage any of the delicate fins. After about four full passes, I unbolted and hinged the louver assembly out of the way and started all over until the water ran clean. Took about a half an hour to completely clean the core but it should make a huge difference in cooling capacity. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Out with the old TVs

We're generally not big on television unless it's dinner time but things like inclement weather and unexpected illnesses sure can be a lot more pleasant with a good movie to watch. Our coach was converted in the 90's so it had things like VHS, tube style TVs and land phone lines. With the old AV equipment on it's way to the local charity, we were left with these cabinet like cubby holes so I had an idea to use these as DVD storage and mount the Skyworth 12v DVD LCD TVs so that they could be swiveled out like a door for access to the cabinet but would hide it's contents when stowed.
Click on any photo to enlarge
Scored the TVs off Ebay for $130 each and the Cheetah VESA 100 arm mounts were a steal at $10 a piece.

This is the bedroom TV in it's stowed/viewing position. It sits flush with the opening. Had I mounted it 1 1/2 inches lower, I would've been a professional.

The forward/livingroom TV mount was done the same way.

This opening was a bit taller so I split the difference. For transport, going down the road, I will fit a short bungee to the back of the mount and hook it inside the cabinet to keep tension against the cabinet face and minimize any bouncing. 15 1/2 inch TVs were plenty big enough for or viewing taste and they are about a third of the weight of the equipment we removed.

LED light swap and some new gadgets


The old bulbs on the left from the top down we had: 14 halogen ceiling lights, 4 reading lamps and 7 docking lamps.

This fixture in the bathroom had an 1156 so I found this SMD (surface mount device) warm white, LED replacement since it's right next to the mirror.

This bayonet style warm white SMD was perfect for the stove top vent hood light. The warm white is better when it comes to looking at food or your face in a mirror for that matter.

Here is one of the halogen ceiling lamps upgraded with a warm white 5 SMD LED. I could have opted for the PUCK style but I would have lost the beauty of the diffused light through the faceted fixtures.

in this shot you can see the light pattern and brightness during daylight hours.

Our coach was also equipped with 7 of these beautiful docking lights that if you turned them all on at once, would start blowing fuses. I replaced them all with the very compact SMD LED bright white flush face bulbs pictured in the top photo.

The step/docking light wasn't working at all and wasn't wired so I designated a new circuit and gave it it's own independent switch which I may upgrade to a pin switch, activated by opening the door, in the future.

The indirect lighting was upgraded from 90's incandescent rope lights to highly efficient and fun to play with RGB LED ribbon lights with remotes. 
The controllers that came with the lights were faulty so for another $9 I upgraded to sound controlled RGB with remotes and so far they have worked flawlessly. These new remotes didn't have the flexibility of blending colors but I would rather have reliability then rainbows if you know what I mean.

You can choose from any of these colors as well as 4 pre programed effects or 4 more music and sound activated profiles. SUPER FUN!

This entire LED upgrade from start to finish came in at less then $100 dollars and was fun and easy to do. I purchased all the lights through Ebay from China. I don't buy into the whole idea of paying three times as much for a product that came from China just because the middle man is American. Also, pay close attention to polarity. Some rv's may have the positive and negative wires switched around which doesn't affect a standard filament bulb. A LED will need the right polarity to work. We can now turn all the lights on and no fuses are blown and we're using less than 1/10 of the power to do so.