Sunday, April 24, 2011

It Was Neither Black Gold nor Texas Tea

The bubbling in my front yard yesterday was coming from compressed air injected into the main waterline to identify a leak’s exact location.

Between water from the leak and the all the rain we’ve had lately, the ground was saturated. Unfortunately, the amount of water proved too much to remove for my Airstream’s original PAR water pump (powered by the original Univolt). It was worth a shot, though.

A new, “personal sump pump” from Lowes was, however, able to pump out the trench.

I was expecting the leaky pipe to be made of copper since copper plumbing runs throughout the original part of our house. But this was a galvanized pipe, and it was slathered with what appeared to be thin-mix concrete. The only reason I can come up with is the concrete must have been part of a bedding process when the pipe was originally laid. Whatever the reason, having to chisel it off certainly did not simplify the repair.

In another surprise, the waterline was a one-inch pipe instead of ¾-inch like I was expecting. And like home improvement stores sell repair parts for. Fortunately, there was a real plumbing store across town open until eleven on Saturdays. With the Silverado now hitting on all eight cylinders, I was able to make it there by 10:55.

Blissfully, there was only the one leak. It was not that I minded addressing another one, but rather I was tired of dodging shingles from the guys who started on our new roof this morning.

This was my first plumbing repair where a hard hat would have been handy.

I don’t think we have seen the last of leaks from this water line. A professional plumber probably would have recommended replacing the entire line now instead of patching it. But why let the pros have all the fun running a trencher?

Hopefully, we’re set for at least until after I get my vegetable garden planted.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ever seen an $807.69 carnation?

We towed the Airstream up a mountainous pass the other weekend with my 3/4-ton Silverado, and the truck's 6 liter Vortec powerhouse was not happy. I suspect the Mighty Suburban (which I do not let anyone else work on) might have cast a spell on the younger truck out of spite for not being chosen to tow for this outing.

Regardless, after assessing the symptoms, I decided to take the ailing vehicle to the dealership instead of working on it myself primarily because getting my vegetable garden started this year is still consuming too much of my time.

Between mine & Kim's schedules, and the weather being as nice as it has been lately, I elected to take the truck to the shop with my motorcycle in the truck's bed to off-load & continue on to work, just to handle the whole vehicle-in-shop issue myself.

Unfortunately, the truck was not ready by the time I left work, and between dinner, and going to the other side of town to enjoy our oldest boy singing in a presentation, there was no time left to retrieve the secondary tow vehicle.

Rain was projected for this morning, and Kim asked me to NOT ride the bike to work this morning with my end goal of picking up the truck afterwards. She's funny about anytime they forecast 60 mph winds. I've learned to live with it.

Fortunately, her schedule lightened enough this morning that she was able to hitch a ride & go & pay the bill, and bring the truck home.

While paying the bill, the dealership gave her a carnation as a "thanks for your patronage" acknowledgement.

It has been years since this truck was in the shop, and the cost of this repair will be forgotten in the vein of "it's not a monthly new car payment".

In a nod to the dealership, Kim will remember the carnation.


Friday, April 15, 2011

I'm envious of YOU, Jezibels

Jez - You've mentioned in other posts that you would like to be Airstreaming about now. Well, I would like to till this year's garden, and start planting stuff like you're now doing.

There appears to be envy all around.

Here's a picture taken moments ago of why my garden is still not tilled sufficiently to plant anything. Envy appears to abound.

There's a good chance, though, that you will be camping before I'm planting...


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Atwood Water Heater Repair

For the first Airstream trip of 2011, we took the Overlander up to Montesano State Park this past weekend, and thoroughly enjoyed being back on a campground.

Although Saturday was on the windy side, the weather was great overall, and everyone got their fair share of fresh air & exercise.

In what was odd for my Overlander’s original Atwood water heater, the pilot light would not stay lit unless the main burner was on. Adjusting the pilot light’s gas screw had no effect. It was not that big of a deal for this trip since I didn’t mind re-lighting the water heater for the three or four times we needed to wash dishes. But something was wrong, and the fear was the 44 year-old appliance might have to be replaced since repair parts are no longer available.

To be honest, I’m surprised the water heater has lasted this long. The original expectation was that we would get a season or two out of it before it conked out. By that time, the budget would have recovered from the various costs of putting the Airstream back on the road, and we would be in a better position to replace it. But the appliance worked without incident for the next four years.

Near the start of camping season five, the pilot wouldn’t reliably stay lit. The cause was traced to a rusted-out wind guard which surrounds the pilot. Not wanting to disassemble anything for fear of having rusty parts break, the wind guard was repaired in-place with Thermosteel, and we enjoyed reliably hot water until what is now camping season eight.

The problem now appeared to be an obstruction in the pilot light’s plumbing. The pucker factor for the task was centered on removing/disassembling old rusty parts to clean out the obstruction.

Miraculously, nothing broke, and the opportunity was taken to make a new wind guard.

The gas line obstruction was traced to be somewhere in the Pilot Light Assembly. Man, they don’t make ‘em like this anymore.

If the repair had been destined to be easy, the effort would have concluded with simply cleaning debris from the pinhole-sized pilot jet orifice. But as Obi-Wan once told Luke, “you can’t escape your destiny”.

With everything cleaned as well as possible, after reassembling the works, there still wasn’t enough gas flowing to keep the pilot lit. After ruling out everything else, it appeared the debris was compacted in the 90-degree turn the 1/8-inch pipe made just before the gas exited. After wasting much additional time trying to push piano wire through the assembly to clear the obstruction, there appeared to be only one way to get at the problem.

Cutting the pipe was the ticket, and a small pile of rust particles was easily cleaned from the bend.

A small length of stainless steel pipe drilled out to 9/64-inch ID, along with JBWeld, was used to couple the pipe back together.

In anticipation of potentially saving the budget $250 for a new water heater, I celebrated with a 16 ounce rib-eye for dinner (Kim & the Boyz were out of town for the evening).

After curing last night, the pilot light assembly was reinstalled this morning, and lit & adjusted before my day job beckoned.

Success! The pilot was still burning late this afternoon. As an added bonus, the main burner was happy to light off of it.

I might just celebrate again tonight.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Repurposed Univolt

My brother, who is quite accomplished in gardening, told me he starts/grows new plants in a south-facing window. While the east-facing, laundry room window from where the seeds mentioned in my last post were started never struck me as optimum, it was the best heated space available at the time.

With the weather warming up, the stagnant seedlings were moved out to the unheated Shop's south-facing window with the hope the seedlings would get better light, and harden at the same time.

In short order, it was obvious this window has better continuous sun. The latter part of the first day was aided, I'm sure, by reflection from the Airstream. But that was temporary - my American Classic was subsequently moved back to its usual roost.

Suitable support for the Jiffy Greenhouse was provided by the window sill, and my Overlander's original Univolt (with battery simulator) perched atop the Shop's lathe.

I sure am glad I did not listen when everyone suggested making a boat anchor out of my fully-functional, ready, willing, and able to overcharge a battery, Univolt.