Sunday, July 10, 2016

Now I'm Chillin' With Gas

I've got a 26 year old 5th wheel trailer. I've had it for 3 years now and there are many things that I have needed to maintain or repair on it. We bought it cheap, so we thought we knew what we were getting ourselves into.

The fridge has been my biggest challenge since day one. When we first bought the trailer we took it straight to an RV dealer because we wanted it checked out for safety and to make sure that key systems were working. They said the fridge was totally dead and they just happened to have almost the same model for sale used ($$$). Scared by the price we just took it back home and packed it full of blocks of ice and used it like an ice chest on our first few trips that summer.

The second year I started troubleshooting and right away discovered that almost every wire in the back was plugged into the wrong place, I found a service manual online and started putting wires back into the right places, replacing fuses, and then eventually two circuit boards I found online until I got the electric side working. After that we could camp anywhere that we could plug in, that felt like such an upgrade from the ice blocks.

This year I wanted to see if I could get the gas side of the fridge working and totally expected that I might have to go searching for another part somewhere online. Today I started troubleshooting and vowed that I would start at the beginning, go slow, and troubleshoot each part. Well 3-4 steps into the process I found a problem and spent a few minutes trying different things until BAM it started working. Now I have a dual mode fridge again. So damn pleased with myself :)

Now going back to the beginning of the story about the RV dealer, the eager offer of another overpriced used fridge, and the jumbling of ALL the wires in the back. Well guess what was keeping the gas side of the fridge from working? Would you believe two wires on the gas valve were reversed? Propane was getting to the valve, but the valve was electronically closed because the wires were reversed. No marking on the wires indicated which contact was correct so I had missed this during my initial rewiring session of a few years ago. Come on, it's VERY FISHY when every single wire on the back of this fridge has been in the wrong place since that visit to the RV place.

To be fair, I did need to replace two cracked and broken circuit boards. And I had no prior experience in servicing a fridge (let alone a gas/electric one). But with a service manual, a little help from a different RV service tech, the internet, and long winters to think about my next move before the next RV season comes around (ha ha).

Well I think I'm gonna go camping in a week or two :) 
And this time we are going off the grid, solar for the lights and propane for the fridge.

Friday, July 08, 2016

UPDATE #1 - 'Poor Hams' Wooden Antenna Mast

My little video from 4 years ago showing the wooden antenna tilt-over mast that I built for $200 is nearing the 10,000 views mark on YouTube. Who would have known that it would have grabbed that much interest.

Well it still standing strong with no signs of wear and tear. Currently it's holding up one end of a an 80m OCF Dipole antenna. Prior to that it was one corner of an 80m Horizontal Loop.

If I could 'upgrade' my design (pdf link below) I may have spent a few bucks more on pressure treated lumber, and I might have shortened or reinforced the very top 6' which is just a single 2x4. Over time that's the only part of the mast that has twisted and bent just a few degrees off straight.

PDF Drawing and Materials List

Watch the video and help me reach 10,000 views :)

Latest Shack Upgrade - Audio Mixer

Just in time for Field Day 2016 I finally got my little mixer installed so I could bring all of the audio inputs from multiple radios into a single source.

The Behringer 1002FX is a tiny 10 line mixer with a mix of input options in both stereo and mono. Currently I'm mixing the outputs from about 5-6 radios into this and then pushing one output to my shack speakers. It gives me a little EQ adjust-ability on each line and a master output level. I probably won't use the built-in effects processor, but it will be nice to have extra outputs to secondary devices like headphones and maybe a digital recorder.

The photo below is dark but I also crafted a wooden stand that lifted the rear of the mixer about 4-5 inches off the desk and provided a much better viewing angle of the dials and controls. Some quick matte black paint and it looks like they belong together.