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Thursday, January 28, 2016

REDUX - Motorhome Modification - Replacing The Bathroom Floor in our Rig

Since it's the boring winter months, and we are not travelling yet, I thought I would do some repeats of my most-read blog posts on RV repairs.  This one had over 3,000 views when I first posted it. We installed our new bathroom flooring six years ago and it's still working out great!

In October of 2009, we noticed some softening  to our bathroom floor, along the  edge of the cabinetry on the passenger side.  

So we pulled back the vinyl flooring, only to find our subfloor was rotting !  Upon further inspection, we had three sources of water intrusion. 

  • 1. It turns out that the wheel well area  had a leak from the outside and was exposed and it seems it was kicking up water when driving in the rain.  
  • 2. Our washing machine had never been winterized properly by the previous owners.  We found out it had a cracked pump, and replace it, but not before the damage was done with with leakage over a year or so? When winterizing, you have to not only get antifreeze IN the hoses going in, but also IN the pump for the water that goes OUT. Lots of folks miss that step.  
  • 3. the worst intrusion was along the three horizontal bands of aluminum on the exterior.  The top edge of the band allows water in if the clear caulking has worn away.  We sealed it up again with ProFlex clear silicone, that is UV resistant.  It's a good idea to recheck these three bands of trim around the sides of the Safari motorhomes of our vintage.  We now inspect it and fill in any gaps YEARLY ! 

As we started to tear up the floor, we never realized the damage was this severe.   

Our friends Sam and Donna at :   http://samdonna-5thwheelvagabonds.blogspot.com just went through the same thing, a major floor repair/replacement job! 

This was quite a project! 

First we needed to remove all of the vinyl flooring.  Over the bad part of the floor, it was easy to pull the vinyl flooring off of, but the rest of the flooring was stuck firm with glue!   In the photo above is on the driver’s side of the rig, where it was glued down tight and firm.  So it meant we had to be down on the knees and using a putty knife for a few hours to get it all torn out. 

replacing bathroom floor 5

We did not have to pull out the toilet, we had to just remove the pedestal housing that surrounds the actual base.  That made the job even easier! 

replacing bathroom floor 7  
(did you know RV washer/dryer combos have CEMENT block weights inside to help with counterbalancing the spinning action? So they are MUCH heavier than household washing machines... ack! ) 

replacing bathroom floor 8

Now for the messy part:
replacing bathroom floor 9 replacing bathroom floor 10

We found the wood was more and more rotten, the deeper we dug.  We wore masks and gloves because of the moldy wood we are grabbing and tearing out, piece by piece.  We were finally down to the chassis frame and rigid foam insulation.  From the bottom up, outside, we cleaned and sealed the wheel well with spray-on pickup truck bedliner.  We also resealed the side trim strip on the wall with a new bead of some ProFlex clear silicone, that is UV resistant for outdoor applications.  We will be sure to keep checking it for any future leakage!

After ripping out the rotting wood, we also realized the location in the cabinetry had the washer/dryer combo sitting on just ONE brace of the chassis frame!   That very heavy 150 pound machine plus the weight of water when in use was only centered on one piece of frame?  That meant the four corner legs were not even on any support other than the flooring and vinyl and foam insulation? hmmmmmm

So we beefed that up too with more bracing  on each side before sealing all the bottom up and laying the subfloor and underlayment. 

replacing bathroom floor 11replacing bathroom floor 15
Once we got all the bad wood out, we coated the leading edge of the good wood on the remaining floor with this hardener product, just to be sure no rot would spread any further.  The wood was now dry and ready to lay in the two pieces of wood on top of each other.  The sub floor and underlayment are also both of treated wood.   We coated the two new wood  sections with a waterproof sealer on all sides and edges too. 

replacing bathroom floor 14replacing bathroom floor 13

We worked like a team, (just like when we built our house together)  and it was a fun project, once we got the rotting wood out!  We laid in the two new layers, firmly screwing them down and sealing in between with the layers with construction adhesive.  Now the new boards brought it up to the same height as the old floor, so all was level and ready for the new flooring across it all.  

replacing bathroom floor 16   replacing bathroom floor 17 

Now the fun part starts!  Laying on the new flooring!!  It’s a laminate product similar to the new hardwood floors, but this in a faux ceramic tile design… almost a match for the previous color of vinyl we had in there, and it matches our carpeting very well too. 

replacing bathroom floor 1replacing bathroom floor 18 

It was just measure, cut, click…  what fun!  

The angles around the shower/tub and sink were a bit complicated, but we used paper templates and transferred the angles onto the panels.. Easy Peasy! 

But for extra peace of mind, now the whole washing machine  was put in a heavy duty *drip pan* to prevent any future possible damage too.  The rubbery plastic pan was from the local farm supply store called a "Rabbit Droppings Pan"!    It allowed us to slide it in the cabinet easier without damaging the new flooring too. 

replacing bathroom floor 20 replacing bathroom floor 21 

It sure made a huge difference in the stability of the flooring through that whole area.  It must have been rotting away under there for years, each time we drove in rain or snow! 
PS....  in 2015 we added two bicycle tire inner tubes, one on each side of the washing machine.  Once in place, we inflated them to help add stability during the spin cycle.  It works WONDERFULLY! 

Steve finish-nailed the trim thresholds back into place on both doorways, and added new quarter-round trim behind the toilet and in front of the cabinets.  We put the base-surround on the tub again, and the pedestal to the toilet back into place. 
It looks as good as new!

And here is ...... 

replacing bathroom floor 22

We will be attending the funeral for my step dad Lowell on Saturday. It will be a tough "good-bye" for our family.  I think some time next week we will be gearing up the motorhome to help Mom get settled back in Florida.  So some travelling will be done in future blogs, I promise.  Until then, I will post more modifications for you wonderful faithful blog readers! 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Since it's the boring winter months, and we are not travelling yet, I thought I would do some repeats of my most-read blog posts on RV repairs.  This one had almost 1,000 views when I first posted it. We installed our Progressive Industries EMS Surge Protector in June of 2012 and it works just great! 


Ahhhh a whole Saturday in front of us with NO plans other than working on our own projects.  Wheeeeee

First up on our list of items was installing our Progressive Industries EMS LCHW50 which is an Electrical Management System.  It protects our sensitive electronics inside of our motorhome from spikes, surges, low voltages or even mis-wired posts in campgrounds.  (which happens more often than you think!)

In the past, we usually didn't camp much in places with hookups, instead we rely on our solar or at last resort, on our generator.  We did have some smaller Surge Guard portable surge protector units that just plug onto the cord. These work okay for spikes, but have no protection for low power, (brown outs) which can be just as bad.  The little units do not reset either.  So we decided to go with a hard-wired inside unit.   They are more expensive, but worth it. 
You can buy a 50 amp surge protector EMS that just plugs onto your cord at the post, but we hear of those walking away.... even with the little clip locks. Sad that people in campgrounds steal things.  So we decided to get the one that gets hard wired inside the compartment, as safe as we can get it.

We ordered the EMS unit from Camping World where they were having a sale for $250.00 .. that was the best price around when we placed our order.  This is a hard-wired unit that needs to installed carefully, with attention to each little step.  One mishap and we can ruin our electrical system.

We read the directions from front to back, and Steve set up his work area.  I was his "gopher" for fetching tools, as his knee is giving him grief again.  Love his stool, eh?  He already attached another section of 4 strand heavy wire to the unit in preparation to install.  (I think it's number 6 wire)

First, we made sure the power was unplugged from the rig! ...   then Steve removed the cover from our Automatic Transfer Switch.   He decided to install the EMS on the upside of the Transfer Switch to protect that, rather than downstream of the Transfer Switch (which would leave the switch vulnerable, but would protect the input from the generator)   We don't often run the generator, so didn't think it was as important to locate it there. 

Careful connections were made, with me double checking over his shoulder as he attached each wire.  Sometimes it helps to have two sets of eyes on a project as important as this.  Once the connections and ground was made in the Transfer Switch, then we wired up the connections and grounds in the EMS unit.  

Once the connections were made in the EMS, the actual digital readout device gets plugged into place.    We also had to determine if our air conditioners had a "delay" in restarting if they ever get turned off mid-cycle (they don't have that built-in feature) ...  so the EMS has the option of either a 6 second delay (default setting)   or a 2 minute delay (by removing a jumper pin from the control board)   to allow a delayed restart to protect the air conditioners if a shut down and restart ever happened.   Now we are all set. 

We doublechecked everything again and compared it against the diagrams in the instructions.  We stood back to admire our work.   Now it was time to plug it in!  We ran a "test" ... sure enough, it worked!   It read each leg of the 50amp connection and tested for any errors.   All is fine and our garage power is clean.  (we already knew that)

We mounted it up into place on the side wall of our electrical bay.    Don't it look "purty"????   (the black box on the left is what we are gabbing about)   It had to go to the left of the Transfer Switch, as the wall on the right had incoming and outgoing wires for other items.

We put all of our other electrical gear back into the compartment.  We carry our main 50 amp cord --- a.k.a. The Snake.   Then a 25ft 50 amp extension, and a 30ft 30 amp extension, and even a plain old orange 10 gauge longer cord to use in a pinch.  Also a few dog bones (recognize that one, Dee and Jim?) and some adapters for various campground hookups.
There... all back together, good as new.       Or better than new!!!

We are comforted by the fact that we have done what we can to protect our electronics.  Having everything in your rig blasted out by incorrect wiring is NOT fun, and has happened to two people we know of.  Mis-wired power posts and outlets can destroy everything in your rig.  When you start adding up the cost of replacing tvs, laptops, cell phones, control boards in all the appliances, light fixtures, etc. It is not something we want to ever have happen to us. 


Sunday, January 24, 2016

RIP Lowell Hall - Cancer Sucks!

Sadly, another family member has been taken away by the awfulness of cancer.  My mom's wonderful husband Lowell has passed away from pancreatic cancer.  He fought a great fight, and his heart was strong.  But he was comforted and and secure in his faith, and has gone to Heaven to be with God.  He was surrounded by his loving children and my mom, all holding his hands and praying.

Lowell was a character, with a glint in his eye and silly joke on his lips.  Teasing (in a good way) with a lot of sass and energy.  And he loved our mother, with all his heart.

Lowell and Mom had traveled to Ohio a number of months ago to get better treatment than what he had been getting at the VA in Florida.  They had rented an apartment in Ohio to stay close to his three grown children. We had been there a few weeks ago to say goodbye, and assure him that we would help mom afterwards to get where she needed to go. Maybe she will spend some time with us, or maybe get her down to their home in Florida.  We made him comfortable and at ease, knowing she would be taken care of.  His biggest worry was about her, and how she would manage after he is gone.  

He brought a lot of love, laughter and happiness to my mother. We were so glad when he joined our family and gave our mother the respect, love and attention she deserved.  Mom needed him as much as he needed her.  They make such a great pair. 

I love these two pics below.  We were out riding around Florida, doing some sightseeing on a visit with them.  I was trying to take a "nice" picture of them together.  Suddenly he said something, only Mom knows what he said... but look at her expression in the pic on the right!!!!  Yes, that is LOVE!

Mom's life was filled with his crazy ideas--- new vehicles all of the time and changing homes a number of times. Always on the go, this guy would find great deals on this or that... and soon mom was either packing, unpacking or getting used to driving a different vehicle.  From motorhomes or campers, to trucks or cars, to lawnmowers or tractors, to summer homes or winter homes and anything in between.  He was always finding something to do, buy, trade, fix or sell. 

Every time we got a motorhome, they went and got another motorhome.  We teased him that his was always a year newer, a foot longer, or 4 inches taller etc than ours.  They loved travelling, and Lowell had many years of being a truck driver under his belt.  He used to always want to know where we were travelling, not by town, or county, or park, but the ROAD we took or the highway number! LOL 

Steve and he were like two peas in a pod... always working on something together.  Our vacations to Florida mainly consisted of those two dabbling in projects, while Mom and I did our own silly little crafts, or canning, or cooking or shopping thrifts and rummage sales.  But Lowell and Steve loved the rummages too, and rushed to join us to go rummaging.

Best memory of rummaging was with Lowell, tracking down a rummage sale in the country, following signs, and saying "this will be a biggie, no kids stuff, just guys stuff, no J-U-N-K"  (he always spelled it out)   Finally we get to the place, and guess what?  It was a quilting museum shop that was having a rummage sale!!!  hahahahahah He got hornswaggled into going to a quilting museum and shop!  LOL ...we gals got such a kick out his expression!  But he did come in and oogle the old machines and interesting displays along with Steve.   By the next rummage sale, we found him a set of very expensive torches for cutting and welding for only a few dollars, so he was in a better mood by then.  LOL

At family gatherings, Lowell was an accepted part of the family, even with our father whom they got along just fine.  We never liked using the word "step" in our family.  Both my dad Steve and Lowell were "My Parents" and that is how we liked it.  He fit in well, don'tcha think? 

From the very beginning, upon meeting Lowell.... Mom warned me that he doesn't like dogs, especially BIG dogs.  Never did.  Hmmmmmm  Well, I tell you, he latched onto our dogs, and constantly was sneaking them treats.  All of the time!   He would make up nicknames for our dogs, and called them his made up nickname and not their given name.  Duke was "Rochester"  and Ducky was "Elizabeth" and Finney was "Beauregard" ...  and the dogs listened to him and came when called by their new nicknames, because they KNEW they were getting treats! 

He would feed them whatever he was eating, breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks.  Finnegan loved his cheese puffs sooo much that we were figuring he would start emitting out bits of orange poofs from his butt! As soon as my back was turned, he was opening up another treat and sharing with the dogs!  "Don't like dogs" yah.. .right.

Well, dear Lowell...  
please feed my doggies up there in Heaven,
until we can come and join you. 

--- and I will bring you an apple pie---

Thursday, January 21, 2016

REDUX - MOTORHOME MODIFICATION - Installing an Olympian Wave 8 Catalytic Heather

Since it's the boring winter months, and we are not travelling yet, I thought I would do some repeats of my most-read blog posts on RV repairs.  This one had over 2,200 views when I first posted it. We installed our Olympian Wave 8 Catalytic Heater in Feb of 2010.  We had to make a repair in 2011, so there are TWO blog posts here in the Redux. 

Steveio has been doing upgrades to our motorhome to ward off his winter doldrums.

This is something he wanted to do for some time.  He had the opportunity to purchase a new catalytic heater at a great price.   They normally run $400-500, and he got it for less than half that price.  This is a Wave 8 model from the Olympian heaters from Camco.

We do not like to use the big propane furnace that comes installed in most RV’s.   Not only is it a waster of propane, but the blower unit really drains down the battery bank fast.  Unless you are on shore power hookups, it really isn’t a good appliance to be using for the type of boondocking or rustic camping that we do.

The big furnace ducting on our motorhome is very inefficient and poorly planned. One duct actually goes OUT of the basement area, loops down through an open wheel well on the driver’s side with flexible hose, and then back IN again into the rig to heat the back bedroom.  Needless to say, the air flow is almost non-existent at the bedroom vent, and even shutting down the vents in the front portion of the rig doesn’t help much either.  The only time the big propane furnace would be needed is to keep the basement compartments heated in subzero temps, to prevent that holding tanks and water lines from freezing.

So, in not wanting to use the big LP furnace, we first did what most RVers do…  we called on a buddy… Mr. Buddy!

In the past, we had piped in an extra propane line through the basement, over to the passenger side of the rig, up through the cabinet that is under our table (it contains the extra leaves for our table)  …  and added a shut off valve and flexible propane hose.  Onto this hose we would hook our portable Mr Buddy heater.   Because the Mr. Buddy can operate on high pressure propane tanks, it has a built in regulator.  But so does the propane line in our rig.  Guess we were being *double regulated*  hee heee   We needed to alter the Mr. Buddy by removing it’s built in regulator to let both Lo and HI settings work in our rig.

This setup has worked great for us for three years….  but …..  it is always either setting right on the table in the way… or setting on the floor on a metal cookie sheet while a certain dumb collie walks by and lets her tail get singed on it!   Burning dog hair ---- ewwww stink! 

These heaters are safe for RV use, but cracking open a window or vent is a must, as they do deplete the oxygen levels over time in a sealed rig.

Our blogger buddies, Janna and Mike,  http://tinteepeelogcabin.blogspot.com  have a motorhome similar to ours.  They just invested in a new heater while out west and installed it in a good spot on the wall next to the table.  Soooo our brains were thinking:  “Why can’t we do that too?  We already have the propane piped over there!”  

Steveio started hunting and found a great deal on this one.  It’s different than theirs is, but we used the same idea and the same spot.  Our rigs have a lot of windows, which is nice, but very little wall space.   This is about the only spot that would work for such an installation.

Now… my guy has a *thing* about using templates.  He HATES them! But lo and behold, look at this:

seems Old Dogs CAN learn New Tricks?   
 heh heh

He also hates instructions… so on any project we do, I am frantically reading before he jumps way ahead and does something he ain’t supposed to do yet….

We got the unit mounted correctly and decided we would later also remove the flip down step cover.  (you can see the step cover in the above photos below, the wooden structure in the lower right hand corner that is between the wall and the door)

In the UP position, it’s a grab bar on the stair side and locks into place in vertical position along that wooden brown board you see next to the door.  In the DOWN position, it’s a carpeted cover to prevent folks from falling into the stair well of 2 steps down when the unit is parked.  (we never use it in the DOWN position)   So we will remove this another day and tuck that carpet edge along the brass strip surrounding the stair well opening.

Okay… back to the Olympian installation….  here Steveio is flaring the copper pipe and drilling a hole through the cabinet to let the hookup attach to the heater. 

I got to make sure it was *level*  and he did the testing of all the flare fittings for leaks.

We later added a "sediment trap" per manufacturer's suggestion.... 

It lined up pretty well! 

We lit ‘er up and filled the motorhome with heat in no time flat!   It was 28 degrees when we went out there, and in no time we were up to 57 degrees!    Now to put away all the tools (and we later removed that step cover)

We also made a vinyl protective cover for dust and debris.
I sewed little magnets around the edges
and it just clings into place. 

Stay tuned: our next modification up our sleeves is four 100 watt solar panels installed once the sun shines and the snow melts and we can get up on the roof!

AND-----  A year or so later, here is our second blog post about the heater... when we learned our lesson about keeping the heater covered when not in use, and pad contamination from junk in our propane lines! 

MOTORHOME MODIFICATION - Repair of our Olympian Wave 8 heater

  • Yup, sometimes things break.
  • Sometimes they break because we didn't read the directions.
  • Sometimes they break and need to be repaired, rather than just thrown out.

WE LOVE our Olympian Wave 8 propane catalytic ventless heater for the motorhome.  It uses no electricity or battery power. It is very frugal on the propane use.  It heats the rig up very well, and on 10 degree days, setting it on high it can just about cook you outta the motorhome.  Although it is rated safe for indoors, we also crack open window for fresh air and have a working Co detector. 

Here is a link to the blog when we first got it and installed it.

When we installed it in early 2010, the directions warned us to keep it covered when not in use.  (we didn't) ...  and we later found out that the dust out west in Arizona did what was called "pad poisoning" to the delicate fibery pad on the unit.  We were in a number of dusty areas, and we waited out two dust storms besides.  Even with the windows closed, you could taste dust in your mouth and feel it in your lungs. It did the damage on the heater for sure. 

By the time we were driving near Quartzite, AZ last winter, the heater would barely function or throw off any heat.  It would also kick off during operation for no reason.  Rut Roh!

Plus,  a combination of high altitude and possibly running our propane tank too low one time also caused debris to get into the inner workings of the heater when we were in Arizona.    Although the desert was warm during the days, the nights were cold and we needed the heater at night. 

From that point on, we knew we were heading up further north and needed heat while at the Grand Canyon and heat to get the rest of the way home...  so we had to pick up another heater fast.  

The Olympian heater is factory sealed and has to be sent in to the company for repairs.  Kinda hard to do while travelling on the road.   We could not afford another Olympian Wave 8 at the current price at an RV dealer in Quartzite ($550.00)   but we did stop at a nice hardware store on the main drag and found a ProCom heater for only $175.00 that would work in the meantime. We installed it that very night in the same spot that the Olympian occupied. 

Whew... we had heat again! 

This ProCom heater is similar to the Mr.Heater Big Buddy heaters--- with a radiant design and square white brick units.  10,000 BTU on HI and 5,000 BTU on LOW.  It works good and we used it the rest of the trip home, and all summer while camping.  

But we had this $500+ Olympian sitting there in the garage all summer, needing repair.  

I recently called Camco who makes the Olympian heater, and got the information for shipping it in, where they could examine our heater.  I happened to send it in the empty box from the ProCom heater and added a note saying that we are using the ProCom in the meantime, but REALLY REALLY want our Olympian back! Just so they knew we were loyal customers.  LOL 

Sadly, the warranty does not cover "pad poisoning", nor debris that comes through the propane lines. And that is exactly what they diagnosed as the problem.   So we were out of luck on a free repair under warranty.  But they were very nice.  The cost to replace the pad was $112 in parts and $48 labor estimate.   I called them back on the phone with permission to proceed with the repairs and mentioned how much we loved our heater and how I blogged about it when we installed it, he later returned an email with a discount on our repair bill!   How nice was that?   

The heater was returned to us after repairs and we had it back here in 2 days!  

The repair guy at the factory strongly suggested two items to prevent this happening again in the future.  

One was to make a "sediment trap" to prevent unwanted gunk and debris from the propane tank to get into the heater.  It has a much more sensitive orifice opening than regular RV appliances like the fridge, water heater and stove.    He sent me this diagram:

He also strongly suggested that we get a cover for the unit when not in operation.  They sell them for about $20-25 plus shipping, available at many RV stores.   But I knew I could make something similar, and had Heather pick up some grey vinyl from Joann's on her way up here the next day.  I sewed a nice cover with magnets all around for a tight fit.  Steveio put a sediment trap on the line, installed the heater back where it belongs, and we were good to go! Ahhh that feels good! 

And now it is 2016, the heater is still operating just perfectly.  So my advice is that if you put one of these in, you put in a sediment trap on the propane line, and make or buy a cover for it.  Learn from our bad choices, and then you can enjoy your heater!