Posts tagged: lights

How We Roll…

By , April 22, 2010 12:50 pm

A few people have asked how we take along everything we show up with.  Here’s the quick and short version.

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That’s us getting gas for the Star.  What you’re seeing is the Dutch Star, two mountain bikes, the Jeep and the TW200.  Let’s start from the front.

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That’s the basic setup for the Jeep and bicycles.  The whole contraption starts with a Blue Ox 10″ receiver lift.  Welded on the top of that is a 1-inch receiver tube, which holds the Mopar bike rack.

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The next bit of gadgetry is the Blue Ox BX7445 Aventa LX Tow Bar.  That goes into the Blue Ox riser and then attaches to the front of the Jeep.  We generally keep that covered with a Blue Ox Cover when we’re parked and we lock the whole assembly together using a Blue Ox 4-lock kit.

The Jeep has a Rock Hard bumper with tow brackets bolted through the bumper into the front frame.  The safety cables attach to the D-Rings and the other cable is what handles all the lights.  It’s a Mopar RV tow kit for the JK Wranglers (it’s a major pain to install, have a dealer do it).

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That takes care of the Jeep and the bicycles, so let’s move on to the TW200.

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The hitch rack is a HaulMaster motorcycle hitch rack.  It’s cheap and can generally be found at Harbor Freight.  I’d rather have a MotoTote, but the TW only weighs about 300 and the HaulMaster is doing a decent job so far.  It takes a lot of straps to keep the TW from wobbling around or stressing the handlebars too much.  There are strap locations on the hitch bar, but I prefer to strap to the safety chain loops on the Jeep.  If something catastrophic does happen to the rack, at least the TeeDub is attached to the Jeep and won’t go sailing down the highway into a truck or smthng.

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The one major fix I had to engineer for the rack is the lights.  We actually got pulled over in Key Largo because the TeeDub blocks the view of the taillights on the Jeep.  I added these with some aluminum angle brackets and wired up a four pin trailer connector to plug into the Jeep.  This works fine and makes us WAY more visible to people behind us.

That’s the basic setup for our towing ensemble…  If you want to know anything more specific, feel free to ask.

Note: Product links are to Amazon and I get a small percentage kickback if you order anything using my links.

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.

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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. 

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. 

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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.

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