10th year wash, wax and treat!

This is the tenth year that our 2007 Airstream Safari has had a thorough washing, waxing and treating (filiform corrosion control and prevention), which has preserved its iconic beauty, even though it lives with us along the San Diego coast.  (Note: we routinely cover our trailer tires for sun protection.)

DSC_0061 Safari awaits 10th annual wash, wax & treat

As it awaited its big wash and wax job, it proudly flew the flag of the United States and the United States Navy.  I was a Navy Hospital Corpsman 1971-1975 and June 17 was the 119th birthday of the U.S. Navy Hospital Corps!

DSC_0030 United States Navy flag

Last week I donned sun protection for my skin and eyes and climbed the step ladder to begin the attack.  A full report on how I wash and wax the trailer, along with a list of my tools, strategy, procedure, and the benefits, is seen in my post, “Wash, wax and treat II.”

DSC_0092 10th annual Airstream washOur three awnings were then deployed, washed and lubricated. See awning operation, safety, cleaning and lubrication in my comprehensive post, “Trailer awnings.”

DSC_0099 Awnings opened & washed

DSC_0101 Steet-side awning washedThe phenomenon of newer Airstream trailers (2001 through current year) being susceptible to filiform corrosion continues to be well documented in the AirForums’ 170+ page thread, “Corrosion problems with new Airstreams.”  The clear coated aluminum sheets can corrode beginning at the cut edges, rivet holes, and scratches where salt, water and air can enter. Early on, we limited the spread of filiform corrosion by washing and waxing the trailer regularly with a good quality wax and using corrosion retardants and protectants such as Boeshield T-9 and CorrosionX.  (See my comprehensive post Filiform corrosion.)

DSC_0114 Minimal filiform corrosion overallThis is the 10th year we have relied on Meguiar’s M20 Mirror Glaze Polymer Sealant wax to provide a beautiful sheen that feels silky to the touch while protecting the trailer. (See photos and details of the trailer’s first wash & wax job, June 2007, in my AirForums’ posts #182-188.)

DSC_0118 Beautiful wax shine & protection

DSC_0109 10th Annual Wax job!The Safari shine is an eye-popping, riveting experience!*

DSC_0130 Safari shine, an eye-popping experience!Airstream Travel Trailers: A Lifetime of Adventure*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

10-year sealed battery requirement for smoke alarms!

More cities and states are now requiring that “new smoke alarms that are solely battery powered must have a non-replaceable, non-removable battery that is capable of powering the smoke alarm for at least 10 years.”  Kidde lists the following states and cities with 10-year smoke alarm laws: Oregon, California, Louisiana, North Carolina, Georgia, Maryland, Phoenix, New York City, Madison WI, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Louisville.  Although many of these laws, such as California’s smoke alarm requirements, apply to dwelling units intended for human occupancy and not to mobile homes or coaches, the laws impact RVers by limiting the selection of types of smoke alarms locally available when it is time to replace a 10-year old alarm (its life expectancy).

Our 2007 Airstream Safari is now 10 years old and like clockwork, its OEM Universal Security Instruments SS-775 smoke and fire alarm installed by Airstream (seen below in upper left corner) stopped working and required replacement.

DSC_0035 2007 Airstream Safari interior

My first impulse was to replace it with the same or similar model so that it would be easier to install in its original mounting bracket.  But as I did more research, I thought it would be best to comply with the growing national trend requiring 10-year sealed batteries… and would be a selling point when we sell the trailer (see CA smoke alarm law video).*

Once I decided on getting a smoke alarm with the 10-year sealed battery, I had to choose the sensor type: ionization, photoelectric, or a combination of both.  See the excellent video “How do Smoke Detectors Work“.*  This video explains that photoelectric sensors are better at detecting slow, smoldering, and generally smokier fires, whereas ionization sensors are better at detecting smaller amounts of smoke that come from fast flaming fires, and are more common and less expensive.  Our OEM smoke detector used an ionization sensor.

I found and installed an economical, ionization smoke alarm with good reviews: Kidde i9010 model (aka Code One 10-Year Lithium Battery Smoke Alarm at Home Depot for $17.97).  One of its features is that it has a Hush Button that allows nuisance alarms to be quickly silenced, as required by California’s Updated Smoke Alarm Requirements.  For example, if the alarm goes off when cooking and the hush button is pushed, you have about 8 minutes of silence, permitting time to open the door, windows, and turn on exhaust fans to clear the air!

Our new smoke alarm (seen below) is about an inch wider and was placed in the same location as the OEM model.

DSC_0211 Newly installed smoke detector

I reused one of the original alarm ceiling holes and started a new hole with a smaller drill bit for the other screw.  I used the original OEM model screws since they were shorter than the ones supplied with the new alarm (and I didn’t want to risk puncturing the exterior aluminum panel)!  The mounting bracket was screwed in place and the alarm was placed on the bracket and rotated clockwise until it ratcheted in place and automatically activated as indicated by an audible beep and confirmed by pushing the test button.  The sensor was tested by blowing out several votive candles under the unit, which then elicited its signature sounding of high pitched triplets.*  This unit is equipped with a red LED indicator light that flashes about every 40-45 seconds in the standby mode indicating it is receiving power.

DSC_0218 Kidde i9010

Walter Kidde founded the Walter Kidde Company in 1917 and “produced the first integrated smoke detection and carbon dioxide extinguishing system for use on board ships in 1918.”  Kidde is now a division of United Technologies, “built on the pioneering innovation of our founders [such as Walter Kidde] and the industries they created.”*

Smoke Alarms Save Lives*                           Smoke Gets In Your Eyes*                          Learning to eat fire*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Airstream torquing tendonitis

Before every trip, I follow a checklist of procedures that need to be done and items to include, which are spread over a 4-day period.  Critical items that must be done are checking and adjusting tire pressures, and checking the torque of the trailer wheel lug nuts to lessen the chance of a tire or wheel failure (See Outside Interests‘ “Tire Tips – Part 2″).  I lug around a rather heavy air compressor to each tire that needs more air and then I apply a torque wrench to each lug nut in a star pattern* to the specified tightness of 110-120 ft-lbs two days before departure (See “Carry a Torque Wrench for RV Maintenance“).*  See and hear Colonial Airstream’s Patrick Botticelli’s video, “Airstream Tire Safety,”* which includes information about tire inspection, tire pressures, lug nut torque, DOT (Department of Transportation) Code for manufacture date, and when to replace tires.

dsc_0022-torquing-airstream-lug-nuts

Last month, two days before our first trip of our fall-winter-spring camping season, I checked the tire pressures, placed PressurePro tire monitoring sensors on our ST tires* and checked lug nut torque.  I am right handed, so I lugged the air compressor and checked the lug nuts mostly with my right arm.  Our aged air compressor seemed to struggle at times with the job, so at the end of the day, I went to Home Depot and got a new compressor and then went to Costco and picked up a half-gallon of ice cream and a large apple pie, mostly with my right arm.  That evening, I felt my arm ache, which interrupted my sleep. The day before departure, I continued with my checklist and the ache became pain and burning that persisted throughout the night. I awoke on departure day realizing that hitching up would result in further injury, so we reluctantly canceled our November trip to the desert.

Ten years ago, we first bought this Airstream Safari just before Thanksgiving when I was 69 years old [actually, I was 59, as caught and corrected by my dear Dr. C., whose sharp eye, insight and wit are evidenced in his comments below]. By the way, November is a great time to shop and haggle for a new Airstream.  Next month will be the 10th year of our camping with this Airstream travel trailer, and I will be 70 in March.  As Willie Nelson sings, “Gee, ain’t it funny how time just slips away.“*

It seems this Airstream is holding up better than my body parts, as my Kaiser Urgent Care diagnosis of right arm tendonitis* confirmed.  Fortunately, after a 2-week course of Ibuprofen (Motrin) 800 mg q8 hrs and most importantly, mindful rest,* I feel up to preparing for our return to the desert this month.

Whether this incident is a fluke, or a sign of things to come remains to be seen.  We have reservations for camping sites through next April…

Meanwhile, we are attending the fun events such as the Harbor Walk at Oceanside, CA, put on by  San Diego Corgi Meetup.

hpim2972-larry-mac-tasha-at-oceanside-ca

Happy Holidays to all, no matter who you are, where you live, or what you believe!*

Wait, wait, there’s more:  A Dr. C. inspired encore video selection: James Cluer’s Wine Route – Bordeaux Part 8: Cháteau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Quick, easy and safe RV refrigerator defrosting

Dometic User Manual Caution: “Do not use: A knife or an ice pick, or other sharp tools to remove frost from the freezer shelves. It can create a leak in the ammonia system.  A hot air blower. Permanent damage could result from warping the metal or plastic parts.”  We use neither sharp tools nor a hot air blower and yet easily and routinely defrost our Dometic RM2551 RV refrigerator (5 cu. ft.) in less than 30 minutes.

Frost and ice buildup on the cooling fins reduces the cooling efficiency of the refrigerator.  As seen below, our refrigerator is overdue for defrosting!

DSC_0004 Time to defrost RV refrig

I usually defrost our refrigerator about every two months depending on outside temperature and humidity conditions.  I like to start a trip with the cooling fins clear of most of the frost to make sure the refrigerator maintains safe temperatures for food (40° F or less).  We use our RV refrigerator full time (it acts as a supplemental refrigerator when at home) and it always has food in it, so it is important to be able to do the defrosting quickly, to prevent food spoilage and to shorten the recovery time to get adequately cold again.

DSC_0002 Gathering defrosting tools Once I determine that the refrigerator needs defrosting, I choose a warm day and gather five tools: a cooler, electric fan, large Tupperware lid, extra long chopstick, and a washcloth.

One of the benefits of our 23′ Airstream Safari trailer is that the large lobster sink/counter is directly across from the refrigerator, which provides a handy location for the fan to direct warm air directly into the freezer/refrigerator compartments.

I then turn off the refrigerator, fully open the door and place most food items in the nearby cooler. (I leave most condiments and other food items in the door in place.)

DSC_0006 Removing food

DSC_0004 Wireless sensor & thermistor

As you may have noticed,  our refrigerator’s white thermistor probe wire is not in its OEM plastic holder on the far right fin where it normally is moved up and down to regulate the temperature (See How to make your RV fridge colder*).  Refrigerator thermistors are NTC (Negative Temperature Coefficient) thermistors* and resistance decreases as the temperature increases.  The higher the position on the fin, the warmer the thermistor will be and the refrigerator will run longer and become colder.  But our probe wire is short and does not allow it to be moved high enough on the fin to obtain the proper refrigerator coldness.  So I found that by removing it from its holder and moving it away and down from the fins, I can adjust and maintain the proper refrigerator coldness (which for us is usually 36-37 ° F and monitored by our AcuRite Wireless Digital Thermometer).

I use a condiment bottle to prop open the freezer door (Thai sweet chili sauce* works well) and place the frozen items in the cooler.

DSC_0013 Freezer door propped open

A closer look at the tools is seen above: an inverted Tupperware lid to collect melting ice chunks, an extra long chopstick* (17.7″ bamboo chopstick for hot pot and wok cooking) to gently loosen ice chunks, and a white washcloth to wipe clean and dry the refrigerator.  (Note: we have greatly reduced our use of paper towels by purchasing a 24-pack of white reusable washcloths from Costco and also available at Amazon.com.)

DSC_0008 Ice cube trays in freezerTip: This set of 4 flexible silicone ice cube trays from Target works wonderfully for us.  It makes ice cubes quickly and takes up less space than traditional ice cube trays.  It helps keep other food items cool in the cooler when defrosting and it helps decrease the refrigerator’s recovery time after defrosting.

Packages of fish balls, jiao zi (dumplings),* and pesto are seen on the left.)

The fan is then turned on and defrosting will take about 20 minutes!

DSC_0016 Defrosting begins

DSC_0018 Water exits via new drain tubeAs ice begins to melt, water drips down and is collected in the condensation drain pan and flows through its bottom hole into the Dometic white drain pipe with cup, which connects with the drainage tubing on the backside of the refrigerator.

Our OEM drainage tubing had become brittle and we replaced it with Shields Rubber Series 162 Polyester Reinforced Clear PVC Tubing, 1/2″ ID (inside diameter).  I chose this tubing over the clear vinyl tubing because it is reinforced, can tolerate hot water (or being in a hot space such as near the boiler tube), is more flexible and is slightly less expensive than their clear vinyl tubing.

The chopstick is then used to gently nudge the melting ice sections forward and off the fins and collected in the Tupperware lid and deposited by nearby plants.

DSC_0023 Chop stick coaxes ice free

DSC_0026 Ice placed in tray:lid

Each section slides slowly and smoothly towards me and reminds me of Dave using a simple tool/key to selectively disengage electronic circuit modules in HAL’s Logic Memory Center.*

The washcloth is then used to remove excess water and wipe down the refrigerator’s insides and door seals, which completes the defrosting process in 30 minutes or less!

 

DSC_0029 Defrosting completed

Additional information: Airstream’s How to Operate Your Refrigerator* and Airstream Life’s (Nearly) Complete Guide To Airstream Maintenance.

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

 

Tire pressure monitoring system II

Special Trailer (ST) tires have a maximum speed rating of 65 mph,* and if exceeded or if the tires are under-inflated, the tire temperatures increase, causing a weakening of the tire structure, which can lead to a shortening of the life expectancy of the tire and/or a catastrophic accident.* We have learned the importance of continuously monitoring the tire pressures (and our speed) from preflight to our arrival and midway during our stay and during our return trip home.    To facilitate this, we have relied on a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) since 2008, first with Doran, and then with PressurePro since 2011 (See “TPMS-Update“)

DSC_0005 PressurePro monitor

Typically, two or three days before departure, I install the sensors on the tires and adjust the tire pressure to be as close as possible to the specified maximum 50 PSI cold for our ST 215/75R14 Goodyear Marathon tires for the expected temperature at the time of departure.  (Our tow vehicle’s truck tires also get the sensors and have a cold PSI of 60 for front and 75 for rear tires.)

DSC_0200 ST Tire, PSI spec- cold 50

I keep a running log of the pressures and temperatures for each trip, which is started at the beginning of our trailer trip prep week and detailed in my post “Airstream Safari trip notes.”

DSC_0123 Tire pressure logOn the left is the log for our December trip.  The sensors were installed on Thursday and I noticed that the street-side rear sensor pressure reading was lower than the other sensors, which may indicate a slow tire or sensor leak.  I added air to this tire on the following day.  Early Saturday morning, the outside air temperature was 40°, and I noticed that the rear curbside sensor was not transmitting a pressure reading until it warmed up to 50°.  We departed Sunday afternoon and when we arrived at our campsite, I discovered a 1″ washer head machine screw embedded in our rear curbside tire as I was covering it for the night.  The next day, our PressurePro monitor confirmed my fear that the screw had penetrated the inner tire.  I replaced this tire with the spare and documented this in my post, “A Marathon tire repair.”

DSC_0015 I" machine screw in tireWasher head machine screws, commonly used on automobiles and motorcycles, are often encountered on highways and back roads, and I suspect that the washer head, when run over, causes the opposite end to rise towards the tire and puncture it straight on.

We find the most screws and nails in campgrounds, often brought in with firewood by campers, as seen in my post, “Nailing it… A TPMS encore.”

This camping season, our PressurePro TPMS sensors became 5 years old and were showing their age.  As seen in the log above, one was not transmitting a pressure reading in the early morning cold and another was very slowly leaking air, confirmed by temporarily putting another sensor in its place.  I contacted PressurePro and they sent me 4 new sensors for my trailer at a discounted rate, along with a Sensor Seal/Installation Tool Kit, that I will use to upgrade the truck’s sensors.

DSC_0012 New PressurePro sensor

An obvious improvement in the new sensors is that each sensor has a unique green identification number displayed on its side, which decreases the chances of placing a sensor on the wrong location.  (Each sensor is programmed for each tire location and I place each sensor in a zip lock bag assigned for each tire location when not in use, thus prolonging the battery life.  See how to set up the PressurePro tire pressure monitoring system in the video, “Protect Your RV with a TPMS“*)

A less obvious, but more important improvement is that the new PressurePro sensors now have a new Sensor Seal, a two-piece valve system that uses a hard plastic depressor to more fully depress the valve and yet, provides a hard stop during installation, protecting the seal. (Older sensors were often over tightened, resulting in damage to the O-ring seal.)  Older sensors with the one-piece seal can be upgraded by using PressurePro’s Sensor Seal/Installation Tool Kit that contains 10 sensor seals and a seal installation tool.

A tire pressure monitoring system adds to our peace of mind while on our safaris, where we’d rather come face to face with a coyote than with tire trouble!  (See Author’s update below regarding high temperature alerts and other PressurePro improvements.)

DSC_0046 Coyote in my face

*This is a link to a YouTube video.