Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Getting Ready, Always Another Surprise, Part II

Part II

See the previous article for Part I.

So we has two more surprises in getting the Roadtrek ready for the season! One involved the Roadtrek physically, and the other involved the Roadtrek's emergency roadside assistance coverage.

So - the Roadtrek's physical problem. During the process of dewinterizing and sanitizing we are in and out of the inside of the van. At one point I was outside the open driver's door and Meryl was inside standing between the driver's and passenger's seats and looked down at the driver's seat. She said look at the seat and pointed. There were three tiny tears in the upholstery of the driver's seat. One of the tears was along the edge of a seam and was larger than the other two - this one was a tear about a quarter of an inch long - basically a small flap. The other two were not much more than pin holes - one of them hardly that. But once there is a tear or hole, it is destined to get bigger if nothing is done about it.

I am not sure what the Roadtrek seats are made of. It has been implied that they are leather. They may just be a leather look vinyl. The seats are made by Roadtrek and installed - they are not stock seats. They swivel 360 degrees. They have the name Roadtrek across the front under the headrest. They also have an arm rest on each side. These are not stock seats.If you go to any site that sells custom seat covers they want to know what make, year, and model car or van you have. No choices on any of these sites is "Roadtrek". So we started on a quest to figure out how to fix or cover these seats - to stop the tears from becoming major tears.

I started researching fixing vehicle seat holes. The most common method uses a paste that is mixed to match the color of the upholstery and then set with heat or with some, left to dry after pressing a textured sheet over the paste to make it look like the upholstery. I have had some really poor experience with this stuff and I will not use it again. My first encounter with this was with one of my cars. I followed all of the directions and the resulting patch was a globby mess - that eventually peeled away.  My second experience was with a Chevy service using this to fix a tear in a passenger van arm rest. That peeled away within a year. I was not going to use this stuff to fix the Roadtrek seat.

I looked for other alternatives and the best I could find were vinyl/leather flexible glues specifically for upholstery. I have a lot of glues at home. None list vinyl. I have some good glues. As a long time leather worker, I have glues made for leather - but each of the really good glues all say to do the same thing which is not going to work tears this small - you need to coat both sides, put them together and then peel them apart, wait five minutes and push them together again. Peeling a quarter inch flap with glue on it apart would rip it apart. I went to Home Depot - they had no glue for vinyl and leather. Lowes did - a vinyl leather glue from Locktite. We bought that. With a toothpick I applied a little glue to hole in the seat under the flap and the flap and put them together - with the tip of a clean toothpick. Then I went around the edges with a very little more glue. I coated the tiny holes with a tiny dot of glue. The package says tape together to hold until dry. I used painter's removable tape which I place over the holes and to the sides and not on them to pull them, closed. This needed to dry for 24 hours. After that the flap was sealed but one small edge remained open. A small coating of glue on that edge and another 24 hours to dry. It looks like this will hold, but I really would like a seat cover to be sure - and that is another problem.

We went to the chain auto parts stores that are here. They pretty much all have the same seat covers and none are going to work as is on the Roadtrek seat. If they have a high back to go over the built in headrest then they have no slots for the arm rests. If they are sideless they cannot be used on a seat with a built in headrest. There are covers for just the seat part and not the back to be found on Amazon but there are no dimensions and the Roadtrek seat is unusually wide. I know this because I have looked at several seat pads - that just sit over the seat and are strapped on - and these are all too small to cover the Roadtrek seat.

So what to do? Right now we are working on an idea. To buy a truck full seat cover, cut off most of the back, create a section out of what remains of the back to push under the seat and anchor there in some way - and only use the seat part to cover the seat. We did find a cover for a truck size seat which we could buy and return if that it is too small. That is currently in consideration. It seems that we are not alone - and others have told me that they too are looking for a seat cover to fit a Roadtrek seat.

And so finally - the emergency roadside assistance plan. When we bought the Roadtrek - way back when - we received a free one year of Coach-Net Emergency Roadside Assistance Coverage. Coach-Net is an RV specific policy with technicians who know RVs and they will send out a truck to help with someone who also knows RVs - and not the kid from the corner gas station in a tow truck as plans like AAA or the policy thrown in with your vehicle insurance policy. For years they have had gotten good reviews from RVers. Before we found out that we were getting the plan for free for a year we had decided that this was the plan we would purchase. We have renewed the plan every year we have had the Roadtrek - until now.

Here is what happened. Last year we renewed the plan. We sent the check. Got an acknowledgement of the renewal and were all set to face any problem that might come up through the year - which hopefully we would not have - and didn't. Now comes April and it is time to renew. Meryl tells me that we should have received the renewal notice by now and didn't and that I should go to their website and see about renewing there - or getting an application to send with a check. I go to the site and try to log on with my user name and password and a message comes up across the screen that my policy has expired and it rejects my login. I could not get on the site. The next day Meryl called Coach-Net. She is told by the rep that our policy has been expired for more than six months. Since our renewal date was not until a week later from the date of this phone call, Meryl - who is a lot better with this type of thing than I am as she gets direct where I would just get mad and start yelling - let him know that we sent a check last year for coverage to X date and what is going on? She was told that yes he could find that we had paid, but the renewal was NEVER ACTIVATED. Essentially we had no coverage the entire year. Instead of his saying that he would activate the policy and extend it through the next year, he just said that he would activate the policy through the coming expiration date!  Totally unacceptable, but he would do nothing else. That was it for us with Coach-Net! The President of Coach-Net is getting a letter along with a complaint filed with the State Attorney General's Consumer Division. We have also learned that we were not the only ones that this happened to in 2016. But we then had to decide on a new company.

Again, I went to one of the better Roadtrek groups on Facebook to ask. About one or two years ago, Roadtrek stopped giving a year of Coach-Net but became involved in it's own ERS plan with one of the big ERS providers. This is what they now give free. This was recommended to me by a few who have it. They too will respond with a Roadtrek technician on the phone and also will send out someone who knows RVs - hopefully, the Roadtrek but that may be too much to expect in some areas. The price is a little more than Good Sam's ERS plan but that plan gets mixed reviews. One signs up by going to a special website or calling a number on the Roadtrek website. I wish I had called that number instead of going to the website - as my experience in applying was not the best - and I am hoping that this is not an indication of what the service will be. I want to say right here that I have since straightened everything out through a contact I was given directly to Roadtrek - who responded and resolved everything. There is only an enrollment website for this plan. There is no website that you can go to that will show you your account and expiration date, or the services that you are entitled to. All of the services need to be accessed by telephone through one number that has a menu of choices including one that goes to an emergency response operator to report that you need help. The other services that this plan entitles you to are all accessed on that menu. This was a surprise as with Coach-Net their website accessed mapping software and other services - in addition to the phone number that got help to you when needed. Perhaps a phone access solution is better as one generally has phone service but does not always have data service or a computer near by.  According to Roadtrek, they have trained all of the response technicians who will troubleshoot whatever problem you might have on the road in your Roadtrek. That seems like a good idea - and since they no longer have this relationship with Coach-Net, this seems to be the plan to have with a Roadtrek. I hope never to need this service. Like any insurance, a good day is when you don't need to use insurance.

Well, we are set and ready to travel. We just took the Roadtrek to our mechanic for its annual maintenance. He changed the oil, checked all of the fluids, and did the State Inspection. I also asked him to change the air filter in the engine - as I am not sure he has changed it in the past. I checked the air in the tires myself and found them low - though the temp her is just at 60 degrees F - and I filled them. Before we leave on a trip I will check them again - and likely if the temps go up, I will be letting some air out.  When de-winterizing take the opportunity to check the air in your tires - and don't forget the spare.

One more tip - When dewinterizing, check the battery in your Roadtrek's smoke detector. Unlike the CO and Propane Detectors, the smoke detector is just a house smoke detector that uses its own 9 volt battery. Push the test button if you hear nothing or you hear a dim beep, change the battery. The smoke detector should come off the wall with a twist and the entire unit comes off in your hand. The battery is on the back of the detector.

Now all we need is a place to go...

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Getting Ready - Always Another Surprise, Part I

Hello all! It has been awhile.

It finally - after what always seems like forever - became time to get the Roadtrek ready for the new season. The winter temperatures seemed to keep holding on. There were some odd days - even series of odd days where the temperatures were going up into the 70s (degrees F) and higher, but they would come and go - and nights were potentially getting cold enough to make problems if we dewinterized. It took until the end of April for the temperatures to begin to stay warm enough during the day - and infrequently cold at night to be able to remove the antifreeze from the plumbing and get the Roadtrek ready for the new RVing season.

We planned a day that would be comfortable enough outside to get wet to de-winterize. Now, just in case you think that since we have written all of those articles about de-winterizing and sanitizing the fresh water system, we just go outside and do it, well, no. Every year before dewinterizing I get the articles up on the computer, read them and print out the step by step guide to dewinterizing and sanitizing. And when we go out there - with all of the instructions in hand, I follow each one step by step because I know if I don't I am going to forget something or mess something up. And every year, I stop and read the next step before I do it. This year was no different.

Before we started we checked the date on the bleach bottle and saw that it was a year old. Meryl looked up how long bleach is good for and it is good for one year - so we went out to buy a new bottle of bleach. One way we discovered one year that we were de-winterizing was if the bleach does not overwhelming hit you with that bleach smell when you come close to the open bottle it is time to buy new bleach - and this one's odor was fading. So armed with a new bottle of bleach, I turned the outside house water on for the first time in 2017, pulled out of the things we would need for the process, and started.

The de-winterizing part is easy - it is all easy - and quick. The most time that any of this takes is filling and draining the fresh tanks the numerous times that is involved. Getting the antifreeze out is as simple as filling the fresh tank(s) with water and turning on all of the faucets, showers, and toilet and watch all of the pink antifreeze in the pipes flow out and go down the drains. But I am not going to go into the steps here - it is all linked above.  We started mid-afternoon and by the time we were ready to put the bleach into the tanks to sanitize it was getting late - late enough that if we were going to start flushing the bleach out after its sitting in the tanks and plumbing for four hours it would be dark outside. So the sanitizing step would have to wait for another day - and not the next day or the day after that because it was going to rain - a lot. So we put that off a few days.

So what surprises did we have. A few. The first surprise was opening the lid of the toilet and finding out that mold had grown on the inside of the bowl - above the level of the antifreeze that I pour into the toilet so that the toilet flap does not dry out over the winter. This is no big deal but it does have to be cleaned and that is something that I will go into later.

Another surprise took place right after we poured the bleach and water mix into the rear, internal fresh water tank through the tank fill hole in the frame behind the passenger side cargo door. The bleach and water (a gallon total) went right down. When I took the hose to fill the tank the rest of the way with fresh water, the fresh water came rushing right back out the fill hole! We have had a similar experience in the past - and always with the rear tank, but never at this stage of the process. It has happened after the bleach and water were drained out of the tank and we were refilling to rinse and flush the bleach out. It has never happened trying to follow the bleach mixture with the rest of the water! I pulled out my gizmo to fill the tank from the bottom up - which has worked in the past to get passed any gas bubble formed from the bleach sitting in the tank. I need to tell you that I have never heard from anyone else that has this problem - and we have it every year we dewinterize. A one tank system should not have this problem, but others have the two tanks - and no one has ever let me know that they too have this.

I pushed the thin tubing down into the tank fill hole down into the tank. The nozzle end was connected to the fresh water hose and I turned on the valve to let the water flow. And the water came shooting back out the fill hole! A few times in year's past with this I let the water keep coming up and out until it broke through whatever was stopping it from going down and into the tank. So much water was coming out that I stopped. So what to do? Meryl had the answer and suggested that I get into the van and roll it back and forth up and down the driveway, shaking up whatever was in the back tank.

I cleared everything out of the way and got in and started the engine. Meryl stood on the side and watched in the area of the rear tank. I pull back fast and hit the break, stopped pulled forward the same way - and then pulled back again. Meryl shouted that a huge amount of water shot out from the bottom of the van over the rear passenger side tire. She and I both knew that this is where the overflow valve of the rear tank is located. The only explanation is that the bleach and water give off enough gas in this small tank to the point that it forms a gas bubble that prevents the water from going down. Tossing the contents of the tank around like this broke that and the momentum of rushing back blew it out the only opening for it to go through - the overflow drain - which is on the top of the tank inside and piped outside. After that the tank filled easily. I realized as I started putting water down into the tank - and it was going down - that we probably blew out all of the bleach that we had put in - so we added another mixture of bleach and water - that all went down and the tank filled with fresh water. It all sat for 24 hours (only four are necessary) but again, by now it would be dark again to go out and rinse and flush the tanks. When we got back out, drained the bleach out, and refilled the rear tank to rinse and flush it, the water went right in!

Now, the mold in the toilet. The toilet in the Roadtrek is not porcelain. It is a plastic composition RV toilet used because it is very light in weight.  The company that makes this toilet, Thetford, says to never use bleach or any bleach product to clean this toilet. We have been looking for such a product that is actually going to disinfect and clean for a long time. What we have been using is dish soap, but with the mold I wanted something more that would kill the mold. We looked at various products that feature right on the label that they contain "NO BLEACH" and each one has some statement on the label about not using it on plastic.  We took the names of several and contacted Thetford which came back with their answer - NO! Do not use any of those! What should you use? "Well we make our own product - just order it." No local store sells this product. Camping World sells the product - a foaming spray cleaner - but they want over $10 plus shipping. I found another that sells the product for $7 BUT shipping is $8!  I went to a good Roadtrek owners forum on Facebook to ask what others use.

It seems the most effective disinfecting cleaner is white wine vinegar. Vinegar seems to be the universal thing to do anything and everything. Most of the things that I have tried that use vinegar have not worked at all - forget killing your weeds with vinegar, salt, and detergent. The weeds in my backyard flourished after being drowned in this mixture. On the forum group other Roadtrek owners insisted that this will work on the toilet - and it will not harm the toilet. We were suggested both using vinegar mixed with dish soap or just vinegar alone. As I write this Meryl has purchased a spray bottle and has the vinegar and is going to try it and see. I will report back when we have the results.

Then we had two more surprises which I will write about in Part II - come back in two weeks.