Archive for October, 2010

They Work Better When…

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Hi, again. This time around we’re going to share what happens when the simple things are overlooked in your Airstream.

First up, I had an older couple drop off their new-to-them B Van, with a note on the work order “Check Appliances”. There was also a note to check the dump valves. “See why water comes out when valve is opened”.  Okay, the latter is a no-brainer. That’s what it’s supposed to do. When you open the dump valve, the contents are supposed to drain. Maybe they were talking about something else. Nope. So, that was an easy fix. I then checked the appliances, they all worked as intended. I did have to turn on the LP tank, though.  When the customers came to pick up their van, they asked me what I found wrong with the appliances. “Nothing”, I replied. “Everything works fine”.  “But we’ve never been able to get anything to work,” the lady customer objected. Her husband stood next to her, nodding his head. “The fridge, stove, water heater, furnace, nothing works”.

Hmm. “Did you turn on the LP tank so they could get gas?” I asked. Long pause. Wife looks at husband. Husband looks at ground, sky, trees, the side of the van, anywhere but at the wife. “Okay, I’ll take that as a “No”. They work better when you have the gas turned on so they can run.”


I don’t know if I should have told them they will also have to put LP in the tank from time to time, but they, the husband in particular, were embarrassed enough. Which brings me to my next story…

An Airstream came in with the LP appliances not working. They had worked fine the last time out, but now none of them would light. I checked the stove, and sure enough, there was no LP coming out when I turned it on.  Hmmm. I went out front of the trailer, and rapped sharply on the tanks. They both clanged hollowly. “Sir, I think I found your problem. These things work better when you keep LP in the tanks.” He mumbled something sheepishly, and I sent him and his trailer around back for Pop to fill the tanks.

Last, I had a customer in a brand-new Airstream come in with an electrical problem. The converter wasn’t charging the batteries, and the air conditioner wouldn’t work. I pulled the trailer in, rummaged around, and found the shore power cord. I plugged it in, checked the voltage to the batteries (13.5), and switched on the a/c. I was sitting in the dinette, enjoying a cold soda, when the customer came out to check on my progress. “How did you get it all working?” he asked. “I didn’t find anything wrong with it”. I replied. He got kind of testy with me, letting me know that his air hadn’t worked all weekend, he’d roasted in the trailer, and his batteries were almost dead from them not charging. He said he wasn’t going to take the trailer until I found what was wrong with it. He turned and walked around the back of the trailer, tripping over the shore power cord. “What the %$^&*&^ is this?” he asked.  “Umm, shore power cord, you plug it in to run the a/c and charge the batteries. They work better when it’s plugged in.”   I actually saw the light bulb flicker on. “Uhh, okay. I’ll take my trailer now. Thanks for pointing that out to me”….

And so it goes…


Electrical Wizards

Monday, October 11th, 2010

A while back,  a regular customer brought his Airstream into the shop for us to look at his A/V hookup. He said his television would work with the antenna, but not with campground cable or even his DVD player. A quick look showed his problem to be that he had run his television’s coax cable direct to the antenna lead, bypassing everything else, even the RCA plugs for the DVD player. A few minutes under the cabinets straightened out both him and his wiring.

Another customer came in with nothing working in the entertainment department. That was a simple matter also, he had installed a power strip with a surge suppressor.  This would have been a good thing, and a wise investment, had he not plugged the power lead for the suppressor back into itself, instead of the wall outlet.

Yet another customer came in with everything working, but no pictures or sound coming out of anything. This one took about an hour to figure out and rectify. He had unplugged the RCA connectors from the stereo in an attempt to remove the subwoofer from the system, gotten confused about what wire went where, and ended up unplugging  everything, and plugging it all back in at random.

Then there was the Airstream that came in with the trailer lights doing all sorts of strange things. When you turned on the left turn signal, the brakes would lock. Put the truck in reverse, and the headlights would come on. It turned out the customer had replaced the 7 pin connector, and had hooked up the wires from the umbilical cable in the wrong spots. Then he rewired the plug on the tow vehicle in a vain attempt to correct the problem.

The “winner” of this series of stunts was the guy that somehow  managed to wire his converter to the brake magnets. Everything was fine until he hooked up to campground electric. At some point over the weekend, he fried the magnets, and had to drive to the shop with no trailer brakes.

And it seems RV owners are not the only ones that do things that could only charitably called  “inept”. There is an auto garage next door to our shop. Two of the guys that work there aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed. One day I was outside working on a trailer when I heard (and saw) the following:

Guy #1 carries a battery over to a car, where he is joined by guy #2.  Guy #2 pops the hood, and guy #1 begins removing the old battery from the car. At this point I go back to what I was doing, and pay little attention to what’s happening “through the fence”.  A few minutes later, I hear guy #1 call “Okay, crank it up!” followed by the sound of the car’s starter engaging. I then hear guy #1 yell “Oh, (expletive)!!!”  My head snaps around in time to see the car go sailing down the driveway at high speed, with guy #1 hanging on the front fender, and guy #2 in hot pursuit. All three of them (car and the two hapless mechanics) are heading for the busy street at the end of the driveway, and I shut my eyes, knowing what is about to happen, and not wanting to watch.  Guy #1 saved his own bacon by grabbing all the spark plug wires and yanking them out of where they were supposed to go while he hung on the side of the car, which stopped with a wheeze, with him still hanging on the fender, about five feet from the street.

Whatever else can be said about the place I work, “dull” it is not.

Sharp as a Knife.

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Hello, Again, Lug here. This time around, I’m going to tell you about some pets and their owners, as relates to RVing and Airstreams.

Some people love their pets so much, they can’t bear to leave them home to be cared for by friends or family members when they travel, and take them along for the journey. Doing this takes some forethought and preparation, as well as a pet that travels well. Most of the time, the pet is a dog or cat, though sometimes I’ve seen birds as traveling companions. Fish generally don’t travel well, unless they are kept in the freezer. If you insist on traveling with fish, I recommend a good lemon pepper seasoning… But I digress.

My examples today are a nice couple and their cat. Their cat generally travels with them in their tow vehicle, and does well there. It does not do so well in the trailer when moving. I was exposed to this inadvertently, when the couple brought their trailer in for emergency plumbing repairs in the middle of their vacation. The cat that day had insisted on remaining in the trailer when it was time to go, and nothing the couple did could  get it out of the little hole it had barricaded itself in. The couple, of course, forgot to tell me there may be one very upset cat in the trailer.  I found Fluffy when I crawled into the kitchen cabinetry to get at the leaking pipe, and accidentally shoved my hand into Fluffy’s face. I was suddenly inflicted with 12 pounds or so of extremely honked-off feline, complete with teeth and claws. I’m not sure which one of us was more surprised, but I know which one of us got the worst end of the deal. By the time I managed to get out from under the cabinet, I had been clawed, bitten, scratched, and had also konked myself on the head with the underside of the kitchen sink. I managed to stumble out the door of the trailer, feeling like I’d been attacked by a rabid weedeater.

Rusty, the Service Manager, had heard the commotion, and came running out of his office. He took one look at me, and expressed his sympathy for my plight by asking “Lug, how many times have I told you not to juggle chain saws?” The couple about this time had suddenly remembered their errant pet, and went rushing into their trailer to make sure Fluffy had not been injured by his ordeal while I stood slumped against the side of their trailer, quietly bleeding. By the time they had corralled Fluffy, Rusty had gotten Buck, and they had managed to stem the flow of the worst of my wounds, and found a bag of ice for the rapidly-swelling knot on my head. They had also calmed me down somewhat, though I still wanted to declaw Fluffy with a pair of pliers. I was also thinking about how nice it would have been if I had called in sick that day.

Another tech made the plumbing repair, and the couple went on their merry way with Fluffy, after we verified he was current on all his shots. I have since taken to asking customers, “Do you have any pets of any kind in your RV?” before I open the door. It would also be a good idea if any of you that are pet owners volunteered that information so the guy working on your Airstream doesn’t get the surprise of his life.

About the Author

Lug Wrench is a long-time mechanic, multiple Airstream owner, and dyed-in-the-wool pragmatist. All tales guaranteed 100% true, although names and certain details may be altered to protect the guilty.