Brakes…gotta stop sometime!

I was getting the annoying ABS error lights on my 2000 Astro van AWD (pictured here behind the VW) for about the past year.  ABS errors can be pretty expensive to repair, and I didn’t have the money really to spend in expensive troubleshooting and repairs by the mechanic, so I set out to see how I could solve it on my own.20160416_191600

Researching on the internet, ABS errors are a common problem on General motors trucks, SUV’s and vans built around the turn of the century.  Their bright idea was to locate the ABS brake controller underneath these vehicles on a frame rail….where they are exposed to all sorts of whatever the vehicle is driven through.  A real problem on an AWD or 4WD vehicle, as they are frequently driven in snow, mud, sand, and other abnormal materials that end up all over the underside of the vehicle.  Couple this, with the fact that this brake module was built just as the electronics industry was moving to lead-free solder, and you have a recipe for failure!

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I connected my code scanner up to the van, and found that it was setting error 265, which is the classic symptom of a failed ABS controller.  So, the challenge began to get it out of there.  The ABS controller is underneath the van, sort of about where the red “AWD” logo beside “ASTRO” is in the left picture below.  Likewise, you can see how mud and grime from the wheel goes right up on it!The theory holds, that you can merely remove the controller from the top of the ABS pump, repair it, and return it to the pump.  The vehicle can even still be driven during the interim.  Now that doesn’t sound like too bad of a design, and it really isn’t.

Now, what works in theory, doesn’t really work in practice.  Remember what I said about AWD and 4WD vehicles being driven in mud, snow, and sand?  Well, this van has!  The T20 screws that held the ABS controller to the pump were rusted on there solid.  Any torque I applied to the screws promptly stripped them out….so, the entire ABS pump, with the controller had to come out….Again, I was dealing with rusted, corroded parts.   This time it was brake lines.  Thankfully, they came out without any issue, but removing the entire pump meant the entire brake system would need to be bled down of air once everything was reinstalled.

By the way, I found that brake fluid is a very good solvent for sharpie marker!  …so don’t use that to mark the lines

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So, now with the pump out, I began the chore of trying to remove the stripped out screws.

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SO there was lots of drilling and grinding the heads off with the dremel tool.

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and finally, after lots of work, was able to separate the two!

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Then the next task of getting into the controller….more drilling and grinding

then I had to break the silicone seal.

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Lots of work!  But finally got into it and found immeditely where the problem(s) were.  Right by my thumb there was a cold solder joint on one of the solenoids

The spots were re-soldered, along with many of the other terminals on the circuit board, and it was  reassembled.  You will need to put silicone sealant on the gap to fasten it down just like before, and it’s also a good idea to put some new thermal heatsink greas on those white patches on the circuit board.   You can purchase it at any computer shop, and Radio Shack (if you still have one in your area)…This time with stainless steel screws were used to fasten the controller to the pump, so if it needs to come apart again, I won’t need to take the pump off the van because hopefully, the screws won’t corrode or rust

 

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Before putting the ABS brake pump back in, I painted around it, and the frame rails to protect them against road salt and further rusting.  In this image, you can see the shelf on the side of the frame rail where the ABS pump goes back in

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Remember me  mentioning that brake fluid is an excellent solvent for sharpie marker ink?  well, I marked all the brake lines before pulling them off the controller, but the marks were now gone, so I ended up having to trace the brake lines through the van and finding out where they went.  There are 5 lines.  One to the back, one to each front wheel, and two from the master cylinder….They need to be fastened to the proper port on the ABS pump, or it will not work properly!

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This diagram should help if you end up in this situation:

brake line diagram

Now, with the lines properly connected to the correct ports,  the next task was to bleed down the brake system.  A P.I A. job.  Bleeding hydraulic systems is one of the most nerve wracking  parts of vehicle work.  This one didn’t go as planned because  rust strikes again.  I had two bleeder screws rust and break off.  In a rear wheel cylinder, and in a front caliper.  Instead of trying to drill out the screw, I just replaced both of these.  Thankfully on chevrolet vehicles, rear wheel cylinders are about $12, and front brake calipers about $20….that’s cheap enough not to bother with it!

With the wheel cylinder replaced, I could proceed with the bleeding process.  A big bottle of brake fluid is needed, and I have found a big syringe is the perfect tool to suck the fluid through the system

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The rear brake shoes looked good, so I just reassembled the brake without replacing the shoes. Drum brakes can be a pain in the butt to reassemble with all the little levers and springs inside.  The front pads however were looking a little worn, so they were replaced with the new caliper.    I got this caliper tool from Autozone that makes pushing the caliper piston back in a snap.  I only had to do one caliper, but I had the tool for doing the brakes on my wife’s car too.

With everything bled down, I then went back into the ABS computer and activated the ABS controller to work out any more air, I then went through the bleeding procedure again.  I cleared the ABS errors from the system and went for a test drive 🙂  So far, so good…after a week or so, the errors have not returned!  My wife and I drove downtown to do some bike riding in lots of stop & go traffic, and I broke in the new pads and didn’t get any more errors.

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There were some costs involved with this project, as you read, there were parts and materials involved:

New front brake pads $50

New front caliper $20

New rear wheel cylinder $12

Quart of brake fluid $6

While this was over $80 in parts, it was a significant savings.  Shops rebuild these brake controllers for $120, and sell new ones for $300 +  I had about 4 hours of labor in this project replacing the brake parts, so this could have easily been a $500-$800 project if I had a mechanic do it, plus I could see to it that it was done the way I wanted it done!

 

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New TDI sportwagen

 

sportwagen rear

I specifically ordered an Antarctic Blue Sport wagon with the rally fun pack and a CB radio

Those were the famous words of Clarke Griswold in the famous “National Lampoons Family Vacation” movie just before he ended up with the clunky Wagon Queen Family Truckster to take his family cross country to Wally world in.  Well, this Sportwagen isn’t Antarctic blue and it doesn’t have a CB radio, but it has a bluetooth interface for a cell phone.  Not sure about the Rally fun pack, but it does handle great!  …Well, VW didn’t even build Sportwagens in 1983, so that may be the reason why Mr. Griswold didn’t get what he ordered when he visited Lew Glutz motors.

My father however got one just like this in September. His is bright red, and he purchased it just before all the “diseslgate” mess of Volkswagen cheating on the emissions testing blew over.  In November, we traveled in an 850 mile trip to Fort Lauterdale for a cruise aboard the Regal Princess.  The car, stuff to the gills with people and luggage got over 40 miles to the gallon and was a real pleasure to drive on the open road.  With the way that car handled the trip, we decided that this model car would be a good one to add to our list of preferred vehicles to get.

Andrea and I purchased this Volkswagen TDI sportwagen this past March.  We went ahead and decided to get a 4-door car because getting children into the rear seat of a 2-door car, which her Toyota Yaris was, was a bit of a challenge.  With doors to the rear seats, the additional interior room, and the excellent fuel economy, this car is going to earn it’s keep as a great family car.   Add to that, the responsive handling, excellent seats, and of course, a good audio system, this is an incredibly good highway car that will make the miles go quickly.

My only negative on this car is the color.  It’s is what I call “road color”  In the image above, it’s parked on a bright orange parking space, but if you look just beyond that at the unpainted asphalt, you can see it’s the same color. Luckliy, Volkswagen has equipped the car with daytime running lights which helps it from being camouflaged. We may put a pinstripe on the side as well.  I also would have liked a navigation system in the stereo….

….But, beggars cannot be choosers.  We bought this car with 56,000 miles on the odometer, and a few thousand miles left of the manufacturer’s warranty 🙂  This car is in like new condition and was very well cared for, so the color is an extremely minor issue!

Here’s another picture with my in-laws Toyota Prius of the same color….two totally different fuel saving technology designs together, but with the same performance results.  We are headed down to Florida together soon, so will be seeing who gets the best mileage 😉

sportwagen with prius

 

 

 

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Big home AV brands…where are they now?

I take a fond liking to some of the big names people would commonly purchase on their products years ago.  I guess it’s part of my attraction to all things mid 20th century.  They also reflect back to a day when everything was built here in America.  These are some common name brands that our parents had in their homes on audiovisual electronics that you still see around, but don’t have any connection to their past.

In the past, there were hundreds of technology companies founded in America.  Today, very little of these exist today in their original form, but the brands are frequently still seen on store shelves on new products.  I have done some research into many of the common brands you remember that pop up on new products. This is good information that will also help if you like collecting old appliances and electronics.  You will have a good feel for what era products came from and when the brand fell out of greatness.   In a greater perspective, it is rather chilling to see how much we have lost here in the USA.   Many Asian manufactures now either own the rights, or license these familiar nameplates to sell their electronics to wary Americans at discount stores and other shops that used to be on high end items

 

RCA:  Radio Corporation of America

was started in 1919 at the end of World War I with government owned patents.  In 1929, RCA purchased the Victor talking Machine company and became RCA-Victor. The name seen on most of their products well into the 1960’s.  The Victor Talking machine Company is where the familiar logo of Nipper the dog listening to “His Master’s voice” in front the record player came from.  Nipper has been the mascot of RCA since then.

RCA became the largest electronics manufacturer in the United States building everything involving radio and televisions from the sets people had in their homes all the way to the broadcast equipment.  Not only did RCA build the equipment, but they operated it too.  RCA owned NBC networks, and even had their own record label.  RCA did not invent radio or television, but they made broadcasting a commercial viable business, and their radios and televisions were highly regarded up to 1986.

1986 was when General Electric bought RCA, and disassembled the company.  This was after loosing considerable money on the “Selectavision” video disc system. The record/ music production company was sold to BMG, which was then bought out by Sony entertainment, and the name is still used by them.  GE only kept the NBC network but that was just recently sold to Comcast.  The electronics division was bought by Thomson AG of France.  RCA and GE products continued to be manufactured at their current factories, but quality went downhill and the brands earned a poor reputation.  Likewise, they slowly closed factories as demand dwindled.  In 1998, they closed the Bloomingtion Indiana plant that had manufactured televisions since the beginning of the industry.  Thomson continued to manufacture broadcast equipment under the “Grass Valley” and “videotek” brands, and not the RCA brand.  General Electric held onto the trademark rights to the RCA nameplate and licensed it to Thomson.

Today: Thomson sold the consumer electronics business in 2004 to TCL corporation of China. In 2006, rights to the RCA nameplate was sold to Audiovox, a USA company.   Audiovox now uses the nameplate on parts and accessories manufactured by themselves, but also licenses the nameplate to just about anyone who wants to stick it on a product.  The RCA nameplate used to show up on products sold at Radio Shack stores, but has also been seen randomly at discount stores on low-end electronics, and accessories

My favorite RCA stuff: I tend to like many of their products made prior to 1986.  The newest “Colortrak” televisions made in the late 70′;s and early 80’s were their top of the line product.  Their “Dimensia” line during that same era was the integration of home audio and video products, and the beginning of home theater.  Their “VistaColor” televisions from the early 60’s were very well made televisions from the beginning of the color TV era.  They were a marque of the upper class during that era when color televisions were very expensive.  These sets are very well made and easy to work on.  RCA also made some very nice console stereos and HiFi sets during the 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s as well.  RCA invented the 45 RPM record in the early 50’s and their small tabletop record players are highly collectible.  I also like their plastic “all american five” vacuum tube radios.

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Westinghouse:

  This company was founded by George Westinghouse prior to the advent of electricity.  George Westinghouse first technology success was in 1872 with a fail-safe railway air brake system….something not even electrical in nature.  Each rail car brake could be applied simultaneously. This was a significant improvement in the safety of rail travel.   He founded the company ” Westinghouse Air Brake Company” with this invention.  Later, he teamed with Nickola Tesla who invented the alternating current electrical system that we currently use power distribution to this day.  The first success of this system was sending power from Niagara Falls to New York City.

Westinghouse Electric had a litany of technology breakthroughs under it’s belt.  For example, Westinghouse was a primary player in the development of nuclear power generation. Westinghouse also developed the first fully automatic elevator. Westinghouse electric also owned some radio broadcasting in the 1930’s, and also built gas turbine engines. The Westinghouse name showed up in homes mostly on large appliances, like refrigerators and washing machines, but was also found on small appliances like blenders and toasters too, and they also made electronics.

The beginning of the end of this company started in the late 70’s Westinghouse Electric sells it’s home appliance industry to White Consolidated Industries (IE the name White-Westinghouse)  Then, throughout the eighties and nineties, began selling off various divisions like their lighting, elevator, power distribution, etc.  It’s nuclear power division was sold to Toshiba.  Westinghouse acquired CBS in 1998, signifying it’s switch from a technology and industrial company to a media company.  The next year, the company was renamed Viacom.  CBS still owns the Westinghouse name, but does no manufacturing.

Today: CBS / Viacom licenses the Westinghouse name to different manufacturers,  Including Electrolux, where it shows up on appliances, Nordyne, which manufacturers HVAC equipment. Westinghouse Digital manufacturers LCD televisions is a Division of Golden Star electronics …otherwise known as LG electronics (South Korea).  The company’s division is stationed in California, but manufacturing is in China and other Asian countries.

My favorite Westinghouse stuff: Any of the major appliances made by Westinghouse prior to the “White Westinghouse” selloff are made particularly well and are rather collectible, like their “Laundromat” front loading washers from the 1950’s and later.  Small appliances with the Westinghouse name are about as common as GE small appliances and can frequently be found in thrift stores, garage and estate sales, and many other places.  Pre 1970’s era Westinghouse small appliances are very stylish and built exceptionally well.  They could be put into daily duty in your home.  Electronics like TV’s and radios with this brand are particularly rare, as they were not a big player in this business, so finding one is a really score.

ZENITH ROYAL 500H 500

Zenith

 Zenith was a well regarded electronics manufacturer throughout the 20th century.  The company began as a builder of amateur radio equipment in Chicago Illinois in 1918 with the name “Chicago Radio Labs”. The name was changed to Zenith Radio Corp in 1923, and it came from the owner’s amateur radio callsign,  “9ZN”  Zenith had many “firsts” in the radio business throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s including a radio that would run off of AC line power (previous radios were all battery powered)

Zenith was a much smaller company than the above businesses, but they did own several radio stations until the late 1970s.  They concentrated mainly on consumer electronics. Zenith invented the remote controlled television in the late 1950’s called the “space command” system.  Zenith was one of the first manufacturers to go to a fully solid-state chassis in the early 1970’s in their televisions. Zenith acquired Heath company in 1979, famous for the “Heathkit” product line, and also got into the computer business from them at that time, but sold this division in 1990 to stay afloat.  Zenith was a big player in HDTV development, and hoped to develop technology that would save the company.

Today:  Zenith toiled throughout the 1990’s continuing to build high quality, but expensive televisions in the USA, but was loosing money.  In 1996, LG electronics of Korea purchased 50% Zenith, and in 1999, filed for chaper 11 bankruptcy.  LG electronics purchased the remaining share of the company.  Any products seen today with the Zenith name is manufactured by LG.  Zenith also made products under the “Admiral” name, which is still used today.

Zenith stuff I like: I like just about all the stuff made by this company up until some of their lower quality sets of the 1990’s  Their “Trans Oceanic” shortwave radios work very well and perform great.  Likewise, these are highly collectible. Their “Allegro” home stereo and HiFi brand has been largely forgotten about until recently when records became popular again.  An old Allegro all-in-one stereo is an excellent alternative to the poor quality record players built today, and can be had used for under $50.  Vintage televisions and radios made by Zenith in the pre-transistor era are all made exceptionally well and are very stylish.

Magnavox

Magnavox was founded in 1917 as a speaker company.  They were the inventors of the moving-coil speaker that is the basic design that pretty much every audio speaker we know of today is based on. They also created the first electronic phongraph pickup in the same year.Magnavox speakers were frequently used in other brands of radios prior to World War II.  More recently  Magnavox invented the first home video game console, called the Odyssey in 1972.

In 1974, Magnavox was acquired by the dutch company Phillips, who also uses the Norelco name.  The merger of the two companies created an electronics juggernaut that also made semiconductors and sold products and components around the world.   Beyond this time, the Phillips-Magnavox name was used exclusively on most of their electronics products both sold and manufactured in the USA in the 1990s.  They are known for laserdisc technology, and partnered with Sony in developing the Compact disc audio format. In the 1980’s, they also acquired other common American nameplates, Sylvania, and Philco. At this time, they were headquartered in Knoxville Tennesse and manufactured in Greenville.   They manufactured televisions at this location until 2005.

Magnavox also had a big defense industry along with their consumer products.  This division did not merge with Phillips, and partnered with Rayethon.  The defense business was later bought out by Hughes Electronics in 1995.

Today:  Much of the Magnavox products you see on store shelves are manufactured by Funai of South Korea.  Philips however still owns the nameplate.  Philips branded products are also manufactured by Funai as well, with the Philips brand being used for higher end products.  Most of the manufacturing of these brands is performed by  TPV technology out of China.

Magnavox stuff I like:  Magnavox stereos and HiFi consoles were one of the better made ones in the late fifties and early sixties.  They featured Collaro turntables with a unique feature where they would tap the side of the record to sense it size.  You could stack records on the changer of different sizes and it would play them.  Magnavox televisions from the 50’s and 60’s are less common than their audio products.  Magnavox radios are also relatively rare, but Magnavox speakers can be found in many old radio sets

Sylvania

Sylvania begain in 1939 with the invention of the Fluorescent lamp.  The company was a big player in the manufacture of vacuum tubes and other electrical and electronic components that found their way into other branded products throughout the middle 20th century.  The Sylvania nameplate is also found on electrical distribution products  In 1959, they merged with General Telegraph Electronics, or GTE.  Sylvania has been a big innovator in lighting technology since their beginning.  With GTE, the company was also a big manufacturer of telecommunications products as well

Sylvania made picture tubes and other vacuum tubes in electronics, but also manufactured complete products as well.  They created the famous Sylvania “halo” television that had a ring of light around the picture that was supposed to soften the difference between the dark room and the bright picture on the screen.  Since Sylvania was acquired by Philips electronics in the middle 1980’s, this idea transferred to them and was used on their Philips branded flat-panel TV’s as the “ambilight” television that had a backlight installed behind it.

Today:   You may be familiar with the brand Osram-Sylvania.   Sylvania sold off their lighting division to the German company Osram in 1993. It operated out of Dandbridge Massachusetts and is one of the largest lighting companies in the world.  Sylvania branded electronics seen at discount stores however are not manufactured by this company, but hold the licensing to the nameplate.  The Sylvania  nameplate was used by Philips (see above) and is also built by Funai of South Korea, along with Sylvania’s other divisions, Emerson Electric

Kodak-Logo-Evolution

Kodak

I wanted to include Eastman Kodak, although not a TV or stereo manufacturer, is a well, known name in visual technology that has recently fallen on hard times.  Kodak was the undisputed king of chemical photography throughout the 20th century.  They started with the invention of their “disposble” camera, where you bought it, took pictures, then sent the camera to them to get the pictures printed.  They would send you the prints, and the camera back with a new roll of film in it.

Although Kodak cameras have largely been targeted to consumers, with their popular “instamatic” and “Brownie” cameras, They have always been a big part supplier of films and other photographic materials throughout the years. Kodak played a big part in the motion picture equipment business as well, both selling cameras, film, and even some projectors.   Kodak invented digital photograpy in the late 1990’s and held several patents in the field.  Although Kodak did manufacture digital cameras, they mismanaged and did not capitalize on the potential on this invention like they could have.  They went into bankruptcy at the beginning of 2012

Today:  Kodak still exists today, but is a tiny shade of it’s former self. The emerged from bankruptcy in late 2013.  The kodak name can be found on a handful of consumer products like digital inkjet printers, headphones, and batteries, but no cameras.   These are all made by Funai of South Korea.  Kodak still manufactures large document processors and printers, and also still manufactures motion picture films themselves today.

Cool Kodak Stuff:  Instamatic, and Brownie cameras are fun items to collect, only problem is that the film cannot be found in either 126 or 110 formats anymore, so unless you are serious about reloading cartridges by yourself, these are merely knickacks.   Super 8 movie cameras are one of the more fun items to play with however, and Kodak is still making super 8 movie film.  Super 8 movie format came out in 1965, along with several cameras by Kodak since then.

polaroid

Polaroid

Most people recognize the Polaroid name with cameras that would instantly develop a picture when taken. This technology however became irrelevant when digital cameras were created.  The company’s origins is in glasses and lenses that would polarize light, hence the name.

Polaroid Corporation, as was previously known went into bankruptcy in 2001, and the company was liquidated.The name, and the assets of the company tossed around for several years.  The production of instant film stopped in 2008

Today: The Polaroid names lands on many lower end smaller flat-panel televisions, digital cameras, and electronic photo frames sold at discount stores.  These products are made by various Asian manufacturers  A company called Summit Global Group currently holds the license to the name, and patents to the instant film. They actually plan to start manufacturing the instant film again.

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Fixing Western Electric phone with no tone

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Our Cruise Log: Boarding in Fort Lauterdale!

We woke up Sunday morning, weather was still cloudy in Fort Lauderdale, but warm…warm enough to put on T-shirts and shorts.  We ate breakfast at the hotel’s breakfast bar, and then the hotel’s courtesy van took us over to the ship.

At first, we didn’t notice the ship was in dock when we looked out the balcony, then we looked to the left and saw the HUGE Regal Princess at the dock that looked like a massive skyscraper built on land!

Our luggage was placed on one of these carts, and would be moved to our room by their staff.  We headed up and got into line for priority boarding where we took these photos.  When we stepped out the hotel van, we could see the top of the Regal Princess towering above the terminal building.  We got our passports out, checked in and got our cruise cards that became our ID, room key and purchasing card on the ship.  Check in was prompt and orderly.

We hat to wait in the terminal for a little while, not very long at all actually, I guess for the previous guests to leave the ship before we could get on.  I took these photos of the ship out the window of the terminal.  We were on the second floor of the terminal. This is getting exciting…this ship is HUGE!   We then entered through the covered plank on the top right picture to get on the boat.  We enter the boat at the Piazza, which looks like this:

 

Wow!  awesome looking ship inside!  We looked around the Piazza and at some of the shops around. We could not enter our rooms yet because they were still preparing them for us. Of course, Andrea wanted to check out the Library 🙂

 

We then headed up on deck to check it out.  A James Taylor concert was playing on the big 30 diagonal LED display

We checked out the Sea Walk…a walkway that goes out over the water…about 120 feet down!

Then headed over to the Horizon Buffet for some lunch

We were then able to check into our rooms.  They had put balloons up on my parents room for their 50h anniversary 🙂  They had a mini-suite, and we had a standard balcony room.  Our room was second from the end of the boat, where theirs was closer to the middle.  Here’s photos of our rooms.  Mom’s on the left, and ours on the right.

From the view from our balconies, you could see all the activity going on at the port…all the cages full of luggage, and a fuel truck with um…about enough fuel to keep us going for a few hours.  Looking to the left was a great view of ALlure of the SEas which was in dock at the same time.  It was also time for muster, where we had to go for our lifeboat drill.  We met in the lounge at the back of the boat, which is pictured here

Then it was time to head to sea! We had to wait a short moment for a fleet of Lasers having a regatta to get out of the channel before being able to head to sea, then The Regal Princess gently eased away from the dock using her thrusters and slowly began to move through the inlet out into the open waters.  She blaster her “Love Boat” horn on the way out to sea

With the Miami skyline fading into the distance, The Ft Lauterdale pilot disembarked, and we were on our way to the Bahamas.  They had a football game playing on the big TV.  One of the few non-superbowl football games I actually watched.

The seas were rather choppy that night with 6-8 foot swells as we headed west.  That didn’t stop these acrobats in the piazza from their amazing performances and balancing as the boat rolled and pitched.  It wasn’t a whole lot really, but enough to notice…These acts though are a challenge on stationary land though, not counting on a moving ship!  The rolling motion and the hum of the big diesel engines made for a relaxing night and we slept good.  The next morning, we would awaken in Princess Cays, Bahamas!

 

 

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Our Cruise log: The trip down

This is the first in the series of entries from our cruise trip this past fall with my parents.  We traveled to Fort Lauterdale by car from Richmond in my parents VW station wagon.  The trip down was largely uneventful, but we enjoyed the slowly warming temperatures as we traveled south. We stopped in South Carolina in a hotel about halfway down, and then picked up the trip again to Fort Lauterdale the next day.  Of course, we had to stop at the Florida visitor’s center for some fresh orange juice!

As we got into Fort Lauterdale, the weather got warmer, but grayer.  We arrived at the Embassy Suites there in the evening around 5 pm after traveling almost 850 miles and.  I think the hotel looked a bit like the Hollywood tower of terror ride at Disney.  From another angle, it even looked like the album cover to the Eagles “Hotel California”.  It was a very nice hotel, with a great view from the balcony of the cruise ship port.

After checking in, we ate dinner at Outback Steakhouse across the street,  and then Dad and I walked around the hotel and took some pictures of some of the beautiful flowers and vegetation growing around the hotel.  Later on, we then got our bags organized and ready to board the ship the next day!

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RV EPDM roof care

Many forget about the roof on their camping trailer or RV because it is out of sight, and thus, out of mind.  Care and maintenance to your RV’s EPDM rubber roof though is very important, as any leaks can quickly cause extensive damage, and in many cases, cause damage so bad that it’s unrepairable. RV’s are made of WOOD, not steel like automobiles and trucks are.   Many ignore the roof until it’s too late!

It is recommended to get up on the roof or your rig at least every few months and just inspect things.  make sure nothing has punched holes in the roof, or any other parts are broken, leaking or other issues have cropped up.

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If you see any cracked or damaged covers or other roof parts, be sure and replace them.  There are two easy way to tell if the covers are in need of replacing.  First, if they are discolored, like the dome is on the right.  Second, gently press on the pieces.  They should be slightly flexible and not make any splitting / cracking noises.  The plastic should be slightly flexible.  If not, it’s ready to be replaced.  In this instance. the hatch on the left was replaced recently.  The dome on the right has aged, but is in good enough condition that it doesn’t need replacement right now, but will be soon.

This is what it looks like on the top of my 12 year old Palominio camping trailer.  It’s pretty dirty and in need of some work.

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The first step is to clean it up.  It is recommended to clean the roof about once a year minimum, maybe more in dirtier conditions, like if the camper is parked underneath trees.  Trees drop all sorts of junk and there’s not enough sunlight to dry it out, so mildew can develop.

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The roof can be cleaned with laundry detergent and water.  Simple Green also works good, and is a cleaner I like to use for all sorts of stuff, but I chose to use this stuff that’s specifically made for the chore because of how dirty it was.  I am also preparing the roof for more work.  A scrub brush and a hose are needed to scrub the grime and crud off.  Don’t forget to do underneath of things on the roof, like the edges of the air conditioner where pine needles and tree debris can collect.

Do NOT use powerful cleaners that are strong acid or alkaline, like bleach, ammonia, or window cleaner.  Also, do not use abrasive cleaners like Comet, Ajax, or automatic dishwasher detergent.

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Here it is all cleaned up….it looks only a little bit better…there’s lots of mildew up there.  This roof needs more work, and for that reason, I’m going to get some more sealant up there.

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Before sealant though, we need to caulk!  See all these joints with this rubbery stuff all over them.  It’s all cracked.  It’s not leaking, but if not taken care of, this stuff will eventually harden up, break up and it will start leaking:

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Don’t use just any old caulk from the hardware store though…It has to be specifically made for rubber roofs.  This is the stuff I used.  It’s available at any RV shop.

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I just took the stuff and smeared it down with my fingers, making sure it covers all the old caulk and fills in the cracks and gaps.  Get each and every spot where there’s caulk.  It took only 1 tube of the stuff for my camper, but a larger one will most likely need 2.

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Next step was to paint the roof with the rubber roof sealant.  This is a latex rubber based paint that is very thick…much thicker than regular latex paint for your house.  It took only one quart of the stuff, but I did it in two coats.  Larger campers will need a gallon.

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Here’s the roof all finished up!  good to go for another 10 years or so…as long as it’s inspected and cleaned frequently.

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