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Old 12-16-2009, 06:53 PM   #1
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Electrical Gremlins...There's a Punchline. Part 1


With a limited budget that we were willing to commit, and never having done "The RV thing" before, we bought used. He's a 2003 Airstream 26 footer we named "Bud" after my dearly-departed father-in-law.

I'm not ashamed to tell you. Because we were worried about catastrophic failures on the total $38k purchase, we paid $4k for a service policy contract. As you'll see, that doesn't really figure into the story. It just tells you that, while we might be informed buyers, we are always concerned about buying someone else's "problem". And we also know that Bud's a mechanical being. And moving parts being what they are....well, you know.

After the first month or so of ownership, which included the requise purchase of many dollars worth of "more pillows", extra stuff for Bud that we didn't want to pony-express back and forth from the house every trip, a few tools (a man's gotta have some specialty tools, you know), clocks for the wall which we found out is not essential now that we are retired, replacing Bud's TVs with flat screens, and joining every silly Good Sam, Camper World (I became a President), and other club on earth that knows not of the existence Magwa and Irene Keener, we spent $2k on leveling and landscaping a very nice spot to store the new "kid".

Oh, we also took a couple of shake down trips. One, about 200 miles west to the coast of California near our kids place in Shell Beach, CA. One, a two-nighter to Bass Lake...about 25 minuts from the house...And another to the Sierra town of Quincy. Finally, a nine day'er back to Oceano, the spot we went when we had taken the first "voyage" to the coast.

In all, I realized that our grandiose idea of the East Coast, Texas in January, and Alaska next spring, was not going to be for us. At least in Bud. A personal note: I'm wide. I like to relax. I like to sleep with my wife. Lest I offer up "TMI" ("Too Much Information", for anyone out there that doesn't have at least one cyber-speak ambassador (grandkid).

The 26 foot Land Yacht has what they call a "queen" It's a lie. We now know from practical experience, the value of what I think they call a "walk around bed". Irene gets the side with walking-room due to a need to lay in a specific position that was brought on by the results of breast cancer....ten years cancer free, thanks.....I get the wall.

So, if you have to look, what you see is a guy that's not too tall. No problem on the length. But a guy who's too wide. Laying there on my left side, tummy (nice way to say it) and nose pressing against the wall. Irene's nice. She pulls her way on the new sheets and covers and asks, You have covers? You have enough room?

I repy, " Ithff, guff. Ploff...Plezz..Cooo-cold"...Nose compressed firmly against the 13 degree F wall-board. She laughs and falls asleep.

Repeat the above nine times that on trip. That was mid-November. A month later and the knife that is sticking in my back muscles still won't allow me to pick up a kitchen chair.

None-the-less, I'm committed enough to traveling the Washington, Oregon, Nevada, maybe British Columbia areas to surge forward with a big grin on my face. And a hot pad on my back.....

Part II (maybe after dinner), I'll tell you of my hugely intelligent decision to set up Bud with the hardware for boondocking.... and the resultant stupid action that only a rookie could commit.
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Bill "Magwa" Keener
Coarsegold, CA
2003 26' Airstream Land Yacht ("Bud")
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Old 12-16-2009, 07:24 PM   #2
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Great story, I feel your pain...Litterally!!! Looking forward to part II. My bed has the walk around but I still end up sleeping IN the nightstand.

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Old 12-16-2009, 10:03 PM   #3
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Great story! I look forward to the second chapter.

FWIW, we leave tomorrow for our first voyage (10 days). Leaving Virginia for a night in NC, SC or GA and 7 days in Florida. I spent the last 5 days prepping the coach and I "think" we are ready.
2012 Arctic Fox 22H 300 watt Solar, Morningstar TS-45, 460 AH batteries, Xantrax 1000 watt PSW, total interior remodel.
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Old 12-16-2009, 11:18 PM   #4
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Electrical Gremlins - Part II

Thanks, all.

So, I tried the front bed, which is a restructured dinette in our motorhome. When set up correctly, it's just big enough to cramp me up into a ball until lunch time. This bed is big enough, sideways, but about four inches too short.

But, that's not what the story is about.

In the excitement to make Bud a "one motorhome does all", I realized that my wife's penchant for the beauty routine included use of electric power about equal to the output of Hoover Dam. Plugged into 30A power, we could do it all, I thought. Maybe not all at once. But I can wait to microwave my coffee or whatever *my* needs might require while she's blow drying and hair curler'ing....Compromise. That's what marriage is all about. She need to do stuff. I compromise while she's doing it. So far, I have a 37 year history of success in this regard.

But I want to boondock. So, with my pal helping, I started searching for my inverter. Turns out the reason I couldn't use any 110v stuff while not plugged in, and with the Onan not howling at 60 + db the rate of 2 GPH, was that I *don't have* an inverter. So...the rookie learns. A converter ain't an inverter. Easy concept.

But I still didn't have 110V while boondocking. And, how long are the house batteries going to least? Even with the solar panel up there (I'm told it's there by people lighter than I am that have been up there. Plus there's a red light on the panel that says so....), how long can I let these two big 6V batteries put out without putting anything in?

I didn't want to find out. So, I decided to get some more batteries and an inverter and a three-stage battery charger. I kept it completely separate from the factory set-up under the "do no harm" rule. Alas, installed (I'll spare you the pain of the story I earned in doing it myself), I can now watch Irene raise the quotient of global warming with a 3600W inverter and over 300Ah of new storage capacity. I put gages and switches in what I think are useable and asthetically-pleasing spots on the bedroom wall. It's a guy thing. Irene says, "...what if you kick that switch while you are sleeping?" "No problem", I tell her, "I'm *never* sleeping!"

Tested, tried and true, Bud sat there for two weeks while we had torrential rain. Only used for the storage of some stuff that now was required for Thanksgiving dinner clean-up. I sent two of the grandkids out there to get 33 gallon plastic bags with the specific instruction to, "...close the door hard after being sure you little weasels turn off the ceiling lights".

I went out yesterday after the miserable storm passed, checking for water damage. Water is NOT our friend, right?

I have a sturdy extension cord coming from a 20A service from the pool equipment about 70 feet from the shore-power bay. It connects inside a nice box I bought that is like the ones at parks. I haven't plumbed it yet, so I just plug in the extension cord/adapter and shore power, and close it in the box. At the pool equipment "nerve center", there are two GFI plugs. Oh...the equipment is behind a screen, but open to the elements.

Yeah. You guessed it. GFI clicked off. How did I know? First, after I internally "barked at the kids" for leaving the light on (which, in my demented mind was the reason for the darkness), I realized I had no 12V *or* 110V power. Dead batteries, of course.

Remember, I'm new to RV'ing. New to this motorhome, and new to combo electrical set-ups....I needed to say that just in case anyone is or was:

1) Still Reading
2) Had a similar experience
3) Has a heart
4) Needs a laugh at my expense.

Here's where it gets stupid, so I'm just going to make a similar list as to the order of what I did to "rectify" the situation.

1) Reconnected the 110v from the pool area, checking the connections for water
1b) Went inside the house for six hours
2) Set the clock on the microwave (stupid, huh?)
3) Reset the 110V breakers
4) Turned on the TV...Ahhh, Stupid move but not so stupid in the long-run.
5) No TV
6) Checked all the 110V plugs...They were "hot"
7) Started Bud's motor. The house heater wouldn't go on.
8) Got kind-of warm
9) Realized, by trying the lights and then checking the TV's lack of satellite power, and then any other 12v item, that I had no 12V
10) Tried to start the generator...no go.
11) Figured the batteries were REALLY dead.
12) Opened the hood and checked the chassis battery (stupid...Bud started already) 12.8V
12) Checked the house batteries (13.4V)
12) Got Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) thinking that, in some way, I'd blown something big using the new "do no harm" set up...also stupid.
13) Ran into the house to alleviate my IBS.
14) Used the time to think...This is where I do my best thinking these days.
15) Went back out and crawled on my belly to check the converter...I fought the convoluted placement under my "second non-sleeping bed" under the dinette. Had 110+V to the plug and the fuses weren't blown. But, with the shore power hooked up, it wasn't running.
16) Got out the "book" to find out where all the fuses were (Yuck!!!)
17) Studied cross-eyed for a few minutes and then started checking every fuse.
18) Found no 12V power at any of the newly-found fuse blocks.
19) Ran back into the house for more IBS.
20) Started wondering how much of a fight I was going to have to put up with the faceless Service Contract Provider...I know their business is to look for reasons to fight me. And that new system..altho not attached to the other stock electrics... would surely have them toasting each other and giving me the big red "X"
21) Discouraged and disgusted, I went back out and closed everything back up.
22) I found a couple of loose tools on the ground and re-opened the door to simply throw them in with exasperation with a fairly foul state of mind.
23) I laughed when "muscle memory" made me think I needed to turn off the lights before I closed the door...The ceiling light switch, patio lights, and step switch is right there on the panel and accessible to anyone standing on the ground before climbing in.

You know, right next to the "Battery Cut Off" switch. Yup. That's the one.

Nice find. *Late in the process*, sure. The kids had done more than their job of paying attention to my instructions. Good for them.

A simple thumbing of the switches and now I've got 12 volts.
Bud's ready for the next trip. I'm very dirty, wet, and tired.

And, I'm an idiot. Maybe no smarter, but a little better versed in my own equipment (in the cranial area, that is...I KNEW the battery switches were there)
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Bill "Magwa" Keener
Coarsegold, CA
2003 26' Airstream Land Yacht ("Bud")
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Old 12-17-2009, 05:02 AM   #5
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Great story about your education. You've just passed RV Electric 101. Some other courses are: Engine 212 (an advanced class noting the differences between your coach engine and your car......since you're already an expert on your car), Appliance 124 (highlighting the unknown differences between the applicances you buy at WalMart and those that LOOK the same, but aren't, that came with Bud), Structures and Environmentals (trees, rocks, critters, etc)....an Adult Continuing Education credit course on how much stuff can actually impact your beast. Literally.

And a few others I've forgotten.

Glad you're not discouraged. But you are not an idiot. In all the years we've been RVing, every day has been an education. I hope to continue it for a long time.

2017 Gemini 23TR
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Old 12-17-2009, 07:21 AM   #6
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Great read, brings back memories! If your an idiot then we all are, that's how we learned this great lifestyle plus reading this board.
Wayne H. & Nixie Miller

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Old 12-17-2009, 08:40 PM   #7
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You now have a well earned bachelors degree in the school of hard knocks. I think you know more than a bunch of the self-proclaimed 'masters of RVing' (whose works I have read on 'another' forum). As long as you don't forget what you've learned, and the URL of this forum, you're on-d-road to happiness!!!
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Old 12-17-2009, 09:25 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by nbounder View Post
...snip... As long as you don't forget what you've learned, and the URL of this forum, you're on-d-road to happiness!!!
Thanks much. One thing I won't forget:

...."Don't forget!"

That applies to both my fumbles, *and* the URL.
Bill "Magwa" Keener
Coarsegold, CA
2003 26' Airstream Land Yacht ("Bud")
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Old 12-18-2009, 01:15 AM   #9
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Ohhh-one more thing... that "Battery Cut-Off" switch will be accidently hit many more times.. and you may forget this lesson at least one of those times!

Good Luck ...I look forward to many more of your RV lessons in life!
*MonacoMama with the 2 Pins & SacsTC Nearby*
*2007 Monaco Diplomat 40' SFT<>2006 Chevy VortecMax Toad<>2006 Buick Lucerne Leading the Way*
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Old 12-18-2009, 04:26 AM   #10
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Your education has just begun! At least it's fun most of the time you're a student (like the rest of us).
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Old 12-18-2009, 02:05 PM   #11
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Please don't rock the boat. There are many of us still in it.

I sleep sort of like you do, with the nose pressed firmly against....oh but I get ahead of myself. When I awakened one morning by window light, I was totally aghast to see some guy laying next to me trying to kiss me. Then the realization that the nose was pressed against the wall-to-wall closet mirror.

And that house battery switch! Well, just about 2 weeks ago when we left the CG I was upset that I would have to trouble shoot why we did not have water pump performance, or any house lights, until about 15 miles down the road I asked my dear wife to press the on button of the house battery switch. Trouble shooting ended, refrigerator came on.

Welcome! Welcome to Wayne's world.

p.s., When arising from the bed, (my side) one must dangle their feet in the 8 inch opening, open the closet door, move as far towards the end of the bed as possible, sit down, close the closet door and open the other one, now dangling feet in a 6 inch opening, repeating the moving part until clear of the end of the bed.

Just remember this, round is a shape.

Wayne MSGT USMC (Ret) & Earlene (CinCHouse)
2015 Winnebago Tour 42QD
It is what it is, and then it is what you make of it.
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