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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

MOTORHOME MODIFICATION - *G* Generator Maintenance and Fixes

I am going to start off the new year with posting some of our motorhome modifications, a few 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, we are up to the letter G now!


Generator Removal, Repair and Reinstallation:
We have an Onan 6.3KW  propane generator built into the rear driver's side compartment of our motorhome. It operates off liquid propane from a separate line on our propane tank (not vapor like the fridge, stove or water heater).

Our generator is very quiet during operation.  Located at the back of our motorhome, when running, as you walk to the front of the rig, you can barely hear it running.

A mention here on generator use when camping.  We normally camp in the rustic National Forest Campgrounds without any electric hookups.   It's fine for us, because we are solared up and have four big batteries to store our power.

We hate being parked next to someone with a noisy generator, especially those new cheap little yellow ones everyone seems to buy-- they are VERY noisy!   The Honda red ones are nice and quiet.

We rarely use ours while actually camping in a campsite..  I think we have used ours more while driving down the road, with it running the rooftop air conditioner when we travel on very hot days.  It helps assist the dash air when sunlight is pouring in the big front windows and it's 95 degrees and sweltering hot outside.

If we do fire it up when camping, we first notify the people around us before doing so.  We offer that if they have anything that needs charging up, come on over and plug it in!   We have charged up people's boat batteries, video cameras, cell phones and one time even a tenting gal was ECSTATIC to be able to come over and plug in her curling iron!!!!   She plugged it into our exterior 110v outlet, sat in a lawn chair with her little mirror and comb and brush and spiffied up her coiffure.  It's a big generator that produces 6000+ watts of power at full load so we can easily share the power.

We try to prevent running it in the early morning or late evening hours.   Nothing can ruin an early morning "coffee sipping, bird watching, sun rising experience" than hearing someone fire up their generator! ACK!  So, please, think of others around you when you run your generator.

Well,  seven years ago, we were having trouble with our generator --- we later learned it was from not using it enough. From not "exercising" it monthly under a load… 

It would not stay running.  We tried the normal checks like fuel filter, fuel line, oil cap tight, oil filled enough (if too low a sensor won't let it run)  We changed spark plugs and checked the breakers.

We knew we had a problem. We did a little research and found a place with some helpful information online. The great guys at Flight Systems were VERY helpful with troubleshooting.   Randy was “The Guy” to talk to about the system.

Their diagnostic troubleshooting information is the best and we sure appreciated their help. They have downloads of information and what things to test first, second, third etc. and using a voltmeter, you can diagnose what is wrong with your own generator before paying for costly repairs.

So after checking it all out, we found a shorted out browned burnt spot on the control board, and a bubbled area on the voltage regulator.  We think that our old batteries with the bad cells and the exploding expanded case on two of them ruined our generator somehow with a back surge of something or other.  (we have all new batteries now)

We threw a new control board at it, then a new voltage regulator, then cleaning the slip rings, and replacing the brushes (plus the ceramic holder cracked so had to replace that too)  It would run-  but -   … finally we came to the conclusion that it was still only putting out 55 volts and not 120vac.  That meant the half of windings on the rotor were bad.  Sigh.

So that meant a removal of the generator, and take off the rotor and send it in to be completely rebuilt.

We found a great guy down in Ohio,  name of :
SAM BORCK - 11392 CTY RD 5 - DELTA, OH  43515 -   419- 466-0485
He seemed to know the Onan generators inside and out, exactly the specific stuff about our model and year and did very prompt turnaround, we got it back within a week of him getting it!  Cost was $365 including his shipping it back to us.  What a deal compared to what Onan wanted for a new one, or what even other places on the net wanted for a rebuilt one.

I was the Gopher Girl and Steve patiently stopped from time to time to let me take pics of each step. Here are the pics of removing it.  Steve wrenched loose the rusty bolts...what a guy! 

working on the onan generator1

We had the motorhome parked over an area where the ground sloped away from the rear.  Then we could lower the generator without having to jack up the rig!

working on the onan generator0

working on the onan generator2

We dropped it down slowly onto a board balanced over a floor jack... and eased it up into the garage.

working on the onan generator3

Okay.. back to the generator---    Now it’s a couple weeks later and we got the rotor rebuilt and back.. and the snow is gone! Time to put it BACK in the motorhome.  Steve installed the rotor unit back into the generator.  We crossed our fingers that all was fine, because we were not able to "bench test" it without being hooked up to the liquid propane line.  So we just had to cross our fingers and HOPE it was the right fix.

working on the onan generator4

working on the onan generator5

 working on the onan generator6

 working on the onan generator7

 working on the onan generator8

working on the onan generator9
 working on the onan generator10

 working on the onan generator11

 working on the onan generator12

working on the onan generator13

Steve finished up the connections. We attached the propane line, bled it, checked for leaks… double checked all of our connections…. and hit the button!
annnndd it WORKS!!!!! 
wheeeeeeeee  120V ac current at the outlets… yahhhhoooooooooo

Generator Muffler Replacement:
On day five years ago, when Steve went to start up the generator for a little exercise (plus he wanted to run our vacuum cleaner to do the lower compartment carpeting)   it started up with big roar and a backfire BANG!    What was up with that?  The dogs almost went through the roof!

We shut it down immediately and went out to investigate.  Yikes!  It blew the back off the rusty muffler-----   time for a replacement!   Plus, Steve looked at the throttle linkage again which needed more lubricant.  It had hung up once in January and he lubed it then, but it was still a little sticky.  That is probably what caused the backfire.

Steve called around to various places to see about getting a new muffler, and explored the internet to see if he could find one cheaper.  Amazingly, the cheapest place he found, was right from the Onan / Cummins place in DePere, WI (just south of Green Bay)

 $77.76 with tax
part number 542-0472  RV exhaust kit Emerald LP Generator
It was a muffler, a hanger bracket, a manifold connector, and 2 clamps and bolts and a gasket

First step was to take off the old manifold connector.  Of course, it was rusty and the bolts broke off when trying to remove them.  Steve was working flat on his back on the ground with the manifold opening being up over his head.  ARGGGHHHH

He had to drill out the broken off bolts....  Once he got it off, he used a tap and re-tapped the threads of the two holes.  These photos are from looking up from underneath the rig.  When he attached the new manifold adapter and gasket, he felt the two bolts just screwed into the new threads might not be enough.  There is a lot of vibration on a generator---   (flashback to last summer when oil was pouring out of ours... seems the filter had vibrated loose and oil was leaking out all over)   

In this case, Steve decided to use longer bolts, lock washers and locking nuts on the top end of the bolts where his fingers could barely get up on the top side of the flange.  But now it is more secure and won't rattle loose (we hope) 

This is looking up from the ground to where he attached the manifold adaptor

Next comes the muffler itself.  It came with a hanging bracket and muffler clamps.  Don't you just LOVE new metal pretty shiny parts????

We set it up into place, clamped on the hanging bracket to where the old one was attached and then added the muffler clamp around the manifold adapter.  It was a really snug fit and we are sure it's nice and tight.   Last step yet to go, he has to attach a tail pipe.  (a section of conduit piping will work just fine)  but he has to go buy it today as he was not sure of the length and diameter needed until I brought home the muffler.

Once it was all in place, we started up the generator, with no backfires and no stuck linkage.  Wheeeeee!!!!     It was very quiet again.

Generator Oil Change:
Every year we take care of our generator with an oil and filter change.   We do it every spring, even though we have only put on about 61 hours since last spring when it was done.  The little hour gauge inside helps keep track of the time in between changes.

Here is how we do it:

First, we warm up the oil by running it for a while.  Then we shut it down and set a bucket underneath by the drain.  We write it on the filter with a permanent marker at what hours of usage we are at each time we change it.

Steve unscrewed the petcock to let the old oil drain out into the bucket...   It starts running out, but also carefully opening the top fill cap lets it run out even faster.  We are careful to not let anything get into the opening, so we replace the cap quickly as soon as the stream into the bucket slows down.

 Looks pretty good... 

and once it's all out, time to unscrew the filter.  
Notice Steve's wonderful filter wrench?? LOL

It's the same "secret special tool" that is used to remove injectors
after sitting 4 days on a corner in Winslow, Arizona---- 
for more information--- see the blog at:

Added the new oil --- here are the specs and part numbers:

 filter number WIX 51762
or 122--0800 ONAN

Oil change all done, and ready to run again....


Another fine day here in Wisconsin with this crazy heat wave.  We were up to 63 today!!!!

I had a sweet couple drive down from Bayfield WI to pick up a loom I sold... and then I had a customer stop by to pick up some socks she ordered and she ended up buying two rugs from me at the same time.  We drove over to Hilde's Deli for a nice lunch before they had to head back up to Bayfield, a five hour drive each way.

At home, I opened up the windows on the front porch and the back door so a nice breeze moved through the house.  I had the furnace off and the sunshine pouring in. Ahhhhhh  Steve was going driving bus, so I had some time to sit on the front porch and read a while (and take a nap!)

And a little note of a Happy Birthday in Heaven 
to best mom-in-law a gal could ever want.  

We love you, Mom P. 

1 comment:

  1. Your A to Z series has been truly interesting. Thanks for the pictures, too.


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