Friday, June 3, 2016

Getting AC from an inverter to the rear of a MB

Most of our stuff is powered from 12volt, so we don’t have much need for 120.
Things like computers and MiFi are the exception. We use these almost exclusively in the rear of our MB. So that’s where we wanted 120volt. We asked for an outlet there when the rig was built and were turned down.

What follows is a how to specific for MB’s. I have no idea how or if it could be implemented on any other floor plan.

So for both of the people that 1) Have an MB, 2) Want a 120 volts in the rear and 3) Are willing to take on a fairly simple DIY project 4) You do not make the beds into a King - read on.

I mounted the inverter on the wall behind the drivers seat. That was unused space and it is close to the batteries. I used a cheap 1000w inverter from Harbor Freight. It has the same case as the one used by a well known brand and may have the same internals. A hole was drilled through the wall panel behind the drivers seat and another into the battery compartment to run #2 wire to the batteries. I sealed the latter one. The former can not be seen.

I cut an extension cord using the male end to plug into the inverter and ran the cable through the same hole in the panel used for the cables to the batteries. Remove the interior panels in the cabinet under the refer. [Mark each panel so you will know how to put them back. They are not cut square] Make a connection from the extension cord to #14 standard house wire. You want to use this as the stiffness will make it easy to snake the wire to the back of the rig. Do observe correct polarity.

Snake the #14 back over the fresh water tank. There is a small opening in the “wall” to the bath. Use a small child for this. Remove the panel behind the toilet that covers the plumbing and snake the wire through there and through the panel wall behind the shower. Attach the female end of the extension cord you cut and secure it with P clamps to the forward end of bed platform and terminate it adjacent to the factory 120volt outlet in the “hall”.

Step Two.

Mount a power strip in the middle of the rear wall near the top of the carpet. [No holes to show] Run the cable from the power strip under the driver’s side bed to where the wire from the inverter terminates.

When boon docking you plug the cable from the power strip into the wire from the inverter. When on shore power you plug the wire from the power strip into the factory outlet.

Pretty simple actually. 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

CPAP Amp Usage

This post is about conserving DC when using a CPAP while boon-docking.

Any device can be powered from an inverter. But, inverting/converting is not without some loss. Call it a toll fee. Now consider a CPAP that runs on DC voltage, requires a “brick”, that rectangular object on a power cord, to convert AC to DC. In the  RV environment this means inverting the batteries DC power to AC and then the brick converting back to DC. Two toll fees. Both unnecessary, since my CPAP requires DC and the coach batteries have want it needs.

My CPAP unit, a Dreamstation by Respironics, is native 12 volt, that’s why I selected it. It comes with a 120 volt power cord and a brick that converts to 12 volt DC. Normally I would have made up a 12 volt cord for it, but I had to buy a power cord from Respironics, since I could not find a source for the odd size 9mm plug it uses. I now own an $18 length of wire with a cigarette lighter plug on one end and the 9mm plug for the CPAP on the other end.

I did not want to install a female “cigarette plug” over my bed as the Mothership does and have the wire hanging down. So I tapped into the 12 volt house system in the raceway above my bed. [MB] I drilled a hole in the bin floor behind the cornice and dropped the power cord down and then across the bed platform so that it’s totally concealed. The machine lives on a table between the beds.

I went to this trouble to minimize amp usage. Powering it from inverter used 3 amps. Now, usage is 1.7 amps. [That’s without the humidifier which I am yet to use]  That’s about 13.5 amps used during 8 hours. I can live with that. 24 amps was a concern for me.

I suggest that anyone concerned about battery use when boon-docking and that has a CPAP that is 12 volt powered to make or buy a cord to power it direct from the house batteries and save those toll fees.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Replacing The Toilet Wash Out Hose

This is for the die hard DIY group.

I have just completed a chore I have been putting off for over a year - replacing the toilet wash out. The squirter mechanism was on it’s last leg, sometimes hanging up and not turning off the water. The cheap plastic OEM squirter was one piece with the hose, so both had the replaced.

If your bowl seal shows signs of wear, you may as well order the grossly over-priced bowl seal and replace both at the same time.

First, turn off the water.

To remove the hose from the supply line, you first have to remove the bowl. That’s fun. On our 2007 Sealand, there is a skirt that has to be removed and also a plastic cover over the foot flush pedal. Then you will see a metal clamp below the bowl that goes all the way around the bowl. The nut to loosen the clamp is in the back - so inconvenient. Loosen the clamp until the plastic parts it is seated on can be removed. Note well the orientation of these parts. They have to go back on the same way.

Raise the bowl straight up so as not to move the bowl seal. Set the bowl aside and note well, the orientation of the bowl seal. Especially the hole in the seal.

Loosen the clamp on the wash hose supply line and remove it. Assemble the new parts and put a little Vaseline on the new supply hose, push it on and secure it.

Now the fun part comes - getting the bowl secured. If you have never done it, I just can not tell you how much fun it will be in the confined quarters. Ensure the seal is in the correct position and put the bowl back down without disturbing the position of the seal. Tighten the clamp around the bowl with a nut driver hand tight. Do not use a wrench, as you may crack the plastic parts under the clamp. Know also that it needs to be tight enough so that it does not come apart when you sit on it. This is real important.

Run the water for a few minutes and check for leaks. If none found, replace the skirt and have an adult beverage.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Water Purification With Chlorine Dioxide

Step 1

We use bleach to disinfectant the system after the rig has been sitting for awhile. Add one cup of bleach, fill the tank all the way, let it sit for awhile, drain, fill and drain. 

If you want to disinfect the lines OK by running the bleach water through the lines, but be sure to run fresh water through all the lines and dump the water in the hot water heater. Bleach is no friend of rubber gaskets. And does not taste good either.

Step 2 

Now add chlorine dioxide and fill the tank. Add another table spoon every time you refill.

It's safe, you are already ingesting it as it's the most commonly used chemical to disinfectant, for instance, food prep counters and it's used in city water systems.

We always run out of the tank. We never hook up to city water. That keeps the tanks filled with clean water.

Here is a source for the brand name Purogene which is nothing more than 2% Chlorine Dioxide.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Drop Table

Who says something as simple as the drop-down table cannot become a problem? Got some rambunctious grand-kids that travel with you? Among the havoc they might be able to cause are bent brackets for the table hinges.

Well, fear not - here is where you can find replacements:

The price is $5.99 for two (2) plus shipping.

Contributed by: Ed of Dallas

Posted: 18 Feb 201

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Fuel Pump Problem....or Not? (AKA Quits when Hot)

When an engine quits running, it is common for folks to suspect a fuel pump problem. After all, enough LD'ers have had that experience.

But....while a noisy pump often indicates a problem it doesn't necessarily mean you have found the problem. There are other parts that would can cause the engine to stop running that are also heat sensitive, failing only when hot and working again, once cooled. The two most likely items of a ignition system of older LD's are the ignition coil and ignition module.
Heat related failures are very hard to troubleshoot, you need to be able to quickly check for spark, fuel pressure and pulsed power to the injectors, at the time of failure. Without actually checking it when it will not start, it's an educated guess.
Back in the good old days where a lot of parts needed frequent replacement.I carried a spare coil, ignition module and a full tune up kit.

Now to help troubleshoot problem with the LD, I carry a fuel pressure gauge, a wireless spark detector and fuel injector noid lights (used to check the fuel injector circuits).
Many times a faulty part will set a Check Engine light (CEL).  An inexpensive code reader, one capable of erasing codes, is very helpful to have. You need to have a list of what the codes mean or an internet connection to check online. I have found a lot of ScanGauges and UltraGauges that will not erase Check Engine codes, where a code reader will.
Add to the box a 12-volt test light and a decent multimeter, the type with a clamp-on amp meter is useful for a whole range of troubleshooting.
With these basic tools and proper knowledge you have a good chance of finding what part of the equation is missing.
Working with engines, gasoline and electrical can be dangerous so if you do not have the proper training or experience, let a pro do it or find a good teacher. It's cheaper than going to the hospital.

Think your fuel pump isn't working or it suddenly stops, the fuel pressure gauge can let you know if it is providing adequate pressure, which need to be within a few PSI of the set point.
The pump does not require that the engine is running to be tested, only the ignition needs to be turned on.
When attaching the gauge, have the ignition switched off. Hold a rag around the connection point to capture any gas that may still be under pressure and spray out. Safety glasses are a must.
Please stay safe or find an experienced mechanic. Try this at home so you know how it's done before needing to use it on the road. Also find the specified fuel pressure for your engine's fuel pump.
Besides helping to find a defective pump, the fuel pressure gauge can also help find leaking injectors and check valves.

Many newer engine have the coils mounted right on top of the spark plugs, also known as COP, coil on plug. This arrangement makes it impossible to use a conventional inline spark tester.
The LD's V-10 has COPs that cover most of the access to the spark plug. They do have slots where the thin tip of a wireless spark detector can be fitted.
I use one of these. It's sensitivity is adjustable, a handy feature as every engine seems to have a different physical layout requiring more or less sensitivity.
With someone cranking the engine, check for spark at one or more plugs.
Practice at home so you have a good idea where the best spots are to test for spark and how to adjust the sensitivity. Actually, the V-10 is hard to access when checking for a heat related failures, because of the difficulty of removing the doghouse quickly, needed to access the rear eight plugs. It you look and tie things back, you can access the front two plugs and injectors from under the hood.  Coils do fail, so carrying a spare is't a bad idea. A bad coil will usually set a specified code for the cylinder.

If spark and fuel pressure are present, then test the fuel injector circuits for pulsed signals. Use the proper size "noid" light for your injector's plug. Noids are are small lights, that plug into fuel injector plugs, once uncoupled from the injector.  They test the fuel injector circuits for pulsed signals, when the engine is cranked or running. They are useful for finding a dead ignition system, a failed injector or a failed injector circuit.
My fleet contains four different sized fuel injectors plugs so it was cheaper to buy the big set and keep the extras for the future.

If the engine is running but is either making noises or missing, an inexpensive mechanic's stethoscope can be invaluable. You can listen to individual fuel injectors, Comparing them each other. A dead or stuck injector usually makes a much different noise. You can isolate noisy bearings and eliminate changing the wrong part. Be extremely careful to stay far away from the moving belt and pulleys, they remove fingers quickly.
Even good parts can make strange noises, it's good to know what "normal" sounds like.

For all the test tools above, the internet has hundreds of sites and videos that explain how the various tools and systems being inspected work. Above all, work safely.

Contributor: Larry Wade

Published: 11 Feb 2016

Sunday, January 17, 2016

ARP Refrigerator Boiler Temperature Controller

I recently installed a gadget that will shut off the refrigerator if the boiler temp exceeds a threshold temperature. Our original refer "bled out" in less than two years and was replaced under warranty. The literature of the vendor, ARP, convinced me that spending $135 was worth it to prevent another failure. I am not a metallurgist, so I can not confirm the vendor's claims, but they seem reasonable to me. Specifically, that metal fatigue is cumulative. Overheat metal enough times and it will fail. Parking unlevel with the refer on will cause the boiler temp to rise. Do it enough times or leave it unlevel long enough and the tube holding the ammonia will crack open.

We park level for the night, but we are guilty of letting it go when parked for lunch or stopping by a friends house for just a short while. Yes, could shut off the refer, but the simple fact is, we forget. If your memory is better than ours, you can save your money and read no further.

[BTW, if your refer "bleds out" you do not need to replace the whole refer, just the working part of it. The part outside. The part that costs one-half of a new refer. The part that does not require removing a window to install it.] 

The device vendor is ARP. The web site is Since I had already installed two cooling fans OUTSIDE, I bought the plain Jane model. If you do not already have outside cooling fans and you camp in warm areas, such as the desert SW, you should consider getting the device with fans. On reflection, I should have tossed my existing fans and bought the full boat ARP device with fans and let the device cut the fans off and on as needed.

If you want to install the device inside, also order the additional cost longer wiring. I had enough wire on hand to do the job. The gadget will work fine installed outside in the refer service compartment, but I could not resist having another digital device inside. [As one of the more knowledgable contributors to things Lazy Daze said, You are more anal than I am]

Installation - The manual is written by an engineer. Unless you read engineer, you may be mystified. It is made even more nebulous as it covers all Dometic and Norcold refers at the same time. I got lucky and found one drawing that closely resembled the wiring we had. With a VOM, I was able to make a educated guess of how it must work. I then called the vendor and he confirmed my suspicions.

In the photo below, there is a thermal shut off device on the boiler housing at the right of the picture. This is the Dometic device that is supposed to shut the refer off if the temp exceeds whatever temp the device is set for. [Note, that it will not shut off if the temp approaches, but does not exceed the threshold multiple times]

I found that this wire comes from the control box, carries 12 volts and returns there. This is what needs to power the ARP device. All that needed to be done was to enlarge the loop placing the ARP device in the loop. So to the device inside, I ran two wires one to carry and one return 12 volts. I also ran a ground wire as I could not figure where I might find ground inside the cabinet above the stove. [This is a MB]

Installing the temp sensor required removing the housing shown in the picture above. Then parting the fiberglass so you can clip the sensor to the boiler tube. This requires small hands, as the LD compartment is not really tall enough to make it easy. Be sure to put on thin gloves or spend the rest of the day picking FG out of your hands.

How to run the wires. It ain't fun. Mike Sylvester installed our solar panels and ran wiring from the battery compartment, below the refer access compartment on an MB and up the refer cooling tower to the roof and then through the front wall of the cabinet above the stove and then down to the charger. I used the same path. Mike had left a pull cord anchored to the refer vent on the roof. That helped. [You probably don't already have this pathway, so just drill a small exploratory hole from inside the cabinet, at the top, forward into the cooling tower] 

I elected to hide the device inside the bin as it was slightly larger than the space about the refrigerator which would have been ideal location. Here it is showing the boiler temp. Ours high reading is 190.