This Old Casita: Odds and Ends

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I finally fixed our AC and greased the EZ Lube hubs…

If you’ve been following along on with our Casita travels you’ll know that we’ve always had trouble getting our AC to work. It was hard starting, and when we got down to Savannah last fall I discovered that it wouldn’t run on our 2000 watt generator.

I figured that we needed a bigger generator. As it turned out, that didn’t fix the problem. The 3700W generator we ordered from Home Depot wasn’t up to the task. I began to suspect something else was amiss.

A quick visit with our friends over at the Casita Forum offered up a promising solution. Maybe it was time to replace the hard start capacitor in the AC.

The part cost about $15 and our forum friends assured me it was a simple fix. Seemed there was little to lose, so I ordered one up from Little House Customs along with a replacement louver for the AC vent. A few days later the parts arrived and I went to work. Thanks Amanda!

First thing I did was disconnect shore power and cut the breaker to the AC unit. Then I climbed up on the roof with a screwdriver and removed the shroud.

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Removing the shroud on our 2008 Spirit Deluxe’s AC was a snap. Three large phillips head screws.
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Shroud removed. Capacitors live in the box at the top right side of this image.
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Unscrewing the box (small phillips head this time) reveals a trio of capacitors held in place by a metal strap. The black one in the center needed replacing.
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Shiny new capacitor from Little House Customs.
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The original capacitor had a jumble of wires connecting it to the rest of the system.
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Metal strap removed and capacitors loose. The new start capacitor plugs into the silver one that I’m holding. There are a few open plugs on this capacitor so I was careful to switch the wires over one at a time onto the correct terminals.
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Out with the old. The old start capacitor along with the excellent, illustrated instructions that come with the replacement.
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All strapped in and ready for a test.
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Success!

The whole repair took about a half hour. The most complicated part was taking care to reconnect the leads to the other capacitor correctly. Once all the parts were in place I replaced the shroud and fired up the generator. I went inside and turned the knob…

Success!

The AC started right up without tripping the breaker in the generator. Of course, I had always been able to get it to start. With the new capacitor it started much easier. You could hear it in the generator RPMs.

As I said, starting wasn’t really the problem. The real issue was cycling. I tried to test this a couple times in the past by turning the thermostat down until it cut off and then turning it back up again. This would invariably trip the breaker on the genset, regardless of whether it was 2000 Watt or 3700.

The folks on the forum suggested that cycling the AC like this could create it’s own problem. Apparently the system builds up pressure on start that locks everything up if you cycle it on and off too quickly. On shore power there are enough amps to throw a cutoff switch that allows restart. On a generator the load can overwhelm the breaker before the cutoff switch engages.

With this in mind I turned on the AC, buttoned up the Casita and went about my cleanup chores. This done, I went back inside to replace the broken louver in the forward AC vent.

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Replacement louver.
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New louver fitted in place. I set one end into the AC unit and slid the other into the frame of the vent on an angle. Careful flexing and sliding popped it into the socket.

I ran the AC for a while, basking in the freezing cold air as I replaced the louver. It cycled several times without incident. I could hear the generator ramp up each time it started, but the power never cut out. Then I turned on the Eco Mode on the generator and let it go through a couple more cycles. No problem. The generator automatically increased RPMs when the compressor restarted.

Complete success.

This repair was so simple and affordable that I would recommend it to anyone who’s having trouble with a cranky AC. I thought I needed a bigger generator. What I really needed was a $15 part and a screwdriver. Hooray!

On to the next project…

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Jacking up the Casita until the wheel spins freely. The wheel on the other side is chocked so the trailer won’t move on the jack.

When we picked up our Casita in Maine it had just had the bearings repacked. We drove it for three months last summer and racked up close to 20,000 miles without incident. Then we parked it in the driveway out on Tybee Island where it sat for nearly nine months. After all that rough treatment I figured it was time to learn how the EZ Lube hubs work.

What I learned is that I was completely misinformed. For some reason I thought the hubs were supposed to allow you to occasionally squirt in a touch of grease to keep things topped up. I didn’t realize that you could use the zerk fitting on the hubs to push all the old grease out of the bearings and replace it with new grease.

Off to the YouTubes I went. After a couple clicks I came across this video, which outlined the basics in a few easy steps.

Armed with this new information I got started.

My bearings had been greased with Red Tacky (pretty obvious) so I matched that grease for the replacement.

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Remove the dust cap, clean the zerk and attach the grease gun. Turn the wheel slowly counter clockwise as you pump grease into the fitting.
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As you pump, the fresh grease pushes the old out the front of the fitting. Catch it with a shop towel a little bit at a time. It helps to have a trash can close by for dirty rags.
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Stop pumping when the grease comes out the front of the fitting fresh and clean.
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Clean the excess grease from inside the dust cap.
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Replace the rubber cover and you’re ready to tackle the other side.

There’s some concern out there in the RV world about using this technique too frequently. Apparently the rear seal in these bearings can fail, and if it does the grease will ooze out into the back of the hub and foul your brake pads. Fair enough. I’ve also had the experience of having an incorrectly tightened bearing burn up on the road and destroy my axle. This happened on my old work Casita. It blew the driver side bearing twice in 30,000 miles of use despite three repacks (none done by me).

So I’m as cautious about repacking bearings manually as I am about the risk of grease oozing out the back of the EZ Lubes. I knew it was time for some fresh grease in the hubs but didn’t want to take everything apart and run the risk that I get it reassembled incorrectly just before we load up to head back to Wisconsin. So I went for the EZ Lube option. As far as I can tell all the grease stayed right where it was supposed to.

With these two projects done my task list for This Old Casita is winding down. The only remaining technical problem to tackle is to get the fridge to work on shore power. I know the heating element is OK so I suspect it’s time for a new “brain”. That one can wait, because the fridge runs great on propane.

Probably should replace the electric heating element in the water heater too. It doesn’t really crank out the heat like it should. Likely damaged.

We might put in vinyl wood floor at some point, too. The 12-year old carpet smells a little musty when the camper sits closed for a while. Would be nice to remove as much of it as we can and spruce the place up with a little faux wood.

Those are future plans. For now we’re road ready and about to jump back into action. Next week we’re back on the road headed up to the Midwest where new jobs and new adventures await.

If you would like to take a look at the original project list to get an idea of what we’ve done to our 2008 SD so far, please check out this link. It will take you to all the articles labeled This Old Casita.

This link will take you to all the articles about our travels last summer. We packed up our apartment, moved into the Casita and spent three months on the road all over the West. Yellowstone, Wind River Range, Montana, Oregon Coast and finally down south to Savannah, GA. It was a BIG adventure. We hope you’ll enjoy the stories.

 

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