Roadtrek

Roadtrek

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Another Generator Tale and Some Basics to Know When the Generator is Not Working

 Our Roadtrek has been sitting on the driveway for over a year and a half because of Covid-19. We live in an area that was hard hit by the virus and we pretty much stayed indoors only going out once every several weeks for essentials. Trips that we had hoped to be able to take in 2020 were not possible. Places that we wanted to go to - if we could have gone away had canceled all of their events or just closed. I have been going out to the Roadtrek and starting the engine every week. We took it for a few local two hour drives - out and back to keep it running, charge the batteries, besides plugging in to charge the batteries. I also had to keep exercising the generator for its monthly two hour continuous run with a half load which is either the air conditioner running or in the cold weather an electric radiant home portable heater plugged into one of the Roadtrek outlets. I did this diligently until February 2021 when it snowed here every week and the snow piled up around the Roadtrek and we could not get into it. It ran fine when it was exercised in January and shut off fine as well.

The second week in March 2021, the weather was getting better. Most of the snow had melted and I went out to exercise the generator. I started the van engine to boost the batteries that are needed to start the generator, put the battery switch on, and pushed the generator start button on the wall inside the Roadtrek. What should have happened was the generator starting to crank, catch, and run. I should have seen the amber light on the switch come on. None of that happened. What did happen was the light did not come on with the switch held in, there was no noise at all - there was no cranking, and when I took my finger off the switch, the switch light did flash on and off once, and I could hear a noise toward the back of the van (where the generator is under the chassis) that went clunk - once. Oh boy!  I tried several times more. 

I went into the house to get Meryl as I was going to try to crawl under the back of the can to the generator - something I am not supposed to do because of a physical issue - and try to start the generator from the switch that is behind the access panel on the front of the generator.  She came out with me - basically to pull me out if I could not get out from under the van - and I crawled under. I opened the access panel - two push up tabs on the bottom of the panel releases it which is easy to do if you are not lying under the van on your side trying to reach up while still supporting yourself on your elbows. I looked inside and the start switch is right there. I pushed the switch and nothing. This switch has no light but when I released the switch I did here the single clunk.

There is a 5 amp fuse inside the generator. This fuse is there to protect the generator starting electronics.  If this fuse is blown, the generator will NOT start. If I could get to the fuse and see if it has blown, then replace it, the generator MIGHT start. The problem was the fuse is down and behind other components and I could not see it. I could not even feel it when I tried to get my finger down to where I thought it should be.  At that point, I could stay under the van any longer and I put the generator access panel back on and crawled backwards to get out - with Meryl's help. 

It was March. Covid-19 was still very much present and we had not been able to schedule appointments for the Covid vaccine. We decided to just leave it alone until we were fully vaccinated and it was warmer to deal with. And we knew it had to be brought into a Cummins/Onan authorized service center. 

By the end of May we were both fully vaccinated and we were trying to get the Roadtrek ready for hopefully being able to start to travel again. I called the generator shop which is in the next county about a 45 minute drive.  They gave me a morning appointment to bring the Roadtrek for them to work on the generator. 

We took the Roadtrek to the Onan shop the morning of the appointment. The appointment was for 10am. We arrived at 9:45. Since we were not sure how long they would need it to work on, Meryl drove the Roadtrek there and I followed in the car.  We parked in the back of the building where the entrance to the shop is and we walked around the building to the office entrance and let them know we were there. We were told just to wait with the Roadtrek in the back as the service tech was finishing a job offsite and would be back very soon. At about 10:20 or so, he arrived. I explained that it would not start and what it did when not starting. He asked where the generator is and I told him and he said, "I was afraid of that!".  He did not like working lying on the ground either.  I showed him the start button inside and turned on the battery switch.  I also told him that the last time they worked on it, it also did not start which was 2018 and the paperwork I have from that repair said the fuse had come loose. He went to the switch inside the Roadtrek and tried to start it - and it did exactly what I had been doing for me  - not start. We told him we would wait or if he thought it would be long we could go and come back. He said either way and we stayed but we had to leave the shop and watch through the open garage door. He went under the van with a work light and in about five minutes I hear the generator start. It has not done that in three months.  He shut it off and started it twice more. As he crawled out I shouted into the garage - "Was it the fuse?" He said it was - it was loose.  I asked why would it go loose and he told me that is what he would have to find out now.


If you have ever been concerned about the Roadtrek being put up on a lift - what he did next (and I knew this is what this shop does as they did it with my Roadtrek in the past) - would make you cringe as I do every time I see them do this.  He got into a forklift and drove it behind the Roadtrek. He centered the fork with the center of the bumper, lowered the fork down and drove under the back of the Roadtrek and raised the fork until it made contact with the bottom of the chassis and lifted the back up about two feet off the  ground.  Then he went back under.  I could not really see what he was doing from that point so I went to sit in the car with Meryl to read an ebook on my phone.

The car was parked on the other end of the parking lot and after awhile I moved the car and parked it facing the open garage door and the Roadtrek. About an hour went by and he looked like he was finishing and then he put the back of the Roadtrek down  with the  forklift.  I went over and asked him if it was done. It was. This all was just less than an hour including the regular maintenance that I asked be done on the generator. I asked him about the loose fuse and what did he do about it so that it would not go loose again. He told me then that it turned out not to be the fuse. He thought it was at first because when he put his fingers in around the fuse, he was pushing around and thought he felt the fuse seat back in, and  then then the generator was able to start. When he looked closer with the Roadtrek lifted up he found a plug and socket that are supposed to be tightly snapped together and not come apart and it is right behind the fuse. When he touched the fuse earlier he had actually pushed the plug and socket close enough together for the generator to be able to start. OK, but I had to ask why would this have come apart. What he told me I don't really accept,but it was working and there was no reason to question further. He told me that when it was all put together originally this was not snapped tightly together as it should have been. I said that was ten years ago and he just shrugged. BUT the Onan started.  

Now, back in 2016 when I first brought the Roadtrek to this same shop to work on the generator, they had to take it down to repair it and took it apart. It is possible that this plug and socket were not tightly snapped back together then and over time with all the vibrating the generator does when it runs, it is possible that finally in January 2021, this connection shook loose. I don't know. As long as it works now - I am fine with it.  

He also did as I had asked them to do, an oil change, a fuel filter change, and a spark plug change. That was all done.  I then asked him - and this is the important part of this story, if he tested it under load. He had not. What this means is did he test the generator running with a load - something running inside the Roadtrek powered at 110 volts by the generator - like the air conditioner. He said I could do that while he stood by but he wanted me to bring the Roadtrek outside the shop to do so as he did not want to fill the shop with exhaust. Fair enough, 

I baked the Roadtrek out of the garage, went to the switch and the generator started right up. Then I let it run for three minutes - I usually let it warm up for five minutes before putting on a load but I did not want to make him wait around too long for me to do that so I let it run for three minutes this time, then I turned on the A/C. NOTHING! I knew exactly what was wrong. We called him outside and let him know and he went under the van to the generator and clicked the circuit breaker back up. 

When there is no power coming from the Onan the circuit breaker is tripped - and any work done inside the small space in the generator, a hand will surely find the circuit breaker switch and accidentally knock it down to off. He was under and I thought he had already reset the breaker but had not. I tried the A/C and again nothing. The generator was still running. I plugged in the microwave which I keep unplugged over the winter (just to not overwhelm the Onan when I exercise it every month and in the cold it is harder starting it). The microwave had power. I slid the A/C switch to ON and it started. He had by then reset the circuit breaker. 

SO - the point here is  - if you have work done on the generator, even just an oil change, or you do work on the Onan - if there is no power inside with the Onan running -  the service tech or you hit the circuit breaker handle and turned it off. That is fairly simple to get to and flip it back up.

This Onan shop which is a sales and service center for all types of generators from big house and really large worksite generators to as small as the Onan Microlite 2800. We have been there when they were working on a large Class A's generator. They charge $166 an hour labor plus parts. Our job took just less than an hour and we were charged $170. total. This included the labor time, the oil, the fuel filter, and the spark plug.  This was a LOT less than we were anticipating.  

The Onan now runs with the push of the switch and we  know that if we need it, it is ready.  In the next few days I will exercise it for its usual two hours a month with the A/C running to get it back to its usual exercise routine.
 

A FEW THINGS TO TAKE AWAY ABOUT THE GENERATOR FROM THIS TALE:

How this service tech went under the Roadtrek - without it lifted up  - was interesting and maybe it is how others do it.  He went under with a creeper and went in from the side and not straight in under  the bumper (as I go under). This might give a little more ability to move under the low van and if I have to go under I will try it that way.  It seems a lot better than going head in from under the bumper and the hitch.

MORE IMPORTANT:

1)  If your generator does not start, the first thing to try to check is the fuse. The fuse if blown will prevent the generator from starting as no 12 volt power is getting to the generator's starter.

2) If your generator is running BUT there is NO POWER coming from it to the inside of the Roadtrek 110 volt appliances plugged in, the first thing to check is the circuit breaker INSIDE the Onan at the front looking in. Reset that breaker by flipping it UP and you should now have power inside the Roadtrek from the generator. 

Of course with both of these - IF NOTHING MORE IS WRONG!  

 

Here is a link to our general Onan Generator Article - for much more detail about how it works. 

 

 
 


Wednesday, June 9, 2021

A NOZZLE FOR THE MACERATOR HOSE

 In April 2019 when we had the macerator in our Roadtrek replaced as it had finally broken down, we also had the Roadtrek dealer/service center that we go to in Pennsylvania install a new macerator hose - the Thetford Sani-con hose - that is much more flexible and easier to store in the outside compartment in the Roadtrek that is provided for the hose.  When they replaced the hose, I asked them to take the nozzle off the original hose and install that on the end of the Sani-con hose. For some reason they were not able to do that and instead, built a new nozzle from PVC plumbing parts that resembled the old one but was larger. It had a big turn valve on the top to open and close the valve. When put away with the valve closed any remaining water or waste in the hose would not leak into its storage compartment. 

The first time we got to use the new hose and its nozzle was on our trip in July which was only four days. As we were leaving on that trip we discovered a problem with the coach batteries - which is well documented in our articles in the summer and Fall of 2019. We spent the rest of that summer and Fall dealing with the batteries and that prevented us from taking another trip in the Roadtrek that year.  Then Covid-19 arrived and changed the world and all of our lives. For a year and a half after that we remained inside with the Roadtrek on the driveway. In November 2020, we winterized the Roadtrek and discovered that the valve handle that was on the nozzle that the service center created would not turn. To get it to turn we used spray lubricant and finally resorted to tools and force to get it to open. Once open we dumped what little was in the waste tanks. We closed the nozzle that seemed to turn due to more lubricant sprayed in and just in case put the nozzle in a plastic bag and sealed it around the hose. A few days later we opened the hose storage compartment and saw that the bag had water inside of it. We dealt with that and left it all to the Spring. 

 As it got closer to Spring I started looking at what could replace the nozzle. There is a nozzle that is made for the Sani-con hose. It is a handle piece that attaches to the hose and ends in a graduated cylinder that fits into the sewer drain hole at a campground. On the bottom of the cylinder is a screw cap to seal the hose. This looked like a good idea. It's dimensions, however, seemed big. The diameter of the cylinder at its widest point is 4" - possibly larger as dimensions were not clear in any of the specs for it. The opening to the storage area for the hose and nozzle in the Roadtrek 190 is 3.5". It seemed to me that there was no way that this would fit. I contacted Thetford and asked for the exact dimensions and they never  responded. I asked on the Facebook group and no one who replied knew.  That ruled out the nozzle made for the Sani-con hose!  That brings us to now. 

When we started to dewinterize in May 2021, we could not get the nozzle valve on the hose to open again. Once again with some more spray lubricant and a lot of force it turned, but this was never going to do for traveling. We could not take a chance that we could not dump the tanks because we could not get the nozzle open. We held off dewinterizing until we came up with a nozzle for the hose that not only was going to fit but would be very easy to use - and most important leak-proof. I had an idea in mind and I went to home store websites to look at plumbing parts. I measured the inner diameter of the part of the hose at the end - the hose itself is one inch diameter. The hose end is in an attached heavy rubber coupler. This is what we made for about ten dollars in PVC plumbing fittings, a length of 3/4 pipe which we had, and the most expensive part of the needed supplies - a package of cans of PVC pipe primer and pipe cement - used to glue the PVC pipe together. 

Here is what we made -

It is not pretty and some of the primer leaked when it went together but it works and it works really well. Most important - it fits in the storage compartment with the hose easily. To explain what you are looking at here.  On the left is a fitting that on one end fits into the hose - the end with the barbs. The other end of that fitting which is inside the pipe seal tape is a female screw into end. Attached to that end - which is also under the pipe seal tape and out of view is a male screw end and a slip end on the other side - the white on the left attached to the pipe, that is glued over the pipe. In the middle is the pipe. The pipe can be any length you want. We cut a section of pipe 8" long. On the right side attached to the pipe is a slip end to male screw on end adapter. This is glued to the pipe. On the very end is a screw on cap to seal the nozzle when stored inside the hose compartment. To attach it to the hose you use a screw band hose clamp. This is a strip of metal with rectangular holes that when the screw is turned on the clamp with a screwdriver the clamp gets smaller around the joint on the and compresses into it to make a seal. First you put the clamp open wide around the hose from the end of the hose. Then you push the barbs on the L connector into the hose. Finally, you use a screwdriver to tighten the clamp around the hose and compress it around the barbs inside the hose. The joint is solid and does not leak.   The nozzle is simple in design; it is not pretty, but it works. 

 To use it = take out the hose, point the nozzle away from you and take the screw cap off. Put the cap aside - don't lose it!  Any water in the hose will pour out so watch your shoes. Point the nozzle into the sewer drain hole and have someone push the button to start the macerator. What is in the tank coming through the macerator will be pouring from the nozzle and into the sewer. When done - raise the hose to get any water out of it and put the cap back on the nozzle.

I have only worked with PVC pipe once before. I do not like doing plumbing. With plumbing, it all looks right and when all together you come back and there is a leak someplace. This is the reason that I made sure there would be no leaks by wrapping the screw joints with pipe seal tape. This is a rubberized tape that sticks to itself - pretty much permanently. It comes on a roll and is about half an inch wide. You pull and stretch the tape as you put it on over itself a number of times. It is the pulling and stretching that affixes it to itself. After it is on you can mold it with your fingers around what it is  on. I have used this in the hose to fix leaks in pipes and it lasts. It is sold in plumbing sections of home stores and also in Walmart in the plumbing aisle. 

Here are the parts I used. You will find similar parts in most plumbing departments in home stores. I went to Ace Hardware because they were the only place locally that had the first part I will list which was hardest to find. These are in order of installation from left to right:

1) Lasco Schedule 80 1" insert X 1" diameter FPT (Female Pipe Thread) PVC 90 degree elbow.

2) Charlotte pipe Schedule 40 1" MPT (Male Pipe Thread) x 3/4" diameter Slip PVC pipe adapter.

3) 3/4" PVC Schedule 40 pipe (You can buy two foot lengths of this in Home Depot).

4) Charlotte pipe Schedule 40 3/4" slip x 3/4" MPT PVC pipe adapter

5) Charlotte pipe Schedule  40 3/4" FPT PVC Cap  (Buy two of these so that you have a spare).

You will also need PVC Pipe Primer and PVC Pipe Cement -  sold in a set of small cans. 

To learn how to put this all together there are basic PVC plumbing assembly videos on You Tube that show how to cut the pipe, join the pipe with the fittings and use the pipe primer and pipe cement. Wear gloves - and not vinyl gloves. The primer ate through the vinyl gloves that I was wearing. It also stains your skin so if you get it on you - wash it off with soap and water QUICKLY.



Tuesday, June 1, 2021

ON FACEBOOK - Roadtrek 190, 170, 210 Support, Help, and Sharing

 Facebook has been a great resource for Roadtrek owners. I have been a member of a group on Facebook that focuses on the Chevy Roadtreks since it started. The group has gone by a couple of different but related names.  The group owner of this group recently announced that since he had sold his Roadtrek he wanted to stop being the administrator of the group and asked for someone to take over the group.  I have been the administrator of other Facebook groups for a long time and thought that taking on an additional group would not be a problem for me - so I volunteered. With a lot of thought, I renamed the group - "Roadtrek 190, 170, 210 Support, Help and Sharing" - as this really what the heart of the group is all about. The group welcomes all Chevy Roadtrek owners plus those who own the older Dodge Roadtreks that shared the same model numbers of their later counterparts - the 190, 170, and 210. The group also welcomes Chevy Roadtrek 200 model owners - a very brief Roadtrek model as well as Roadtrek Chevy Simplicity and Ranger owners (both versions of the Roadtrek 190. We also have members of the group who are looking to buy a Chevy Roadtrek or are just interested in learning more about them. 

I emphasize on the group that there is no relevant question that cannot be asked and that all of the members who can help with that question do so, and not say to just do a search to get help. On the group you will read about the good things and the not so good things that happen with members' Roadtreks. We share problems and ask how to resolve them. We talk about modifications we have made and how to do the things one needs to do when out traveling with the Roadtrek, maintaining the Roadtrek, and fixing the Roadtrek when it needs to be fixed. 

We have member/Roadtrek owners who are very knowledgeable about Chevy Roadtreks. We have members who are new owners and are just starting out who ask for guidance from the group. We also have members on the group who are looking to buy a Chevy Roadtrek and present to the group what they have seen, the condition one is in, and ask for opinions on whether it is a good buy or one to avoid. 

I am on the group just about every day and am happy to answer questions along with the other members. When I thought about taking on this group one of the thoughts that went through my mind was that the group would be a good resource for the readers of Meryl and Me Hit the Road and they will be able to come on the group and interact with me directly.  This rounds out how I can help our readers as an added benefit to direct emails from readers - which we love and answer diligently, and questions posted to article comment sections here on Meryl and Me. 

The group needs to grow. We need you to come and join us. We need newbies and the very experienced to add to the great members we already have.  Most know but maybe not all do - Facebook is free to join. There is no need to put any personal information down to join - just leave those parts blank. The group is set to "Private" meaning no one who is not a member of the group can see anything on the group. This keeps away any trouble makers. Only members can see the group posts - even when asking to join the group, you will only see an introduction to the group. And once on the group you have access to all of the knowledge on the group including a FILES section of manuals, documents, and other related information files about Chevy Roadtreks. When I come across something useful, I put a copy into the Files section of the group - as do other members. 

SO - YOU ARE INVITED!

COME JOIN US!

The name of the Facebook group is - 
ROADTREK 190, 170, 210 SUPPORT, HELP, AND SHARING
 
THE GROUP ADDRESS IS - 
 
 
I will be looking for you to personally accept your membership to the group!