Wednesday, September 2, 2015


We are "night" people. It is just how we are. We go to bed late and tend to get up later in the morning, even when traveling, unless there is somewhere that we plan to be that we must be at early. For some time now, I have been trying to find some way to block out the morning daylight that comes through both the Fantastic Fan cover in the roof and the spaces around the poorly fitting and warped night covers over the three "opera" windows in the front ceiling.The windows all around are pretty well covered by both the curtains that came with the Roadtrek and the insulating Reflectix bubble foil that I fit into the inside frames of some of the windows.

This article will focus on the light coming through the Fantastic Fan, as we have still not come up with an effective way to deal with the three ceiling windows, which Meryl and I are still working on. When I first started asking around the forums about what others do, the first suggestion was a commercially sold foam insert that goes up into the vent frame - and I bought one of these, even though I knew that on the Fantastic Fan with its control knobs shallow to the frame it would not work. Several said, "Oh yes! It works!". It doesn't. This insert is made for a vent with no motor which has a frame that is much deeper than the Fantastic Fan. That went back the next day.

Another suggestion was to cut a piece of Reflectix and use small bungee cords to hold it in place inserting the small wire tips of the six inch, thin cord, bungee cords in between the edge of the frame and the padded ceiling. This actually worked, but I cringed every time I pushed the wire tip of that bungee cord between the frame and the ceiling.  I even covered the wire with heat shrink tubing but even with that there was still a point and I was certain that doing this every night in the RV, sooner of later it would cut into the padded ceiling and the ceiling would rip. This was only a temporary solution.

I started to design a foam insert of my own design. We bought foam and took measurements, drew a pattern, test fitted the paper pattern and cut the foam. The foam was an inch thick and the knobs and controls come down less than that. I cut around the knobs to friction fit the foam up into the frame of the fan - it stayed up for about ten seconds and then came down. The foam had no support to keep it up and anything that might be added to support it would make it too heavy to stay up.  No this was not going to work - good foam cut for nothing.

I went to arts and craft stores looking for something that would work. There is no metal on the frame that attracts magnets. Even the screws were not going to work with magnets. What would work with magnets was the shower curtain frame on the ceiling that widely surrounds the fan. I started looking at ways to put something up around the frame - cloth, a quilted cloth, a piece of foam board that would sit inside the frame. All ideas that had their faults when examined closely. I was not giving up and I kept the idea of using the shower curtain track in some way in mind.

Now, a curtain hung from the track to the floor on the side of the track facing the bed would not work - it would not only block getting out of bed, it would also block getting to the toilet. In the middle of the night when you gotta go, you don't want to struggle with a curtain in your way when you are half awake. That idea was considered and dropped.

What would work? I had one of those "ah ha!" moments walking around a store when I saw the pop up fabric trash cans and clothes hampers. The wire in these to give them support and allow them to fold up flat would work fit inside the shower curtain frame with fabric fitted tightly around it. The wire would hold it in place on the frame and the fabric would stretch around the wire and not sag blocking all light coming through the fan in the middle. I wondered where one would get such wire - and then on our first trip of the season, actually saw it for sale in the surplus and hardware shop at Green Dragon Farmers Market. If there is something that is hard to find, this shop usually has it. They had piano wire in various thicknesses. This was a possibility taking shape - but buying fifty feet of piano wire on a maybe idea was not something to jump on. The idea needed to brew and perk a bit more. We had to know how the fabric would be fit and what fabric would block the light. We passed up the wire - it would be there next time, if we had an actual potentially working design. But the idea continued to perk...

That night in Walmart we are walking around the store - again, late night people sometimes look for places to be out late and a 24 hour Walmart in many places is easy to find (again, to those who are astonished - to each their own - this is "our" own), I pass in the auto aisle windshield covers that are just about what I am thinking about making. Would these fit? I took down the measurements (28.5" x 31.5" and considered "jumbo size" on some of these and "standard" on others) and when we got back to the campground and were settled in for the night, I measured the dimensions inside the entire shower curtain track. It was about 28.5" square - though the track goes off square on the shower side of the aisle slightly. It seemed like this might work - and we did not have to create anything or reinvent the wheel. The next night, back to Walmart, we would find out if this would work. We bought a pair - they are sold in pairs - for less than $10. The one we picked was silver fabric on one side and black on the other. The best part about Walmart is that one can return just about anything - open or not, as long as it is in the same condition as when purchased. If it did not work, it could easily go back - to any store - there or at home.

Back at the campground, I took the circle of folded covers out of their package and they popped open into huge potato chips. I took one of the pair and fitted it up into the frame. It was a bit tricky to get it in and it took the two of us to keep one side up in the frame while the other side went in.  Because the frame does go in deeper on the shower side, one side and that the cover is three inches in length longer than the dimensions of the frame, one side of the cover was going to curl, but it stayed close to the ceiling, was not in the way of any cabinets or the bathroom door, and most importantly, it stayed in place - even with a little coaxing to come down. Huzzah! It looked like it was going to work. That night we left it in place to see what we would see - or not see in the morning when the sun came up.

That next morning I would say that 90% of the light was blocked. It was not blocked completely as there was a grey, dull light coming through the cover around the fan opening. Not really a problem, the idea was working. That night I had the idea, that since we had two, if one worked two would work even better. I put the two together - black fabric side down and thicker silver fabric side to the fan - and the two of us fit the pair in place as one - just like the night before - with the curl on the kitchen cabinet side, which seemed the better side for it. The next morning - darkness. No light was coming through the fan vent opening. This was it! This works!

There are instructions attached on one of the pair to fold them together back into a less than one foot in diameter circle. "Put your thumbs here. Fold inward like a taco". Heck if that didn't work.

So if you are tired of the light streaming in from the Fantastic Fan in the morning when you really would like to sleep some more, this will do it!  Take your own measurements in case your shower track is different.

Fits in well and you can see the curl on the right side - this does not let any light through. 

Even has a band to hold it together for small and flat storage!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Don't Lose Your Water Heater Door

If you have a Roadtrek - or any RV - with a Suburban (or with some other RVs Atwood) hot water heater on the outside wall of the van (behind where your water heater tank is located) there is a panel door with vents to access your hot water heater to empty the tank and/or change the anode rod (if you have a Suburban as many Roadtreks do). From what some of our readers have told me and what I have seen on many forums, these doors can come off and get lost. When they do you are left with the not inexpensive task of replacing it and then painting it to match the exterior color of the RV.

I recently read a comment from someone who said losing this door is an "RV right of passage". What baloney! Don't lose it and this is how to prevent that - and for less than four dollars.

Now, I cannot take credit for this idea. I read about this idea in a magazine on motorhomes, but I have modified the idea. Here we go.

First it is important to understand - if you don't have an RV yet - how this door "locks" in place. At top of the door in the center there is a vertical slot. From behind that slot a plastic ring on a flexible strap comes through the slot and then is turned horizontally and then pushed down so that it lies flat against the door. IF this remains this way the door will not come off. Why would it not lie flat? If the strap starts to lose its elasticity, if someone maliciously comes along and turns the ring vertically, or if vibrations cause the ring to lift and turn - all reasons why the door may fall off - and I am sure there are many others.

The simplest solution would be to put a hasp lock through the ring and lock it but then you will have "BANG, BANG" as you drive down the road with the lock hitting the side of the door with every bump. Not really a good idea.

What the magazine suggested was to take a screw and nut and put it through the ring, preventing the ring from coming through the slot without removing the nut and screw. Nice idea, but I could see the screw also bouncing around if it was loose in the ring and also scratching the paint on the door. So I modified this idea for my Roadtrek by using a nylon screw and nut. You need to buy two things - both found in Lowes - not on the wall with screws and nuts but in the specialty parts drawers in the same aisle of the store.

You can see the parts number, sizes and descriptions on the packages above. You want a 1/4-20 X 1/2 nylon screw. With that you want matching 1/4-20 nylon nuts. You get two screws in a package and 4 nuts in a package. Each package costs less than $2.00. Total cost for the whole project is less than $4.00. The 1/4 is the thickness of the screw. The 20 is the thread on the screw. The 1/2 is the length of the screw.

I tried a longer screw and I also tried a matching wing nut to the screw shown above. The longer than 1/2 inch screw was too long and the ring would not sit against the door when it was in place. The wing nut was much too big - none smaller were to be had - and that prevented the ring from sitting flat against the door. With anything through the ring, the ring will not sit exactly flat but with the right combination shown here, you can get the ring as flat as possible with little chance that it will stick out too far from the side of the van and become a problem.

 Here is what you do - oh, so simple!  Turn the ring vertically. Put the screw through the ring. The head of this screw is bigger than the opening in the ring so it will not pull through and stop flush. Put the nut on the end of the screw and tighten it on - no screw driver - use your hand and for the last turn gently use a coin. Do not screw it so tight that it will break the ring. That would be a very expensive mistake. Just tighten the nut until it meets the ring and it will not come off. Turn the ring horizontally as much as it goes - you will see this in the photo below, and let it stay on an angle. Done!

To remove this to open the door, just unscrew the nut and remove the screw. If the nut seems tight, use a coin in the slot of the screw to turn the screw to open it as you hold the nut with your fingers. It should be no effort to unscrew the nut - but after some time after putting it on, it does seem to tighten more on the screw - though not on the ring.

Yes, there is still the possibility of someone stealing the door. If they really want it there is not much you can do to stop that as the ring could just be broken even with a lock through it. But with this, you will cut down the possibility of losing this door by - how much? 90%? More? Better than nothing is always good! And the nylon will not scratch the paint.