Thursday, May 19, 2011

Success with the Lincoln

Last Thursday I was bemoaning the fact that Helen's Lincoln was ailing in the air conditioning department. This is quite the serious problem here in Florida where A/C is vital, and I'm not saying that frivolously. Many times over the years I have fixed A/C systems and although I do not have a license, I have acquired a good number of tools for diagnosing and fixing A/C problems.

The single most popular problems is always a lack of freon caused by some kind of leak, and I was sure that I would find the same thing here. I attached my Freon 134 gauges and found that the pressure was fine, no leaks. I was a bit elated because the problem is often a leak that requires the complete dismantling of the dashboard, a daunting and miserable job for a fatty like me. I started the engine and found that the A/C was functioning as far as the cooling system was concerned, but the climate control was going to the full hot condition. In the Lincoln, you set the temperature you want and the controller maintains that temperature by mixing hot and cold air to give just what you want. Full hot might be nice in Minnesota in the winter but certainly is not suitable for Florida at any time of the year. I checked on line and found that the problem might be beyond my ability. Realizing that the car was useless without the A/C, I took it to the local Ford dealer first thing Saturday morning. An hour and $75.00 later I had the diagnosis. The problem was definitely in the climate control unit. Ford no longer has such an item, but the last time it was available it was more than $700.00. OUCH!!!

The service rep said that they could PROBABLY get one from a scrap yard and I asked him how much a scrap unit might cost. Since they are no longer available from the factory and the yards know the situation, the price would still be over $700.00. OUCH, AGAIN!!! I hemmed and hawed, but I did realize that the Lincoln would not be usable until winter, so I told him to see what he could find. He said it would have to wait until Monday. OK.

At home, I was back on the computer, and found SEVERAL climate controls for the Lincoln. It also fits the Mercury Marquis and Ford Crown Victoria. There were several options,including sending mine away to be repaired for $75.00 plus shipping, bot ways, and just ordering one for $109.00 plus shipping with the unit guaranteed. So for $122.00 and some change the unit arrived here this afternoon and it actually took me less than 15 minutes to put it in. It works!!

The only thing is that it is not an EXACT replacement. Helen couldn't tell the difference until I pointed them out. It certainly looks good and it works very well. My friend Sam told me about playing with the air lines, but the people at Ford said that it was an electrical problem and I didn't think there were air lines connected to the unit. Sam was correct and it would have been possible to play with the air hoses to get the cold air for the summer. The two controls are below.

The picture above is the original control unit after I took it out.

This is the replacement. It fits and it works. What did I ever do before the internet?

The only question that I have now is that if I was able to get any number of these controllers for $109.00, why would the Ford service rep quote me a $700.00 cost for a salvaged replacement??? Do they really have to mark things up that much?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Busy again

Sometimes it seems like several days can go by with little to do except sit back and read. Wait a minute....that's a lie. I could spend a whole month cleaning out my garage, but that's another thing.

Anyway, readers of my blog know that I've been working on my motorhome, replacing the shocks. It became a little more complicated when at the end of the job, two of the levelers would not retract. I opened the valves manually and still they would not retract and I was worried that I would have to remove them and send them to HWH for work. Instead, I ordered a complete set of replacement springs and installed them a few days later. It was not too difficult a job. I was able to stretch the springs using my trusty bumper jack that I've had for years. Upside down pulling the spring down to where I could tap it into position. A little more than half an hour to do the eight springs. Then I got out a can of silicon spray and liberally coated the levelers and carefully wiped them all clean. When I set the control to return, all the levelers returned in a short time. The old springs were quite rusted and I noticed that the new ones are considerably heavier. Oh, getting the old ones off was a snap. I used my floor jack to hold the base of the leveler, then cut all the springs of with an air powered cutting wheel.

I've also been working on the trees in the front of our property. I think I explained before how the electric company will come out and trim the trees back so a tree service or owner can work on the trees without danger of hitting a power line. The crew was there one afternoon while I was trying to do something on the RV and they quit for the day leaving more than half the work to go. They didn't return the next day as promised or the day after. It turns out that they were part of the Progress Energy brigade heading to Alabama to help with the damage done by the tornadoes.

Above is the "before" picture. You can see how much of the trees have grown over the wires.

This is the "after " picture and I have a lot of room to work now.

There has been considerable work involved in cleaning up the debris. While much of the country is flooding, we are in a drought. Legally I can burn because there has not been a "Do Not Burn"issue from the state or local government. But the woods are SO dry that one ember could cause a major problem. I don't want my name in the paper as some old fool who insisted on burning during such a dry spell. Consequently, I'm taking the refuse out back where I'm running the small branches through my chipper and stacking the heavy wood up until I can resume burning. I'll have to post a picture of that someday.

Then, Wednesday I got an email from one of my contacts in Labrador Retriever Rescue of Florida. The were looking for someone to transport three labs from a shelter in Perry, Fl to Crystal River, a round trip of about 250 miles. We can't say no to a Lab in need. Thursday morning Helen headed off to her volunteer work at the hospital and I headed north to Perry. Just before I got there I bought a cup of coffee, but it was too hot to drink. That was a mistake.

This is Belle, a beautiful, energetic, and playful 11 month old sweetie.

The last half of the trip home she laid her paws and head on my lap. Like I said, a real sweetie.

This is another LRROF volunteer, Linda Mao, holding a four month old male puppy. He was another dear dog.

This black male was somewhat stressed by the relocation and travel.

He didn't complain or howl, but he wasn't happy

And this is Belle again, as we were saying good bye!

The story with the black male is that he has been in the shelter for several weeks and was supposed to be "put down" a couple of weeks ago. Someone working on behalf of the dogs persuaded the shelter to hold him a little longer. Then the male puppy came in and finally Belle came in on Wednesday. She was an owner-surrender while the males were strays.

At any rate, the animal shelter is not a great place to be with a lot of dogs and barking and such and the male had been in his cage for sometime. He did not want to come out. He did not want to come to the car, and he did not want to get inside. We lifted him in and he gave us no trouble.

Now Belle, on the other hand, jumped right in the back of the Jeep, over the fence that separates the front from the rear and put her foot in my coffee. I was a full cup, but I'm sure it cooled while we were getting the dogs ready. I had coffee all over the seats, splashed on the dashboard, my GPS, and even the windshield. I was a bit miffed for a second, but Belle was so excited about riding in the car that I couldn't be mad. Half way home she laid across the center console and put her paws in my lap, then put her head on her paws and she rode the last hour just like that.

When I turned the dogs over to Linda in Crystal River, Belle and the pup were eager to get moving. The black male would not leave the back of the Jeep. He couldn't be coaxed out or lured out with treats. We finally pulled the beds out and he had to move, but he wouldn't walk to Linda's car. With no other option, I tried to carry him, hoping that he wouldn't get aggressive and he didn't. In another cage in the back of Linda's big SUV, he finally wagged his tail. SUCCESS!!!

A year and a half ago, Helen and I went to the same shelter to pick up Molly and her puppies. They would have been euthanized the next day. The policy at that time was that it was animal CONTROL. They pick up an animal and if it's not claimed in time it's put down. One of the girls working there told me that except for groups like LRROF, no dogs are adopted. She was not even allowed to adopt a dog from there. Apparently there has been a change in management. The shelter is much cleaner than it was the last time. More important, adoption is now an active part of animal control. I noticed a white board on the wall listing the different animals and when they could be adopted. It was a very nice change.

I got back to the house around 2:30 PM. Helen was already home from the hospital. She asked if I had a good time and I said "yes" and told her about my adventure. "Good" she said, the air conditioning in the Lincoln doesn't work. So I'm off and running again!


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

New Koni Shocks

I spent much of the past few days installing a set of Koni shocks on our Winnebago Journey. The front shocks went on easily, although I had to us a cheater bar to break the bolts loose. The rear shocks were another situation altogether. I asked for suggestions on forums, and decided to remove the rear wheels to get at the shocks. The lug nuts are supposed to be torqued to 500 ft/lbs, but they were on MUCH tighter than that. I have a light 1/2 inch drive impact wrench that I use on the cars, but it wouldn't begin to help with the RV. Saturday I had to help my older son replace the springs on his garage door and since I was near to Orlando, I went to Harbor Freight to check out a 3/4 inch impact wrench they had on sale. It's supposed to be about 900 ft/lbs of torque and I hoped that would do the job.

Back home, the new impact wrench did nothing. I had to resort to my 3/4 inch breaker bar with a three foot cheater pipe AND another bar beyond that. It was a total of just under 8 feet and by putting all my weight at the end I was just barely able to move the lug nuts a little. When I got them a bit loose, the impact wrench finished the job.

This is my "breaker bar"

The Craftsman 3/4 drive breaker is at the right, next is the pipe, and then the steel rod.

There are 10 nuts on each wheel and I got all the ones on the rear right and six on the rear left before the socket split. I was actually amazed that the breaker bar and socket lasted this far. The Craftsman is a quality product, but the 1 and 5/16 socket came from a 3/4 inch socket set that I bought at one of those flea market tool stores. I paid $49.00 for the whole set of sockets, breaker, ratchet, slide bar, and extensions. Made in China, but I sure got a lot of use out of them. However, without a socket I was out of business. Monday morning I checked every place local, but there was no socket of that size to be had. Even at Sears, an impact socket of that size had to be ordered. Phooey!!!

I checked the internet and found the item at for $11.99 with a lifetime guarantee. At Sears it was $49.99 plus tax. From Amazon it was $20.99 with overnight shipping and I had it early Tuesday afternoon. Once the tires are off, the actual shock replacement takes about 3 minutes using my new impact wrench. I think all men like tools and I perhaps more than most.

A second benefit to doing the job this way is that I was finally able to read the date codes on all the tires and found them to be much newer that I had suspected. The rear tires were made just a couple of months before I bought the Journey and I can't imagine why someone would replace tires on an RV he was trading in. The front tires are a few months older, but I still have two or three years before new tires are needed.

Many times on the RV forums it has been asked if any of us could change the tires on our coach if we had to. I changed the tires on my Southwind (19.5 inch wheels) and I changed the tires on my Safari (22.5 inch wheels). I have always believed that I could do the job on the road IF I ABSOLUTELY HAD TO! Many have commented that the weight of such a heavy tire and wheel combination would be too heavy to lift. That is true! Anyone who tries to lift one of those suckers is a fool. My biggest problem was breaking the bolts loose and I ended up using a very long cheater. I could and I have used a jack to pry up on the end of the breaker bar. With the bolts removed, I use a bar to "walk" the tire back into position and lift it back in place with the pry bar.

Before I started on the shocks, I made sure that I would still be alive if a hydraulic line failed. Levelers make it easy, but they are not safe by themselves.

Here I'm putting the inner tire on by "walking" it back. I never lifted the wheel, so my back is still OK.

Getting closer, so I'm using a bar to pry the tire into position. Part of the trick is that you don't want the tire to be way off the ground. All you need is a little space to work with.

Here the inside tire is back in place. The outside tire will go on the same way. As soon as there is enough of one bolt to put a nut on, I do that to ensure that it doesn't come off. Then you just push until you can get another nut in place and tighten to bring the wheels into place. Add the rest of the nuts and tighten in a proscribed pattern.

This is my torque wrench. When I place this on the wheel nut, my weight on the blue stripe gives 500 ft/lbs. I did the math and at my weight the blue stripe is 2 feet 2 inches from the axis of the bolt. I could also slide the pipe out and let my wife stand on the line, but I can't tell you how far because then you could figure her weight and I'd be in the dog house.

Now I have to admit that I have a road service and used it many times in the past when I had Michelin tires. I do not plan on doing this myself, ever again. is a comfort for me to know that if I'm on one of those long stretches of the Alaska Highway with no cell and no other service............I COULD do it myself. Perhaps a much younger man might see the plight of this old codger and choose to help out.

At the end of this job, two of the levelers refused to return. They are 10 years old and the springs are pretty rusty, so new springs are on order. Another job for next week.

Work safe and live longer.