Gonna freeze tonight and for the next couple of nights so I went over to double check my winterizing of the 5th wheel.  I was still confused about what I saw from the back of the hot water heater (HWH).  My only experience is with our little travel trailer.  So I’ll tell you about what we had on the travel trailer versus what we have on the 5th wheel.


On the travel trailer:

[Image from]The top drawing is what it looked like before I turned any valves.  This gave us hot water when we turned on the HWH.

The bottom drawing shows how I turned the valves to bypass the HWH so it didn’t fill up with antifreeze.  Later, when we used the travel trailer we flushed fresh water through the system until it was clear of antifreeze.  Then I turned the valves back like the above image.  More flushing then I installed the HWH plug and refilled prior to turning the HWH on.

It made such good sense.

On the 5th wheel:

5th hwh back 2017 dec 05I removed a panel under the stove to get to the back of the HWH.  Surprise!  It doesn’t look the same as the travel trailer’s.  There aren’t three valves.  There’s one (yellow arrow). Look at this image. When you turn that one valve the cold water diverts upward.  What was confusing me because there’s no valve on the HWH line.  Isn’t the water now going into the HWH from the top pipe?

Nope.  Here’s the story.  Coming out of the hot water line of the HWH is a special brass fitting.  It is in the black area where the green arrow is pointing.  This fitting has a valve and a spring much like in a car engine.  It’s called a check valve.  This check valve will let hot water out but won’t let anything in.  This includes redirected cold water or cold water mixed with antifreeze.  This check valve will have an arrow on it to make sure you put it in the correct direction.  It should point OUT of the HWH.  So what I am seeing in this 5th wheel is it DOES have a bypass.  All I have to do is turn one valve to bypass the HWH.  Ta-da.  That explains that.

Some of you may ask why this is important to me since I use compressed air to clear the lines.  Some folks say that water remains in the water pump.  Even after blowing the lines out, it is suggested that the owner add antifreeze before the water pump. Lucky owners can get to the water pump easily and an even luckier owner finds a T-fitting has already been added.  Take the top off the fitting, add a short length of hose, stick the other inside the jug of antifreeze and turn on the water pump.  Slurp, there it goes.  And now you have a water pump that won’t freeze and if you put enough in, you will protect any drops in the water lines.  I’m suspicious of the cold water line right before the HWH.  It slopes down a bit and might have water in it.

As an alternative, if I can find the line that comes directly off the fresh water tank I could install a T-fitting there.  Again, it’s all under the floor.

I go water pump hunting.  I spent an hour looking everywhere for the 5th wheel water pump.  I did a systematic search of the whole RV except what was hidden by the slides in.  End to end.  Behind every drawer, opened every cabinet and panel.  Crawled underneath too.  Not much to see under there.  It’s an enclosed bottom.  There was one small door flap held in place with a zip tie.  To whomever cuts something similar… make it nice and big so you can actually see and work in the area.  I cut the zip tie and peered in as best as I could.  There’s a substantial motor there, and it’s in the right vicinity, but from what I can see there is no water line going in or out.  I think it’s the motor that runs one of the slides.

Had Margo call an RV place.  They said it could be anywhere.  I can tell you exactly where it is not.  I’m figuring it’s somewhere in the area between the floor and the bottom protective panel.  My last option is to turn on the battery and then the water pump.  Pinpoint the sound coming from the pump before it burns up.  If under the floor, I was going to cut a three-sided flap below the water pump so I can get to it.  However, Margo has forbid me to cut into the underside panel.  What the heck.  It’s not wooden.  It’s like a sort of plastic cardboard.  I’d cover the flap with many lengths of Gorilla tape afterwards. I promise.

So we’ll gamble that nothing freezes and if it does we will deal with it after.  Personally, I’m a more of a prevent it before it happens type of gal.

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I needed something to think about instead of electricals, so I took a good look at the fiberglass roof.  It’s not leaking, but I’d like it to be in good shape before we get into the winter. The back fan, which I think is the older fan, looks in good shape.

van roof ffan bad 2017 dec 03

Uh-oh, big future trouble around the fantastic fan.  There are huge cracks all the way around the perimeter.  I see where someone has added regular caulk in the cracks.  Oh gosh, I got so irritated when I thought of how much work was before me.

van roof ffan bad closeup 2017 dec 03

The closeup.  Yes, there is trouble coming if I don’t take care of this before the next rain.  I moseyed out to the ol’ shed and got out my chisel and began scraping.  The caulk edges are stiff as heck and doesn’t scrape easy at all.  It was more a pry up by twisting the tool and ZING! the broken off piece disappeared into the distance.  I scraped as much of the big chunks off the roof and left the squiggles on the fan trim.

I decided to go whole hog.  Take the whole fan off, scrape clean everything, and reinstall with more butyl tape and Dicor self-leveling caulk.  But after I chiseled the stuff off the roof surface and took the screws out inside and out, I couldn’t pry the fan off the roof without struggling mightily.  I was concerned that I’d leverage myself right off the ladder.

Hey, if it’s that tight, I’ll leave it alone until a future date.  But I did need to deal with the perimeter cracks.  The original installer had put caulk over the nail heads then squeezed self-leveling RV caulk all over.  I really liked how easy it was to dig the caulk out of the screws so I put the caulk over the heads that I used around the travel trailer window trim.  In a couple of days, I’ll lay down the self-leveling stuff.

There’s more work on the roof than around the fantastic fan.  There is also work to be done around the part of the roof that was damaged by a previous owner.  If I had to guess I’d say somebody drove into a low tree branch.  Repair was made with a couple swatches of Eternabond which is a wide tape that seals on contact.  I won’t pull it off until I buy more tape.

There’s also some stress cracks.  It also needs a good oxidation removal and a couple coats of wax.

Sounds like a spring thing.

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With plans to turn the adventure van into a rolling electrical generator with portable solar, I turn to the subject of interior lights.  The van has ten if I recall correctly.  They are all incandescent and get branding iron hot when on for just a short while.  They also eat electricity for breakfast, lunch, supper and two snacks before bedtime.

bulb 1141 2017 nov 30Go, they must.  I have heard of LEDS but have never purchased any for a vehicle.  Aren’t there a million different types?  I began by pulling bulbs from the two different types of holders.  This is one from the holder that’s open on the end.  To get the bulb off I put on a glove and had to twist maybe a quarter turn and pull.  I almost clapped with delight when I saw a number on the bulb, 1141.  Okay, maybe I won’t need a swami’s help in ordering what I need.

van white light 2017 nov 30

I turned to bulb style two with the covered light holders.  It was the devil getting the cover off.  I began with trying to take the cover off of the ones under the kitchen cabinets.  I pulled.  I twisted.  I squeezed.  I cussed (just a bit).  Then I got online which offered nothing that I hadn’t tried.  Wasn’t until I went to the light in the back that I could see the notch to stick a screw driver in.  It still put up a fight.


bulb 921 wedge 2017 dec 02I plucked the tiny bulb straight out.  Man, it is weird looking on the end.  It’s in a wedge shape with wires folded over.  I’d learn from comments to pay attention to poor ratings given to bulbs that didn’t work because the wires weren’t folded correctly or were too short.

I carried these bulbs to my computer to find the replacements. has a good rep.  On their page, I found what I desperately needed, pictures and explanations, lighting comparisons.  One contact, two contact, pin base, plate style, etc.  Didn’t take but a second to see I needed one contact and wedge base.  Plugged in 1141 and choices, many choices.   There’s ones with tiny LEDs all around it, others with LEDs all around and on the end, some are so bright they are for lamps.  Different colors.  For the wedge shaped 921 there is Cool White Elite, Natural White Elite, etc.

Wait, are they really $10.00 – $13.00 a piece?  Daannng.  It would cost me over $100 to outfit the inside.  The advertising talks a good game.  Robust aluminum to survive all the jiggling the van will do and to resist the sometimes variable voltage at campsites.  I appreciate the photo comparisons and the comment that some folks say one is too bright after cataract surgery.

Let me look elsewhere.  On Amazon I can get 6 for the same price as one from M4.  Ooo, some folks give them really poor ratings.  Says they never worked, quit working, or flicker, or get too hot.

Hmm.  Quality or quantity?

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Travel across New Mexico and you will quickly become aware that the mountains and low population density conspires against your audio entertainment.  There’s many places you don’t get a signal.  Then again, you can’t pick up a signal when there’s no signal available.

van radio old 2017 dec 03The 20-year-old radio in the van sounds okay, especially the louder I sing, but there’s static.  It somewhat mitigates the grinding noise coming from the stuck cassette after I decide that yes, maybe this time when I press eject the cassette will pop out.

It’s the perfect excuse for upgrading to something else.  Should I get a simple radio or should I get one with more bells and whistles?  Right now all those bells and whistles scare me.  Flip out, touch screen, backup screen, USB, bluetooth, auxiliary.  I feel like I need to carry an electrical engineer around in my pocket to translate what it all means.  Some of those audio and video delights easily costs 10% of what I paid for the van, and that’s just what’s in the box.  Wiring is extra, along with installation.

I don’t know about y’all but stuff getting smaller doesn’t help me much.  I can’t read my phone without glasses and trombone action.  Trying to use the phone as a navigator is a joke on me.  I need a screen the size of a box of wheat thins.  Sounds like a job for a tablet.  I must also consider the future.  I will definitely, definitely install a back up camera.  Where’s the screen going to go?  Will it be part of the radio package?

It’s not just my eyes; it’s my short right arm.  I have to lean forward and towards the dash to even get to the buttons.  If I was a pro basketball player, no problem.  But I don’t have a wingspan, I have an arm span and it’s normal.

I moseyed on down to an electronics store and talked to the young salesman about what he can do for me.  Funny how he didn’t push me over to the high end stuff.  Maybe it was because I walked in with my list and a cranky old lady look.  In the end, for $250 he can take the security alarm out and install a simple AM/FM/CD radio with USB, and auxiliary inputs.  That will let me use my flash drive or mp3 player.  It’s all I need.  Well, I don’t really NEED it.

I’m mulling it over.  I’m also mulling over a mod.  The face of the new radio will point right down the middle of the van, not toward moi. Perhaps I can build a frame which points the radio towards the driver.  I’ve seen radios with remotes.  Maybe that instead.  I also don’t have a really firm place to set the tablet, my phone and drink.

How the heck did I survive driving 20 years ago?

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It’s getting near freezing so I must postpone my electronics education and concentrate on the plumbing.  So far, in my crawling through the van I’ve found a fresh water tank and inlet, a pressurized water inlet, a pump which pushes the water to the sink faucet, the sink, and a grey water tank.  The seller bragged and pointed to a partially hidden hot water heater under the sink. She  waved to a switch marked 12v water heater.  Really?  A 12 volt water heater?  How much battery power does that take?  I’m pretty darn suspicious.  I guess it works on city power which converts to 12 volts and then runs the device.  I know it’s not going to run from a single 12 volt house battery.

I strapped on my knee pads and looked at what I needed to winterize.  Pink antifreeze is already in the fresh water tank and before and after the pump so the under bed was ready.

van hot water dispenser tank 2017 dec 03I turn to the sink side.  As expected the area under the sink is a tight fit for this old body and made worse by a shelf and drawer.  A good look, a laugh and pull.  Here’s the touted hot water heater.  It’s not a hot water heater.  It’s a hot water dispenser, maximum of 60 cups per hour.  I could be wrong on the 60.  Thought I saw it on a site somewhere.  You can’t see the plumbing on the left threads because there is none.  It’s not connected.  No water line in; No water line out.  I’d pull out the whole shebang, but it is connected by wiring.  Can’t find my electric tape so disconnecting is on hold.

van hot water stopper bottom 2017 nov 24

I’m guessing the dispenser hung from the bottom of the sink and ran up to the smaller faucet next to the sink faucet.  Somebody disconnected and capped every bit of plumbing except for cold water going through the cold water faucet.  I’m not complaining.  This is a good thing.  I don’t want a hot water heater or a hot water dispenser.  Hot water is for wimps not women who stand in ice cold mountain water to catch trout.  Hot water will be heated on the stove like in olden days.

Yay.  This opens the space for pots and pans or cans.

Hooking up city water to this van is going to be a gamble.  One that will wait for next spring.


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It appears that I must pare everything down to a smaller size if I want it in my van.  My favorite knife is a large chopping knife from a super store.  One piece.  Stainless steel.  Easy to sharpen and clean.  I’m no snob when it comes to cooking tools — $12.  It was too awesome to leave at the mountain house.  It followed me to the Basin home.  The Basin one was banished to the RV.  I find that oddly satisfying.

knives 2017 nov 27But I have no good chopping knife in the van.  At the super store I saw a smaller version of the one I like.  Perfect for using on my small cutting board.  It even came with a serrated blade and a small paring knife.  Cutting tomatoes and bread will be a pleasure, but that pleasure will remain in the house.  Can’t give up my old carbon steel paring knife.

Now to figure out where to put them so during an accident they won’t do what knives do.

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I started searching under the hood for electronics that run back to the house battery.  For such a simple engine, there sure is a lot of wiring and it’s wiggling everywhere!  Tracked a cable from the battery to below it.  There was just enough room to get a photo which I have posted below.  I was clueless to what I was seeing since I was hoping to find a solenoid.  This thing on the right is a solenoid.  That ain’t no solenoid.

what is this van part 2017 nov 24

What I was seeing was a small rectangular box with cooling fins.  And darn rusty too.  I put a request to identify it on an RV living site knowing the old timers could tell me what it is, what it does, and whether it’s a good thing to have.  I did my bit by including four photos because a photo is worth more than a thousand sort-of inaccurate words.  The remaining photos are of what the cabling ends at.

what is this part alternator 2017 nov 24

A line goes to the alternator, I think.  Hard to see in there.

what is this part dash 2017 nov 24.jpg

Another went into the dash.


what is this part breaker reset 2017 nov 24.jpg

A third went to this.  Oops.  I’d better see where the other end ends at.

The old timers came through quickly.  It’s a battery isolator.  As the engine runs and powers the alternator, half the charge goes to the engine battery, half the charge goes to the house battery.

Unless the isolator has been “tuned up” to closer match the needs of the house battery, it is considered a slow battery killer since it never fills the battery up.  I don’t know whether mine is “tuned up”.  I do know it is rusty.  Electricity and rust don’t play together nicely.

I want to replace the isolator with a solenoid.  Got online to youtube CheapRVLiving and watched a fella and Bob put in a solenoid.  If I watch it about another 20 times, and pester the old timers a dozen times with questions I might give it a try.

The beginning must be me getting in there and seeing if the isolator has three posts or four and is the cable going into the dash, hot when the key is on and not when the key is off.

Where’s my electrical engineer, darnit?

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