Monday, October 11, 2010

Unending maintenance

We are at the very pleasant Elks lodge in New Bern, North Carolina (map). It is a short scooter ride to downtown and the waterfront from here, and there is an enormous park and city recreation complex just a short walk away. The Elks are letting us use a 20-amp receptacle on the side of the building.

We never did make it to see the drill team practice. After we were well established here I learned that the practice area is 20 miles from here, and I was up to my eyeballs in projects yesterday. We did finally make it downtown for dinner last night, but Saturday night we ate just around the corner at a Hibachi steak house, since downtown was a zoo from the annual Mum Festival.

Shortly after we arrived Saturday morning, I set to work on the next pressing project on the list. I have not mentioned it here before, but sometime about a week ago the valve that controls our air-operated "plug door" started leaking with the door in the closed position. The leak was bad enough that the compressor was running every five to ten minutes, and we had to shut the door off at its emergency valve when we were parked.

With the door shut off in the closed position, we had to exit and enter the bus through the driver door, inconvenient at best. Also, the air-operated toilet had been connected to the air supply just downstream of that valve, so we'd have to go downstairs and turn the air back on every time we needed to flush the toilet. Now that the satellite project is done, it was time to take care of this pesky problem.

I know it must seem to many of you that I am constantly writing about repairs and maintenance these days, and I apologize to those friends and family who are following along for more pleasant anecdotes. But a good part of our readership consists of other RVers, full-timers, or folks contemplating the lifestyle, and our tales can at least serve as a reminder that every RV has mechanical issues from time to time. There was a time when I think my father-in-law was following along just to make himself feel better about his recalcitrant Winnebago...

In any case, the valve in question is a weird German-spec part that is now more than a quarter century old, and when I disassembled it I found it, unsurprisingly, full of crud. Also, a tiny part had come loose. Cleaning the whole thing up, securing the loose part, and reassembling the valve only took a couple of hours, and we were relieved when it worked on the first try, because getting a replacement is probably an expensive affair involving ordering from Europe, and we'd likely be waiting at least another week.

Having gone to the trouble, though, of removing all the trim and the downstairs passenger seat to even get to the valve, I decided that the time was right to correct two other problems. One was to re-route the door air lines from their precarious position underneath the rear part of the front skids. There was evidence that we had already crushed the lines there once, and they were in jeopardy of breaking. The other was to re-plumb the toilet supply so that it did not go through the door valve, and instead has a shutoff of its own.

That part of the project took much longer, dealing as I was with 25-year-old air lines and unobtainium metric compression fittings. Ultimately I was able to reuse a critical fitting by substituting a 5/16" sleeve for the original 8mm one, and the new cobalt drill bits that I had purchased for the satellite project came in handy to drill a half inch hole through the skid to pass the airline through above the danger zone.

Between going to Lowe's for parts and fighting with the corroded fittings, the project spanned two days and we had to latch the door manually on Saturday night to keep the cats from just pushing it open. But it's done now, and the good news is that our compressor is now running less than it ever has, leading us to believe that this door valve has had a slow leak for a very long time.

In a few minutes we will depart for Wilmington, where we have multiple overnight options.


  1. Hey guys, sorry to hear about the maintenance. That's life on the road though no matter what kind of rig one has. We can totally relate.

    Funny that you're in New Bern. We have stayed near there in Maysville to help out at a local animal rescue:

    It's a great place, be sure to visit if you have time!

  2. I, for one, appreciate following the details of your maintenance and repair projects. Please keep sharing! I secretly aspire to your lifestyle - even with realities of life on the road that depends things that break.

    I will admit I'm not sure I'd have the patience you've exhibited with with difficult-to-find hardware. Personally, I don't mind fixing things - as long as appropriate parts and supplies are available. Obscure metric fittings? I'd probably be ready to scrap the whole system and start over with SAE components...

  3. Welcome back to Florida. We pulled up behind you today just off I-10 on to 301 South. You were just ahead of us and turned off while we continued on South and are now in Tampa, going to Lazy Days on Monday for some warranty work. I love your bus. We are full timers also and based out of Okeehobee, FL. DW's parents are there and we want to stay close until they pass, then full time on the road. Drive safe.


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