Monday, October 30, 2006

RV Work


Immediately after World Fantasy Con, we're heading down south to a bird festival of some kind that Mary Ann will be attending. So I have just a couple of days to get the RV ready for another trip. I didn't think there was all that much that needed to be done -- get an oil change while we're home, and refill the gas and propane tanks.

But last night, while checking out the system, the heater failed to come on. Fueled by propane, it's a necessity when camping out in the winter months. We have a little electric heater as well, but (1) it's not as powerful as the propane and (2) it only works when the RV is plugged into an electrical system. Since we take advantage of free overnight parking at Wal-mart's and highway rest areas, we'd be out of luck if the propane system didn't work.

I took the RV to get the oil change, but the failure of the heater nagged at me. Playing with the thermostat, I could hear the faint click as the slider went past the trigger point, but there was no roar of the flame, and no blower. I got out the tools and began opening up the access hatch to the heater. Mary Ann suggested we take it into the RV repair place, but I was worried that we'd not have time to get it fixed before we had to leave.

Well, I did at least discover a tiny collection of ants under the access hatch, but they didn't have anything to do with it. My other worry was that the mouse (still at large by the way) might have chewed through a wire. I was preparing to get out the voltmeter to check the wiring when the disconnect switches caught my eye.

Up above the doorway is a little shelf that's not good for much of anything but a place to store plastic bags, trash sacks and aluminum foil. But what's bad is that it's also the location of a pair of master disconnect switches. I suppose they put them there so that you can shut down all the power as you walk out the door when stowing the RV for the season. Unfortunately, it's also a place where a sliding box can accidentally hit one of the switches.

I clicked the auxiliary power switch, and there was no noise. I hit the main power switch and there was a distinct click. Almost immediately, the heater roared to life. Zip-lock strikes again.

On other trips, we've had unexplained failures that eventually turned out to be accidental disconnects. The problem is that the symptoms were all different. I didn't suspect the switch because other 12volt electrical things were still working, like the overhead lights and the thermostat. It appears that the thermostat gets it's power from the auxiliary system and the heater gets it's electricity from the main battery. I guess. One of these days I need to trace out all the strange wiring in this place. We have Main Battery, Auxiliary Batteries, Inverter 110Volt power, Shore cable power (from the park or the generator), and ignition switched 110V power. And maybe a few other variations as well. Nothing is as simple as on or off.

At least it was a quick fix. But then I had to put the heater back together.

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