Sunday, March 19, 2017

New River & Cave Creek Arizona

Odometer 54605
New River, AZ

Off on a new adventure!  We have been in Ajo for four months, and we have enjoyed every day we have spent here this winter.  That said, we are looking forward to new adventures, starting with a trip up to the Cave Creek area of Arizona.  Joan and I have good friends that have invited us up to stay at an RV dock next to their home

Our friends Ralph and Anne have several Model T  Fords and are keen on teaching me (Jeff) how drive, service,and maintain them.  Saturday we went on a tour of the local area in Ralph and Ann's Model T touring car, top down, and wind in the face.  The weather for it was just perfect- 70's to 80's, not a cloud in the sky!

Members of a local Model T club gather for a Sunday morning run
As you might imagine the Phoenix area is large enough to ensure that there are many willing and eager Model T owners that would be ready to rally on a sunny and warm weekend afternoon.

Joan and I get a practice ride in one of Ralph and Ann's classic touring cars
Unbelievably, we were allowed to take out this precious 1915 Touring car to practice on the roads and highways around New River, and Anthem.  The T has a set of 3 floor pedals and the throttle is a small lever on the steering column.  The left pedal of the 3 is the combination clutch and gear shifter.  Press the left pedal to the floor and the car is in first gear, in the middle range the car is in neutral, and let the pedal all the way up for second gear.  The middle pedal is only used for reverse gear, and the right hand pedal is the brake.

A rest stop at our turn-around point 
The next day we drove the 1910 "mother-in-law" Model T shown on the right in the photo above.  The car got it's name from the solo seat set to the rear of the car outside the protection of the folding roof!  Chloe the 10 year old that rode with us this time was lucky enough to enjoy warm weather and blue skies.  Our average speed today was about 35-40 mph, but the T's are capable of more speed.  What they aren't capable of, is stopping quickly.  The T's brake bands act on the transmission (like a drive shaft brake) and only stop the rear wheels.  Staying under 40 makes the stopping a lot less dramatic, and reduces the need for panic stops.
We stop to admire "Elvis" the famous local dromedary
 Our route was calculated to take us by a local mammalian star attraction, specifically Elvis the local dromedary.  The Conrads who bought Elvis in Yuma, said they have always liked the idea of owning a camel.   When Elvis' mother became ill and could not nurse him, his owner was looking for someone to care for him and be willing to bottle feed him.  Elvis is very friendly and loves getting treats of hay, carrots, or wheat bread.  Today though, he was most interested in his salt block

Wrenching on a 1915 Touring car

I get to help with the maintenance as well as the glamour job of driving.  Ralph has a well equipped shop which includes a car hoist which makes the small chores easier and a lot more fun.

Here we are replacing a pair of springs on the Rocky Mountain brakes that have been added to this 1915 T.  The Rocky Mountain brake is an additional brake that allows the foot brake to use the outside of the parking brake drums on the rear wheels.  A constricting set of brake bands close around the parking brake drums which house the normal internally expanding brake shoes operated by the hand brake for parking.

Author is installing new radiator hose on '38 Ford pickup

Ralph and I decided to replace the belts and hoses on his favorite shop truck, a 1938 Ford that has been hopped up with a Corvette engine.
A rod like this one is a composite of many different car families; Chevy engine, Pontiac rear end and suspension, and of course a Ford chassis and bodywork.  This makes it challenging when ordering replacement parts.  We also replaced the pinion seal and fashioned a new retainer for the brake reservoir.

My favorite project though is rebuilding a replacement carburetor for the 1919 pickup that is stored in Port Orford.  More on that in my next post.

Joan and I are excited about shopping at places like Costco and Fry's again.  We took a run over to Costco and stocked up on some essentials (like artichoke hearts, olives, vegetable ravioli, dry cell batteries, etc) and I got to shop at the local Harbor Freight store.

We also are enjoying the warmth of the hospitality extended to us by our hosts and their friends.  We have afternoon cocktails on the shady porch each afternoon, and quite often throw in together for a group meal as we watch the sun set in the western sky.

Your Traveling Friends,

Jeff and Joan

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Getting Washed

Odometer 54446
Ajo, AZ

Joan and I have always been fascinated by the power and the majesty of the deeper washes in the local desert.   We have never seen them running full of water, but one can imagine the force of nature that it would take to sculpt a canyon this deep, cutting through loose rock, clay, gravel and sand.

Joan and I took an afternoon walk along the bottom of this deep and beautiful wash.  We were awed at the sculptures of rock walls, falls, ledges and the waters sinewy path.

An as if that was not enough, nature added some beautiful flowering plants to complete the look of an expensive and expansive rock garden.

We saw Palo Verde and Ironwood Trees casting welcome shade into the wash, and in one sunny corner we found a fairy duster struggling valiantly to grow from the rocky soil.  Resplendant in its beautiful blooms.

In this channel we found a rock and mortar wall built above a rock chute.  We assume that it was for a holding pond.  If so, the "pond" is silted in, so what did the rock wall accomplish?

Another example of a mortared rock wall shown in the photo to the right.  The purpose is a mystery, but the beauty is undeniable.  Maybe it is to keep domestic stock from wandering off the land by following the dry wash.  Anybody know?

In the 'good 'ol days' washes were also convenient dumping places.  Here lies the back half of a 1947 Studebaker Champion.  Probably has some value to a restorer?

One more spectacular arroyo "rock garden" shot to leave you with.

Your Traveling Friends,

Jeff and Joan

In Search of Mexican Poppies

Odometer 54446
Ajo, Arizona

Today word was spreading quickly around the RV resort- "the Mexican Poppies are blooming in the desert!"  Joan and I had some inside intel on on one of the best places to see carpets of blooms, so we did not hesitate to set out for an afternoon of discovery.

Hat Mountain Locator Map BMGR Area B
Our destination was Hat Mountain, some 26 miles north and east of town.  Getting to Hat Mountain requires receiving permission to enter onto the Barry M Goldwater Gunnery Range (BMGR) an Air Force practice range for combat aircraft.  Area B that we wanted to enter is usually quiet enough that permission is granted.  Entrants have to watch a safety video and fill out registration forms before being assigned  permit number.

When entering the range, one must call the phone number given on the permit (Luke Air Force) and be prepared to give names, permit numbers, vehicle description, license plate numbers, est. time in the area, etc.

Since this was once an active range it is still possible to find un-expended ordinance on the ground. The safety briefing explains the importance of leaving any ordinance found, undisturbed.  The picture above is one of two bombs that Mark and I discovered in the Hat Mountain area.  We called them in to Luke AFB and they sent out Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) techs to remove or destroy them.  GPS coordinates come in very handy for this.

Typical Desert Road on BMGR
The crisp boundary at the bottom of the white area on the map above, is Arizona Highway 85 which runs between Interstate 8 at Gila Bend and the Mexican border at Lukeville.
We could have driven up Highway 85 to gate 9 and driven in- but I chose to drive the 4 wheel drive trail up that parallels the highway.  This is a good section of the road, the local arroyos wash out many areas that make transit much more technical.

Slovan Well
The Tohono O'odham native Americans that inhabited these lands (and still have a sizeable reservation here) called this area "Moivavi" meaning "many wells" because a hand dug hole had a good chance of producing water.

Our chosen route offered us a chance to check out Slovan Well on what used to be the Childs Ranch.  I Googled-up Slovan Well to see if I could find out how it got that name.   Finding nothing on the net, I have to assume that the earliest well on this site was dug by none other than the Slovans.

Concrete reservoir at Slovan well

The well we see today has a metal casing, which leads me to believe that it was no longer a hand dug well.

The Wind pump that used to be here has been removed, but the large concrete and rock reservoir and the cattle trough are still in fairly good shape.

One can only imagine the herculean task it was to form, mix and pour the concrete for this roughly 20' x 20' by 8' high concrete reservoir back in the day.

A pebble dropped into the well produced a satisfying splash at the bottom, indicating water is still available.

A-10 Thunderbolt (military photo)

Not long after leaving Slovan well we could hear Air Force A-10s passing overhead and the distinctive whine of their ducted fan jet engines.  The A-10s don't drop any ordinance on this side of Highway 85, but there is a lead-in area on this (east) side (shown on the map above that is cross hatched in blue.)
From our vantage point on the east side of the highway we could watch as a pair of A-10s did strafing and bombing runs on targets west of the highway.  At times their path took them right over our car!

After we tired of watching the A-10s we turned east away from Highway 85 and headed towards Hat Mountain.  This road would take us along the flanks of the Sauceda Mountains.  Several times we took side trips off the main road into a canyon where we found what we had come for- carpets of green with millions of golden- yellow poppies all in full bloom.

Petroglyphs near Thanksgiving Day Tank
One trip into the hills brought us within hiking range of these petroglyphs.  The unstable cliffs above are eroding and the falling rock and boulders are slowly destroying the ancient artworks below.

Too Beautiful
 This canyon road ends in about a quarter mile, but the side trip here was very worthwhile!

Hat Mountain is an iconic landmark around here.  Visible from nearly anywhere, it allows you to instantly get your bearings.  Its distinctive shape is unmistakable on the skyline.  The road continues from here into the Saucedas and the East Tactical Range, which we do not have clearance for today.

We take one last photo of the desert blooms, and reluctantly head back to Highway 85 and our home on wheels.

This has been the wettest winter we have seen here (which isn't saying much!) but the pay-off is this amazingly green and flowering spring in our corner of the southern Sonoran Desert.

Your Traveling Friends,

Jeff and Joan

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Repairing Your Oasis Elite Door Awning

Odometer 54446

Ajo, AZ

Good Morning Readers!
Today's blog posting is a technical post for other RVers who may have a Dometic A&E Door Awning on their RV.  Other readers may want to skip onto the next travel blog.

Joan and I have been experiencing problems with the small electrically deployed awning that is situated above the entry door to our Itasca Horizon motorhome.

2002 Itasca Motorhome with Oasis Elite door awning

This small awning has both an electric motor furler and a manual override which will accept a hand crank which is stowed in one of the basement bays.  Not all models came with the manual crank option, as I'll demonstrate in a bit.  When we initially started having problems with the awning, the motor would open the awning a little bit, and then stall.  We just got the hand crank out, and deployed the awning that way.  Same when it came time to retract- the motor just couldn't do it.

Dometic label plate for door awning
For those of you that are still reading, I'll assume that you are here for the technical information on a DIY fix, or to better understand and explain the problem to those that will fix it for you.  The model and serial numbers for the particular awning that I will be referencing are in the photo to the right.  The model/serial number tag is affixed to the inside of the head rail which mounts the awning to the sidewall.  This means if your awning is broken and will not deploy you will need to remove the motor drive (or crank if manual) to allow the awning to deploy to get to the two mounting screws, and to see this number plate.

Fiamma label plate for door awning

There is a second label inside the headrail because Dometic does not make this particular awning.  Dometic resells this product manufactured by Fiamma of Italy.  Also if you noticed the label above lists this product as having been made in October of 2002.  When I contacted Dometic, they referred me to Fiamma, as they no longer stock parts for this unit.  Luckily, Fiamma has a US outlet in Orlando, Florida, and although their web site is abysmal, they do have knowledgeable staff that you can talk to on the phone.  I spoke to Jeff Roberts at (407)672-0091 to find the part I needed and get it shipped to me.

It is possible to work on this unit without first taking it down off the sidewall, but for my purposes I took it down and worked on it while it was resting on a table.  There is a very good video on YouTube posted by RV Geeks showing how to work on the motor unit.  You can check out their video in a pop-up window here (Click Here).  I had one additional defect that the Geeks did not have, meaning I had to disassemble more of the awning, plus it was time for new fabric.  I was able to get the awning to open far enough with the hand crank to allow me to remove the fixing screws that hold the awning in place.

Removing retaining screws from door awning 

One screw is about where my left hand is resting the other is being loosened with my right hand.  These screws go from the aluminum rail into the coach sidewall and their purpose it to keep the awning from sliding fore and aft.

Sheet metal screws anchor awning in mounting rail

The awning assembly is hooked into a track that is mounted on the sidewall and slides forward out of the track. There are two screws that need to be removed that anchor the chassis of the awning in the mounting rail.
Before you can slide the awning out of the mounting rail, you have to deal with the electrical wires that connect to the motor.  In their video the Geeks dug out the caulking and fished the connectors out of the sidewall of the coach.  I cut the wires and installed quick disconnect spade connectors.  Your choice.

After removing the screws and dealing with the motor wires the awning can be removed by sliding it out of the track.  Caution!  The awning is heavier than it looks and quite awkward to do single handed as shown here.  After the photo Joan assisted me in getting the awning off and safely to the ground. (Ladder technique used here is unsafe, and not recommended)

Whole Awning Removed As A Unit
A picnic table worked well as a work table to further disassemble of the awning mechanism.

Removing screws holding motor unit onto awning chassis

I have a long blade Phillips screw driver that helped to remove the two screws that hold the drive unit onto the chassis of the awning.  There is one screw where shown in the picture above, and another that is in the same relative place on the opposite side.  My unit also had an 1/8" pop rivet at the approximate location of my left thumb in the picture above which I drilled out.

Sliding motor unit out of awning chassis

Once those three fasteners are removed the power unit slides off the end of the chassis and the fabric roller tube.  Your unit may or may not look the same as mine does.  My awning has an optional manual crank attachment which is the white and red plastic module sandwiched in between the awning and the motor unit.

Removing the bolts holding unit together
With the motor unit on the work bench take a felt tip marker and draw lines across the attach points from one module to the next to assist with proper alignment during re-assembly.

Once unit is marked begin disassembly by removing the hex head bolts (3) that hold the motor to the planetary gear section.  The planetary gears are the gray metal drum shaped section closest to my pinkie finger in the photo to the right.

Remove the electric drive motor

With the bolts loose pull the motor unit free and set aside.  Next slide the white plastic manual crank assembly off the drive shaft.

Remove the manual crank assembly

Set the manual crank assembly aside

Gently pry loose the gear pack

The planetary drum was stuck and could not be removed by hand on my unit.  If yours is like mine use a pry bar or screwdriver to GENTLY work your way around the circumference of the gear pack until it slides out of the roller tube drive.

Gear pack was gouging the bracket

The picture at right shows a good part of the reason that the planetary unit was stuck.  It had worn a groove from contact with the flange on the metal mounting bracket on the white plastic roller tube guide.  The new part that I ordered had an upgraded bracket that came with it, that should prevent this from happening in the future.

Old Planetary drive with snap ring loose
Finally!  This is the culprit that I have been trying to get to.  This unit has 3 planetary gears inside that are the gear reduction unit that allows the motor to provide enough power to wind in the awning against the springs.  On my awning this unit was jammed and would not turn.  I'll show you why in the next several slides.

In the photo to the right I have already partially removed the snap ring that allows you to disassemble the gear pack and look inside.

Old Planetary with grease removed
In this photo the cover has been removed (as has all the grease) so you can see the planetary gears
inside.  You may or may not want to disassemble your drive unit.  On my awning this gear drive was locked up tight and I wanted to know why.  This 15 year old awning that is rarely ever used is broken, whereas the main awning that is used a lot has no motor drive problems- so I was curious.  If you can hold the exterior of your planetary, and spin the small input shaft with your fingers, making the square recessed drive on the big end turn- you don't have my problem.  If yours is locked up too- you don't have to take it apart - just order a replacement.

The picture above is the old planetary with the gears and shafts removed.  Notice that the holes where the gear shafts were inserted into the back of the bell are egg shaped not round.  This caused the gears to collide with each other and bind up.  Nothing I could do to fix this.

Okay.  I got a hold of Fiamma and ordered up a new planetary (Part # 02598-01) $80 plus shipping at the time of my order.  Now I have a pretty good idea why my part failed prematurely.  The new unit would not turn when I tried to spin the input shaft with my fingers- or when I gently applied a crescent wrench.- Hmmm...  Took off the snap ring and opened up the gear case.

New unit has hard congealed "grease" that had to be chipped out and cleaned with solvent

This is what I found- the "grease" they used to pack the gear cluster had hardened to a plastic consistency.  I'm not kidding here- it had to be chipped out of the unit with a screwdriver and a series of o-ring picks, then cleaned in solvent.

Re-packed with hi-temp bearing grease
Once the unit was spotlessly clean, I repacked with hi-temp bearing grease.  Now the unit works like a dream.  I weighed my options before doing this.  Yes, I could have returned the unit to Fiamma along with my complaint and waited while they shipped a new one.  However I believe they are ALL packed with this hard, congealed, grease- that is most likely why my first unit failed too!  So I bit the bullet and bought $8 worth of hitemp bearing grease and did the work myself.  As time goes on I'll update this blog and let you know how I'm making out with the "improved version"
I did send a text to Jeff at Fiamma along with photos.  Jeff said he'd look at another unit on the shelf and see if it too was jammed with "plastic" grease.

I hinted earlier that there has been a modification to this part.  The new gears came with a re-designed bracket and bushing plate.

New bushing plate (right) comes with replacement gear pack

Remember when I disassembled the motor drive, the old planetary had a groove worn around the drive hub.  Well the new unit comes with a re-designed busing plate.  The original was a single thickness plastic plate, the new one has a 3/8" bearing collar in the center, and the hole is smaller diameter.

New bracket and bearing plate ready for installation
Remove the old mounting bracket from the motor support and install the new pieces shown in the picture above.  Note the orientation of the old bracket and install the new one in same orientation.  To make re-assembly easier, transfer the marks you made earlier with the marking pen from the old bracket to the new motor bracket.

Transfer marks from old bracket to new bracket
You are now ready to re-assemble in the reverse order of disassembly- however, if you like me, are needing replacement fabric on your awning, now is a good time to do that job also.

Removing fabric retaining screws
Replacing Awning Fabric

The screws holding the fabric on the roller tube are buried and hard to find.  About 2-3 inches in from either end is a #1 Phillips head sheet metal screw down in the groove of the roller tube.  Carefully tease out those two screws and then go to the other end of the awning where there are two more screws.

Note: A standard #2 Phillips screwdriver in too big and may destroy the head of the screw

Loosening the nut that holds the end cap on
In the picture to the right, the screw on the outer rail has been removed (red arrow) and I'm getting ready to remove the end cap so I can slide the fabric out of the groove.  The two screws in this end are 1/4" hex head sheet metal screws and much easier to get to, and to remove.

Use a 1/2" (13mm) socket to loosen the pinch bolt on the end cap and gently tap it off the end of the outboard rail.  The nut does not have to be removed- only loosened

Sliding old fabric out of the channels
Once the screws (4 of them) are removed, two from each edge of the awning, and one end cap is removed- simply tug the awning fabric out of the groove in the outer rail on one end and the roller tube on the other.
Reverse these directions for inserting the new fabric.  Spraying silicone spray in the groves before inserting fabric make inserting much easier.

On re-assembly before you re-insert the new awning fabric mark the location of the screw hole where the fabric retaining screw was removed (if you are going to re-use the same screw and hole).
 Make this mark on the metal roller tube adjacent to the groove where it will be visible after the fabric is installed (see photo below).

Fabric retaining screw on roller tube
 After the new fabric has been inserted Re-install the plastic end cap on the outer rail.  Gently tap end cap into place and tighten the 1/2" (13mm) nut.
Next center the fabric in groove side to side, use a drill and a small (1/16") twist bit to put a guide hole into the fabric's rubber spline where your hole mark is.  Using your #1 Phillips screwdriver push the screw into your drilled pilot hole and screw the screw in while rotating the tip up/down & left right in a very small orbit, until you feel the screw tip hit the old hole in the roller tube.  Finish installing the screw until the head is below the lip of the guide in the roller tube but do not tighten to where the head of the screw disappears into the fabric or vinyl spline, or it may pull on through.

Fabric retaining screw on outside rail
Do not install the fabric retaining screws in the outer rail until after you have remounted the awning and hooked up the power leads.  You must adjust the fabric side to side in the outer rail to allow the awning to close properly.  My mechanism was old enough (14yrs) that I also needed to lubricate the joints of the awning "arms".   I used a light spray oil that has Teflon additive in it.   There is a very tight clearance to pocket the outer rail into the sidewall chassis.  Take your time in adjusting the fabric side to side in the outer rail until it closes perfectly.  There is only about 1/8" to 1/4" tolerance.  Just before the outer rail pockets into the sidewall chassis, move it very slowly (light taps on the switch) and constantly check alignment.  If you rush this- some plastic will break!   Once you get the awning to close properly install the two outer rail screws. (blue arrow)  The awning arms bend in a "V" shape as the awning closes up.  The V's point at each other like this (> <) if the two arms are not collapsing at the same rate and the Vs don't line up (as mine didn't) they need to be lubricated as explained above.

The Motor

I did all of this,  (up to the part where the awning actually closes ;->) only to find that my motor was not strong enough to power the awning.  The manual crank worked like a dream- in and out, but the motor -not so much.  So guess what...

Motor unit removed from chassis
I took the awning down and removed the motor (again).
By now I was glad I had opted to install the spade connectors on the power leads.  I reached up and plugged in the motor to test it outside the gear train and awning mechanism.  With the leads connected and the switch on, the motor was stalled.  I could feel it hum, but it would not rotate

Worm gear on motor unit

First I checked to see if there were any obstructions in the worm gear, or if they may have used the same hard "grease" in this area.

The grease seemed entirely appropriate, and everything was well meshed and unbound.  I used a toothpick to redistribute the grease from the corners to the main gear and buttoned that end back up.

Lower bearing mount for motor armature

I took the two long bolts holding the motor together lengthwise out, and gently pried the bottom off.  I think I found the problem alright!

As seen in the picture to the right, the bottom sleeve bearing for the armature is "rusted" onto the armature shaft.  I could not pull it off with my fingers, nor would it come loose with a gentle pull using pliers.

I took a micro torch and heated the bearing up till it would come loose using the pliers and some very gentle persuasion.

I cleaned up the bottom cover with some solvent, then took my needle nose pliers to gently pull the friction ring out of the shaft support hole.  This thin spring ring is supposed to hold the sleeve bearing in place and retains a soft felt washer also.  I cleaned the support hole, and checked to see that I had not badly distorted the spring ring.  I washed the felt washer in solvent, dried it thoroughly.

Motor armature

Using a green polyester scrubbing pad and some WD-40 I polished the armature shaft and the inside surfaces of the sleeve bearing.

I took a dab of bearing grease on my finger and pushed it into the bearing, and applied a light film of grease onto the armature shaft where it rides inside the bearing.

Cleaned up and lubricated armature bearing
Note:  The felt washer indicates to me that the bottom bearing was most likely assembled with light machine oil on the bearing surfaces and soaking the felt washer.  I decided on grease- your choice.

 Next I put the bearing back into the recess in the bottom cover and placed the felt washer on top. Satisfied with the position of the bearing, I pressed the spring washer into the recess to retain the bearing in place.

RTV silicone gasket on bottom cap
I elected to seal the bottom cap on with some silicone gasket material, just in case that seam was where the moisture was getting in.

I reinserted the armature and fit the cap onto the motor housing, re-installed the long bolts, and tested the motor by hooking it back up to the wires  coming out of the coach.


By this time I was well practiced at assembling the awning and installing the awning on the motorhome, so that all happened fairly quickly.
Bottom line is that it now works and has a new fabric topper.  Total cost was$145.00.   $95 for the new planetary and $50 for new fabric.

I hope this experience helps at least one other RVer.

If you have any comments or questions, please use the comments section below.

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan