Q: My wife and I are planning a trip from the San Francisco Bay area to the East Coast and back. I would like to buy a laptop computer so that we can keep in contact with our friends and relatives via e-mail. Can you recommend a laptop that will withstand the rigors of a traveling motorhome?
Don Tallitsch, F253408
San Mateo, California
A: Laptop computers, by their very nature, are designed to be portable. Some motorhome owners do travel with desktop computers. The type of computer you decide to purchase will depend on the space you have and your personal needs and preferences. The best source of information might be one of the many computer magazines or related Web sites, as they would provide up-to-date information about reliability, value for the money spent, etc.
The April 2001 issue of FMC magazine contained an article titled “Shopping For A Computer?” (page 68). It covered basic information and terminology for those considering the purchase of a computer. Since you sent this question by e-mail, it seems you’ve already “crossed that bridge,” but if you are interested in a photocopy of the article, please feel free to send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to 8291 Clough Pike, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244, Attn. Editorial Assistant.
If all you need from the machine is e-mail capability, a less expensive route may be to purchase an e-mail-only computer “” such as Mailbug or MailStation “” that comes with monthly payment plans and toll-free telephone number hookups. One drawback: you can’t receive attachments.
Q: I pull a 2000 Toyota Tacoma Xtra-cab with a 1979 Blue Bird XV. After doing some reading, it appears that I should have diodes in the Toyota’s taillight wiring. Am I correct? If so, please answer the following questions. Which diodes should I use? Where do I purchase them? And how do I determine which end goes toward the RV?
Joseph Reed, F78473
A: You need four 4-amp diodes “” one for each turn signal, one for the brake lights, and one for the taillights. The diodes and their packages indicate where in the wiring and in which direction (current-wise) they should be connected. Another option would be to contact a supplier of towing accessories and obtain a wiring kit. Or you could give Blue Ox a call at (800) 228-9289 for details on its Taillight Wiring kit, part numbers BX8811, which includes everything you’ll need.
Q: I saw Steve Saraga’s letter (“Finding Motorhome Leaks” page 22) in the August 2002 issue of FMC. I don’t know how professionals check for leaks, but amateurs like me use a leaf blower (with a pillowcase attached to the end to act like an air filter) through an open window to pressurize the motorhome. I use a piece of cardboard to seal the window opening. It’s inexpensive, and it works.
Barry Lawson, F296045
A: Thank you for sharing this information.
Cooling System Cleaning
Nearly every manufacturer of gasoline engines stipulates that the cooling system should be drained and refilled with fresh antifreeze/coolant, or a combination of coolant and water, every two years. After two years of doing its job keeping your engine from overheating, the coolant can turn toxic to your engine. Usually, all that’s needed is a complete system drain and refill. However, if you’ve put off changing the coolant for too long, if you’ve purchased a used coach in which the coolant is contaminated, or if you just want to start anew with a completely fresh cooling system, you may want to completely drain and clean the entire cooling system.
To get this done you have two choices: do it yourself or drive the motorhome to a local radiator shop or service center and pay for the service. If you have a method to collect and dispose of the old coolant safely, you may wish to perform the task yourself. Here’s how.
Step 1: Obviously, you should never remove the radiator cap while the engine is hot. With a cool engine, position the catch pan beneath the radiator’s petcock (it will be in the bottom reservoir, either on the right or left side). Before draining, check the coolant quantity in the engine specifications to make sure the catch pan has sufficient capacity. Loosen the petcock by twisting it counterclockwise (this usually will involve a pair of pliers, especially the first time), and remove the radiator cap. Allow the coolant mix to drain into the catch pan. Once drained, close the petcock (I was able to tighten it enough with just finger pressure between procedures).
Step 2: Fill the system with plain tap water, reinstall the radiator cap, and run the engine for 10 minutes with the heater control turned to its highest setting. This allows the fresh water to mix with any remaining coolant and dilute it. Turn off the engine and allow it to cool, then repeat step 1.
Step 3: Add the cooling system cleaner. In my case, I used a 32-ounce container of cleaner that services up to a 12-quart system. Top off the system with tap water, reinstall the cap, and drive the coach for three to six hours under normal driving conditions. During this drive, operate the heater for at least 10 to 15 minutes to circulate the cleaner through the heater core and hoses. Turn off the engine and allow it to cool, then repeat step 1.
Step 4: Flush the entire cooling system thoroughly with water until all of the cleaner is removed; I continued flushing until the water ran clear. (The cooling system on this particular coach was extremely dirty and rusty, so this step took quite some time.) Note: flush kits are available if you wish to do a system back-flush.
Step 5: At this point, I added a step not included on the instructions on the cooling system cleaner bottle. I filled the cooling system with 100-percent antifreeze/coolant and drove the coach for a few hours. This step is optional, but I did it to make sure no cleaner remained in the system. I then drained the system again.
Step 6: Close the petcock and secure it with pliers so that it will not vibrate loose later. Premix enough antifreeze/coolant and water “” follow the recommended ratio “” and fill your system, including the reservoir. Screw the radiator cap back on and you are good to go for another two years. Note: I also suggest that you premix a gallon of the coolant and keep it in your motorhome, should you need to add some down the road.
“” Jim Brightly