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General Discussion of preventative/corrective maintenance and other technical issues regarding your coach that are not covered in other Mechanic's Corner categories (ex. refrigerators, water heaters, and compressors).

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  #1  
Old 11-27-2010
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kgrimshaw kgrimshaw is offline
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Default How Cold is too Cold before Winterizing is required?

At what point do we need to shut down not use our (thus winterize) complete water systems. We use our coach all year round and last year i winterized the water system at the first frost. If the bus is kept warm can we use our water even though it is freezing outside?
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  #2  
Old 11-27-2010
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I've been dealing with this. We intended to use ours for a Thanksgiving trip that we cancelled due to road conditions. I kept the freeze protection heaters on and everything was ok at 16'F. The only issue I found was the drain trap in the shower was frozen.

I think you can keep it ready to roll, but keep an eye on your heaters, verify they are working. Crank on the engine heat a day or so before departure.

Good luck.
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  #3  
Old 11-27-2010
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I thought i had read somewhere that there are heaters for the Gray and Black water tanks. I don't see any evidence of these heaters....Anyone know? Were they an option?
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Old 11-27-2010
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I haven't winterized ours since we've had it. It stays at the house when we're not traveling, so I leave it plugged into a 50A service. It gets down as low as 0'F occasionally here in Northern KY and I've never had a problem. I leave the temperature inside around 50 and the freeze heaters under the bed and sink at 40. I also leave the water heater on. It's expensive, but worth it to me because I like to travel south in January.
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Old 11-27-2010
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Kirk, you should have a breaker labeled Heated Holding Tanks.
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  #6  
Old 11-27-2010
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It's a good question ... and the answer varies by year. Before the mid-90s, 'birds generally had tank heaters to keep the holding tanks from freezing up. Later 'birds have insulated and heated basements -- so it's important for those who have AquaHot systems to keep those operating during freezing weather.

While I preferred to get home to California for the worst of the winter, we often didn't get back until the middle of December or so... That gave us several weeks of freezing weather (often in the Denver area) to deal with. I think the 'bird did better than we did (as native Californians, both my wife and I have genetically adverse reactions to frozen water falling from the sky).

At home, it was never necessary to "winterize" the coach, since we rarely have more than a few days each year of "hard freeze' (which means a night-time low in the 28 to 31 degree range for a few hours). Whenever a winter weather pattern with freezing temperatures likely, I'd go turn on the electric element in the AquaHot and with the thermostat in the basement set to 40 degrees, that kept everything safe.

I note that while using the coach, we experienced temperatures as low as about 17 degrees ... with highs in the upper 20s -- and the heating system kept everything from freezing. But I did learn to toss in about a 1/2 cup of rock salt into each of the holding tanks immediately after draining them. The cold would penetrate sufficiently to make the valves hard to extremely hard to operate -- but the salt (when put into the empty tank) would wash down into the exit pipe and help keep ice from forming near the valve. (Fortunately, I discovered the problem when day time temperatures were still well above freezing, so I was able to "thaw out" by waiting to dump in the late afternoon, before I had a critical problem.)

On the older coaches, you'll need to do some careful examination, especially if you see signs that the tanks have been repaired or removed at some point. Some owners have removed the "tank heaters" since they do become electrically unsafe over time due to deterioration. The tank heaters are similar to water bed heaters (a device I have some long experience with) ... when the area where the heater is exposed, you'll see staining (not quite "charing") from the heater where it lays on the wood support. This is normal and is caused by the heater "baking" the wood for an extended time.

If you need to install new tank heaters, follow the manufacturer's installation instructions as carefully as possible.

In rare cases, a heater can malfunction, but a safety link should blow out ('killing' the heater) before too much damage occurs. Worst case, the over-heated device could melt a hole into the holding tank. It's best to never run the tank heaters when the tanks are empty (or nearly so). The depend on having a modest quantity of water to carry away the heat, so the heaters don't get too hot. Most of the tank heaters are about 75 to 100 watts, or so, though larger tanks will have larger heaters. Some run on 12 VDC (drawing 9 to 11 amps), and some run on 120 VAC, drawing about 1 to 1.5 amps.
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  #7  
Old 11-27-2010
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I live full time in my 'Bird but I don't have the extreme cold conditions that those of you up North have but I have experienced freezing temperatures that have frozen the water in my external water hose when I failed to wrap it properly with insulation, I now just use it to fill the water tank and then shut off the water supply, but it is still covered with the foam insulation tube designed to cover water pipes.

On the inside in cold weather I have two of the three propane furnaces turned on with the thermostats both set at 65 degrees which is comfortable for me, if I see that the temperatures are going to drop into the freeze zone I leave the doors for the cabinets under the sinks where the freeze heaters are and that helps to reduce their power consumption.

I have also made a cover for the shore connections to go through that works very well at preventing 'Birds from nesting in there and although it is not shown here, I have also placed insulation on the inside of it to prevent freezing of the water inlet.



I had a photo but can't find it now that Tom Meservey sent of his 'Bird showing how he placed I believe bales of hay around the outside of it up to the bottom of the body which effectively sealed off the underside and thus kept the inside temperatures of the 'Bird warmer when he and Peggy spent the winter full timing while he worked in Cleveland, OH, here is another way that Burton Humphreys The_Money_Pit does it on his 'Bird;


Quote:
Originally Posted by The_Money_Pit View Post
After looking at wheel covers on other coaches, we decided that we wanted something a little more custom. And since the wifey and I are all about biting off more than we can chew, we heeded off to Joann Fabrics. I took off the small door for our exterior wash bay, it has all the colors that we will be wanting to match, and brought it with us to Joann's. We decided on marine grade vinyl and after visiting 2-3 stores found the colors that best matched The_Money_Pit.

After all completed it now looks like a hover craft. the side skirts only go on for extended cold weather stays, like spending winter in SLC, UT.




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  #8  
Old 11-27-2010
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I am having a little trouble here in the high desert. The temp has been getting as low as 5-10 F at night with daytime temps around 35-40 F. I attached heat tape and insulation along my entire water hose and it is working great. However, the holding tanks and the dump valves themselves were frozen when I went to dump. I had turned on the holding tank heaters a couple days prior for the first time ever. I noticed a circuit breaker on which said "Freeze Heater" and I believe that breaker has always been on. What is that specific one for? When I turn on the holding tank heaters, I do get a current rise on the gages of 8-10 amps so I assume they are working properly. I only turn on the holding tank heaters when I know there is a decent amount of fluid in the tanks.

Since this is my first extended stay in freezing temps, I am learning about how to make the coach better at handling it. A weak spot in the design is that the holding tanks do not get the basement heat. Another weak spot is the drain tube from the gray water runs underneath the exterior of the coach exposing it to the freezing temps. I will have to install heat tape and insulation along this tube and around the dump valves to help this area. I really need to install a propane hookup so that I can have a external propane bottle feed the coach. That way the rig does not need to be moved to refill propane.

As far as the interior of the coach, the electric heaters and primus system easily keep the inside of the coach toasty and comfortable. However, not being able to dump because of frozen tanks and dump valves could make things interesting.
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  #9  
Old 11-28-2010
mevans49083 mevans49083 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kgrimshaw View Post
I thought i had read somewhere that there are heaters for the Gray and Black water tanks. I don't see any evidence of these heaters....Anyone know? Were they an option?
No sign of them on my coach, either.
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  #10  
Old 11-28-2010
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some coachs had the tank heaters,some did not.

When I was still making the dump valves MCI,the bus company contacted me about making a heated dump valve,and we did find a heat pad that would stick onto the valve.
Problem was it cost more than the valve.
they decided to keep using rock salt to prevent freezing of the tanks and the valves.
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