Sunday, 7 June 2009


Hello everyone!
The Blue Whale's 2009 season is finally beginning!
Just like last year, the Whale quietly slept through the cold season in its winter shed. Dad has already fixed a couple issues on the motorhome, I'll start with the wipers and the speedometer.


There's nothing more annoying - or more dangerous - than wipers that quit working in the middle of a storm on a highway. Pretty frustrating too when, without any reason, they start working again by themselves, and then you never know when they are going to quit again. That's pretty much what was going on with the Travco's wipers last summer.

So after a check of the wiper's electrical wiring that didn't reveal anything, Dad went after the wiper motor. The motor is accessed from the inside, so the dashboard has to be removed. Dad found that the motor is bolted on the chassis on a block of wood. Surprisingly the wood was not rotten. Dad found a bad electric contact on the motor, he fixed it and now the wipers should finally be working fine.

Interestingly, while working under the dashboard, Dad saw that the driver's side mirror, which from the outside looks like is held by 3 bolts, was only held in place by one. The 2 other bolts were missing their nuts, and it appears that these bolts never had their nuts from the factory! Good thing that mirror never got hit, it would have ripped off right away, leaving a big hole in the fiberglass shell.
Before reinstalling the dashboard, Dad took care of another outstanding issue: the speedometer.


It's not the first time that the Travco's speedometer quits working, and Dad already tried to fix it a couple times before. Now is the time to do something about it. The speedometer simply quits working, or the needle jumps full scale. This time, Dad went deep into the issue and having nothing to loose, took the thing apart! But before I give the detail, let me recap the events that took place a few days before...

This spring, as the days got warmer, Dad decided to clean up his garage. A huge undertaking. Dad's shop is quite large, and well stocked. Dad spends a lot of time in there, working on his vehicles and tinkering around. A handy man needs a lot of stuff to work with, so Dad tends to pile up a lot of things that most people would simply junk, just in case it could be used to fix or build something. Dad's garage, the garage's attic and the wood shed are FULL of all kind of things that are, in Dad's opinion, "still good". Trashing something is a sin. Everything is kept, just in case. Of course, reusing stuff is part of the famous 3 Rs of the environment: Reuse, Reduce and Recycle. But after a few years, all that stuff piles up and eventually a good cleanup is required. So this spring Dad finally decided to junk a lot of stuff, probably to make some space for newer material!
He uses to say that if he throws something in the trash that has been lying around for years, he's going to need it the following week. Well, that's pretty much what happened...

Back to the Travco. As in most vehicles, the Travco's speedometer is part of a plastic cluster that includes other gauges such as fuel quantity, engine temperature, etc. The thing is not designed to be opened or repaired. But on Dad's motorhome, these gauges are not working anymore anyway, so he figured he has nothing to loose and literally took the speedometer apart, little gears and other small parts flying off.

Dad quickly found why the speedometer was bad. There's a broken plastic piece where the speedometer cable (a long flexible square rod that links the transmission to the speedometer) goes into the speedometer. So when the cable spins, the little plastic part does not, and the speedometer doesn't work. On the picture below, the broken part is on the left, the small dark line is where the plastic is broken.

But where could a replacement part be found? For a second, Dad was a happy man, because he knew he had, somewhere in the garage's attic, an old Dodge speedometer which theoritically could be used to fix the Travco. But the sweet satisfying feeling quickly faded away as he remembered that just a few days before, after declaring the old speedometer totally useless, he sent it flying in the garbage container! Oh no, this can't be true!!

Now I have to explain where this old Dodge speedometer was coming from: the very first car I ever had was a shiny old 1980 Plymouth Volaré, bought used for$1300. Four doors, dark red, 318ci engine, it actually looked like a police cruiser. I owned it for 2 or 3 years, then left if to my 2 younger brothers, who drove it until the engine died (seem like their driving habits accelerated the car's aging process somewhat...) Before sending the car to the junkyard, Dad stripped it of everything that could be used on his 1981 Dodge Ram van, which had the same 318 engine and a lot of similar parts. The speedometer certainly didn't look the same, but for some reason Dad decided to keep it and "preserve" it in the attic, just in case... Fast-forward twenty-some years later, Dad decides to clean up the attic, and finally throws the useless Volaré speedometer in the trash!


Wait a minute. That was only last Thursday, right? Or was it the Thursday before? Garbage is picked up on Wednesdays. Could it still be in the trash? Quick run to the trash container!
Hooray!!! Yes, there it is, the old Volaré speedometer! Miraculously intact! And you know what, the back of the thing looks just like a Travco's speedometer!
The Whale is saved!

So Dad took apart the Volaré's speedometer, and yes, the inner parts are the exact same as the Travco's. Dad replaced the broken part, reassembled everything, and used tiny pop rivets to seal the assembly close. The next picture gives an idea of the kind if job it was, with the Plymouth's famous speedo and odometer all dismantled.

So the Whale has been fixed, one more time. Moral of the story:

If you have an old motorhome, DON'T TRASH ANYTHING!


One thing that Dad felt was missing from his dahboard was an RPM indicator. As I wrote earlier, many of the Blue Whale's gauges and not working anymore, and have been replaced with standard aftermarket gauges. So Dad decided to remove the old dead gauges, and since they used a rounded shape space in the dashboard, Dad decided to replace them with an RPM indicator. Dad slowly and carefully cut the plastic around each of them to take them out of the cluster:

Once installed, it actually looks very nice!

That's it for today, the Whale will probably be out on its first camping sortie on June 26-28, in Stoneham, just north of Quebec City. Just like last year, we will be camping with family members and friends.

See ya!