Some weekend camping trips don’t go as planned

So, this last weekend, my family and I took the RV out for a weekend trip. And it has been a bit of work for me. 😂

That’s one of the things about RVs… if something is going to break, it is going to happen “out there”. Isn’t that a quote from Captain Ron? 😉 

Before we even went anywhere, the RV entry door steps were grinding during retraction. My RV has the Kwikee entry steps and these things are a bit known for being…. fun. Grinding noises aren’t exactly uncommon.

With my steps, they would go in and out just fine. But, once they were fully retracted, they would give off this loud, metallic grind for 2-3 seconds. It was as if the motor didn’t know when to stop working.

First, I wanted to rule out the motor itself. I already had a spare gearbox. So, I bought an off-brand (but compatible) step motor off of Amazon for only $35. Once I put the motor on, it still made the grinding noise. Ugh.

So, next was the gearbox. I crawled back under the rig, removed the motor again, then removed the gearbox. And sure enough… as I moved the gear around manually I saw that several gear teeth were missing. This was the cause of the problem.

So, I installed a new gearbox. Put the motor back and hooked it all back up again. And…. BAM! The steps went in and out beautifully. And silently.

Success! But, it didn’t last long…

The day came that I pulled the RV out of it’s storage spot in order to drive over to the KOA campground in St. Petersburg, FL. And…

The steps no longer did anything. No movement. Not even a step light when the door was open. Clearly there was no power at all to the steps.

I was rather surprised. I just fixed it! Or so I thought. 🤷‍♂️

I ended up driving to the campground like that. And just in case something was going to go haywire electrically (since I didn’t know what the issue was yet), I went ahead and unplugged power to the steps so they would stay retracted and not extend while driving.

(BTW, I should tell you some time about the time my slide-outs actually extended while I was driving down the interstate. Not kidding.)

While driving to the campground, I found out I apparently had no working turn signals. That was a first, but I just mentally added that to my “to do” list for when I got to the campground.

When I arrived, it was raining. And, the small window above the driver entry door has a pesky leak that has been a problem for a little while. I’ve already pulled and resealed the window and the problem remains. So, I was handling some dripping water from that window when I arrived.

So, this camping trip was getting off to a great start. 😉 

Problem is… even long after it stopped raining, that damn window was still leaking water. What gives?!

So, my first few hours in the campground were… frustrating.

My family sorta giggles at me about it. As they would say, they’re used to it. 🤣 They go about their business while Dad sits there and tries to debug problems with the RV. LOL!

Well, I did manage to debug things. Here’s how it went down…

First, the fact that the window kept on leaking even when it wasn’t raining was an interesting data point. Upon inspection, I found that the water was coming from the rooftop A/C. Surprising, heh?

See, the vinyl trim that goes along the roofline along the whole length of the motorhome curves down and meets that window right where the water was coming in. This is right where the front cap and the main body of the RV come together.

When I saw where the A/C drainage water was going, I found that it was entering this channel. Around the awning rail for the slide topper. And it was drooling BEHIND that trim piece forward and sending water right into that window. This is why my hose tests could never find a leak when I tested that window… despite the fact that the leak remains. The water is coming from further back and being GUIDED to that window from that vinyl stripping along the roofline.

I swear… RVs can be a real pain sometimes. 😉 I love ‘em, but… come on.

So, my only option right there in the campsite was to TILT the RV such that the A/C drain water was not being funneled into my window. While this Florida campsite looked level…. it wasn’t. In fact, it was quite the feat to get my RV re-leveled to a point where the water wouldn’t hit the window. Even though I have hydraulic levelers, I had to pull out the old orange stackable leveling blocks to get the job done. Going old-school. 😉 I don’t like to “float” my tires off the ground with my levelers.

As soon as I tilted the RV, the problem with the window stopped. I’ll fix it when I’m back home, but I’m going to need to run some water tests further back to find the entry point. And maybe put in some drain holes in that piece of stripping. I’ll figure it out. But at least now I know the water source is NOT at the window itself.

While re-leveling the RV, I figured out the situation with my turning signals. Apparently, if my hazard light switch is pulled up on the steering column, my turning signals won’t work. Who knew?! 🤷‍♂️

I pushed the hazard switch back down and re-tested the turning signals and everything worked. Clearly, this is a problem with the multi-function switch on the steering column. And I do have a new one on hand, but that wouldn’t be fun to replace at all. For now, I’ll live with it. I don’t need hazards, but turning signals are a necessity.

Next was the RV steps…

I suspected I blew fuses. After all, why would the steps be getting NO power at all? All of a sudden, too.

After a bit of hunting and some Googling, I found the fuses were in the basement compartment just in front of my entry door. Big black box right next to the chassis battery disconnect. When I took the cover off, I found a bunch of fuses. And those fuses included a 5-amp fuse for the step motor switch and a 20-amp fuse for the step motor itself.

Now, I’m not an electrician. And I didn’t know if I needed to disconnect all the power in order to pull those fuses. So, just in case, I did so. I unplugged the RV from shore power, unplugged my converter (this will come back to haunt me), and flipped the switch on the chassis battery. Without any power at the board, I pulled the fuses. And…

Yep. They were blown.

Like a good RV owner, I carry a lot of spare parts. And that includes a selection of fuses just for times like this. So, I replaced both fuses. Turned on the chassis battery power again and…

Let there be light! The entry step light was back on again. And…. the steps popped out! Fixed. Simple problem.

Of course, knowing I just replaced the step motor and the fuses blew has me suspecting that the new knock-off motor might be blowing my fuses. So, I’ll find out when I pull out to go home. At least I know exactly how I handle it if the problem happens again.

Now, one last item of business. Or stupidity, as it were… 😉 

Even though it was probably unnecessary for me to unplug my converter before I pulled the fuses, I did. And problem is, I forgot to put it back. Which means my house battery was not being charged any longer.

So, at 2:30 in the morning… all hell broke loose.

The ACs turned off. The fridge stopped working and started beeping. And even the stupid carbon monoxide detector back near our bed started beeping.

Fine! I’m awake at 2:30 in the morning. What now?!?!

After I got my bearings, I started to think through what was happening.

Anything running purely on 120V power was still working. But, everything else wasn’t.

After a couple minutes of sleepy-eyed thinking, I remembered.

Damn. I forgot to plug in the converter. My battery was dying. Voltage was too low and all my 12V was failing.

What gave it away was the ACs. The thermostat was dead. That runs on 12V. Even though the ACs clearly use full shore power, they both shut off because the thermostat didn’t have juice from the 12V.

The fridge was flashing “LO DC”, too. And my voltage readout for the house battery was way too low.

So, I went outside. Plugged the converter back in and I could instantly hear both my air conditioners pop back on. When I turned the fridge back on, it stayed on. We were back in business.

Stupid mistake on my part.

But, this is also going to be my “final straw” to convert this rig over to Lithium batteries for the house. I converted my fridge over to 12V compressor a few years back, so that draws more power from the battery. It could only run my compressor for about 8 hours before dying. This is probably the second time I’ve had the fridge kill the battery. And lead-acid batteries don’t do very well when they’re over-drawn. Clearly, I shortened the life of this house battery.

Lithium batteries are just… better. They last longer. They maintain constant voltage for much longer whereas lead-acid batteries drop voltage much faster (which is what caused my systems to die so fast).

So, I’ll be replacing the house battery with lithium battery soon. That will also require a converter change to one that is compatible with such batteries. But, I know this will save me money and frustration in the long term.

So… that was how my family weekend trip with the RV started out!

RVs are a gift. But, they’re the gift that keeps on…. taking. 😉 

Love our RV. But, yeah… there’s just no choice but to deal with some issues sometimes.

And, as Captain Ron said… if it’s going to happen, it’s gonna happen “out there”. 🙂 

The only solution is to learn your RV. And learn how to be self-sufficient with it.

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