House Calls with the RV Doctor
By Gary Bunzer
Dear RV Doctor:
I need to install a pod on my Coachmen type C motorhome. I’m very limited in storage space (like none at all). How do I go about doing it? I consider myself to be a pretty good handyman but I could use your assistance.
RV Doctor: James, storage pods, those attached to the roof area, are relatively easy to install. The biggest risk is creating a water leak. But by taking a few precautionary steps, you should easily avoid that.
First, find a suitable, flat location on the roof (an alternate location is on the rear bumper). Be sure you have clear access to open the pod fully and comfortably. Make sure it does not interfere with roof vents, sewer vents, antennas, and air conditioners. Also, be very wary of shading any solar panels you may have up there. If your coach is equipped with a soft roof (nonlaminated), your location choices are somewhat limited. The bottom section of the pod must span at least two roof rafters in order to secure it properly. But if you have a solid, laminated roof, just stay clear of the aforementioned components.
Once you select a suitable location, thoroughly clean the roof. It must be clean and dry before you continue. Obtain a handful of rubber grommets (see photo). The grommets must be able to accept the thickness of the pod’s shell in order to seal properly. The center hole in the grommet should be 1/4-inch in diameter. You’ll need to drill holes in the pod bottom the same diameter as the width of the slot in the grommets. The grommets should slip into place snugly and grip the bottom of the pod securely. Drill three or four holes (depending on the overall size of the pod) in two rows through the bottom of the pod that correspond to the rafters you are spanning. If you have a solid roof, such exacting hole locations are not crucial.
Next obtain some 1/4-inch fender washers and 1/4-inch lag screws about 1 inch long. Fender washers have an outside diameter larger than standard 1/4-inch flat washers. The outside diameter should be slightly larger than the outside diameter of the grommets. Mark the screw locations on the roof and predrill a 1/8-inch pilot hole at each screw location. Squirt a gob of silicone sealant directly over the 1/8-inch pilot holes and carefully lower the pod into place. Then simply install the lag screws and fender washers through the grommets and secure the pod to the roof. Do not overtighten the lag screws. They should, however, slightly depress the rubber grommets as they are tightened. There is no need to seal the head of the lag screws since they will be enclosed inside the upper half of the pod, and thus protected. But I do recommend placing a covering or two of duct tape over each head just to protect them a little when you place objects into the pod. Check the tightness every six months or so, just to be sure the rocking motion and shifting gear doesn’t loosen the screws over time.
Flawed Generator Fuel Line
Dear RV Doctor:
I have a 1999 Fleetwood Bounder with an Onan generator. I had trouble with a section of rubber fuel line hose that was cracked near the generator itself. This was a relatively easy fix. However, a few months later I was unable to start my generator and found another section of cracked rubber fuel line that rests on top of the fuel tank. The fuel tank is very close to the underside of the RV floor, and I am unable to reach the stainless-steel clamp to remove and replace the rubber fuel line from the metal section of fuel line going into the tank. Do you know of any easy way to accomplish this without dropping or lowering the fuel tank itself?
Marshall Letter, F322555
Walhalla, South Carolina
RV Doctor: Marshall, you’ve picked up on one of the more common causes of generator operational problems on motorhomes. Rubber hoses are notorious for weather-checking and degradation resulting from exposure to UV radiation and high ozone levels. As far as gaining access, some motorhomes (including some early Bounders) had a removable access plate under the carpeting that corresponded to the location directly over the fuel sending unit and take-off tubes. It’s not uncommon to find a 3-inch hole through the floor under the carpeting directly over the area you need to access. It’s worth it, at least, to try to find that plate under the carpet. I’m not sure if this practice is still in place, but I’d give it a shot before having to drain and drop the fuel tank. If that access hole is not there, better start gathering a floor jack and some wood blocking; the tank will have to come down, at least partway.
Give Me a Break(er)
Dear RV Doctor:
Where would I find the circuit breaker for my convertor? I have shore power to the coach battery but none to the chassis battery. I know that there is a breaker for it, but I cannot locate it anywhere.
RV Doctor: Galen, some convertors will have the AC panelboard and circuit breakers built in to the convertor itself. Other motorhomes will have a separate panelboard distribution box mounted individually and isolated from the convertor. It just depends on which brand of convertor your coach manufacturer used in the design of your vehicle. Circuit breakers will always be mounted in the distribution panelboard regardless of whether they are incorporated into the design of the convertor or in a stand-alone panel. But rarely will the convertor charge both the house DC system and the engine starting battery. Typically, the engine battery receives a charge only from the alternator while the coach is being driven. However, some of the newer, sophisticated, three-step chargers do have a separate charging circuit for the engine battery (the convertor pictured here actually has three separate charging outputs), but this is not the norm.
Because the AC and DC systems are vastly different, the only common component between the shore power and the house battery system is the convertor. You should find a 120-volt AC circuit breaker that protects the AC portion of the convertor, and also a DC auto-resetting breaker that will protect the convertor output, as well as fuses to protect each DC branch circuit. That AC breaker you are searching for will be inside the convertor or at the separate panelboard distribution box. The DC breaker (or fuse) can be anywhere in the system. To find the convertor, start by searching inside all the interior compartments or by listening for a clicking noise whenever the coach is plugged into shore power. The integral relay is sometimes audible as the system switches between battery power and convertor power. Once you find the convertor, look for the AC section (if a combo unit), or keep searching for that panelboard distribution box. It’s there somewhere!