Category: Repairs

Birthplace of the Beastie…

By , September 7, 2010 10:31 am

As Dasy mentioned in our previous post, after leaving Colorado we were aimed for Bremen, IN.  Actually, we were going to Nappannee, but the closest campground we found was down the road in Bremen.  Nappannee is famous for two things (that we know of)…

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RV manufacturers and the Amish.  It just so happens that our RV is made by Newmar, which is in Nappannee and the owners are of Amish descent.  Our first full day there, we went to the Newmar plant to see how they built our RV (the one pictured above is a new 2011 model…  very nice!).

IMG_4028We were greeted by Mahlon Miller, the owner of Newmar Corp.  He gave us a quick introduction and some history of the company and then opened the floor to questions.  Some of the guests asked some pretty pointed questions about how Newmar weathered the depression and what effect it had on them as far as staffing and such.  Mahlon was pretty straight forward and didn’t dance around the bush, which I thought was pretty admirable.  They never closed, but went from making 16 units a day with 1000 employees to 3 units a day with 400 employees (that’s what they’re doing currently).  The RV industry as a whole was hit pretty hard and several well-known brands have folded.  Mahlon said that it’s finally looking like it’s picking up again.  Throughout our stay, I heard bits and pieces around the community of what the Miller family had done to keep Newmar going.  They’re the kind of folks most people would want to work for. Smile

As for the coaches, they start with a bare rolling chassis from Freightliner or Spartan, depending on what the unit will eventually become.  The fifth-wheel chassis are built in-house.  We were able to see almost every step of the process throughout our tour.

Here is the outside fiberglass shell going into place.  It’s once giant sheet that is epoxied and screwed to the superstructure.

IMG_3178 First, they do some basic prep of the frame, creating the sub-floor and basement areas, along with most of the components that go in there.
IMG_3179 Next is basic framing.  Newmars are all made with an aluminum super-structure, then several layers of wood and laminates for the basic shell.
IMG_3181 Electrical is done next, with some of the interior structural components going in while there’s still a lot of room to work.
IMG_3186 Here they are putting on the fiberglass side of the rig.  It is epoxied in place, then pressed in with an external wooden rig until it’s adhered correctly.
IMG_3193 The outside shell is then cut to allow for windows, slideouts, vents, etc.  Some more of the interior finishing is also done.  From what I could tell, they’re doing some kind of interior work the entire time that the exterior stuff is being done.
IMG_3195 Next, front and rear end-caps get applied.  They’re mostly fiberglass, with minimal framing.  Most of their structure is inherited from the RV chassis when it gets mounted.  Glass and roof panels are always handled with a vacuum system.  The roof is mounted after the end-caps are installed.
IMG_3209 Slide-outs are added and lined up.  Slide-outs are made exactly the same way the rest of the coach is, just in smaller areas.
IMG_3202 Most of the exterior structural work is done at this point.  More interior is done, cabinetry is finished up, along with tying in the wiring and plumbing of the slides.
IMG_4065 Prep for paint is started, which LOTS of stuff getting masked off.  They even go so far as to mask off everything INSIDE the basement compartments!
IMG_4064 A final vacuum sanding is done on the entire body, then the whole thing is sent over to the paint building, where it is painted.  We didn’t get to see the paint area… they said it was pretty boring and takes about a week for a unit to come back.

What comes back is basically this:IMG_3212

A nice, shiny Newmar coach!  The one pictured above is an Essex, the second most expensive model.  I want three…  in different colors! Winking smile

Below are some other interesting shots.  They show just how much wiring is involved in an RV, a little bit of the furniture being installed and a cool picture of how they move them…

When the chassis arrives in the building, they put “air pads” under each wheel.  Whenever they have to move an RV from one station to the next, they hook the pads up to an air compressor and push it over on a cushion of air.  Pretty much like upside-down air-hockey tables. Smile They said they can do it with two people, but they generally use three just for an extra set of eyes (and brakes).

There’s also a couple pictures of the furniture (which is built in-house) ready to get installed and the floor grate that is the trash system.  There’s a grate covering a conveyor belt that runs the entire length of the plant.  All trash goes into the grate, then is collected at the end of the belts.  It apparently works very well, we didn’t see any trash or scraps anywhere during out tour, unless it had just been cut off a unit they were working on.

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We also picked up a handful of parts while we were at Newmar… some light covers that had faded, a couple of switches that were missing or broken, some exterior parking lights, and various other knick-knacks needed for our RV (they were actually pretty cheap for most common parts).

If you have an RV or are thinking about getting one, it’s worth touring the RV plant to see how it’s made.  We hope yours is made as well as ours!

Goodbye Yellowstone, Hello Repair Shop!

By , June 7, 2010 9:21 pm

My previous post pretty much wrapped up our trip to Yellowstone National Park.

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On Saturday morning, I said goodbye Dasy, Rob and Lara and they headed off to Jackson Hole to catch a flight back to Washington, DC.  Dasy was going to visit family and friends for a couple weeks and Rob and Lara were going back to “normal life”. 

I finished packing up the RV and talked with our host for a bit (by the way, Wagon Wheel RV Park in West Yellowstone gets our seal of approval).  Then I started heading for Bozeman, MT to get some work done on the Star.  Here’s the short version of the issue (trust me, the long version would be several pages)…

Note: Some people I’ve discussed this with aren’t clear on what is meant by “chassis”.  In most cases, the chassis is the frame of a vehicle and all the bits attached to it that make it go or stop.  This normally includes axles, brakes, the steering components and wheels, but in some instances can also include the engine, transmission and any electrical bits associated with any of the above.  For RV’ers, we generally use the following rule of thumb for determining if something is chassis-related:  If the part in question is also found on a delivery truck or a semi (tractor-trailer), it’s probably a chassis part.  Things specific to an RV, like a refrigerator, a roof fan, or a 50 amp electrical transfer box, are not considered part of the chassis.

When we were in Texas, we noticed that the driver’s side front wheel was leaking some fluid.  We have air brakes, so I knew it wasn’t brake fluid.  It turned out to be axle fluid (gear oil).  The axle fluid keeps the wheel bearing lubricated, which is kind of important.  We stopped on the way out of Texas to get that fixed.  It’s my belief that we were completely scammed.  The shop that did the work tried to bill me for the brakes and seals for both front wheels.  It was obvious they’d only done one.  The mechanic refused to talk to me when I complained about it and the owner was “unavailable”.  I managed to get the cashier to bill me for only one wheel, so we chalked it up to “lesson learned” and moved on.  I checked the wheel several times on our way to Yellowstone and noticed that it started leaking again (almost as soon as we left the shop in Texas).  In my opinion, the mechanic did a lousy job and botched the new seal.  The lack of fluid then ate up the wheel bearings.  So, I found a shop just outside of Bozeman that was certified by Freightliner to work on RV chassis’ in order to get the seal done again.

Another problem that popped up on the way from Moab to Yellowstone was the ABS light.  It came on and never went off.  I’ve had ABS computers fry in other vehicles before, so I wasn’t worried about it, but I wanted it fixed.  I don’t think our ABS system has ever kicked in, but when I’m driving a 30,000 pound vehicle, with a 5000 pound Jeep and a motorcycle attached to it, I want the ABS to work if it’s ever needed!

We also have had an ongoing but intermittent problem with the air pressure gauges on the Star.  There are two air tanks that hold the air used to operate the brakes.  They generally stay at about 120 psi.  When we would drive the Star, one or both guages would regularly drop to zero.  This would cause alarms to sound (which I disconnected fairly quickly) and a warning light on the dash.  I  checked the actual pressure on the tanks and I checked the operation of the compressors and all was well.  So, the air system was working, but the sensor system wasn’t.  I have no idea what else relies on those sensors and I don’t what the long term effects would be, so I wanted that fixed as well. 

I ended up going to Rocky Mountain Truck Center in Belgrade, MT (about 7 miles west of Bozeman).  Out of all the shops we’ve been to for just about anything, this is probably the place I’d try to come back to if I needed more chassis work done.  They diagnosed everything fairly quickly, spent most of a day trying to get the replacement computer needed for the air system and dealt with my Good Sam service insurance (although it wasn’t quite enough of a bill to meet my quite high deductible).  The best part is that they pulled the Star out of the shop at night and they let me sleep in it in the back lot.  They even let me run an extension cord out to get power at night!  They also took care of a Freightliner recall and reprogrammed the engine and transmission controllers.  They were quite tolerant of my being around all the time and they treated me and the Star with consideration and respect (including making efforts to avoid getting my home dirty).  I can’t recommend them enough!  It would be nice if they had a better wifi antenna though, as I couldn’t get a reliable connection when in the back lot. 😉

It took about a week for everything to get done…  Most of that was waiting for the new control module for the air system.  Apparently even Freightliner had a hard time figuring out what it was and where they had one…  The parts guy spent most of a day on the phone with them trying to track it down.  I wouldn’t want his job! :S

At the end of it, all was done to satisfaction and I now have a safe and drivable RV that I can trust again.  The Star made it all the way from Belgrade to Glacier NP with no issues at all!

While I was stuck in Belgrade, I didn’t do much other than arrange things on the RV at night.  I did have one outing to Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, which I will write about next time.

I’ll leave you with a picture of the old air system control module (the new one looks exactly the same, just less dirty)…  I’ll be pulling it apart soon. 😉

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I really don’t want to tell you how much it costs to have one of these replaced. :S

Another day of driving… and fixing.

By , May 8, 2010 9:54 pm

Yesterday we left the RV repair shop (which I will blog about another time) and headed for Moab.  We saw lots and lots and lots of Texas.  It just keeps going on and on.  But, eventually we made it to New Mexico!  It was then that I started to notice that we were having a bit of a hard time maintaining speed going up hills.  Since it’s pretty much uphill the entire way to Albuquerque, that was going to be an issue.

We pulled over at a rest stop and unhooked the Jeep.  Dasy would drive the Jeep and follow me to somewhere we could get someone to look at the rig.  I was pretty sure this was a minor issue, but it was one I didn’t know what to do about. 

A bit of calling around led me to a mobile repair guy who said he’d meet me on the West side of Albuquerque at a truck stop.  That was cool, except that I was on the East side and still had a lot of “uphill” to go through.  I did notice that the Dutch Star was getting significantly worse the entire time we’re chugging along uphill.  I call the guy back to tell him I’m probably not going to make it when he explains to me that I’m calling him from the last major incline.  From there, it’s about 17 miles of downhill.  So, we chug through it at about 25 mph (my apologies go out to pretty much everyone on I-40).  We finally got over the hill and headed down and through Albuquerque.  The Star had no problems at all going downhill, so we made it without any further issues. 

We parked the Star and Jim from Anytime Anywhere 24-Hour Truck Service showed up a few minutes later and started checking things out.  He then ran off to go get us a new serpentine belt, water separator and fuel filter while we grabbed some dinner at the Flying J truck stop. 

About an hour later, he shows back up and proceeds to install everything.  The fuel filters where in horrible shape!

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He was pretty sure that would do the trick.  I took a test drive up a three mile long hill on I-40 and had no issues… our Jeep-pulling beastie was back!  We paid everything, gassed up, hooked up the Jeep and headed on. 

We took a somewhat scenic route and decided to just stop and “boondock” for the night.  We’ll see how well we can sleep and then head on in the morning.  We should be in Moab tomorrow night… Woot! 🙂

A Day With Wires

By , March 26, 2010 6:04 pm

Note: This is technical wiring stuff and might not be of much interest to those who don’t have an RV and/or flat-tow a vehicle.  I put it up here just to show some of the things we have to do to prepare and just in case someone else ever gets this wiring harness and can’t figure out why it doesn’t work.

I spent most of today running around getting pieces and fixing our towing connector on the RV.  It wasn’t actually broken, it just wasn’t right.

TowSocket

This is our 7-way tow connector socket on the back of the RV.  Whenever you’re towing something, it gets plugged into this.  When you hit your brakes, turn signal or turn on your lights, it sends electricity through the appropriate “prong” and lights up whatever light is necessary on whatever you’re towing.

Since we got a new Jeep, we’ve had to prepare it to be “flat-towed” behind the RV.  I took care of the physical stuff to hook it up to the RV hitch when I got the bumper done.  I installed a special wiring harness from Jeep to take care of the electrical stuff.  Unfortunately, when I plugged it into the RV I got nothing.  No lights at all.  I was just about to run back to Jeep crying like a little girl when I decided to test it on my step-father’s Chevy Avalance (he has the same 7-pin tow connector).  It worked perfectly!

That meant that the Jeep wiring kit was okay (and I didn’t kill it when I installed it), but something was funky on our RV.  I had to wait two days for any of the local trailer shops to get a 7-pin tester in before I could figure out what was going on.  When I put the tester on, it showed that one line (which isn’t necessary for most towing applications) was dead.  Here’s a quick description of the pins in the connector above:

1 – Ground (common return path)
2 – Left turn and brake light
3 – Tail and running lights
4 – 12 volt charging power
5 – Right turn and brake light
6 – Brake controller
7 – Reverse lights

Ours had everything except the brake controller wire (we don’t have a brake controller) and the 12 volt charging wire (pin 4).  The brake controller is generally used for towing heavy trailers and it activates the brakes on the trailer when you hit the brakes on the RV.  The 12 volt charging line is generally used for towing campers and it charges up the battery on the camper when you’re connected.

Unfortunately, Jeep decided to use the 12 volt charging line to “activate” the wiring harness that I just installed.  No charging line, no lights.  So, I got to spend most of the afternoon dissecting the socket and running a power line to one of our six batteries in the RV.

So, if you plan to flat-tow a newer JK model Jeep and you plan to get the wiring harness from Jeep to do so, there are some things you should know…

  • The harness part number from Jeep is 82211156AB.  You can find it on the Mopar Accessories site.
  • Installing the harness is a serious pain.  It’s not worth doing.  Pay a dealership to do it.  You have to remove body parts, pull up carpeting, drill big holes in the firewall and then fit a 2 inch grommet into a 1 inch hole… without crushing the wiring harness in the process.
  • Get a 7-way tester if you plan to tow regularly… no telling when something will stop working, it’s a useful tool to have.
  • Make sure the 12-volt charging line is active.  It should light up immediately when you plug in the tester (it’s supposed to be constantly on).
  • I don’t care what the description says, the harness does NOT include an “underhood battery disconnect”.  Plan on getting a battery disconnect.  If you don’t, the Jeep will rack up miles when flat-towed unless you disconnect the battery manually.

Oh, the numbers I used for the pins in the diagram aren’t “common”.  If you’re going to wire up a connector or anything, check the diagram that comes with the connector.  Don’t expect my number 3 pin to be the same as everyone else’s. 

Drive, drive, ride, drive some more…

By , February 12, 2010 11:48 am
 

It’s been an interesting time around here, hence the lack of updates.  Let me give you the rundown…

I drove the Jeep and the Sylvansport Go up to Virginia to pick up my KLR (motorcycle), which was being stored in a friend’s basement (thanks, Rob!).  While there, they got their first decent batch of snow.

The Jeep and Sylvansport Go in Virginia...  snow

After spending a couple days with friends and getting the KLR loaded up, I headed back home and made it with no troubles.  I then rode the KLR to work for a few days, but switched to the Jeep on a day when I had to take a bunch of equipment into the office.  On the way home, I noticed a rather odd noise from the transmission whenever I was slowing down in gear (like every time I have to come up to a stop light).  I checked it again later that evening when I got home and it was noticeably worse.  Not good. 🙁

Luckily, my step-father has a nice Chevy Avalanche 2500 that’s big enough to pull the Jeep.  I used it to flat-tow the Jeep up to Lake-Sumter Tranmissions, a company that he has used numerous times over the years.  The rapidly started to rip the guts out of my Jeep and strip down the tranny, so I left it with them to deal with.  Diagnosis: Unsure… it definitely something in the transmission, but they have no idea what until they disassemble it. :S

So that left us with a KLR as transport and no real estimate on the damage to the Jeep or the time it would take to fix it.  We decided that it might not be a bad idea to look for alternative solutions.  We managed to find a 4-door automatic 2009 Jeep Unlimited Rubicon on Craigslist for a reasonable price… in Atlanta.

The only way we could think of to quickly and easily get it was for me to ride the KLR up, get the new Jeep, then arrange to fly or take the bus back to Atlanta and ride the KLR back later.  The ride up was miserable.  It was right at 32 degrees almost the entire time.  I had ot get real creative with heating solutions…  garbage bags in the boots, Glad-wrap on the gloves, etc.  It wasn’t fun.

I arrived at about 7 pm, after riding through snow flurries in Atlanta. :S  The dealership closed at 8, so we got right down to business.  The Jeep was in decent shape and the price was reasonable, so we did the deal.  During the paperwork, they asked if I had a trade and I jokingly offered up the KLR.  They looked it over and had no problem taking it on trade.  We were planning on getting  a much smaller bike anyway and that saved me from having to go back to Atlanta to pick it up, so it all worked out pretty good.

Our new Jeep[/caption]

I grabbed a hotel in Atlanta for the night and drove the new Jeep back the next day.  It’s a little "shorter" than I like my Jeep to be, but we’re working on that. ;)  We actually have some work to do on it before it’s ready for full-timing behind the RV.  It’s going to need a new bumper that’s capable of being used to attach to the motorhome, plus some electrical bits for the tow lights and a few other small things.  I’m working on that, but am having a hard time finding a bumper that will do the job.  On this new body style, a lot of the aftermarket bumpers are weird shapes and the frame attachment points are exactly where I need to mount the tow bars to the bumper.  That makes it pretty difficult to find one that will work.  I’m hoping to go look at a few in a shop in Orlando this weekend on the way back from picking up something we snagged off Craigslist.

Of course, the old Jeep is still around for now.  The shop called me last night to tell me it was ready and I’ll probably go pick it up tonight.  The work wasn’t cheap, but it’s WAY less than I expected it.  Most shops charge twice what I’m paying just to pull a transmission, let alone rebuild it.  I can’t recommend Lake-Sumter Transmissions highly enough!  They were extremely helpful, they let me come get a few things out of the Jeep that I forgot, they didn’t mind any of my aftermarket skid plates and they showed me all the transmission bits that were all over the workbench.  From everything I’ve seen and the way I’ve been treated, they do excellent work.  I’ll post a followup once I get the old Jeep and see how it runs, but I don’t expect any problems at all.

So, we now have two Jeeps, an RV and no motorcycles.  Oh, I also brought the bicycles back from Virginia, so we’ll have something to toodle around on at campgrounds and parks. 🙂

Looking Back at 2009

By , January 7, 2010 9:59 am

LS.1

Now that we’re officially in our RV and the year has ended, we figured we’d post up a recap of the stuff that we did in 2009.  This is the start of our adventures on the road, and we figured some of you might want to see what was involved and the timing of our travels.

  • March 20th – Visited RV showroom
  • Jun 9th-19th – Rented 25 ft RV, drove to Florida for a reunion, stopped at Cheoah Point and the Outer Banks on the way.
  • Jun 22nd – Bought the 30′ Fleetwood Storm
  • Jun 29th – Contacted our realtor about renting our house
  • July 13th – Met up with Chris and Cheri of Technomadia.com
  • July 16th-19th – Flew to Texas to pick up the Storm, stayed at Little Black Water Creek on the way back.
  • July 19th – Subscribed to AAA RV Plus coverage
  • July 22nd – "WeGoFar.com" web site went live
  • July 27th – Announced the plan to most of our friends and family
  • July 31st – Jonathan’s last day of work
  • Aug 3rd – Replace stereo, add surge suppressor, other minor improvements, front brake starts sticking
  • Aug 4th – Towed to shop to fix front brakes and parking brake
  • Aug 7th – House officially listed for rental
  • Aug 13th – House driveway resealed
  • Aug 12th-17th – Drove the Storm to Gatlinburg, TN for a family reunion, inadvertently spent the night on the Blue Ridge Parkway on the way down, replaced cabinet handles while waiting for tow truck. 😉
  • Aug 17th – Had our back deck refinished at the house
  • Aug 17th – Realtor called about possible renter, wanted to discuss price and qualifications
  • Aug 18th – Had new windshield installed on the Storm
  • Sept 9th – Sold the FJR, the bigger of my two motorcycles
  • Oct 15th – House officially rented out
  • Oct 15th – 22nd – Officially started "full-timing".  Stayed at Bull Run Regional Park.
  • Oct 23rd – 27th – Relocated to Pocahontas State Park.
  • Oct 27th – Sold Dasy’s Lexus.
  • Oct 28th – 29th – Stayed at RV Resort on Hilton Head Island (we still have to write that up)
  • Oct 29th – Arrived in Florida, set up in my parents back yard
  • Nov 9th – Became official Florida residents
  • December 1st – Bought the Newmar Dutch Star
  • December 8th – Storm listed for sale
  • Dec 21 – Dec 28th – Went to Sarasota, burned up Jeep parking brake, visited friends and family, stayed at Sun ‘N Fun RV resort.  Met Duncan and Jessica of TravelingOnTheOutskirts.com.

Some lessons have to be learned the hard way…

By , December 21, 2009 11:20 pm

We’re now in Sarasota, which is approximately 150 miles from Ocklawaha, which is where we started.  I’m guessing that the emergency/parking brake on my Jeep lasted about 15 miles before the shoes completely fried.EBrake

That handle over in the picture over there to right… completely useless now.  Parking the Jeep now involves a complicated procedure that I like to call “leaving it in gear”. 

I was also going to post up a full account of what’s involved in flat-towing a lifted Jeep, but I’m not up to that right now (and I can’t find the pictures I need to help explain it).

So, the short version…  be sure to double check the emergency brake on your towed vehicle before you take off.  A diesel RV won’t even notice the difference.

I have an idea of what’s involved in replacing the shoes on a Jeep emergency brake and it’s not fun.  Hopefully I won’t have to replace the drums (which are also the rear disk brake rotors) as well, but I wouldn’t bet on it. :S

New Shoes!

By , December 16, 2009 10:50 pm

Note: I’ve gotten a number of mentions from friends and fambly that the previous post was “too much”.  I’m making this one much easier… and it has pretty pictures!   😉

MichelinNew

Our Dutch Star is now sporting a new set of tires… Michelin XZE LRHs.  They’re basically 40 inch tall tractor-trailer tires.  Since the Star is a dually (meaning that it has two tires per side on the rear), that means we had to pony up for six of these monsters.  You might be asking “why?” right about now. Take a look at the old ones…

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All that cracking near the rim is what made us get new tires.  The old ones only had 27,000 miles on them and they had gobs of tread left, but they were old.  It wouldn’t surprise me if they were the originals that came on the RV.  Unfortunately, old tires get brittle and start to crack… especially if they’re bombarded by UV radiation all the time (sunlight).  That’s why a lot of RVers buy tire covers.  The old tires would have failed eventually… probably with a blowout.  Not a risk I want to take!

The new ones are NEW!  Sometimes tires will sit in a warehouse for months or years before they finally make it onto a vehicle.  Even covered or in the dark, tires have a finite lifetime.  I wanted to make sure mine weren’t sitting around for two years, so I had the guy who ordered them check the date code…

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The important bit is the last four numbers…  “4209”.  That means the 42nd week of 2009.  That puts these off the press sometime in October.  From a factory in Canada to my door in under two months. Score! 🙂

Note: Picture of date stamp above replaced with a better one… the small camera doesn’t do a good job with close-ups.  The Canon xTi does much better.

Homeless again…

By , December 7, 2009 12:07 pm

We knew that there would be some minor repairs needed on any used RV we got.  The Dutch Star is living up to expectation and we just dropped it off at the local shop so they can get started on it.

The main thing we’d originally planned on was having the original roof vents replaced with MaxxAir Turbo/Maxx fans (with thermostat), which we got a sweet deal on earlier when we were in the evil rental. 

What we didn’t exactly plan on was fixing a leak.  A day or two after we got the Star, we had torrential rains for two days.  Water was dripping out of the roof vents near the windshield and our dashboard ended up pretty much getting soaked.  I did a little investigating on the roof and suspected that the front roof running/parking lights were the culprit.  The roof itself and all the seals there looked good.  The lights had cracked caulking and backing pads, some of which were broken down enough that I could see into the light assembly.  To be sure I was right, we taped some plastic sheeting over the lights for a couple days.  Last night, we had another good rain and there were no signs of any water inside.  Success!  :)  So, we’re having the lights replaced.  For good measure, I’m getting the rear ones done as well, since they don’t look much better. 

DutchStarPlastic

Here you can see my extremely professional job of taping the plastic sheeting down. ;)  For those who attempt this on their own rigs, here are a few tips…

  • Leave a space with the tape at the bottom of the plastic sheeting.  If any water does manage to get into the sheeting, it need a space to run back out, otherwise you will end up with a water balloon until it gets to the level of your lights.  It’ll then all come into your lights, down your windshield, onto your dashboard, etc.
  • Use painter’s masking tape.  3M makes a 2 inch wide “medium adhesion” masking tape that works perfectly.  If you use packing tape or something like that, you’re likely to either leave “sticky goo” behind when you remove it, or you will take some of your paint off with the tape. 
  • Replace it every three days of rain.  Masking tape will hold when it’s wet, but it’ll eventually fall off or allow the water to soak through.  Pull it off, wipe everything down and dry it well and slap on some new tape.
  • Don’t expect it to hold when you’re driving.  I shouldn’t need to explain that any further. 😛

We’re also having Dave install tire valve extensions on the rear tires so I can check the pressure without crawling around under the RV.  Finally, he’s going to re-tension the awning on our living room slide, as it’s sagging a bit and can get stuck when retracting the slide (that’s generally a bad thing).

After we get the Star back, we’ll have one more big piece of work to do…  new tires. :(  I was expecting this, but hoping I was wrong.  I was about to ask Dave (the repair guy) about the tires, but he beat me to it.  When walking around the RV to check a couple other items, he said “Dude, get those tires replaced”.  When we get it back, I’ll take some pictures of the tires before we head to the shop for new ones and will explain what to look for then.

No longer homeless!

By , November 25, 2009 8:35 pm

Our house is back! 🙂

StormDark

We had to send the Storm into the shop for a while to get some work done and have been without it for a while now.  We just got it back yesterday and are getting “resettled”.  Here’s the quick rundown on what we had done…

  • New suspension airbags installed
  • Water tank fill hose replaced
  • Water tank breather tube cleaned
  • Exterior propane outlet installed
  • All tank level sensors replaced
  • New engine air conditioner compressor installed

I’ll give a longer post on some of those later.  It would have been about $3000 worth of work if we hadn’t gotten the extended service plan when we bought the RV.  That plan just paid for itself a couple times over. 🙂

Sorry about the bad picture, but I didn’t feel like setting up the good camera and tripod in the rain.

Our stay at Pocahontas State Park

By , November 3, 2009 12:26 pm

Note: This was a little over a week ago, we’re catching up on the posts. 😉

IMG_0143.jpgWe uploaded another review of one of the places we stayed, Pocahontas State Park (PSP).  You can find it and all of our place review under the Parks and Places menu above.  There’s a handful of pictures there, but the full set is available on our Flickr page.IMG_0144.jpg

We arrived on a Friday and settled in for a long weekend.  It’s a nice park with good camping facilities and we enjoyed ourselves.  On Saturday, Rany (Dasy’s sister) and her husband, Seth, came out to join us for dinner.  I procured a nice set of steaks and corn on the cob from the local grocery store and we had our first attempt at grilling our dinner.  It rained on and off, so I ended up making a shield of sorts out of tin foil.  It actually worked out really well and the steak turned out fantastic.  The corn could have used a little longer on the grill, but it was still good. 

We stayed outside under our awning talking about friends, family and our upcoming adventures.  All in all, it was a good time and we thoroughly enjoyed our first attempts at “entertaining” in our new home. ;)  It’s a bit small inside, but with the awning and good weather it works out great.

IMG_0141.jpgWe were at PSP for the weekend and planned to leave on Monday.  We got a call on Sunday, however, that one of Dasy’s cousins wanted to buy her car, which we had taken with us and planned to keep in Florida.  So, we extended our stay for another day.  Dasy drove the car to her parents back in Northern Virginia, while I ran some errands and then went up in the Jeep to retrieve her.

Unfortunately, the Jeep decided not to cooperate.  I noticed while driving up I-95 that it was wobbling quite a bit and I frequently had to “over-steer” to correct it’s path.  I’ve had this happen before and am fairly familiar with the cause.  I pulled into a Pilot truck stop to check it out and found I was correct in my assumption…  The main bolt that connects the drag link to the frame had loosened a bit and was allowing the front axle to wander back and forth a little bit.  IMG_0122.jpg

Since all my tools are in storage, I sent a quick email from my cell phone to a bunch of my off-road buddies in Off-Camber Crawlers and continued on my way.  10 minutes later, I had several offers of help from fellow members with tools and garages. :)  I made it without incident to Ed’s place and he promptly went at it with an impact gun and some loctite.  That fixed it right up!  I continued to Dasy’s parents place, had some food and some internet access and we headed back to our “home”, minus one car. 🙂

The next morning, we did some minor exploring of the park, then headed south.

 

 

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Details, details…

By , October 21, 2009 11:58 am

BullRunCampsite

We’re still in Bull Run Regional Park and will be for a couple more days.  We’ve been taking care of all the little details needed for us to actually get “gone”.  Here’s a quick idea of what we’ve been up to…

  • Jeff at Adrenaline Offroad installed new ball joints in my Jeep – I’m now comfortable towing it long distances, but still need a new front drive shaft.
  • We installed a new battery charger in the RV, as it still isn’t charging the engine battery when we’re plugged in – this is a hack until we can track down the real issue, but it works.
  • We dumped the waste and refilled the water tanks – I’ll probably write an article on this later for those who don’t know what’s involved.
  • We re-arranged almost everything in the basement storage areas.  We got a bunch of bins from Costco that allow us to stack much more in the basement.
  • I installed the TV, Playstation and HD antenna – We get a handful of very strange channels on the TV, so I’ve clearly got to figure out something there.
  • We bought a new radiator heater for our long-term wintering in Florida…  It should do a better job than the small forced air heater when we’re parked.

We’re going to be re-arranging quite a bit more as we settle in, but it’s getting there. 

I added a new tab up above for the parks and places that we’ll stay at.  There’s not much there now, but we’ll fill it in as we go.  My sprained ankle is slowly on the mend, so hopefully I can do some exploring in Bull Run before we head out this weekend.  I’ll update the page for that once I can.

Other than that, we’re just muddling along…  saying goodbyes to friends, remembering last minute things we need to put into storage (or reclaim from storage), last minute maintenance, etc.

There used to be a table there…

By , August 25, 2009 4:46 pm

BareKitchen

I’m not going to bother showing the other rooms, but we’re now rid of a table, a couch and loveseat set, a bed, a bunch of lamps, a weight set, a treadmill, a patio furniture set, a bunch of pictures, a couple hundred DVDs, and a bunch of other stuff I can’t remember right now.  We’ve got more friends coming over to get some more furniture and rugs and we’re well on our way to emptying out the last ten years of “gathering” we’ve done in our house.

We’ve done some other necessary fixes as well…  deck has been refinished, tile ordered to replace a few cracked ones in the bathroom, problematic electrical sockets rewired, screw holes in drywall respackled, wood repainted and sealed, etc.  Nothing major, just a lot of little stuff to get done before we roll out.

Of course, there are some bigger things that still need to get done…  The huge and heavy bedroom set has to go to Dasy’s brothers’ place, along with the dining room set.  I have at least one motorcycle to sell, maybe two (I’m still waffling on the second one), a camper trailer to find a home for, a set of off-road Jeep tires to get rid of (and probably a ton of other Jeep parts), piles of computer stuff to get rid of, etc.  Oh… and the fish tank.  :S

And finally, we’ve still got some RV stuff to take care of.  There were some issues with the title, so we’re still on temp tags and aren’t registered.  We need to get inspected, install some new vent fans, fix the plumbing (done!), wire up some more electrical bits, clean out the black water tank, replace the black water drain valve (leaks – ick!), replace the screen door handle, etc. 

I did find out one of the sources of our dead batteries though…  someone installed the battery charger backwards, so it was constantly draining the main battery whether it was plugged in or not (that’s now taken care of and the battery is charging as I type). 

So, not much exciting stuff going on, but plenty of work. The goal is to be on the road by mid-September, which is rapidly approaching.  We’ll let you know how it’s working out.  Expect a post or two a week until we actually get going.

The long way to Gatlinburg

By , August 15, 2009 12:44 pm

We’re currently about 20 miles outside Gatlinburg, in a log cabin on the side of a mountain.  SANY0022 We’re here for a family reunion and to just get away for a bit before we have to get back to managing the house and RV. 

We did about 40 miles on Skyline Drive, then about 5 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Apparently the RV really liked the BRP because it decided to spend the night.  The rear caliper started sticking, so we pulled into the visitor center and checked with the rangers.  There wasn’t much they could do and no tow trucks were available until the morning.  The rangers were fine with us staying the night, so we settled in and had a nice, peaceful night on the BRP. 🙂

The next morning we got towed back to Waynesboro. IMG_1378 Rice Auto took excellent care of us and spent most of the day either working on the rear brakes or finding replacement parts.  The mechanic eventually drove about 40 miles to get a new caliper for us.  Mr. Rice was nice enough to put up with us asking silly questions, poking around his shop and generally being underfoot. They’re really an excellent shop that would rather do something right than to do it fast.  If I’m ever in the area again and need work, that’s where I’ll stop every time.  I can’t recommend them enough!

We got underway around 6pm and headed south on I-81.  We eventually stopped at Fort Chiswell RV park.  Power, water, wifi…  was good for tired drivers.  The next morning we made it the rest of the way and parked at the bottom of the mountain where the family had the cabins.  We were pressed for time and didn’t know if we get the RV up the mountain in time for to make it to a family event. 

The event was zip-lining!  It was pretty cool, but I would have preferred some longer runs.  IMG_1430Still, it was time well spent with family we don’t see very often.  It was a new experience for most people there, but everyone had fun and screaming was at a minimum. 😉

We headed back to the RV, and I hustled it up the hill.  No problems, just toss it into a low gear and step on the gas.  Getting down will probably be slightly more interesting, but I don’t expect any problems.

We’ll be here until Monday, then we head back home so we can do more to get the house ready and to fix a few more things on the RV. 

‘Till next time!

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