Monthly Archives: February 2013

The big red truck needed some loving

Seven years and one hundred thousand miles. Our big red truck still looks really sharp, runs great, works fine. Its 8.1 liter engine, paired with a big Allison transmission, is able to loaf almost all the time. Towing our 6,300 pound trailer is pretty light duty for such a heavy duty Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD. But the time has come for some serious loving for our big red truck.

Full-timing towing a trailer may be nearly ideal for a pickup truck. The engine operates loaded and acceleration and handling are smoothed by the desire to keep the trailer happy behind us. Towing miles often are on highways with cruise control, trying to get 12 miles per gallon from our gasoline. We rarely are sitting in traffic with the engine idling. We don’t often start the truck in very cold weather and let it warm up to melt ice on the windshield. We want our truck to last. It does what it is designed to do and we try to make the job as smooth as we can.

picture of driver side of our red truck

The big red truck seems to like our approach so far. We thought our oil consumption was really high in 2008. The dealer repaired the oil cooler under warranty and we had no further problems. Our truck always did the job, never struggled or complained, never quit. How great is this? We love our truck.

The owner’s manual told us this was a very special celebration for our truck — 100,000 miles deserves big love. How big? More than we expected, even after studying the owner’s manual. We didn’t expect to replace a hub, pitman and idler arm, and four leaking oil lines (3 engine cooler and 1 transmission cooler, I think). We didn’t expect spark plugs and wires to run over $200. This was a two-day $4,000 special occasion for our big red truck. Very very special.

picture of our red truck smiling

our truck is smiling

What are you going to do? The big red truck has never left us in a ditch. Zero maintenance problems in seven years. A big 50,000 mile check-up, but no surprises and just a half-day in the shop that time. We hardly expect such great service from our truck and are very happy with the miles we’ve shared. This service cost is approximately ten or fifteen car payments. Not bad for a fantastic powerful smooth comfortable and gorgeous truck that is perfectly paired with our trailer. We’ll keep it!

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie
locate us here
visit our website

©2013 Dreamstreamr

Why Don’t Things Fix Themselves?

You know already. How stuff just sometimes happens — all matter tends toward disorder, things you wish tight become looser, things you wish looser become tight, and things you wish permanent become broken.

Two principles are in play in the repair we did this time: we didn’t want to spend $100 to replace our steps, and we didn’t want to throw away perfectly good steps we might be able to fix — why fill the landfill?

picture of steps listing to one side

It is in this spirit, we looked at our folding steps for our rolling house. At less than nine years after manufacture, they are broken, listing to the right until someone steps onto them. Put weight onto them and the steps sag at the right side five or six inches. No, not because any certain someone has gained any weight. The steps are broken.

picture shows existing rod projects through one side only

See the 3/8″ rod sticking through the side of the step? This rod projects through both side plates and serves as the pivot for the steps. It also keeps the steps aligned so they hit the correct points to stop level and support our weight.

picture of broken rod allows pivot bracket to float

You might be able to visualize from this picture how the rod doesn’t come through the hole. This 3/8″ steel rod sheared off cleanly short of the hole. We are surprised this failed so young — everything else on the trailer seems to hold up so well. But we’ve read the manufacturers don’t intend their RVs for full-time use.

This failure was probably an anomaly. We’re neither one very heavy although Jim does tend to goof around an bounce on the steps sometimes. Though we think the product was designed more with an emphasis on economy than durable service — we’ll get back to this point.

We bought a $5 length of 3/8″ steel rod at the building supply store. Jim removed the four bolts attaching the steps under the trailer. The steps fit easily onto the truck’s tailgate, Jim’s workbench. Jim sawed off the rod from both inside brackets and ground the remaining weld material to clean the holes.

picture shows new rod in place

The new 3/8″ rod slipped through snugly with less than 12″ excess, and Jim placed two 3/8″ washers in between the step pivot brackets. Jim sawed the rod off with 1/2″ projecting through each end of the side brackets, and smoothed the cut end so it won’t catch our hands or trailer washing cloths. The excess could be greater but doesn’t need to be — the rod will be held centered in the next step.

picture shows cotter pin and washer for rod

Jim drilled a 3/32″ hole through the new rod just inside each pivot bracket. Holding the washer against the pivot bracket, Jim put a cotter pin (really a #6 finishing nail bent in place) to keep the washer in place and prevent the rod from slipping out.

This might work better than the original design, which was quicker to assemble and fasten than this is. The original fabrication had the 3/8″ rod welded in place at each pivot bracket. The 3/8″ rod wore in exactly the same place every time the step was folded out, folded in, and stepped upon. Now, the 3/8″ rod is free to spin and less likely to wear in one place. If our guess is correct, this new plan will outlast the old original.

The step will be sort of fixing itself, as it were.

The repair cost us less than $6 including the 3/8″ rod, a pair of flat washers, and two #6 finishing nails. We also added a lock washer for each of the four bolts attaching the step to the trailer.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie
locate us here
visit our website

©2013 Dreamstreamr

The dreamstreamrs go back to work

We went to work yesterday for Bates RV in Tampa, transporting RVs from a show he held in Sarasota back to his place sixty miles north of Sarasota. It was easy work, but for the car fire on the shoulder of I-75 at our exit to I-4. I’ll get back to this. . .

We spent last week at WBCCI’s Florida State Rally in Sarasota FL. This was a great time for catching some seminars about using and fixing our RVs, for meeting new friends, and renewing friendships too. And we did a little work helping the WBCCI Amateur Radio Club.

The seminars we enjoyed were on RV air conditioners and refrigerators maintenance and troubleshooting, interior and exterior adjustments to Airstream trailers, amateur radio introduction, update on Airstream manufacturing and sales, and status of the WBCCI club.

We helped present the amateur radio seminar and helped with the licensing exams for amateur radio, and manned the club’s table at the flea market. This paid off, we recruited a couple of members and renewed a couple, plus were able to hand out some leaflets about NOMADS and Escapees to prospective members.

Our radio club’s name badge supplier gave up their business a year or two ago, unable to maintain their expensive equipment. The name badge guy at the ham radio show two weeks ago is very expensive. We found a much better price supplier at the Florida State Rally and worked with them on artwork and pricing for new and replacement badges for our members.

Lots of good work for our clubs, not as much down time for us at this Florida State Rally. One adventure we had not counted on was introduced by the Florida State Rally emcee. He announced Sunday night we could help Bates RV return some of the 100 RVs they had brought for the RV show at this rally, and get paid for it.

Debbie towed a 25′ Airstream International Sterling (the one with the purple floor) behind our truck. I towed another brand 25′ trailer behind an Airstream Interstate Mercedes van. This was fun — I wish I had taken time out for a picture. Hey look what the dreamstreamrs are towing now!

The Mercedes Sprinter van is a dream to drive. Rob and Jan Wilson demonstrated this in spades three years ago with their epic year touring all the national parks in 217 days. Driving one myself was still a nice surprise, and I really could hardly tell there was a trailer behind the van.

The van’s driving picture is huge. You are sitting up relatively high so can see over cars and pickup trucks. BIG windshield. Comfortable driving seat and great driving position with a nice dead pedal for left foot.

The diesel engine is smooth and quiet and the four-speed transmission works wonderfully. Oh, and I made 14 mpg towing in heavy traffic on mixed roads. Our truck made approx 8.5 on the same drive towing the slightly heavier Airstream trailer.

Our thanks to Frank Bates and Company for employing us yesterday morning, and paying us in advance. Debbie and I are thinking we may have found another career – transporting cars, trucks, and RVs. Any employers listening?

New Things for Full-Timers

We aren’t big shoppers or buyers. How many things can you put into a 188sf full-timing house you furnished five years ago? Simply put, for any addition you probably need to eliminate something. Occasionally something wears out or breaks, or we see a much better version that we think will lend far better performance. A few examples include towing mirrors, fridge thermometer, tire pressure gauge, or a back rest for our driver’s seat.

GM OEM mirror

Our truck’s GM original mirrors were very nice looking and functional except when towing. These original equipment mirrors did not extend, so when towing we could not see around the trailer at all. GM promised us we could have real towing mirrors for just less than $1,000. Okay, let’s find another solution.

extension mirror picture

We used clip-on towing mirrors six years. They were never very good because they didn’t extend far enough and the towing view was too small. But they were convenient — just unclip them when we unhitch and our driving mirrors are back to normal. More than four years ago we towed someone’s trailer, using their truck. Their truck was equipped with real towing mirrors, the kind you can extend by pulling out. We loved towing with these and really appreciated the improved rear view. The difference in what we could see behind us was amazingly better.

New towing mirror

We finally got around to buying a pair of real towing mirrors for our truck. Wow they are great! Just as good as we remembered, these mirrors give us so much better a rear view for checking traffic, pulling around curbs, or backing the trailer. We found these for $250 for the pair and they are direct replacements for the original equipment mirrors — just unplug the wires and unbolt the originals, bolt these in and plug them in. Bingo! They are great!

picture of thermometer for refrigerator

We used an electronic wireless thermometer over six years to monitor our refrigerator temperature. A month ago it went on the fritz, but not before consuming over a dozen batteries over the years. Too, it provided digital temperatures to worry us if it seemed to be trending up or down. Finally this week we bought a simple refrigerator tubular thermometer to hang on the fridge shelf. Best thing, it indicates “safe zone” so we don’t even pay attention to the precise temperature — doesn’t matter at all, as long as we are “in the zone”.

Another digression from digital indicators is our new tire pressure gauge. For the past five years we used a small digital tire pressure gauge to check our tire pressures while adjusting them. A year ago the batteries died and we paid almost as much for new batteries as the gauge originally cost us. This year it started indicating ridiculously varying pressures while reading the same tire one minute to the next.

picture of tire pressure gauge
We bought a new analog tire gauge at our local auto parts store. It holds the pressure until we press the release button, and has flexible hose and an easy-to-hold stem. What could be easier? Remote tire pressure monitoring/reading? No, we still need a gauge when we are adjusting the pressures. And this one uses no batteries, is easy to read, and has a more than ample tire pressure range.

picture of mesh back support

Quartzsite offers far more stuff than we need. We browsed hundreds of booths at the RV show and along the roads in Quartzite, plus in the flea markets. But our Airstreaming caravan friend Janine talked us into buying something — a mesh backrest for our driver’s seat.

This is great! It is stretched mesh, so is ventilated and flexible but solid lumbar support. The co-pilot has far more freedom to move around and re-position than the driver. This backrest makes our altogether very comfortable driver’s seat even better. This appears to be the same as sold by office supply houses for over $20, but we found them for $5. Should have bought two?

picture of pin with bail

We also bought four pins with bails to secure our solar panels, instead of using bolts and nuts. The nuts could turn loose from vibration, or we could too easily drop and lose them in gravel or long grass. We use very similar pins for securely attaching (and easily releasing) the bottom of our awning arms from the trailer. The pins are easy to remove but cannot release accidentally.

If you know our house, we don’t have a place to put more stuff. These things don’t take space. The new truck mirrors replace the old ones, which we sold in two hours on craigslist. The pins to hold the solar panels in position live in holes in the solar panel brackets, freeing up four 1/4″ X 3/4″ stainless steel bolts and nuts for which we doubtless will find another use. The backrest sits neatly between the driver and her seatback. And the gauges replace bad ones.

Our home is fully furnished and upfitted the way we like. Sometimes we find new things to make slight improvements in our full-timing house. The things we describe above are no big deal, just small things to make our truck and home a little better for our purposes.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie
locate us here
visit our website

©2013 Dreamstreamr