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Itasca Meridian 40U
"Mz Ruby"

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Working on a refrigerator repair

Thursday, August 22, 2019: This has been a long and frustrating day. Our Kitchenaid refrigerator has been forming ice on the floor of the freezer for months and it was getting worse. I found this video which described how to fix the problem. To do a complete repair I needed accessed to the front AND back of the refrigerator. I knew getting the to back was going to be tough. I called Winnebago to learn how they had bolted it into the cabinet. The video and Winnebago instructions seemed do-able. I decided to do everything from the front end first they try to get to the back side. What I found once I got into the inside of the refrigerator was exactly what the repair video showed. I did everything they suggested which took about four hours. I then unbolted the refrigerator from the floor and back wall so we could move it. I had a small pry bar to lift the refrigerator but Gwen and I could not budge it. We discussed it and thought, "if we get this out, we must also put it back". We decided it was just too much for us. We are going to need help or more tools to move this refrigerator. I was hoping pouring boiling water down the clogged drain tube would clear the obstruction but no such luck. We expect to begin accumulating ice on the floor of the freezer again soon. We will simply continue to clear the ice until we get back to Oregon for more help and the right tools. It will be a simple fix once we have access to the back of the refrigerator but until then, we must deal with the problem. Click the photo to see the removal of the ice maker.

Replacement motor for our MaxxAir exhaust fan

Sunday, August 11, 2019: We received two packages yesterday as "General Delivery" in the Spring Valley, Wisconsin Post Office. The first one was from It was a replacement motor for our MaxxAir ceiling exhaust fan. The current motor has stopped working. A fellow traveler on Facebook suggested it could be the control board but I diagnosed it as motor problem. I failed to wire the motor directly to DC to double check my diagnosis. After receiving the new motor, I DID wire the old motor directly to DC and learned it showed the same symptoms. The new motor, when wired directly to DC, works perfectly. Yeah! It IS the motor. So I installed the new motor and the fan works perfectly again. Click the photo to see fan parts hanging from the ceiling.

The second package is a Gazelle Bug House I ordered from Amazon taking the chance it would be delivered to this campground. The box should be at least five feet long so I figured it would be shipped by UPS. I gave them the street address of the campground. NOPE, they shipped via USPS. I checked with the host and NOPE, no USPS street delivery at the campground. I drove to the Spring Valley Post Office and checked with Bobbie, the postmaster. She told me Amazon would deliver to them at 6:30 am Saturday morning and the post office is open until 10:30 am. I told her I'd "be back". She was right, I got a text message from USPS tracking and from Amazon telling me the package was ready for pickup.

The Gazelle advertises a 45 second setup time so I made a video of my first time to set it up. I was impressed. I hope it is as easy to pack it away.

Putting a top over the high speed exhaust fan

Saturday, July 27, 2019: It has been a busy week for me at the 50th Winnebago GNR (Grand National Rally). I'm right next to the factory so all the parts I need to replace are available. There are also vendors at the rally who have fixed the Atwood water heater and the MCD Windshield shade. I've also fixed the dash vent and the passenger chair broken cable. Here is what else I have done this week.

In the mid-west it can be raining but still hot enough to need the roof exhaust fan. Our high speed exhaust fan has a rain sensor which closed the lid if it is raining. We want it to stay open but still be safe from the rain so a cover is needed. I purchased and installed a cover this week. Click the photo.

Replace a lock knobElectrical protectionsI learned an exterior surge guard is needed to protect Mz Ruby from an electrical surge, poor RV post wiring, and poor voltage caused by various problems. Southwire had a show special in this one so I purchased and began using it right away.


It's just a little thing, but one of the locking knobs was broken on the access door to the electrical hatch. Winnebago parts had a bag of two for only $1.60. I replaced the broken latch and have a spare in the case another latch breaks.

Replace the toiletReplace the safety cablesWe have been fighting with the Mz Ruby toilet since we picked her up last fall. I've replaced parts and removed the toilet three times. We chose to replace it with an upgrade and start over. Gwen approves of the new toilet. It will just take time to learn that the foot pedal is now in front rather than the side.

Finally, one of our safety cables broke. Blue Ox, the source for these cables is present at the rally. They sell the cables only as a pair so now I have one extra cable.

All of these fixes plus all the seminars I attended has made this a wonderful rally. We will be moving across the rally field tomorrow because I will be attending the Freightliner Camp. It is a two full day instruction of how to take care of the chassis for Mz Ruby. Winnebago lets us stay parked on the field with 50 amp connection without charge for this workshop.


Replacing the MCD solar screen motor


Friday, July 26, 2019: Calvin from MCD roller shades showed me how to replace the motor in our windshield solar screen. He left me with the motor and other parts I needed and promised to return if I needed help. I removed the shade from the windshield, click the photo, then quickly removed the old motor. I tested the rotation of the new motor before installing to make sure it rolled "UP" on the "UP" button. Once the new motor was inserted into the tube, it looked like I might need to make other changes so I called Calvin to ask questions. I decided to come back to check my work. In the meantime, I decided to get the shade back into location so he could check the operation. When he arrived, he approved of what I had done. He stayed and helped set the shade limits. It would have taken Gwen and I hours to figure out how to do that but he had it done in five minutes. It is wonderful to have the solar shade working for the first time. The fee for all the parts he gave me was nothing.

Randy replaces the circuit board on our Atwood hotwater heater


Thursday, July 25, 2019: While attending the Atwood hot water heater seminar at the GNR I learned that several of the circuit boards were defective. I wanted to make sure my circuit board was not one of them so asked that a service technician visit us. Randy showed up today at 3 pm. After testing the circuit board, he decided to change it. He also found other parts which were not performing well and replaced those too. The whole visit was thirty minutes and I got a rebuilt Atwood hot water heater. There was no fee and Randy felt the heater was now working perfectly. Thank you Randy and Atwood!

Click the photo for another view.

Lever to control the seat back of the passenger chair Dash AC/heater vent Cable from the lever

Entry door arm to keep the door openThursday, July 18, 2019: While at Winnebago in Forest City, Iowa I need to find the parts to make repairs. The first is the lever to control the seat back on the passenger seat. The lever has broken, so no back control. I was hoping to replace the lever but the lever and cable is what is sold. The new cable needs to be slightly longer, perhaps, with time, it will stretch enough to make a better fit. Click the left and right photos for more views of this repair.

One of the dash vents is broken. It should be an easy replacement except the dash must be removed and I haven't figured out how to do that yet.

There is an metal elbow which should keep the entry door open. When the door is open, the "U" fits into the knob. It should fit tightly enough to keep the door open. There is a plastic ring around the knob to supply the tension to keep the door open. It is worn so no longer works. It might be best to replace the whole elbow. Click the elbow photo to see what Winnebago offered me. I will try a different repair.

Winnebago thinks a lot of their parts. Click the center photo above to see CRC lubricant. This lubricant is required for Lippert slide gears. Winnebago wants $20 for a can. I checked Amazon and found it for $8.05 including shipping. I can't trust Winnebago for prices on parts which might be available anywhere else.

The dryer is removed for repair

Removing the old motor

Sunday, June 16, 2019: We began our "next adventure" on June 13 going directly to the Splendide distributor and service center in Clackamas, Oregon. Our dryer was making a loud noise and had been since the day we took delivery back in October. Fortunately, Gwen put up with it until June 14 when Mike and Chad diagnosed the problem then made the repair. The problem was the motor bearings. Apparently it is not possible to just change the bearings or if it is, the labor to do so would be more than replacing the whole motor. We were told the problem is a tension belt around the drum puts sideways pressure on the motor shaft. Eventually the bearings begin making the noise we were hearing. Chad suggested it would happen again in time and the practice is to put up with the noise until you can't stand it any more, then change the motor again. Hopefully only once each five years since the dryer is five years old. It took the two workmen exactly an hour to remove the dryer, remove and replace the motor, then reinstall the dryer. The fee was $85/hour for labor (two workmen for $85) plus $170 for the motor. Seeing how much labor was involved, I was glad to pay the $85 for labor. Additionally, a special tool is needed to replace the drum belt around the motor arbor. Chad said the most difficult part of the job is removing the dryer vent hose. So I did that before they arrived to make the dryer repair and I replaced the dryer vent hose once they were finished. Click both photos for additional pictures.

The combiner box rewired

Wednesday, May 29, 2019: OK, I must admit to an embarrassing mistake. I made assumptions about this new combiner module which were incorrect. I believed one side was for positive and the other for negative and the red strip marked positive side. I thought this without checking (big mistake). NOPE! Each of the ten connections is linked across to the opposite side (a surprise) also the red bar did not indicate the positive side, instead, it was a long connector bar to connect the modules along a side. That means the positive lines can be connected on both sides of the two bars and the negative on both sides as well. The red strip had to be cut in half to link the positives and negatives. So, four lines are connected to the negative on the right (yes one red is a negative because I needed the MC4 connector on the other end). The small red line on the bottom and all three lines on the top are positives (yes, one of those is black because the combiner box is so close to that panel I went directly from the panel to the combiner box). After three days of no sun and then when sun arrives, it's not working. That got me on the roof again where I took my volt-ohm meter and found the problem. Don't tell anyone what an idiot I was! Oh, I was expecting 38 volts but saw 40.5 volts (because of the wiring in series), that's OK with me. Click to enlarge the photo.

MC4 crimping toolThe combiner box

Sunday, May 26, 2019: Today was the final day for solar assembly and wiring of the new panels. I had considered making my own combiner box as I did with Miss Dory. I also did a combiner box when I first wired this solar charging system. This time I decided I wanted something a little cleaner so I ordered some parts off Amazon to make a more professional box. If you click on the combiner box you will see more wires coming into the box. Don't worry about red wires on both sides of the box. I ran short on MC4 connectors so had to use what I had. I was careful to be sure positive and negative wires were connected correctly. Of course a professional would never do this but they have an endless supply of MC4 connectors.

I learned from my friend Gary how to use the MC4 connectors and the crimping tool to assemble them. Click the crimping tool to see the MC4 tighteners.

All panels are wiredThis makes the solar installation much easier and more professional. My friend Stan helped me hoist the two new panels to the roof yesterday. All panels are tilted up to make the wiring easier. I'm also making sure they will tilt for the winter sun in Arizona. When Stan and his wife walked by today they commented on the panels since they are all tilted. They wanted to know if the panels had been wired yet. I told them, when they see all panels down, that will indicate they have been wired. Click this photo for all panels now down. I'm off the roof now, hopefully until fall. There was zero sun today so no way to learn if the system is working.

I now have four 160 watt panels rated at 8.9 amps each plus two 100 watt panels rated at 5.5 amps each. In direct sunlight I should show 46.6 amps charging the batteries minus whatever the refrigerator is taking when it is on. Earlier this year I saw as much as a 6 amp boost due to "edge of cloud" effect. I figure there may be as much as 10 amps edge of cloud effect after adding the two new panels giving a total of 56.6 amps. The new charge controller is rated at 60 amps, chosen to handle the maximum charge to the batteries.

We will be leaving home base on June 12 and not returning until mid-May next year. At least 80% of our travels will be off-grid so we will be depending upon the solar charging system for much of our power.

In addition to my six panels charging the six house batteries, Winnebago installed one 100 watt panel in the rear charging the two chassis batteries. That panel acts like a trickle charger keeping those two batteries healthy.

It has been ten years since I installed my first solar charging system. I have had a solar charging system on every RV since that first one. That would be the Alumascape bumper pull, Lazy Daze Class C, Miss Dory Class A, and now Mz Ruby Class A.

Figuring out how to MOVE the sleep number bedUnhooking the "Sleep Number Bed"
The new mattress arrived todaySaturday, May 25, 2019: A $1200 option for Mz Ruby was the "Sleep Number Bed", Mike and Mary ordered it and paid for it. We thought we would like it but Gwen was not happy with this mattress and I was indifferent so we chose to get a mattress much like the mattress we bought for Miss Dory. That meant getting rid of the "Sleep Number Mattress". I first put an announcement in our mailroom for the others in the park to take notice. But no calls for the mattress. I put a notice in Facebook Marketplace and within 3 minutes had my first inquiry. She promised to come look at the mattress at 4 pm so I told her I'd hold it for her. I NEVER do that because people often never show up. I took three more people of interest before turning the Facebook announcement to "Pending Sale". During the waiting time, I took a call from someone in the park who was interested. No one showed up at 4 pm so I sent a message telling her she had until 4:30 to contact me. Nothing happened so I called the person in the park and they wanted the mattress. Our new mattress arrived today. It promises to be exactly what Gwen likes and felt very comfortable to me too. Our first night will be tonight. Click all the photos for more views.
The new mattress is OK and ready!

Circuit breaker between panels and charge controllerThe charge controller is wired.



Friday, May 24, 2019: The new charge controller is now wired and the circuit breaker between the panels and charge controller is installed and switched off. Logan from Northern Arizona Wind and Sun reminded me that I should have the charge controller as close to the batteries as possible without being in the same compartment. I bought the batteries and Victron from Logan. So the charge controller is in the main hatch only four feet from the batteries. This is not a convenient location but this controller is monitored and controlled by Bluetooth from my smart phone making it handy. I will wire the panels next, then turn on the circuit breaker and hope for the best. The panels must be wired in a combination of series and parallel to increase the voltage to 38 volts to the charge controller.

New cabinet is taking shapeNew side wall for the cabinet
Thursday, May 23, 2019: Do you recall that I removed the bedroom TV? That TV was put into the Cameo before we sold the Cameo. We wanted a cabinet in the space where the TV once was. I wanted half the cabinet for my T-shirts and Gwen wanted half for the laundry detergent. I had to promise Gwen she would get the drawer where my T-shirts were stored if I got the cabinet. I like to be able to see all my T-shirts which was impossible in a drawer. The challenge was to make the new cabinet look like it came from the factory. I checked online for cabinet doors and found many locations to order doors. But before making the order, I checked with Woodgrains, a cabinet shop only a mile from our location. They offered a very competative price with hinges so I ordered the doors from them. The doors they provided were perfect. I had built the cabinet wall and stained it to match the existing cabinets. With the professionally made doors the new cabinet truely looks like it came from the factory. Click the two photos for more views of the new cabinet. We are very pleased with this new space.

Nylon lock nut and flange nutMounting brackets secured to the solar panels

Wednesday, May 22, 2019: Continuing with solar installation today. The brackets are mounted to the new solar panels. I've purchased two more 160 watt panels. The optimum current output of the six panels will be 46.2 amps with edge of cloud effect adding as much as 10 amps. The charge controller is a 60 amp controller so large enough to handle the load.

On the side which hinges so the panels can point at the sun in the winter months, I have installed nylon lock nuts. On the opposite side I use flange nuts because they are easy to tighten and loosen with one wrench. The 3/16" nuts used to secure the bracket to the panel use nylon lock nuts.

The board on the left was used to insure I did not hit the surface of the solar panel if the bit breaks through the aluminum frame suddenly.

Mount for the solar panelSolar panel mounts

Sunday, May 19, 2019: After much discussion we have decided to increase the amount of solar. I installed the system which worked for the Dolphin onto Mz Ruby while in Ehrenberg, Arizona. That system had a maximum output of 30 amps from the four panels. The problem is, when the refrigerator turns on it takes as much as 16 amps which means those 16 amps are not going into battery storage so it was rare for us to get a full charge to the batteries. I'm adding another two panels which will add 19 amps to the system. My current charge controller is a 30 amp controller which meant buying a new charge controller. Because the new charge controller is an MPPT controller I must wire the panels in three groups of series then parallel to the controller. This increases the voltage to the controller to 38 volts. It also means rewiring the entire system. I completed part of that wiring today and also made two new sets of panel mounts. It is much easier to do this project at home base rather than the desert of Arizona because I have more power tools at home base. I've made a shopping list of items I still need to complete this project so off to the hardware store tomorrow. Click these two photos for more views.

In the storage hatchPower tool cabinet
Saturday, May 11, 2019: I have finish my project to fit all tools into one hatch. I like having my tool chest, it keeps all the tools organized. I needed a small cabinet behind the tool chest for drill and impact drill. I also needed a place to keep my cordless circle saw. This project came out better than I had expected. I made a video to show you how it all works.
Attaching the full extension railing to support boards Attaching railing to shelf Railing attached to shelf
Full extension railingMore work needed to fit all toolsMonday, May 6, 2019: Today was a fun day with a fun project. I've always wanted to carry my tool chest with me, now I have the chance. I've owned this tool chest forty-five years. I purchased full extension railing from Amazon. I ordered 26" but they come in lots of lengths. The storage cabinet is exactly 26" and so is my tool chest. I happen to have the stair cover for Miss Dory (our previous motorhome) which was also exactly 26" wide. I trimmed it down to fit the cabinet and decided to leave it carpeted. I used bolts to anchor the railing and shelf to the cabinet floor. The hardware store did not have the 4-1/2" length I needed so I countersunk the bolts. As it turns out, I'm glad I did because I can add more shelves easily on top the support boards. I will add another power tool storage behind the tool chest. You can see, throwing the power tool bags behind the tool chest isn't going to work. I already have some ideas of what I will build to fit. I believe I will be adding a shelf on the left side (front of the tool chest) for additional storage. Click all photos for additional views.

Found in CameoThe faucet from Joe's house

Monday, April 29, 2019: Remember Joe's faucet installed into Mz Ruby? Well, as it turns out, Gwen likes the Cameo faucet better than this faucet. So, with the help of a tool given to me by a Home Depot employee, I removed Joe's faucet and the Cameo faucet and switched them. The Moen faucet is very easy to install/uninstall as long as you have the special tool. The Cameo faucet, not so much. I pulled the center hose from the Cameo faucet because that's what you do with the Moen faucet. But the center hose did NOT want to reinstall. I finally figured out how to take the Cameo faucet apart then worked the center hose back into place. I also like the center hose weight from Joe's faucet better than the Cameo weight so used it rather than moving it. Gwen is much happier now with her favorite kitchen faucet. Click the photo for a view of Gwen's favorite.

The little light house was on a shelf in the Cameo so I moved it to our steering wheel table. Click the photo to enlarge.

WeBoost Cell phone signal booster Friday, April 26, 2019: Most of the day was spent doing boring things like clearing our all drawers and closets in the Cameo. But later in the day I was able to do a fun thing. I temporarily installed the WeBoost Drive 4G-RV cell phone signal booster. I say temporarily because the kit came with a 20 foot external antenna cable which is not nearly long enough. The video instructions want the antenna to be as high as you can make it. I remembered the flag pole which came with Mz Ruby. The pole is nearly 20 feet tall, the length of the cable they provided. I called the "help line" and was told I need to buy a different cable if I go for a longer line. The flag pole already had a ladder mount so I installed the antenna next to my weather station. We need a cell booster in Sutherlin because the cell signal is very weak on our side of the park. We need to boost the signal in many areas we park. In the photo on the left, the booster is mounted upside down because that is the more convenient cable direction. It is powered by our house batteries so it will work while boondocked. We are nearly always using our phones as "hot spots" for the Internet, another reason to boost the signal. When I get the new cable, I will permanently install the cable. Click both photos for larger views. Booster antenna

New Kitchen faucet installed


Monday, April 15, 2019: Last week I removed the new faucet (from Joe's new home) and replaced it with a faucet more to Joe's liking. Today, I installed the old faucet into Mz Ruby. This was far better quality faucet than the RV faucet originally installed into Mz Ruby. It is a Moen brand for residential installation. Mz Ruby is our seventh RV and in EVERY RV I begin with replacing the horrible, cheap RV faucets with quality faucets. But RV manufacturers install the faucets differently from residential installation. When I changed Joe's faucet, it took only minutes to install the new faucet because everything connected to all the old plumbing.

In the RV, the water supply comes from a PEX pipe and ends with a female half inch "iron pipe fitting". The new faucet also ends in a female fitting, a 3/8" compression fitting. So an adaptor is needed to connect the two.

Another difference is how the faucet is attached to the counter top. The RV faucet was very difficult to remove due to the funky fittings which had to be removed. Three quarters of the time of replacement was taken in removing the original faucet. Alternatively, the install of the new faucet went smoothly and easily due to the superior fittings to attach to the counter top. Gwen is happy as a mouse with fresh cheese!

Removing the bedroom TV

Thursday, April 11, 2019: With a little spare time I decided to take care of one item on the Mz Ruby to-do list. We never watch TV in bed and we are desperate for more bedroom storage. I removed the bedroom TV today which was more difficult than it sounds. There were no release levers or easy bolts to unthread. Instead, I had to reach behind the TV and unthread the four bolts holding the TV to the wall mounting stand. Very tight space to work in. This mounting stand was very substantial. It was probably custom made for this corner. Click the photo for a view of the stand. Click here for a view of the wall without the TV. The plan is to put storage where the TV once resided. I want a cabinet with shelves. Gwen wants drawers. Not sure what will be in this corner. I believe we will put this TV into the Cameo fifth wheel when I get back to Sutherlin. Currently is has a 55" TV which is too large for the space. Gwen has already sold that TV to a neighbor. If you didn't know, we are prepping the Cameo for sale.

Plate removedThe latch to a hatch



Saturday, March 30, 2019: The latch on one of the basement hatches is not working as it should. It often does not catch and I must slam the door repeatedly to get it to close. So I took the back off to learn what was going on. There seems to be no problem with the mechanism but the three large screws were loose. After replacing the plate and tightening the screws the problem seemed to go away.

Engine fault code

Tuesday, March 26, 2019: Today was a busy day. After attending an Extended Service Contract (ESC) seminar at the Escapade I chose to purchase a "drive train - plus" ESC. I was told Mz Ruby would have to be inspected before the contract could be applied. However, the last day of our drive to Verdi I got an amber engine light as you can see on the left of the photo. I looked up the "Engine Diagnosis" and received the engine fault code in the photo. I knew we would not pass any "drive train" inspection with a fault code showing. I called Freightliner and they immediately told me they knew the code. "It is a mistake, it will disappear after a few 'key strokes', it will likely disappear the next time you start the engine." So the inspector showed up today and I kept my fingers crossed. I started the engine and the amber engine icon appeared ... for about 5 seconds then disappeared never to be seen again. Freightliner was right. Mz Ruby passed the inspection!

New outlet installedAll the wires behind the fireplace

Wednesday, March 13, 2019: While camped in the desert we learned that there are no powered outlets on the fireplace wall when we aren't plugged into shore power ... with two exceptions, the refrigerator and the TV. We need another outlet which has power from the inverter. Gwen needs power for her laptop and for her sewing machine without running extension cords across Mz Ruby. The best choice is to tap into the outlet which powers the TV. The access is behind a panel in the upper cabinet. The Romex to the new outlet will pass behind the TV, behind the fireplace and under the dining table leaf storage cabinet. The wire will never be seen. The fireplace is removed at left. Behind that photo is a photo showing access to the outlet in the upper cabinet. The new outlet is installed in the right photo. Behind that photo is the route of the wire behind the fireplace. Click the photos to see those behind.

Sending power to both "legs"

Friday, March 8, 2019: Today was exceptionally windy so we stayed inside all day. I want to describe our RV power supply. Mz Ruby requires 50 amps when connected to "shore power". A 50 amp supply is misleading. A 50 amp plug has four prongs. One is a grounding prong, one is the neutral prong and two provide 50 amps of current per prong so it is really a 100 amp plug. Some RV parks, the Willcox RV park for example, don't supply a "50 amp" connection, instead they supply a 30 amp plug. This has one "hot" leg of 30 amps. So a 30 amp plug is really 70 amps less than a 50 amp plug, not 20 amps less. That brings up the special connector shown at right. Some parks have two plugs in a connection box. For example, Willcox had two 30 amp plugs in one box. With the adaptor, I can plug into both 30 amp plugs which sends 30 amps or current down each prong which normally carries 50 amps per prong. With this adaptor I now have a total of 60 amps, only 40 amps less than the nominal 100 amps but 30 amps more than a single 30 amp connection. This is a handy adaptor to have. I have used it several times.

LED step bulbIncandescent step bulb

Wednesday, March 6, 2019: One of the bulbs lighting the steps has been out since we purchased Mz Ruby. I have visited a dozen auto parts shops and several RV shops looking for the bulb. No one had a bulb to fit the step lighting fixture. However, when researching, I found an LED bulb to fit and installed them today. They are brighter than the incandescent bulb and use 1/3 the power.

More toilet repairs

Wednesday, February 27, 2019: Back to making toilet repairs again. Apparently the "vacuum breaker" was not the problem to begin with. The symptoms are, toilet water not turning off when it should. It continues to flow and can overflow the bowl if not stopped. This time I talked to both Thetford and the parts store in Yuma about the problem. I ended up buying a "valve replacement kit". This was just as easy to replace as was the vacuum breaker. Now I have practically a complete new toilet, at least all the moving parts are new. After installing, it works like a new toilet too. Seems to have solved more than one toilet problem. Click the photo to see the new kit.

Adrian loads the new Lifeline Batteries into the battery bay
Tuesday, February 19, 2019: This is Adrian Baker of Baker Mobile RV Repair. He is learning the RV repair trade from his father, Tim who has been in the business for 25 years. When I decided to buy new batteries, I climbed into the hatch to learn if I could even move the old batteries which weighed 65 lbs each. I couldn't so I did an online search for a mobile RV repair thinking I could find someone to help me. I contacted Baker Mobile RV Repair and learned they were from Bend, Oregon but spend the winter in the Phoenix area. Tim and Adrian met me at the Copperstate Batteries distributor in Tolleson, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix. I had already picked up the batteries (the new Lifeline brand weigh 74 lbs each). I had the old batteries partially disconnected when Tim and Adrian arrived. Adrian had no trouble removing the old batteries and installing the new Lifelines. The process moved along quickly. Click the photo to see both Tim and Adrian. I'm testing the new batteries tonight. They are performing as I hoped they would. Holding a good charge into the evening and I expect they will still have a good charge in the morning.
Mz Ruby battery bank
Sunday, February 10, 2019: This is Mz Ruby's battery bank. There are (6)105 Ah (Amp hour) AGM batteries giving a total of 625 Ah for the bank. They can be discharged to 50% giving 312 useful Amp hours. They are at least 4.75 years old and more likely 5.5 years old and of course, I don't know their charging history. They show a full charge by about 1 pm each day with good solar sunlight. They remain fully charged until 3:30 pm when the sun has moved enough to no longer help power the refrigerator. As the days get longer, so does the solar charge. My problem is, they seem to deplete much more quickly than 312 Ah of useful charge should let them deplete. If we watch any television the batteries are down to 60% by 8 pm. I want to switch to a 125 Ah Lifeline (brand) battery which will increase the energy storage by 20% giving a total of 750 Ah or 375 useful Ah. I must make the decision tomorrow to get the "sale price". Another problem, these batteries are located in a hatch in the center of Mz Ruby, not on a easily accessed slide out tray. I took this photo when I climbed into the hatch, unbolted one battery and tried to lift it without success. They are very heavy. The new battery will be even heavier. Fortunately, I have found help so I won't have to switch the batteries alone (can't switch them alone). This will be a serious investment. Yes, I have considered Lithium batteries. They would be 3 to 4 times the investment and may require a different solar charge controller and perhaps a different inverter/charger. I simply can't justify that expense. In theory, I would need to park "off-grid" at least five months to break-even with the cost of the Lifeline batteries. I think that can be accomplished in one year. I expect the Lifeline batteries to last seven to ten years if I take care of them. The install will happen in a little more than a week.

Change the oil in the generator



Tuesday, January 29, 2019: I don't know when Mike last serviced the generator and I couldn't find any records of service. I believe that's because I believe Mike did the service himself but didn't document it. So I'm doing my own service today and I DID document it. This is an Onan 8K generator. I bought a new oil filter from the Onan booth in the "Big Tent". The rocks made the service challenging but I did put a tarp and cardboard over the rocks to provide a "floor" and to catch any loose oil before it hit the ground. This generator only takes 3 quarts of oil and since it is a diesel generator I used Chevron Delo to refill the crankcase. I caught the used oil in a one gallon plastic water bottle. Once the new oil was back into the generator, I put the old oil back into the Delo quart bottles. Autozone will recycle the oil when I return it to them. The oil filter fits into a tight spot but I was still able to remove and replace it. I had to watch a video to learn where the air filter was located. The instruction manual showed the exploded view of the air filter housing but did not tell where to locate it. The only thing I was unable to do was to remove and blow out the spark arrestor. I'll do that after returning to Sutherlin. Mike had provided me with a new air filter so I didn't have to buy one. Click the photo for another view.

Toilet repairs Replace the hoses Job complete

Sunday, January 27, 2019: Our toilet has not been working correctly so today was the day to change the two flanges to correct the flush cycle. When I removed the toilet I decided the hoses needed changing too. Fortunately Gary had the right size tubing or I would have been driving to Quartzsite. Had I been doing this in Sutherlin, I would have been using my pressure washer for a thorough cleaning. After inspecting the Vacuum Breaker (the plastic piece the hoses connect to) I would replace that too, if I had the part. I've put it into my "wish list" on Amazon. After installing it seems to be working better but I'm not convinced the amount of water it allows into the bowl is correct. The Vacuum Breaker is what I suspect to be the problem. I may have to order the part sooner than later. Click the photos for more views.

January 29 update: I replaced the vacuum breaker today. I chose to buy it locally because the toilet continued with symptoms. I could have purchased off Amazon for $19.10 including shipping, but paid $28.69 locally for exactly the same part. Local stores (for ANY product) are critical of customers who buy from Amazon but they will need to reevaluate their service and profit margin if they hope to compete. The symptoms of this failing part was water leaking and filling the bowl at non-standard levels. It seems to be working fine now.

Marking the fresh water tank




Wednesday, January 23, 2019: We have used a lot of freshwater lately so I decided to mark the tank as I added water. This tank varies in shape to fit the space where Winnebago believes fresh water should be stored. Because the shape is not linear, the level changes as I add water. I made a mark for every nine gallons because the water jugs I have are 4.5 gallons each so I made a mark for every two jugs into the tank. This is an 85 gallon tank so there must be a lot of storage below this level and maybe another twenty gallons above this level. This will be helpful in knowing how we are doing on freshwater storage. The black squares with the "plus" are the electronic sensors sending the tank level to the control panel. The marking helps to know what monitor is reporting. The black cap at the top is the only way to gravity feed water into the tank. Because of the location it is nearly impossible to use this gravity feed with anything but a water hose.

Ron has returned to install a windshield cover

Tuesday, January 8, 2019: Ron has returned to install a windshield cover plus a driver's and passenger window covers. These covers provide privacy during the day but the main purpose is to reduce the effect the sun has with heating the inside of the coach through the glass. All of Mz Ruby's windows have sun shades (including the windshield) on the inside of each window. That offers daytime privacy and does help to reduce the heat inside. Problem is, the sun hitting an inside sun shade has already passed through the glass so the heat is INSIDE. The windshield and other two covers are snapped in place on the OUTSIDE, stopping the heat BEFORE it enters the interior of the coach. The window shades Ron installed previously stop the sun from hitting the window entirely. During daylight hours, we can see out the window but passers-by cannot see in. There is no privacy effect at night. The shades are held in place by twist snaps so a ladder is needed to install or remove them. These are of very good quality so I believe we will be very happy we have purchased them. Click the photo for a close-up view of the shade.

The headboard has been raised about 8 inchesThe headboard must be raised

Installing the new fabric


Thursday, December 27, 2018: We have been wanting to replace the headboard since the purchase of Mz Ruby. The headboard needed to be raised, about 8 inches so that was the first task. Next, we removed several hundred staples holding the fabric to the headboard. That left the support board with only the padding on the board. Gwen did some sewing of the new fabric and we began stapling the fabric to the board. These boards are held to the wall with a hook and loop tape (like Velcro) so I installed the tape on the back of the board and secured to the headboard. The headboard now has a new look.

Installed my ladder hangers



Thursday, December 20, 2018: Any time I have a storage compartment from one side of the RV to the other, I hang my CPVC ladder hanger. This keeps the ladder out of the way and frees up storage space on the floor of the storage compartment. So that is what I did today, installed my ladder hangers. Click the photo to see a close up of a hanger.

Removing the cook top Tapping into the existing propane hose All of this is to install the quick-connect for the heater
Installing the stove top, it WORKS!Tuesday, December 18, 2018: Today was the last step in preparing Mz Ruby for off grid parking. Parking off grid requires a source for power (solar), a method to fill the fresh water tank without moving the rig and a method to heat without using power (the furnace uses power for the blower). I drove Mz Ruby to Blythe where I found a propane dealer who could install a "T" onto the existing rubber hose leading to the cook top. He also built a hose leading to the base of the cabinet where I will connect the propane heater. I've done this to the last four RVs. Here is how I installed the propane connection into Miss Dory. Here it is installed into the Lazy Daze. Here it is in the Alumascape. Finally, the installation into the Cameo fifth wheel. I was going to do the same with Mz Ruby but the rubber hose had me confused until I talked with the propane dealer in Blythe. Once the "T" was installed, the hose was easier to install than copper tubing. You can see the quick connect at the base of the photo at the right. Click the photo to see the heater. This is call a "one brick" heater. It is 10,000 btu, not enough for a motorhome this size. We have a "three brick" heater (18,000 btu) in Sutherlin so we will make-do with the smaller heater until we return to Sutherlin. Click all the photos for additional views. Oh! And the photo with Gwen inside the cabinet shows how she got the hose reattached to the back wall. I couldn't do it.
Window awnings installed
Thursday, December 13, 2018: We bought Mz Ruby a Christmas gift, window awnings. Ron, from Shade Pro, is installing the awnings. The awnings help control the inside temperatures and help to protect the windows from weather. Another awning is installed on the bedroom window on the opposite side. It is much smaller, only 3.5 feet while this one is 11 feet. Click the photo to see the finished installation.

It's done except for testing


Tuesday, December 4, 2018: The solar charging system is finally complete. I installed the fifth panel today. The solar charging system is ready to test. That may not happen until January when we leave the resort. In a sense we are starting from scratch again. We have never had to generate enough power to run a residential refrigerator nor have we ever used AGM batteries as our energy storage. We are experienced with four 6 volt batteries which have worked well since 2009. They discharge to about 70-80% each night and are fully charged by the sun before noon each day. I'm anxious to learn how well this system works.

Under cabinet LED lights just for GwenBeginning the installation





Sunday, December 2, 2018: This is our fourth RV to have strip LED lighting under the kitchen cabinets. Gwen insisted on more lighting and she loves the LED strip lights. I'm using the same brightness LED as before but using a flexible self-stick style this time. I'm getting the 12 volt power from one of the under-cabinet LED spot lights on the left side of the cabinets. So the LEDs are activated when that switch is turned on. I also used some solder tubes for the first time to connect the four strands of lights together. You simply insert the bare wire from both units into the tube and use a heat gun to melt the tube solder and shrink the shrink tube around the connection. It worked well. Click these two photo and the one below to see the total installation.

Gwen's view of her counter top

Panels are wired and the charge controller shows current from the panelsNew vent covers for the holding tanks

Wednesday, November 28, 2018: The solar installation on the roof is finished with one exception. The fifth panel is waiting for the mounting brackets. The wiring is done for the fifth panel so installation should be easy. In the photo on the right I am standing where the fifth panel will be installed. Since the solar wire is following the gray water vent pipe I decided to change both vent caps to the style I've used before. This style will be helpful in keeping holding tank odors out of Mz Ruby. I've covered all roof wiring with wire loom to help protect the wire from the sun. Of course this plastic loom will slowly disintegrate but it will be protecting the wire and can be replaced in five years. I used Dicor as the "glue" for each of the mounting feet and also to seal the base of the new directional vent caps. Even though the batteries are fully charged the charge controller will allow a trickle charge. I am seeing the trickle charge current reported on the charge controller. Click these two photos for more views.

Charge contoller installed

Tuesday, November 27, 2018: Sad to say, it took me nearly all day to fish the wire from beneath Mz Ruby to the charge controller. I had no trouble running the wire from the battery bank to the base of the gray water vent pipe but from that point on there were pipes, wires and wood supports in the way. I tried several methods and finally got one to work by mid-afternoon. The vent pipe is located directly behind the medicine cabinet so I mounted the charge controller inside. Now all work is completed under Mz Ruby and inside. I still have much work to do on the roof. The panels are not yet connected to the charge controller. Click the photo to see the status of the fully charged batteries reported at the charge controller. At the bottom center of the screen you can see the controller is set for "AGM" batteries rather than the "flooded" batteries of Miss Dory.

Continued solar installation

Sunday, November 25, 2018: I'm still waiting for parts to arrive but I CAN do the roof wiring while waiting. I stood the panels upright to get at the wires under each panel. I ran these wires into the combiner box and connected to the positive and negative posts. The line from the charge controller will enter the combiner box from the bottom of the photo.

Click this photo to see the panel installation on the roof. The combiner box will be under the panel nearest to the camera. It hasn't been mounted yet because I'm waiting for some roof parts and I want to mount all at the same time. The wire on the roof coming toward the camera is for the panel I've ordered. Hopefully that panel will arrive this week and I can finish the solar installation. When that happens, I will have five panels on the roof. The 100 watt panel installed by Winnebago is at the far end of the roof. It is mounted flat and can't be raised. That will be OK from about mid-March to mid-October. The winter months, the sun is so low in the southern sky the panels need to be raised and pointed at the south. Leaving a panel flat in the winter months means the efficiency of that panel will be only about 30-40%. In our previous solar experience our three panels have had our four six volt batteries fully charged before noon. Now we will have a new solar learning curve. We must charge six AGM batteries with a 24/7 draw on the batteries for the residential refrigerator. Both the batteries and the residential refrigerator are new to us. I suspect it will require turning off the refrigerator at night but we won't know that until we try. I'm actually looking forward to the challenge. We DO have an 8,000 watt diesel generator to help out but isn't one of the reasons to have solar to stop using a generator?

Mounting to the fiberglass roofThe panels are on Mz Ruby

Friday, November 23, 2018: Continuing with the solar installation. With Gwen's help, we got the three solar panels to the roof of Mz Ruby. After two trips to Blythe for parts I was able to get them secured to the roof. I set each mount into a pool of Dicor. It is really the Dicor securing the panels to the roof. I can attest to the strength of Dicor since I had to pull the panels off the roof of Miss Dory. I cleaned the fiberglass roof of Mz Ruby with Isopropyl Alcohol to be sure I got a good seal with Dicor. Of course the Dicor also seals around the holes I've made with the two screws at each corner of the panel. I've also decided to add another 100 watt panel to my system to maximize the number of panels managed by the charge controller. That will add 5.3 amps to the system. That panel will arrive next week. So my four panel system plus the (1) 100 watt panel installed by Winnebago should keep the six AGM batteries charged and keep the residential refrigerator running. Note: there are few choices for the location of the panels. I'd like to install them to be able to tip them to the right or left to catch the southern sun in the winter months. These are too close to the air conditioners to be able to avoid a shaded area on the panel if tipped in that direction. So my best choice will be to park facing east then point the panels away from Mz Ruby toward the southern sun. Between trips to Blythe, I worked on my homemade combiner box. Click the left photo to see it. I have not mounted the combiner box to the roof yet. The two posts are for the positive and negative wires coming into the box.

Trying accessThe path to the batteries

Tuesday, November 20, 2018: I began the work today of installing the solar charging system. Mz Ruby came with a 100 watt panel. I was hoping to install my system by connecting to the existing system but Winnebago used a minimal wire size so I decided to leave the existing system alone and install my own separately. The steps are to find a wire pathway from the roof to the batteries. Locate a location for the charge controller along the wire pathway. Install the panels to the roof. Install a combiner box where all panel wires are combined into one wire going to the charge controller. Connect the batteries directly to the controller. Connect the panels to the controller with a cover over the panels. Set the controller to the type of batteries. That's it. I didn't get very far today. I'm still exploring the wire access route. I believe I can follow the gray water vent pipe into the basement and then to the batteries. The charge controller will be installed only a few feet from the roof inside the shower room medicine cabinet. At mid-afternoon I drove to Blythe Ace Hardware looking for the parts I needed. Half of the parts were not in inventory and the other half were priced high. I was NOT a happy camper! I came home and ordered the parts I needed on Amazon. Small town business is critical of Amazon but Amazon generally has the inventory I need and usually only two day shipping. I am willing to pay a reasonable amount more to buy local but the difference of $.83/foot compared to $.15/foot is not reasonable. I DID buy a couple of items from ACE and will likely drive to Quartzsite to get more parts I need. Click the photos for additional views. The single 100 watt panel installed by Winnebago is behind the photo on the right.

Before treatmentMonday, November 19, 2018: Mz Ruby has a couple of orange turn signal lights up front. The plastic lenses on these orange lamps are slightly cloudy. I had already used Meguiar's PlastX on Miss Dory's headlamps so I knew it would work in this case too. The treatment

After treatmentThe cloudy lens is on the left and after the application of PlastX the lens looks like the lamp above. I'll give it a couple of days then do another treatment.

I've also started thinking about the solar installation. I looked at the battery bank today for the first time.

Replace a ceiling lamp




Sunday, November 18, 2018: One of the ceiling LED lamps in the bedroom has been flickering. I found the distributor, ITC in Holland, Michigan. I filled out an RMA form in the hope to return the lamp for a replacement. I was contacted by ITC customer support within a couple of days. When I explained the problem I was told they would ship me a replacement at no charge. Nice. Today, I installed the new lamp, problem was solved. Click the photo to see the replacement lamp.

Replace bedroom reading lights Is this the location for the router? Behind is securing a loose wall. Replace the ceiling exhaust fan
Removing 2 of 3 wall lamps to replace with pictures and shelves. Behind: baskets in the bathrooms. Adjustable shower head rod Connecting an external propane tank
Wednesday, November 7, 2018 (and November 6 and November 5): The little things and some big things continue to happen to Mz Ruby over the last three days. Top left, the bedroom reading lamps had to be changed. We moved the LED spot reading lamps we have had for several years. The existing lamps were controlled by ONE switch so both had to be on or off. With the spot lights (click the photo), they turn on/off individually. Additionally they dim individually. Next photo: I'm testing an area for the modem and weather station, it's a mess for now. Click that photo and you will see we had to adjust a bathroom wall. It was not secure to the tile so the door would not close correctly. I used E6000 glue to hold the wall to the tile then used a strap to hold the wall in place while the glue dries. Top right, the biggest job so far is to remove the existing high speed exhaust fan and replace with the variable speed fan I installed into Miss Dory last year. The existing fan has an on/off switch on the wall but the three speed fan control is on the fan itself. Additionally, the three speeds are all very similar so the fan is noisy and very annoying. The new fan is totally controlled with a hand held remote control. It has ten speeds from 10% to 100% and is very quiet even when on 100% speed. It also has a rain sensor. Bottom left, I'm removing two of the three accent lamps in the living area to replace with pictures and a small shelf. I've already moved our bathroom baskets from Miss Dory to Mz Ruby (click the photo). Bottom center: in each of the last three RVs I've installed a shower head rod so the head can be moved high or low. The existing shower head mount points the water at the door which makes it difficult to turn on the water then step into the shower once the water is warm. I mounted the rod on a side wall. Bottom right: Since owning a motorhome I've always had the pipe adjustment to have an external propane tank. With an external propane tank I rarely have to fill the onboard tank. I must drive the motorhome to the propane source to fill the onboard tank. With an external tank, I take the tank to the propane source, no need to move the motorhome. Mz Ruby came with a quick-connect on the onboard tank. I found a propane dealer in Blythe who custom made me a hose to fit the quick-connect and connect to my external tank. Click all photos for additional views. This is NOT everything which has been done over the last three days only the things I remembered to photograph.
Screen door crash door Soft landing toilet seat New towel bar

You can never have too many hooks.

Sunday, November 4, 2018: There are lots of little things which must be done to make Mz Ruby just RIGHT for us. And she will need a few BIG things too. We spent much time and money making Miss Dory just right so we have begun to remove from Miss Dory and install on Mz Ruby. The little things today were the screen door crash bar, the soft lowering toilet seat, a new towel bar in the shower room and lots of hooks in the bedroom. There is much to do and some jobs like moving two of the three solar panels will be major.

Ms Ruby is now ours

Tuesday, October 30, 2018: We have met with Mary and Mike. They are from Texas and have owned Ms Ruby from new for the last four years. They have done some REAL touring, putting 52,000 miles on their Itasca Meridian 40U. We found this motorhome to be perfect for our upgrade. We met them last night for dinner at a nice Mexican restaurant in Las Cruces, New Mexico (click the photo). We spent today learning how to use the systems. This is a diesel pusher, our first diesel motorhome. We did own a diesel pickup for eleven years. I will show much more of this motorhome as we learn more ourselves. A word about the search: We first thought the 36M was for us but after seeing it switched to the 40U. There were very few in the US, about half a dozen. La Mesa RV had one in San Diego and we were interested. I read the Yelp reviews of four of the La Mesa dealers which frightened me away from dealing with them. I am aware that some of the reviews may be from competitors but enough seemed legitimate to look for an alternative. That's when I contacted Mary and Mike. They had exactly what we were looking for. We made arrangements over the phone and they agreed to meet us halfway. What a wonderful couple. We hope to remain friends and meet them again.

Winnebago Itasca Meridian 40U


Monday, October 29, 2018: We have searched for three months and thought the Winnebago Journey 36M would be our new motorhome. After walking through a 36M, we decided it would not be for us. We had also marked the Winnebago Journey 40U as top on the list. Fortunately, while parked at the Elks Club in Lake Havasu City we were able to tour a fellow Elks unit. It is an Itasca with the identical kitchen and living area floor plan as the 40U. Gwen came out of it saying "that's the one". The Itasca is made by Winnebago and equivalent to the Winnebago Journey. The Journey and Meridian are identical in every way. We have a meeting with the owner of this unit this week. Perhaps we will be the new owners soon. More about our search if we get this one. I mostly followed my advice from November, 2015. After reading this article, scroll up to December 14 and finish reading my advice.



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