Shades

Shades or no shades?

Our coach is equipped with interior MCD shades, day and night. They are all motorized and controlled by this old-style remote control.

With the sun and heat, we have had little choice but to keep both night and day shades closed from about 9am until roughly 5pm. Even then, our air conditioners have been working overtime to keep the interior of the coach comfortable.

I have been looking into exterior shades for the outside front of the coach. Sunglasses, if you like, for our motorhome.

There are two models: one that is magnetic and one that clips on.

The magnetic ones look like this (although I think my friend forgot to link one of the magnets at the top right side of his windshield):

Magnets on the inside of the windshield connect with the magnets on the shades. Easy to install and no holes in the coach.

The shades that snap on look like this.

And like this.

Snaps are drilled into the outside of the coach and the shades are more challenging to install. You need a ladder and you have to snap them into place.

Both types of shades work well. They reduce the heat gain by trapping the light before it has entered the coach.

Magna Shade is the leader for magnetic sunshades. They are currently backlogged and it would take about two months to get the product making it challenging for us as we are on the move every month.

There is a local provider for snap-on sunshades that will come directly to our coach and custom manufacture the shades on our site. The company is called RV Sunshade. They could put it on our coach this week.

The cost is about the same for both. The online forums almost universally support magnetic shades. One of our friends here at Myakka just installed the snap-on sunshades. He prefers them as they provide a better fit and they do not add clutter to his windshield. And another of our friends here at Myakka has a Magna Shade sunshade. He would never put holes into his coach and prefers the ease of putting them up on his coach.

Decisions, decisions.

Girard Awning Install

See any differences between the front awning on the left and the front awning on the right?

The one on the left has an awning that was not inserted properly into the guide rail which is why the awning edge is not taut. You can see how taut the edge line is on the right awning.

The lights on the left awning, aside from being a totally different colour and spacing, end almost a foot before the edge. On the right, the lights are uniform, evenly and tightly spaced and end at the edge.

The lights on the left awning are twisted in the lighting rail which is why you can see some lights that are bright and others that appear dim. The lights on the right are consistent as they are not twisted in the lighting rail.

This photo gives you a better sense as to the lighting issue.

There is no way that these lights on the left match the factory lights. They are not even close. One side has a blue colourcast and the lights are loosely spaced and the other side has a white colourcast and the lights are tightly spaced. The lights on the left are twisted in the track which means they point in different directions which gives an unpleasant lighting spread across the coach.

Oh, and the LED strand is too short for the awning on the left. Which is ironic as Girard shipped a replacement awning that was too long and had to be cut back.

To sum up.

Girard awnings can randomly deploy and when they do a random deployment may cause significant damage to your awning. In our case, the dealer experienced the random deployment as they brought our coach into service. The front awning received severe damage and it had to be replaced.

Girard shipped us replacement parts that did not fit and had to be cut to size and they provided replacement lighting that was incompatible with our coach.

It took over six weeks to resolve the issue. We spent almost four weeks stranded at the dealer waiting to find out how this issue was going to be resolved. When Girard, Newmar and the dealer finally agreed on how the issue would be resolved, it took over two weeks to get the parts shipped to the dealer.

We found out about the lighting issue about two hours before we had to leave for our trip south. At that point, I was not going to wait any longer. The dealer did all that they could do and it was not their fault that Girard shipped the incorrect lighting strand.

At least we have awnings that we can use and we can get the lighting resolved later.

The awnings could still randomly deploy. I make sure to unplug them from the 110v outlets before travelling with the coach.

Girard Awnings Again

Our little saga with the Girard awnings continues.

I’ll share with you one issue that we had to resolve and it led me to conclude that the random deployment issue may not be a grounding or wiring issue. Working on this issue highlighted an interesting finding. The Girard awnings are controlled by RF, specifically 433.92 MHz. This is a very common band used widely and subject to interference. You can read all about this regulated band at the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations.

Could the random deployment issue be due to RF interference?

On then, to one of our issues with our Girard awnings — I’ll save issue two for tomorrow.

Pictured above is the only way we have to control our awnings right now. I had never used this remote before the random deployment of the Girard awning.

There is a second controller located in one of our cabinets. That is the one we always used only now it doesn’t work. The only way we are able to control the awnings is with the small handheld remote.

At first I thought that the wall switch was hard-wired to the motor control module in the basement of our coach and that the dealer had not reconnected the wiring to the wall switch.

Not the case. We have a 5-channel wall switch, model 98GC661B. It operates on RF and it needs to be paired with the motor control modules. We have two motor control modules, one for each awning. And they are both the same model: GC274B.

I guess the dealer forgot to pair the wall switch to the motor control modules.

Girard was kind enough to help me understand that for our motor control module each step in the following process must be executed within 10 seconds of the previous one or the module will revert to factory settings.

It makes the process a two-person job. One inside the coach at the wall switch with a walkie-talkie or some other form of communication device and the other at the bay with the motor control modules.

First things first.

Ensure that the motor control modules are plugged into the 110v outlets and that there is power to the modules. For some strange reason, red lights indicate that the unit is powered and operational.

Remove the lids of the motor control modules pressing the lid release tabs on the top and bottom.

Press the program button on the motor control module. The green LED should start blinking.

Press the stop button on the motor control module. It is the centre button on the top of the unit. The green LED should now be solid.

Ask your helper to selected the desired channel on the wall switch. This is done by pressing the “CH” key until the desired single channel is highlighted. The wall switch LED is not all that easy to read and it is important to find a single channel as there will be an all-channel option at some point when pressing the “CH” button repeatedly.

Ask your helper to press the “IN” button on the wall switch. The green LED on the motor control module should turn off.

At this point, pairing should be complete. Press the OUT, STOP and IN buttons alternately on the wall switch to confirm pairing.

Repeat the process for the second motor control module and use a different single channel as that will allow for independent control of the two awnings. The wall switch does allow an all-channel mode to group the two awnings.

What else is amiss with our awnings?

More on our ongoing saga with Girard awnings tomorrow.

Winegard Trav’ler Bell to Dish

A few years back, I posted about some challenges that I had with our Winegard Trav’ler satellite dish. The dish was pointed straight up and it would not stow. It took a lot of time and searching on the web to find a way to resolve that problem.

Since then, I’ve received numerous questions about how to switch the Winegard from Bell to Dish. I did not know how to answer because I had never made the switch. But now I have.

The Winegard Trav’ler supports both service providers and, in true engineering fashion, there is no easy, documented way to make that switch.

Why make the switch? Well, if you are a Canadian snowbird, the Bell service works only in Canada. The satellite coverage doesn’t extend very far, if at all, when travelling in the United States. We needed a U.S. provider, Dish, if we wanted to have satellite programming during our time south.

I took the plunge and made it happen in our coach. Five steps.

  1. Buy a compatible satellite receiver
  2. Configure the Winegard interface box
  3. Activate the satellite service
  4. Test the switch
  5. Program the remote

Step 1: Buy a compatible satellite receiver

The Wally is the perfect solution for us. The Wally is readily available at places like Camping World or online at Amazon. The cost is low, roughly $80 USD, and the unit is compact, runs cool, and it is well designed. Dish offers the Wally as part of their mobile solution, specifically aimed at RVers. No contracts. The service is month-to-month and you can cancel at any time. Most importantly, our satellite antenna will work with Dish. No need to hop on the roof and change the antenna!

This was the easiest part of the process. We went to a nearby Camping World and purchased a Wally receiver.

Step 2: Configure the Winegard interface box

I’m not sure why but Winegard does not provide any online help to switch providers. Perhaps their view is that people in RVs only ever travel in one country.

The annoying part is that if you initiate the power on sequence, the Winegard will go into search mode and it will find the Dish satellites (119, 110, 129) but, if your satellite type has been configured as LG ExpressVu, then all that will happen is a lot of searching before the unit gives up and stows your antenna.

You have to configure the Winegard to select the antenna type and service provider. In my case, that was LG Dish 1000. I’m still not quite sure what the difference is between “LG” and “SM” but I think the “LG” stands for Low Ground and “SM” for Surface Mount. The latter probably referring to the dome style satellites.

The sequence is a bit odd and may require different steps. I had to try it a few times before I got it to work. Make sure that you start with the Winegard antenna powered off.

The Winegard interface box has three buttons on the front panel labelled “POWER”, “SELECT” and “ENTER”.

I started by pressing and holding the “POWER” button for a few seconds, until the interface displayed “POWER ON”. And then I pressed and held “ENTER” for a few seconds.

The interface will display a prompt: “Enter User Menu?” and below that prompt will be two options: “Yes No”. I pressed the “SELECT” button until the asterisk was beside Yes and then I pressed the “ENTER” button.

There will be four choices at this point: Search Mode, Diagnostics, Installation and Exit. We need the Installation option. Press “SELECT” until the asterisk is next to “Installation” and press “ENTER”.

For whatever reason, the Winegard interface will then prompt for a password. The default is 0000. Press “ENTER” four times to accept the default password of 0000.

The “Select Antenna” option should come up. Again, ensure that the asterisk is beside the “Select Antenna” and then press “ENTER”.

I then had an option to choose between LG Mount and SM Mount. For my antenna, I choose LG Mount. Again, press the “SELECT” button until the asterisk is beside the “LG Mount” option and press “ENTER”.

Another password prompt will come up. And it is here that you might get stuck. The user documentation shows “0022” as the password. Does not work on my system. I had found another password somewhere on the web, “2112”, and that one works fine.

Use the “SELECT” button to set the number and, once entered, press “ENTER”.

At that point you should see options for the service type. In my case, I could choose between four options. The one I needed was “LG Dish 1000”. Press “SELECT” until the asterisk is next to “LG Dish 1000” and press “ENTER”. A confirmation might come up next. Press “SELECT” to put the asterisk beside “Yes” and press “ENTER”.

At this point the interface should display “in progress” and “Success”.

What then?

I had no idea. I basically powered the unit off. Turned it back on. It spent about twenty minutes searching the sky for satellites and then it came back with “LG Dish 1000 *110 *119 *129” on the display.

Success.

By far the hardest part of the process as there is nothing in the manual or on the web that I could find to make this change happen. A little bit of trial and error. I was happy to see the satellites locked in and ready to go.

Step 3: Activate the satellite service

Be prepared to spend a bit of time on the phone with Dish TV. They will set up a customer account if you do not have one and you have to provide them with the id numbers for the receiver and the smart card as well as your contact information, credit card and programming choice.

I fired up the Wally before I called them to make sure that I had the receiver sending signal out to the front panels (I feed all of the source video in the front of our coach to two LED panels).

In my case, the audio/video signals were going through just fine.

There is a straightforward initialization process with the Wally. I paired the Wally remote with the receiver and followed the onscreen instructions.

Then it was a matter of activating the receiver. That was when I called Dish

I had no issues. After spending thirty to forty minutes on the phone with Dish TV, the Wally received its activation signal. But I wasn’t finished yet.

Step 4: Test the switch

You will need to test the switch to ensure that the signals from the satellite are getting through the unit successfully. If you miss this step, you might find that you are missing channels or not receiving any channels at all.

This part of the process is unique to the receiver. Dish has a page here that you can use but I found that the Wally’s interface differed. Not hard to find on the Wally, but if you do not set up the receiver properly, be prepared to call tech support at Dish.

Step 5: Program the remote

In our installation I use the Logitech Harmony Elite to control all of the sources in my AV cabinet. You can see the Harmony Hub on the upper left shelf. I have the Harmony Remote Control programmed for Apple TV, Over-The-Air Digital TV, Dish TV, Blu-Ray, and Sonos for when I stream music throughout the coach.

Programming the Harmony Remote was easy. I used the Harmony App on my iPhone to set up the new configuration. It resolved the codes for the Wally remote and synchronized the changes from my iPhone out to my Harmony Hub which then automatically updated the Harmony Remote.

So cool.

And, at that point, I could turn things on and watch satellite programming.

Good thing I’m retired. It took most of the afternoon to make this happen.

Fuel Costs Southern Leg

We made five fuel stops on our way south from Ontario, Canada to the Myakka River Motorcoach Resort in Florida:

  1. Erie, PA
  2. Morgantown, WV
  3. Wytheville, VA
  4. Bowman, SC
  5. Dade City, FL

I had made a rough estimate for our fuel costs. The trip is about 2,400 kilometres or 1,500 miles. The coach can get roughly 7 miles to the gallon which means the trip would require 215 gallons. Given the topography on our route — we had lots of mountains to climb — I thought the miles per gallon estimate would be lower than 7 mpg and I planned on using 250 gallons for the trip.

The average price for diesel at the end of October, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, was $3.355 USD per gallon. Based on my planned usage of 250 gallons, the cost of fuel would be $838.75 USD. I rounded that up to $850 USD or roughly $1,120 CAD.

I wound up putting $1,500 CAD into the budget for diesel fuel in November.

We purchased 238.1463 gallons of diesel although I am sitting on about 75 gallons in the tank at our site. We started the trip with roughly that same amount of fuel so it evens out it terms of overall consumption.

We paid $809.19 USD in fuel costs to get to Florida or roughly $1,060 CAD. Slightly below my estimate and well below our budget.

It looks as though our fuel efficiency was about as expected. We wound up putting on a few hundred miles more than planned and we averaged 6.723 mpg.

I travelled at 59 miles per hour on the Interstates for most of the trip. Coming down on the last day of our southern leg, I increased that speed to 62 miles per hour on the Interstates. However, we had a fair amount of travel time on rural highways and mountain roads. There was also a lot of construction on the roads. All of that would have impacted our fuel consumption.

This information gives me useful insight into planning our leg from Florida to California. We do that drive in February although I hope to avoid buying diesel fuel in California. Diesel prices there are way above the U.S. average at $4.00 or more per gallon.