We did it! The new fridge is in! But before I describe the work involved, here's a update on the "medical issue":
The injured finger
The patient is slowly getting better. Dad has to go to the hospital everyday to have is bandage changed, hopefully by a smiling gorgeous nurse. The last stiches have been removed yesterday. Healing is slow due to the fact that the cutting disk not only cut the skin but ground it off , and that skin now has to grow back. To protect his finger and keep his bandage clean while working on the motorhome, Dad made himself a special leather sleeve that he wears over his finger.
Last week's work was mostly on the brake system.
Dad inspected most of the brakes lines as much as he could. In his opinion, all the brake lines will evantually have the be replaced. Some lines that seemed to be in quite good shape turned out rather fragile and easy to break. Since it is obviously a safety issue, this will have to be fixed. Dad will start with the lines that run from the dual brake boosters to the wheels, as these lines are carrying the high pressure of the braking power. The lines running from the brake pump (at the pedal) to the boosters will eventuallybe replaced as well, but since they carry a relatively lower pressure it is not a critical issue for now.
Dad wasn't comfortable with the slight rust that he had found in the rear brake cylinders. So he decided to bite the bullet and replace all four cylinders (there are two cylinders per side). His friend Gerry worked with him, and they completely overhauled the rear brakes assemblies. The brake lines leading to the cylinders did not survived the disassembly and new replacement lines were made. Everything was cleaned, sandblasted and then painted, including the backplates and automatic adjusters. Both brake assemblies were reassembled et pre-adjusted and are now ready the be installed on the coach, this will be done as soon as the weather improves, as it has been raining hard lately. All will be left to do is connecting the brakes lines and bleed the air out.
Meanwhile, after a careful inspection of the overtightened main wheel bearings, Gerry - our official specialist on such matters - recommended a replacement of the outer bearing.
Dad also replaced the busted front brake line:
The round thing that can be seen on the top of this picture is the parking brake of the Travco. It is actually a brake drum installed on the driveshaft, actuated by a cable with a hand lever.
The new fridge has finally been installed yesterday. Getting a new fridge was an important issue, and a one of the most expensive of this restoration project (this week's brake job was almost as expensive).
As I have previoulsy explained, this motorhome was built with a 110V only fridge. The point of having a motorhome is being as autonomous as possible and not rely on shore power, so this 110V fridge had to get out. My parents shopped around for a used propane fridge, since the brand new ones were extremely expensive. Used propane fridges are pretty scarce, but they finally found a nice a clean unit for $600, wich is a fair price. It is a 3-way (12V/110V/LP) unit that is almost the exact same size as the original one, wich made the swap easier. The old 110V fridge had already been removed from the coach a few weeks ago.
Converting the motorhome from an electric-only fridge to a gas unit basically involves cutting a ventilation opening and install a grille on the side of the Travco, and run a line from the propane tank.
The first step was to remove the panel from the back wall inside the fridge cabinet. On this panel was an electrical outlet to plug the fridge. Once removed, we can see the outer wall of the Travco, wich is an approximately 3/16in thick fiberglass skin, insulated with sprayed-on urethane foam (the entire motorhome is insulated this way).
With a scraper and a utility knife, the foam insulation is removed where the vent will be installed.
After carefully marked the right position, we used the angle grinder with a thin cutting disk to cut an opening on the side of the Whale. The grinder easily cut the fiberglass skin (almost as easily as it cut Dad's skin...) and in no time we had a nice rectangular opening on the side of the motorhome.
With a few pieces of naturally weather-resistant redwood, Dad made a sturdy frame wich was installed inside the opening, screwed from the outside and sealed with a bead of caulking. Then the plastic frame of the vent was screwed on with stainless steel screws.
A similar opening was cut on the inside panel. The electrical outlet was repositioned higher on the panel.
A black ABS pipe runs vertically inside the fridge cabinet. It is the black water vent pipe, that runs from the black water tank under the floor, up to a vent on the roof. We had to slighly reposition this pipe, since the new fridge went deeper in the cabinet than the old fridge and there was not enough space because of that pipe. We added a couple 45deg elbows and a flexible rubber joint, that was enough to move the pipe a couple inches, wich was all we needed.
The top frame of the cabinet had to be shaved a few millimiters since the new unit was slighly taller that the old one. The plywood floor and the rear panel wre screwed back in place. It is a pretty nice job for a cabinet that won't even be visible!
Then we installed the propane line. We used thick 3/8in copper tubing, and double-flared fittings. There was already a T fitting near the LP tank, so all we had to do is remove a plug and connect our new line. We ran the line through holes in the frame to bring the line on the opposite side of the vehicle (the tank is on the curb side and the fridge is on the driver side). A plastic sleeve around the copper line will protect it from rubbing and abrasion damage.
Now all we had to do is slide the new fridge in place. Both fridge doors were removed to make the unit lighter and smaller, and as the door was opening the wrong way, the hinges had to be removed to reposition them to the other side anyway.
After a few moments of concern on the available cabinet space where the fridge condenser meets the curvature of the top of the motorhome wall, we tried to slide the fridge in. The top was rubbing so we had to shave the top of the cabinet frame a little more with the belt sander, then to our relief the fridge slid perfectly in position.
We wired the 12V power, plugged the 110V and connected the gas fitting. The first test was done using the 110V setting.
After about 45 minutes, even with the doors not yet installed, the freezer inside wall was clearly getting cold. As it was getting late, we decided to call it a day and switched the unit off. Tomorrow Dad will check the LP line for leaks, test the unit on the LP setting, and reinstall the doors in the correct position. Dad is satisfied with the job, wich took longer than anticipated (a full day for the two of us) but went well nevertheless. A good job well done.
Dad has a lot of work for the upcoming week. Next weekend is the first important outing for the Blue Whale. On Labor Day weekend (Sept 1st, 2nd and 3rd), we have our big annual family party. wich is held at my uncle's place in Lac St-Jean, about 300 km from Quebec City. That's a serious trip, the road to get there being pretty montaineous and remote. The first serious challenge for the Blue Whale!
8 months ago