Wednesday, August 11, 2010


So we've hit at least 2-3 major rain storms as we cross from New York, through Pennsylvania, Ohio and now Indiana. On the way to upstate New York we found an issue with the RV windshield wipers. Once started they don't want to stop. High speed = great, low speed = over-achiever, representing all intermittent as well as what had been labeled off. So like it or not, once started you got wipers all the time always leaving you just to select from high and low speed. While I appreciate that sometimes fewer choices in life are better, in this case not being able to turn them off was inconvenient to say the least. Rain it did, sometimes in torrents, limiting visibility to a few feet at best. But contrary to the seemingly superior knowledge of the RV brain, it did in fact stop raining at times raising my desire to stop the wipers.

Now as mentioned, we discovered these issues in New York, but it was not until Ohio where the problem became rather pressing. I had managed to reset the system at least once by pulling the fuse. For a fun time try stuffing a 6'4" man of - how to say - "fluffy" stature under the dashboard of any vehicle. Not that I haven't been there before, but I am glad my wife did not take the opportunity to snap photos. I did gather one peanut gallery comment from my 4 year old - "nice butt" she exclaimed, mid way through a dash dive. So I am in the parking lot of a somewhat run down motel in the midst of the great state of Ohio and my previous fuse resetting did not have the desired outcome of an earlier attempt. I could now choose wipers or no wipers with no chance of turning them on while I drove. Since the rain had stopped falling, I chose no wipers.

Now if it was just me traveling, I might have been more creative in my problem solving - string tied to wipers for manually operation or perhaps swim goggles and head out window for that dog in rainstorm look. Since my whole family operation is traveling with me, I decided a better fix was in order. So, Jen and I begin plotting the rectification of our predicament. Now lucky for us as semi-pro traveling nerds we come fully equipped with 3 laptops and at least 3 devices able to connect wirelessly throughout most of our fair country. This means Google can be your friend on the road as well as at home. RV manufacturers web site gives us options a couple hundred miles away in the wrong direction so strike one. Now, based on my years spent in the Midwestern trenches in college I happen to know that as we get roughly 1/2 way through the northern part of the state of Indiana, we'll arrive upon Elkhart Indiana. For those of you not in the know, Elkhart Indiana is known as the "RV capital of the world". Not only are many major RV manufacturers located there, but also the RV and Motorhome hall of fame. Now, crazy enough (or not crazy for folks who know me), this was something I actually knew. I wanted to go to the RV/MH hall of fame but the opportunity had never presented itself - nor would it now. A quick GPS search put us almost exactly two hours away from Elkhart. Now it being 3 pm and the repair places we had found most promising closing at 5 pm, this posed a slight problem. We can drive molto rapido and just barely make it, but if it starts raining again we are SOL. We kick it into high gear and head out but signs from above are not promising.

As I mentioned in a prior post I am not one to like to ask or accept help. It also bothers me to have to pay someone to fix something I should be able to deal with. As I hit the road, trying to make good time in our lumbering beast which can barely hit the speed limit, this weighed more and more on me. Even if by some stroke of luck we made it to the repair shop before closing, the chances of a fix without a prolonged ordering of parts and a significant extraction of walletized resources seemed a distant possibility. Then Jen in a stroke of inspired genus mentioned Walmart. The penny immediately dropped for me and I knew that not only could I work around the problem, but also, we too could become the people of Walmart.

It was simple, all that was required was to replace the current fuse with a switch which could allow me to turn on and off the wipers at my own will rather than rely on the better judgment of the RV brain. Now before you get all wound up about what a terrible idea this is, I will have you know I have practiced the fine art of releasing the smoke from automotive wiring for many years. In fact, I've dabbled in the dark arts of English auto wiring and have seen Mr. Lucas himself in the wafting tendrils curling up from what used to be the rear wiring of a dashboard. Since I am much older - notice I failed to mention much wiser - I literally did ask my wife if she knew of a fire extinguisher on board the RV. Her reply, like my understanding was, " I think so. It's white. We really should know where that is." [editors note: we have located the fire extinguisher.]

So armed with a half (more like quarter) baked plan we found our way to Walmart in Angola, Indiana. Now all I needed was a switch, some wire, let's throw in a fuse for safety and some means of replacing a fuse with this new switch contraption. As they say on one of my favorite shows, "how hard can it be?" We unpack the family and arrive in the hallowed halls of Walmart. Starting with restocking snacks and drinks, my wife attempts to sell me on 4 pounds of ham and water "product" to no avail. I gird my loins and resist, focusing on the far away auto department. Fuses are readily available, yet no fuse holders. Electrical connectors, yep got those as well as the wire and over there is a cheap switch. Yet no where to be found is any form of fuse holder - how can this be? I start to broaden my search. I am now willing to sacrifice some other form of "budget minded" electrical device for it's fuse holder but nothing, nada. Finally, the car stereo isle. Now to get that kicking base you need to pump a lot of power. Lots of power requires big fuses and at last I find what must be the only fuse holder in the 75 acre building. I get my choice of 50 amp or 80 amp ensconced in it's impenetrable plastic shield. The fuse I am replacing is all of 25 amps and my rather limited knowledge of electronics says bumping up to 50 amps may not be the smartest choice. So fuse holder in hand I trot back to the fuses to find something big enough to fit this holder yet small enough to provide some modicum of protection to the wiper circuit.

Wiring bits in hand we head to check out, only pausing to check out the girls shoes - wait! they are only $11? We have to get 3 pairs and don't forget the Jerky. We manage to find the checkout with the guaranteed longest wait as the person in front sends their husband to the parking lot to retrieve additional cash monies. Finally, freedom! We exit into the afternoon swamp-like heat to head back to the RV parked at the far reaches of the lot - enabling a get away without the need for any reversing as, if you recall we have a "lack of reversibility". Jen gets to making dinner for kids while I get to my wiring project. First part is easy, hook wires to switch and fuse. Goes smoothly due to solderless connectors and the crimping tool I have purchased. Then the tricky part, how to replace a fuse - no not a big one with easy to get to terminals, but an ATM mini fuse with tiny terminals and impossible to reach parts. Who puts the world's smallest auto fuse in a 34 foot vehicle? I press on, to modify what I have and make it work. Now comes the technical part, so some if not all of you may want to skip ahead.

that is the space Shawn crawled into.
The plan was to take a couple of those electrical connectors, you know the ones which look like capital Y's and trim off one leg of each to create something which could plug into where each leg of an auto fuse would normally go. I know some of you more savvy readers will note that standard electrical spade connectors seem fairly close to this particular application but you'll have to trust me they are too big for a mini fuse slot. So time to make my own. Pair of electrician pliers, check. OK when those are a little too big, how about the branch pruners over there in the tool box. Man, my dad has an odd assortment of tools on this RV. A little trim there and a little twist here. Finally, apply liberal amounts of tape and this darn thing might just work. A quick final check to make sure I don't catch anything on fire or fire any circuits and we are ready for testing. After a brief yoga session to limber my aging body up to be inserted under the dash, we are off to the races. It looks wait, it is actually fitting! Now to test and yes indeed it is able to shut down those infernal yet necessary wipers at my choosing. Freedom! Now wipe on...wipe off...breathe in through the nose, out the mouth.

So far so good. It seems to work in lab type testing. We have not yet given it the true rain based workout it truly deserves. As Jen said, it will now not rain for the entire rest of the trip. So for the about to begin several month drought across all midwestern and western states, yes you can blame me and my adaptation of the RV's wiper system.

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