Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Towing Set Up

I have been pulling toad vehicles since the early 90’s with 4 different motorhomes during that time. There has been a lot of trial/error with tow bars, base plates, electrical, and gravel protection also. I am currently at the point that I am completely satisfied with my current towing configuration. I realize that what works for me may not be what others need, but here is what I have done.


In the past, I have used Blue Ox (B/O) tow bars on the motorhome and B/O base plates on the toad.  The tow bar was very hard to disengage in a binding situation (I now understand that has been corrected), and I didn’t like the rubber boot on the arms. However, I really like the B/O base plate with the removable connecting pins that keep the rest of the base plate mostly hidden behind the toad grill. I now use the Roadmaster aluminum Sterling tow bar with B/0 adaptors Roadmaster provides (as an $ option) that attach the Sterling arms to the B/0 connecting pins. The safety cables for the Sterling have a molded steel ball at one end that fits into a grove in (provided) steel ‘L’ brackets that are supposed to attach to the toad bumper bracket. That wasn’t possible on my toad so I attached the brackets to the underside of the LD’s hitch receiver by the holes where the tow cables are normally attached. I used two 3/8” grade 8 bolts for this. To prevent the cables from slipping up out of the groves I attached a bolt & flat washer in the grove as a stopper. (see photo) The standard hooks on the other end of the cables attach to the  B/0 base plate. 



 I stow the Sterling tow bar to the right looping the right cable up around the LD ladder bracket and attaching the hook back to the cable. I then attach the left cable hook to the right cable which secures everything. (see photo) 


I use a seven pin truck style electrical socket on both the LD and the toad. Reason for this is that I have the SMI Stay-In-Play Duo auxiliary toad braking system in my toad that requires back up 12DC power from the LD engine. The Cherokee also requires an additional wiring harness to keep a computerized steering stabilizer active while the engine is off and it being toad. This too requires an external power supply from the LD. 

To address this power issue, I ran a 10ga. wire from the LD engine battery (30amp fused) to the pin designated for electric trailer brakes in the 7-pin socket on the LD bumper. Also, a 10ga wire from the toad mounted 7-pin socket to the toad battery (30amp fused also).  I got a 6’ umbilical cable with a molded 7-pin plug from Tractor Supply and attached another 7-pin plug at the other end. The cable has 10ga wires designated for the trailer brake power and ground. Smaller gauge wires are there for the brake/tail lights. While parked at an interstate rest stop for a short break, someone stole our umbilical cable. Fortunately, I found a Tractor Supply for a replacement. It just took a little while to attach the second 7-pin plug on the other end of the cable. I now secure the cable to the LD hitch with quick links (tightened with thread lock) to a galvanized solid eye bolt on the hitch plate. (see photo)


Now to address toad rock & gravel protection. Years ago I used a grass skirt across the rear motorhome bumper but this didn’t really help. Mud flaps also gave little protection. I then tried a solid Rock Guard at the rear bumper but actually made the toad scratches worse.  Early last year we got a Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk for a toad, and I really wanted to avoid what scratches our CRV toads (2) had received in the past. I decided to get a Roadmaster Tow Defender fabric tow bar cover. It unrolls and lays on top of the tow bar attaching at the top of the B/0 connector. This makes it very easy to roll back up and store at the rear of the LD. After 7000+ towing miles later, NO scratches on the front of the Cherokee above the hitch level. It is very easy to roll up and stow on the motorhome hitch area. 
Because the 1” square tubing hit the LD rear bumper on a tight turn, I shortened the tube ends 4” which solved that problem. As you can see in the photo, I mounted a separate (non-wired) 7-pin socket to the top of the Tow Defender hitch mount to stow the toad end of the umbilical cable when not in use. (see photo)  The coiled break-away cable lays on top of the Tow Defender when in use and is easily stowed when not in use. 


Since the Jeep is heavier than the stated LD hitch mount I have replaced all the LD’s grade 5 bolts with grade 8 bolts, washers & nuts. This includes the six bolts attaching the ‘C’ channel rear frame extensions to the main Ford frame. All bolts have lock washers, red thread lock and tightened with an air impact wrench. After this last two summer’s trips, one to the Rockies and the other to Newfoundland, all hitch components are still very secure.  The Cherokee has posed no problems towing under all conditions of travel. 

Mike Coachman 12/2018

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Straightening The Coach Door

Bent Doors 

There are two types of “bend” that I know of.  In the first case, when you close the door, looking at the door from the outside, there will be a gap either at the top left or the bottom left.  If you put a straight edge on the latch side, the door side seems to be straight.  I will refer to this type as a twisted door.

In the second case, there may be a gap at the top, the bottom, or both.  Checking the edge with a straight edge, there will be a section of the door edge that is not straight.  I will refer to this type as a bent door.

There is a third case of a door gap.  If your door has a gap at the top, the middle and the bottom, all about the same, and the door edge is straight, you have a latch that needs adjustment.  This article is not targeted at that condition.

Twisted doors
With the door closed, measure the amount of opening at the top or bottom.  Get a block of wood that is about 1.5 times that thickness and tape it to the corner of the door opposite the gap. 


In other words, if the gap is at the top left corner, put the block on the bottom left corner.  Position the block along the vertical edge.  See Figure 1, showing a ½ x ¾ block, an appropriate starting size and placement for a door with a ½” gap at the top.

Figure 1

It should be narrow enough to fit in the space where the door meets the frame, and a few inches long. Working from a ladder, place a 2x4 against the face of the door to distribute the pressure (you don’t want to change the twist into a bend), then push the part of the door where there was a gap toward the door frame until it touches.  Open the door, remove the block and check to see if the twist is gone.  If not, repeat with more block thickness. Continue repeating until the twist is gone.

If your gap is at the bottom, either reverse the block placement and pushing instructions, or place your RV upside down…  ;-)

Bent doors
OK, so the wind blew your door and it slammed.  Now it is bent and no longer makes good contact when you close it.  How can you fix it?  Here is what I would do.

First, you need more information about the bend.  Is it a sharp bend at one point, or a gentle bowing or warping spread along a section of the door?  To determine the answer, you need to identify the start and end points of the bend as well as the amount or depth of the bend.

Figure 2

In Figure 2 above, I show a (pretend) door with a large bend that extends the entire length of the “door”, I show the clamps I would use, and some straight pieces of wood that will play the part of 2x4’s.

Identifying the bend
Using a straight edge (you can use a metal yardstick, a 4-foot level, or a piece of string with a few helpers, stretching the string from one surface point to another), you start at the top of the door.  Slide the straight edge down, maintaining contact at the top of the door.  When you begin to see a gap midway along the straight edge, you are at the start of the bend.  Mark that point.  Repeat that, starting at the bottom and moving up, to locate the bottom end of the bend.  Mark that point.  Now, span the bend from start to end with the straight edge and measure the deflection at its maximum.  Mark that point, and write down the amount of deflection.  Divide that deflection by 4 and use the result as your deflection increment.

Figure 3

Figure 3 shows the bend on my pretend door.  It extends almost the entire length of the door and is fairly uniform.

Planning how to straighten the bend
You need pieces of 2x4, and clamps, the more the better.  Cut at least 4 pieces of 2x4, 3 1/2” long, to act as spacer blocks.  Cut one uniform, knot-free 2x4 to the length of the bend.  It will go on the outside of the bend to spread pressure evenly.  Cut a second uniform, knot-free 2x4 8” longer than the bend, and attach a block to each end, with glue or tape.  Do not use nails or screws.  You might scratch the surface.  

Figure 4

Why uniform and knot-free?  You want the 2x4’s to apply even pressure throughout the bend.  If a 2x4 has a weak spot, it won’t do that.

Straightening the bend
Using two clamps, place the 2x4 with blocks against the inside of the bend with the upper block above the start of the bend and the lower block below the end of the bend, and with the blocks facing the door so there is a cavity between the bend and the 2x4.  See Figure 5.

Figure 5

Place the shorter 2x4 centered on the outside of the bend and put a clamp snugly in the center.  Add other clamps evenly distributed to the remainder of the 2x4, so the loading will be uniformly distributed.  Begin tightening the clamps, a bit at a time, so that smooth, even pressure is applied to the bend.  Track your progress with the straight edge.  Once the door seems to be straight, go a little past that point, overcorrecting the bend by the deflection increment calculated above.  At this point, it should look sort of like Figure 6 below.

Figure 6

Release the clamps except for the two on the blocks, and check the door alignment.  If you need further straightening, repeat, but increase the deflection increment either a little or a lot, depending on how much correction you achieved.  I can’t tell you how much this should be.  Use your judgment, but multiple tries, increasing a little at a time, are much better than a big overcorrection that bends the door the other way.  When the door is straight, remove the clamps on the blocks.  You’re done.

A few caveats - 
1) A 2x4 on its side is kind of springy.  Over a long span, it might bend enough to close the gap between the 2x4 and the door.  If that happens, remove the setup and add a second block to each end of the 2x4.  You may also want to use the 2x4 on its edge rather than on its side.  It is much stiffer that way, and the protruding blocks are a good resting point for the straight edge when gauging progress.  The 2x4 on the outside of the bend should always be on its flat side.  You WANT that springiness to distribute the loading.

2) Do not let the span extend beyond the area of the bend.  Those parts are currently straight, and you do not want to change that.

3) Don’t crank down one clamp much harder than the others.  I can fix a bend.  I can’t fix a crimp.

4) Try to minimize clamping adjacent to the window.  You are better off with a slight bow along the window and larger corrections above and below the window than with a straight door and a cracked window.  That option is gone if the entire span of the bend is within the window area.  In that case, cut your deflection increment in half.

5) Once you have removed the bend in a bent door, there is a fair chance that you have created a twisted door.  That’s ok.  Twisted doors are easier to fix.

Special cases
The bend may be short and close to the latch.  This is more challenging.  You do not want to clamp at the latch.  You want to be above or below it.  You use as short a setup as you can get away with, and position the blocks, first with the upper block edge at the upper edge of the latch, and do your clamping below the latch.  Check the result.  Then move the setup so the lower block is at the lower edge of the latch and clamp above the latch.  Check the result, then repeat as needed.  Don’t be surprised if one side of the latch becomes straight while the other side still has a bend.

If the bend is very short, almost a crimp or angle rather than a curve, the basic technique is the same, but apply straightening pressure with a single clamp located at the bend point.  Stop and check when it is straight without overcorrecting.  Apply a deflection increment, part thereof, only if the first attempt, with no deflection increment, was unsuccessful.

A few cautions - 
1) Slow, careful and gentle are the keywords on this.  You want the finished product to be straight, not bent the other way.  To achieve that, you need to go a little bit beyond straight, to account for the springiness in the door frame, but don’t go too far.  

2)  A very long bend is actually the hardest to fix, because some parts may straighten before others.  When checking your progress on a long bend, don’t just check the amount of correction at the maximum deflection point.  Use the straight edge to see if a portion that was bent is now straight.  If so, shorten your setup so you are just dealing with a bent area.  Imagine a 6-foot bend, and the middle goes straight, leaving a 2’ bend at one end and a 3’ bend at the other.  Deal with them as if they are brand new short bends.

Ken F - 11/2018

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Suspension

The E450 has many suspension and steering parts that wear with age and contribute to poor handling and ride issues. I believe a lot of aftermarket suspension 'improvements' are installed when there is an underlying issue with worn suspension parts or an out of alignment front end.

LDs, fresh from the Mothership have Ford's generic alignment. Most rigs need to be fully loaded and then driven a couple thousand miles before the final alignment. Before alignment, you need to have the rig weighted first and the tires adjusted, using the tire Manufacturer's recommended pressure, for the weight of each axle.  This is a great time to make sure neither axle is overloaded. Try to get each wheel weight individually, to make sure the load is evenly split from side to side. Overloading one side can cause handling issues.
There is a tire pressure/weight chart in your LD Owner's Manual. 

The springs and other parts need to seat in before aligning if not,  this can affect the camber and toe-in settings. Both change as the front ride height changes.
 
As the rig ages and the springs slowly collapse, the toe-in and steering wheel centering will change and needs to be reset, possibly along with the camber.
Both camber and caster adjustments are made by changing the alignment adjustment bushings. They are not a big deal to change and any decent alignment shop should be very familiar with them.

For our 2003 E450, Ford specifies a caster setting of 4 degrees on the left and 4-1/2 on the right-hand side, plus or minus 2.75 degrees, with a 1/2 degree maximum split or the difference between them.

When new, our LD was Factory set to 3-1/2 degrees on both sides and was prone to wander. I soon reset it to 4-1/2 degrees, reducing the wander significantly. 
Several years later, I set it to 5 and 5-1/2 degrees and saw even better results. Maintaining the extra 1/2 degree offset to the passenger side seems to eliminate any pulling to one side or the other.

If, during an alignment, the caster is found to have changed from an earlier alignment, suspect worn ball joints.

Beyond the alignment, there are several rubber bushings that cause handling problems.

Shock bushings, especially on the front shocks very often are blown out. This is particularly an issue on Bilstein or any other aftermarket shock, primarily due to the inaccessibility of the driver's side upper shock bushing. These bushings are often not tightened enough, allowing the bushing to move and wear out. The rear shocks also have the same type of bushing and need to be check periodically for tightness. 

Loose top shock bushings, front or rear, can cause very poor handling and sway problems.
Shock bushings | Flickr

Both the front and rear Factory sway bars have rubber bushings that can be badly worn by 50,000 miles. Replacing them with inexpensive polyurethane bushings will remove the play in the worn bushing and will provide a performance upgrade, due to their greater resistance to flexing, compared to the soft Factory rubber bushings.
Low buck suspension improvements for higher mileage LDs
 
The Twin-I-Beam suspension has four bushings that allow the two radius arms to move up and down. The rear radius arm bushings are prone to wear in higher mileage E450.
Radius arm Bushings | Flickr

Wheel bearings wear and loosen with miles of use and can cause steering looseness and tracking problems. They should be check regularly for proper tightness and either cleaned and repacked with grease or replaced when the front brakes are serviced.
 
With higher mileage or poor maintenance, ball joints wear out, allowing uncontrolled movement of the front wheels.  This can cause a multitude of ailments including drifting to one side, pulling to one side when braking and overall looseness in the steering. 

New LDs, have grease (zerk) fittings installed in both the upper and lower ball joints and lube them every time the engine oil is changed. Doing this allowed our LD's ball joints to survive 112,000 miles before being replaced.

Besides the ball joints, the tie-rod ends and pitman arm can wear as well as the steering box, producing steering looseness.

A good alignment tech should check all of the above items for wear, there is no way to accurately align the suspension with worn suspension parts or loose wheel bearings.

While usually not causing handling problems, the steering stabilizer can wear and allow more action in the steering wheel. Our Factory stabilizer was bad at 50,000 miles, the Monroe HD replacement lasted about 40,000 miles.  Our LD now has a Bilstein HD stabilizer, we will see if it stays intact any longer. 

Taking care of the possible issues above allows our 2003 to drive and handle as well as it did when new.

With Bilsteins, upgraded polyurethane sway bar bushings and a proper alignment, I have never seen a need for bigger sway bars, steering centering devices or a rear track bar. YMMV

Replacing the front and rear sway bar bushings with the listed polyurethane bushing kits is an inexpensive performance upgrade for even a new LD.  On our LD, both the front and rear sway bar bushing were visibly distorted. On the front, if you can see any space around where the sway bar passes through the I-Beams, it's worn. 

The rear sway bar bushings are easy to replace, once the LD is lifted high enough to allow access. Unbolt each bracket, one at a time, and replace the bushing before moving on to the next.

The front sway bar requires removing the sway bar so the bushings in the I-Beams can be punched out and replaced. It's a little more complicated and requires two workers or the use of jack stands to hold the front bar in position.
Changing both the front and rear sway bar bushings was a Saturday morning project.

I definitely felt a change in handling and sway control after installing the new bushings, which wasn't surprising considering the stock bushings were worn and replaced with much better polyurethane bushings
https://www.flickr.com/photos/lwade/sets/72157695887017230/

Larry Wade

Friday, September 7, 2018

Towing Fuses

If your tow lights are not working this is the fuse to check.


Showing the position of the underhood fuse box.


Number #26 is the 25amp fuse at the extreme left.


If #26 is OK, check two of the relays in the box mounted on the firewall directly behind the fuse box pictured above.

The relays you are concerned with are the two of the right-hand side - trailer tow relay left and right.




Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Replacing The Bat Wing Antenna



I wondered if replacing the Bat Wing with one of the newer designs would improve performance and also open up some space on the roof. I asked and got a lot of answers. My take on the responses is that yes you will gain some roof space but reception will be the same.

I could spend an hour or so editing the many responses in a concise article, but fun calls. So here are the LDO responses.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

DTV in Your Lazy Daze

Introduction:
• This article is intended to help you deal with television, especially DTV in your motor home.
• Notation: Since we are talking about both analog TV sets with DTV converters and DTV sets themselves, the word “set” here means any TV receiving device
Overview:
• The United States requires its larger (called full service) television stations to transmit DTV signals.
• There are other “secondary” TV services consisting of Low Power, class-A, translators and booster transmitters. Many are now transmitting DTV signals while others remain analog. These stations are typically found in the rural areas where we often camp.
• CATV systems in RV parks will typically have analog signals. Any digital signals on CATV systems will be in a different format than over the air DTV signals. Set top boxes typically will not decode them. Some DTV sets will
• Conclusion: The TV in your coach needs to have the ability to receive at both analog and over-the-air DTV signals.
The American DTV System:
• A DTV transmitter transmits 19.4 million bits per second.
• Computer networks typically send from 1 to 3 million bits per second.
• The DTV System is pretty spectacular, being able to send those 19.4 Mbits/sec under very difficult conditions.
• DTV has some other nice features
o Excellent picture quality
o Info button gives positive station ID
o Most sets have a program guide (what’s on right now and coming programs)
o Some sets are able to scan all stations and gather a full program guide
DTV Channel Numbering:
• DTV stations are able to send one very detailed program (HDTV) or several programs of varying definition. When they send several signals, it’s called multi-casting.
• A DTV signal’s channel number is always shown by the set as a number with a decimal or hyphen. For example, “10.1” or “10-1”. An analog signal may be shown as just the number. For example “10” or it may be shown as “10-0”.
• When multi-casting the signals are numbered thusly: 10.1, 10.2, 10.3, 10.4 etc
• But, DTV channel numbering is very different than analog in a very different way:
o There is the “Physical Channel”, which is the actual RF channel that the signal is being transmitted on. These are the numbers you have known all your life.
o Then there is the “Virtual” or “Display Channel”. This is the number that the station tells the DTV set to show as the channel number.
o For example, in Portland, OR, KOIN TV’s old analog transmitter was on channel 6 so everyone knows the station as KOIN 6. Its DTV transmitter is now on channel 40. KOIN sends a message to your set to show its channel as 6-1 so viewers recognize it as KOIN. TV people will say that KOIN is on virtual channel 6-1. You typically will only know the signal’s virtual channel number. Some sets have the ability to show you the real or RF channel number, but many don’t.
o Furthermore, translators carrying signals from distant transmitters often show the channel number of their parent station. Thus, along the north Oregon coast you will see channel 6-1 on your set while it’s actually tuned to physical channel 38, 41 or 23 depending where you are.
Connecting Your Converter Box:
• While you need to be able to tune in DTV, you must still be able to receive analog TV:
o Translators and Low Power analog TV stations not immediately converting to DTV.
o CATV in RV Parks will still mostly be analog TV for some time.
• There are two connections that must be made:
o A signal from the coach’s TV antenna must be connected to the DTV converter’s RF input.
o The signal(s) from the DTV converter must be directed to the TV set.
• There are essentially three ways to make each of those two connections. You can mix and match the antenna connections vs. the TV set connections.
Note: If the diagrams below are hard to read, just click on them and they will open in a larger view.
Method A:

Method A shows that if one can get to the back of the Winegard RV distribution box, there is an unused RF outlet available to provide the RF signal to the DTV converter set. This approach is good when the DTV converter box does not have a bypass mode (that mode feeds the unprocessed antenna signal directly thru to the TV set).
Method A also shows that one can connect the signal from the converter box to the TV set using audio/video connections. This approach creates the best picture quality.
Method B:

In Method B, the signal is provided to the DTV box by splitting the signal from the front of the Winegard unit. The big advandage of this approach is that no access to the back of the Winegard unit is required.
The analog TV signal on channel 3 or 4 RF signal created by the converter box is used to provide the TV set with a signal. Because it is necessary to be able to use the TV set to view analog TV signals, an A/B is needed as shown.
Method C:

Method C is the easiest but it requires a DTV converter box that has a bypass or feed-through mode.
Keep in mind that one can select any method to provide an antenna signal to the converter box and independently select another method to connect the converter’s output signal to the TV set; like a Chinese restaurant menu.
Connecting Your Power to your Converter Box:
• You must also connect power to the converter box.
• This is much more situational; depends heavily on the converter box and the RV.
• Some converter boxes have an attached AC line cord. You must provide it
110 VAC power via an inverter or shore power.
• Some converter boxes have external power supplies:
o You can plug the external supply into an 110 VAC inverter or shore power, or
o If the supply has a DC output, you may be able to use a DC to DC adapter.
• If the converter uses 12 VCD, one can plug it directly into the 12 VDC power in the coach.
DTV Background:
• To steal a line...”It’s not your father’s TV signal anymore!”
• DTV is like Frank Sinatra’s song a DTV signal is “All or Nothing at All”.
• DTV produces flawless (no ghosts, herring bone, etc.), noiseless (no snow or fuzz) pictures and sound ... until the signal amplitude falls to the receiver’s threshold .
It goes through a narrow “fuzzy” zone.
• And then:
IT FAILS COMPLETELY
As in ... NO Picture … NO Sound … NO Nothing.
• It goes from here...
.... to here...
To here...
... with a very small change (1 dB).
• It must be emphasized:
– Picture and sound are sent together.
– When you have a picture you will have sound. When the signal fails,
Picture and Sound Fail Together.
– In fact, the first indication that the signal has fallen below threshold is the sound muting.
• For those few who know the term, the picture/sound can go from IDEAL to NOTHING with a 1 dB amplitude change.
• For those that don’t know what that means, 1 dB is about the change in volume one gets with one or two clicks of the volume control on a modern TV or radio.
• If you have just barely enough signal, small changes can cause the picture to become “pixilated” or vanish. Causes like:
o A storm.
o A vehicle moving.
o A new source of interference (like a fan.
• DTV troubleshooting is difficult
o When there is a picture, the picture is ideal.
o When there is no picture, you have nothing.
o There is little in between.
o You are flying blind.
• The only available strategy: just keep trying various things until something works.
Tuning In DTV Signals:
•If you are camping where the signal amplitudes are low, tuning in DTV signals can be ... uh … .....trying.
•The RF performance of most set top DTV converters is adequate to good for use in a RV. However, the user interface is quite variable with some MUCH better than others.
•DTV sets try to make finding signals “easy” by providing an automatic scanning mode to find the stations for you.
•Many sets won’t let you tune to a given channel until the set finds it for itself during some form of a scan, either manual or automatic.
•Other sets will tune to a new channel just by entering its channel number on the remote control.  Try your set to see if it works this way.  If it does ,and you know the new signal's RF channel number that is a fast way to tune the set.
• During an automatic scan, if a DTV signal is detected but is below threshold the set may or may not add the channel to its list.
• It’s very useful if it does so because it points to where to search for a DTV signal.
• If you don’t know what direction the signals are coming from, you may have to turn the antenna, scan, turn the antenna, scan, etc., which can be very time consuming (more below).
• A few sets have a manual add/delete mode or allow a manual scan. These sets are the best for use in an RV.
• The DTV set-top converters that have the best user interface for use in a RV are the Artec T3A, the Winegard RDCT-09, the Zenith DTT 900 and 901, The RCA STB 7766G-1, The Radio Shack stock # 15-149 and # 15-150, The Insignia NX-DTA 1. These units have an excellent manual scan add/delete mode that works very well in a RV. The Artec and the Wineguard are the only DC powered units.
Setting Up Camp:
• So, you just pulled into a new campsite. How do you find out if there’s any TV to watch?
• You may have a DTV set or a set top converter so there is a wide variation of user interfaces. This makes it impossible to give just one best method. Just some general guidance ...
• Where do you initially point the antenna?
o Ask someone where the TV stations are.
o If you are camping with other RVs, note where their antennas are pointing and point yours there too.
o If camping alone, start by pointing toward the nearest large population concentration.
• If you have a set and DTV converter, first scan the analog receiver to see what is around. Transmitters are typically found in groups so if there is an analog signal there may be DTV signals there also. Turn the antenna to get the best analog picture for a starting point.
• Now scan the DTV set. Hopefully, that will turn up at least one decodable DTV signal.
• Or perhaps after scanning, when you push the remote’s up/down the set stops at a channel but there is no picture. This might be a near miss.
o Slowly turn the antenna first one way and then the other and see if a picture will pop into view.
o Slowly equals one Winegard antenna azimuth notch every 5 sec.
• Perhaps the scan turned up one or more viewable DTV signals.
Slowly turn the antenna first one way and then the other to find the range over which the signal(s) are above threshold.
• Then center the antenna in the range.
• Signal strength indicators:
o Many sets have some sort of signal “goodness” indicator mode.
o If you have a signal above threshold, you can use the signal strength reading to aim the antenna directly at the station. (The strength indicators don’t seem to work until the signal is above threshold.)
• Aim the antenna at the center of the range that makes pictures on at least one channel.
• Run another scan to see if more DTV signals can now be found.
• If no signals are found on the first try, turn the antenna 45° and scan again.
• DTV transmitters are often, but not always, sited near each other so if you find one, you may find many.
• After finding station(s), you may want to try pointing the antenna in a different direction to see if there are more to be found.
• If your converter or TV set has a manual scan or manual add/delete mode it often can be used to find stations.
o Point the antenna in a likely direction.
o Manually tune the converter through the channels looking for the presence of a DTV signal on the unit’s signal strength indicator.
o Once a signal is found, slowly turn the antenna to maximize its strength.
• One of the oddities of DTV is that after the signal is above threshold, greater signal amplitude does not help. Therefore, if there are several signals, work to bring the smallest above threshold without loosing the larger signals.
The RV Batwing Antenna:
• Your present Winegard Sensar (batwing) antenna system works very well for DTV.
• For channels 2-13, the batwing is bi-directional: it gets its largest signal when you aim either of its flat sides toward the station. (There are very, very few DTV signals on channels 2 – 6).
• For channels 14-51, it’s directional: it gets its largest signal when you aim the flat side that’s away from its support posts toward the station. (Since DTV signals like to hide what channel you are actually tuned to, try to turn the antenna so that side is toward the station.)
• When looking for DTV signals be sure to turn the antenna completely around.
• Winegard introduced an accessory for the Batwing antenna called Wingman. Wingman improves performance and makes the antenna much more directional on channels 14-51. While the Wingman’s improvement is relatively small, because of DTV’s threshold, it can make the difference between receiving and not receiving a signal.
A Nag:
• Have you lubed your coach’s TV antenna mechanism lately?
• It gets stiff if you don’t.
Contributor: Linley Gumm

Revised: 6 Oct 11

Monday, December 11, 2017

Cab AC - Air Flow Cuts Off Under Acceleration

Losing air flow from the dash vents under acceleration may be caused by a failed vacuum check valve. The HVAC's vent controls are powered by engine vacuum. Engine vacuum decreases during acceleration or going uphill. Under acceleration, stored vacuum from the reservoir is used to maintain HVAC's vacuum supply.

You can test for a bad check valve by turning the engine off, waiting 30 minutes and then, without starting the engine, moving the HVAC control to a new position, listening for movement under the dash, indicating that stored vacuum is still present. If you hear nothing, good chance the check valve has failed. The HVAC controls should normally operate the controls after sitting a day or more.

[Note: The default vent setting is to the defrost vents. So the air is still flowing, it’s just not where you may want it. As an aside, you should set the vent control to off before turning off the engine in cold weather to keep air out of the passenger compartment]

The check valve/vacuum canister cannot be replaced by mere mortals. This why Ford charges $900 labor to do it.

You can Google for other DIY fixes, you will find thousands of hits. There are also YouTube's on the subject. I have not found any of them that speak to me. Of course, you may not find my fix to be understandable. Here is one from the Sportsmobile Forum.

The following describes a DIY procedure to save $900. In this procedure, we locate both ends of the hose and abandon the middle inaccessible section.

Parts:
Dorman Vacuum Reservoir
[If this is a dead link, Google for Vacuum Reservoir]

5 feet of 5/32 inch Vacuum Hose

On the E-series, the vacuum supply line runs from a port on the intake manifold, disappearing behind A/C components and exiting through the firewall near the passenger footwell.

1) Look for a 1/8" black plastic hose. One end leads to the intake manifold. The other end leads toward to passenger side of the firewall.
Here is a photo with the hose marked with red tape.



We will return here later.

2) Pull the plastic cover off the right side of the passenger foot well to gain access to the other end of the vacuum hose. What you are looking for is marked with the red tape.

 Closer


Cut the existing hose close to the firewall.  With a small flat blade screwdriver, remove the plastic grommet protecting the hose from the firewall. This will allow you to pull the hose out an inch or so where you will find another fitting slightly larger than the grommet hose. Cut on the other side of the grommet. Say goodbye to the old hose.

3) Now snake something through the grommet hose to the other side of the firewall to be able to pull a new hose through the firewall. I found that my coiled fish tape was too flexible for this purpose. I used a 2-foot long metal shirt hanger straightened out with a U on one the leading side. The angle that worked for me was inserting it through the hole from a 2 to an 8 o’clock position.

For this step, you need to be over 6 feet tall or use a stool so you can see straight down behind the battery. The snake will exit the firewall below the battery. Follow the wiper fluid fill tube down and you will see an electrical connector on the firewall. The snake will exit below that connector. You will be able to see it, but not touch it. When the DW got the U on the snake where I could see it, I used another shirt hanger also with a U on the end and grabbed the other U and pulled it up.

Now you can pull the hose from the passenger compartment to the engine compartment. I made a slit in the hose and inserted the U in my homemade snake through it so it could be pulled through.

Now insert the 1/8 hose from the manifold into the 5/32 hose.

Start the engine and test for vacuum. It's not a big suck, but you can feel it.

4) The reservoir has an inlet and outlet nozzles, but it's not marked which is which. The 5/32 hose (the one you just pulled through the firewall fits one of the nozzles, but it's not the right one. Cut a short piece from the 1/8 hose you cut off, stick it in the 5/32 hose and the other into the cannister. Just reverse that for the other nozzle.

Don't overtighten any hose clamps, it easy to compress the 1/8 hose and cut off air flow.

You should now test for air flow from the dash vents.

5) Now you need to locate the reservoir out of the way of feet. I elected to remove the small vertical dash panel just in front of the seat. The dash panel is mounted to an easily removed steel plate. Pull the plastic gently from the bottom.


Behind that plate is a home for the reservoir. I used Dual Lock to secure it to a plastic cover. By using Dual Lock I can remove it if I ever need to.


Secure the hose with quick ties and button everything up.

6) Enjoy cool air from dash vents.