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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

MOTORHOME MODIFICATIONS - *T* is Transmission Fluid and Filters Change and Storms

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 T now!


Transmission Filter and Fluid Change:

Let's start with our unknowingly running our diesel motorhome on 16 year old transmission fluid and filters!  

Yup, you read that right!  16 years old transmission fluid and filters!!! 

In 2012, Steveio was out draining our tranny fluid and removing the old filters...  We had put on just over 32,000 miles since buying our used rig in 2006. 

Did you know tranny filters have dates on them?? 

That is important because of the next part I am going to write about.

When we bought our used rig in 2006, our sales slip states we have NEW transmission filters, NEW 6 gallons of tranny fluid and $95 labor charged for completing the job.   It was included as part of the deal we negotiated from Al's Motorhomes in Rockford, Illinois. 

and here is the labor charge;

Hmmmmm but the dates on the filters Steve removed have printed on them 3/96  ---- yes ---- you read that right,  1996!   That makes them the original filters that came with our rig, which was made in 1996.   

Obviously we thought we got NEW filters and tranny fluid when we bought our rig, according to the sales slip.  But now with this revelation, that makes the filters, and most likely the tranny fluid, SIXTEEN YEARS OLD!!!!!

Lesson learned ---  see why we insist on doing ALL of our own work now, instead of trusting someone 200 miles away when we are having them "prep" the rig for our purchase?   

Gotta do it yourself or else be allowed to look over their shoulders---  "insurance regulations" or "shop policy" be damned.... or set up a video camera to see if they do the work they promised they are doing? 

Looks like Al's Motorhomes of Rockford are out of business now, or else they would get an earful from me for sure!   

Steve took care of our tranny fluid and filters by now doing a better service to our Allison transmission by putting in synthetic fluid called Transyd.

When Steve was buying the filters and gasket kit, the Allison dealer said many motorhome manufacturers will change the size of the pan, (low sump or high sump, 2" or 4")  and it's best to buy BOTH kits and return the one not used.   That way your rig is not sitting wide open susceptible to dirt intrusion while you run back to get the other kit if you purchased the wrong one!   What a great idea when you live 80 miles round trip like we do!

The first step is using a special hex head to remove the bolt that will drain the old tranny fluid.  Steve looks quite pleased that it came out easily without having to contort or twist himself into a pretzel to remove it from underneath the rig.

We drain the fluid into a big flat tote 
that we later pour into buckets 
to bring to our mechanic friend Lyle.  He recycles it for us.  

Our diesel motorhome takes five gallons of transmission fluid. 

Once the pan is drained, then it's time to remove the filters.  
Even more fluid comes out as he removes them.

(this is where we discovered the dated filters were from 1996!) 

He has to remove the old gaskets from the filter base. 

He carefully assembles the two new special O rings 
onto the base section, 
making sure everything is spic and span clean! 

One spec of sand or grit can mess up the transmission, 
so he is extremely cautious in doing this.

Next comes the gasket, and yes, it's a perfect fit. 

Now both of the filters slip firmly into place and are ready to be reinserted back onto the transmission.  Keeping clean during this part of the process is important. 

Using a special torque wrench to be sure of the bolt-tightening on the threads...   with the filters back in place, the new Transyd fluid is put into the motorhome.  

The amount of old fluid left in the tranny cooler is able to mix with the new and the two are said to be compatible. It will not need to be touched again for 300,000 miles.   Yearly testing can be done with analysis of the chemicals helps to determine wear and tear, and viscosity of the fluid.

We added the amount of fluid we felt was close to the calibrated dip stick fill line at cold.  Then we started up the rig, and took it for a ride to warm it up and check the levels again when warmed to 170 degrees.  

Once the tranny was warmed up, we checked the levels with both the calibrated dip stick and the electronic transmission shift pad which has a digital diagnostic readout of the levels. All was just perfect!

Again, I am so glad that Steve is able to handle this tranny fluid and filter change for us.  I shudder to think of the cost of having it done, and done correctly, and paying for labor besides the costs of the supplies! 

I don't want to go out and wade through the snow to get the exact part numbers and costs... but we bought 6 gallons of Transyd about $50 a gallon, the filters were another $50 or so and the gasket kits about another $30?  so all in all about $400 to do this job on our own.   If you are planning to have it done by a mechanic, I would choose an Allison shop for semi trucks to do the job, and do it right. 


As many have heard on the news, we got hit with a whopper of a three day storm over the weekend.  We were prepared with groceries, battery lanterns, oil lamps, flashlight and our gas log fireplace (doesn't need electricity to operate).   With the high winds and ice coating everything first, there is a real danger of falling trees on power lines and outages.  Towns to the west and south of us were out of power for hours on end.  We were lucky throughout it all and kept the power on. 

On top of the ice, then we got snow, snow and more snow!  I think our official rate was 12" from the weathermen, but it was blowing so much the drifts were much higher.   Steve went out a couple times to clear the snow from the street that the plows shove across the end of the driveway. If you don't remove it quickly, it becomes rock hard and unable to get through it later with the snowblower.   As it was, he had to take a small slice at a time to keep the end of the driveway open.

Our daughter was driving home after work and did a grocery shopping late on Friday night. She works second shift so this was about midnight. She has a long trek of about 35 miles to home and got stuck during the last mile or so in her Jeep! 

Even with a 4 wheel drive Jeep, the roads and winds were treacherous.  She called a tow truck, who delayed and delayed getting to her. Due to the high volume of accidents, she was waiting and waiting.  She kept the tailpipe clear so she could run the engine to keep warm.  But she waited so long that she ran out of gas!  She was sitting in the freezing cold temps in the middle of the night.  Her husband Jesse was stranded at home with only a mini-van unable to get through that kind of snow...  and they had two sleeping children plus a HUGE 5 foot drift across their driveway so he couldn't even get out if he wanted to.  I am sooo thankful she didn't try to walk it the rest of the way. Fortunately her friend Randy was able to come in the middle of the night and rescue her and her groceries before she froze to death!  The tow truck didn't make it there until about 9 or 10 am the next day! 

The tow truck towed it as far as 
the bottom of their driveway,
 and left it there. 

The drifting was sooo high!  In their area, they got 30 inches of snowfall.  And the drifts were much higher due to the winds.  Here is the entrance to their local YMCA in Marinette/Menominee.

The news stations have stories now yesterday and today of roofs collapsing on various businesses and factories. The Econolodge Motel in Green Bay had some people swimming in the pool. They heard some weird noises so someone reported it to the desk clerk. He cleared everyone from the pool and the whole roof collapsed in soon after everyone had gotten safely out! Whew!   

We stayed inside safe and sound, watching the storm out of our windows.  It was cozy to stay home for three days and not have to go out anywhere or do anything.  

We watched some movies, I did some sewing, and Steve is starting on a new Our Old Project (details to come in the next blog).  We had food, water, heat and lights.  Not too bad.  Steve did run out of gas for the snowblower, but we looked out and saw our neighbors daughter using her snowblower and she came out and did the rest of our drive in front of the garage. Thanks Lori! He later walked on down to the gas station two blocks away for more gas, and he was able to finish up on Monday.  

I shot a little video for my friends in Tennessee and MIssouri
who both like to see the snows that we get here in Wisconsin.

Our grandkids were all having a blast with a day off school, and their parents took a day off work on Monday as well.  They got to play and sled and slide and make forts.  Heather gave her little Whitney 2 year old some hot cocoa for the first time.  Whitney declared it "Chocolate Soup!"  They are all going to remember the snowstorm of 2018, with fond memories and family fun. 

Yup, looking out my windows
while the weatherman is now saying ---

I think of my pretty little blue starbrite crocuses that came up last week along the south side of the house.  They are now buried under the snow and probably gone again until next year.  Will Spring ever come? 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

MOTORHOME MODIFICATIONS - *T* is Tensioner Pulley, Thermostat and Thermacell plus Brat Fry

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 T now!


Tensioner Pulley:

We have had problems with a tensioner pulley a number of times on our rig.  We have changed them out I think 4 times now.  Other Safari folks with the same model and year seem to have it go to heck too.  We have a Cat 3126 diesel engine. 

We were on our way home 7 years ago and stopped to see a friend in Bethel, MO. We backed outta Rosie’s barnyard and said our “See You Soons” and pulled outta Bethel.  We drove about 5 miles away when Steve noticed our alternator was not putting out a charge…. oh my!   We pulled over and lifted the bed.  The tensioner pulley for the belt that runs on those pulleys to charge it had somehow lost it’s springiness.  We had changed that one a couple years back, and now it’s broke again.  Good thing Steve has a running scan going of all engine and tranny systems on the Silverleaf VMSpc on the dash screen of the Safari.  He can tell at a glance if anything is amiss.

Steve got out some heavy black wire ties and was able to secure the pulley in a tensioned position, and I checked the readouts… yes!  we were charging again!

Let’s hear it for wire-ties!  The World’s Best Invention Next to Duct Tape!
heading home0

We made it the rest of the way home with the wire tied section, and then ordered a new tension pulley as soon as we got home.  This is what it looks like:

He changed it out by taking the pressure off the belt, and it's only one bolt that removes the pulley.  He put in the new one and lined up the little pin in the hole to make sure it's in the right position.  Tighten up the bolt, and we are good to go again. 

We keep an extra on board for "just in case" if it goes out again. 


Just like in a car, our diesel motorhome has a thermostat. Back about 8 or 9 years ago, Steve felt our engine temp was not getting up high enough and realized the thermostat was malfunctioning.  They are small metal spring devices that are made to open and close according to temps of the circulating radiator coolant fluid.  A bad functioning thermostat affects not only the heating or cooling at the dash, but on the diesel engine it affects the engine's function. If the temps are not just right, it derates and slows the engine down to a crawl, just enough to get you off the highway and get a tow truck.  Much easier to watch your temps, and change a thermostat if that is all that is wrong. 

Thermostats for a diesel engine are a bit higher in cost that a regular car or truck, but Steve was able to locate the right one and get to changing it out.   He had to drain a bit of radiator coolant into a bucket which he could pour back in later to bring it back to the proper level.

He removed a couple bolts and took out the old one.  Carefully setting the new one into place with the little gasket, he said it needs to be properly seated.  Otherwise when the bolts are cranked back down it can mess it up and bend the thin metal.

He brought the old one into the house, setting it in boiling water to test that it was, indeed, bad. Yup. He made the right call, it was bad.  The engine temps are now functioning normally. 


Now this one is gonna sound like a commercial… but honestly, in Wisconsin with the mosquitoes being our national bird, this new device is totally necessary!!! We have two of them in the camper for when we are in the woods.

These Thermacell units are GREAT for having around the grandkids, we don’t have to slather on icky poisonous repellent lotions or sprays on their soft skin and tiny hands and fingers…  you know how babies put everything in their mouths!  These units are set on the end table, out of reach, and all the mosquitos are gone!thermocells

The first time we used them, we were sitting out at a lake where everyone else was huddling inside or dashing to the outhouse, flailing their arms like windmills to beat off the skeeters.   The skeeters were awful, this was May, and they were attacking in droves. Honestly, one couple were wearing beekeeper hats on their heads to protect their faces from the mosquitos as they walked by. 

We started up our Thermacells and were sitting ouside in comfort.  We could virtually see the skeeters buzzing about 10 feet around us…  above us... along side of us… but not daring to come near!  Our dogs even huddled closer once they realized the skeeters were not biting them when they laid by our chairs.   Soon folks were asking what those things were, and the next day, the nearest Walmart was a destination goal for all the folks who were camped near us.  They sold out about noon!  LOL

Each refill pad lasts about 6 hours. If we are only sitting out for 2 or 3 hours, we can turn ours off, let it cool, slide the pad out and save it in the tinfoil pack and get a lot more time out of one refill.  Dispose the pad carefully. We save the small tinfoil envelope the pads come in and slide the totally used pad back into the foil when done, (it turns white when exhausted) and put in our own trash we bring back home. 

OK, commercial over.  And no, I do not get any kind of compensation from Thermacell. 


Friday we were volunteers to help with the Brat Fry for our Calumet County Historical Society.  It is our biggest (and only) fundraiser of the year.  The weather was predicted to be AWFUL!  Freezing rain, sleet, icy winds and not fun at all. 

A "brat" is a bratwurst sausage, very popular in our area. Grilling them out on charcoal has a certain smell and taste that you can not get cooking them indoors on the stove or in the oven.  The smell wafting across the air is enough to make your mouth water! 

We grill out both brats and burgers for the fundraiser and we are able to use a cute little shack in the parkinglot of the local hardware store. We take "pre-orders" from local businesses in the area, and our volunteers run the orders over to our booth, and take the finished food in crock pots and assorted buns, pickles, catsup, mustard, onions and relish to the waiting employees at local businesses.  

The weather was totally awful!  It was very cold and windy and raining. Steve and the other Steve got the grills going at 7 am because we had orders for businesses at 8 am!   With just 3 guys grilling and 3 girls selling in the booth, our other volunteers ran the deliveries all over town.  

I snapped those pics above BEFORE the weather turned for the worse.

This was taken about 10 am....
when the thunder and lightening started, 
as well as the sleet ice chunks pelting us! 

By 11 a.m., the winds kicked up, and we had sleet coming inside the booth.  The poor guys were huddled over the grills for warmth.  Inside of the booth, we only had two plug-ins allowed for the nesco roasters, so we couldn't plug in the small heater I brought along.  It would pop the breakers in the hardware store. argghhh!   So we froze and smiled through our chattering teeth as people braved the cold to walk up to the booth to buy brats and burgers!  I assure you, the lady on the left is not that plump, she is wearing layers of sweatshirts and TWO puffy down jackets!!!

All in all, we sold out completely by 12:30 p.m.  We had planned to stay until 3 p.m. but we sold out every single one of the 300 brats and 200 burgers!!!!

We cleaned up, locked up the booth and came home to take hot showers and crawl into bed for a long afternoon nap.  Whew!   Another successful brat fry in the books!


As I write this Saturday morning, we are due for a LOT more snow on top of all this ice and sleet.  Our daughter last night ended up in the ditch after a late night at work. She was stuck in a ditch on a desolate country road about a mile from her house.  Even with a four wheel drive jeep, the roads were treacherous.  She called for a tow truck, and it took hours of waiting and waiting for updates.  It kept getting delayed due to other accidents happening all around the area.  She ran out of gas after a few hours and could not keep warm! Her husband Jesse was snowed in at home with two sleeping kids and only a minivan that couldn't even get out of the driveway.  (the drifts were waist high)  Finally she woke up a friend with another four wheel drive to come and get her.  Randy was able to get to her, and drop her at the end of their driveway so she could wade into her house at about 4 or 5 am I guess.  Thanks Randy!   The tow truck did not even arrive until later about 9 or 10 am this morning!!!!  I am just glad she is safe and sound...  Poor Jeep! 

The snow is coming down now fast and furious, and we are due for a LOT more during the next 24-48 hours. 

Everything is coated in ice here... we went out on the front porch for a little bit to see the storm.  It's very windy and the ice covered tree branches are falling in some of the neighbor's yards. So far we have all our trees, and the power is still on.

If the power goes out, we do have oil lamps and a gas fireplace that doesn't need any electricity to power it.  If worse comes to worst, we can move our fridge food into coolers and place them in the garage if the power is out for more than a few hours.  We have the generator in the motorhome that we can run a cord back to the house to make the furnace operate if we need to.  We have a battery operated weather radio as well to keep in touch with the storm.  Will keep the cell phone charged up and have an external charging pack as well.  We can still keep on the internet via cell phone, even if the house modem internet is out.  We will be just fine. 

I think we will stay INSIDE 
and just look out the window 
from the livingroom instead.

I am planning to stay in and do some sewing.  If the power goes out, I can still use my treadle sewing machine.  Just the way the ladies did in the old days before they even had electricity!   LOL 

We Prairie Women can manage anything.... 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Steveio Our Old House Project and Quilted Box Bags

As I mentioned in my last blog, we got kinda busy over the weekend.  One of our granddaughters, Chelsea, age 8, wanted to come and hang with us for the weekend.  Sometimes it's nice to take one grandkid at a time, for some special one-on-one time.  She had a whole list of ideas of things she wanted to do while she was here for Friday and Saturday nights.

One of the main projects in her little mind was do some sewing, or "needling" as she used to call it.  She has learned to sew at the age of 4 with me, sitting on my lap at the treadle machine.  Even at that age, she would learn to guide the fabric through the machine, pull out the pins as they get close to the needle, and raise and lower the pressure foot for me.

I had a new pattern to try out, and here is her first successful attempt!!!

It is a fabric box bag---- 
It is made from a quilted placemat, and a zipper! 
Here is the You Tube we learned how to make them from:

She had so much fun making them!  

After we did the first bag, it was almost bedtime.  She wanted to make more in the morning, so we had to run to Walmart quick to buy a few more zippers.  We bought the last four zippers they had in stock in the size we needed. I had a nice stack of almost new placemats from Pa Pfundtner.  I was amazed that she was this gung ho to keep going with making more in the morning.  She woke up at 6 a.m., soooo eager to get to sewing again!   She had all three of these done before breakfast. 

Here is the video clip I put on the blog yesterday,
in case you missed it....

I was so proud of her eagerness to create, recycle and make something useful out of something that is found everyday at rummage sales and thrift shops for a quarter. We only had 5 zippers so she could only make 5 bags.  I ordered a bulk batch of 50 zippers from online at Walmart for only 50 cents each in multiple colors.  Now I will have plenty on hand when she comes back to sew some more.

She made one for her mommy, and one for her Nanny (grandma) in Oklahoma.... and she decided to sell any more that she made.  I posted it on Facebook and the third one was immediately spoken for by my internet camping friend Betty out in Oregon!    Then she made ONE more after breakfast, just for her little brother, Clayton. Awwwwwww

I posted her project and photos on my two quilting groups on Facebook. She had over 500 likes and comments from one post and over 400 on the other!  Here she is laid back on the couch, checking out her fame and notoriety on Facebook on my laptop (and playing Mahjong!)

Her visit wasn't all sewing.  She got in some quality cooking time with Granfaddah in the kitchen.  She was making waffle batter while he was frying up a pan of bacon.  It amazes me how tall she is getting and how helpful she is in the kitchen.  From baby on, I would teach the grandkids to cook and help out. I hope those memories carry on long into their grown up years, and pass on to their children and grandchildren as well. 

We were starting some banana bread.... and she was so lucky to get a DOUBLE YOLK!   We buy farm fresh eggs from a local farmer, and they are sooo much better to eat as well as cook with.  Before cracking it, she said she just "knew" it would be a double yolk egg because it was larger than the others in the carton.   She was right! 

I decided that 8 years old was mature enough to help with the electric mixer. Of course, with my close supervision.  She was learning how to use the flour sifter as well.  My ancient old Sunbeam stand mixer broke last week. Steve wired on a new cord end and it works perfectly again.  In this age of disposable appliances, I am glad to keep this one working. 

Here is our "never fail" banana bread recipe
from my Auntie Lois.  

It makes one very large loaf,
or if you double the recipe, 
it can make 3 regular sized loaves, 
depending on your pans.

Sometimes we add chocolate chips to some of the loaves.

She spent a lot of  time hanging out with our shelties, Finnegan and Binney.  Sometimes they are rather shy around people, and hide out upstairs in their beds.  But they know, (especially Binney), that Chelsea won't harm them or make sudden movements.   

Sunday morning she helped me wrap up this baby quilt.  We had a Baby Shower to go to!!!  Steve's niece from his side of the family is having a baby boy. She suggested cars and trucks for a theme.  Steve helped me pick out the fabric.  This is the first flannel quilt I have ever done.  I sewed it up two weeks ago, after getting inspiration from one of my online Facebook quilting ladies.  (see? Facebook can be a GOOD thing)  It came out pretty cute! 

Here is the finished quilt that Chelsea helped me 
to fold it and box it and giftwrap up. 

It was wrapped up along with some special story books. Chelsea picked our family favorite "Brown Bear Brown Bear". Inside the front cover, Chelsea wrote all of the names of all of the little cousins in our family.

Chelsea gathered up her things, packed her suitcase, and her little box bags she made. We headed to the baby shower up in Menasha.  It is a rite of passage for young girls to come to baby showers... and see the silly stuff that ladies do to honor the Mom-To-Be.  I think you can tell by the pics that our niece Heather loved the quilt!!!

Oh... Steve's Our Old House Project! 

Now.... while we were gone to the baby shower, that darling Steveio got VERY busy with an Our Old House Project all on his own.   He is a TALL guy... and he has grumbled and mumbled about his old knees and getting up and down from our standard sized toilet.  He explored the website for the taller toilets over in Manitowoc at Menards.  He had a gift certificate rebate to use up.  I said "go for it" while I was gone to the baby shower.  I figured by the time I got home, that toilet will be bought, paid for, hauled home 25 miles, and installed before I even drove in the driveway!  Yup. I was right!

It fits him comfortably.  For me, well, my feet dangle!  I have a little footstool I can use if needed or else I will just use the toilet on the main floor!  hahaha that one is still the standard height.  His N Hers toilets?

Now here is where it gets silly......   the old toilet is standing there in the garage, just wondering what it's demise was going to be.

Set to the curb for someone to take?  
Broken into bits and dumped a few pieces at a time 
into our local household garbage pickup? 

I suggested to Steve that we should put it for FREE on the local Facebook Marketplace of the buy/sell/trade pages.  I didn't want to charge anything for a used toilet. It was probably less than 10 years old.  It is a nice name brand Kohler, made here in Wisconsin near Sheboygan.  He thought I was nuts. Who would come and get a used toilet?

Well, within ONE minute after posting it, a guy named Jeff asked for it. He promised to come right after work at 5 p.m. to get it. I said sure.  Well, then the other people started clammoring for this FREE toilet!   I marked it "pending pickup" but people kept messaging me!  I had SEVENTEEN people actually ask for this free toilet??? Can you believe it?  I wrote back to Jeff and said there would be mutiny if he didn't take it for sure.  I had people asking to usurp his position and come get it now at 9 am instead of waiting for his first dibs.   I had one gal write to complain that her mom spoke up first and I didn't reply???  She sounded angry!  I wrote back and looked for her moms message. It hadn't come to me until after 3 pm, so sorry, but she was out of the running.  The daughter said her mom was SO disappointed because she had been SO excited about getting it????? 

I did tell her that if we decided to swap out the other toilet, I would call her.  LOL Seriously!

Then that night, the phone rings.  It's a goofy voice asking me:



Hahahaha it was my brother calling me from Michigan after seeing the old post from that morning.  But he did say he could use a better toilet at his house, so if we do swap out the other toilet.... heh heh, he is gonna have to fight that little old lady who was SO excited about the toilet and is waiting first in line to get it! 

Oh vey!