Project "New Tent"

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Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Sun Dec 21, 2008 3:45 pm

As I posted in WOS I picked up my first RV this week:

http://www.americansandassociation.org/ ... 44&t=24959

For those who don't want to review that thread....it's a 25' 1976 Pace Arrow Class A. It drove 15 miles to get home but isn't quite what I'd call "road worthy" just yet. It has a working fridge, working A/C, the water systems work (new sureflo pump), new alternator, new fuel tank solenoid, new fuel pump. The inside isn't trashed and it is roomy...but it does need some good scrubbing. Overall for the $600 I payed I'm overjoyed. Registration here in AZ turned out to be about $10 a year and the insurance even with comprehensive is less than any of my other vehicles which don't have comp....so even if we put some cash into fixing it up I still feel like I'll be money ahead.

But like most of my desert vehicles this is going to be a bit of a project. So I figure I should open a thread to discuss it like I have on my other vehicles!

So far I've taken care of 2 quick and cheap fixes:

1) New plug on the shore cable. $10 at Lowes...not a plug I'm happy with though, very cheap looking and it's hard plastic so it can shatter. It will work for now, but I noticed walmart has new cables with nice molded rubber ends for about $30 so when I do my power system upgrades I'll probably just put a whole new cable on.

2) New cap for the shore water connection. The shore water connection is just a T fitting so with no cap on it everytime the pump came on water was pouring out. The old cap was rotted off in there so I chipped it out and put a new cap on. $3 at walmart. Some of the sinks drip a little, and I've seen new RV faucets for $12 which makes just replacing the gaskets seem like good money after bad. When I get around to replacing the faucets I'll pick up a 1-way valve to plumb in so the cap won't be as important.

This afternoon will be the "70's era tune-up". The motor runs smooth once it's warmed up and sounds pretty good. But is very hard starting, idles high, and gets kind of warm - though that may just be the old rotted radiator cap. It also has problems shifting which are real bad cold but get somewhat better when warm. I checked the fluid level and it's topped up and appears fresh...so there may be transmission issues. Worst case it sounds like a friend has a transmission that would be a good swap which came out of his old RV and said I can have it for free. But if it comes to that I'll probably have his rebuild before I put it in. We'll see how it does once I get the motor running a bit better.


I did a walk around/through this morning and jotted down a list of issues I noticed. Some of these are must fixes, others are just wants. But for my own reference here we go:

Tires - this is a must. The newer 2 tires are 10 years old, the others...at least 15. But apparently 8R17.5 tires aren't very common. So I'll have to shop around and see what I can find. Thankfully with all the winter visitors we get in Yuma RV tires, even oddball ones, are fairly easy to find. And there's a big market on gently used tires as well. I'd rather go new...but if I have to a set of good quality used tires will get me through what's left of this season. My drive to the dunes only includes about 20 miles of highway after all.

Flush fuel tank. - Right now I'm running on the second tank which is smaller, but the guy I bought it from warned me the primary tank has some dirt in it and should be flushed before use.

Find out if the water heater works - Need to get propane in it for this.

Batteries - It has a new chassis battery, but the coach battery just drains the chassis battery when hooked up even though there's an isolator. I'm guessing it needs a new isolator...but would be best to get 2 matched batteries. I'm really thinking about putting 4 6v batteries where the generator was though and eventually getting some solar panels so I can avoid needing a generator for most of my trips. What it has now will work for the rest of the season though so it's no hurry.

Inverter/Converter - It has no inverter and the converter is 30+ years old. So along with the batteries I want to do some electrical upgrades to make it more efficient. My goal is to be able to do a 3 night dune trip without a generator. I'll be replacing all of the lights with LED's where practical and anything else I can come up with to try and prevent wasting electricity. For now I have a small 300watt inverter and the converter in there does work...so this is very firmly in the wants column.

Mirrors - the mirrors on it are horrible. They're better than nothing...but not by much. I'm definitely going to be keeping my eyes on ebay and craigs list looking for some better mirrors.

Step - the entrance step is kind of weak. I crawled underneath and things look pretty solid...but 30+ years of use and the wood is getting kind of weak in that area. I see some ideas on how to reinforce it though. This isn't a high priority but it is something I'd like to fix before it breaks and becomes a bigger issue to deal with.

Fresh water tank drain - when I tried to turn the valve it disintegrated in my hand like most of the exterior plastic does. Looks like I can get a new one for $6 so that will be a cheap and easy fix.

Paint - the paint is very oxidized and Amy doesn't like the color. Once it's running well I'll probably do a budget paint job. If it looks good from 10' away going down the highway...that will be good enough. The paint on my trailer has help up well for about 8 years with that kind of paint job so I'll probably do the same deal here. But I'm really not in a hurry to do this :D

Roof - there is a small leak in the roof near the forward vent. And any plastic vents up there are rotting away. I found a bunch of galvanized steel replacement vents in one of the cabinets though. So I'll get up there and replace the old rotted plastic and then use a rubberized roof paint to seal it all off. It's parked under a shade structure though and this is Yuma (annual rainfall is about 1") the leak is small enough that it doesn't drip even in a big rain (I happened to go look at the RV on a day that was VERY rainy) but the ceiling does get wet. So this isn't a huge priority...but I do want to take care of it sooner rather than later before it becomes a big issue.

Bathroom vent fan. The blades are almost all gone. Looks like I can get a new fan for $8 so this should be an easy fix. And given my diet when I'm camping...probably one that should be done sooner rather than later.

License plate - I have to get creative. The original plate mount is broken. I may just bolt it to the bumper...but don't really want to drill holes in the nice shiny bumper. Gotta sit down with a beer and stare at the back for a bit to come up with an idea. Maybe a bracket off the spare tire mount....

Outside light - probably just needs a new bulb, and there is a box of new in package bulbs and marker lights under the sink. Most of the marker lights work (except for 2-3 over the windshield) but none of the interior "map" lights work. The blubs are good so it must be a wiring issue. Could be because the 2nd battery isn't connected. Need to do some investigating but should all be easy fixes. The outside lite I'm looking for a suitable LED replacement since it's the one that will probably get left on the most while I'm camping. Most of the interior lights are 12v fluorescents so those should be fairly efficient and give great light. I'll put my amp meter on them though and see if I can't make improvements there as well.

Speakers - There is a stereo, but it's AM/FM cassette only. There are 2 more stereo's in various cabinets but the one installed looks like the nicest. No speakers installed even though there are 4 grills/openings...speakers are in one of the cabinets with one of the uninstalled stereos. The stereo in the dash is hooked to 2 house speakers which are tucked under the dash. I'll probably keep them as camp speakers and put some new speakers in the grills along with a newer stereo that has an input for my MP3 player. Low priority but cheap and will make driving more enjoyable so it will probably get done sooner than it should ;)

Chairs - The captains chairs have seen better days. They aren't "bad" but I'd really like some armrests. Got a lead on 4 leather captains chairs at a great price so I'm going to take a look at them and see if I want to do an upgrade here. Would probably also remove the two tables behind the captains chairs and put 2 more chairs in instead...but we'll see.

Gauges - The aftermarket oil pressure and amp meter work...but none of the factory gauges seem to work. It's a nice flat dash though so putting in a new panel and aftermarket gauges should be fairly easy. Until I can afford good gauges my GPS can serve as spedo and I have a spare temp gauge I can hook up.

Heater - The heater works...but is loud. May just need some lube, may need new bearings, may need replacing. There's also a ventless propane room heater that appears to have been installed safely so that may do a good enough job of keeping us warm. Again I need to get propane in it before I can test all of this fully.

Propane - Speaking of propane. There is no leak alarm. I already ordered one ($25) so I'm just waiting on that before I drive it up to the corner to try and get the tank filled. One I have a propane alarm installed and working then I'll be ready to see what works and what doesn't.

Carpet - The carpet isn't horrible...but it could use a good shampooing if nothing else. I'll probably keep my eyes open at Lowes for some indoor/outdoor remnants on sale and when I find a good deal replace it. Related note: The pocket doors between the living room and bedroom areas don't work well because the padding under the carpet is too thick. The door to the bathroom works fine though and that's the one we care about most :D The other can wait until I replace the carpet and I can leave a gap in the padding so the doors will work better then.

Range Hood - The fan makes horrible noises and the light is mangled. Plus it's ancient and ugly. I found new in box hoods for $25 at an RV surplus store so at that price I figure I may as well just get a new one rather than try to polish the turd that's in there. Amy's looking forward to being able to cook breakfast :D

Cabinet Latches - surprisingly only 2 don't stay closed. That's better than most newer RV's I've been in! And there's one that won't open. Amy wants to relaminate or paint the dark wood grain with something light to make it feel bigger inside. So I'll try and find new latches at a surplus shop cheap when she does that. Until then I can rig some velcro or duct tape for the 2 that are finicky.

Bed - The 2 twin beds with 2 fold down bunks just isn't what we want. I'm going to get a sheet of plywood and some hinges and make a fold out bed. By day it will be just like it is now. By night it will fold out and we can easily fit our queen air bed...and when that wears out...upgrade to a king :D

Curtains/blinds - it has blinds now but they're kind of melted from the AZ heat. We'll probably just make some curtains to replace them since that will be quieter on the road.

A/C - The A/C seems to work...but it's cold out right now so it's hard to say for sure. If it doesn't work well...I have a friend who's offered me the A/C off an RV he's parting out that I know is in good condition. Have to wait for warmer weather to find out though.

Awning - I really want an awning and this doesn't have one. So I'm keeping my eyes open for any deals. The friend with the A/C also offered me the awning off that RV...But it needs new fabric and I'm not sure if it's as big as I want. Have to go measure and find out. The fabric is only torn along the outer edge too so it would be possible to just cut that off and leave it a foot or two short until I can find a deal on new fabric. So this will probably get added fairly soon.

Motor A/C - There's no A/C on the motor for the cab. It appears that there was at one time since the brackets are there, the controls are there and the vents are there. Once the motor is running well I'll check some junkyards for a compressor and evaporator, order a new dryer...the same friend parting out the RV I mentioned above is an AC guy by trade so this shouldn't be a huge issue to take care of ;)

Tank monitoring panel - The original panel does not work. It may just need bulbs...but it's old and ugly and used filament bulbs. I can get a new panel with sensors for <$50 so I'll probably just replace it outright.


Within a year or two I hope to have this RV looking better than many new RV's and running smooth as well. But for now getting it fully road worthy is the first plan of action. So this week I'll be shopping for tires. And when I'm done with this post I'm going to go change the fluids and filters, check for vacuum leaks, and see if I can't get it starting/running just a little bit better ;)

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Mon Dec 22, 2008 10:05 am

I had hoped to get some work done on the RV yesterday...but I'm in the middle of a big project and really didn't have more than an hour or two to work on it...and even then I felt guilty about taking the time :(

I did manage to drive it around the block and into the backyard, I let it idle in gear this time first and still wasn't able to get out of 1st gear for the 1st block...but by the time I reached my alley it was cruising pretty good. Please excuse the mess in the yard, still cleaning up from a party Friday night and organizing things:

Image

I was just happy that I managed to back it in 1st try! It was actually easier than backing our pickup into the yard!

I had hoped to at least do an oil change and tranny fluid change...but once again my oil filter wrench has gone missing :( So I wasn't able to do the oil change yesterday. I did pull one spark plug and found that it looks almost new. Good color on it too. So I may not bother with new plugs after all.

Here's a view of the motor with the air filter removed...lot more vacuum stuff than I expected, some of which I have no clue what it's for yet:
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A detail of the cruise control servo....you can see why I plan on ditching the cruise until I find a replacement for this:
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Plastic body thermoquad with forrest of vacuum lines:
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Not being able to do the oil change I figured I'd do another quick and easy job instead and change the outside lightbulb. And that turned a bit more complex than I had expected:

Before:
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Hey, wait...that's another fixture under there!
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Apparently someone lost or broke the original cover and just bolted a bigger one over the old base. Unfortunately even with a new bulb it doesn't work. Will have to figure out if it's the wiring or the fixture...but I was already thinking about replacing this light with something more energy efficient so now I have an extra excuse ;)

I also took inventory of the freebies that came with it:

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That would be 12 1157 bulbs (Bummer, I need 1156 for most of the ones that are burned out!) 4 new marker lights, 4 older marker lights, 3 fuse holders, 3 new vent caps, and a steering wheel wrap.

The vent caps are sorely needed right now:

Bathroom sink vent - this one was more complete before I pulled into my driveway and the low hanging palo verdo got in the way:
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Galley vent - also victimized by the palo verde:
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Black tank vent (Camera was refusing to focus where I wanted it to all day for some reason):
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Bathroom vent cover...or what's left of it after the palo verde:
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Vent over fridge/heater that has apparently been repaired previously and broke again in the same place:
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The vent that looks the nicest...is actually the one that leaks the most though:
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Spare tire which has had it's DOT code stamped out:
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I then decided to do SOMETHING...and tried to change the tranny fluid.

Backtracking a little bit - After I warmed up the motor and drove the RV around to the backyard I put it into each gear for about 10 seconds, then back into neutral and checked the level. A very mechanically inclined friend was there (he helped guide me into the spot) and checked as well. We double checked with it in park as well as neutral. And were amazed that it looked like "full" on the dipstick. Uh, oh....there may be serious tranny issues after all.

So I got underneath and noticed that the drain plug (TF727's actually have drain plugs) on the tranny did not look right. In fact on closer inspection...it was a grade 8 bolt. And appeared to be leaking (though at least the fluid looked fresh:

Image

So I got my drip pan in place, reached up and found that the bolt wasn't even finger tight. I started thinking "wow, I'm really lucky this didn't fall out and leave the tranny dry on the way home!" so I pulled the plug....and got...2 drops of fluid.

Hmmm....No stain in my driveway or backyard so it didn't all come out just now. I figure that the fluid we saw on the dipstick must have just been splash and there was really none registered properly on the dipstick...but since there was none registering fully we accidentally assumed the splash was the fluid level.

But this seems odd. If there was really that little fluid in there that none came out....I wouldn't have expected it to drive at all! Now admittedly it isn't 100% level where I checked it, and the dipstick is on the lower side while the drain plug is on the higher side...but again it's not that far off from level that I shouldn't get any fluid out.

My friend had an idea which I'm assuming explains this. When I mentioned that the plug looked like either it was added by someone or was added by someone to replace a stripped out factory plug he guessed that there may be a lip on the inside as a result. So there is probably some fluid that can't come out through the drain. And it's probably just barely enough to pump up the tranny to where it will eventually drive.

Won't know until I pull the pan though. And I didn't have time for that yesterday. Today or tomorrow another duner friend who works at the Dodge dealership is going to stop by and help me adjust the bands in the tranny while the pan is off and show me how to flush all 15 quarts of fluid. So hopefully when he's done assisting me and I've got this bad boy filled up properly it will be a lot more drive able.

If I'm really lucky...it will drive well enough for me to get to the reputable used tire store and find some tires that won't break the bank but will be new enough to be safe for a season or two.

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by ChuckZilla » Mon Dec 22, 2008 10:21 am

Great work Jason, I'm still not finished reading the first post in this thread!
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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by Sloppyduner » Mon Dec 22, 2008 12:02 pm

jhitesma wrote: Plastic body thermoquad with forrest of vacuum lines:
Image
:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

I can't help but think about this RV junk yard we have here in Fontana. You'd love it at this point. Having as many snow birds as you guys get I bet you have better ones down there.
Image

Image

Image
....and at the end of that light there is another tunnel

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Mon Dec 22, 2008 10:57 pm

Not a real update...

But while I was out today picking up some last minute Christmas gifts I stopped and bought a new oil filter wrench. But while I was out the service engine light came on in my car :(

Hooked up the scanner...and it's a MAF error. Got one over the weekend too. Based on the age of the car...it's very likely that the sensor is toast. So I ran up to the store and got a new one (Ouch, $150 plus a $70 core charge!) then went to install it...and found $*&!&*! tamper resistant screws.

When out to my tool box, knowing I didn't have that particular bit but double checking anyway, and what do I find?

Right where I looked several times yesterday....

Yep. That's right. 2 oil filter wrenches :roll:

And of course what is the one receipt from today that I can't find?

Yep. The one for the new filter wrench I bought. Oh well, at least it was only $3...and now I have one more to not find the next time I go to do an oil change.

Probably won't make much progress on the coach for a few days. Real busy trying to finish up a job that's running late...and the holiday...and now I have to run up and get a special bit so I can replace this MAF sensor tomorrow and get my $70 deposit back.

Grrrrr.....

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Tue Dec 23, 2008 9:34 pm

ChuckZilla wrote:Great work Jason, I'm still not finished reading the first post in this thread!
Thanks...and that IS a big one. But it's my checklist for the bulk of the project so I figured it would be long, and I'm sure the final list of what I do will be even longer.
Sloppyduner wrote: I can't help but think about this RV junk yard we have here in Fontana. You'd love it at this point. Having as many snow birds as you guys get I bet you have better ones down there.
What no love for the Thermoquad? They're actually not that bad and pretty advanced...but that also means they're pretty complex. Which is why I'd like to ditch it for EFI ASAP. The plastic body was designed to keep the gas in the carb cooler for better economy and emissions (it actually helped Chrysler put off installing catalytic converters for a few years.) Since the only metal contact from the intake to the top is the 4 mounting screws and the plastic body is designed to not conduct heat the bowls, fuel and metering devices all say about 20 degrees F cooler than a normal carb.

I'm just glad they hadn't gone to "Lean Burn" at this point...<shudder>.

The Thermoquad is pretty much a standard Carter (like the quadrajets and even Edelbrocks) just with a few extra "features" tossed in. Most of the annoying vacuum lines appear to be emissions related since there's a charcoal canister and EGR. Which is kind of odd since the gas tanks are the old school leaded style caps - without the restrictor to force the use of unleaded gas. But I was only a year old when this was built so my memory of the leaded->unleaded switchover and early advancements in emissions controls is pretty restricted itself ;)

Nice thing about the Thermoquad is that it can be adjusted in a lot of ways. So you can get a really good tune with it. But that also means there are a LOT of adjustments, and carbs and I do NOT get along.


I didn't have time to get any work done on it today...but Danno did and I wasn't about to pass up assistance from a Dodge mechanic! He had offered to stop by on his way from work and adjust the bands for me. So I quickly removed the tranny pan while he went out to his car to get his tools. Sure enough it turns out there was a BIG lip on the drain plug and about 1/2" of fluid in the pan:

Image

So that explained why it still ran and drove despite apparently not having any tranny fluid when I pulled the plug.

The pan was pretty clean already, so a quick scrub with simple green followed by a wipe with carb cleaner had it looking good as new:

Image

The filter came with a nice rubber gasket, which held the bolts in place nicely and used no sealant - so once I had that all on and ready I gave the pan another quick wipe with carb cleaner and a paper towel to make sure it was spotless just as it went on. But that's getting ahead.

Danno crawled under and took a look:

Image

It looked pretty good. The filter did have some grunge on it, and there was some on the bottom of the pan...but not a ton. The front band was pretty good...maybe a little loose. But the rear (which from what I can tell is the low/reverse band) was WAY loose. Danno said they should have about 1/8" of play in them...and that one had closer to 3/4" !!!

Ouch...between that and the lack of fluid I can easily see why it was having so many problems. It was far enough out of adjustment that we are both wondering if the friction material is toast and the band is shot. He was able to get it adjusted back to specs though so we'll just have to wait and see.

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With that in mind, rather than go ahead with a full flush like I was planning at this point I decided to just fill up the tranny and see how it does. So I installed the new filter, bolted the pan back up, and in less than an hour we were done and I was back at work.

Image

Since I didn't have much time the outside of the pan didn't get nearly as good of a clean-up as the inside did.

I just went out and topped up the tranny, then let the motor warm up and put it through all of the gears, and gave it a good 5-10 minutes idling in neutral...it ended up sucking down another quart of fluid and looks ok. But there's no one around to help guide me back into my parking space - and the headlights are kind of dim...and I still need to mount the license plate...and...well that's enough. It's not getting a test drive tonight. And Amy works early tomorrow so it probably won't get one then...and Christmas day sure isn't a good time for that...so it will probably be Friday before I get to take it on a test drive.

While it was idling I checked out the "burned out" tail light...when I touched the bulb the plastic holding the contacts disintegrated. So I need to entirely replace that light now. Rather than try to find a matching replacement I'm thinking I'll just take off all four original rear taillights and replace them with new LED units...looks like I can get them for about $100 and they'll be more visible and require less maintenance...plus give the rear a bit of a updated and custom look.

I also checked out the dash. I was surprised to find that all of the dash lights seem to work, except for the ones behind the climate control (which doesn't seem to do anything right now anyway.) And despite my earlier assessment it appears that most of the dash does work. The coolant gauge and spedo are the only two original gauges that aren't responding...and the coolant could be ok...it may just have been a bad/old radiator cap before. I already picked up and installed a replacement for that.

The motor is still idling higher than seems right, I put a tach on it and it's idling around 1,100. So now that I can fire it up again I'll have to have Danno come back and take a look at that carb and all it's myriad adjustments.

So I'm really excited about seeing how it does now...but it will be a few more days before I can know :(

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Fri Dec 26, 2008 5:58 pm

Well, I had hoped to finally do that oil change today. But got side tracked debugging the sluggish starting.

Ended up tracing the main positive battery cable, and it goes down off the battery back along the frame rail and stops at that spot I photographed while I was working on the tranny trying to get a better look at what it was:

Image

What it is is a large junction block. The starter positive comes right off the same terminal that the battery cable connects to, and a bunch of other things all draw their positive off of this block. I'll have to try and get a better photo of it somehow....

I found that the end of the main battery cable was coming out of it's poorly crimped ring end.

So I pulled the main cable, went up to NAPA, and had them make me a new cable since I don't have the tools to crimp 2GA connectors. Unfortunately I'm not over joyed with the construction NAPA did, took a LONG time and for what they charged the workmanship is really sloppy.

Image
(Original cable on left. New replacement on right.)

Routed the new cable back in and hooked it up. Motor cranks MUCH easier now. Of course, the battery is down around 11.9v still from earlier so I'm waiting on it to charge. But I expect it to start much easier once I have the battery charged up again.

Image

Also got my LP Detector today so I need to get that installed. And I wired up a replacement tail light...but found that the brake lights and turn signals really aren't working properly. So there's a bit more wiring I need to dig into than I expected. While I was under the coach I also noticed that the stock furnace is disconnected from the gas line and the room heater is plumbed in there instead. Which I'm taking as a sign that the original heater probably does not work on LP.

If I can get the LP detector mounted and wired in and the motor starting more reliably then I'll be able to take it for a test drive up to the gas station to put a bit more gas in the tank and see if I can get the LP filled. And if the biggie - see if the tranny is working a bit better now.

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Sat Dec 27, 2008 1:35 pm

Few small updates as I wait for the oil to fully drain....

The new battery cable made a big difference. Started up pretty darn easily today! And I'll feel a lot safer knowing I have good safe cables and not 30+ year old rotting cables.

The turn signals are also working...though it's now apparent that I'm going to have to replace all 4 rear tail lights. The contacts are pretty corroded back there and just touching the bulbs makes lights work or not work...but trying to remove a bulb to clean the contacts is risky since the plastic is so brittle the whole fixture may fall apart. So I'm going to have to look for suitable long term replacement lights.

Not sure if the brake lights are working or not yet since I don't have anyone else here to go look while I push on the brake. And due to the design of the pedal...a brick won't really cut it.

The high idle also appears to be due to a slightly gummed up linkage and/or weak return spring. I can get it to drop down to a nice 800 RPM idle if I push the linkage manually. Going to see if some carb cleaner and lube will solve that or if I am going to have to get a new return spring.

There does appear to be a problem with one of the two radiator caps. The radiator itself has a 13psi cap with a hose going to the catch tank. But then there's an extension coming off the radiator up to the front to make filling easier. And it has a 16psi cap. But as soon as water starts to circulate the 16psi cap starts to leak even though the 13psi cap is holding pressure. I replaced both caps but the 16 is still leaking. So I'm thinking it may not be the right cap. It seems to me that it should be a solid cap since there's no overflow and I'm wondering if that could be the cause. I now think the motor wasn't overheating when I drove it home...it's just that this cap leaks. So I'll have to do some investigating on that when it's cooled down and I'm done changing the oil.

Well, the old oil should be about out now...so back to it!

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by ChuckZilla » Sat Dec 27, 2008 2:09 pm

Great work Jason! Talking to a few friends about your project motorcoach and we all agreed, even a coach with nothing working is better than a tent, and you're on your way to a nice little rig for you and Mrs.Hitesma. Keep a crankin'!
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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by r erfert » Sat Dec 27, 2008 2:11 pm

Not sure if the brake lights are working or not yet since I don't have anyone else here to go look while I push on the brake. And due to the design of the pedal...a brick won't really cut it.
Might try a broom handle :idea:

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Sat Dec 27, 2008 4:38 pm

r erfert wrote:
Not sure if the brake lights are working or not yet since I don't have anyone else here to go look while I push on the brake. And due to the design of the pedal...a brick won't really cut it.
Might try a broom handle :idea:
Tried to find any kind of stick...just the pedal is in an odd location and has to be pushed in an odd way...really tough to rig :(

The new battery cable does not seem to have completely solved the starting issue. It's better for sure...but sometimes the starter still sticks. And I think I know why. Yesterday when I was under there re-attaching the battery cable I noticed something else that I meant to take care of. There's no nut on the lower mount for the starter. Just went through the nut/bolt bin though and don't have one to fit. It's an odd looking size, fine thread and the stud is almost 1/2" across. Got a nut that's about the right size but not fine thread...so I'll take that up to the store to match to.

Right now it sounds like the starter is sometimes hanging up and that wouldn't surprise me if it's not fully mounted.

Also started planning on how to modify the bed area. Looks like I will be able to fit our queen size inflatable mattress. But I won't be able to leave a passage through to the bathroom when it's inflated :( Should be an easy job and while I'm at the hardware store looking for a nut I may pick up the plywood to make it happen. Amy's itching for a "campout" in the RV already...and I'm hoping to have it ready by new years eve for a short test trip up to a friends house who lives up near Picacho...about a 10 minute drive.

Still not sure if I have the guts to try and back it in without a guide...may have to try though...I'm really itching to take it on a test spin once I confirm the brake lights are working and I get that starter nut on.

I've also drawn out a schematic of the battery wiring to attempt to start figuring out how the house battery is supposed to be connected and why it was draining the chassis battery.
Battery wiring.
Battery wiring.
I still have to trace out the "dash" wires once they duck inside.

Here's the real world version of that:
Image

Image

In that first one you can also see the 16psi cap which is leaking.

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by ChuckZilla » Sat Dec 27, 2008 5:06 pm

Jason make sure you have a high cranking amp battery, I had a shop drop a new one in during a servicing of my 73 Silverado (454) and the batt wasn't strong enough, the solenoid stuck when I was trying to start it and nearly burned my truck to the ground.
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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Sat Dec 27, 2008 6:35 pm

ChuckZilla wrote:Jason make sure you have a high cranking amp battery, I had a shop drop a new one in during a servicing of my 73 Silverado (454) and the batt wasn't strong enough, the solenoid stuck when I was trying to start it and nearly burned my truck to the ground.
Yeah, thought about that already since it a "Marine Deep cycle" that's in there. But the label says "1000 cranking amps at 32 degrees" so that should be OK I'd assume.

Not having both sides of the starter bolted down properly sure seems like it could be a seriously contributing factor...just got back with the nuts...gotta go see if I got the right size now...

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Sat Dec 27, 2008 8:19 pm

Ok, I guessed right. For those trivia buffs out there the lower starter mounting nut on a Dodge 440 is ... 7/16-20 fine thread! You'll need a 3/8" drive 11/16" socket and a LOT of patience. It's one of those spots you can't get a wrench on it and you'll only get 1 maybe 2 clicks out of the ratchet.

Thankfully it went most of the way by finger. Dropping the exhaust may have made it a bit easier...and must have been done when they put the starter in.

With the nut installed starting is better. Still not great. But better. Even though it's a new starter - now I'm wondering if it was damaged by being used when not fully mounted.

Oh - I took a closer look at the marker lights where in the box under the sink. Turns out they're all just lenses. No bulbs and not backing plates. Still nice to have but not quite as nice of treasure as I thought I had found!

Earlier this afternoon while I was taking my time doing the leisurely oil change I used a little simple green and wiped down some of the more accessible parts of the motor, and the air filter housing. (And picked up a new air filter while I was out as well....the one in it was filthy.)

BEFORE:
Image

AFTER:
Image

The "Oil leak" on the valve cover really looks like just old dried up grommets on the PCV and breather/filler openings. I keep meaning to pick a few up at the store but keep forgetting. Going to pick up a few feet of vacuum line and a few feet of hose for the PCV as well. Many are old/brittle and don't really seal great anymore. With new rubber I suspect the "leak" will be gone.

I'd still like to clean off that intake as well...but that can wait.

I'm going to go add missing photos to the last few posts....

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Sat Dec 27, 2008 8:28 pm

Almost forgot...now that it's dark out I didn't need a helper to test the brakes.

Just my mirrors and the poles that hold up my RV shade ;)

I now have all 4 turn signals and brakes working! Still need to mount the one temporary light. And want to find 4 permanant replacements. But I'm sure I'm legal for the road now. Well, I still need to make a plate mount. I think I'm just going to use two metal tabs to replace the broken plastic tabs. That way I don't need to worry about a light since there's one provided by the lens on that light.

Speaking of the brakes, they're are a little slow to release. It has the Dodge hydroboost where instead of vacuum it's driven off the power steering pump. I guess they mainly used it on diesels and I've never worked with this kind of brake before. It does appear that the power steering gear is leaking somewhat, but it steers effortlessly. The brakes work GREAT...but surge when you're just sitting with your foot on them. In fact even in park it feels like the coach is trying to pull away from you...so that's what I was feeling when I drove it home, not a high idle causing it to fight it breaks. It was just the feel of this pedal when fully applied and I'm not sure if that's normal for this setup or not. I plan on taking it to the brake shop soon, but it seems to stop great for now.

Talking about it does remind me that I need to check the brake fluid still. I found the access panel to get to it yesterday, and cleaned off the cap. But didn't get to checking the actual fluid yet.

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Sun Dec 28, 2008 5:14 pm

Good news! The work on the transmission was a major success. While preparing for our test drive today I found a bottle of mercon fluid...not good for dodge trannies. So I'm still thinking about doing a full flush...but it drives like a dream now. No slipping on the tranny at all. The shifts aren't "hard" but they aren't "soft" either...just about "right".

I also found that the gas gauge does work...or at least that 22 gallons in the aux tank will register as just slightly over half full. Oh and the odometer works...even though the spedo doesn't. Which means fixing the spedo will not be easy or straightforward since it's the individual gauge mechanism and not the cable or sending unit :( Good thing I got a new TomTom GPS for Christmas with a nice MPH display :D

However the test drive also exposed some Bad news. The starter is toast. Just the short .6 mile drive to the nearest gas station got things warm enough that the starter would no longer crank the engine enough to start. Even with a jumper box and a jump from a truck...it just won't turn over well. And the starter was letting out the magic smoke. So despite it looking like a new starter...it's going to have to be replaced.

We sat in the gas station lot for almost 2 hours letting it cool...and still no dice. Had to have a friend tow us home and it's sitting in the street right now. I'm hoping tonight it will start up and I can drive it into the driveway so I don't have to replace the starter in the street. Not looking forward to that.

But overall there were more good things found on this test drive than bad...even if I did have to get towed home thanks to the starter :(

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Mon Dec 29, 2008 7:43 pm

Well, after work I crawled under there and convinced the starter to part ways with the rest of the motor. Thankfully it turned out that removing the exhaust was NOT necessary, though the starter did have to go through quite a twisty path to get out of there.

And it was made all the more difficult by what I discovered was probably the root cause of the starting problems. Where the main positive cable mates to the starter I discovered a fairly major problem a big enough problem that I had to remove the starter and the wiring harness that goes to it together:

Image

Image

What I found was that the cable was not exactly tight...nor was it attached properly. It had been arching on there and as a result had welded the nut to the post. Attempting to remove it in situ just resulted in the post spinning in the starter :(

The replacement ($50 for a rebuilt starter) I notice has two nuts. The way it should be. So the lug is installed in full contact with metal. On the one that came out half of the lug was up against the plastic housing of the starter - in a position that meant it would NEVER be fully tight.

With a bit of help from my dremel I was able to remove the nut and get my wiring harness free:
Image

However the harness itself is looking pretty sorry. The short start wire is ok. But the heavier gauge power cable is burned pretty badly where the connector is crimped on. So rather than put this all back in now I'm going to make a new harness before putting it in.

I also took a closer look at that mysterious "junction block" next to the tranny:
Image

The reason I took a closer look is that both wires from the starter went to it. So it couldn't just be a junction block. Instead it appears to be the starter relay, the lower lug must act like a junction block, but just above that is a small screw that the starter wire attaches to. Above that are two other wire connectors, one which must come from the key and one which I'm assuming goes off to something else to power it when the key is on.

So if I still have problems after the new starter (though looking at the starter that came out I'm not anticipating any) I will be looking at that relay good and hard.

Unfortunately replacing this short "harness" means once again crimps bigger than I am equipped to make myself. So tomorrow I'll have to find somewhere in town that can do the crimping for me. I'm not big on going back to NAPA after the hack job they did on my new battery cable. But they are just a few blocks away...then again there's a few other places in town that may be able to do it better. Will have to call around a bit tomorrow I'm thinking.

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by derwud » Mon Dec 29, 2008 8:37 pm

Get brass end pieces and solder them yourself.. No crimping battery cables..
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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by Glenn » Mon Dec 29, 2008 10:59 pm

What a great project!!.. started out in a 1976 Explorer 28 ft MoHo that looked almost the same as yours. 440 motor and a hole in the roof. I did pay 4000.00 for it so you did get the better deal.

From you’re list of "to Do's", I also did the same and more. The tires need to be changed. I picked up a set of Ellis "Safe Wide" wheels in 16.5 dia that were wider then stock. Using 31x12.5x16.5 Goodrich TA's with E ratings on the front made a big difference. Never got the front stuck in the sand, and they handled the road much better with the wider tire.

The motor is a good one, the ones that were used in the MoHo have different water passages in the block and heads, smaller plugs, and run cooler than the truck motors. I have a old block from the "Exploder" as we named it in the back that is .030 over but has a good crank if you need it.

Having an extra ballast resistor, coil, and spark box is a must. The color of the spark box is important as Dodge had 3 different ones. I have several around here somewhere as it was a must have on trips. If I find them you can have them….

There is a switch on the trans that only allows the starter to work in neutral or park. The wiring harness / relay on the side of the frame wires into that switch. I had problems with mine. Several times at gas stations I was under the coach working on that wiring before it would start.

As for carpet, I replaced mine, wish I had just put in linoleum flooring through out. It would have been much easer to clean out the sand and other derbies. The caption chares in the front both were bad so I mounted 2 old chares from the living room to the posts, pulled in the seat belts and that was a blasé. Just like being at home.

As for the bed, I had a sheet of ply wood that slid over the top of the lower bund, with 2 legs on each end that almost closed off the pathway between the beds, but with the pads laid out made into an ok bed for my wife and I. When the kids were small, they both would sleep on the other side bunk. When that got bigger one moved up to the front couch that made into a bed.

As for the Roof, fixing leaks is important even in Yuma, any water getting into the roof is not a good thing. I replace the front ½ of the roof, mine had a 3 ft dia hole in it from the guy falling thru it. I rebuilt the plywood inside and out then used a rubber roof covering. But the best product that I found to fix the leeks around the vents and stuff is called “Etrna-bond”. It is a butyl rubber / cloth tape that is applied, then coated with a white ”rubber goo”. Never leaked after that. I have used that stuff on my new MoHo and no leaks.

Ok, long list of stuff and a ton more I could go into but it is a great move from a tent into the hard tent. Well worth the time and effort. Keep letting us know of the progress….

had to add a pic of my old friend... The Exploder....
http://www.americansandassociation.org/ ... =xe37573c8
ok, now I need to remember how to post a pic in a message.... it has been a long time since I last did that one....
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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Mon Dec 29, 2008 11:45 pm

derwood wrote:Get brass end pieces and solder them yourself.. No crimping battery cables..
That's a holy war I really don't want to get into. I've gone both ways. And both have their ups and downs. A poor crimp is worse than a decent solder joint - but a bad solder joint is also worse than a great crimp. Either way it has to be done right and with the right tools. And I don't have the right tools to do it either way. Generally I prefer soldered connections, but in a high vibration environment I lean towards a crimp since it won't cause a stress point like soldering will - but a good crimp takes skill and a good ($$$) crimper. That's why I'm farming that job out, this is one place where I've learned my limitations :D

Found my guy for it too. My friend Mark is going to take care of it for me tomorrow. With a lot of experience building dragsters, boats, bikes and other vehicles plus a lifetime of building commercial cooling plants - he knows a thing or two about good connections.
Glenn wrote:What a great project!!.. started out in a 1976 Explorer 28 ft MoHo that looked almost the same as yours. 440 motor and a hole in the roof. I did pay 4000.00 for it so you did get the better deal.
Thanks! The support and tips I'm getting are really making this enjoyable. Thankfully I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and hope my days of laying on my back under this beast will be few and far between once I get it where I want it :D But I will say for the most part it's one of the more enjoyable vehicles I've worked on. Being able to sit inside in a comfortable position while working on the motor is a great plus ;)
From you’re list of "to Do's", I also did the same and more. The tires need to be changed. I picked up a set of Ellis "Safe Wide" wheels in 16.5 dia that were wider then stock. Using 31x12.5x16.5 Goodrich TA's with E ratings on the front made a big difference. Never got the front stuck in the sand, and they handled the road much better with the wider tire.
I may look into that. A few of my dune friends are trying to convince me to get rid of the dualies in the rear and just run a wide tire...but I'm not at all convinced that it would be a wise move. Once I get it on the road I'm going to take it over to a scale and see how close it is to the 12k GVWR - if it's as close as I suspect then I don't want to be doing anything that could risk lowering that number. And based on how my friends dualie RV's do in the sand we camp in I'm really not worried.

The only thing that would worry be about your tire suggestion is having different tires on the front vs. the rear. I'd have to carry two size spares to feel safe and that seems like a big negative to me.

But we'll see what I come up with when I get it over to the tire shop. 17.5 seems like a really odd sized rim so I'm not at all opposed to changing rims if I can find proper tires. But again, this is beyond my expertise so I'll be talking to a few tire guys I can trust to see what route I'm going to take. Need to get it on the road and over to them first though!
The motor is a good one, the ones that were used in the MoHo have different water passages in the block and heads, smaller plugs, and run cooler than the truck motors. I have a old block from the "Exploder" as we named it in the back that is .030 over but has a good crank if you need it.
Ahh, that would explain why the plugs they found in the lookup at the parts store were wrong. Good to know. Of course since I found the VIN tag with chassis number on it finding parts is a little easier as well. Thanks for the offer on the parts but I'm hopeful I won't need them. The motor seems to be in really good shape...and since the odometer is still working I'm guessing the 90k is accurate. And my experience with Dodge motors would say it has quite a few more years in it if that's true.
Having an extra ballast resistor, coil, and spark box is a must. The color of the spark box is important as Dodge had 3 different ones. I have several around here somewhere as it was a must have on trips. If I find them you can have them….
Yeah, my Ramcharger had a similar ignition system on it. Thankfully never gave me any issues. Tracking down the right spark box is on my list since it's a spare I'd like to have on hand. Thankfully the writing on it is just barely legible still...but kind of hard to read due to where it's located.
There is a switch on the trans that only allows the starter to work in neutral or park. The wiring harness / relay on the side of the frame wires into that switch. I had problems with mine. Several times at gas stations I was under the coach working on that wiring before it would start.
Ok, that would explain the other wires going to the relay. I'll have to make a mental note of that when I'm under there tomorrow putting the starter back in. May be easier to just scrap the relay for a Ford solenoid and bypass the tranny switch. I even have a new solenoid laying around from another project....
As for carpet, I replaced mine, wish I had just put in linoleum flooring through out. It would have been much easer to clean out the sand and other derbies. The caption chares in the front both were bad so I mounted 2 old chares from the living room to the posts, pulled in the seat belts and that was a blasé. Just like being at home.
That reminds me...I was supposed to go look at those leather captains chairs today. Forgot to call the guy. Amy's pushing for the new chairs now that she went on a test ride since apparently the passenger seat has lost it's springs in the front. So it feels like it's tipped forward. Don't have any living room chairs I can spare right now though....

The carpet is going we decided. We did some shopping yesterday and found some nice "wood" floors at Lowes that would cost <$100 to put in. Linoleum or peel and stick squares are only about $20 less...and since the "wood" floors are pretty thin and made of some kind of composite they're not all that heavy. But - getting it running and seats are a little higher on the priority list I think.
As for the bed, I had a sheet of ply wood that slid over the top of the lower bund, with 2 legs on each end that almost closed off the pathway between the beds, but with the pads laid out made into an ok bed for my wife and I. When the kids were small, they both would sleep on the other side bunk. When that got bigger one moved up to the front couch that made into a bed.
About what I'm planning. Except my wife says "block the whole thing off" - she'd rather have a big bed and have to crawl over it to get to the bathroom than a smaller bed and easy bathroom access :D I've got all the supplies to build it - just ran out of time last weekend. She's working this weekend though and most of my friends are heading down to El Golfo - so hopefully I'll be moving onto interior projects.
As for the Roof, fixing leaks is important even in Yuma, any water getting into the roof is not a good thing.
Yeah, it's going to get fixed. Just need to pull it up into the driveway since the carport up there is taller than the RV shade in the backyard. And being made out of tarps instead of steel panels it will hurt less when I forget that it's there and stand up while working ;) Hopefully it will be one of the tasks I get to this weekend.
had to add a pic of my old friend... The Exploder....
Image

ok, now I need to remember how to post a pic in a message.... it has been a long time since I last did that one....
There ya go ;) It's a little different with the new gallery. If you go to the image and look at the menu on the left there's an option for "Get Item URL's" You want to copy and paste the "Show image directly" or the "Show a clickable thumbnail linking to the original" option.

Like the look of that rig. I dig the front. And it looks like you had even more windows than we do! I still can't get over how open it feels in the front with that much glass around me!

I do have one issue with the windows though - I get some nasty reflections in them that make it really hard to tell if I'm what I'm seeing is in my mirror, or just reflected off the glass on the other side. Hope I can get used to it...or find some kind of anti-glare film to help cut down on it. Makes backing it into the yard really tricky without a spotter.

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by derwud » Tue Dec 30, 2008 8:31 am

My recomendation for the IGN system. Check the dist. if you have a single pick-up. Get a Mopar Perf. Orange IGN box and an older Ign balast (Only 2 connectors) and wire up the system with a simple 4 wire set-up...

The neutral switch on the trans just supplies a ground. Since I always start cars with my foot on the brake, I just grounded the relay and no more issues..
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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:21 am

More good tips :D But since the ignition and starter circuits seem to be OK for now I'm not going to change anything yet ;)

After seeing how the starter was connected when I dropped it last night I'm about 90% positive my starting problems will be history with fresh wire and the rebuilt starter.

When things do eventually cause trouble I'll have some ideas now though!

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Tue Dec 30, 2008 7:35 pm

New starter went in a LOT easier than the old one came out...helps knowing the tricks :)

And started first try. Cranks a LOT faster now. The first rotation is still a tiny bit sluggish...but as soon as you get past the first compression stroke the motor spins great and fires right up!

Drove it around the block to get a clean shot at the driveway...and by the time I got around - Amy had come home for lunch and blocked the drive :twisted: So I got to start it again and drive it around the block again and it's feeling good. Power steering doesn't even look low after puking so much out so I must have just over filled it when I topped it up. Brakes are still a hair soft so I still want bleed them. And I still have to figure out the leaking radiator cap.

But for the most part the vehicle/mechanical side is looking good! Now I can drive to the tire shop for the last major component and start to focus on the interior ;)

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by r erfert » Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:05 pm

The first rotation is still a tiny bit sluggish
Timing?
Check the timing
Did you do a plug check yet? All 8

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:16 pm

r erfert wrote:
The first rotation is still a tiny bit sluggish
Timing?
Check the timing
Yep, still want to check that. Well, better than I have. Can't see any degree marks or even a pointer so it's kind of tough to be too accurate until I find at least the pointer.
Did you do a plug check yet? All 8
Just one so I could find out what to buy. It looked fairly new. But while I was under there doing the starter I looked up and saw that at least one spark plug boot was damaged. So the ignition will still be getting a bit of a going over - but that's not nearly as dirty as the starter. I will have to go from underneath on most of the spark plugs though.

I'm also now more convinced than ever that someone had been actively working on this coach when it left their possession. I took off the top of the bunk on the passenger side off to take a closer look at the fresh tank (looks like MAYBE 40 gallons, but may be as little as 20) since I couldn't get the cabinet on that side to open. I found a brand new gallon of latex roof sealant :D Not sure if it's any good or not...but it appears to have never been opened so I figure it's worth a test patch at least.

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by Glenn » Tue Dec 30, 2008 11:33 pm

On the Exploder I made sure to get the life time warrantee plug wires. And replaced then yearly. I did have headers on it, that helped burn up the boots. But is was all good.

The water tank in mine was 40 gal. Sure it is the same. Passengers side, under the bunk, and goes under the closet in the bathroom??... It’s a 40 gal. one.

As I remember, the timing mark was on the transmission torque converter. There is a little window on the top of the bell housing that had the marks. I added ones on a new vibration dampener when I built the motor so that timing was a lot easer and I knew it was right.

Using “wood” floor is a great idea, can be glued to the plywood even. Just remembering how hard it was to clean the carpet, and wishing I had used something else on it.

I order a lot of stuff from this place. Good prices and no tax. Sometime free shipping.
https://www.rvpartsoutlet.com/newstore/nojava/index.cfm

I was looking for my photos of the motor work I did on mine, there all on my old computer that needs to be transferred to this one. I like you’re in depth reporting on what you have going as I did the same thing to mine, kind of wish I still had the old rig. The new one is nice but just not the same in the sand.
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Go fast, turn left, and look both ways and have FUN

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:43 am

Glenn wrote: The water tank in mine was 40 gal. Sure it is the same. Passengers side, under the bunk, and goes under the closet in the bathroom??... It’s a 40 gal. one.
Under the passenger side bunk...but doesn't go under the bathroom closet. barely even reaches the end of the wheel well. I'll measure it later today before I put the top of the bunk back together.
As I remember, the timing mark was on the transmission torque converter. There is a little window on the top of the bell housing that had the marks. I added ones on a new vibration dampener when I built the motor so that timing was a lot easer and I knew it was right.
I've seen that before...just didn't think to look for that kind of setup. Will have to take a closer look. Thanks for the heads up!
Using “wood” floor is a great idea, can be glued to the plywood even. Just remembering how hard it was to clean the carpet, and wishing I had used something else on it.
Yeah, a friend mentioned the idea and it made a lot of sense. Will be a lot easier to maintain and will give the coach a much more modern and upscale feel inside ;)

We may be driving it about 7 miles tonight out to a friends house, most of our dune group store their rigs at his place and he's having a new years eve party tonight. So everyone is just planning on crashing in their coaches tonight. Might make for a nice "longer than around the block" test drive. But that depends on whether Amy follows through on cleaning the inside today or not :D

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Wed Dec 31, 2008 1:22 pm

Took a look over lunch....but no sign of any kind of peep hole in the tranny. In fact since the ignition module is mounted right over the motor/tranny joint if there was a hole there it would be very hard to use anyway.

There is a mark on the dampener...I just can't seem to find the pointer on the front of the block anywhere...I'm sure it's there...just seems to be in a location I can't quite get a straight shot at.

Also measured the tank. 51.5" x 20" x 7" = 7210 cubic inches = 31.2 gallons (according to google conversions)

So it's only a 30 gallon fresh tank.

On the upside the black tank looks like it may be around 30 gallons as well and the grey tank looks like maybe 20. I need to measure them to find out for sure...but it's looking like this was before they started putting in super big fresh tanks and marginally sized waste tanks at least. Though a bit more fresh would have been nice.

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Thu Jan 01, 2009 2:46 pm

Well, Amy spent most of yesterday cleaning the RV. And it looks great. She did get a bit of a surprise when she found a dead kitten next to the passenger seat. But it was dessicated and easy to remove/clean.

And we took it out for the 7 mile drive to our friends house for New Years eve. It did really well. Drives quite nice now and I was able to do the speed limit and not get any cars behind me. Thankfully there were no sections above 45 on this trip though since I really didn't even feel safe taking the tires up to that speed. But it made it there and back with no problems!

The fridge did shut down for some reason last night even though we were plugged into shore power at his house. Still not sure why. I found out that the A/C and Fridge had both been serviced recently - but the fridge does need new door seals even so. It got real good and cold here in the driveway, and quickly too. I have it plugged back in so we'll see what happens.

Later today I'm hoping to work on the bed and LP leak detector - but I'm pretty beat from our party so that may get put off a day or two :D I'd go tire shopping today...but most of the shops are closed so that will have to wait until this weekend. The first "real" trip isn't until the weekend after and that's also fairly short/close but it's enough that we need to fix the tire situation before then. I'm going to have to put off one of my house projects for another year to buy tires...but that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make, and it's a project Amy's in no hurry for so she's ok with it too ;)

We both loved our first night in the RV, slept well and it was great to be out of the wind and cold!

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by r erfert » Thu Jan 01, 2009 7:13 pm

Sounds like progress :D

You didn't happen to uncover a box of gold coins in one of the back closets :o
Did Ya?

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Fri Jan 02, 2009 3:56 pm

r erfert wrote:Sounds like progress :D
Yep, progress is definitely being made quickly!
You didn't happen to uncover a box of gold coins in one of the back closets :o
Did Ya?
I wish, that would solve the current problem. But I'll get to that in a minute.

Yesterday I did a completely unnecessary and out of order upgrade...because well, I had a gift card to Best Buy and nothing better to do with it than put it towards a new stereo for the RV. It was tempting to put the audiovox 8 track player I found in one of the drawers in to complete that 70's vibe. But I wanted something a little more up to date. So I picked up the cheapest head unit Best Buy had in stock that could play MP3 CD's and had an aux in on the front. It also happens to have nice pre-amp outputs, be iPod, Sirrius, XM, HD and Bluetooth compatible (need to add your own iPod, receiver or bluetooth module) and have a nice remote (not one of those silly credit card style remotes.) For $20 out of pocket thanks to my gift card I'm pretty happy ;)

I did have to pull out the dremel and do some work on the dash (which it turns out is a steel plate) since the original stereo was a "two knobs" style. My only complaint is that some of the lights on it are a bit bright, and don't dim with it's dimming feature. But I can live with it.

I still have to figure out the wiring for the stock speaker locations.

But today I took care of some tire shopping and fixing the coolant leak.

I hit the two best tire stores in town. First the one right near my house who can get tires that no one else can. Matt had stopped in there this morning apparently and warned them I may be on the way so they were ready. Even so the news was grim. They may be able to get me a set of new tires for $150 each installed around Thursday. But that's IF he can get them, and the computer was acting up today so he can't say for sure until Monday if they're available or not. That would be within our budget though and get us on the road for a few years.

I asked about changing to a different rim size - and while he knew his tires, he wasn't very helpful with figuring out alternatives to dealing with the current configuration.


The second store was a bit more excited about the challenge. The owner happened to be working the front desk when I showed up and he practically wrote the book on off road tires. In fact, I think he may have written a book or too. At least a few reports for the government. I was wearing my dune cleanup T-shirt as well so he quickly picked up on the kind of places I plan on camping ;)

He also said he may be able to get a set of 17.5's. But it would take a few days, IF, he can get them. And he really didn't fell it was a good solution since they'd be expensive, hard to replace and not a good long term solution since the selection is so poor.

Unlike the 1st shop though he was willing to think up a possible alternative. In fact, he had a similar RV for awhile. Same basic vintage but only 20' and he did a special tire setup so he could take it deep into the desert without getting stuck. So he was very willing to think up a solution or to.

He suggested going to 16" rims. He said early 90's Dodge dually rims will fit and let me run 235/85R16's out back IF I have enough clearance on the inside of the tires. He said I'd need 2"-3" and I just checked and seem to have 2.5" so I may be ok. That would give me tires about 50% wider than what I have now, and still have enough room between them that I could air them down safely for the sand.

Up front he suggested 265/74R16's which would be almost twice as wide as what I currently have and be great for the sand he said. The problem is I have disc brakes up front and they will not clear a 16" rim. But what he did on his was install a 1.5" spacer which let the wheels just clear the brakes. The spacer is not a perfect solution and he sounded just a tiny bit conspiratorial while mentioning it. But it would solve the availability issues and give me much better performance in the soft stuff where I tend to camp.

The sizes are different - but I would still be able to swap tires front to rear in case of a flat since the heights will still be the same and they should still all clear.

So his price on tires actually came out about the same at $930. But I'd have to add in spacers @ $190 and Rims @ $582. So the total price comes out to about double at $1,840. But unlike shop one he gave me a full printed estimate with everything itemized and explained, which was nice. It does however put me about $300 over the pre-approved budget.


Right now I'm leaning towards pushing Amy to release another $300 into the budget. I don't much like the idea of running a spacer up front. But I do like the idea of switching to a commonly available rim size for the long term. Buying new 17.5's should get me through for 5-8 years if I'm careful with storage since I put so few miles on....but if I ever get a flat - how do I find a replacement. And what happens after that. The oddball rim size will hurt my resale value if I sell and be a PITA for me if I keep it that long. Getting wider tires that will perform better in the dirt and sand is like icing on the cake with option #2.

I could also combine the options - Leave the front how they are and just get two new tires - $300. But change the rear over to 16" rims $990 - $1300 total. Still in budget, still get the improved tires on the drive wheels. But I'm running two different sized tires that can't be interchanged, and I'm splitting the work between two shops. So I don't really like that option. The extra $500 to do the front as well seems well worth it even if it does blow the budget.


With the two most knowledgeable and professional tire shops in town crossed off my list, and half my day gone, I decided it wasn't worth my time to try some of the less reputable (but cheaper), or more mass market (Big O, Discount) shops. In my experience our Big O and Discount don't have anyone working who can solve problems like this, and they aren't worth dealing with for hard to find items. Plus our Big O screwed me once and I'm not big on giving them any more business, it's a promise I've kept for 9 years and intend to stick to at least awhile longer.

So we'll see what Amy says when she gets home.


I then proceeded to work on fixing the radiator cap leak. Looking closely at the filler I noticed that the lip was dented right where it was leaking. Ah ha! I pulled the filler off and went to our local RV "miracle shop" who have things no one else has...and they didn't have a replacement. They suggested trying a radiator shop. So off to my favorite local radiator shop Radiator Direct. Guy at the counter took a look at it, and almost laughing said "why don't you just take some pliers and bend it back?" I told him the thought had occurred to me, but with my fabrication skills I would probably just make it leak worse. He chuckled and took it into the back. 2 minutes later had gave it back and said "no charge" should hold pressure just fine now. And sure enough it looks smooth and level now!

But this is where things get weird. I started up the RV and was waiting for it to warm up...when it suddenly sputtered out and died...then wouldn't restart. Cranking great now...but won't start. Then I noticed the gas gauge is reading empty...it had been over 1/2 full when we got back from our test trip. I thought maybe I disconnected the gauges while I was working on the stereo...but they do seem to be responding. And sure enough if I take off the air cleaner and step on the gas...nothing out of the accelerator pump.

There's no gas smell in the air (and hasn't been) and no signs of leakage underneath. The gas door is still locked and it's been parked in our driveway under the security light since we got back.

Where did my 20 gallons of gas go? I drove it 15 miles home on 5 gallons, there's no way that a 14 mile trip sucked down 20 gallons...and I could swear it was reading at least 1/2 a tank when I got back.

Besides, gas is cheap now. No one ripped off my tanks when it was expensive why would they do it now?

I'm going to go get 5 gallons to put back in since I want to start it up to test the radiator cap, and I want to drive it over to tire shop #2 so he can take a look and make sure his idea will work. But I can't for the life of me figure out where all my gas went!

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Fri Jan 02, 2009 6:11 pm

Ok, looks like my gas didn't just evaporate. The fuse for the gauges is blowing. And I believe that also powers the tank switch solenoid which is hooked up so the tank I'm using requires power while the tank I'm not using is the default. I should crawl under there and swap those hoses - or clean the main tank and start using it.

Now I just have to get the pump to prime itself again. I'm not used to mechanical pumps. At least the motor cranks well now :D

Then there's the question of why the fuse is blowing. I disconnected the new stereo and the fuse stopped blowing. But that just raises more questions. The Batt connection for the stereo I ran a new wire straight to the battery. The ign wire I hooked to the old power wire...which I'm assuming must be what's causing the problem....apparently the old stereo wasn't hooked up properly. There's a fuse labeled radio but that must not be the one actually powering the radio. Glad this dash is easy to get into...I'm going to have to trace some wires.

But Tommy stopped by and gave me a hand cutting down the 4x8 sheet of plywood I got to make bed extensions out of. So maybe I'll make more progress on that next.

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Fri Jan 02, 2009 8:42 pm

Ok it runs again and the radiator leak appears to really be fixed.

FWIW - I NEVER want to let this thing run dry again. I didn't want to kill my new starter just cranking until it got the bowls filled. So I figured I'd just pour some gas through the bowl vent to fill them up - then the pump should catch up before they go dry. Usually works on a fresh motor. But what I didn't know was the thermoquad has a valve over the vent. So my first attempt nothing actually went in. Second try I figured out about the valve and was able to get it to fill. Then it fired right up.

Still have to figure out why the stereo is causing the gauge circuit to blow. Makes no sense. Think I'll try moving the ground first. Not many grounds around...but not very far to run it straight to the battery either.

Talked to Amy about the tires...and it looks like I'm going to try and find a set of used 16" rims, hopefully someone who upgraded the wheels on their early 90's Dodge Dually will still have a set and I'll find them.

If Monday comes around and the other store can get the 17.5's and I haven't found used rims...we'll probably go ahead and do that - but start watching for deals on used rims so we can change over before we need another set of tires.

Sorry there haven't been many photos to go with the updates. Now that I have the wood cut for the beds I'll probably be putting them together soon. Then I'll have some updates with photos.

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Sat Jan 03, 2009 8:45 pm

OK, found the problem with the stereo shorting out the dash...apparently the ground I used wasn't a good choice. Moved the ground wire and all is well.

Also think I found the pointer for the timing...but it's not really accessible with the motor running. So based on how it was running I retarded the timing a bit and the idle seemed to smooth out and speed up. Need to take it on a test drive and see if it's better or worse. The radiator "leak" definitely seems to be fixed now!

Made a few engineering changes to my fold out bunk extensions...and need more hinges. I decided to make the legs a bit more substantial. So I'll have to make one more trip to the store before I can finish assembling those.

I didn't get around to shopping for rims today, weekends aren't good for parts shopping in Yuma. So I'm going to put that off. I did search online - but no luck yet.

I also did more research on 17.5" tires. I found that Yokohama still makes one (the same that's on my front) and they seem to go for about $150 each. When I searched for local dealers on Yokohama's website I found that other than the Dodge dealership the only other options in Yuma are Discount and Big O. So I will give them a call tomorrow (if they're open) or Monday.

I also found that Specialty Tires of America makes a 8R17.5 but it's only 8 ply (compared to the Yokohama 10 ply) and is only D rated (Compared to the Yokohama's E rating). But it's a "Mud and Snow" tire while the Yokohama is a road tire. So that is kind of tempting. Apparently they're fairly popular on vintage Dodge power wagons:
http://www.vintagepowerwagons.com/pdf/p ... wheels.pdf

So I may be adding to my tire options. Although Discounts website shows the Yokohama as unavailable in Yuma so that's not a good sign.

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by r erfert » Sun Jan 04, 2009 11:07 am

Jason
Check out
Am Pac Tire Dist Inc (out of Phoenix) Big selection
They are a wholesaler (pricing??)
They deliver to Yuma.
Sam buys from them.

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Mon Jan 05, 2009 8:07 pm

Looks like I found a deal that will be tough to beat on tires.

The first shop was only able to locate 1 tire, so there went that option. They did offer a good price on mounting if I was able to find tires myself, and I had located the Yokohamas on tire-rack.com for $150 each. But shipping was almost $250.

I called Discount today and they won't even look at a 17.5" rim let alone try to order the tires. But they did suggest another shop that may be able to help. They're the second closest to my house but one I was avoided because Amy had some bad experiences there with her car about the time we first met. But I called anyway. They couldn't help, but have a commercial shop that they said to call. The guy at the commercial shop was VERY helpful, and even though he didn't have the tires he said he'd call around and see if he could find some.

Sure enough about half an hour later he called and said he can get me some for $160 each and have them here tomorrow. With balancing and mounting I'm looking at about $1,116 - which is the best price yet. I would have said go to day but was waiting for a few final options to come in...but they haven't come up with anything better so tomorrow I think that's what I'm going to go with.

So no tire upgrade yet - but I'll at least have good rubber on there even if it's not ideal for the sand.

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Thu Jan 08, 2009 7:56 pm

Well I got the new tires today! Grand total with all taxes and fees came to $1209, ouch. But I figure even if you add that to the $600 I payed for the coach I'm still under $2k for a safe running RV and that's not a bad deal!

And wow! What a difference! I expected a bit of a difference but this is beyond night and day. The drive there was scary...middle of the day with lots of traffic. And a few sharp turns that felt like they may rip the tires right off the rims. And thankfully this was the commercial tire depot and they're setup for semi's so I didn't have to fight with a small parking lot.

Before I even left the lot I could feel a difference, once I made it through a few turns the difference really stood out. I still want new shocks...but they aren't nearly as high on the list as they were a few hours ago!

Then right after I got home my friend Mark showed up to take a look at the seat mounts with me. He agreed with my assessment that it should be fairly easy to get the new seats mounted up and we'll tackle that next week. He then prodded me into testing out the LP system.

Since the gauge isn't responding I wasn't sure if there was any gas in the tank or not. So we turned it on, and sure enough we got gas out of the oven. So we tried to fire up the space heater...took awhile to purge the air from the lines but eventually it too fired up! On a roll we tried the fridge next. Once again, took some time to get the pilot to stay lit...but once it was it fired right up! And the fridge was actually starting to get cold already just 20 minutes later....nice! Finally we tried the water heater. The control valve is a little stiff...and again it took a minute or so to get the air out of the line, but sure enough - it too fired up!

So all of my LP appliances check out! I'm going to try and get the leak sensor mounted up tonight still and tomorrow I'll take it up to get the tank topped off. Toss my CO sensor in there as well and we should be set for this weekend (our annual Christmas tree bonfire where Amy and I met is this weekend.)

So all in all...good stuff happening!

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by valen76 » Tue Jan 13, 2009 10:57 pm

Uhh...waiting for an update. We all want to see those tires.
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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Wed Jan 14, 2009 11:42 am

Sorry for the late update....life's been busy :D


The RV did great on it's first real camping trip with new tires. It was a little sketchy going down Hwy 95 due to the extreme winds we had Friday - thankfully I was behind a pickup who was only able to do 40mph so I got to drive at a nice comfortable speed without being the "slow guy at the front" :D

At least until he turned off at the road to Mittry and 95 went down to one lane. I was able to do about 50 (5 under the limit) but with the wind any faster felt dangerous...and the line of cars behind me wasn't THAT long ;)

What amazed me was just how well the RV did off-road. I made it to our secluded camp site with no problems at all. And later that night when I had to take our truck to tow someone out I found that the RV actually rode smoother over the dirt than our truck does! Remarkable!


With the high winds and colder weather having the RV to sleep in was heaven sent! And Saturday night when Amy got sick the RV made her MUCH more comfortable and able to deal with her brief illness. The fridge stayed cold all weekend and everything worked just fine. I kept up unplugged most of the time even though we had a generator going in camp that I was welcome to plug into. The florescent lights were very easy on the battery and I probably would have been OK without plugging in from time to time like I did.


The drive home was still windy, but not nearly as bad. I was able to hit 55 a few times but I'm still going to need new shocks and a new steering dampener before I'd feel safe doing 55 or above for any extended periods. Though the handling at speed isn't the real issue...it's just the sound of that motor roaring beneath my feet! I don't have a tach so I'm not sure just how hard I'm pushing it...it's probably just in it's happy place and I'm not used to the sound of a big block just under my feet with only a thin layer of fiberglass to keep the sound down ;) That and there's a bit of a noise at some speeds that sounds like either some very light pinging or a lifter sticking. Though upon later inspection I think it may just be the hold-down nut on the air cleaner coming loose and letting the air cleaner vibrate. Going to double nut that and see if it cuts down on the annoying rattle.

I'll try and get some photos of the tires...but they're really nothing special to see :D Just some 8R17.5 10ply Hercules Radials. They're black and look like tires ;)

I also lost the cap to the black tank drain somehow, and there's a VERY VERY small leak at the black tank valve. It doesn't appear to be the valve itself leaking - but rather the seam where the valve mounts to the pipe. It's a small enough leak that after about 30 hours of sitting in the driveway there was about a 2" "puddle" on the ground. Though I can't really even call it a puddle since it wasn't wet...just you could tell something had dripped there. The wet area was about the size of a quarter. I'm hoping that just tightening up the bolts that hold the valve on will solve it being so small.

The big bummer about the weekend is that the hitch on my truck was apparently stolen :( It was a nice 3 ball hitch that I've had since I bought my first truck. Thankfully a friend was towing my trailer home since Amy had to go to work before I wanted to leave. But it's a real bummer to loose that nice hitch - especially at a party where we pretty much knew everyone and I can't see anyone there stealing like that :(

I'll try and get some tire photos later today ;)

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by valen76 » Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:19 pm

After while you will not even notice how that thing rocks and rolls in the wind or at speed on a curvy road....kind of reminds me of a 1970 Cadilac doing 70 MPH.

That sucks about your hitch....I keep a lock on mine...keeps "friends" honest. :twisted:
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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Mon Jan 19, 2009 9:19 pm

The rocking and rolling at speed doesn't bother me. The motor sounding like it's being pushed to it's limits and beyond just to do 55....that's a little harder for me to ignore. Though I'm starting to think it's more a matter of the air filter and some other stuff rattling at various RPM's more than anything else.

It made it out to Buttercup this weekend doing 55 most of the way no problem. In fact I got there ahead of Amy who was driving the Dodge with the trailer. I also found that the cruise really isn't necessary in the RV. A good heavy brick on the gas pedal would work just as well since even with my foot to the floor I never really got much above 55.

The motor is going to need some more tuning. It's idling a little rough, and felt like at a few times it was only running on 6 or 7 cylinders. The ignition is going to get a once over before I take it out again for sure.

It's also burning a good bit of oil. Not leaking it, burning it through the exhaust. Originally it looked it was only happening right after starting it...but now it's smoking pretty good all the time :( I kind of figured it may need the motor rebuilt fairly soon after buying it for so little. May start looking into that this summer - usually cheaper to do it before it NEEDS to be done.

The off/pilot/on knob on the water heater disintegrated on me as well this weekend :( At least the plastic cap did. It still works, just difficult to turn now. I also learned that the kitchen sink is hooked up backwards with cold to hot and hot to cold. Should be a real easy fix since it's all flexible plastic plumbing.

Otherwise it was just GREAT having the coach out in the dunes! Really want to get the carpet out now and get some smooth floors in....I figured that would happen after a sand trip ;)

This thread isn't done...there are still plenty of customizations to come. But they won't be coming very soon now. Need to replace the tire money before I can do anything else. And all of the functional issues are now taken care of. It's just cosmetic/comfort stuff from here on!

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Thu Nov 26, 2009 12:38 pm

So last weekend I finally got around to new plugs, wires, cap and rotor. Not sure if the plugs are the right ones though, it had autolite 26's in it which are a tapered seat plug. But every Dodge 440 we looked up at the parts store used a gasketed plug...and none of them protruded into the cylinder head the same distance. Some protruded further than the 26's some less...but they were all gasketed. So I ended up just getting some fresh 26's to toss in hoping that they are actually the right plug and the previous owner didn't put a tapered plug into a gasketed hole.

Replaced the worst wires. Still need to do a few others but ran out of time. Did replace the rotor and cap though and between all that it does seem a little smoother.

Drove it out of the backyard and into the front yard ... and it could barely get up to 5MPH. Guess that means the stain on the gravel under it IS fresh tranny fluid not fluid I spilled in the past. A bottle of lucas and a quart of fresh fluid and the drive to the gas station was fine again.

Hoping I filled the correct tank. Would suck to find out I just put $60 into the tank that has dirt in it. I swapped the hoses on the transfer solenoid this summer so the old reserve is now the main. But apparently I didn't swap the wires for the tank sensor so when I have the switch set to "rear" It's actually the front tank but the gauge is still reading for the rear. So to find out how much gas I have right now I have to switch tanks...which I can't do while it's running or I'll suck the dirt. Fun. Need to get that sorted out.

But the "new tent" is ready for another weekend in the dunes starting tomorrow!

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by Glamisbound » Thu Nov 26, 2009 10:12 pm

How many trips has she made to the dunes so far?
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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Fri Nov 27, 2009 9:56 am

Glamisbound wrote:How many trips has she made to the dunes so far?
(Still doing final loading and prep today, waiting for Amy to get moving enough to go do the grocery shopping so I can finish gassing up the truck and get the trailer hooked up!)

Only one trip to the dunes and that was Buttercup. But several out to the desert. This will be the first trip to Gordon's for it. I'm a little nervous about how it will do on the hill between Buttercup and Gordon's. May take a bit of patience but I'm pretty sure it will make it.

I also forgot to mention, there are still 3 spark plugs that need to be changed. The passenger side the plugs were dirt simple to change. Lots of room for me to just sit on the ground with the plugs right in front of my face. It was almost pleasant. The drivers side though....getting to the first plug took a bit of skin off my knuckles. The next three appear to be physically impossible to reach without removing something. If I take the valve cover off I might be able to get to them from the top...or if I take out the brakes and starter I may be able to get to them from underneath. But right now thanks to a strategically placed chunk of steel and the accessories just mentioned there is no way to get near those last 3 plugs.

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Fri Nov 27, 2009 3:45 pm

Made it to Gordons. Kind of light crowd. New ignition bits = 4mph more. Almost made60

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Sun Nov 29, 2009 4:47 pm

Well as my cell phone post attempted to relay the RV did well this weekend. Crowd at Gordon's was incredibly small for T-day, I've seen more people out there on off-weekends - but the LEO presence was bigger than I've ever seen on big weekends in the past...or at least appeared that way since with so many fewer duners the ratio of LEO:Duner was so much higher.

RV in the sand wasn't quite as scary as I expected it to be, there were a few spots where I thought for sure I was just going to sink - but eventually managed to just barely creep out. At least until I found camp. Trying to get into the most level spot I could find I managed to start digging and my spot was decided for me by that. Though thankfully today I was able to get out without a tow by dumping cooler water on the tires and doing a quick reverse/forward rock to get out of the ruts.

Starting to get used to the beast on the highway, but the 20 minute drive to the dunes is still about as far as I want to take it in it's current condition. Still running way rich and with a top speed of 59 it's still not ready for any real trips. Maybe once I find someone to get the carb dialed in it will pick up a few MPH and smooth out to where I'll feel safe taking it further.

Even with the minor issues it was so great to have the RV this weekend. With the winds on Saturday and the chill at night Amy, the dog, and I were all very thankfull for the shelter the RV provided!

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Tue Jan 12, 2010 12:12 pm

Apparently I had a tailwind last trip :D This trip it was a struggle to hit 55 on a level road :(

Then again I didn't top up the tranny this time just before leaving so maybe it was just a bit low due to the leaky drain plug. It didn't seem low on the dipstick, but I've found the dipstick on that thing looks "safe" even when the drain plug has been pulled and there's almost nothing left in the pan....so I don't exactly trust it ;)

Finally got to test the oven out this last trip as well. Fresh baked cookies were a big hit around the campfire!

Unfortunately this trip we had a minor system failure that created a major problem. Friday before leaving I checked the level in our fresh water tank and saw it was practically empty. Not surprising, with a pregnant wife the facilities got used more than normal on our T-day trip! So I topped it up...but left the hose in too long and when I came back it was overflowing. Not a huge deal I figured, but I did notice the overflow was dripping from a few places that didn't make a lot of sense to me. Just assumed it must have run along some trim was why...and it was time to hit the road anyway so off we went.

But once we got to camp I noticed that the mystery drip was still dripping...must just be overflow trapped somewhere slowly leaking out I figured. The next morning though it was still dripping....so I checked the tank level - and it was empty. (or at least looked empty.) Uh oh. Couldn't take everything apart to find the full problem right then but went ahead and put a pot under the drip so we could catch the leaking water to use to flush the toilet at least. Got us through the weekend.

Once I got home I took apart the passenger side bunk to inspect the water tank. First thing I discovered is that the tank is bigger than I thought! The front side dips down below the wheel arch so there is a good 4-5 gallons more than I thought the tank could hold. The second was the tank is really wedged in there and a serious pain to get out without a helper, but I did manage to get it out enough I could inspect the connections on the bottom. The third thing I saw was that the floor was soaking down there from the leak :( Hopefully I've got it all opened up enough to dry out well now.

The last thing I found was the source of the leak. The hose that went to the tank drain valve had apparently been patched at some point since a 2" section of it was a clear vinyl hose...a very brittle and kinked clear vinyl hose that apparently has a crack in it now. Not sure if it just happened...or if me overfilling pressurized things just enough to blow it out.

Whatever caused it to blow out it should be an easy fix. I needed to replace the drain valve anyway since the handle on it was broken. Now I have an excuse to go ahead and do it ;)

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Sat Nov 13, 2010 6:26 pm

Well, after that last post we haven't made any other trips. Amy's morning sickness and size got to the point where she didn't enjoy riding in the rail anymore so it was just solo trips for the rest of last season. I left the RV to dry out from the tank leak and by the time I thought about working on it it was too hot out to mess with.

But with the weather getting nice again and Katie getting close to 6 months and wanting to go camping I started working on the RV again last weekend.

First stop, Sams club for 2 6v golf cart batteries. I had some 6v floor cleaner batteries Rick hooked me up with...but never got them to hold a good charge. With Katie along though I decided it's time to get rid of the fireplace and get the furnace working again which means I need good batteries. With some help from a few friends I figured out what was done to bypass the dual batteries in the past and it's ready to run off two banks again as soon as I can get a tray for the new batts welded together. That will probably happen in the next week or two.

Today's project was to fix that tank leak! I figured it would be a quick half hour job - just replace the leaking hose and be done with it. Of course it turned out not to be nearly so simple.

1st when I went to remove the "broken" hose I found that the hose itself was ok, it was the fitting it was attached to that was cracked. So to the store to find a replacement fitting. Couldn't find an exact match but found something that would work. So started to connect it all back up...and found that the new main drain I bought is for 3/8" ID hose. Everything else is 1/2" ID. Grrr...back to the store for some 3/8" hose and a 3/8" to 1/2" adapter...but no adapter. Thankfully with a bit of hot water 3/8" hose will fit over a 1/2" barbed fitting so that problem could be solved.

Then I had a fit of brilliance. No really I did. Instead of just putting it all back together I decided to wash the tank off, disinfect it and make sure the new fittings didn't leak. Which is how I discovered that it wasn't just the fitting that was cracked. Nope, the tank itself is cracked on the bottom under the fitting :(

Grrr....

The tank appears to be "welded" together out of 1/2" thick panels of plastic. Did some research and determined it's most likely HDPE plastic and heat welding is the best way to repair it. Found some some other methods (fiberglass, everbond, JB wet condition weld...) but none of them sounded like they really worked well.

Did some research on how to weld plastic and decided to give it a try. Hit Harbor Freight and picked up their $15 plastic welder which is basically just an 80w soldering iron with a big brass foot for a tip, and comes with a few sticks of "weld stick" of unspecified makeup but that they claim will bond with quite a few plastics.

I test melted a bit of one of the rods onto/into the top surface of the tank. It seemed to mix and bond well with the tank material so I'm guessing the rods are some form of PE as well.

So I gave it a go. First I used a stiff wire brush to clean the crack, then used the pointy bit of the "welder" to melt a V into the the crack. Found that if I used the flat of the welder to smooth the surface I could see into the plastic and found that the crack actually extended quite a bit further than it looked but hadn't broken through the surface on it's whole length yet. So I followed it as long as it was and went a bit past the edge to try and get rid of any stress points.

I then used the welder to remelt the plastic around the crack which went really easily. In fact, I suspect it would hold for at least a few trips with just that much repair. But this is on the bottom of the tank so it's going to be under quite a bit of force from the water moving around so I wanted to be sure it won't leak again and decided to reinforce it. I did this by melting the rod over/into the crack along it's whole length and feathering it out well past it in all directions. I built up about 1/8" of new plastic over the crack and spread it a good 1/2" - 3/4" past the edge of the crack. It seems to have bonded.

I figure worst case is the filler material doesn't bond and I just have to grind it off/out and order some actual known HDPE filler to do the repair with properly. But so far it seems to have worked. Waiting on it to fully cool right now before I put some water in to test. Think I may also put a little tray with a drain under there so if it does leak again in the future instead of soaking into the floor it will have a safe place to leak out.

Tomorrow will be manx progress. But hopefully later this week I'll be able to finish replumbing the tank and make some progress on the furnace and batteries. Also need to investigate the 12v converter. It's been getting worse and worse about switching back to battery power after being plugged into 110v the last few trips and right now won't switch back to battery at all. I can hear it click when it's plugged/unplugged so I'm guessing it's some dirty contacts or sand on/in a relay that's causing the problem. I'd love to upgrade to a nicer modern converter/charger but that's just not in the budget right now.

Amy has to work Thanksgiving so that takes some of the pressure off. But we do want to take Katie out camping soon so progress should happen quickly!

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Sun Nov 14, 2010 8:45 pm

I tried to get photos of the crack and repair in progress...but the battery in my camera was dead and I was loosing daylight quickly. So no before or during shots, just an after shot:

Image

I actually didn't use the pack of extra plastic welding rods I bought. They were ABS, PVC and PP none of which should be compatible with the PE that fresh tanks are made of. The mystery "rods" that came with the welder (slightly visible under the pack of unused rods) seemed more like PE and as I said before seemed to mix and stick well so they were what I used.

Once the repair cooled I added some water to well over the repair line and kept an eye on it:

Image

Remarkably not only did it not leak overnight but most miraculously of all the dog decided it wasn't necessary to mark it as her property either!

Was too busy working on the manx shocks today to get the tank re-installed. That project will have to wait for an available evening this week.

I did try starting the RV today and found that even though it's been off the charger for a week the battery had enough charge to crank it back to life so I probably don't have to replace the chassis battery yet like I was expecting. Still need to figure out what's up with the 12v system and work on the heater...so expect more updates!

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Re: Project "New Tent"

Post by jhitesma » Sat Jan 01, 2011 11:03 am

Well since next weekend is our first camping trip (finally!) of the year I HAD to get the tank back in this weekend.

Of course that turned out to be a bigger issue than I expected. In addition to the crack on the tank the fitting that came off the tank also broke when I was getting the tank out. The original fitting was a funky F shaped T with the leg coming off the tank and the two tangs going to the pump and drain. I searched all over town but wasn't able to find a replacement like it anywhere. So I had to come up with a new way to plumb it.

Of course the space available and this all happening under the tank which can't be accessed when the tank is in place made it a bit tricky. I ended up using a 90 off the tank that goes to a T - the bar of the T connects to the 90 off the tank on one side and feeds the pump on the other. The leg coming off the Tee goes to another 90 which connects to the drain. Took a bit of experimenting to find a way to fit it all in there that didn't result in lines kinking but I think I finally got it. I ended up having to cut a new access panel into the side of the bunk so I could make the final connections with the tank in place. Wasn't happy about having to do that but it will make things much easier to deal with in the future.

Just filled the tank and so far no leaks. Going to let it sit for a few hours to make sure before I seal everything up just to be safe though.

Now...where did I put the screws that hold the top of the bunk on when I took this all apart a year ago....

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