Category Archives: Preparation

Two Fat Bottles

Don’t you hate it when you’ve just filled your LPG bottles up when its a mission to squeeze it back into the Motorhome LPG locker!

Not much room to come and go on.

I was in having some work done on Rafe and Peter the Engineer said “what’s that tape measure doing in your gas locker?” ahh says I. That’s for when you get to an LPG station and you discover that your LPG bottle has expired and you need a new one and making sure it’ll fit in the locker.

The bottles can vary in diameter around the waist by up to 10cm each ! With two bottles in the locker, that’s the difference between getting them in or if you can get them in together, being able to shut the door!! Who would have known !

Bottles in their locker

I found this out the hard way the first time, by just trying quite a few bottles to get two that fitted in the locker together.

Its is so much easier to get them in and out too.

Locker safely locked up.

Truma Trauma

About two months ago we suddenly found that our morning ritual of having the hot water heater come on at 7am to heat the water, and then switch over to take the ice out of the air,  stopped working.

After reading up on some online forums, I found the most likely cause was that  one of the two 900w elements to have failed.  The gas was working perfectly and it still worked on power but just ever so slowly.

Click on an Image to enlarge

The Truma on the Truma test trolley

The van was due to have its annual check for water ingress so I asked one of the really busy techies there to check the resistance on the elements. They were both the same.. strange.. if one is blown, it will have a different resistance reading.

A couple of weeks later, I took Rafe to another RV workshop where I was told there were a couple of “clever truma people” who would sort it for me.  After a week of having the van and removing the heater, cleaning and reinstalling it,  it still wasn’t working.
A big disappointment !

Back to square one.

The exploded element

So.. time to find a Truma Guru and  get this fixed once and for all..

While we were in Wellington recently, we were in a shopping mall and Fiona was doing the shops. I was sitting in the “husband waiting chair” .  I got on the phone and via some friends, I was put onto Peter Webster  who owns RV Repairs who are just up the road  in Albany.. yippee!

Peter W with my old Truma

Still sitting in the “Husband waiting chair” I called Jan at RV Repairs and booked Rafe in for some heater surgery.

After taking Rafe up on a Saturday morning, Peter’s electronics man, a really nice guy also called Peter, who tested the heater with an amp meter found it was only pulling just over 1 amp on full bore.. it should be pulling about 6-8 amps. So he started to take the unit out of Rafe and stick it on their specialist Truma test trolley.

The break

Within an hour, I got a phone call saying that one element had a normal resistance, the other was as dead as a dodo.

After trying to take out the old element, they found the element had virtually exploded in the heat exchanger and when it went, it had damaged the heat exchanger.. two choices,  new heat exchanger or new unit.

My stuffed element

Heat exchanger $2000 plus odd with two elements. There would be several hours to install the heat exchanger in the heater on top of this. The other choice was a new Heater unit .. mid/late $3000’s. I chose the heater. At last the thing will now heat properly again 🙂

Truma’s new policy for replacement elements is to provide a heat exchanger with two elements due to installation failures!

How a new element looks when being installed in the Heat Exchanger

I was absolutely rapt with the two Peter’s getting straight in to solve the problem without any fuss.. They’re clever guys too . Peter W (the owner) is a boat builder and spray painter by trade and the other Peter an aeronautical engineer so they’re perfect for solving a Truma heater problem 🙂  and with lots of knowledge left over !

They’re also motorhomers themselves and great fun with not just two Peter’s but three.. 🙂

The workshop is HUGE

New Saloon Lighting

Yay .. its the end of lockdown.. we’re away again.. almost !   Here’s a couple more posts from early 2017 until we get away again.

Its interesting that while quite a few brands of Motorhomes have adopted tracklighting, many haven’t.

Click on the images for Hi Res

Nice lights in the track.
Nice lights in the track.

Rafe started out in life having three tracklights for lighting. Two on either side of the saloon and one across the top of the bed for reading lights. They were probably a great idea in that you can twist and slide the lights and put them anywhere you want them and also shift them out of the way. The only catch with them is that the ones that we have, have very flimsy plastic tabs on them which are so easy to break off, its ridiculous.

The plastic Tab
The plastic Tab

New Lights

To be fair to the manufacturers, they can’t be blamed for excited grandchildren accidently bumping into them with their heads when they’re standing on the seats but when the owners are reluctant to use them in case they break, to me means there is a problem.

The screws for the glass at the waist of the light.
The screws for the glass at the waist of the light.

The other issue is that we found that as we cruised around NZ, the screws holding the glass would undo and eventually the glass would end up smashing on the table below with glass everywhere.
In the end after breaking a few, we now travel with them in a box and tend not use them for fear of snapping the tabs or breaking them.

Now to get rid of the Track
Now to get rid of the Track

After looking for ages through lighting shops and RV places, I discovered some really nice LED lights for another model Dethleffs which I ordered through Vantage RV. They had to come from Germany and just arrived the other day  so I didn’t waste any time getting them installed. These ones are screwed into the shelves and I’ve set them back out of harms way.

I really wanted to remove the track but found that it was glued as well as screwed so I’m still thinking about this as I don’t want to butcher the cabinets getting it out.

And they can turn right around and direct light where you want it.
And they can turn right around and direct light where you want it.

The lights are fabulous. We recently had the first trip away with them and the light was awesome.

The Covid Lockdown

We’re now into our fourth week of lockdown and I think its safe to say, cabin fever is starting to set in.

Just before lockdown started.. Fiona bought a table and chairs for her garden which is pretty much finished apart from some paving. That’s the one you see at the top of this page.

Click on an Image for Hi Res

The images below are a look back over the last few months..

Rafe’s parking pad to be extended.. Before !!

Cleaning up
The day we got Rafe stuck in the grass trying to get onto the pad :-). Alans (my helper) cell phone pic
Rafe’s first day on the pad
Raised Garden beds, rebuilt and new fence.
More dirt
Looking good.. extra parking for a car will eventually be shells

Easy parking

Here’s the whole Gardening process for those who want to see it all.

I’ve been busy putting together some books and also doing a whole years accounts for the accountant… big job but keeping the boredom away 🙂

Given that we cant get away, its a bit frustrating not being able to do any new piccies… I’ve been going back through some of our really early posts, think 2016 odd when many of you weren’t aware we existed and over the next few weeks, I’ll repost some oldies!

Enjoy and stay safe!!

Rafe’s new Landscaped Park

One of the challenges we all have as Motorhome owners is where to park our Motorhomes.  Over the last month or so, we’ve been progressively been making space for ours.

Click on an Image for Hi Res

Boxing on. you can see the original bit
Boxing
The ready mix going in. Ryan floating off the slab

In the last two weeks, one of the bigger changes we’ve made to our new place in Devonport is hard landscaping of our front yard. It includes a flash new raised Garden which Fiona has always wanted. A parking area for our visitors as parking is a premium around here and a few green things around Rafe’s park and making it easier to get Rafe in and out of the park.

Rafe’s first day
Some of that fence has gone

A very good friend of my son Andrew, Ryan and his wife Jordan have done an amazing job. Ryan’s speciality is concrete but he has done a lot in the landscaping area too so we’re really chuffed with what we’ve got on a small difficult site. Ray helped too with redoing the fence and the raised gardens. A great job folks.

The Digger off to pull out the clothesline

We’ve only been here a couple of months. In that time, the concrete parking pad has been extended for Rafe, Hot water cylinder replaced and moved outside, a heat pump installed, the Laundry shifted around to be more functional, and now this amazing Garden.

While the Garden was being done, the fence had to be rebuilt as all the railings were knackered. The posts and palings were reused into an arty random fence.. We like it, the neighbours like it but quite a few don’t 🙂  we can always trim it later !

We also left a few bits at the front off to make it easier to get Rafe in and out 🙂

Ryan supervising the first scraping off the grass

 

Click on the Gallery below to see the progress!

A big thanks to Ryan, Jordan and Ray for their fantastic efforts.

Easy parking

Thats it for now for a while on the house so we’re back in Rafe on the road for summer.

Rotating Tyres

During my travels through the last NZMCA Motorhome show in Auckland, I bumped into Phil Jackson at Carters. He made a point of reminding me to make sure I rotated my tyres to get the best out of them but at that stage they had only done 5000k’s odd, but now that they’ve done 10000 k’s, I thought I’d better get on with it 🙂

Click on any Image for Hi Res

All ready at Carters

So I duly made an appointment with Carters Tyres in Highbrook, where I had my tyres fitted and they were happy to rotate them for me. Carters are a big supporter of the NZMCA and if you’re looking for tyres, they give NZMCA members a pretty good discount. They saved me a fortune.

The Tyre Technician for the day was Mohit who was ready to get stuck in as I rolled in.

On the way up

One of the traps with the Dethleffs wheel covers is they have some Alun nuts as a decoration and a couple that are actually functional. Sometimes its a bit of a mission to pick the real ones. The plastic ones have to glued back on if you get them by accident !

Spot the decorations

Mohit successfully navigated his way around that and whipped all the wheels off one at a time and rebalanced the wheels for the front as he refitted them.

Off with the first tyre
All done !

While they were off, its amazing seeing them side by side to see the wear. On their own it was hard to see but definitely the wear can be seen next to each other. In the pictures, the front tyre is on the left.

Mohit with a front (left) and rear tyre (right) .. not a lot of difference

As Rafe is a front wheel drive vehicle, the back wheels are just being dragged along behind for the ride so there is minimal wear until they’re on the front so tyre rotation is really important if you want to get even wear from your tyres.

Front tyres being balanced

An hour later, we all ready to go again. .. for another 10 k’s until the next rotation 🙂

Ready to go for another 10k

Bent Keys

We were just about to pick up our Grandchildren and take them down to Rotorua for the last weekend of the school holidays when a fault came up on the dash that I hadn’t seen before.

Click on an Image for Hi Res

It was an image of a door and a padlock in orange and prevented the motor from starting. It would turn over with the key but never fire.

The key code fault

Out came the Fiat handbook which said the fault was related to the key and the code that needs to come from it and go to the engine management system. If it persists to check with the dealer.

I tried taking the key out and putting it in the opposite way and the engine started straight away.  I thought this was a bit scary so thought that given we were about to take the Grandies out of town, we should get it checked out, so off we went to the Andrew Sims Fiat service centre in East Tamaki.

The key in its incorrect position
The key in its correct position

After talking to their service manager Nick, he immediately said yep, its the way you’ve got the key in the ignition and you’ve solved the problem . It was all solved in seconds and I could relax  🙂

How the dash should look !

Because the keys flip out with the push of a button like a flick knife, the weight of my keys on the key ring and the fact that the lock on the key is getting a bit long in the tooth and isn’t what it once was, it is folding and preventing the code in the key handle from getting down the key to the engine management system. .. the answer… Take it out and put it in the other way so the key can’t fold and all will be well.

They don’t work when they’re folded.

So after 5 years of owning Rafe and running all over the country and never seeing this before, a new little thing to know about an ageing key.

The key in its straight form

Even one of the senior Andrew Sims guys there at the time wasn’t aware of it either, so we all learnt something new that day. If you didn’t know this, you could easily get stuck somewhere and not know that the solution was so simple 🙂

A happy Rafe with his key in the right way around!

Our Motorhomes new park

Over the last month or so, our Motorhome Rafe has been stored up in Albany getting covered in Motorway dust and crap from a concrete distributor close by so it was somewhat of a relief to be able to park it back at our house again and give the van a good wash!

Our house is one of three units on a cross leased section which run down the hill overlooking each other and then over the golf course. When I say overlooking.. just our roof but we’re at the top closest to the road.

Click on the Image to see Hi Res

It had a parking ramp here already but it was in the shape of a triangle and we all know that Motorhomes and cars for that matter tend to rectangular 🙂

Our neighbour Doug is a semi retired builder who is a magic guy and was happy for us to do whatever we needed to make Rafe fit in the hole.

Boxing

Enter Ryan and Ray, a couple of concrete experts who are good friends of my son Andrew to take on the project of adding to the existing pad to make it useable and also add another around the corner for an outside water cylinder and Heat Pump.

The project went without a hitch, even getting the concrete truck in to do the pour and the result is perfect.

Click on the Gallery below for a slideshow

Since then, the Water Heater and Heat pump have been installed and we’ve managed to get Rafe in here but not without some drama!

The first time in. I got a good friend of mine Alan to be my eyes and ears at the back to help me in. The first obstacle was a hump at the end of the drive which I thought would grab the overhang but surprisingly for me, there was never an issue.

Click on the Gallery below for a slideshow

The tight bends around the front fence were a bit of a problem and I managed to get the front wheels stuck in a small patch of grass behind our letterboxes!  After jacking it up and slipping some things in to jump out, it finally did but not without creating some stress and some mess of the grass.

Rafe stuck in the grass. Alans cell phone pic
Some of that fence has gone

Anyway, we’re in and it works a treat but I have decided since to convert a fence panel into a gate and add some gravel to make it a lot easier to get in and out.

Tighter than it looks

We also have a 16 amp socket going in to keep the batteries topped up.

Hot water and Heat pump in

Thanks to Ray, Ryan for the great concreting, Pete the sparky for his wiring and Alan, a big thanks for helping me get in for the first time.

The Motorhome Surgery

Just recently, I had the pleasure of having a guided tour through ACM’s Auckland Motorhome repair and manufacturing factory. Amazing stuff.

Click on an Image to see Hi Res

A decapitated Luton restored

ACM was started 7 years ago by ex boat builder Chris Cunard (think Super Yachts) as a repair facility and later added his own range of manufactured Motorhomes. After chatting to Chris for a while, you very quickly get the sense that build quality is the name of the game and you can see this everywhere you look.

Chris Cunard

One of ACM’s Leading hands Daryl, showed me around a couple of the new Motorhome’s they are currently making for customers. Apart from having their own standard models, they make bespoke vans for those with special interests or hobbies. They also do repairs for other dealers brands too.

One of those I saw was one made for someone who was confined to a wheelchair. All the benchtops were lower. There was a special hydraulic lift at the back for entry and the bathroom and bedroom was all specially fitted out so they could enjoy Motorhoming. Fantastic!

Room for the slideout with the wheelchair Galley

A lot of  slideouts in the industry are driven electrically. These ones have huge hydraulic arms to drive it instead which should make it a lot more reliable. The hydraulic drop down legs for levelling were huge too.

Click on the Gallery below to see a Slideshow

One of their clients who liked his music so much, they designed and built his Motorhome so that he could take a built in piano with him and it looks like part of the Motorhome.

Good on them for taking their hobby with them!

Click on the Gallery below to see one of the finished Motorhomes

Stairway to Heaven

Athough I was lucky enough a few years ago to have a look through the Niesmann and Bichoff factory in Germany, it was really nice to see a local builder building Motorhomes basically by hand, doing a really nice job of them and providing employment and skills training for young Kiwis.

The Gas Gadget

And this is a beauty! People who know me will tell you how I love a good gadget that can do something useful.. This is one of those.

Click on an Image for Hi Res

The Kit with the two sensors, the rubber base rings and the gauge.

I bumped into Duncan from Apollo as I left the NZMCA Motorhome show and he was telling me about this new Gas remote fuel gauge. It is called a Mopeka.

The sensors all connected to the phone app

It works by having two sealed sensors which are each magnetically attached to the bottom of your Gas bottles that send a signal to a remote LED gauge telling you how much Gas you have left in your bottles.

My new Gas bottles ready for the sensors
A sensor on the bottom of a bottle
The Gauge for inside somewhere

It also has a phone app and it will work with that too but you have to make sure that you tell it your bottle size and that you’re in NZ. It defaults to a weird bottle size in the US 🙂

All ready to be put in the Gas locker. Note the rubber ring on the base.

I thought I’d give one a run and see how they went. The whole process from start to finish took me about ten minutes and once I’d set it up for two 9kg bottles in NZ, it looked like the perfect solution to prevent middle of the night alarms from the fridge, when a bottle has run out, usually in the rain  🙂

Ready to go

Rafe is in storage at the moment until his new concrete pad has settled so isn’t parked at the optimum angle. I think once it is level, this device will have half a chance but given that the bottles are both swappa bottles that only ever have about 70% gas in them anyway, I’d say its pretty accurate.

Not really a good test for it!

A really clever device retailing about $300 from Apollo Entertainment.

With the phone app