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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

MOTORHOME MODIFICATION - Replacing Brake Calipers on our Safari Serengeti

It's been a long, long winter of no camping or motorhome repairs or modification posts. Finally I have something to write about!

Yep, it is time to do some of that maintenance that's necessary when you have a rig that is 25 years old. Or really, any RV for that matter.

Steve is very meticulous about keeping things up on our motorhome. Last summer, he had replaced both of the rear brake calipers and brake lines. On our very last outing last fall, the front caliper had been hanging up on the passenger side. We knew that we needed to give the front ones some attention as well.

Any time he does any grubby motorhome repair projects, he puts on his overalls and assembles all of his tools before he begins. I am the main gopher right alongside of him, giving him tools or holding pieces or helping with whatever he needs.

I usually don't need coveralls, but I do get dirty sometimes. I'm also there with the first aid kit in case of a boo-boo, or with the cell phone in case we have to call for parts. On this project, we had to do both!

Earlier in the week, Steve had pre-ordered the calipers from the local Carquest dealer. Generally, they ship reconditioned calipers. But this time the clerk told him they happened to be replaced with new ones, even though the box says remanufactured. Maybe people aren't sending in as many to be remanufactured anymore? Anyhow, we did not have to pay an additional $35 core charge per caliper, because they trust Steve to return the old ones once we are done doing the replacements.

The price for the parts came out to just under $200. That also included two tubes of the special lube product that's used for brake calipers.

Here is the part number for anybody that needs it for the 1996 Safari Serengeti with the Magnum chassis. Our motorhome has the BFGoodrich Velvetride suspension made with Torsilastic wedges. All four wheels use the identical same caliper, whether it's left side, right side, front or rear.

The first step is to remove the really fancy chrome trim rings off of the tire rims. Then Steve gets out his handy dandy little tool. It's called a "Nut Buddy"!  Actually it is called a Stark Nut Torsion Multiplier Tool.

If you have never seen a Nut Buddy work, it is really amazing. It is a way to remove the highly torqued lug nuts on our motorhome. Here, last time I made a video of how it operates:

We are very fortunate to have a long enough level driveway to do the work on this right at our home. The weather was warm and we were able to start this project without any snow on the ground or frost underneath the motorhome, like earlier in the month.

Various neighbors have passed by and asked us what's wrong? What is broken? Are you getting ready for the season? Because it's not too often you see us sitting here with the motorhome up on jacks!

Steve is extremely safety conscious when it comes to putting the motorhome up in the air. Especially when he is the guy underneath it! After he lifts it up securely with the built-in center hydraulic jack, he puts two other jack stands supporting the frame behind the wheels as well as two huge stout pieces of tree trunk up in the front. That gives him five points of contact on the front of the motor home. 

At the rear he has the four wheels chocked, and the emergency brake is on the four wheels in the back so that is four more additional secure points of contact. Being on level ground really helps too.

The Nut Buddy did its job easily, and Steve was able to remove the wheel and rim from the hub. In reverse, when he goes to put them back on, he will tighten them up as tight as he can. Our torque wrench only goes to about 250 lbs. Then he will make an appointment with the local truck repair place a mile away and have them torqued to spec before we go anywhere.

And here is the rusty crusty caliper! This one had been hanging up when we were driving home the last time we used the motorhome. Steve said it had an icky burned odor to it as he took it off.

And look at this beautiful shiny brand new caliper! Fresh out of the box. All shiny silvery clean and neat.

In no time at all Steve had the new caliper into place and secured back with the keepers, the bolts and the retaining wire go on next.

That was enough work for the day!!!  He put the tire back on and snugged up the lug nuts as tight as he could go.

Time to take a little break and relax. Neither of us are really back up to snuff yet after our 9 days of illness. So we work a little at a time and take a break. I am by his side, running for tools as he needs them, fetching things so he doesn't have to crawl out and back in again over and over. Plus, I bring him glasses of water and make him hydrate.

Today it was time to work on the driver's side. The wheel came off easily and he was able to access another rusty old icky cruddy caliper.

Rut Roh! While taking off the rusted up old caliper, one of the little metal devices called a keeper, the very little hook edge of it broke off! Isn't it always like that? The tiniest little piece can mess everything up.

Fortunately, Steve is able to do a little bit of tack welding and could put it back into place.  What a guy! 

It was kind of hard to hold the one piece while he lined it up with the other piece. That's where my helpful hand comes into play. I held it up level and even, holding it where he needed to join the two pieces, which one was in the clamp of the vice. 

I tried to not look at what he was doing and look the other way as he heated the metal with the torch and sparks were flying. Soon he had enough tack welding on it to hold it together.

Next he had to grind it off evenly so the lump of tack weld would not interfere with where it needed to slide into hold the caliper. This piece doesn't take any stress or strain. It's mainly just a guide piece that holds the ridged edge of the caliper into place against the caliper bracket.

Look at that! My hero! For the slight delay of one hour, he was able to repair the piece that was broken. That was a lot easier than trying to locate a new part and have something shipped--- which might take a day - or a week - or a month - who knows??

Now he could finally mount the caliper into place on the bracket. First, he liberally smeared the entire top area with the special caliper brake lube product that he bought with the calipers.

Then he smeared the entire lower part of the bracket. This is where that repaired keeper piece would go. Lubing it up nicely make sure that everything would slide in and work perfectly once it was bolted into place.

With a few little light taps of the hammer, the metal wedge called the keeper is now holding the bottom lip of the caliper against the bracket. Yay!

SCRRITCH  SCCIRTCH   SCCRRIITCH sounds of the ratchet as he tightened up the bolts. I love the sound of a ratchet. I remember as a kid, we used to take Dad's rachets and sockets out of the garage and twirl them in a circle, enjoying the ratcheting sound of tool. I guess that's why we all grew up to be pretty mechanically inclined?

Tada! Second caliper is now done!

With every job, Steve has to add a little bit of his own personal "lube" to the process. A little DNA don't hurt the brakes any, does it? That is why I am handy nearby with the band aids.

Now we have one other detour to our repair process. Steve had noticed a while back a few little drips of brake fluid which might possibly have been leaking from a little plastic piece on the master cylinder called a low pressure switch. We had replaced this piece once before,  way back in 2008. Maybe it was time to replace it again?

Well, certainly the best time to replace it is when you have the whole wheel off so you can get in there and remove the old one. We matched it up to the paperwork in our records to get the part number. (I keep good records of all of our repairs).  We called the truck parts place to get another one. Luckily they had it in stock! The price has more than doubled from 2008 to 2021. But it wasn't too bad. It went from $8 to $21. Small price to pay for Peace of Mind. 

Might as well replace it now before he gets the tire back on. Well, apparently that was enough work today. Again, we are only doing a little bit each day because we aren't feeling the best yet. So tomorrow we will take care of bleeding the brakes and making sure that there is no leak after the new fluid is installed into the system. 

All good repair jobs take at least THREE trips for parts. The first trip was for the actual calipers and lube. Then Steve needed a second trip to go get an extra piece of brake line. Then the third trip was now to go and get this little low pressure switch.

Once that is all done, he will make an appointment with Nick over at Oconto Truck Power Center and get the lug nuts torqued back up to spec. Then we will be good to go and get out camping! 


On a fiber front, I finally got the 20 blocks made for this new quilt. It's made from all little fabric pieces called fat quarters that the kids bought me for Christmas. They bought me a subscription to the Fat Quarter of the Month Club! While helping out a little remote quilting store in northern Minnesota during the pandemic, the kids ordered and subscribed me to the club. Every month I get six beautiful Fat Quarter coordinating quilting fabrics. A fat quarter is 1/4 of a yard. 18 inches by 22 inches. 

I cut them up and sewed them with some complementary white fabric with little vines and flowers woven into it. Here are the 20 big blocks laid out so no two colors touch each other. Now I just have to sew all of the big blocks together and maybe add a pretty border around the edges.

In my blog yesterday I spoke about covering one of my chaise lounge cushions for our reclining lounge chairs in the backyard. I got around to doing one more cushion. I have two more to go because we have four chairs total.

After all of his hard work today, he kicked back and relaxed on one of my cushions and cracked open a beer. The Princess Binney figures that's her comfy spot too. 


Now on another topic. My daughter Heather told me about this. She bought me one. I thought she was pulling my leg. But it really really works! It's called stainless steel odor remover. It's made by Norpro. If you have stinky onion or garlic on your hands, you wash with the solid metal bar under water just like a bar of soap. And it works! I am serious.

Here is a link to one on Amazon, but I'm sure you can find it in any large household kitchen gadget area: 

On a final note, I've been on pins and needles all day. My one and only sweet little sister has been undergoing some difficult health challenges in dealing with cancer. She is one of the strongest people I know. As of 7 p.m. tonight she was in the recovery room after her surgery today. Oxygen levels are a problem complicating the recovery. Fortunately, she is also been notified that the cancer has not spread to her lymph nodes! Prayers answered.

Love you little sister!

P.S. I am also OUT of Facebook Jail. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Birthday, Patio, JAIL?? and Farmhouse Projects

 Our darling grandson Clayton just happened to turn 9 years old yesterday! He's growing so fast and that big head of his is filling up with so many wonderful brains and smarts and intelligence that he needed a new helmet for his mini bike. Grandma and Grandpa found just the right one to fit that bigger noggin!  

Drive safe, Little Speed Demon! 

Sadly, we had to stay socially distanced while giving him his present. We stayed outdoors on the deck, while he opened his gift as we wore our masks. We only stayed for a few minutes and then left. We didn't want to risk anything. Why?

Last Tuesday both Steve and I started feeling sick! Although we are both fully vaccinated for Covid, we both started coming down with an awful head cold, sore throat, low grade fever/chills, and all over lethargy. Our sinuses were on crazy overload, even though we are both on prescription Flonaise year round. 

We called the doc and decided we would just wait it out with over-the-counter meds. Nothing was severe enough to require anything more. We went through quite a bit of Alka-Seltzer Plus Severe both Day and Night formulas. Lots of Chloraseptic sore throat spray, boxes of Kleenex, Ibuprofen and Tylenol. It is now eight days later and we are just starting to get a little bit of energy back and most of the symptoms have subsided.

Before we got sick, we did start a new project on last Monday and worked on at partially through Tuesday before we were so exhausted we had to quit. Here's what we had started with. Outside of the She Shed door that leads out to the fenced-in dog yard, there was this little concrete patio area. It was tilted and sloped and cracked and not in very good shape.

When we bought all of the 16 x 16 paving stones for the new sidewalk on the north side of the house, we purchased an additional 36 blocks to cover up this patio area here on the south side of the house.

We stacked them in bundles of six in the garage, up on wooden blocks so we could scoop underneath them with the dolly cart for transport. Each paving stone weighs 32 pounds, so that is almost 200 pounds in each stack!

Last Monday, the morning was beautiful weather and it was a good time to get started on the project. We had gotten some pressure treated planks to close in and define the area that would need filler sand for leveling and laying out the blocks.

Our younger daughter Heather had an above ground pool in her yard. They had had a large load of sand brought in to level out their land. We needed sand and we knew exactly where to get it! We dug up and hauled out six buckets at a time in the back of our Saturn. Two loads were enough to level off and pack down to cover up the broken cement patio.

We were ready to start making sure we were square and right with the world. (that is Steve's saying)  The first three stones looked awfully good. Compared to what was there before, this was a great start!

Working carefully and making sure each stone is laid so the patterns do not repeat themselves, as well as making sure everything is level and snug and square together. Once all the stones are in place, we will sweep in the special polymeric sand that becomes activated with water. That makes a nice concrete join that prevents weeds from growing through the joints.

As we dumped out the third bucket, we found this great big huge hitchhiker! He was still very groggy from being woken up from his winter sleep. We let him sun himself for a while to get warm, but then I carefully buried him in a little spot over in the woods and let him go back to sleep. We are still having cold weather at night, sometimes down in the low 20's. No time for a little guy like this to be out hopping around.

We got 20 of the stones laid down but we were really tiring out. This was on Monday so we didn't know we were really getting sick yet. That was as far as we got, then decided to take a break for the night.

Tuesday morning we got up and went to it again and got another 12 stones laid. But we were exhausted and decided that was enough and we weren't going to push ourselves any further.  We did set the picnic table and benches into place, and then I went inside. 

I thought we were done for the day. As I got inside and put my feet up, I noticed Steve go zooming by the window and I saw him dragging something. I snapped a picture just as he went around the corner:

Sure enough,
 he had put his new grill out on the patio! 
What a guy.

That is as far as we got. Then we were sick.  We are going to pick up 12 more stones to finish the last area from there over to the corner of the building by the kitchen nook. (yellow marks) We totally ran out of steam. For now that is good enough.


We didn't do too much more for the rest of the week. We were pretty much down and out. Family celebrations were called off, an Easter visit with Steve's elderly father was delayed, and we just stayed home, curled up, alternating between dozing and eating and sleeping and feeling lousy!

Lots of chicken soup, hot apple juice with spices, some beefy chili and frozen fruit bars. 8 days went by in blur...  We did binge watch 4 seasons of Edge of Alaska! 

We started to get a little bit more energy back now this week. Steve decided we could finally add the little brackets to the screen door and get that mounted on the north entrance to the She Shed.

Before screwing the brackets into place, we ran a thin bead of caulking along edgess so daylight would not show through the cracks where it was attached to the door frame. I like that neat and finished appearance.  I held while he caulked.

Steve carefully pre-drilled and screwed in the brackets while I held them into place as level as I could, with added stacks of magazines underneath to keep it at the proper distance and centered on the door frame. I was also hoping no caulking would squeeze out and get down onto the black fiberglass screen material.  The magazines helped prevent that too.

Steve also pre-drilled and mounted the hinges right away to the door. I love these type of hinges, they are spring-loaded and make the door give a delightful "springy" twang sound as it's opened, and door can give a resounding "thwap" back into place.  The Sound of Summer. 

It didn't take long and we had the screen door mounted into place. This is the door on the north side of the She Shed by the pergola that leads to the garage. It matches the two other screen doors on the house, one in the front and one over on the south side. How cute is that?  Once the ivy and clematis vines start growing on the pergola, it will be a sweet little secluded entrance.

From within the She Shed we can have a door open on each side for air circulation moving through the room, as well as the three open windows along the west side.

This screen door looks out over the new patio 
and the fenced-in dog exercise area

This is the new one that we just put in by the entryway into the She Shed from the garage. This is also Binney's favorite spot to hang out on the ottoman to watch for the deer at night.


I made another cute little project and Steve was finally able to gather up enough energy to go out and mount it onto a tree for me. This is my repurposing of an old teapot. I painted it, and Steve made a little wooden circular plaque with a smaller entry hole, good for the size of a birdhouse. This wooden plaque can be popped back out to clean the teapot at the end of the season. He drilled two holes in the base and screwed it right into the trunk of a tree. I used a hot glue gun to attach the lid upwards on an angle, resting on the handle, as kind of a little awning over the perch area.

Yesterday I gathered up just enough energy to take one of my green striped chaise lounge cushions and recover it in some cute red and white printed fabric. One done, three to go.

Ohhhhhh I almost forgot!   

On Easter Sunday I got myself into trouble! Facebook trouble! All I did was post my cute little photo called Happy Keester with little babies butts painted like Easter eggs. I've been posting that picture every Easter since I started on Facebook back in 2009? I guess they consider that child pornography and I got thrown in FACEBOOK JAIL for 3 days!

I get to go back on tomorrow morning. 

Now it is Tuesday, and we are finally feeling a little bit better, but not quite back up to snuff. Steve had ordered some parts for the motorhome and decided it was time to get started. He will work on it a little at a time as his energy level increases. I wonder what he's up to?

I guess you'll have to find out in my next blog.