• Category Archives The RV from Heck
  • 7/4/2016 Base Camp Established

    In spite of vehicles down for repair, kitchen still partly disassembled needing paint, and life in general, the wife and I said Fsck It. and headed out. We’re camped out in the hills of VA. Haven’t heard any banjos yet, but there’s a bunch of other campers around. As the Zombie Truck is down for engine mount problems, Wife drove her CheapGP. Just relaxing now, updating the blog, and eating freshly grilled pupusas. Chicken and steak are on the portable charcoal grill. More when we get from vacation next week!

    RV camping

    In the meantime, everyone hoist one for our brothers and sisters who gave us the opportunity to celebrate this holiday. And think of the Brits who’ve voted to separate themselves from their overlords, the EU!

    Please check on the cats for us while we’re out, and I promise to repay in beer or soda. Or fresh Mexican dinner!

  • RV Gets Better

    Some of this is repeat, but with more info and Picture!

    I may jinx myself, but the RV from Heck is getting better and better each time that we use it. It may have been so obstinate after we bought it because it was driven and used so little in the past. Which means that there may be more hidden surprises here and there. Like last trip, the engine-driven AC decided not to AC any more. Fortunately, it wasn’t too warm on the drive. I dropped the beast at our local bus/RV repair shop on a Friday. A week later they finally got back to me: The cooling fan on the condenser was locked up. The AC would kick on, the condenser would get hot, signal the fan to turn on. When there was no fan cooling the condenser, the AC would shut off again. The shop told me it’d be a real pain to find the fan. Right. Turns out, it was a generic 16″ aftermarket electric fan like you’d put behind the radiator of a car. I pulled the fan off Friday afternoon, picked up a universal replacement the next morning, and a few hours later the AC was working again. Though there’s something strange with the ducting or switch now that I have to investigate. Maybe something didn’t get hooked up again under the dash.

    Then changed oil, oil filter, and fuel filters. All five gallons of oil. Filter is about 18″ long and 7-8 inches in diameter, not your average car filter. Two fuel filters, one inside the rear bumper and the other up high, just under the cylinder head, in an awkward place (for an RV). But thanks to Dad and the tools I brought home after he passed away, the oil filter strap wrench mated to 1/2″ extensions worked beautifully to pull all of the filters. Thanks Dad.

    Also did oil change on the Zombie Truck, it was overdue. And funny thing, the Zombie Truck oil change, specifically the filter, was much messier than the RV. Go figure. Just sloppy was all.

    But the big thing was changes in the interior. Right after getting the RV, I’d pulled both CRT TVs out of the interior, one in the bedroom, the other in the console over the driver/passenger seats. Crazy spot as anyone in the sofa would have to turn sideways to watch. I mounted a flat panel TV over the main cabin door on a removable mount, much better for viewing from the sofa and captains chairs. The now-empty hole was pretty big but had a tilted floor, to point the TV downward. I pulled the plastic liner and floor, re-did the floor to be level in the hole, added sides, back, top, and front (not pictured), and am calling it nearly complete. Just need to put fabric to cover the interior, and it’ll make a good cubby for something, like laptops and such when not needed. Yes, the photo is correctly oriented: Windshield below, ceiling above.


    The bigger project was revamping the pantry. The RV had a closet and plumbing across from the fridge for washer/dryer which were never installed. The one shelf, about knee-level, was coming loose and tilting, and was in general an impractical space. So I pulled the one shelf, put boards on both sides both vertically and horizontally, tweaked and reinstalled the old shelf and added a second shelf. Both shelves got front lips to prevent sloshing. And mounted the paper-plate and plastic bag holders (not pictured). Works much better now. Heavy stuff like the bottled water, toaster-oven, and such stay down low, plastic/paper/decorations up high where they’re more reachable. And food-stuffs as well, getting them out of the cookware cabinets.


    Next on the agenda: some minor mods to the Zombie Truck to make towing easier. I’ve ordered an LED strip tail/brake/turn/backup light and trailer wiring. Will permanently mount the LED strip below the tailgate and plug it into the trailer light hitch on the Zombie Truck for normal use, wiring up the backup lights. But I’m also going to run a wiring harness underneath the truck, next to the trailer plug, that runs from the rear of the truck to the front bumper. That and a four foot pigtail will allow me to disconnect the LED lights from the trailer light plug, and connect the LED lights directly to the RV trailer light plug. No more attaching/dismounting the magnetic lights on the back of the Zombie Truck for towing!

    After nearly two years, I’m finally working out operations: outfit prior to travel, undock and travel, post-travel bed-down. Yay!

  • More Workings

    Well, got a lot more done around the house and vehicles!

    The kitchen that’s on an extended remodel plan just got drywall done. I was going to go the easy route on painting the changes, and use the same colors as before but Wife 1.0 has different ideas. Though she still talks about moving, she wants to change the wall color in the kitchen, the whole kitchen. Bah. So I’ll do painting in parts: first the new area along with stove area, which will cover about 2/3 of the kitchen, then follow up with the remaining sink/countertop area later. But it’s a major step. Traded lots of vehicle work for the drywall work.

    The RV has had some work done too. Found out that the chassis (engine-driven) AC wasn’t working right on the last outing. Got it troubleshot and turns out that the condenser fan was dead, causing an overheat in the AC, shutting down the compressor. Fortunately, the fan is basically an aftermarket universal auto radiator fan. Got one locally, a few hours later the AC is working again.

    Also adjusted the front bumper while underneath, and replaced the busted fog lights. And did some woodworking inside as well – made a storage space up front where the old tube-type TV used to be in the front overhead, and put sturdy shelves in the pantry. The pantry is where a washer/dryer could be if I wanted to dump the money and lose the storage space, but I choose storage over the very occasional use of the washer/dryer. Shelves are a huge help in the space, stuff was just tossed in otherwise. And cleaned the refrigerator burner flue, that had a lot of soot and dust in it, so the fridge/freezer should work much better on propane.

    And hitting the road this weekend for Louisville, the NRA AM and other places. Zombie Truck in-tow. Joy!

  • Grenaded NP208

    Well, the RV from Heck finally broke its jinx. We have just returned from a successful trip from home to Fayetteville, NC and back. Fifth attempt to do so. First failed two hours short with a dead alternator. Second and third failed with some wonky transmission wiring. Fourth failed because of a dying starter. Fifth time was a charm. I’d found and reserved a campground near Fayetteville, had a great time with the kids, grandkids, and a nephew of my wife, in from SoCal doing training nearby.

    However, the title of this post leads to a different issue. Naturally. Over the last few months I’ve rigged the Zombie Emergency Response Truck (ZERT) as a “toad”. In RV-parlance, that’s a tow-ed vehicle, or in nautical terms, a dingy. Got a good deal on a strong tow bar, made safety chains, magnetic lights and wiring, and modified the front bumper for the tow bar mounts. The trick with flat-towing a vehicle is to keep the transmission from spinning while the driveshafts are still connected. A 4×4 with a real transfer case can select Neutral on the case, and put the transmission in Park, and be happily towed. There’s some caveats, but not part of this discussion.

    Anyway, the Zombie Truck happily rolled along behind the RV all the way to Fayetteville. Unhooked and used the truck several times, but noticed a rumbling noise each time. Planned to look into the problem when we got home, as I am also getting ready to install new springs and shocks (see prior breakage for reason). Well, about two hours into the drive home, I’m looking in the rear view mirror and notice smoke billowing from the ZERT. Quickly pull over and assess. Hmmm. Rear drive shaft front yoke is demolished. Some ATF from the transfer case (correct for an NP208). Transfer case is HOT to the touch. Being on the side of a busy Interstate, didn’t see a need to troubleshoot or inspect, just get back on the road. So, I unbolted the rear driveshaft’s rear yoke and used heavy zip-ties to suspend it under the truck from the frame. Didn’t want to pull it completely, GM used a slip yoke in the front and removing the drive shaft would cause leakage of ATF. 20 minutes after noticing smoke, headed back down the road. In reality, I could have safely pulled the rear drive shaft entirely and not worried about ATF loss.

    Got home, pulled off the center console rear panel (upholstered plywood, 6 screws), and looked down at the transfer case. Or more exactly, what remained of the transfer case:




    Ummm. Front of the ZERT is to the right, the rear driveshaft is out of the picture to the left. See the big piece of aluminum that’s vertically oriented in this photo? That runs crosswise in the ZERT, has the transfer case chain inside, you can see a little of it. That dark-colored set of gears, shifters, etc. in the upper right of this photo? That used to be contained in the forward half of the transfer case. About 1/4 of the complete transfer case is missing, most of it being the front half. Along with all of the fluid from the case. Big Bada Boom somewhere after we left for home.

    Couple of theories, nothing for certain other than that this transfer case is now an expensive piece of scrap metal.

    My first guess is that the U-joint on the slip yoke on the rear drive shaft got loose, worked the rear seal out, causing loss of ATF from the transfer case. No lube, no cooling. Kaboom. My second guess is a little more complicated: The transfer case in this vehicle is rotated about 40 degrees out of normal position for better ground clearance. Custom adapter between the transmission and the case. The pump in the case may not have been able to pick up fluid if it was too low. Same result: no cooling, kaboom, though I wasn’t having any problems when driving the vehicle. Third possibility is that the boot covering the transfer case shifter pushed the lever into an partially-engaged position, causing wear and heat in the gears. The transmission was in park, so I’m praying that nothing happened to that. I’ve already replaced the transmission because of a snapped input shaft…

    Either way, the case is getting dropped out tomorrow afternoon, won’t take much time. No oil to drain, and I’m not going to be gentle getting it the 24 inches from truck to ground. And I’m planning, after all is said, done, replaced, will disconnect the drive shafts before towing. It only takes a few minutes, there’s no need to jack up the vehicle either.

    All in all though, a good trip, and we weren’t stranded anywhere…

  • Stardate 050720152117

    The RV from Heck has now made a successful journey with no repairs or interventions required. Wife and I spent a nice four-day weekend in north central Pennsylvania, great KOA campground there. I’d done a lot of prep on the RV, so I was very happy that it performed so well. I even gave it a bath with the power washer when we got home. There’s still stuff that needs help, like some canopies that need replacing, but nothing major at this point. Hooray!

    Weather was humid, and rained nearly all day of the Fourth, so we spent more time inside than outside. Which meant that I could spend more time relaxing, catching up on my reading.

    Finished re-reading Monster Hunter International by Larry Corriea. I’ve read the whole series, his Hard Magic series, and several other of his works. I read quickly but have to re-read to cach many of the nuances that I miss the first pass. So it was fun to see just how warped Larry’s writing really is. Highly recommended all of his books.

    Read a good sci-fi story by a new aspiring author, Martin Wilsey: Still Falling. A fun read, starts in the middle of the action, neat blend of ancient and futuristic technologies and politics. Even better, there’s two more books scheduled, one later this year, the third next year. Can’t wait. Even better, the author is having a book signing this weekend in Manassas, VA: Martin Wisley’s book signing. I’ve already made a deal with the Wife: I get to visit the author while she shops at the local stores.

    Two things have been bothering me the last few days. I know and see how news is slanted and distorted. But I’ve been seeing an egregious example this last week and want to point it out. There’s been an increasing amount of fighting in “North Sinai”, where ISIS/ISIL/IS and the Muslim Brotherhood have been taking on the Egyptian military. I just love how the news reporters use “North Sinai” and the specific cities that are being attacked. Of  interest is the recent attack on several police stations in “North Sinai” that killed 17 soldiers and 100 militants. The thing that ISN’T noted is the proximity of “North Sinai” to the Gaza Strip. As a matter of fact, all of the attacks have occurred within a five mile distance of the Rafah crossing into Gaza. While every liberal worth their salt readily condemn Israel for their control of the checkpoints into the Gaza Strip, none seem to raise an eyebrow or pencil about Egypt’s entry points into the Strip. Egypt is much more controlling of their entry points, making life much harder for those intent on smuggling bad things into Gaza. Kudos to the Egyptians for keeping HAMAS under control from their end, and I’m sorry to see that their military, which has a history of working with the US, has suffered this tragedy. Just remember, an open uncontrolled border into Gaza is a major threat to Israeli security. Just wait till the Palestinians get a State of their own and start bombing Israel. That’ll be interesting…

    Second thing that bugs me is the sudden public shunning of the Battle Flag of Northern Virginia. Media blame goes to the recent church shooting in South Carolina by a deranged “yout”. But not mentioned is that the perp also burned a US flag, and was known to wear the flags of several “less sociable” nations. Just because the Battle Flag was portrayed publicly, the Flag was thrown under the bus, in hopes that its image would assuage somebodies guilt complex. Not like that’ll really happen. Uglier is that even more racial and political memorabilia can still be purchase: Che shirts, tons of stuff with the Nazi logo (note, the swastika has a history that long predates it’s use by the Third Reich), who knows what else that inspires true racial and political motives. Dumb move. Even NASCAR has jumped the shark, asking fans to remove the flag during their events. Not like NASCAR needs even more negative publicity.

    Here’s hoping that this week gets better…

  • Fun with the RV – 1.0

    As you’ll see on the RV page of this blog, RVs can be fun. And I mean that in both a good way and a bad way.

    Today was a good day though, I was able to fix several nagging problems on The RV from Heck.

    21 years is a pretty good life for an electric motor exposed to the atmosphere under the RV, right behind the front tire, and not used often. The automatic entry steps quit extending reliably. Several weeks ago I tore them apart, cleaned, tested, adjusted, and they seemed to work correctly. Till the next time I moved the RV. Then they refused to extend. Making the leap into and out of the RV when two steps are missing isn’t too bad for me, but a challenge for the height-challenged wife. So over this weekend I did lots of research, and found out that the motor drive for the steps is nothing more than a automotive electric window motor. Visiting a local parts emporium, I was able to select and order the optimum replacement motor, one that fits a late-eighties/early-nineties Ford. Today the part arrived, and following some more cleaning, and judicious grinding of the center pivot pin, the motor was installed, wired, and successfully tested. Joy.

    Another problem with 21-year old RVs is that plastic breaks down. The slide was leaving orange plastic chunks underneath every time it was run out to the extended position. Originally, I thought that some child had left a small toy on the floor to get crushed under the slide rollers. But in reality, the plastic is the cushion over the metal rollers. Sigh. Four new rollers from Newmar later, the slide doesn’t leave plastic chunks in the carpet any more.

    Finally, re-repair the main cabin door. I goofed up and let the door slam open recently and it popped the inner panel loose on the door, and re-damaged the outside just below the handle. One piece of diamond tread aluminum later, there’s now a protective plate to prevent further re-damaging of the door.

    As said, it feels good to fix stuff on the beast. It’s all fun when it works, and can be a real P.I.T.A. when they don’t. Check the RV page for a list of the fixes…