Propane gas leak and summer reading

(Updated September 6, 2015)

Last April, while doing our routine prep week chores before a camping trip, I lifted the propane tank cover to see if the gas regulator showed green (indicating that my active tank had propane) and I noticed the faint smell of propane.  I know that the first places to look for gas leaks in this area are the pigtail hoses that connect the tanks to the regulator, especially at the connection points.  These thermoplastic hoses become hard and stiff and often develop small leaks after a few years.  To find the leak, I used a small spray bottle filled with soapy water using liquid dish soap and spritzed the hoses and connections. (See Airstream Life‘s video, Detecting a propane leak.*)

DSC_0454 Propane pigtail hose leak

The leak was revealed by profuse bubbling at the QCC ACME Type 1 (green) fitting that connects the hose to the tank.  Since our OEM hoses were eight years old, I decided to replace them both.  The trick was to find the correct replacement hoses. Our OEM hoses were Model A4 made by Marshall Gas Controls in 2006.  Propane pigtail hoses are available in different sizes and with different fittings at the regulator end, such as male inverted flare and male pipe thread fittings (See The RV Doctor article, “Propane Pigtails Needed.”)  Our OEM regulator (Marshall Automatic Regulator, Model 250) accepts a 1/4 inch MNPT (Male National Pipe Thread) fitting.  I found that the easiest and best way to find my correct replacement pigtail hose (and not have to buy an adapter) was to take my OEM hose to our local RV supply store, San Diego Trailer Supply, which assured me they would have the right hose or make me one!  They matched my OEM pigtail with one off the shelf, a  Marshall Excelsior MER426-15, a 15″ pigtail with 1/4″ MNPT fitting.  My OEM hoses were 12″ long, but some believe the 15″ hose would be subject to less stress (See “It’s as easy as bungee jumping.”)  The hose on the left in the photo below is the OEM hose.

DSC_0458 Old & new hose, & tools

I gathered my tools, which included a 9/16″ wrench (an adjustable wrench would also work just fine) and PTFE thread seal tape (yellow coded for gas line).  (I did not use the pipe thread sealant seen in the photo above.)  I then wrapped the 1/4″ male pipe threads with 4 full wraps of the seal tape, wrapping clockwise.

DSC_0465 New pigtail wrapped with tape

The new pigtails were then attached to the tanks and regulator.

DSC_0470 New 15" pigtails connected

The job was finished by placing and securing the propane tank cover.

DSC_0474 Propane tank cover in place A green cable lock was applied to slow down would-be thieves!

This job was done by using just three tools: soapy water sprayer, wrench, and seal tape.

This job is one of many routine tasks covered in the hot-off-the press new book, Airstream Life’s (Nearly) Complete Guide To Airstream Maintenance, by Rich Luhr, Editor of Airstream Life magazine.  Rich says, “You can keep your Airstream investment in excellent running condition for the rest of your life with just a little knowledge and a few tools. Most Airstream maintenance is simply a matter of inspecting, cleaning, lubricating, and easy adjustments — and this book will teach you how to do all of those things.”  In writing this book, Rich says, “I wanted to defuse the myths, clarify the facts, and point people to easy and correct options.”  This spiral-bound book has 219 pages packed with information, is well illustrated and the perfect size to keep in our Airstream, along with our traveling toolkit.

DSC_0486 Guide to Airstream Maintenance

Now that I have my current Airstream maintenance in hand, I can go back to my ongoing summer reading, Promises To Keep: On Life and Politics, by Joe Biden.**  Additional information about this riveting and moving book is seen in my latest post, “End of summer flowers, fruit, and promises,” History Safari Expresso.

DSC_0151 My summer reading

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

**This is a link to a CBS NEWS video.

Wash and wax, tricks and treats

Salt deposits had been washed off our Airstream Safari trailer just after we returned home from our last beach outing, and now it was time for our big annual wash and wax job prior to the beginning of our fall camping season.  The trick is to use a good quality wax that is easy to wipe on and off, and provides long lasting protection.  This is the eighth year that I have used Meguiar’s M20 Mirror Glaze® Polymer Sealant to wax the trailer and I have been treated with its ease of use, high gloss finish that makes it easier to rinse off dirt between washings, and its ability to prevent and/or control filiform corrosion.  The 16 oz. size nicely covers our entire 23′ trailer, including the roof and air conditioner shroud.  The trick is to get it on the roof, and I have a crutch for that, literally.

DSC_0004 Applying wax with crutch

This year, sun safety for my skin was provided by my wide brim plague doctor’s hat, and for a brief moment by a calavera mask, a calaca, a skull mask, often used in celebrating Día de los Muertos* (Day of the Dead).

DSC_0006 Airstreamer with Calaveras mask

A calaca of Catrina and other symbols of the season already decorate our dining room table and Larry will be baking Pan de muerto (Bread of the dead).

DSC_0013 Día de los Muertos table display 2014

For us, this season is also a reflective time for reviewing the past year’s events, the tricks and treats.  For example, last November our corgi, Tasha, had a herniated disc, and the trick was to find it with an MRI and to remedy it with a laminectomy, and the treat was that she went on to a full recovery.  Last June, we found the trick on how to stop paying $75/month for cable TV channels that we mostly don’t watch, and now we are treated to free TV by using an indoor antenna.  Last August, we found the trick on how to stop paying high prices for cell phone service that we rarely need, and we treated our selves to a new service provider, resulting in better service at much lower prices.  In August, we were also treated to the happy sight of our first pitahaya blooms, and last month, we were treated to the sight of our first fruit after bees and I (with a brush) performed the trick of cross-pollination.

DSC_0155 Our first pitahaya fruit

This exquisite dragon fruit was cut in half, scooped out and served with a dollop of premium vanilla ice cream.

DSC_0169 Cross section of our pitahaya

We are now ready to celebrate Halloween*, Día de los Muertos*, and our return to the Anza-Borrego Desert!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Safari shine on harvest moon

Washing the dirt and salt deposits off our awnings after the trip to the beach was the prelude to our annual big wash and wax job before the start of our fall camping season.  Over time dirt and salt deposits can weaken the awning fabric and shorten the functional life of trailer awnings.  See Zip Dee’s video, “Cleaning Your Zip Dee Awning Fabric“.*

DSC_0118 Washing Zip Dee awning

A fabric bead strip attaches the awning to the trailer via the awning rail…

DSC_0100 Streetside bead strip

and when the awning is closed, this strip forms a trough that collects and traps dirt.

DSC_0094 Awning trough

I am always amazed how much dirt is flushed away when I extend and wash the awnings.

DSC_0103 Canvas attaches to trailer

Our fall camping prep continued with a midsummer cleaning and repacking of our Safari’s wheel bearings and having the brakes adjusted.  Last week as the Harvest Moon rose*, we ate Moon Cakes in celebration of the Chinese Moon Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival.  Cool, fall weather arrived just in time for my big wash and wax job of the entire Safari trailer, including the roof (white wax dust particles are seen in the photo above).

I washed our trailer with Meguiar’s Deep Crystal Car Wash and on the following day I sprayed Boeshield T-9 on any areas of aluminum that had first shown signs of filiform corrosion (that was stopped in its tracks years ago by this product).  Only a light coating is needed (spray on and wipe off before it dries) as this product penetrates any breaks in the clear-coated aluminum and helps to block salts and oxygen from corroding exposed aluminum.  I then applied my favorite wax, Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze Professional Polymer Sealant #20 (the dry residue easily wipes off and the protection lasts over a year).  I then applied 303 Aerospace Protectant to the rubber seals of the Fan-Tastic Fan and windows and doors (keeps them from sticking and prevents UV damage).

DSC_0076 Our trailer protectants

Leaves are starting to fall from our Ginkgo tree and the nights are now cooler as we anticipate our early October return to the Cuyamaca Mountains.

DSC_0090 Autumn leaves (Ginkgo)

It was a bit of work, but by using quality protectants annually this nearly seven-year old Safari still shines and is ready to resist the elements, which makes me smile and want to sing and dance!*

DSC_0080 Safari shine

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Getting my bearings…

We were first time RV owners when we picked up our brand new 2007 Airstream Safari, six years ago, so from the start, I tried to get my bearings on its operation, function, and care by reading the Owners Manual.  I found much of the information to be useful and valuable, but some of the service schedule guidelines did not seem practical to me, such as “Every 10,000 miles or 6 months – Inspect, adjust, or replace brakes as necessary [and] Clean and repack wheel bearings”.  I understand that now Airstream recommends every 10,000 miles or one year for the above items.

I have read that one reason to repack bearings* every year is that condensation can occur in the hub and cause deterioration of the grease.  But some say, “If you live in the dry Southwest, you can probably go 2-3 years between repacks.”  Even though our Airstream has only accumulated 9,500 miles (and stayed in San Diego County), I knew we were overdue for the first repacking of our bearings, so when I read the recent AirForums’ thread, “Bearings went bad and hub is damaged“, I was motivated to take action.

After reading the 14 steps of  “Wheel Bearing Maintenance” in the Owners Manual, ’77 Overlander’s “Bearing Repacking” guidelines, “Bryan and Dave’s Greasy Adventure“, and watching, “How to Repack/Grease Trailer Wheel Bearings“*, I realized that this is a science and art beyond my capabilities and tools.  I found excellent reviews of a local RV mobile serviceman, Abe Hernandez of RV Mobile Service 2U, and made the appointment.  I found him to be positive, knowledgeable, and eager to share his knowledge and experience. He allowed me to take photos and thoroughly answered my questions.  First, he showed me where our Airstream’s jack points are located, as mentioned in the Owners Manual, a label with the word “JACK” in blue letters and an arrow points to the jack point, a 3″ square plate riveted to the mainframe rail.

DSC_0053 Airstream rec

DSC_0029 Aluminum service jack

DSC_0035 Hubs off

Tools and supplies included an aluminum service jack and smaller jack stands, dust cap remover, seal puller, bearing cleaner supplies, bearing packing tool, Diamond Grip latex gloves, new seals, new cotter pins, seal driver, hammer, various pliers, tire wrench and torque wrench.

DSC_0036 Bearings & tools

The brakes were cleaned with NAPA Brake Cleaner, and inspected and adjusted.

DSC_0040 Brakes

The bearings were cleaned and repacked with high temperature red grease.

DSC_0041 Repacked bearings

DSC_0042 Bearing packer

New seals were installed.

DSC_0044 New seal installed

The wheels were reassembled with special care to ensure that the spindle nut (castle nut) was not over tightened.

So now I’ve got my bearings and hopefully, for some time down the road, they will be easy riders!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Aye, there’s the rub rail

A rub rail covers the bottom edge of the exterior aluminum panels, along with the bottom line of rivets that attach the panels to our 2007 Safari trailer.  This rub rail area is susceptible to water in at least two places, especially in the rear of the trailer where much rain water and dew run down.  The trailer was only two years old when we found part of the chrome/vinyl rub rail insert hanging down during a trip.  Moisture can loosen the self-sticking adhesive backing of this vinyl insert.  We reattached this vinyl strip using 3M Plastic and Emblem Adhesive #08061 and details are posted here.

Click on the image above to enlarge it and you will see that the factory applied sealant along the top edge of the rub rail bracket.  The integrity of this seal is important, because if enough water gets behind the rub rail it could lead to floor rot.

Last summer, I found areas of cracked sealant along the top edge of our rub rail.  In one respect, we are fortunate to have a relatively dry climate in San Diego, but we do get plenty of dew.  So after I replaced our Marathon tires in September, I sealed the rub rail cracks with Acryl-R and applicator from the Airstream Store.

Actually, I put a bead of Acryl-R along the top edge of the rub rail around the trailer, and then the trailer got its annual big washing and waxing.  For the occasion, I got a new, sturdier stepladder and more of my favorite wax, Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze Professional Sealant #20.  This sealant, along with the nail polish that I applied last year, has prevented any further growth of filiform corrosion.

So now that the trailer is washed and waxed, and presented with new tires (and new AGM batteries last May) it seems happier and ready for our fall camping season. We celebrated by observing the Chinese Moon Festival, also called Mid-Autumn Festival.

Larry set up a display featuring the many symbols of this festival, including mooncakes with an egg yolk in the middle.

We gazed at the full moon as our Chinese paper lanterns seemed to dance, and the Tillandsia secunda (in the foreground) seemed to wave in the breeze, and we remembered the legend of Chang’e, the Chinese goddess who lives on the moon, a love story.