Sunday, September 14, 2014

Giving the truck a little bit of a lift

I would like to think that it was something that I did to get a truck and trailer combination that are so well matched for each other, but with the way things came together, I don't think that I can take all of the credit. Never the less, we enjoy having a truck that can pull our trailer so easily, and that the trailer falls into the load and towing capacities of the truck. I haven't been concerned or had to deal with headlights pointing up or the back end sagging too much. But there is always room to make things better, which is why we decided to add air bags to the rear suspension to help improve the ride and comfort while towing.

We purchased the Load Lifter 5000 air bags (Amazon link) from Air Lift, getting the specific model for the 2012 Ford F 350. I believe the air bags themselves are the same, but the mounting hardware is vehicle specific, so if purchasing, please make sure you have the correct kit.
All of the parts laid out, coffee ready, and YouTube videos at the ready.
I read the reviews on Amazon and saw that people used YouTube videos to help with the install, which helped relieve any anxiety about installation difficulty. I even got more excited when the box that the parts came in advertised the companies own YouTube channel. I quickly went there to prepare for the install, only to find out that it is a lot of promotional videos with two videos that were not helpful for me, since the trucks that were shown were not my make or model. Thankfully, a few other searches around YouTube gave me a video of a 2013 F 350. The only difference that I had to work around was that I have the factory installed fifth wheel/gooseneck hitch and they had an aftermarket gooseneck. Click here to watch the video.

There are few items I would like to add after watching their video and doing the install myself. If you have access to a vehicle lift, use it. Walking underneath of a vehicle is so much easier than having to crawl under it. If you don't have a lift to use, take off the spare tire, it will create some much needed room. I was able to fully sit up under my truck with the tire off.

Have a few jacks handy. I used one to hold up the axle so I could get the wheel out of the way, and I used the other on the frame to lift it up and give myself some room to put the airbag in place.

Before you start the installation, make sure that you have all of the parts and pieces needed. Air Lift gives you everything you need for a straight install if your truck is factory stock, but if you have added any towing hitches or plates, you will need different hardware depending on what you have installed and some drill bits to make new holes. Speaking of holes...

Even with my factory truck that was supposed to be a straight forward install, the two main holes through the frame for the big 1/2" bolts was partially blocked by the hitch plate, requiring me to make some wiggle room.
This is where I am supposed to be able to fit a 1/2" bolt. Yeah right.

I notched the hitch plate just enough to get the bolt to slide through. Don't forget to repaint the metal after drilling/grinding.
The only other issue I ran into with the install was with some long carriage bolts running close to some lines. I didn't have enough slack to do any rerouting of the lines, so I wrapped the bolts with some rubber splicing tape that I had in my electrical arsenal. This stuff is thick and made to take some high temperatures, so I think it will hold up just fine.
I did this to both sides of the axle. 
I routed the air lines to the back by the license plate. The plastic part of the bumper made for an easy install point. I kept them separate instead of running both lines to a common fill point with the thought of one bag transferring extra pressure to the other in the instance of a load shift/unbalanced load, and didn't want the problem to be exaggerated by the change in pressure.

After finishing the install, I filled both bags to check for leaks and then went for a test drive with a few heavy tool boxes in the back. I could tell an immediate difference in the way the truck handled over bumps and the way that it absorbed the weight. I am excited to pull the house and see how much better the ride will feel.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Our Home Gets A Paint Job!

We have been wanting to paint the inside of our house ever since we bought it, but due to various time and location constraints, it has been that project that has had to be constantly put on the back burner. We have had our colors picked out for over a year and are still carrying around the paint chips. Once we decided to make our stay in Las Vegas longer, I realized that this was the time to get it done. We didn't have any pressing needs for a few days, the hardware store was close by, and the dry desert air would speed along the process. So, off I went to the store to get the supplies, and for around $80 we painted our house. We used Olympic no VOC/low odor primer + paint from Lowes. The paint went on very well, and in most spots it only took 2 coats to completely cover the walls. We got one quart of each color, and still have a little left over in each can.
The colors we used. From L to R: Master bedroom, kitchen, living room slide, kids room, and bathrooms.
Before and after of kids room. We went with a neutral color so that it won't clash with the kids' choices for their beds.

Before and after of the bedroom.
Before and after of the living room slide.
After of the kitchen area.
For those looking for some painting tips:

I put on the first coat a little light to get a base, and then liberally applied the second coat, with just a few touch ups to cover light areas.

Get a 4" roller. There may not be a lot large wall areas, but rolling goes so much faster and a more even coat than a brush.

Don't skimp on the painters tape, especially if you are a perfectionist and like clean even lines. I don't use a lot of tape, and went through 2 rolls just to mask off the areas where I had to work the brush down into crevasses and corners.

If you can paint before you move in, make it a priority. I spent half of my time just moving stuff out of the way.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Greasing the trailer wheels

One thing that we are very conscious about maintaining is our trailer tires and wheels. Explanations can be found here and here. Recently I realized that I had not checked the condition of our trailer wheel grease and brakes. I did a quick check to see the condition of these items, and was happy to find out that the brakes are still in great condition, but the wheel hubs did need new grease applied to them. I did some quick research on how to DIY, and did not find much help. I quickly learned and figured out what I needed to do, and documented the process to hopefully be an aid to others (videos at end of post).

Starting off, I gathered the appropriate tools and material. I needed to purchase a grease gun and the grease itself. I didn't go with the cheapest grease gun, but still had some issues with it maintaining its prime, so I wonder if I should have gone with a more expensive model. The store did not have enough grease in the 14oz tubes that would fit straight into the grease gun, so I had to purchase bulk cans instead. I feel that the tubes would have been an easier way to go. Everything else I had on hand.

As you can see in the photo, I have gathered:

Grease gun
Grease (1 can or tube per wheel, plus extra)
Nitrile gloves
Rubber mallet
Flathead screwdriver
Paper towels
Putty knife
Trash bucket
Bottle jack
Impact to remove tires

Begin by securing the area. Chock opposite tires to prevent the trailer from moving while working on it. Jack up the wheel to be worked on and remove the tire.

The little rubber cap in the middle has been worn out on my tires, so I went to a local trailer supply store and purchased some replacements. I removed that part and discarded, then used the mallet and screwdriver to remove the metal dust cap. It may take a few hits to get it loose. It comes right off once it is loosened.

At this point, clean off the old grease from the quick lube port on the end of the hub, attach the filled and primed grease gun, and start pumping the new grease into the hub. It may take a few minutes to really get the grease moving, but once the new grease starts to push out the old grease, things move along quickly. You will need to stop every now and then to scrape off the old grease into a container. Slowly, the grease will change color from a dull gray to a purplish red. At this point, most of the old grease has been pushed out, and it is up to you how much more you want to pump through the hub.
Once any excess grease has been scraped/wiped away, replace the metal and rubber dust caps and reattach the tire. Move on to the next wheel.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Replacing the Power Converter

For awhile now, our power converter, the device that is responsible for taking 120 volt AC and converting it to 12 volt DC, has been dying. It's been a slow, painful, agonizing death, complete with buzzing, humming, irregular output, and periods of not functioning at all. So I ordered a replacement for it, and it finally got to us.

As a side note, do not have any imperative equipment fail or need replacement around the holiday times. It will take twice as long for the replacement to get to you than it normally would, and you will be anxious and frustrated beyond belief.

The shiny new converter!
I replaced a WFCO 65 amp converter with a Progressive Dynamics (PD9270V) 70 Amp Power Converter . I originally looked at a direct replacement, but the WFCO had some bad reviews, and I didn't want to have to deal with the same issues in a year or two. The Progressive Dynamics model comes with the company's Charge Wizard circuiting, which is a multi mode operation allowing for normal operation/charging, a quick charge mode, a storage mode, and a desulfation mode. The unit is designed to automatically select the mode needed, but also comes with a remote pendant to allow manual selection.

Installation was pretty easy. I had already done the leg work of locating the old converter, which was pretty easy with the noise that it was making. Access was behind a panel in my basement, which gave ample work space.

The panel is easily removed with four screws to reveal...

...the power converter (and some plumbing. Not well thought out if you ask me).
Always remember to shut off all electricity before working on any appliance. In this case it meant shutting off the breaker in the 120 volt panel as well as disconnecting the battery. Safety first.

Removal and installation was a breeze. Remove two screws holding down the existing converter, unhook the positive and negative wires from the DC output side, and remove the grounding/bonding wire from the housing. The converter is connected to the 120 volt paned via a standard Edison plug. This was the hardest part of the process, since I had to reach my hand into the dark hole to feel where it went. Reverse the process for installation.
The new converter in place.
As I mentioned, the converter came with a remote pendant. We have a closet directly above the power center, providing a convenient place for installation.
Glad I can close the door, that green light is bright!

I'm very excited to have a consistent 13.5 volts, even with all of the 12 volt lighting and systems in use. All in all, the whole job took about 20 minutes.