Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Working on Another Project


We have a Craftsman Lawn Tractor that we got under unusual circumstances 21 years ago. This may bore some of you, but I have to give you some of the background. In the mid 80s, I had a house built for my mother’s older sister, Aunt Louise. Actually, calling her “Aunt Louise” is not doing her justice. For all her life she was known as Wee Wee because when she was a toddler her siblings couldn’t say “Louise”. Years ago she worked for Raytheon in Quincy, Mass, and I would frequently run across one of her co-workers in my business. When I’d say that my Aunt Louise Coletti also worked there, they would respond that they did not know her. Then I’d mention Wee Wee and they would grin because EVERYONE at that plant knew my Aunt. She could also claim that she was called Wee because she was so short, but as short as she was, she was a BIG woman.

So, she had the new house and we had the yard sodded with a hardy grass. My Aunt was never known for her domestic prowess as a cleaner or doing maintenance of any kind. She was also loath to have to hire anyone to do the job for her, calling me if anything needed to be done, a leak in the toilet or burned out bulb. I never minded. I moved in with my Aunt right after high school as my mother and I could never get along. The fact is that Aunt Wee was a larger part of my life than my mother and father together.

I was working at the nuclear plant, often putting in 12 hour days and 7 day weeks, so I couldn’t get to her yard as often as I should have. The grass in this 50 foot by 75 foot plot really bothered her, so she went down to Sears and bought the cheapest riding lawn mower they had. Then she called me because she couldn’t run it. As I mentioned earlier, she was a BIG woman. When she sat on the seat, she couldn’t reach the ignition. If she got in a position where she could reach the ignition, her foot couldn’t reach the brake pedal that had to be depressed to start the mower. Disgusted, she gave the mower to me. I continued to do her lawn or a paid a guy to do it. It would not have killed her to pay the $10.00, but……..

So, the cheap riding lawn mower came to my house where we had a large yard and were able to us the riding mower. Coincidently, the battery in Helen’s car died at about the same time and I took it to Sears to get  a new one. Having to wait awhile, I was looking at the riding mowers. There was the model Aunt bought at one end, and at the other end was the one I would have preferred.

A salesman approached me about my interest in the mower and I told him the story of getting the cheap model from my Aunt, though I did like the one on the other end. I mentioned that when the mower was delivered, she couldn’t operate it. The salesman exclaimed “I remember her, and I tried to get her to try it, but she refused, she just wanted it delivered ASAP.” Then he thought for a moment and asked if I would be interested in the best model if he could get me a complete refund on the other. “Sure”, I said. He said he would look into it and call me later. Soon after I got home he called and we made arrangements for Sears to deliver the new one and take the old one back. That was 21 years ago.

It has been running very well until yesterday, when it wouldn’t move because a belt had slipped off. I put the belt back in place and it ran again for a few minutes and failed again. I removed the mower deck and raised the chassis up so I could see underneath. There were only a few reasons why the belt would keep falling off. I took the belt off all the pulleys and tried to turn them by hand. Aha!!! One of the pulleys was seized. The friction of the belt melted part of the pulley once the bearing froze.

A quick trip to “Easy Wheels” a major mower and chainsaw dealer in our county and I soon had an exact replacement. An hour later the mower was back to running like new.

Last year, my weed-eater/brush whacker/tree pruner died. I got the part to fix it, but I never was able to get it working again. Since I had all the attachments for the old unit, particularly the power branch pruner, I decided to buy another. The last one was purchased at Wal-Mart and that’s where I went. They no longer carry the brand I had, but had switched over to Poulan. Ugh!! Then I noticed that the Poulan model was “modular” and had “Universal fit” attachments. Plus, it was much cheaper than the brand I had. I bought it with every intention of returning it if my attachments didn’t fit. It was a perfect match. Now I have a riding lawn tractor, a weed whacker/etc. Now that I’ve had a respite from the motorhome, I can work on the motorhome awning.

Tropical Storm Isaac was a “no show” in Citrus County. It’s August, so we have the thunder storms every day, some time several storms in one day, but no winds or real rain from Isaac.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer in Florida

Of course it’s summer in Florida and some may think that mid August would be the hottest time of all, but that is not so. July is actually hotter because August has a lot of rain activity that tends to keep the temperature down. Unfortunately, although the temperature is lower, the heat index is MUCH higher because of the extreme humidity. It’s humidity you can FEEL! It’s humidity you can SEE, or prevents you from seeing. Each time I leave a building or my car, my eyeglasses fog up immediately and stay that way until I return to an air conditioned space for a while.

It’s also obviously extremely humid when  the thermo pane windows in our home fog up to a point where you cannot see out. even parts of the house where there is no rain, there is often a puddle of condensate under the sliding glass doors. Interestingly, Guanajuato, Mexico is now 63 degrees and FEELS like 63 degrees. Inverness is 88 degrees and feels like 96. O’Fallon, Missouri is 77 and feels like 79. We went to Mexico last winter to flee from the cold winters we have had in our part of Florida the last several years. Perhaps it’s time to spend the winters AND summers in Mexico and save Florida for the spring and Fall. Hmmm.      Just thinking…….

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Taking Some Time Off


I have put in a couple of very busy weeks working on the motorhome and other things, and I still have a lot of work ahead of me. However, enough is enough for now and I’m taking at least a few days off to relax. The new awning doesn’t have to be installed until October, so that can wait. Our riding lawn mower need some work, but that can also wait. Actually, we have a self-propelled walk behind mower that Helen actually prefers as she likes the exercise. I prefer the riding mower and it’s large swath because I don’t like mowing and I want to get it done ASAP. There are a few other jobs around the house that can also wait. I have a bunch of books I got at the library and it’s time to kick back and relax. Tomorrow, Helen and I are going out to lunch and then to a movie. We’ve earned it.


This is a picture of the part of the muffler hanger that broke. You can see how the top part was held by six rivets, but the bottom only by three. You can also see how close to the bottom the three rivets were. The replacement I cut about a half inch longer and doubled up on the rubber. I hope it will work, but it is something else I’ll keep my eyes on.


We still have our chocolate lab in a lampshade collar so she can’t scratch the ear that had the hematoma and it has become a real pain in the butt! Well, not the butt, but the back of the legs for sure. It seems that she can’t realize the she has the collar on and still tries to squeeze into places where she used to fit. In addition, she has scuffed the paint off the doorways as she tries to worm her way through an opening. She is definitely MY dog and follows me endlessly.  I used to grouse about her hitting me behind the knee with her cold nose. Now, the collar is just a source of irritation. I’m surprised that she doesn’t seem to mind it and it’s still on for over a week and a half. One more week to go.


That’s about all for now. I’m well into a new David Baldacci book and enjoying it greatly. Chill out!!! Y’all

Friday, August 10, 2012

My Life with the Journey


The Journey is our 2002 Winnebago Journey and it has been………….interesting. I’ve heard enough comments about a homeless man living under a deserted motorhome on my property. The motorhome is NOT deserted and I AM NOT living under there, though I can see how it would look that way.


Here you can see where the leakage occurred. That’s the oil filter mounting plate, with the oil filter removed. It took me quite a while to get the work done because it is a very difficult place to get to, however, I did get it done….I thought. I was very careful to tighten the bolts as directed, and I torqued  them as directed and in the proper sequence. Finally it was time to start the engine and check for leaks. I’m sure that the gasket was properly installed and all, but I couldn’t be really sure as oil was POURING out from above. On the top of the mounting plate is the fitting that takes oil to the intake turbine.

It has an “O” ring and should not have been hard to connect. Unfortunately, it was in a VERY difficult position and I had a VERY hard time trying to tighten it up with a Crescent wrench. Apparently, I didn’t tighten it up enough. To get in a better position, it became necessary to remove the air inlet duct to the turbine and lower the muffler for adequate access. Instead of a Crescent wrench, I used the proper 13/16 Craftsman open-end wrench. I took a lot of turns before the fitting bottomed out. When I restarted the engine, there was not a drip of oil coming from anyplace.

My time under the motorhome was not a complete waste, however. I found that one of the muffler hangers didn’t look too good. Back in 2008, Helen and I toured the country in the Journey and at one point the rear exhaust pipe hanger broke. I used several turns of rope to tie the pipe in place, never realizing that the exhaust way back there was hot enough to melt the rope. When the pipe fell again it took out the other two muffler hangers and severed on of the hydraulic lines going to the rear slide. There was no way that I could or would drive with oil leaking all over a hot engine. I called my Road Service and my Journey was towed almost 90 miles back toward Seattle. The tow bill was just under $900.00, but Allstate RV Roadhelp paid it without question. Of course the Freightliner service center had no hangers and had to order them from someplace east and of course this was heading into a weekend. We dry camped at Freightliner for about five nights.

Thinking that the motorhome was six years old when the old hanger failed and that the rear exhaust pipe hanger failed as I lost my tailpipe on the way to Massachusetts, I decided to look into the hangers a little better. When I took them apart, I found that one had already failed and with one gone. the other would soon follow.


The hanger doesn’t look too big in this picture, but the clamp is a foot in diameter. The problem on the broken one is where the lower rivets are. There are six rivets holding the upper part of the hanger fabric, but only three on the lower section. This is the good hanger, I didn’t think of taking a picture of the pother until I repaired it.


In addition, the three rivets are very close to the end of the fabric and when I unbolted the hanger, the bracket and clamp simply fell apart. I got replacement reinforced rubber and used TWO rubber squares, one on each side and I cut the new ones a little longer so the holes are further from the edge.

Nothing, but NOTHING on the motorhome is easy! Trying to unbolt the brackets was a bear of a job. First because the bolts are so hard to get to and second because they must have been put on with a very powerful impact wrench. I could not budge two of the four bolts. My 1/2 inch impact wrench took off two, but I couldn’t move the bolt at all with a 1/2 inch breaker bar. I wanted to try my 3/4 inch impact wrench, but there was no way that I could go from my 3/4 inch drive wrench to my 1/2 inch drive sockets. Turning to the internet, I checked out using heat to loosen a stuck bolt. As directed, I sprayed the two bolts with Liquid Wrench and waited a few minutes. Then I applied my propane torch using MAPP gas that burns hotter. Heated the bolt for about 40 seconds and re-tried with the breaker bar. I huffed and I puffed and I felt a little movement. I readjusted the wrench on the other side and tried again. More movement and then it got easy. SUCCESS!! On to the last bolt and more success.

I think….I expect…….I hope……that tomorrow will be my last day under the Journey for awhile. It is time to move on to other things…..my replacement awning from A&E Awnings arrived yesterday afternoon. I may not be living under my motorhome, but I sure won’t be far away.


Monday, August 6, 2012



This morning I went to the closest CAT dealer which is 16 miles away in Brooksville. I have been there many times and have had nothing but excellent service. They stock the pre-mixed antifreeze, which I don’t like to use after a flush because I can’t get all the water out. I like to add the proper amount of undiluted antifreeze and than top off with distilled water. At a rally a few years ago I talked to the woman in charge of stock and she told me that if I called her, she would have the pure stuff when I wanted it, and she did.

I have always come away from there with the parts I needed. No mistakes and I never had to go back to get the correct item. This morning was no different. I needed a couple of gaskets, an “O” ring and a gallon of the diluted antifreeze. He got on the computer, put in my engine serial number and he had a diagram of the parts involved. I asked about torque specifications and he printed me the directions for installing the oil filter mounting plate (that’s what it’s really called). It gives the bolt tightening sequence and torque values for the first round and the final round.

A couple of years ago I had a problem with the motorhome running very poorly on the way to St. Augustine. It was so bad that I took it to Caterpillar up there. They diagnosed the problem as dirty oil and gave me an oil change, adding 23 quarts of oil. The CAT engine I have comes in many configurations, some take 33 quarts and some take 19 quarts. Although mine takes 19, they put 23 quarts in. I drove home to Inverness and my Jeep was COVERED with oil.

Later, I went to CAT in Brooksville and had the real problem corrected. It was done right the first time and I didn’t feel that the cost was excessive.

Ok, I just wanted to give some credit to the good guys. Now it’s time to don my blue war5 suit and crawl back under the monster. It’s warm out, but at least I’m in the shade.



Sunday, August 5, 2012

My Second Home

You all know my family from the picture up above. Of course, I’m the bald one in the back. Next to me is Jodie, the first Lab that we adopted. Next is the dark, zany dog, Coco. we got her after Jodie so Jodie would have company. The dog in front is Sandy. We rescued her and her nine pups from a shelter just a few hours before her time was up. All the puppies got adopted, but Sandy stayed around. Last, but certainly not least is my adorable wife Helen, who loves all animals and is the real reason that Sandy still reside with us.

My other love is the motorhome lifestyle to which we have grown accustomed. In fact, I still spend a lot of time with my motorhome and can be found there more often than not.


Oops, wrong picture!


There, that’s more like it!


At least Helen knows where to find me, but I’m not ALWAYS underneath. Sometimes I get to go inside.


See? Here I am inside the motorhome, but unfortunately I’m under the bed. It happens.


It’s impossible for me to stay clean, but at least it’s for a worthy cause.


And, this is the object of my work, it’s the thingamaratchefrass that holds the oil filter, which screws on under the black part. Oh, the plate does a lot more! The fitting on the top supplies the lubricating oil for the turbine and when the plate finally came free, I got some anti-freeze on me. So it’s a multifunction piece. I would hate to have to buy another.

The reason for all this is that a small but persistent leak started from the “ear” at the right of the filter mount. It wasn’t much, but it would eventually end up on the right side of my white Jeep and it made quite a mess. When I went to change the oil after our trip to Pensacola, I found the whole driver’s side of the engine was covered with the black diesel oil. I couldn’t tell where the oil was coming from as it was being blown all over.

I changed the oil and filter, then I degreased the engine, twice. When I ran the engine, I looked underneath, but everything was still wet, so I stopped to try another day. The next day, everything was dry and I ran the engine again. This time I found the oil seeping ever so slowly from the gasket between the plate and the block.

I thought about trying to tighten the bolts, but the possibility of breaking one was something I didn’t want to chance. However, when I removed the bolts, a couple of them were no very tight. Is it possible that they loosened up? Should I use Loc-Tite when I replace the gasket? I will get the answer from Ring Caterpillar tomorrow.

More later.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Home Again!

We had an uneventful ride home Monday from Pensacola. The weather was cloudy, then rainy with the temperature never above 85. As we continued toward home the rain increased and the temperature dropped until we were looking at 74 degrees. In fact, we made it 99.994 percent of the way home before anything exciting happened. I was making a sharp left turn onto our street, only a few hundred feet from our driveway, when all power failed. I mean everything! The engine stopped and there was not a single light on the dashboard. I’m glad that I was driving because it took quite an effort to complete the turn without power steering. Immediately after the turn I was on the side of the road when all the lights came back on. I started the engine and continued the last few feet without incidence.

I looked for answers on RV.NET, but the best response was to call Freightliner’s 24/7 help line. The technician told me that when ALL power is lost like that, it’s the 135 amp breaker and it will usually reset itself. We had the headlights on due to the rain. The A/C was on full cold because the crew was warm. We had the dash fans on and the kids were plugged into video games. The inverter was pumping out 110 volts for another fan and I think that the directionals must have put us over the limit, supplying power for all the lights on the Jeep as well as the motorhome. The technician wasn’t too worried about it, telling me to visually check the breaker for damage, but not necessarily replace it.

It is also time to change the oil and as soon as we stopped, I got under the coach and started draining. Now, I’ve been having a problem with oil spots on my white Jeep and I have also had to add oil between changes for the first time. Under the motorhome I could see the left side of the engine bathed in oil. There is a leak somewhere and I don’t know where. Of course, since it happens on the road, the wind blows the oil every where. I did a quick degrease yesterday and I got more degreaser today. I’ll have the engine spotless before I start it again and then I’ll look for signs of leakage.

Tomorrow I have an appointment to have the Jeep front end worked on to eliminate the knock when I make a sharp, slow speed turn. That will include an alignment to avoid unnecessary wear on the new tires. Next week I will take the Journey to a shop in Wildwood, about 17 miles away to have the front end checked on that. There is a cupping problem on the left side of both front tires. I’ve rotated the tires so that the cupping is now on the right side, and I can see if there is new cupping on the left. This is the last year for those tires anyway as they are timing out.

Last, but not least, I have to order a new awning for the Journey. The one on there has to be original and it’s really on it’s last legs. In fact, with the seams ripping and a cut that almost comes through, I’m surprised it has lasted this long.

Of course, all of this is needed so we can venture to Mexico for the winter again. Helen has set a goal for Noche de Muertos  in Patzcuaro, so we will be leaving much earlier this year. Our dogs enjoyed their time at Dog Beach in Pensacola, but it does not compare to the enjoyment we all get on the Pacific beaches of Mexico.