Got Fries? I Got Catch-Up!

I decided to do a quick catch-up (see what I did with that fries thing in the title?) in case you’ve been wondering why there haven’t been any new blog posts in quite a while. It’s not that the reminder for “Steve, did you update the blog?” hasn’t gone off every week in all that time. I’m guessing everyone these days can easily spot “been busy, got behind” when they see it.

So here are the highlights of what made up our “been busy” so far this year:

Finishing the Great Solar Install of 2022/2023 – We started a 2160 watt, 1100 amp hour solar install in the summer of 2022, but got waylaid when we discovered some heavy roof damage which only became apparent when we started trying to screw solar panels down. It took until January 2023 to get into a position to tear the roof apart and fix it. The fix wasn’t ideal and we’ll have to do it again when we have more time and a 20 foot tall shop to do it in, but it was enough to get by for a few years. Then it was time to finish mounting panels, move our 5 LiFePO4 house batteries to a location where our new inverter would fit, and install a second transfer switch. In total, we spent about 2 months as our best and only customer. In those 2 months, we saved ourselves somewhere around $40,000 in labor costs, so I guess it was worth it.

Boondock-a-Polooza! – We’ve been to some really remote locations this year. With our new solar setup and the addition of Starlink internet, we can now roam to sooooo many places which were off-limits before. We’ve enjoyed old favorites like Imperial Dam near Yuma, AZ, and the La Posa Long Term Visitor Area near Quartzite, AZ. The difference was this year, we could stay as long as we wanted! We enjoyed new locations like Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park from a BLM campground called Horse Thief with no worries. We popped over into Mack, CO, for a stay on Rabbit Valley BLM. Then it was off to the wonders of the Big Hole River near Divide, MT. All of this time was spent with no electrical, water, or sewer connections and most of it was with no cellular service. It was all absolutely STUNNING! We plugged into power for a total of 10 hours from the end of January all the way up to mid-June.

Weird Medical Stuff – I won’t bore you with the details, but ever have one of those years where every time you turn around, you broke something else? LOL We’re both doing fine, though, so no worries. It just took up time with treatment and recovery periods.

Day Job Drama – As everyone eventually finds out, we both continue to do consulting in a field we don’t really like. Mixed into the months since our last update was one of those lovely crunch times where multiple projects needed us. Being good at something is sometimes as much a curse as a blessing.

And of course, RV WORK! – The part we like the best has steadily marched on. We’ve seen damaged slide systems, broken plumbing, failed tank sensors, leaky grey tank outlets, soft start installs, awning issues, hydraulic leveling cylinder seal failures, tankless water heater lock-outs, RV manufacturer assembly failures, and much, much, more.

Hopefully, we’ll be a little more on top of the blog. I always say that because I really do enjoy writing these. But, as always, we’ll see how that goes.

Stay safe out there!
RV Tech 4 U

Two cheerful vacationers

A Quick Note After Vacation

Hello and welcome back (to us) from vacation! We decided to pop a quick note in the journal to refer back from other entries which we’re going to do retrospectively for the summer months of 2022. We didn’t write anything up because we were BUSY. Crazy busy. The kind of busy that leaves you absolutely exhausted with no time to even remember you have a journal. So, we’re going to go back and pick the most interesting or informative job from each month and fill the gap.

As for the vacation itself, it was a mixed bag. We decided to go to Key West, FL, this year. We’ve never been and watching all our travel YouTube channels, it seemed like a cool thing to do for a week. Sadly, it was not a great location for us. We ate, drank, walked, rode, drove, and stumbled our way all through that little island, and the hard fact was we were paying way too much for unexceptional experiences. On the upside, we did make it down to Bahia Honda (bay-ee-uh own-duh) State Park for a little snorkeling on the last day, but we can’t credit that to Key West. BH is a reasonable day trip from Homestead and doesn’t require the $150+/night campground on Stock Island.

It was, nonetheless, a very helpful break. We got so incredibly bored by the end of day 4, we went to Publix, bought groceries, and basically opted out of the rest of the island. We also got so incredibly bored, we accidentally rested up. When the trip was over, all of the sudden there was a burst of productivity and lots of nagging old items on the to do list suddenly found themselves handled. The vacation may not have been worth the money, but it definitely accomplished something.

If you do happen to visit Key West, I will say the only two worth-it food experiences we had the whole time we were there (out of $1400 in restaurants and bars) were Roostica on Stock Island and Croissants de France de Stock Island. Roostica is a very interesting place to get wood fired pizza. We happened to be there on “gravy night”, which is a spaghetti dinner special. Don’t be alarmed by the absence of pepperoni from their menu because they absolutely have pepperoni pizza. They use a special salami in place of pepperoni and, trust me, you won’t be disappointed. As for the Croissant place, it was a little pricey, but their sandwiches were definitely not something you’d find at a common deli.

So here we are. Rested, poorer than we expected (if you missed it, go check out the October entry), and ready to have a great year.

Hope to see you out there sometime soon!

Top of the engine head with rockers and injectors

Boondocking for 17 Days in a Diesel Shop Parking Lot

This note is going to be a little different because it’s about a repair to our own camper performed by someone else. I’m going to be pretty specific about some of the details, but before you bounce off the article, know that the reason this repair took 17 days was solely the fault of our aftermarket warrantee company and their repeated attempts to get us to pay for this expensive repair ourselves.

I’m going to resist the urge to launch into a technical expose of the rig, the leaky injector harness socket, and the sticky injectors which caused us to need thousands of dollars of repairs on the engine. I’ll keep it to two main points, instead.

The first point is if you have no choice but to let a motorhome sit, you should just sell it. Some people will take exception to this, but these things are made to roll. (If it’s a long-term spot at a campground, you’d probably be happier with a fifth wheel or park model anyway.) Both the leaky injector harness and sticky injectors, which both happened right around 100k miles on the odometer, were way too soon for this type of engine. According to a two different master diesel mechanics, the problem was sitting for well over a year at some point in the motorhome’s existence before we acquired it. A sit that long allows all the oil drain out of the engine. There’s more to the chemistry, but that’s the layman’s version. The consequence was the seals shrinking and cracking on the wiring harness and the injectors developing considerable mechanical and hydraulic resistance.

What is the right way to address “exercising” a motorhome engine when you’re stationary for a long time? Most diesel engines consider starting more than 36 hours after being turned off “extreme operating conditions”, so from a certain standpoint, recreational use will never be enough for the design of these big motors. If you’re going to start them up, once every month seems to be the interval to keep them oiled enough to be shelf stable as long as the starting temperature of the block and the outside air temperature are both above 40 degrees. Starting them more often than that, if they’re stationary, is just more instances of “extreme operating conditions”.

Starting them when they’re really cold should just not be done unless it’s time to get on the road. If you’re going to start it, let it come up to temperature. To get a diesel up to temperature, you’re going to have to use the high-idle function of your cruise control. The trick is to let it low idle until the oil pressure comes down to just above the normal operating level (on ours, to 50psi). Then bump it and wait on the pressure to come down again. Most big diesels need to turn at least 1200 RPM to avoid damage to the turbo and injectors. A mechanic actually recommended our Caterpillar C-9 turn 1400 RPM at idle. The problem with idling low is “glazing” – the build up of varnish from incompletely burned diesel passing through the cylinders, valves, and especially the turbo charger. Long story short, just bump up the idle as soon as the oil pressure is low enough to not stress the system.