Sunday, 22 July 2007


Finally an update!

The last update was almost a month ago, as I worked a lot lately, then I was away on vacations for a week.
I've added some pictures of the first outing on the last post.

Meanwhile, Dad kept working on his Travco. He undertook two main jobs, the fridge and the furnace.

The fridge

Back then, you could buy a Travco with either a 2-way 110V/LP fridge (as in any RV) or a 110V-only fridge. Unfortunately, the Blue Whale's refrigerator is an electric only model. In my opinon, in a RV, a fridge that can't run on propane is useless. So this fridge will be replaced with a standard LP gas fridge. With the help of his brother, Dad took the fridge out, and is now shopping around for an appropriate replacement.

Interestingly this 110V fridge actually runs on 24V DC. A small transformer reduces the voltage and powers the small 24V 60W compressor unit. The unit is still nice and clean, and we'll try to sell it.

The furnace

The Travco is equipped with central heating. The furnace is mounted in the cabinet under the counter. Air ducts distribute the heated air throughout the coach.

First, the furnace mounting brackets were almost broken off, probably due to age and road vibrations. Dad took the furnace out and reinforced and repaired the mounting brackets. Here is the heater housing, after a new paint coat:

Air inlet and exhaust gas oulet are on the side of the vehicle, and the ducts from them to the furnace were leaking and had to be redone. Dad fixed them with some stainless steel tubing had had, and parts from an old car exhaust pipe. Cheap, but a lot of work.

But there is a bigger issue with the furnace: it won't start! And here we need some help. If anybody knows anything about propane heaters, your comments will be appreciated.

The furnace is a Suburban model NT32A. It has a pilot light that can be lighted with a BBQ grill style igniter or a match, and it has a button that has to be held depressed for a few seconds during ignition, as with many LP appliances. Here's what happens.

When we hold the start button depressed, the pilot can be lighted. However, the flame is very weak, and goes out as soon as the start button is released. Even if the start button is held for a longtime, the pilot goes out as soon as the button is let go. Normally, after about 30 seconds, the pilot should stay lit after the start button is released. It looks like the pilot light is not strong enough to heat the thermocouple enough for it to keep the gas valve open.

There is an openning where the pilot can be lighted with a match, and through this opening we heated the thermocouple red hot with a propane torch. Still the same result, the pilot fades out gradually as soon as the start button is released.

Another test we did, is try to light up the main burner. Since the pilot light is weak, we inserted the lighted propane torch in the ignition hole, and we increased the thermostat setting until it triggered. The blower kicked in, then after a couple seconds we can hear what I beleive is the gas valve opening, but nothing else happens, the main burner doesn't light up. Just like if there was no gas. But there is propane in the tank, as the stove works perfectly.
So if you know anything about this, please leave a comment!

Other things

Dad has almost finished the door step trim. Two small curtesy lamps have been installed at the bottom of the step, they come on automatically when the door is opened. The famous hydraulic retractable step is now completed with a control switch mounted just inside near the door frame. The batterie compartment has been redone, with a sturdy braket to hold the large 8D battery.

On the next picture, you can see the entrance step finish, the battery in its compartment, one of the curtesy lights, and in the lower corner of the aluminium door frame is the switch that controls those lights.

Also, the water pump, wich had stopped working during the camping weekend last month, has been officially declared dead. For some reason, the motor is burnt. It's a small piston pump, driven by a small 12V motor by a rubber belt. Dad is going to try to replace the motor with another one he already has, but chances are he'll propably have to get a new motor (or a new pump, depending on the price).

I'll be on vacation over the next week, we're heading for Bar Harbor, Maine, for a few days. I offered my parents to come with us with the Blue Whale for this 450km trip. It would make a good road test for the Travco, and if something comes up with the motorhome we'll be along to help. There are many things to take care of before the coach is declared fully roadworthy, such as some lights or signals that are not working and that Dad temporarily wired for last month's outing.

So I don't know if the Blue Whale will head for Bar Harbor next week, in any case it's a good oportunity for my parents for a nice vacation week on the east coast.