Just a Little Burp With The Car (and the computer)

While we were in Montana we took the opportunity to drive over to the far west end of Fort Peck Reservoir to see if we could spot (and or hear) the male elk bugling. This is the time of year for mating and Ranger Sue told us there was a pretty big herd over that way. The lake is 135 miles long and we were camping at the far east end while the elk herd was spotted at the far west end.

Lake has 1500 miles of shoreline and is over 135 miles from east to west

During our ride, the exhaust system on the car blew out and it was LOUD! I think we scared all the elk into hiding.

I knew there was no place near Fort Peck to get it fixed and that it would be best until we made it down to Rapid City next week. We would be towing it more than driving it over the next few days so we were good with that plan.

I looked online and found Chad and Exhaust Pros in Rapid City. He had loads of good reviews.

We pulled the coach in his drive (towing the car) and Chad came right out, crawled under the car, and assured me it was an easy fix.

He told me to unhook the car, he’d pull it into the hoist, and he’d have us out of there in an hour.

Turns out it was a flexible coupling that connects the manifold to the exhaust pipe that failed and Chad quickly cut out the old one and welded in the new one.

What impressed me about Exhaust Pros is that exhaust work is the ONLY work they do. Unlike the national chains that advertise “Exhaust/Brakes/Alignment” and may or may not have the right part for your vehicle, Chad carries all the commonly needed exhaust parts and BENDS HIS OWN PIPE, he doesn’t have to order a bunch of different pipes for a myriad of car models. Bending his own pipe means that he can effect a repair much more quickly not having to rely on Napa or AutoZone or another supplier to bring him the needed pipe.

(Video) Chad welding in the new coupling

He got the car down off the hoist and started it up. The noise was a LOT BETTER, but still there was a problem. Back down on the ground to take a look, Chad found that both of the mufflers are rusted and have very small pinhole leaks in them. It was up to me whether to just go ahead and drive it or have more work done.

We decided to go ahead and have two new mufflers installed but that would have to be done another day as it would take him more time to get it done and he’d need to get back to serving his customers who have appointments set up.

We reached out to our friends David and Sue who are working at Custer State Park. We were planning on getting together with them anyway to discuss our travel plans back to Rover’s Roost in Arizona. The four of us will travel together once they are done with their Custer gig October 1st.

It turned out that they had Thursday off work so we set a date for them to pick us up at the muffler shop on Thursday and we’d have lunch together and talk about our travel plans while the repair is being completed. I LOVE IT WHEN A PLAN COMES TOGETHER! (Thank you David and Sue!)

We got back to the shop in time to pick up the car and Kathy and I made a bee-line for Best Buy where I had to buy a new computer as my 15 year-old Dell laptop finally gave up the ghost.

We got the computer and we back on the road to Hot Springs before 3:30

Next blog post – Hot Springs South Dakota and Angostura Recreation Area (and see who we bumped into there!)

Thanks for riding along and we welcome your comments below. See you next time!

Herb & Kathy

Montana and South to Medora and Beyond

After Spearfish South Dakota and then our trip up to Fort Peck Montana to visit Ranger Scott and Ranger Sue, we came back down U.S. 85 into Medora North Dakota for a night. We had been to Teddy Roosevelt National Park a couple years ago, so we didn’t take the time to drive through the park and all we did was walk to dinner from the campground and then did a little sightseeing as we walked through town on our way back to the campground.

Kathy’s Strawberry Jalepino Margarita
Food prices seem high out here ($14 for a burger?)
Our after dinner walk in downtown Medora ND
More downtown Medora

The next day we continued on down 85 for another nights stay in Spearfish on our way to Hot Springs. Besides, we needed to check in at the Spearfish post office to see if our General Delivery package had arrived yet.

This time instead of staying at a campground, we decided to take advantage of our Harvest Hosts membership once again. We reached out to McGuigan Farm Experience on the HH web site and they accepted our request to stay within just a couple hours.

Our host Nancy greeted us at the drive and welcomed us with a big smile and a little conversation. She showed us where we could park. It was a nice big hard packed grassy field that allowed us to pull straight in with our toad attached and was large enough we could just circle around in the morning to leave without ever having to unhook the toad.

We had the place to ourselves

After we got settled in, Nancy took us on a tour of the farm. Although it’s been in Mike’s family for generations and had been a working dairy farm for the vast majority of that time, they now rely on income from grain production and leasing out some of the land. They have recently started the McGuigan Farm Experience project to offer both school groups and the general public alike the opportunity to visit a real farm with real animals so that folks might learn about what a farmer really does and where that food on the table comes from.

Nancy excused herself and left us to relax the rest of the evening and relaxing it was! It was SO dark and SO quiet! We had a wonderful nights sleep with the windows wide open and enjoyed a gentle breeze rolling over the hayfields that lulled us to sleep.

As we prepared to depart in the morning, I noticed some water on the hardpack under the fresh water tank compartment. Further inspection revealed that now the FRESH water tank fill hose had a small leak. I figured it wasn’t hard to fix, (tighten a hose clamp), but this old body just doesn’t want to twist, turn, and stretch like this project would require.

Thankfully, we were at Spearfish which is just down the road from Belle Fourche which is the home of my new best (RV repairman) friend Jim and Progress RV.

We didn’t even call ahead. We left the farm and drove on up the ten minutes to see Jim in hopes he would drop whatever he was doing and come on over and take care of us. And he did just that!

Next stop … Hot Springs South Dakota. But first – the car goes in the shop for some unexpected repairs. More on that in my next post.

Thanks for riding along. You can leave any comments below.

Herb & Kathy

What? No Power In The RV?

It was about 8:30 at night, we were watching one of our favorite Netflix pix on TV and “poof” out went the 110v to the coach. All the 12 volt circuits were still working. I looked out the window, didn’t see any lights on at the neighboring camp site – guess the whole campground must be out.

What to do? Go to bed – what else? Since we’ve got a couple hundred amp hours worth of battery I could’ve turned on the inverter and finished the show, but what the heck.

In the morning I saw that the gentleman cleaning the bath house had arrived and took a walk down to see if he knew anything about the power outage. He knew nothing about it and further … the lights in the bath house were lit!

OK now it’s time for me to get to work and investigate the problem. Always start with the easiest (or most obvious likely) suspect component first.

  • Check the park power pedestal. Turn the 50 amp circuit breaker on and off to reset it if needed.
  • Follow the power cord to the EMS (electrical management system) and check to see that the digital display (or LED’s) are reading correctly with no errors.
  • Check the 110v circuit breakers inside the coach (my Square D panel is at the foot of the bed). Turn off and back on each breaker to assure it is reset.
  • Locate the converter/inverter/charger and check to make sure the circuit breakers have not tripped here.

So at this point we’ve checked all the easy suspected problem areas without having to remove any panels or take out our voltmeter to do any further checking. Now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty.

So at this point we know the pedestal power is good because the Progressive Industries EMS is showing adequate voltage on each of the two legs with no error codes.

We know that the 110v circuit breakers at the foot of the bed are all switched ON and we know that the GFCI circuit breaker (in our case in our bathroom at the wash basin) has not tripped.

Our next step is to remove the cover on the inverter that will allow us to gain access to the terminal strip where I can take a couple quick voltage checks. The terminal strip has (6) screw terminals. Three are for the input Line 1, Line 2 and neutral and the other three are for the output Line 1, Line 2 and neutral. A quick check with the AC voltmeter (that every RV’er should have in their tool bag) shows no input to the inverter.

So what is between the EMS and the inverter?

On our coach (and most others) we find an automatic power transfer switch. The purpose of the Transfer Switch is to feed 110v power to the coach from EITHER the shore power pedestal OR the onboard diesel generator. There is a circuit board inside the enclosure that has three terminal strips, two large relays, along with time delay circuitry to make sure that the incoming power from either the shore power or the generator is up to adequate voltage before energizing the appropriate relay. Only one source is allowed to feed the coach at a time.

Once I took the cover off the Transfer Switch, the answer to my problem was obvious. One of the relays had a burnt wire coming off it and connecting to the circuit board. Evidently the screw attaching the wire had worked loose (It’s a 20 year old rig after all) which caused an increase in current draw and subsequent heat that ultimately burned the insulation off the wire and also burned through the circuit board.

Unfortunately, we are camping over an hour south of Rapid City SD where there is MAYBE an RV shop that might have a transfer switch in stock but it’s very likely a different brand or newer model that may not have the same physical characteristics as the Intellitec model that we have. I decided I’d look online to see if I could even FIND the Intellitec and lo and behold, they still do make it! This would make replacement a LOT easier, same wire lengths, same screw holes, etc.

Challenge is, by the time I get it ordered (today is Sunday of course) and the supplier ships it to us here in Hot Springs, we will be gone as we are leaving on Friday.

I decided my best course of action is to manually re-wire the connections (removing the generator from the circuit) and then order the new transfer switch to arrive at our park in Arizona sometime after we get there November 1st.

I removed the four wires from each of the terminals for the SHORE POWER and COACH and connected (using split bolts) the red to red, white to white, black to black, and ground to ground.

I then carefully taped all exposed metal connections with electrical tape to make sure there were no accidental shorts.

This didn’t happen all of a sudden. I blame myself for not catching it earlier. Kathy and I have both noticed over the last month or so that occasionally while watching TV, the screen flickers for an instant. The screen actually goes black momentarily. It’s not enough to reset the clock on the microwave, but it does flicker.

Also, about a month ago when I was in the basement compartment where the power comes in to the coach, I noticed a slight hum from the transfer switch box. I figured it was one of the relays humming and I know that relays will do that from time to time. I should have taken the cover off to investigate further at that time.

About a year ago I DID have the cover off and I checked all the screws on the circuit board terminal strip(s) where the wires come in to the board. I tightened them as needed. What I did NOT check however were the screws on the relays. Perhaps if I had checked and tightened them back then, this problem would not have occured.

Oh well …. live and learn, eh? Just thought I’d share with you one of the recent problems we’ve had and my troubleshooting approach to get to the answer.

Thanks for riding along – see you down the road.

Herb and Kathy