Tag Archive: RV Repairs


Too exhausted to post LOL

So much beauty, so much driving…. and problems, serious problems with RV mechanics on the road. Need a sewer hose fix and quick, a second one..the first one robbed me. Can’t drain my tanks…  RV mechanic also swiped my great easy slide-on fitting….  oh what a mess!!!

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Bad Design

RV Converter

It's in! Tough to get to the fuses but it works!

It turns out the old converter was not malfunctioning, that is there was nothing inherently wrong with it other than bad design. Modern electronics such as the laptop, LED TV and potentially any appliance can refuse to operate or completely burnout  in a system with fluctuating voltage. Surging and dropping  delivered by the original unit is not healthy.  It did a poor job as well for the house battery with a painfully slow charge–no way to hurry if you want to disconnect for some dry camping–and no protection from overcharging. I can only guess that it was the best they could do in 1996, after all times and technology have changed. I have no comment on the apparent bravado with which the old converter was wedged into the van. Some ‘designers’ should not have that kind of job. The rear bench seat/bed, in spite of best efforts showed no inclination of leaving the nest;  Bruce wrestled for 4 hours crammed on his belly with his neck skewed at an odd angles to get the old one out and the new one in. Really I don’t know how he did it. The new one is smaller, lighter, highly efficient, (a smarter better tool!) Too bad they didn’t make it so the door could mount on either side. Labor $400. Converter, extra circuit breakers and shipping around $250.

Let There Be Power

The converter and battery minder are shot. Frans spent the entire day puzzling the bizarre misbehavior and workings of power in the LT and explaining it to me; then came up with a brilliant plan to circumvent the impasse by installing a power supply behind the faulty converter. Being the sort who frets, imagining complete system failure or maybe flames springing form the air conditioner like Medusa . . . I opted for a new high-end converter. The unit in there is from System Monitors in Winnipeg, which makes sense since Leisure Travel is Canadian. The company is defunct, so by consulting my magic genie (the Internet!) I ordered a PD4060 60 Amp Inteli-Power Mighty Mini Power Center from Best Converter along with a 30-20 twin and 2 twin 15 fuses. The model I ordered is their pick for dry camping, more expensive at $207 than others but it has a boost mode to bring the battery quickly up to power and offers desulfation—basically a few hours plugged in will prepare and protect the battery for running when I’m off line as opposed to several days which is what my current (non-operational) unit would be doing. Yes, it occurred to me that I might want to replace the house battery with one of those golf cart types; however since the battery in there is barley over a year old, I’ll wait and see how everything works out.

Bruce said he’d do the install, so now I wait. Package should arrive in few days.

Oh, it turns out I had to order a HTC micro-USB TV Out Cable for the Droid, it’ll be here in a few days too. So we’ll be here for Thursday’s Channel City Kennel Club  Canine Ambassador’s program at the Goleta Boys & Girls Club, lucky Mason will be getting another yucky bath. Usually Olympia goes but she’s just finishing her heat.

Discombobulated

Decided to show off how I could plug my Droid into my flat screen to a friend who dropped by—he usually drops by to visit the dogs. At the same time I was charging the RV to test the refrig and had the power cord plugged into the house. Flicked off the bungee cord and swung the TV around pleased with how well it moves, pressed the power button and Walla, Nothing! No signal. Unplugged the AC, signal came back. Once I took an entire 3 years of electronics, I excelled but then found I could not get a job—that was the beginning of the dot.com crisis in the Bay Area. You’d think I’d remember a few things from those days, but no, my memory is full of holes. But  found this: in order for the RV to run the 12V appliances it must step down the 110V with a converter and transformer….it’s complicated. My little LT is not doing that right. It vacillates and overcharges; the DC Voltage is also screwed up… it should be 12V or 12.5V but where it comes out at the plugs it’s only 11V and strangely the front DC plugs retain a charge of 10V after the power is turned off. Something is wrong! It showed up on the TV since the TV is very sensitive – who knows what damage is being done (or has been done) to the other electrical components… maybe why I’ve had to replace so many.

 

RV Converter Box

The Electrical Center well hidden and non-removable under the bed

Frans has his head stuck in the back corner of the beast trying to get the converter out. He can probably fix it but it doesn’t want to come out….it’s apparent that it was built with the philosophy of once in, forever in. It was depressing watching and worrying about scratches and how my sick electrical system will be restored. He’s going to try a fix by rewiring without removing the box as it appears to do so involves removing the entire back seat-couch/bed. More later, as things progress.

RV Electrical Box

Something gone wrong

1996 Dodge Freedom Wide Leisure Travel

The day I brought it home

No buyers guarantee with this baby – I bought it from a friend with only her good word. Right now it’s back at my mechanic ATG. Two people told me it shouldn’t be making the clicking sound like it’s doing and frankly since the new serpentine belt the handling seems off, wagging again although Jamie at ATG told me the belt could not be related to the power steering even though I’d been told by a few people that it could indeed be caused by a loose belt……so who’s a woman gonna believe? It’s not only my namesake I saw at the mechanic but I spotted a Dodge 3500 Freedom Wide Coach House in the lot! It’s a little newer than mine but has the same seats, layout and looks uncannily like mine. I left the owner a note–hope they call, would love to chat with them!

Asked again about the loose steering, this time I was a told there is a way to tighten it but it’s not standard procedure. Am keeping my fingers crossed that they will do it!!!!

So back to the story….

Frans would complain that I rarely drove or started up the Leisure Travel. In the Fall and Winter  of 2010 -11 this was true—I considered my purchase a nightmare, a pocket drain—why oh why had I bought this  @#$%$$$$. It wouldn’t start half the time I needed to move it. Parking on my street is enforced, with us neighbors needing to move our vehicles twice a day on school days for the kids to ride their bikes (in 20 years I’ve only seen a handful of kids on bikes; it’s far more dangerous with the huge empty buses speeding on our narrow street every 20 min and parents picking up and dropping off kids and us neighbors shuffling cars than to simply leave things be, but it’s the way it is. Good intentions and bad planning is the norm.) So the LT was parked around the corner where I only had to move it twice a week for street cleaning although I’d move it Fri evening to claim a spot in front of the house…no way would it fit in the driveway. Frans devised an interior battery switch so I wouldn’t have to go into the rain to flip the battery on/off with the pulley switch in the outside battery compartment. His first creation sported flashing lights and dials—it was driving my bad eyes crazy and draining the cab battery. (I received a new jumper cable as a gift.) Fortunately he re-did the switch box. I love it now, nice and simple. I insisted on a new cab battery—Frans put that in.

NAXA TV mounted in a Class B RV

TV secured to the wall for driving

Frans likes to be creative as he’s a retired engineer. When he’s done tinkering he always asks, “Where is my RV?” Believe me many times I would have liked to be free of it but I was rapidly approaching the point where a sale would put me in the red with more money invested than I could recoup. Under protest he took out the old 13-inch tube TV. It was a mess having to saw off the protruding portion of the wooden box where it was nestled on the ceiling in-between the driver and passenger seats. I’m so glad it’s gone, I was constantly hitting my head on it. I replaced it with a 15.5 Naxa LED 12 V DVD flatscreen and a articulating mounting arm installed in the back near the bed/couch. It’s good except for one little white stuck pixel… still have to fix that. The space of the old TV is now storage for my electronics. Frans also installed extra DC jacks.

Took it to a body shop to have the door seals replaced and to find out why the windows wouldn’t open and to have the privacy door fixed. They kept it for 2 weeks burning $50 of gas on road tests. I called every day, nothing. Finally went to pick it up for my Phoenix trip. The service rep spent a few min explaining how they had taped it here and there and driven on the fwy—the noise starts at about 50 mph—and the noise would still be there. He motioned the mechanic over to explain it to me. The mechanic readjusted the driver door… took him about 20 seconds as he was talking to me; with a straight face he looked me in the eye and said, “you know the door seals really should be replaced.” I crocked; they wanted $185!!! My screaming moved them. Not good to have a middle-aged female standing in their lot with arms waving around looking reckless. They rescinded the bill. Just before I left it was pointed out that there was a little locking pin holding the windows shut.

I had Frans cut the locking pins off all the windows with one of his mysterious tools from the garage.

Drove the LT to Phoenix for a dog show with Olympia and Mason. Traveled great and the cabin noise was somewhat reduced, but very hard to handle in the high wind.

I had filled the water tank but nothing would come out.

March 30, 2011 Bruce’s Auto Repair: water pump replaced.

June 9, 2011 Took it to ATG for an oil change and a trip check. $316… needed the front brake rotors resurfaced. Complained about the wind noise and asked if they could do the door seals. Also asked, if they could, please…please…. please tighten the loose steering. They made a note.

Called the recommended body shop, was told that door seals were no longer made for the 1996 Dodge Ram 3500 van – this was only on the drivers side. I took the bait, well, I asked, what do you suggest. Nothing! That was the answer… I said things that weren’t very nice and hung up.

Took it Master Motorcrafts after calling half-dozen other body shops with no luck. The fellow at Motorcraft inspected at the door seals, taped the wing windows and went for a test ride with me. No, it didn’t need new door seals since these were still soft, he didn’t recommend them because the new aftermarket ones caused problems. Maybe the white exterior body trim that was puckering loose might be causing the wind noise. He suggested I try that first. Amazing, no charge!!! And a very nice guy – he really liked my old Dodge van; said the chirping noise was probably the serpentine belt or the pulley. I’ll definitely return when I need them.

Took it back to ATG on June 22 2011; the noise I’d told them about (but they had ignored other than writing it on the intake sheet) was getting louder… Needed a pulley and I agreed to have a new serpentine drive belt installed: $177 (the old belt is safety tucked away for emergencies.)

At last. . . Bill’s RV…. Had the water filter replaced, the generator serviced and the sewer hose replaced. Trim never arrived. Still no awning but today I found a better idea than a $400 bluetooth radio … I ordered a wireless device for $35 (thank you Amazon) that will allow me to plug in my Droid for wireless music and hands-free phone calls. It will be here in a few days… and then I’m off.

I received the wireless transmitter yesterday. One has to find in a station with no interference but it works great. I tuned in Folk Alley on my Droid, climbed in the bed in back and relaxed.

Next….   Packing

The day I brought the Leisure Travel home I was excited that all it needed was a new battery and possibly tires. The seller promised, it was ready for camping. I’d be on the road in a few weeks or less. She had tears in her eyes watching her baby go. Please, if you are considering the purchase of an RV have it checked by someone competent. I can’t say finding that person/shop will be easy. My little RV was not considered a “real” RV by many of the RV shops and not considered a van by many auto mechanics because after all it was an RV. In a case of a Class B it’s necessary to find both a competent mechanic for older vans and an RV shop. The mechanic must have an available bay that can handle the weight and clearance, not all shops have this and when they do, prepare to be patient for that bay to become available. When you take it to an RV shop don’t expect it to be there for any less than a week.

A year before I bought it, I took it for an inspection – to his credit the mechanic was capable and kindly but I think the conversation that day revolved more around me as a ‘hysterical female’ who didn’t recognize a good thing when she saw it. The feeling expressed to me by my friend who was involved in the purchase was that I was pushing the envelope to question the vehicle’s condition or to doubt the word of the seller. That inspection in July of 2009 cost me $60. The mechanic said it was in great shape except maybe it needed tires. He wouldn’t hesitate to buy it and suggested the same for me.

June 2010 I purchased the Leisure Travel. I thought it was hard to drive, it was nosy and bumpy, it certainly couldn’t do off-road, I didn’t like the limited space for the passengers legs due to the engine placement into the cab, it was older than I wanted and it only had one bed but my search was becoming hopeless… prices were astronomical and competition was furious. The Leisure Travel was close to the NADA value and believing it was in good shape I figured I could buy it for my cross-country trip, then keep looking for what I truly wanted.

Other things were going on, which to save face for those involved I’ll only say broke my heart and left me devastated—this was compounded by health troubles which made it impossible for me to see well or to even walk, let alone drive across county which was my fervent desire yet I plugged away at what became a daunting battle to ready the Leisure Travel.

June 17, 2010 I smashed the tail light trying to squeeze out from the curb. I was depressed with troubles and then in tears at ruining my RV! It wasn’t ruined but it cost $119 for a new right side tail lamp and lens. My housemate kindy drove me limping and broken to the dealer and even paid the bill. During this time I was only very barely eating, drinking or sleeping… I was a mess. There’s a scratch on the upper body where I hit the tree to remind me of my foolishness.

My housemate, Frans installed a new house battery and cleaned the cab battery.

I took it to 5 tire shops before finding Ian’s. The others either couldn’t help me….the beginning of, it’s not a car, it’s not a van, it’s not an RV. . .or I balked at the incredible prices I was quoted.

While I was searching for the tires I took it back to the Dodge dealer–t was now early August 2010–for a compete inspection. The service engine light was on and it had trouble starting. Mostly it was hard to drive. Curves were terrifying; no matter how fiercely I gripped the steering wheel I’d be buffeted out of my lane. Pain would shoot through my back and into my neck; my arms would tremble in exhaustion attempting to keep it up to speed. How was I going to drive across country? Anything under 40 mph, no trouble, maybe I could do back roads??? I figured it had to be something simple.

I wonder what my face looked like when I picked it up from the Dodge dealer. BTW the dealer closed up and vanished shortly after I received the list of troubles. It was long. For a bit less than $4,000 they could rev it up to par, they didn’t know what was wrong with the handling, and yes, it would need tires; the current ones were cracked from sitting in one place too long.

It took 2 weeks longer than expected for the tires to arrive – but the tire shop owner himself used the tires I decided upon, Open Country A/T by Toyo with better traction than the standard Michelin for dirt roads and cheaper! The LT needed new shocks – Monores were the choice of the shop… in hindsight I’m sorry I didn’t opt for the more expensive Bilsteins, but I really can’t compare – might not have made any difference. I complained that the steering wheel had too much play – they wrote it down when they returned the vehicle – they kindly noted it as a problem.

Tires, shocks and alignment were around $1000, but it might have been more I can only find the estimate not the final price and I don’t see the shocks on the invoice – I vaguely recall they were around $400. I contacted Leisure Travel in Canada about the handling problem; they told me, that, yes, they knew about this and had stopped using the Dodge Ram because of it (oh great.) He suggested I install wheel spacers as other customers had found these helpful. The rear tires were inset about an inch and half from the front tires causing front and rear to follow different tracks on the fwy. Crazy. Ians didn’t approve of wheel spacers saying they would weaken the wheel support but they did try to find someone in town who might help. They stuck out. Here was the line I was to hear over and over . . . this is the way these big vans handle, it’s fine you’ll just have to get used to it.. . . I must have had my girl sticker on.

Next time Part Three… the hunt for wheel spacers and a real mechanic.