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Discussion in 'Hangar Talk' started by Ted, Jul 17, 2020.
Figured out how you could pull a fifth wheel behind the Class A, Ted!
This weekend was the inaugural trip with the RV. Laurie and I trailered the motorcycles down to Branson where we intended to go south and ride the Arkansas Dragon Tail. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas but we still got 100 or so miles of riding , and also got a chance to figure out the whole RV thing. Really, it all went easier than I expected. The RV GPS definitely makes things easier although since it doesn't have data for all roads it takes the more conservative (and sometimes not optimal) route, but the same could be said for any GPS.
The RV definitely handles better with the new shocks and front anti-roll bar upgrade. It also definitely needs the rear, so I'm going to order that and get it coming. Hook-ups at the campsite were super simple, and we got all of the kinks figured out as far as which switches to flip, how soon we need to turn on the fridge to get it cooling off (it is slow, at least on AC... propane is probably better). Even had the washer running and doing a load of laundry on the drive home.
The engine driven AC works now but since it only has vents up front, I've pretty much come to the conclusion that if you only need that for AC, you probably don't really even need AC. So in warmer weather the generator is almost certainly running going down the road to keep the rooftop AC units going as well. Although the batteries are now new and good, reality is they don't seem like they'll do a whole lot. So if the generator's not running, propane for whatever appliance you need that can use it and don't expect to do anything with a high electrical demand. The inverter can do 2000 watts, but at that point you're also talking a 200 amp draw from the batteries. I may get more comfortable with that with time.
I need to investigate the exhaust brake as I'm still pretty sure it's not actuating. When you hit the "engine brake" switch it will downshift to try to slow the RV down, but I don't hear the sound I expect when the flapper closes nor do I feel any kind of difference. The engine brake as-is with downshifting is ok but not too great. On some of the downhills in the Branson area there definitely wasn't enough to hold speed on a downhill. So, something to investigate there.
But overall, everything ran well. The engine performs beautifully. I think Allison did a crappy job with transmission ratios and programming, but I can get past that with manual shifting when needed. The engine could use a bit more power, but being used to what it is it's fine. I do really like the bluetooth ap displaying on an old iPad that gives me engine parameters, that's really helpful for knowing that the engine is doing ok. I would like an EGT gauge... maybe I can add one.
Laurie and I were both surprised at how much we liked the campground experience. Granted, this was off-season and not super crowded, seemed like lots of cancellations, but still - it was really easy and more private/simpler than a hotel. We liked it.
RVing is fun....
I'd suggest the hold back feature of the Cat is never good. I see coach driver complaining a lot.
mine isn't any good either. I just use a lower gear and slow down.
Sewage dumping, Be damn sure the gate valve is closed prior to leaving.
We must run the get-set to use both Air-conditioners when driving, or have a 50 Amp plugged in . Note, be certain the refrigeration units are properly filled, Ours required 3 times to get it right.
[QUOTE="Ted DuPuis, post: 2971664, member: 3654"
Laurie and I were both surprised at how much we liked the campground experience. Granted, this was off-season and not super crowded, seemed like lots of cancellations, but still - it was really easy and more private/simpler than a hotel. We liked it.[/QUOTE]
Campground experience depends upon the camp, there are plenty of camps that sux, get the big book. " Good Sam Guide Series" and always call ahead. Camper neighbors aren't always the best.
Yeah, we certainly are attempting to do our due diligence to prevent that. But this initial experience was very positive.
Wow, how did I miss this thread, wwlcome to the RV Lifestyle. We are headed to the UP and 6Y9 event this Wednesday
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Well good news and bad news.
The good news is that I've figured out that my exhaust brake isn't working. That is actually relieving because if it was working, it was doing a really bad job. So I'm kinda glad to have confirmed that.
The bad news is that it appears the air-powered actuator is what's bad - it has a significant leak (assuming it shouldn't have any, and the flapper doesn't move). Jacobs says that the actuator can be replaced on its own, so that part is good. Trying to figure out how to remove it, that's the next question. I may have to just buy the whole unit and replace it, which may not be a bad thing. Supposedly it's available from my Cat dealer. Hey @NealRomeoGolf think they'll give me shop pricing if I keep on calling them to order parts?
The other bad news is that, while working on trying to remove that actuator (still working on figuring that part out...) I apparently moved one of the engine-driven AC hoses enough to crack the fitting. Never had that happen before, but these are long hoses, and they definitely look original (making them 20 years old).
The AC hose is 40 feet long. No I'm not joking. It goes all the way from the engine in the back to the AC bits in the front. That will be expensive to have a new one made, and a pain to remove and reinstall since I have zip-ties literally going the whole way up to the front. And realistically if I'm doing that, I should at least do the other AC hose going up there, and I should probably replace the coolant hoses that run to the front at the same time if I'm going to do those AC hoses since they are almost certainly original and it's all in that same area. I wasn't planning on flushing the coolant, but...
Well actually I guess I may not have to, I think there are shut-off valves for the coolant hoses going up to the front, so if I do replace them it shouldn't require a full drain, just a top-off.
So the next course of action seems to be 1) get new exhaust brake bits coming 2) get the old AC hoses off so I can get new ones made 3) ideally also figure out what the receiver-dryer unit is on there so I can replace it at the same time and then 4) put all the bits back together, recharge AC, etc.
And we're supposed to go to the Black Hills next week.
Welcome to RV ownership !
You're gonna have to order a lot more parts to get to that level. I wonder if I get a discount myself...
To be honest, coming from aviation I find Cat prices to be extremely reasonable. They even gave me a free hat for Laurie after they screwed up on the high pressure oil hose - who could complain about that? And she loves the hat!
Nice. I checked.....I only get discounts on new machines. I am not in the market for a new skid steer though....
According to Jacobs I can order the exhaust brake parts from my Cat dealer, so I’m calling them first thing in the morning. I figure I’ll just order the whole assembly.
You can park next to the EAA hangar at KCFO and I’ll give you key to the bathroom. Hot & cold running water, electricity, shower...Or in my hangar if needed. Not that far from Nate.
Ted, saw your comment about how long it takes for the fridge to cool down. I am assuming you have a combination propane/electric unit. One trick we have learned is to put ice packs (I have 6 large ones) inside right after starting. Takes the cool down tome from about 12 hours to 4 or 5.
There is a company in Shipshewana, IN, JC Refrigeration https://jc-refrigeration.com/ and they make replacement guts for the old absorption units that utilize either a dc powered compressor or an ac powered compressor. They can pull the guts our of your refrigerator box and install their new guts, for a fee, or can ship the guts to you to install yourself. I have heard great things about this conversion, and plan to make the trip to have mine changed next year. This retrofit shortens the cool down to a couple hours just like a domestic refrigerator.
Since 2016 most RV manufacturers have stopped providing the absorption units in favor of true domestic refrigerators, something to think about. My two reasons for wanting to make the switch are the cool down time and the fact that the absorption refrigerators account for a large number of coach fires. Google it, it is something to consider.
Have you found the go to RV Forum, IRV2 yet. Great place for all things RV.
Thanks for the advice @tmyers . The ice packs make sense, and the fact that you see a cool-down time of 12 hours without some kind of aid makes sense and is exactly what we were seeing. The freezer cooled off faster it seemed, but I suppose that also makes sense. This fridge also needs new door seals (old ones are original) so I was going to have those made, found a company that will do that. However I'm planning that for after the Black Hills trip. The cause of fire is an interesting one, I suppose not entirely surprising.
Ordered the new exhaust brake from Cat - $700 so actually a bit cheaper than I'd seen online. Coming from Denver so should be here later this week, I'll get it in over the weekend so that's fine.
Getting the AC hoses off will be the big thing, along with trying to figure out which car application they got the receiver dryer from.
Not that it's a great long-term solution, but would you be able to braze the AC line as a temporary fix?
Maybe, but if I'm going far enough to take the hoses out, I'll just get new ones made up. It's the engine-driven AC so worst case I can just go without it for a trip altogether.
are you towing a car behind your coach?
See my other thread.
Supposed to pick up the car Friday.
Hmm, never did figure out what you were buying
You could probably run a domestic unit off an inverter while on the road without much of an issue.
Yeah, I don't think he actually mentioned what vehicle he actually decided on in that thread unless I missed it. I know he was leaning towards the Land Rover stuff at one point.
Yes, and that is exactly what most manufacturers are doing now, however with existing coaches finding that exact fit can be a PITA, and the retrofit works plus maintains the aesthetics of the original design. For instance, I have a smaller coach, and the fridge sits on top of a drawer, not on the floor, and I was unable to find a replacement that would fit in the hole left by our Dometic unit.
@SoonerAviator got it right. I didn't disclose what I was buying for a tow-behind. I'll post pics once I get it.
So now comes some fun - engine-driven AC.
I got the hoses that go from the engine-driven AC up to the front out. This was not exactly a pleasant experience. Not entirely awful, but the air hoses, wiring, power steering hoses, and AC hoses are all zip-tied together in a line going the whole way up. The hoses were all original and not in good condition. In fact, I've never had such a hard time getting AC hoses off from fittings. This RV must've spent some time around salt air that took its toll on the aluminum fittings.
The inside of the hoses/fittings didn't look good either, so while the thing is working for now, it's questionable how long that might continue. So it's a good time to do something about it.
What that something is? Good question. While getting one of the fittings off of the condenser I ended up bending the output line from that, so now that needs to get replaced somehow. The condenser itself is maybe fine, but should be flushed out and that fitting needs to be replaced. Really if I could find a new condenser, I should just replace it given the condition of everything else. And since I essentially need to redo the whole AC system at this point, should be easy enough to just find a universal condenser of appropriate size and use that.
I'm strongly considering eliminating the engine-driven AC, at least the engine-driven part of it. For one putting those 40' long hoses back in doesn't seem any more fun than taking them out was. It's pretty clear that was done early on in the build process and one thing I've found is RVs aren't necessarily designed with future servicing in mind. But for another reason, from what I can tell I'm going to need to run the generator for air conditioning pretty much anytime air conditioning is actually required. I'm suspecting we probably will end up running the generator most of the time while driving. We could use the propane for the refrigerator and water heater, but then factoring in other AC items that the alternator on the diesel engine may or may not handle... hard to tell at this point.
The one thing that comes to mind where engine-driven AC could be useful/needed when AC is otherwise not necessarily required would be defogging the (very large) windshields on cooler humid day. With the 2000W inverter and a 160A alternator on the engine, I suppose an electric AC compressor run off of the engine is possible, but not all that likely. Theoretically if something could plug into a standard 15A breaker without blowing it (so let's say that maybe it would draw 10A) it might be doable. Maybe I should try making some coffee with the engine running to see if that will handle the load without drawing power from the batteries.
So... more thinking required.
As for me, I'm going with the "newest concept in trailer design!"
After sleeping on this idea of eliminating the engine-driven AC compressor, I'm finding fewer and fewer reasons not to do it. 80 ft worth of annoying lines is a bad design. The system appears to have specific orifices up towards the front, almost certainly because of the length of the hoses causing issues without them (I've never seen this setup before on a car). Basically it's a poor design, finding the "correct" parts (which were cobbled together in the first place) is not entirely straightforward, and I need the generator running anyway.
I can do better.
So the plan is that I'm going to source an electric compressor of some sort. Still working on the specifics of what that looks like, but I think the answer is a 115VAC unit like what's used in a window air conditioner, and then basically hack that into what exists for the current evaporator. This will leave me dependent on 115VAC for AC power. On the other hand, it means I can actually run all 3 air conditioners on shore power and between the inverter and the generator I don't have a shortage of that.
Last year when our HVAC went out I bought a window unit AC to tide us over. Of course it's too small (only 5k BTUs) but I'm going to do some experiments with that to see if the concept looks like it will work. If it does, I'll see if I can find a simple but larger window AC unit that I can then put together.
Now, what to do on the engine side? I need to look at that and think about it more. The existing compressor is fine as-is, just disconnect the electrical for the clutch to make sure it won't accidentally turn on, and cap the lines. Simple enough short-term. Because of how the belt and tensioner are arranged I can't simply remove the AC compressor and have the belt still work. I could remove the compressor and move the alternator down a spot (I think) or - better - add a second alternator in place of the AC compressor and get more amperage output, which could then potentially allow me to run more stuff without running the generator going down the road (may require a bigger inverter).
I really like option 2, although having never run a road vehicle with two alternators and thus never having made that wiring, I need to figure out what exactly I'd need to do to support it and also make sure I'm not messing up the ECU. Shouldn't be any different than running two alternators in a plane, just never had to wire that up myself. Big thing would be running a big wire from the alternator to the batteries to start.
So the idea is to install the electric compressor up in the nose close to the evaporator? Seems like a good idea, long hoses do not. Although, most homes have fairly long AC hoses, especially with split units where the upstairs evap/handler is in the attic while the comp/cond is outside on ground.
That's correct. The evaporator is in the nose, and the condenser is also up front near the nose (ahead of the front axle, so pretty far forward yet underneath the RV). I can eliminate essentially 80' worth of hose by doing that. I might even try to replace it with copper line instead.
Yeah, houses often have long hoses. However houses also are running steady-state systems with electric compressors that just turn on and off whereas an engine-driven constantly changes with engine RPM. Houses also insulate hoses as appropriate generally. In this case having the two hoses literally right next to the power steering hoses not only doesn't insulate them, but will cause the power steering hoses (hot) to heat up the low pressure (cold) line. So I think the dynamic issue causes a lot of the real problem.
The nose has a lot of room comparatively speaking and since those items don't move around, really there's no reason why I couldn't do it with hard line of some sort. SUVs with front and rear AC units often have hard aluminum lines that run to the back.
while it seems hackey, it seems like a really great way to solve the problem and eliminate a lot of goofiness. A second alternator and a big inverter would seem to do a lot for you.
It's definitely hackey to some extent and makes things in some ways less serviceable in the future. But I figure if you're running a 20 year old motorhome and don't have some ingenuity, you probably shouldn't be running it. I've also gotten to a point in life where "What would this do to resale?" matters less to me because I've come to find that "Ted-maintained/modified" is a positive selling point so I'll just do what I think does more for me personally and whenever we sell it I can advertise accordingly.
Really this is two separate projects. First one is the electric AC compressor, get that in, hooked up, working. Second part is looking at what electrical system upgrades I can/want to do.
Well, that, and someone else has already taken the bulk of the depreciation. I wouldn't worry a bit about it as well, modify it!
Whatever you use for the long line you will still benefit from insulation (on at least the feed, not sure about return). Copper work hardens so would need to be protected from movement I would think.
The following video have a lot of detail about the operation of practical refrigeration systems. An hour, not sure if the information density will be enough for you. The expert is a real expert.
Adam Savage's One Day Builds: Refrigerated Cooling Suit!
May as well convert the power steering to electric too.
Yeah, that is true. If it were brand new I'd have to think about it more. But in this case, I paid... oh, probably 1/5 (or less) of what a new one would cost. I don't think anything I'm doing is going to impact depreciation any.
I think that would be harder to accomplish, at least practically so.
Is there no aftermarket option for a 12V a/c compressor? Even if you had to mount a second alternator (in place of the old a/c compressor) solely to drive the electric a/c compressor. Just wondering if there's an option to keep it 12V vs going 115vac.
I've been considering that as well. As you may recall, I've got the electric AC compressor I'm putting into the Cobra. It's made by these guys:
The problem is that when you're going 12V and even consuming 50A, you're still only doing about 6-7k BTUs. In the Cobra I'm fine with that because it's never going to truly cool the area, just "take the heat off" and it's an experiment/toy rather than something I really want to function well. There's not much out there for literature on BTU capacity of automotive, but 10-15k BTUs is more in-line with what you get from an engine-driven compressor and with the big windshield up front, you do want to have capacity.
If I run that MasterFlux compressor on 24V instead of 12V, that does bring up the BTU capacity significantly to the 11-12k BTU range, which is more what I need. At that point, though I need to get a step-up converter to convert roughly 100A at 12VDC to 50A at 24VDC. And then I'm spending money on a fairly beefy converter, not to mention the MasterFlux stuff is not cheap (the compressor and controller came out to something around $1200-1400 for the Cobra).
Fundamentally once I get there, I'm probably better served by going 115VAC compressor since I already have the equipment in place to produce 115VAC (multiple pieces of equipment really at that between the generator and inverter) and there's even a 115VAC outlet I could tap into right up in the front, making the wiring simpler.
Today I replaced the exhaust brake. Of course that didn’t go without its issues. The V-band clamps that hold the exhaust brake in place both broke.
But major thumbs up to the Cat dealer (@NealRomeoGolf). After breaking the clamps I called them up. Of course they’re closed being a holiday weekend but they have 24/7 emergency parts and service. So I call them up, we figure the part number of the clamps I needed. They had two in stock (the exact number I needed) at one of the locations, and the on call person came in so I could grab them. Very pleasant all around despite being called out on Labor Day.
And unlike aviation, no call-out fee. I was expecting and ready to happily pay a fee, but nope, just normal pricing.
Caterpillar should make aircraft engines.
The RV stops a lot better now than it did with the engine brake. It’s not like slamming on the brakes now but it’ll make a big difference especially in the hills.
I look forward to hearing about your trip, you Glamper!!!
We made it back from our first trip last night at around 10 PM. Something on the order of 1500-1600 miles total driven. I didn't keep track of the fuel much, but got 5.2 MPG on one segment. That was going about 75 MPH going uphill the whole way. 7-8 was more typical overall, and 70-75 was about my normal pace on the highways, depending on winds.
I would call the trip a success, and so did Laurie and the kids. Yes, kids were kids and... well... that's all I need to say about that. But on the whole they behaved better than I would've thought them to and had a lot of fun, learned a lot. As expected we learned a lot about how to do these trips and how we should plan things as far as making sure we have some fun and relaxing time in there not just go-go-go. Of course time is limited, but we need to have fun on there.
The Black Hills area is definitely worth visiting. Lots to do of all sorts whether you enjoy off-roading, seeing old west history, or just seeing a beautiful area. People were friendly and we did genuinely enjoy our trip. We stayed at an RV camp that was more of a horse camp that could accommodate RVs. We were the only ones without horses but nobody complained about that. Most people bring their horses to ride the trails, but we enjoyed being far off the beaten path ( miles down a twisty USFS dirt road). Driving the RV up that was fun but it handled it just fine. We were really glad to have the Rover as the tow-behind for getting places. Mount Rushmore was fun to see, really just a good area.
One of the girls clogged up the toilet, an event we were thoroughly unprepared for. Now we have the appropriate hardware to fix that in the future.
Otherwise, the RV systems were fine. There's a propane leak around the fridge that developed on the drive home, I need to look into that. It seems to be after the valve so I'm really hoping that leak isn't one in the fridge itself and thus requiring replacement of the whole thing. I suppose I'll find out.
I made a small list of tweaks for the RV I want, but it worked well.
Big things we learned were spacing of things we did, and also that 450 miles is about as much as we should try to drive in a day with the kids, less than that is preferable. 450 is a pretty full day between the relatively low speed and the amount of time it takes to get packed up and going then set up in the evening, plus figuring food on either end. But the RV itself makes the travel much, much nicer. Kids can move around, use the bathroom, get food. Laurie can sit at the table and teach them things, and one can sit up front with me and look out the window and just chat. You can only really do those things going down the highway but that's what we're doing most of the time anyway so it works out.
Set up and take down really is pretty quick now that we've gotten the hang of it, probably 10-15 minutes on either end for me to get the jacks down/up and slides in/out as appropriate. We've got the hang of the various systems. Flat towing the Land Rover worked great.
The only real issue that popped up that I have to figure out is doing a better job of keeping the rocks from getting kicked up. On the way to the first stop we had a gravel road to drive on. While driving on that road the RV kicked up enough rocks that it broke the headlights on the Land Rover (both of them). Now the headlights were full of water and already bad, but now I need to do something besides drain the water. The RV already has a full width mudflap across the back but apparently that's not enough on its own, so I have to figure out something else there.
So now I have my list of things to do on the RV during the 3 weeks until the next trip. The main one is figure out the propane leak on the fridge first, and hopefully that's not too huge of a deal.
The next trip will be longer, probably 3-4k miles total round trip. So I'm thinking a bit further about what I want to do. The oil pressure on the engine is within spec, but barely. Not sure if I should try to look into that or not, but it is running fine and no temperature issues. Could just be a weak sensor. The oil only has about 2,000-2,500 miles on it, but I may change it anyway especially if decide to do the service bulletin on the oil filter housing gasket which might not be a bad idea. The old one can blow out (maybe that's the cause of my lower oil pressure?) and let unfiltered oil get into where filtered oil should be.
The turbo supply line is very rusty. It's not leaking or causing problems but makes me a bit nervous. The drain line I'm sure is also original, as is the oil supply line for the high pressure oil pump. Of course that's a low pressure oil line so less concerning, but it is 20 years old.
The airbags on the RV itself have some age and cracks in them, so I may consider replacing those as well as they're not too expensive and shouldn't be too bad to change.
I've considered changing the differential and transmission fluids simply because those are likely original. However they're working fine and the interval hasn't been hit yet as far as miles go (can't find a year interval).
I could come up with more items to consider on the RV but really that's about it.
The RV itself could be better if it had 400 HP. However upping the 330 from the 3126B to 400 sounds like a good way to blow things up. Not worth it and I can just live with the stock power.
The transmission is terribly designed. Ratios are all wrong, the shift points are terrible. You can manually hold the max gear it's in but it still just doesn't do what you want it to. I really am disappointed, I had thought Allison made a good transmission. I know it's durable but it is definitely not good from a user perspective. It needs to be an 8 or 9 speed and be a proper manual in my opinion. But, not worth changing. Just live with it as-is.
The new headlights I put in were very worthwhile. They're aimed a bit low so I need to adjust them a hair higher, and I'm also thinking of putting an LED light bar on front to aid with high beams. But nothing too huge there.
So yes, a successful trip. Now to plan the next one in October headed to the southwest.
Can't remember, does the Rover have a front brush guard or winch mount? Maybe fashion an aluminum plate that quickly bolts or pins to the brush guard?