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Basic RV Info for the curious . . .
2007 Arctic Fox Travel Trailer
A simple no-slides version ( "27E")
2007 Dodge Ram 2500 ( 3/4 ton pickup )
diesel engine with exhaust brake
camper shell for tools and stuff
| Moving Day:
Here are the two-- old and new-to-me -- travel trailers
sitting near each other on Moving Day. .
After over 16 years living in the first trailer, it took most of a
week to re-organize and move into my new home.
Some of the stories below tell of adapting myself to the new environment --
-- and some about making changes to the new environment to better fit
My day has been great !
The Lord has provided yet another day in which to serve. Perhaps
in computers, perhaps in the church kitchen, perhaps helping someone repair their
home/rv, when you are ready -- there are so many opportunities to help.
May my efforts glorify Him !
Ouch! Delamination (a 'dirty' word in the RV world) Ouch!
( ( As a note to those not familiar with "delamination" in the context of RVs: Delamination is the separation of the layers of
exterior composite walls of the RV. This is extremely expensive,
even painfully so. ) )
Jumping right in with the first thing that seems to have already become a headache: there are the two spots of delamination in my AF-27E.
Since it is of 2007 vintage, I did not expect this.
I have found a way that seems to work ( -- just two weeks testing so far when I
first wrote this -- ) on one spot. I have taped a piece of paper over this
one spot [yes, just simple note-book paper]. There has been no further loss of the outer layer of
Given the success of that ‘solution’, I am now trying some thin white packing foam over the second spot.
Picture of first spot:
Picture of second spot:
OK -- I will learn to live with the first one. I think that (in over sixteen years of living in my last trailer where there was no overhead obstacle
above the dinette seats) my spatial sense of open space will need to be un-learned / re-learned.
But, for the second spot, having to engage in contortions to reach the bottoms of the nice deep sinks when washing dishes (to avoid banging my
head on the overhead cabinets) seems like a sub-optimal condition.
[I am just barely 5 ft 6 inches tall - close enough to “average” to not expect this interference.]
Measured from the edge of the counter to the nearest edge of the overhead cabinet:
* Arctic Fox: just under 25 inches,
* Boles Aero: just under 30 inches (but then they were also accommodating a kitchen-window).
[No, getting a short young maiden to come in to do the dishes is Not an option!]
PS. Yes, the scabs are gone -- there may be some minor scarring that can be expected to fade over the years.
[No, I don’t wear hard-hats inside.]
There is a certain amount of time and just-being-there that is required to become spatially adjusted to new surroundings.
Computer Work Station -- also known as a Desk
Now that we know (from above) the trailer is not a glove to me (as in fits-like-a-glove), I will discuss what I have done about making a suitable workspace in which to spend hours on the computer(s) [part of my “purpose”].
This was an issue I anticipated, so it was not a head-banging surprise like “Spot #1”.
* I expected all the square edged cushions of the dinette to cut in behind the knee, these do.
* I discovered I need about an inch longer lower-legs to reach the floor (with feet flat on the floor and my lap “level”). . . . A Level Lap because I work with my computer keyboard on my lap supported by a piece of plywood that also holds the mouse-pad [not
being level means the mouse runs off the edge and makes flying leaps for the floor].
* I did spend a week or two using a pillow on the floor to “make it work”, but in the long-run needed something more stable as well as better conformed to me.
My first two target areas for constructing a work-station were the couch and the ‘guest room’ (bunks). Having these options was part of the inducement to change trailers.
Since the couch location entailed less “destruction” -- I started there with measurements of all that mess of plumbing, followed by detailed to-scale drawings, and lots of mumbling-musings.
* One significant problem with this target is the wasted space that cannot be used for simple storage shelves or drawers (because of the plumbing).
* Probably the biggest problem is that the “leg well” would be too small to fit the keyboard+mouse board on my lap while my knees were in there.
* Adding an 120-volt outlet would be only a minor inconvenience -- most of the time would be spent scoping out where to position the outlet box and how to route the wire [with some assumptions about ease of installing a new circuit-breaker, etc.].
* I had access to an adequate wood shop within 50 feet, so the bigger tools were not an issue.
* The reverse-the-process scenario would be fairly simple -- just an issue of getting a replacement couch (since I have no place to store the original).
But, as I thought about it, imagined / visualized / considered what office equipment and supplies would go where, talked to other cabinet makers, measured again, and rumbled out a few more mumbling-musings - - I concluded that although workable, this was not the best return on investment choice.
OK, now on to de-bunking the myths of the small office. . . . . . . . Or, in this case, de-bunking the ‘guest room’. Break out the tape measures and other planning toys.
::: ::: :::
To keep it short and simple, I could not bring myself to tear apart what might (in addition to its normative purpose) be structural support/stabilization to/for that corner of the trailer.
Without moving the drawers, the left-to-right space I wanted looked difficult to achieve and there would be a hard-to-reach corner area.
So, let us cast our eyes/minds back towards the lowly dinette as the next target of opportunity.
I have seen at least one example where the owner took out the cushions and built a leather-working table there. I could see doing something similar with a “desk” utilization in mind.
More measurements, more drawings, and a few more cognitive vocalizations followed.
Most of the supplies were reasonably available. However, finding a suitable table-top that would not require many hours of finish work was difficult.
* Counter-tops were a possibility, but both very heavy and tended to have back-splashes or raised front edges.
* I wanted a table top -- so, why not look for a table top in the form of a table that could be cannibalized (discarding the legs etc.)?
* In the neighborhood of the prospective table-body-parts I noticed the folding tables. Those could make a suitable table top -- it will be a minor challenge to do the fastening to the frame -- but there will be a way.
So home goes the folding table -- I want to get good measurements before purchasing the supporting sub-structure materials.
* It is a little awkward to hold up with one hand and measure underneath with the other.
* Perhaps the legs on one end could be lowered down against the cushion edge, held there with a knee, holding the other end of the table against the opposite side back-cushion with the other hand and get measurements.
* Hmmm, - - the leg goes all the way down and latches in place, a bit snug against the cushions -- But Good Enough for a “light bulb illumination moment”.
Back to the big-box store for a few feet of shelving stock, a pair of hinges, a door bolt and some screws.
Just then the fold-down-RV-table support-bracket kit that I ordered arrived. That made the materials collection complete.
Almost done --
-- viewed from above: Desk_Above1.jpg
-- viewed from below: Desk_Below1.jpg
What you cannot clearly see is the pair of brackets attached to the table that fit into the wall brackets exactly like the original table. With these brackets and the support of the one board (plus one set of the original table legs), this table is “rock solid” -- that is: it does not wiggle like the regular dinette table.
So, what started out as a complex wood-working task became a true K.I.S.S. project. And, happily, much less expensive than originally anticipated.
Adding a door-bolt to the up-right support member and replacing the cardboard box (that served as a fabrication prop) with a stacking drawer finished the job.
Done (you can tell from the desk-top clutter) --
-- viewed from above: Desk_Above2.jpg
-- viewed from below: Desk_Below2.jpg
It will be easy to swap back the regular dinette table when I have company; and the folding table is still fully functional as a stand-alone table.
And a really good thing?
- - -
- - - -
- - - - - - not once did I say “Ouch!”.
Water Heater Outer-Door Insulation
Some cool morning when you are using ONLY the electric side of the water heater, go outside and place your hand over the vents of the water heater door.
All that nice warm air is wasted heat.
So, incorporating a technique I have used over the years, I have added insulation to the outside door/cover of the water heater.
Of course, this insulation comes off if I am going to be using the propane gas side to heat the water.
View #1 of insulated door: WaterHeaterCoverOutside.jpg
View #2 of insulated door: /Images/WaterHeaterCoverInside.jpg
You can barely see the slots in the foil-faced bubble wrap that accommodate the exhaust sheet-metal work.
In my older trailer the propane used a standing pilot light -- and all the controls for that were operated from the outside. Since this newer trailer has the electronic ignition activated from a switch inside the trailer, some “inter-lock” protection is needed.
Borrowing an idea from the water heater itself, I have added a lock-out pin to the interior switch.
[Suburban evidently uses such a pin on the electric side already.]
View of inside gas switch with pin: WaterHeaterGasSwitch.jpg
Since I turn on the water heater only in anticipation of a need for really-hot water (e.g. a shower), I miss the older trailer’s electric-side switch that had a built in indicator light.
As a simple indicator for the rocker-panel style switch in the new trailer I have put some blue electrical tape on the top edge of the electric-side switch that is exposed when the switch is off. [ Blue because it is associated with Cold water.]
View of inside electric switch with blue tape: WaterHeaterElectricSwitch.jpg
Costs: 50-cents for a pair of “hitch lock” pins, unknown cost of re-using foil faced insulation that covered a window in the older trailer, and another inch out of so many yards of electricians tape.
Fresh Water Fill Valve
My prior 1971 travel trailer had an outside mini-compartment for the gravity-fed filling of the freshwater tank (just like this 2007 Arctic Fox 27E).
However, there was also a valve handle there that would fill the tank from the pressurized internal water system when the trailer was connected to city water. [It could also help prime the pump when needed.]
Since I ran into that “mess” of plumbing under the couch when examining where to place my workstation/desk, I have considered adding a valve to simplify the filling of the fresh water tank when I am connected to an outside source of water.
A Word of Caution: Before opening the valve, open the outside gravity feed fresh-water filler cap. The small air-vent is adequate for pumping water out of the tank -- -- however it will easily be overcome if water were attempting to escape from an over-filled tank.
First step, pull up the couch to take a look --
-- yes, the loops and tangles of tubing are still there.
Which reminded me, I suspect the noisy nature of the water pump is because there is so much material in direct contact with the pump and/or the floor. Perhaps I can reduce that operating noise some during this project. Note the loop of tubing around the base of the pump -- this is the pressure side of the pump on its way to the cold-water line against the wall.
After clearing out stored stuff, and removing the front panel of the couch --
-- note the main water lines (code and hot) running along the wall in the back;
-- the one connection to the line against the wall is the output of the pump, so it is on the pressurized side of the system.
Viewing all the way back to the wall --
-- from the left up on the wall, at the left is the skim-milk gray line from the city-water input, the next white line is the air-vent to the fresh water tank, and the larger accordion hose is the gravity feed fresh water tank fill;
-- in the foreground is the tube for winterizing (inserted into the bottle of pink drinking-system anti-freeze), the white valve selects either this line (entering from its front) or the line going down to the tank (entering the valve from the left);
-- of course, that hard to see black object is the pump.
And now for the parts --
-- the objective is to create a valve-controlled bridge between the pressurized side of the system and the fresh water tank;
-- the pump has an open ended tubing line running down into the tank on the suction side of the pump,
-- so “T” into the pressurized line and into the suction line, using a 3-way (aka bypass) valve that combines the valve function with the “T” on one of the lines.
To avoid having to remove and re-install things because they are pointing the wrong way, mark the valve --
After the requisite squirming around on the floor (as it is necessary to recline on the floor to work under the couch), and mopping up the drips, tightening the clamps, mopping more drips, really really tightening clamps again, we get . . .
… a clean floor under the couch.
Oh, also we get a fresh water filler valve installation completed --
WHAT ? !?! -- What is that RED Handle?
Someone used the phrase “..best laid plans of mice and men…” -- and so we ended up with something between Plan B and Plan C.
The 3-way valve is the same product used for the winterization valve. But it did not work -- it allowed water (even under low pressure) to bleed by it into the fresh water tank. The flow of water could be heard when the city connection was active, the pump would cycle in 2 second intervals when the pump was on.
The pipe insulation is to get the tubing off the floor, thereby reducing noise transfer. Yes, the pump operating noise is noticeably less.
As sometimes happens, there are parts left over (in this case a section of the excess tubing that was wrapped around the pump base --
However, it seems that everything is happy.
Keep That Stinky Slinky to Yourself!
Taking a cue from my prior trailer, which had lockable hinged doors on both ends of the rear-bumper-tube for storing the sewer hose (aka “Stinky Slinky”) and attachments (all of which fit) -- I wanted a simple way to ensure the plug on the end of the bumper would not relax with age and fall out.
I looked at the various forms of “pins” -- and “hitch pin locks” -- but the 5 inch reach made the main shaft too large.
Then I looked at stainless skewers (for burning food over the fire) -- none a reasonable size and cost.
Next came the knitting needles (anodized aluminum) which almost made the cut.
But during the search I noticed the aluminum tent stakes that cost only $0.50 each (and the others are usable for other purposes).
Photo #1: bumperpluglock1.jpg
Photo #2: bumperpluglock2.jpg
( sorry, the glare threw off the lighting balance ).
Worst case = = even if the plug manages to tear out at the tent-stake holes, the tent-stake should be able to retain the sewer hose so it does not become a road-side ornament.
Kitchen Sink Faucet Replacement
I emailed a list of questions to Northwood Manufacturing support ( 20August2010
) as a follow-up on a call to their support number.
Their answer to the Stiff + Squeaky Hot Water Faucet was to dis-assemble the faucet and apply Vaseline to the O-rings. That worked until the water heats up the faucet, when they again become stiff/squeaky.
The faucet spout became nearly impossible to move (certainly impractical without two hands).
Since I like a single handle faucet for both ease of use and to consume the water in short conservative “bursts” at a temperature between full-hot and full-cold, I decided to go to the expense and effort to replace the faucet. [Net cost just under $40, net time just over half-an-hour (including emptying/refilling cabinet and taking pictures).]
Before - photo #1:
Before - photo #2
Which show the original faucet has approximately 10 inches clearance over the sink-cutting-board insert.
After emptying the cabinet below the kitchen sink, including the lower space because you never know if there might be a leak leading to mopping up, it is easy to see the supply lines.
Before - photo #3:
Without inserting one’s body into the cabinet, it is practical to reach up behind the sink basins to unscrew the original faucet connections and tie-downs.
- The water fittings and the clamping nut-washers are both put-on/taken-off by hand, no tools needed.
- In the next photo, supply lines have been pulled forward of the drains simply for clarity in the photo.
Photo #4: KitchenSinkFaucet04.jpg
And the old faucet is now removed, showing the deck plate slightly displaced from the faucet base and the two nut-washers that mount the faucet to the sink.
Photo #5: KitchenSinkFaucet05.jpg
The new faucet parked in the place of the old one. This faucet has two down-pipes to connect to the supply lines (instead of the plastic pipes on both ends of the old faucet base).
Photo #6: KitchenSinkFaucet06.jpg
Reversing the process, again everything connected and tightened by hand:
- the new faucet was put into place, its mounting nut-washers tightened a little bit at a time, first one - then the other, until the faucet was firmly in place;
- the supply lines connected to their respective fittings on the faucet.
Photo #7: KitchenSinkFaucet07.jpg
After checking for leaks and flushing the faucet with the aerator+screens off, the aerator was re-installed and the faucet ready to use.
Photo #8: KitchenSinkFaucet08.jpg
Which shows the spout of the new faucet is 4 inches below the old faucets spout.
Refrigerator Cover Bug-Screens
Most flying insects are on my below-low-priority passenger list.
"Mud Daubers" and "Paper Wasps" are very near the bottom of that list.
Shortly after I obtained this trailer, I added the screens over the furnace vent. I have had the mud "nests" inside a prior trailer's furnace burner-section squirrel-cage fan.
Using left-over eighth-inch pre-painted mesh hardware cloth (aka course screen) from a refrigerator install ( that story: /photo_Refrigerator.html ),
I screened the outside refrigerator cover vents.
Photo #1: RefrigCoverScreen1.jpg
This shows two of the three rows covered.
Photo #2: RefrigCoverScreen2.jpg
Now all the rows of vents are covered and the three wire-ties per row in place.
And this reminds me -- I need to check the stove-top outside vent for potential bat visitors.
I discovered that possibility when I found "mouse droppings" on the corner of the counter top near the stove in my old trailer
-- and wondered how a mouse could get up onto the counter. Further inspection with a flashlight showed one ear of the bat napping in the crevice up
under the cabinet above the stove.
Laptop Computer Transportation
A new-to-me trailer requires different approaches to previous methods. In this case answering the question: "How shall I securely transport the laptop computers?"
I installed two pair of small tie-down rings in the upper bunk under the mattress where the computers are frequently placed between uses (especially
when desk-top space is needed for other purposes).
Using some pre-fabricated straps (found in the camping department of a farm supply store that also sold boating and hunting equipment) that pass
through these tie-downs and up around the mattress -- the computers now travel securely (and rest on the mattress as a shock-absorbing bed).
PS: Pun(s) noticed.
New 120-Volt Outlets
There are times when it is useful to have a 120-volt AC outlet on the left-hand-side/driver's-side of the trailer:
-- to use an electric tool,
-- to use a heat-tape on the fresh-water hose,
-- to pre-heat the truck engine,
and so forth.
So, once again I am going to replicate some concepts I had previously installed in my old trailer.
a. an outside outlet in a weather-protected while-in-use location,
b. one half of which is switchable (on/off) from inside the trailer,
c. that otherwise does not impact the appearance or operation of the trailer.
I selected to place it inside the existing power-cord compartment which already had a door with a cord(s) opening.
Perhaps selecting the location for the interior switch was the hardest part.
Since I wanted an outlet with GFCI protection, yet did not want the face of the outlet to be exposed to dust, dirt or moisture, I also needed to select a location for an inside/interior GFI outlet.
Existing wall surfaces that made sense (by putting similar things together) were not practical (wire access, too shallow, and insulation filled).
Consequently the GFI outlet ended up on the cabinet wall under the refrigerator (in the furnace compartment) facing out under the couch.
From the electric panel (where I installed a new breaker), it is a fairly short
run to this new interior outlet, and then a similarly short run back to the
location for the outlet in the power-cord compartment.
- - note: the wires have not yet been secured.
The wire departing the top of the power-cord compartment outlet box goes to the switch at the end of the kitchen counter which is near the main door.
* I ran three-conductor plus ground wire from the power-cord compartment to the counter-end mounted switch,
* the extra leg enabled installing an independent outlet at the end of the counter also (useful since outlets in this trailer are in otherwise short supply).
Finally, a picture of the reason for this exercise: An outlet that has one always-on receptacle and one switch-controlled receptacle.
Since I was already rolling around under the couch, it seemed appropriate to maintain symmetry of outlets.
Thus an outlet on the other end of the couch. You will notice a white pvc pipe cable-tied to the drain pipes -- it is to lend some protection to the wire run from the new GFI outlet through this area under the couch (an area that should see very few real people-incursions).
This project required screw drivers (including square drive for the breaker), wire-cutters, wire-stripper, a wiring-quick-check-tool, a tool for cutting holes in the cabinet walls (Dremel with panel cutting bit) and a bit of elbow grease.
* * Wiring up the switch and outlet at the end of the counter was "normal" -- just sit down and add the fixtures.
* * Wiring up the outlets under the couch (amongst the plumbing) was a bit more awkward.
* * Now, wiring up the outlet in the power-cord compartment through the 4-inch square hole was a definite challenge. (But, after we finish the tour, I will tell you about the trick I used.)
I used #12 gauge wire and 20-amp rated fixtures (a slight upgrade from the normal/default 15-amp residential units).
The outlets are also "tamper resistant" -- having small internal covers to keep out kids, insects and dirt -- which should also reduce nest building by dust-bunnies and mud-daubers.
A couple of benefits of the new inside outlets are shown in the following two pairs of pictures
-- cord was originally reaching out as far as it could, that left little room to arrange the heater location.
-- aside from the aesthetics, having a cord hanging off the counter and under-foot across the front of the cabinet just seems "wrong" (esp. as a safety question in the presence of a klutz).
Now both heaters can be positioned rather freely to perform their primary function of "spot" heating.
I do not have a picture of myself when I am getting up at 05:30 and turning on the switch that powers the truck pre-heater as I wander off to my shower: Yes, you may thank your lucky stars !!
This certainly beats going outside three hours before wanting to start the truck to plug-in the engine pre-heater cord (and also better for the truck than leaving the pre-heater on overnight).
I have used that end-of-counter outlet for recharging the small instrument (e.g.: mouse and keyboard) batteries - - it is more convenient than reaching back into the corner of the L-shaped kitchen counter to the only original outlet.
OK, Now for _ The Trick _ .
Short Form =
= = Work Inside the Wall.
Longer Form =
= = Since we are working inside the cabinets, or in a box that protrudes into the inside of a cabinet, we can work "inside the wall".
- After the wires have been routed and inserted into the pre-positioned boxes, but before securing the wires, we can pull the boxes back inside the cabinet and bring them out through the access panel to work on them.
- Then we wiggle the assembled box with fixture back through the cabinet and through the cabinet-wall to where it belongs, secure the clamping tabs (these are remodeler's or old-work electrical boxes), add the face-plate and we are done.
- After they are all done, secure the wires and close the access panels.
- In my case, the access panels were the ventilation panels for the furnace-intake and the converter.
A small add-on project:
While I was working in the power-cord compartment: I noted the thin material of the internal compartment walls, considered that sometimes I need to
stow the cord while it is still damp/wet, and decided to paint the interior of the box to give it a bit of protection. I found a can of 'spray-on
truck bed liner' that would operate at any angle, including up-side-down -- given the space in which I was working the spray-in-any-position capability was most useful.
Water Heater Check-Valve Removal
Regularly (as in all-the-time), when the shower head valve is turned off (as during the time-to-soap-up cycle of a shower), the shower hose will fill with cold water.
No change to the main tub/shower faucet valve settings has been made.
No other users of water in the trailer; and the outside-shower is truly off.
This is on both city-water supply and when on the internal pump supply.
When researching this issue I found several internet postings that focused on the spring-loaded check-valve at the water heater hot-water exit as a key part of the problem.
When thinking out the dynamics (which is a key word in this question as it is a dynamic-water-flow issue), the spring-loaded valve is the problem in the design of the system.
* * A spring-loaded valve will open in the direction of desired flow only when the pressure on the supply side is greater than the pressure exerted by the built-in spring (plus any back-pressure on the down-stream side). This requires a sufficient rate of flow out of a discharge point in the down-stream plumbing to reduce the pressure on the down-stream side of the check valve to shift the pressure balance.
* * When the down-stream flow is reduced (to just dripping or dribbling) the down-stream back-pressure increases so that the spring-pressure is no longer overcome by the supply (inside water heater) side. Then the hot-water flow is effectively cut-off (or restricted so greatly as to feel like there is no warm water).
So, off we go to the hardware store for parts --
Looking at the cuplrit -- a rather small chunk of brass at the top of the water heater --
After the install, a couple of views (unfortunately it is difficult to get too many other angles of view) --
This project took a adjustable-end wrench, some TFE Paste (pipe thread compund with Teflon fibre enrichment -- I prefer it over Teflon tape) and some padding plus pliers to pre-tighten the short/close-coupling pipe nipples into the valve. The plastic plumbing fittings can be managed by hand.
Since the installation, there is NO Cold-Only Water influx when the shower-head valve is shut down.
There is an occasional point when some extra effort will be required -- When Winterizing it will be now be necessary to change the positions of two valves (since the check-valve used to "automatically" close).
I think this trade-off of an every-day benefit out weighs the rather infrequent extra work.
Freeze Protection Fan
1. You are actively using the trailer, so you cannot "winterize the plumbing".
2. You need to stay where you are for an extended period of time.
3. It gets COLD where you are in the winter (sub-zero on occasion).
The coldest places in the trailer are:
a. on the floor,
b. against an out-side wall,
c. inaccessible (or nearly so)
and that is where the water plumbing is run.
Selecting the 'worst' such spot in my trailer is easy -- the back-left corner where the tub resides, where the plumbing would be hardest to repair.
* * That was true for my old trailer -- and it is where it did once freeze (in the course of 16 years full-time use).
* * And I am back to the exact same rv-site where that freeze happened.
* * And the locals say they are expecting an even more severe winter this year !!
So I am implementing (in advance of potential need) something I had for quite some time considered doing in my old trailer (but that horse is
already out of the barn).
Objective: Force some Air Flow in the area of freeze risk.
In this trailer the back-end contains --
-- the bathroom
-- -- with the tub along the back-wall,
-- -- and the tub faucet on the wall adjoining the bunk room.
-- the bunk room
-- -- with the bunks along the out-side side-wall, their feet to the back-wall,
-- -- a cabinet of drawers against the back wall between the bunks and the wall adjoining the bathroom
In the cabinet of drawers, a portion of the wall-paneling of the adjoining wall is missing -- to provide access to the back-side of the tub-faucet,
where the tub drain and black-tank flush plumbing are also visible.
The fresh-water lines and drain run under the tub, through a low-cover-the-pipes-box on the wall, under the bathroom sink cabinet (which also
hosts the backside of the outside-shower fixture) and then into the open space under the couch on their way to/from the kitchen cabinets etc.
They pass through the space where the furnace resides -- and thus there is a direct behind-the-couch air-return to the furnace.
1. a ready-to-discard computer power-supply Fan ( 12-volt DC, 3.5 inches across, quiet, low power consumption );
2. a two-switch/outlet electrical box and a blank (no holes) cover/face plate for same;
3. some wire and a switch;
4. some insulating foam-tape.
I did not take detailed while-working-on-it pictures, and since I customized the materials this project took about three hours.
If someone wants the blow-by-blow steps (most of them and the time spent customizing the materials), I can add them later.
Finally, some pictures:
* I cut off significant portions of the electrical box, so I wrapped it with foil tape to block the holes.
* Because the fan has 'clear' plastic construction, it is hard to see it (just the round motor end is black).
* It is wedged into the box using the insulating foam tape -- to help reduce noise conduction.
* Since the fan is a possible point of service, wire nuts were used here, the other wire points used crimp-on connectors.
* Yes, there is enough space behind the drawers to fit the box and not hinder the air flow.
* Power was obtained from the supply leading to the "TV addicts station" over the cabinet of drawers.
* A temporary switch was installed until I can find a switch matching the others in the trailer.
This fan takes the air from the bunk room and forces it into the cabinet -- and thence under the tub and finally out under the couch.
I expect most of the flow will be pulled into the furnace when it is running.
Stow Dinette Table
As some of you may recall, I did a modification titled something like "Computer
Work Station aka Desk".
This left the original dinette table in need of a storage place while not in
At first the table was up against the master bedroom wall - - and then put on
the bed for travel.
This is why the laptop computers never got a chance to try out the main bed -
the table would not share, it was hogging the bed.
I looked at:
- - parking it on the top bunk, but the counter-edge of the top of the drawers
cabinet and the window-trim 'side curtain' bottom-fastener
made the space too narrow;
- - behind the couch would almost work, except the couch used that space when it
was being "opened";
- - under the master bed had space, but I felt that attaching the brackets to
the soft-filled walls of the bed support could be questionable -
and I was getting into that space often enough that it could create a new
frustration around getting to things.
That left under the couch - - with the issue of working around the plumbing and
allowing stuff to be stored there too.
Looking at the table, it has brackets on the end that helped connect it to the
wall - - but they pointed up.
Turning the table over (face down), fixed that.
Searching for some J-strip (like the metal strip used to fasten a hang-on-wall
sink) resulted in finding some vinyl house-siding finish trim
that typically goes under a window sill. I selected the "Dual Under Sill Trim"
format because it has more strength.
The book-end was left over from the old trailer. The bolt-receiver was left over
from the bolt under the new desk/workstation. The wood
was salvaged from the wood-shop kindling box.
I screwed the under-sill trim to the wood cross member of the couch. The
below-couch clearance does vary in elevation as it is being
operated - - so what you see as the low-point both moves forward/back and
Felt padding is on the shopping list (primarily for the contact points of the
metal book-end with the table and the floor).
Window Shades - Glare Reduction
When I built my computer workstation (aka Desk - as described in an item above), the seating changed from alongside the window to facing the window (with the
opposite window behind me). This resulted in
1. glare on the computer screen from the window behind me, and
2. the window in front of me back-lighting the computer screen.
Closing the factory installed blinds helped, however the light passing through
them is/was still too great under certain outside lighting conditions.
I experimented with inexpensive static-stick-on window tinting film, starting
with 20% (twenty percent) light transmission. I found two layers was sometimes
necessary, at least on the lower half of the window in front of me. This
inexpensive film tended to introduce a pink or purple tint to the view.
This particular modification was a buy-and-install solution - - definitely more
expensive than some prior projects. These shades are "Industrial" dark-smoke shades,
typically used in air-traffic control-towers. This film
is also color preserving -- no rainbow sun-glasses (shades) here [Oh! . . a
sudden wave of feeling old just passed over me. . . Ah, it passed . . ].
I ordered the simple manual spring-loaded roller version. It has approximately
5% (five percent) light transmission. These are custom built and that takes
three weeks plus shipping time during their normal seasons.
The buying part was easy (although the pocketbook complained a little).
The installation up into the valence was most awkward. Even after moving the
existing fan-fold/pleated shades all the way against the window there was only
very limited room. Attempting to insert fingers, measuring tape and/or
screwdrivers was not an easy fit -- much less seeing up into that space at the
I elected to reverse the normal orientation of the roller to have the fabric
come down away from the window - - and thus essentially against the side-trim of
the window. That avoided some potential scratching of the shade film, and allows
better air-flow when the windows need to be opened.
One of the shade rollers rubbed against the forward portion of the window
side-trim, so I peeled back the fabric covering (after removing many many
stables); cut out the underlying wood panel (same material as used on the
ceiling) to down a couple of inches below the valence edge; and then folded the
fabric back into place to be held by a few simple office desk-top stapler
staples. I did this for all four side-trims.
It is rather difficult to get realistic comparative pictures with the automatic
camera settings – someday I will need to decipher the instruction book to find
out how to set the F-stop and exposure-time myself.
Some were taken with the flash on automatic, some with the flash turned off.
Generally the automatic flash did not fire when the shade was up.
Some were taken when the sky was overcast . . .
. . . and some while the sun was shining:
(flash vs. no flash)
Just a few hours at the computer has confirmed that this was a good move.
Fresh Water Pressure Tank
First I will describe the mechanical installation of the pressure tank, then below I will explain my reasoning for
doing it myself instead of simply purchasing a captive-air tank.
This is another because-I-had-it-in-my-old-trailer motivated project.
Here is the assembled tank, constructed of 4-inch PVC Schedule 40 plastic pipe.
This is the top view
The volume of this tank is about 2 gallons (USA) based on calculations using 21 inches for the long leg and 15 inches for the short leg
(measured to the inside corner of the elbow).
Viewed from the end that will be at the front of the couch
Here is the air valve
The water connection on the bottom is the 90-degree nylon elbow ( 1/2 inch pipe by 1/2 inch barb) in a tapped (threaded) 45/64 inch
hole through the combined thicknesses of the cap and pipe
Now the tank in position in the trailer next to the water pump and all the various water tubing
The winterizing tube in draped over the top of the tank.
The braided clear tube below the tank is the connection between the T at the pump and the pressure tank. The entry to the tank was
placed at the back so that this tube would be long -- allowing the assembly to be moved out of the way without disconnecting the water connections.
Pieces of rather rigid foam were cut to support the tank, starting at the elbow under the tank and raising the elevation slightly to
the end with the air valve. These will be better secured later after things have "settled out".
The pump was placed on one of these foam blocks about a month ago -- it significantly reduced the noise compared to the hard-plastic feet being screwed down to the floor.
Here is another angle showing the front section of the tank. The second picture shows the new connection from the pump to
the T that leads off to either the tank or the main trailer water system.
Two more pictures with the dinette table back into its storage position
Finally two pictures showing the small 12-volt air compressor as it will be when adjusting the amount of air in the tank
(and that is simply filling it, as will be described in the post to follow)
Now for my opinions and rationale for fabricating a simple tank (rather than using a captive-air tank).
I wanted to --
1. reduce the pump cycling, especially the one cycle every two seconds during a shower,
2. stop the dripping of water from the water heater relief valve (expansion during heating), and
3. be able to blow-out the plumbing as a step in winterizing the trailer with only a small compressor.
There are two types of captive-air tanks. Although they are nearly identical, they are constructed for two different
purposes -- and with today’s build to price-point design they are each just adequate for their specific purposes.
No captive-air tank (at least one that is not damaged) will handle the purpose numbered 3 above.
To properly handle both purposes numbered 1 and 2 above, we need two tanks. Two tanks take space, and require a
rather "boxy" space that can be hard to find in a travel trailer.
The first type is used for domestic water pump installations. It is built to handle a pressure range of
approximately 20 PSI (pounds per square inch). Most household pumps are operated with the pressure range set
to start the pump at 30 psi and stop the pump at 50 psi. The corresponding air pressure in a captive-air tank
is then set (when the tank is empty) at 28 psi (this leaves a small margin of water flow to the user just as
the pump begins to operate). When the pressure is at the high end, the tank is essentially full -- it does
not have much room to absorb the additional water displaced by a water heater.
To handle the extra space needed for water heater "expansion", a second type of tank is used. The air pressure
of that tank is initially set (when empty) to the top normal water pressure ( 50 psi using our example above). Then
the entire tank is available for absorbing the water from the water-heater expansion effect.
Now to what may seem to be a "fine point", but which is in fact a real issue for people using RVs.
The water pressure supplied by a campground or other source will vary, sometimes greatly.
- If it is a low pressure instance, the captive-air tank will be "too hard" -- it will not accept water.
- In a high pressure instance, the captive-air tank will be "too soft" -- it will become full too soon.
Who wants to keep adjusting two tanks at each new destination?
The fabricated tank will handle the low pressure instance simply by releasing air into the system (out
through the faucets) until it is balanced with the local water pressure.
I will need to inject additional air into the tank when I encounter a high pressure instance.
I will also need to contend with the absorption of the air into the water. A key advantage of a captive-air tank
with its heavy rubber bladder that isolates the air from the water is there is no absorption.
To handle this I will need to inject additional air into the tank every two or three months (based on prior trailer's tank experience).
Knowing how much air to inject is simple.
* Connect and start the air compressor,
* Slightly open the cold water valve on the kitchen faucet (as for me it is nearest),
* Wait until air begins to come out of the faucet.
* Close the faucet and turn off the compressor.
Cost of parts for the tank was just under half of buying the two captive-air tanks.
New 12-Volt Outlet
After installing the pressure tank, I plugged in the small 12-volt compressor into one of the existing 12-volt accessory outlets: and quickly blew the fuse.
The fixtures and thus the fuse have much too small a power rating for anything beyond a simple entertainment device (aka TV).
So now there is something new in the neighborhood:
There is a old-work/remodel electrical box behind the plate. The plate required cutting a hole for the 12-volt accessory outlet: again I used the tile-cutting bit
of the Dremel tool. Running the wires behind the drawers, under the kitchen sink and past the back of the water heater to the electrical center was easy.
However, making the connections to the 12-volt fuse panel was rather awkward.
It required pulling the entire electrical center assembly out of the cabinet - - and all the wires were just long enough to expose what you see in the next two pictures.
The "silver" shaft of the square-head driver is in the ground/neutral clamp screw-head, but the handle is back up there inside the cabinet somewhere.
Although the ground/neutral bar uses square-drive screws (which have back-out stops to keep them from "falling out"), the positive/hot side uses phillips-head screws
that do not have back-out stops and so the screw and clamping-plate will fall out - - be forewarned.
Tub-Shower Check-Valve Removal
After living almost 10 months in this new-to-me trailer, I have concluded the check-valve in the tub-shower faucet does not provide any significant benefit to me.
Presumably the check-valve is to protect the public fresh-water supply. But then the check-valve at the entry of the freshwater into the trailer already prevents backflow. And the internal water-pump also has a check-valve to prevent backflow.
So, every day, I have had to wait for the cold water left behind (in the hose to the shower head) to be purged before applying the water to its purpose - - getting me wet.
It turns out that the check-valve in the tub faucet is only gently press-fitted - -secured by the shower hose fitting. I used an alignment tool (shown in the pictures) to pull it out, a small crochet hook would also work.
The cross-bar end is towards the shower hose when installed. It is on one of the cross-bars that I hooked the removal tool.
Unfortunately Northwoods selected a tub faucet that has the shower hose connected to the underside - - probably for aesthetics. Consequently the bottom loop retains some water. Also the length of the hose is effectively shortened in utility.
New Bathroom Sink and Faucet
OK, It Is Time -- -- the finger bowl must go !
After a couple years of living in the trailer, I have decided that the
bathroom sink and faucet need replacement.
It is awkward to get my hands under the stream of water because the faucet is so
close to the back wall of the sink bowl. When dry-camping this is
particularly noticeable when the stream of water is kept small to conserve
water; I can only get one finger between the stream and the back wall of
the sink bowl (and only at the very top).
This year at the NROA rally in Le Grande Oregon, I visited the
Northwood Manufacturing factory that produces these trailers to inquire about
First a view of the original "finger bowl" --
I prepared by drawing a representation of the bathroom sink counter and its underlying framing. In these pictures the critical line of the framing appears to be either yellow or reddish-orange.
I wanted to avoid cutting the framing.
Then I prepared another piece of cardboard cut to fit under the new sink. This would define where I would need to cut the counter.
The black tape covers some initial placements of the tabs that secure the sink to the counter -- some shifting was needed
it to line up with the drain.
Now to remove the old sink:
Next apply the cut-out cardboard to the counter top and finalize the areas to be cut.
One quick last comparison of the two sinks.
Ink in the line, cut, adjust the hole for one of the tabs -- Add the sink, AND it connects to the drain without cutting the drain line !!
Add the faucet -- I may look for shorter supply lines at a later date (compare to image #5).
Finished: a couple views of the new -- and one original view.
Potentially I could have gotten close to handling the primary issue of the water flow location by just replacing the faucet. But now I also have some better control of "splashing"
-- thus less mopping up the counter, especially between the old sink and the old faucet.
Range Hood Fans
The new range hood fans are not for exhaust (and are not used during cooking), they are for early morning
warming of the trailer interior -- especially while boondocking. The stove top burners are serving as
a non-vented heat source. [See the note at end regarding safety issues.]
Two computer fans are used -- they tend to be quiet and use minimal 12-volt power. Larger versions of
computer fans could have been used, however creating strong air-flows can disrupt the clean combustion
of the propane at the stove top burners.
The specs for these fans include (each):
* 18 CFM (cubic feet per minute) throughput,
* 16 dBA noise level (between pin drop and rustling leaves),
* 0.023 amps power draw (by contrast the fluorescent light over the kitchen sink draws over 2 full amps -- about 70 times as much as one fan).
A DPDT (double-pole, double-throw) switch is used to allow single or dual fan operation.
Velcro is used to fasten the fans into place.
The first step was to obtain 12-volt power.
I started with opening the electrical junction box inside/under the range-hood: this turned out to not be necessary.
Simply removing the four screws that hold up the hood showed a large thin space up against the cabinet built into the hood
-- this is where the electrical junction is made.
Now that I know (with some simplifying revisions to the original plan) how I am going to install the
fans, it is time to take a new parts inventory. I used 16-ga wire primarily because I could see other uses for
this size -- even the smaller 20 gauge wire would have been sufficient.
I drilled two holes in the left end (that is about 3 inches from the refrigerator wall), one for the
switch and another for the power lead to the left-hand-fan (note rubber grommet). One hole was drilled into the
right end. I then set into place the micro-switch to which the hot (positive) leads were previously soldered.
Next I laid in the negative leads.
Then made the connections with the fans to pre-test the assembly. The twist nuts were later taped
securely. Note the small connector (most visible on the far right) that comes with the fans -- this will
allow easy assembly/removal of the fans without taking down the hood.
And now the range hood is back into place, and the fans have been attached with Velcro.
The first morning the outside temperature was 45*F, inside it was 51*F. Started heating water in the tea-kettle (medium-high) and turned on the other two burners (medium-
low). In about 15 to 20 minutes the inside temperature was 66*F, significantly higher than
experienced prior recent mornings without the fans.
Of course, one must consider that the majority of that heat is at or above waist high. Running the
furnace helps distribute the heat -- however it consumes between 5 and 8 full amps (and discards some
heat as it is vented outside). When boondocking, resource conservation is a key objective.
But -- redistributing the heat is another project for another day.
Velcro Tricks: The fans are held in place using two pieces of Velcro self adhesive tape, one up
against the bottom of the cabinet, the second (smaller patch) against the side of the vent hood. These two positions tend to fight for control when installing the fan. The trick is to use a 3x5
index card to cover one (eg on the side), push the fan against the card and slide it up into place
against the top Velcro fastener, then pull out the 3x5 card.
Safety Issues: Using a non-vented propane heat source has some safety considerations.
* fresh air (and Oxygen) need to be brought into the heated space,
* the combustion by-products eventually need to be vented from the heated space
( these include humidity and various fumes - possibly carbon-monoxide ).
Thus there must be an opening (like a roof vent) for exhaust, and another opening (like a slightly opened window) for intake.
Only use this when you are present and awake.
Kitchen Sink Light Fixture to LEDs
Another power conservation move was to convert the Kitchen Sink light fixture to
use LEDs. In order to preserve the original functionality of the
fluorescent light, this change added a strip of LEDs plus another switch to allow either one (or both) to be operated independently.
I started by adding new power-supply wires to the fixture, to be connected in parallel to the main trailer supply. These are the copper wires - one red and one black.
Again I used a DPDT toggle-switch in anticipation that a second LED strip might used outside the original fixture under the the cabinets in the corner of the L-shaped counter.
An initial test of a single strip indicated leaving this as an option was sufficient for now.
The wires to the LED strip itself are routed through a grommet-lined hole in the inner cover.
After connecting the power supply lines, re-mounting the light fixture, and replacing the
fluorescent tubes --
With the cover back on you have to look for any external difference (the new switch is on the end that points into the corner).
Heat Mixing Contraption
Another power conservation move ....
Here is a first look:
So far, this is just a prototype -- -- built to test the concept.
It was built from materials either already-on-hand or quickly-adaptable to the task.
A final version (if any) will use distinctly different materials (but a little more labor) in its construction.
Back in a prior modification, I observed the stratification of heat made the air at the ceiling rather hot yet left the air on the floor relatively unchanged in temperature.
The “another day” for this project has arrived.
Here are two more views (pre-installation):
And here is the prototype in operation:
The first morning’s test was in mild weather. The outside temperature was 47* F, very slight breeze.
Inside starting temperature was 56* F. The furnace has not been used for a couple weeks or more.
I began my normal morning routine, including applying the Range Hood Fans heating system.
After about 12 minutes, the inside temp was 67* with the floor air temp still reading 56*.
I hung and started The Contraption.
After 5 minutes, inside 69* and floor air 80* << == directly under the discharge.
I turned off one burner and turned down to lowest setting the other two burners on the stove.
After 15 minutes, inside 69* and floor air 72* (under discharge).
After 5 more minutes, inside 69* and floor air 10 feet away 62* (just inside bathroom doorway - roof vent slightly open as usual).
Then 2 minutes later, floor air 2 feet away from discharge was 64* (time delays to allow probe to settle).
[Obviously, I lack adequate instrumentation to get more than a bare minimum sample collection.]
It looks like I may be entering an area of colder temperatures (SD) by mid-April.
That should provide a more rigorous testing context. In particular it will show if use of the furnace for mixing can be avoided.
(If three-hour periods of sub-freezing temperatures are expected -- then the furnace will still be run overnight at lowest setting).
Current change list --
1. The rigid solid-core wire was ‘at-hand’, better and easier to live with would be flexible multi-strand.
2. An in-line switch.
3. Add a “cage” that both helps retain top-end circular shape and gets the intake closer to the ceiling.
4. Replace the quick-to-make-work dryer vent tube with a fabric tube
plus a few hoop-rings for shape (something like those long thin decorative wind-socks, but milder colors/patterns).
5. Arrange the hanging attachment(s) to allow end-for-end reversal in the summer.
... ... ... And a while later ... ... ...
I have found another use for this 'contraption':
Hitch Jack Extension
Every now and then I am reminded, as I add more 2x6s or even cement building blocks to the stack, that
often the hitch-jack does not have a long enough reach:
* to clear the hitch ball,
* to level the trailer when backed up a slope.
For example, the following is on a concrete pad with a minor slope down to the front -- note that
four 2x6s were needed in addition to the commercial "six-inch" extension.
So I went to a local welding shop that also fabricates utility trailers (mostly for hauling mowers, small tractors, or wheeled motorized toys). I came home with this raw jack extension:
For comparison, the original equipment round-based foot is shown, along with the "six inch" extension (which gave just over 4 inches of gain over the original foot)
, next to the new extension:
A little later in the afternoon, after a few hours drying time -- - - and a couple heavy rains from thunder storms -- the new jack extension-foot is in place, ready to lift the trailer off the hitch ball:
Up in the air … … … and on its own:
BUT … … I still found I 'needed' to use a 2x6 … …
… … just because I don't like the bars lying entirely on the ground.
Paper Towels - Stay Put
Due to the location of the paper towel dispenser at the end of the kitchen counter near the door, sometimes the breeze will unfurl several sheets of paper towels.
This is not the entire roll unwinding, rather it is the first sheet being lifted up over the top and then the next, etc.
I considered several alternatives - some more elaborate than others - to both stop this from happening and yet keeping an easy single-handed access to the towels.
Below is the answer using some wooden-toy wheels and a loop of bath-tub drain-plug chain.
Paper Towels - Stay-Put.JPG
I am often in the mid-western states and other areas where severe weather events are common. From some you can move away, for others you must seek shelter.
For all of them you need to know where they are and if you are in their path.
My old weather radio finally died, and it was a problem in mobile use because the back-up battery ran down during a day's travel: it required 120-volt AC to operate.
I found a unit that uses an AC power supply that provides 12-volts DC to the unit, and the unit is rated to operate on a 9-volt to 14-volt DC range.
It is a Midland WR300 AM/FM Weather Alert Radio.
I only needed to obtain a direct 12-volt DC power cord that had the correct connector for the radio side of the supply.
The inside of one kitchen cabinet was intended for a television, it has both a 12-volt DC plug and a regular 120-volt AC plug. You can see both power connecters plugged in.
I can simply plug the power source most appropriate to the circumstances into the back of the radio. The radio can also be taken in the truck or into a shelter.
I have not yet done the "tidy-up" of the cords in the photos. A connection from the radio's external antenna port to the television antenna has been made to provide an
amplified external antenna that can be raised from the roof and rotated for better directional reception.
Perhaps the hardest part of this project was making a permanent change to the cabinet wall: first applying an industrial-grade velcro to the surface, and
second drilling a hole for the two power cords and another for the
Battery Rack Extension
Decided it was time to extend the capacity of my battery bank; some evenings I need to work on my computer later and do not want to
draw-down the batteries too deeply.
To add batteries required first deciding where to put them. Neither Lithium-Ion nor AGM types are in my budget, thus it would be a
(matching the current batteries) pair of wet lead-acid batteries mounted outside.
On both sides of the hitch-frame triangle were welded a pair of rack extensions constructed from 2x2" angle iron.
(The photos for the right-hand-side had inadequate lighting, so just hold up a mirror to your display to see how that side would look
There are now 4 6-volt golf-cart style batteries (Interstate Batteries CG2-XHD-UTL) which, combined into pairs for 12-volts,
yielding 464 amp-hours on the "CAP-20" (uniformly drawn down to 'empty' over a 20-hour period) basis
or 948 minutes on the "ReserveCapacity-25" (continuous 25 amp draw) basis.
For comparison: group 24 sized 12-volt batteries have around 80 amp-hours and a group 27 around 80 amp-hours (varies by manufacturer).
This is reason to not make it too easy for these batteries to walk away -- especially those two batteries now "out in the open".
Here is the "security bar" getting its last full-body sun bath (while the paint solidifies):
All four batteries, in their respective boxes and wired together:
Now you see the reason behind there being two holes in the bottom support -- the old boxes were "short" but still adequate behind the
propane tanks. The batteries now out in the open are enjoying the taller and better sheltering new boxes. The height of the down
legs of the security bar were "guess-timated" based on the old boxes -- -- and fell just over an inch too short.
Here is the semi-final view of everything assembled:
I could either scab-on an extension to the down legs of the security bar to use padlocks as originally planned.
But I might instead use a 2x2" plate with a hole matching the lower hole to hold a padlock -- and weld a 2 or 3 inch rod perpendicular
to the plate to go through the upper hole. This would also further restrict the motion of the security bar (not allow it to pivot around the lock).
-- -- --
After thinking up various contrivances, I settled on simply
extending the down-legs of the "security bar".
At the local shop in Ajo AZ, we discussed what was needed - and the owner
came out to quote a price. After seeing what was being planned,
he asked "Why not do . . . " this:
Stop Front Awning Rattle
In my trailer, the head of the bed is against the front wall of the trailer. There is also a front window with awning/rock-shield covering it.
When it is windy, the awning rattles (especially in the down position which is the advisable position during winds).
Up until now, I have been using old white socks balled up to under the edge of the awning to stop the rattle.
Today I took some stiff-foam shipping blocks (that transported the printer) and simply carved a notch in them to get the correct displacement and to hold them in place.
Unlike the socks, they should not be compressed and fall out over time.
This page last edited: 02 May 2016