Testing Air Brakes

AirBrakes

This was from an article on air brakes in the September issue of the Family Motor Coaching magazine:

Let’s assume that a 200-horsepower engine is needed to accelerate a vehicle to 65 mph in one minute. For that vehicle to come to an emergency stop in 6 seconds (one-tenth of the time it took to reach 65 mph) requires 10 times the acceleration force, or 2,000 horsepower. Chassis builders take this into consideration when designing a braking system and determining a chassis’ gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR).

However, if the brake on just one wheel is out of adjustment or not operating, up to 25 percent of braking capability can be lost. Therefore, to ensure safe motorhome operation, the braking system should be tested regularly.

For someone whose driving style leans toward heavy engine brake usage and minimal service brake usage, chances are good the service brakes will not be in proper adjustment and won’t be very effective when they are needed most.

I tend to lean toward heavy engine brake usage and minimal service brake usage. Checking the air brakes is an important part of our Pre-trip Inspection.

This is my approach to testing our air brakes which is based on the air brake training that Lorraine and I did for our commercial driver’s license.

1. Make sure the coach is secure with the parking brake engaged

(In our training, we were told to also use a wheel chock. For our coach I do not chock any of the wheels)

2. Test the low air warning indicator
  • Ensure air pressure is over 90 PSI, if not build air pressure
  • Engine off, key on
  • Pump the service brakes
  • Warning at 65 PSI is good
  • Warning below 55 PSI is defective
3. Test air pressure build
  • Start Engine and run between 600-900 RPM
  • Reduce air pressure to 90 PSI
  • Time from 90 PSI to 120 PSI
  • Less than 30 seconds is good
  • More than 30 seconds vehicle is defective
4. Test air pressure governor settings
  • Build air pressure to maximum and note cut-out pressure
  • Cut-out must be between 120 PSI and 135 PSI
  • 120 PSI is good
  • More than 135 PSI is defective
  • Pump down pressure 20 to 30 PSI until compressor cuts-in
  • Cut-in should be at 100 PSI
  • 100 PSI is good
  • Less than 90 PSI is defective
5. Test air loss rate
  • Release parking brake
  • Apply service brake and shut engine off, key on
  • Time for 1 minute and note any loss of air pressure
  • 1 or 2 PSI loss is good
  • More than 3 PSI loss in pressure is defective
  • Re-engage parking brake
6. Test parking brake
  • Ensure parking brake is engaged
  • Start engine, select drive
  • Attempt to move the coach forward
  • Parking brake holds is good
  • If coach moves than parking brake is defective
7. Drain air tanks

(Our coach is equipped with automatic moisture ejectors so I don’t do this step every time)

  • Shut off engine, key on
  • Drain front wet tank for 5-10 seconds
  • Go back to gauges, see if any change to PSI
  • Drain 2nd valve for 5-10 seconds and check for oil, sludge, water
  • Drain 3rd valve for 5-10 seconds and check for oil, sludge, water
  • If valves work – then coach is good
  • If valves do not work then coach is defective

Magnum Inverter

NoEnergy

The Universe of Energy, Walt Disney World. So much energy there.

At home, last night? Not so much.

We had a power failure. I know when it happened. My son called me at 3:51 in the morning. Again at 3:52. And again at 3:53.

Now it is doubtful that I would have woken up from a deep sleep at that time of the morning. More so when you consider that the smartphone he was calling was charging in our house and I was blissfully asleep out in our coach.

Our son was awakened when all of the “gee we just lost power” alarms starting buzzing from our various technology devices. A veritable cacophony of urgent alerts. I think he was annoyed. He needed others to share his joy of waking up in the middle of the night.

My son decided to exit the house, walk out to the coach and wake us up.

“Power’s gone!”

Aside from notifying the utilities company, there wasn’t much I could do about the power outage.

The coach had gracefully switched from shore power to battery power. I wasn’t sure whether that was a good thing or not. I decided to activate the generator instead. The energy management system then automatically switched over to the generator.

This got me to thinking about the auto genset feature of our Magnum inverter. I seem to recall reading something about the generator automatically starting when a certain condition was met, like a shore power outage or when the batteries discharged to a certain level.

For our power outage, I just went ahead and turned the generator on myself. I ran it for a couple of hours. By the time I woke up at around 6am, power had been restored to the house and we had shore power available to the coach. Off went the generator.

The Magnum inverter is still very much a black box to me. I did read the manual but it was not very helpful. Lots and lots of settings. Very few tutorials.

This video, on the other hand, helped me better understand the Magnum inverter and how it works. Very cool device.

Not Enough Air

NotEnoughAir

We had to replace a bad tire on our travels to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan last month. That tire, located on the front driver’s side, now checks in at 101 PSI cold. The tire on the other side of the steer axle checks in at 110 PSI cold.

My sense of balance requires both tires to be at the same pressure: 110 PSI cold.

No problem. On our way to the Flying J a few nights back, we planned to check the pressures running hot and level the driver’s side to match the passenger’s side.

Only I did not have enough air from the air pump.

Frustrating really.

I took the air hose, connected it to the tire valve, and waited. Not long, probably 10 – 20 seconds. I had no idea how quickly the tire pressure would change but when I checked, it had not changed at all.

I spent a bit longer, perhaps a minute or so. Checked the tire pressure. And still no change.

I tried 5 minutes. No change in tire pressure.

I then went to the Flying J counter to settle the fuel and dumping charges and to ask them about the air pump. It was working except that 115 PSI was the max. And, as the heat had increased the tire pressure on the driver’s side from 101 PSI to 111 PSI, I was trying to get the tire up to 120 PSI to match the level on the passenger’s side.

With a 115 PSI air pump, that was not going to happen in my lifetime.

They told us to go into the trucker area and use those air pumps.

We made our way over to the trucker area. We are basically the same size as a big diesel bus so we were not entirely out of place. Just mostly out of place. There were at least a dozen lanes and every lane was full. We queued behind one tractor trailer. He pulled out of the lane and stopped about 50 feet or so in front of the pumps.

We pulled in and got to work on the front tire.

Same exact experience as before. Could not move the tire pressure north of 115 PSI.

Time to leave. Except for one little problem, the tractor trailer still stopped about 50 feet or so in front of us. No way out.

I had to do something that I did not really want to do, namely, back the coach out of the pump lane. Lorraine stepped out to spot and we figured out a way to retreat without impacting a truck.

I had no idea as to how to exit the trucker area. It took us another 5-10 minutes of roaming around to finally break free of the Flying J trucker area. I am very sure that I entertained a few truckers as we drove in random patterns around the parking area looking for a way out.

Getting our own air compressor has suddenly jumped to the top of the must have list for our motorcoach.

SeeLevel Tank Monitor

SeaLevel

The Castaway is a beautiful coach. Not perfect mind you. There are a few weird things about the coach that I find a wee bit irritating. For example, our tank monitors.

We have a system which monitors our black, gray and fresh water tanks. Despite being in the year 2016, our coach reports the status of the tanks this way: E, 1/3, 2/3, F.

We spend most of our time in the coach in a hybrid dry camp. We have 30 Amps of shore power and no water or sewage hookups. We do have potable water that we can bring into the coach through a temporary hookup. Once the gray and black tanks fill up though, we have to find our way to a dump. We will be taking a drive this evening to a Flying J located about 20 minutes from where we live and that is because our black tank hit the dreaded “F” status. Whenever that happens, our toilets shut down.

I find it really frustrating to determine how close is close with our existing system. Why didn’t Newmar put a better system in place? A system like the SeeLevel RV Tank Monitor? This system, created by a fine Canadian company, Garnet Instruments, provides tank level information using a percentage of full readout. As in, your black tank is 95% full.

I suppose we would not be as annoyed if our coach was always on a hookup. Our current arrangement is more akin to boondocking and we are constantly guessing as to our actual capacity.

When the freshwater tank reads “E”, is it just below 1/3, or roughly 30 gallons remaining? Or is it empty with less than a gallon remaining?

Irritating.

We will be heading out to the Hershey Show in September and I hope that the SeeLevel product will be on display. I’ve looked at several videos on the installation process and it looks like something I might be able to do on my own.

Here is one such video by Motorhead Garage.

Winegard Rayzar Automatic Antenna

TVAntenna

Our coach, the Castaway, is equipped with three television sets.

When I was a kid, we only had one. A black and white TV set. No remote. But we did have a big TV antenna on top of the roof.

You see, back then, this thing called cable TV wasn’t in the market.

We were able to bring in a handful of channels from our big TV antenna, five in all. Two were American stations, two were English language Canadian stations and one was a French language Canadian station.

Yes. Those were the days my friend.

Our coach has a satellite dish with access to hundreds of channels, a digital antenna which finds whatever digital TV channels are in range, along with an extensive array of digital video entertainment from Blu-Ray and various Internet-based video channels.

So why do I even care about a limited set of cable TV channels that may be available when I am at a site?

Well, I wanted to see if I could connect to cable TV as part of the shakedown of the coach.

I went and purchased a 50-foot cable and I tried to hook it up when we were at our site in Petoskey, Michigan.

First problem: where, oh where do I connect the cable? It was obvious where the cable TV connection was at the site as it was at the same post as the electrical hookup.

I could not find a cable TV connection on the service side of the coach. One of our neighbours, also in a Dutch Star, was kind enough to point out where the connection was housed. It was hiding under a covered port in the same part of the basement compartment as the shore power reel.

Sigh.

Well, I went ahead and connected the cable from the coach to the post. So everything should work now, right?

Inside the coach, our TVs allow us to automatically scan and program channels coming from either a cable TV service or an outdoor TV antenna. Under the TV’s system setup, you make a choice on the source, antenna or cable, and then let the TV set do the work.

Only, no cable TV channels.

I tried it several times on all three sets.

No joy.

Bad cable? Perhaps. And, until I picked up another one, I would have to make do with the several hundred other channels of video at my disposal. Which is what we wound up doing.

But it bothered me. Why wasn’t it working?

I was reading through this post on the iRV2.com website and something stood out about cable TV connections.

The Winegard Rayzar Antenna control panel.

You see that little green light in the photo?

Winegard Control Panel

The one over the button that says “ON/OFF”?

Well, it turns out that if you want to pass the Cable TV signal through to the TV sets, that little green light has to be dark otherwise the only signal present in the antenna line is the signal coming from the Winegard antenna. The cable TV signal from the site will be happily ignored.

Lots to learn about all of the various systems in our coach. Wish me luck.