There Is Always Something Part Three

Hot water. Every time I use the hot water in our coach I wonder, will we have hot water today? For the past couple of years the problem with our hot water system was a substandard pump mechanism put out by ITR.

I don’t blame ITR for using cheap pumps. Sometimes a manufacturer produces a product at a lower cost and promises better quality. Or sometimes it is just not clear that the pump is a defective product and should be recalled until it gets out in the field in large numbers. Recalls then become very expensive.

Maybe as a company, you just wait for the pumps to fail. Perhaps under warranty. Perhaps not. And maybe not every pump fails. At least not right away.

Oh. And you can charge a lot for a replacement pump. A bit like a software subscription model. Incremental revenue after the initial sale. And, it makes the customer appreciate a quality replacement product for their coach.

Enough venting about defective hot water pumps. We have new ones in the system now and I expect that the mean time between failure (MTBF) will be better than the old design. The MTBF of the old design could be measured in days. Hopefully the MTBF of the new design is measured in years.

I digress.

Sorry about that.

What was I talking about? Oh yes. There is always something. On our trip from Florida to California we had a few, mostly minor, issues. The first was with our leveling system. It took multiple attempts to convince the system that all the jacks were retracted. Still unresolved. The second was with a plugged roof drain. Easily resolved. Messy, though. And I got wet.

And now, part three. A red light. I hate red lights. This red light has happened twice since we arrived to California, a heater module fault.

How did I know to check if we had a heater module fault?

No hot water.

So many times we have encountered no hot water in our coach.

What to do.

I went out to the bay that houses the main burner. This is our Oasis system that provides heat for our coach. Sometimes.

I did not really notice anything unusual here. No red lights on the front panel.

With my incredible knowledge of all things related to computing, it only took a moment to resolve this issue.

I deployed the BRS protocol.

This is a deeply held secret guarded by the few elite technology gurus in this world of which I am one. I learned about the BRS protocol many, many years ago.

Because I am now retired and no longer need to demonstrate my mastery of technology to any and all, I can provide you with this secret knowledge that has served me so well when facing mysterious technical issues:

The Big Red Switch (BRS) is a physical or metaphorical switch or button for which activation has ominous implications. A Big Red Switch is always very visible, and may stand as a warning itself as it is often designed to only be used in extreme situations. As such, the term has become a metaphor for extreme situations such that when an emgerency arises, someone might say “pull the Big Red Switch.”

Most often the Big Red Switch is a last resort in computer security, most specifically in mainframes or servers that have come under an attack that cannot be stopped and thus must be shut down. The term may also refer to major system resets.

The Big Red Switch may also be called the Big Red Button (BRB).

There wasn’t a BRS, or, for that matter, not even a BRB visible on the Oasis unit. There was, however, a RESET button.

I pressed it.

The coach promptly exploded.

But at least we had hot water for a few moments during the subsequent fire.

No, no, no.

The coach did not explode.

The Oasis system reset itself. The red light on the Oasis panel went dark and we had hot water again.

For about a week.

Then, another red light.

Then, another BRS protocol.

Then, hot water resumed.

I am thinking that I need to give ITR a call. I hate giving them a call because it costs me money. Usually several hundred dollars.

Given that we have been in the coach full-time for the past six months, it is probably time for the five-year service.

That is my guess although I thought we had a few more years to go before the five-year service.

In the meantime, if that red light comes on again, I will continue to invoke the BRS protocol.

Until the BRS protocol no longer works.

There Is Always Something Part Two

Plugged drains. That was the second thing we had to fix. We did not have all that much rain on our way across to California from Florida. Except in Texas. On one of our stays in Texas, it poured. Water from the front passenger side overflowed the roof line making the entry and exit experience similar to a high pressure shower. And, the next day, the residue from the roof left ugly streak marks on that side of the coach.

I hate a dirty coach.

In particular, I hate ugly streak marks on the side of a dirty coach.

Our Dutch Star has four drains on the roof. One on each corner. Water on the roof flows to rain gutters that run along both sides of the coach. The gutters direct the water to the roof drains. The roof drains channel the water to the ground.

Except, of course, when the drains plug. Which they do frequently on our coach.

I usually take my air compressor and blow air up the drain from the bottom. It’s not hard to find the downspouts underneath the coach. Newmar uses a rubber Duck Bill drain valve at the end of the downspout presumably to prevent little critters from climbing up and into the drain. I remove the Duck Bill and then insert the air hose several inches into the drain line to blow the air through the line.

Unfortunately the air compressor would not dislodge the material that was blocking the drain.

I climbed up to the roof of our coach and went to the forward passenger drain. Using a slot screwdriver, I lifted the drain from an edge and removed it from the downspout entry. It comes off without a lot of effort. Silicone holds it in place.

It was full of material and the material had hardened. Like a rock. Stuck to the drain hole.

Off to the toolbox. Then off to the kitchen. I needed something with a long handle and a spoon-like end to dig out the material. Don’t let Lorraine know that I took one of her kitchen utensils.

After a fair amount of digging and several blasts of compressed air from the bottom, the drain finally opened up disgorging copious amounts of dirt and water on yours truly.

The price I pay to maintain the coach.

The first issue, the HWH Leveling red light reappearing, I have not resolved. This second issue, a plugged drain, was relatively straightforward to resolve.

The third one involves hot water. Or lack thereof.

Part three.


There Is Always Something Part One

That is, there is always something going wrong. You quickly find out that with a motorcoach.

The drive from Florida to California was our longest drive to date. And I was worried that we might have a major mechanical issue on the trip.

Fortunately, we did not.

We did, however, run into several issues. Some I can handle, some, well I’m just not sure what to do.

Let’s start with part one, the HWH Leveling system. The HWH Leveling system deflates the airbags, deploys the jacks and stabilizes the coach to a level position when staying at a site. It also retracts the jacks when it is time to travel.

This system had been working as expected until we arrived at the Van Horn RV Park in Texas.

When departing, we ran into a little bit of trouble.

I follow a detailed checklist for arrivals and departures. I have them printed out on 5.5 x 8.5 card stock and I keep them by the driver’s seat. The checklist ensures that I follow a specific routine before moving or setting up the coach. Important for safety.

As we were getting ready to go, a problem happened just before the second engine start on the CIRCLE CHECK: SAFE START section of the checklist:

I had a warning light on my dash that the jacks had not retracted. My HWW Leveling panel showed a red light in this position.

Hmmm. The jacks had retracted earlier in the checklist activities and I had a green light for travel mode. Why is it now showing a red light?

I asked Lorraine to visually confirm if all of the jacks had retracted fully.

The jacks were all up.

I pressed the AUTO STORE button again and, after a few minutes, the red light went out and the TRAVEL MODE light was green. We finished the rest of our checklist and proceeded to our next stop without incident.

This happened at our next departure as we were leaving Chandler, Arizona. I took the same steps as before and the TRAVEL MODE light again went green. Odd.

I read through the HWH Leveling manual last night and it is not obvious to me as to why the system is flagging an extended jack after fully — and successfully — retracting all of the jacks. I’ll post on the iRV2 forum to see if anyone else has experienced the issue and I will make a call to my friends at Newmar. They might know what I should do to resolve the issue.

If we are stuck without a green light for TRAVEL MODE, we won’t be moving the coach very far.


Replacing the Winegard Trav’ler SK-1000 Dish

The time had come. Or rather, this box had come. And what was inside this rather imposing box?

A replacement motor turret for our Winegard Trav’ler SK-1000 Satellite Dish. I needed one other critical piece of equipment however. And that was the Xtend + Climb 785P ladder. It arrived just in time for me to replace our satellite TV system yesterday.

The first problem was how to get the motor turret up to the roof. I had two people help me remove the unit back in Florida.

We don’t know many people yet at Desert Shores and that left us with two choices: hire someone to reinstall the unit or do it ourselves.

Being a self-reliant type of guy, the DIY route won. With help from Lorraine of course.

I needed to get the unit up the ladder and I needed someone at the top of the coach to help me swing it over the roofline. Lorraine was willing to climb up to the roof and give me a hand.

I moved everything else up to the roof first: tools, the dish and parabolic arm, bolts and other assorted items.

I lifted the roughly 40 pound motor turret with one arm and climbed up the ladder, gently hoisting it over the top to Lorraine where she placed it on some pads.

Winegard provided no documentation on how to replace the unit. I used the original documentation that outlined the process to remove the dish and I worked through that process in reverse.

And that was fine until I got to the part that required assembly of the parabolic arm and dish.

The arm on top of the turret was in the stowed position, face down. Obviously not possible to reconnect the parabolic arm and dish. What to do?

Nothing in the limited documentation. Nothing on the web.

We called Winegard technical support for some help.

They suggested that I go down to the interface box in our coach and reconnect the power. Then initiate the process to connect the antenna. And, once the pivot arm had opened up, press “Power” and “Select” on the interface box. That will stop the process and allow the parabolic arm and dish to be reassembled to the unit.

It worked. I am a profoundly happy RV geek.

To finish the reassembly work was straightforward. A few bolts and a bit of elbow grease.

I went back down into the coach to test the new system and everything seemed to work fine although we are not able to lock on to the Dish satellites at 110, 119 and 129 degrees. Those satellites are only visible on the other side of the country and not here in California. I might be able to lock on to the satellite at 61.5 degrees using the manual tuning mode but I haven’t tried it yet. By the time we got everything done, it was getting late in the day. It was time to stow the antenna and tidy up.

Updated: I initialized the Winegard interface this morning and it did find and lock on to the Dish Satellites at 110, 119 and 129 degrees. We now have our satellite service fully restored.

If you ever have to do this replacement, make sure that you take pictures of the disassembly work.

This one in particular.

We marked the housing (“1”, “2”, “3”) and the cable ends when the dish was removed. Good thing I took pictures. Winegard replaced the unit so there were no markings on the new housing. But, with this photo, I could quickly reconnect the satellite cables without any issue. Best to mark all of your cables so that when the time comes to reconnect them, it is very clear which one goes where.

Here is a short video showing the replacement.

Bad Pump, Bad Service

Two bad pumps? Or only one?

If you run an Oasis hot water system on a recent Newmar coach, you have probably run into a bad pump issue. Usually it involves losing your domestic hot water. A workaround is to engage the summer bypass loop, a hidden switch located on top of a panel near the Oasis burner. The downside when using the summer bypass loop is that the zone pumps run continuously which causes heat buildup in the coach and it could lead to additional pump failures. Assuming, of course, that your unit uses the old style pumps. ITR changed pump suppliers sometime over the past 18 months or so.

When our pump failed the first time, ITR was very helpful in trying to help us resolve the issue. Ultimately they sent us a new design pump to replace the faulty domestic hot water pump under warranty.

We asked our dealer to install the new pump. This was during our 6-week adventure of the punctured oil pan of our toad and the random deployment and destruction of our front awning.

Owning a coach can be such fun.

Since we were stranded for so long at the dealership, we naturally tried our hot water after the dealer had replaced the faulty pump.

No hot water.

I informed the service manager and he told me that they must have replaced the wrong pump. No worries though. They will replace it with the right one.

And they did. And we had hot water. And it was good.

Until the pump failed again last week.

I called ITR. I was not a particularly happy camper. What is the mean time between failure on your new pump design? Why am I needing to change out a pump after only a couple of months of use?

Reluctantly, I paid $300 USD for another new pump and $100 USD to overnight ship it to our location.

But something was nagging at me about this particular issue. I told Lorraine that I thought the dealer did not replace the pump that provides the hot water with the new design pump. I told Lorraine that I thought the dealer took the old design pump from the other loop and put it into the domestic hot water supply line.

That is exactly what they did.

This is a picture of the panel that holds the three pumps before we changed out the faulty pump that supplies domestic hot water.

You can see the faulty pump circled in red. That is the pump that was no longer providing domestic hot water. That pump design is known to be faulty. You can see the difference in design by the ribs in the centre of the old pump. The pump circled in blue is the new design. Visually, it is quite different from the old design pumps. That pump provides heat to zone 1 in our coach. The other pump, hidden by my hand, provides heat to zone 2 in our coach. We rarely use the zone 1 and zone 2 pumps as we have roof mounted heat pumps and in-floor radiant heat.

Our dealer had replaced the wrong pump. They put the new design pump on zone 1 (blue circle). When we told them that we still did not have hot water, they took the old design pump that they had removed from zone 1 and they put that pump on the domestic hot water loop (red circle). As the old design was faulty, it was simply a question of time before that old design pump would fail.

It failed.

We left the blue circle pump with the new design as is. We installed the new design pump that ITR had just shipped to us in the red circle.

We now have two new design pumps in that panel.

Annoyed that our dealer did not replace the correct pump. Annoyed that our dealer put an old pump into the domestic hot water loop, a pump that we use daily. Annoyed that it failed.

But very, very happy to have hot showers again.