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Monday, January 2, 2017

MOTORHOME MODIFICATIONS *A* and Homemade Chicken Soup

I am going to start off the new year with posting three of our motorhome modifications at a time. I will post repairs, modifications, or neato things we have found for RVing.  I have lots of pics in my files so I will do them in alphabetical order.

Underneath that stuff, I will post my regular daily stuff..... kinda sorta fun, eh?

So here it goes:


Awning Lights and Clips:
Just about every RV in a campground has awning lights attached to the valance of their awning. Sometimes called Party Lights. Our motorhome has a fabric awning... without a thick hemmed edge on the valance. It is not the thicker plastic coated type of awnings you see on many RVs.  Thus it makes it more difficult to use regular clips or clothespins to hold on a string of awning lights.  They just slide off the edge with the slightest movement.

Over the years we have had various party light sets.... and we finally stumbled on a set of clips that worked with our awning. 

They are tiny double metal clasping types that are reminiscent of the kind our moms used to keep our mittens attached to our jacket cuffs so we didn't lose them! Made by Camco and sold in most RV stores, along with Walmart and Amazon too.  Called Camco Lantern Snaps. 

We also have some of the fabric with rubber glide tabs that slide into the groove of the awning roller, but using little S hooks was not practical either.  We do use a few if we are hanging a spinning doo dad or a little sign. 

I leave these Lantern Snaps attached permanently to the light sets (being careful to not snap through a wire) and just clamp them onto the awning when we put them up. Easy to take down in a rush for an oncoming storm, and you don't lose them on the ground because they are still snapped to the light wires yet. 

We gave away that light set shown in those previous pics, and just this past summer we found this pretty set at World Market on sale. It looks so cool and patriotic! They are glass, but we put them carefully in a tote when not in use. 

Alternator Woes:
Our motorhome with a 3126 Cat diesel engine has burned through FIVE alternators in the last 10 years since we have owned it. 
  • Some motorhome folks believe it is the added strain on the alternator of leaving in the morning and having to charge up the camping (coach) batteries after being drained overnight. 
  • Other motorhome owners say it is from not being used every day like a car alternator.  
  • Some motorhome folks say we need a larger one than what originally came in our rig, and to stop replacing it with the same size. 
Whatever the reason, we have replaced alternators five times. It is NOT fun to be stranded. We have had to drive with holding down the ''boost'' button on the dash that connects our engine (chassis) batteries to the camping (coach) batteries and running the generator to keep up the charge level to get home. If too low of a battery charge, the transmission will not shift, its electronic.   Nope not fun.

After the third one went out while down in Florida last winter, Steve even tried to rebuild it, but that didn't solve the intermittent charging problem either.  It would fluctuate and not charge steady. Then he ordered a fourth alternator while in Florida to bolt up just so we could get home.  That burned out in just 100 miles on the road.

Obviously, that still didn't solve the problem so we ran jumpers from coach batteries to chassis batteries to get home. We ran the generator the whole way for 1,300 miles. Whew.... And I might want to mention also that the inverter which changes our coach battery power from 12 volt DC to 120volt AC was acting goofy too.... Hmmmm?

This leads us to a sub subject also starting with the letter A is
Access to Our Engine Compartment:
When Steve does this kind of work, we are fortunate that our whole king sized bed lifts up for access to the engine compartment.  Motorhomes with bedroom slides usually only have trap doors and acceess holes to reach things from above the engine. That is why many semi truck places do not want to work on motorhomes, or charge a higher labor rate per hour.  We do not have a bedroom slide out unit, so our entire king bed lifts up insead.

The compression struts have long ago given out, so he lifts up the bed and also supports it with an extra prop pole that is really a cargo retaining rod for delivery trucks (found at Harbor Freight around $15)

Okay.. back to the alternator and what we found out was REALLY the problem....

Once we got home, we chatted with a local guy who rebuilds alternators.  He said we should replace the alternator again with a brushless larger one, they run in the $300 range but he had one on the shelf for $160. He said all the semi trucks with Cat engines were going to this one. It cost more but we decided to try it.

Since the fourth alternator was a fairly newly rebuilt,  we were perplexed as to why it was not putting out enough amps. It was intermittent, sometimes 12 or 12.5... and other times 13 or higher. He said he would bench test that one for us.... and hooked it up.  I got to watch and learn.  It was not putting out a charge of course.  He took off the rotor section to test and the regulator was shot as well as some other parts inside.  All the diodes were burnt right off, like over fried from something back feeding! 

He said to go home and test our isolator.  That is an electrical unit that splits the power from the alternator and sends it either to the chassis batteries or the house batteries, but doesn't let them bleed over into each other. Well, Steve bypassed the isolator on the chassis battery post by putting all three wires onto one post just to hold them together.  

BINGO!   that was it!   The isolator must have been malfunctioning and back feeding into our alternators and burning them out. The rebuild guy said that is how the others got fried. It made sense.

Nobody locally carries isolators, so we had to place an order on Amazon to get one delivered in a few days. 

Here is the old isolator... it is mounted on the wall in the engine compartment which is open to the dusty road and dirty diesel engine.  That is probably 20 years of accumulated dirt on it. LOL...

NOCO IDG200HP   $55.27 from Amazon

 Steve hooked up the wires and double checked and triple checked each one....
  •  2 wires on the left are to the chassis batteries and solenoid boost switch on the dash...
  •  (next post is skipped)
  •  the center post is the alternator and the engine clock. 
  • The far right post is for the chassis (house) batteries.
Everything is working properly... even the inverter!  

Whatever was back-feeding with the old isolator is now corrected.
Whew....  and since then everything has been fine as frogs hair.

Here is my third A hint:
Awning Arm Trick for Cleaning: 
Cleaning an RV awning is not a fun job, but it needs to be done a couple times a year.  We found out this little trick for making it easier. Of course you can lower your awning like this to scrub the underside. 

But here is the trick to reach the topside.  Unhook your awning arms where they attach to the side of the rig.  Now carefully lower them down so they can slide underneath the body of your RV!

Now you can easily reach the topside surface, scrub it with a long handled broom or 
brush on an extension pole, and easy to spray off with a hose! 

P.S. We clean our fabric awning with mild car wash soap.
Some folks with the plastic coated awnings find that
Bleche-White automotive tire cleaner works well for them. 


Now that those three Motorhome Modification posts are done, I will put in more of my regular blog stuff now below.  Did you know my first post of three A mods garnered 2424 views! 

and the one from last night is almost to 1,000!
Thank you for reading my blog!!!!!


Today is kinda like a normal Monday but different because Steve is home now. We had a leisurely morning and then went out to remove our Christmas Decorations from the outside of the house. It was warm in the mid 30s to get them all down without cracking wires or busting lights from the cold. Tomorrow the temps will drop and we are going into subzero stuff later on in the week. 

Steve is feeling better from his cold, but it is starting to take me down. I was up most of the night feeling yucky.  I crawled into a warm bed this afternoon for a well-needed nap, and I woke up to the most heavenly smell.  Steve had simmered up a pot of homemade chicken soup with veggies and bow tie noodles! YUMMMMMM  

Maybe we will start to take apart the tree tonight. 
Maybe not. 

I am thinking I might sneak upstairs and do 
some more sewing on my next quilt. 

And because I have not posted any cute pics of the dogs recently,
here is one of where they are right now, at my feet. 
(this is Binney, Finney is laying behind her)


  1. Great information, was thinking about awning lights earlier today and those clips will work great. Thanks and stay warm!

  2. What a great thing that Steve knows how to fix all these problems. Because having to pay for repairs was one of the reasons I sold my Class C.

    Nothing better than a nice pot of home made Chicken soup for a cold.


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