Flo’s new flow.

After a long hiatus, Flo has gotten some attention! 

Normal flow.

As I’ve been end-of-summer cleaning and doing maintenance around Flo, one of the things that has really been bothering me was the apparent ice damage that happened last winter. After mistakenly leaving the “shore” water on, the water system seemed to freeze. At first inspection, the damage seemed severe: the regulator was shot, the toilet valve was shot, the kitchen faucet froze so solidly that it split down the middle. 

Upon discovering the problem, I panicked and turned off every valve I could find, including two under the dinette next to the fresh water tank. I turned the water off and lamented the damage, but didn’t do much about it… using a long hose and bottled water for a while.

This past May, I bought a replacement kitchen faucet from Lowe’s that was almost the exact same as the original that came with the Airstream, only it was made by Pfister rather than Moen. 

After several months of tripping over the box, worrying about the faucet, and avoiding the installation for some reason today, I took the leap and installed it.

I thought, I’ll get the old one off (at least) and then just “see” how the new one looks in place.

Getting the old faucet off was a bear. the Moen faucet seemed to be held by some invisible force that wouldn’t budge no matter what I did. After about an hour of patient work, I got it completely off, and had just a hole in the counter top. 

Shockingly, the Pfister faucet was ridiculously easy to install. The box contained little adapter that you screw into the hot and cold water feeds, and then the entire thing just snaps together, literally. Click, click, click, tighten up the bolt that holds the thread faucet in place and boom, done.

I recommend the Pfister faucet, though I did have to call the 800 number at one point to ask a quick question and it was closed at 7pm, eastern time. I didn’t love that. I figured out the answer to my question though, and didn’t need their help after all. 

It also turned out that the “valves” that I was turning “off” weren’t really water feed valves at all, but the “low point drain” which, in irony of ironies, drained the water from my trailer to prevent any further damage. So, all said and done, crisis averted, and all has been repaired!

Spray feature.

A New Mattress

The bed in Florence is a peculiar size. It’s just smaller than a full and is in fact a “three quarters” size. The peculiar size was once a common bed size in America until the old bedding size system was standardized after WWII. The mattress is also rounded at two corners to accommodate the rounded sides of the Airstream frame. This makes finding bedding difficult and more complicated. 

When I purchased Florence, I made a mental note to buy a new mattress. Three years have passed and I never found the time to do it. After purchasing a Casper mattress for my home, I wrote to Casper asking if they could make a custom size one for the Airstream. They never wrote back. 

So for a few years I slept on a sturdy cot-like mattress. It wasn’t uncomfortable but it wasn’t luxurious either. I began shopping around for a mattress and was surprised to find that the cost was not insignificant. Ballpark was about $800-1200 for a custom mattress. 

Which, as always, is when my very favorite store in the world came through for me. This past week, ALDI featured memory foam mattresses for $219. That was the lowest price I could find anywhere and just like the Casper mattress, the ALDI version came with a 10 year warranty. 


So, I bought one. I used my mom and dad’s electric turkey carving knife to slice the foam and replaced the cot-like mattress. Amazingly, it was easy and is tremendously comfortable. Honestly, it’s as comfy as the Casper, of which, I am a huge fan. 



I also made a friend with a slug while I was cutting the mattress. I interrupted his happy home with my cutting activity. Mr. Slug is nownhappily living in a paper towel tube outside my Airstream. 


Also, for those interested, I have found that European-size bedding including square pillows and “single” comforters fit the Airstream perfectly. You can find great bedding at Hema in The Netherlands and Central Europe or Hemtex in Estonia and across Northern Europe. 

Fixing a broken iPhone screen.

This past week, my Dad accidentally dropped my Mom’s iPhone on the ground and smashed the screen. My Mom always has a case on her iPhone, so we were all really surprised that the screen was not only shattered, but also had big white lines running from top to bottom.

I hopped over to the Apple Store and picked up a new phone for my Mom, but I wondered… could I repair this one? I searched around the Apple website and found a quote for $129 to repair the screen. After typing in all my information, the “estimated cost” was $399, not $129. Why that was the case, I’m not really sure, because Apple didn’t ask any other information about the phone except for the serial number and my address. After shelling out $800 for a new phone, I decided that another $400 wasn’t worth it.

As an experiment, I stumbled across this tutorial at iFixit. The process looked straightforward if not annoying and tedious, but I decided to order the screen and tools for $54.95 from iFixit.

The broken iPhone was a Space Grey color, but iFixit was out of the black bezeled screen, so I bought a white one instead. The box arrived today, and I was curious to see the tools. I opened the package, and thought… I’m going to try to do this.

And so, I did.

It’s amazing to see inside the iPhone that you carry around each day. So many tiny little components. It’s truly a feat of amazing engineering.

 

Another shot of the inside of the iPhone with iFixit tools at the side.

The process required a pair of magnifying glasses (+1.00) for me, and a bright light (thank you, left overs from architecture school), but within about an hour, I had disassembled the iPhone, and after taking a look around to satisfy my curiosity, re-assembled the phone. It wasn’t tedious, it wasn’t difficult, and shockingly, the phone works… really well. And, best of all, it’s a one-of-a-kind phone. Space grey back and white front with a black Touch ID! Not many of those floating around!

It works!
Like really works!
A custom space grey iPhone SE with a white bezel and black Touch ID! Works as good as the day it was born!

So, thanks to Sam Lionheart and the iFixit team for their great product, great service, and easy to understand tutorials and step-by-step guide. I didn’t ever feel lost or confused. If you’re handy and in need of an iPhone repair, give them a try!

And if anyone needs a custom iPhone SE, let me know! It’s for sale.

City Water Inlet Replacement

About a month ago, I was washing dishes and all of a sudden, the water simply stopped. My first thought was that the water main buried outside must have broken, but upon further inspection, I found that the water to Florence was flowing perfectly and with a decent amount of pressure. Because the water would flow from the storage tank when the pump was on, that told me that everything was working inside Florence as well. The only point where water didn’t seem to be flowing was at the point where the outdoor hose attached to the side of Florence, a strange little hookup marked “City Water Inlet.” 

I didn’t know much about the City Water Inlet (and I don’t really think I know that much more now…) but I learned that what appears to be simply a male connection for a female hose, actually has a bunch more going on. The inside of the connection contains a small white plastic box that contains a pressure regulator. It’s a little device that ensures that water coming from the source isn’t so pressured that it will blow your plumbing apart inside the Airstream. I also learned that the valve is especially prone to freezing. When they freeze they lock up, and boom. That’s it. They’re kaput and need to be replaced.

Plumbing is well outside of my areas of expertise, but the adventurous side of me decided to give it a try.

My first move was to remove the old valve.


It was a tougher job than it appeared to be. There seemed to be a lot of screws (4 inside that were VERY long and 4 outside that were very short), and it was very challenging to work in the tight quarters under the sink. The inside of the valve attaches to a little female receptacle that has a daisy wheel around it to tighten or loosen. It was pretty easy to loosen. Then, I had to pry the old valve off the side of the Airstream, because it had this sort of grey caulk goop all around it.

When I pulled it off, there was a noticeable hole in the side of the Airstream.


I plugged the hole with a towel to keep water and critters out and ordered a replacement valve. I also ordered a 90º elbow too. The elbow goes on the outside and helps to secure the hose to the City Water Inlet valve, without putting pressure on the valve itself. 

The new valve slid right in the hole, but aligning the interior connection with the daisy wheel took some effort. I tightened the daisy wheel to a point where it thought it was tight. It wasn’t. As soon as I turned on the water main, water squirted out inside of the Airstream. I turned off the main and tightened it until my fingers really (really) hurt. That seemed to be tight enough. No more dripping or squirting, a nice dry seal, and perfect running water in Florence once again!

I took some time to re-caulk the outside with some clear silicone caulk, and hopefully, I won’t have to replace this valve for a very long time!

Rigid Vacuum Cleaner Repair

I bought a RIDGID Vacuum Cleaner this past year as an investment. It’s a wet-dry shop-capable type that is quite large (too large, actually), but is up to the task of vacuuming a plastic bag stuck high up in a neighboring tree as well as emptying the contents of a beehive… both things the vacuum has done admirably.

This past spring, I was vacuuming my car, and pulled the vacuum across my driveway toward me and the wheel/leg snapped right off.

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For a $200+ vacuum, I was pretty angry about that.

So, I wrote to the RIDGID folks, and without any question, they sent out a replacement set of wheels, next day air.

Great service, and now, a great vacuum in perfect working order.

Nicely done, RIDGID. Based on this experience, and the durability of the vacuum, I would strongly recommend RIDGID.

I did it!!! Hot Water Heater Repair.

One of the amazing things about my Airstream is that the Atwood hot water heater puts out really hot water. Well, that is, it did put out really hot water until about May of this past year, when it suddenly stopped working.

My Atwood hot water heater had always worked silently, and in mid-May, it was still operating, but for some reason, it was louder than usual. I had recently replaced the LP gas canister, and I wondered if I had somehow gotten a “bad” can of gas. I kept using the hot water heater and though the flame wasn’t its usual steady self, I figured that I couldn’t do much harm if it was still putting out hot water. Increasingly, the hot water heater seemed to have to work more and more diligently to produce even just warm water. And then it stopped. The flame would come on, struggle, and no hot or even warm water would come out.

This was the precise fear I had when I bought my Airstream: that some mechanical calamity would occur, and I wouldn’t know how to fix it, or that the repair would be hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix.

So I procrastinated, which, when I don’t know how to do something, is my default. I didn’t want to face a costly repair, and thought: eventually, it will either work on its own, or it won’t. So I browsed Amazon for a complete replacement. I mean, surely, replacing the entire hot water tank and heater with a hot water on demand system would be preferable to troubleshooting and figuring out what’s really wrong with mine, right? In the meanwhile, I can live for a few days without hot water. Well, as those days turned in to months (I’m writing this in late September…), and eventually I decided enough was enough.

A tempting new electric hot water on demand unit from Amazon.

I got brave and hit up YouTube, where I found this helpful video:

The man in the video, Donald Adams (according to YouTube) was thorough in his explanation, and showed a number of troubleshooting and other tips to help me tackle the problem.

So, about a week after watching the video, I ordered a little $16 part from Amazon called a thermocouple. It’s essentially a fuse that prevents the water heater from burning down your entire Airstream when something is wrong with the flame. That’s what happened to mine. By keeping the water heater running, I was (unknowingly) creating an unsafe condition where the flame was actually licking up out of the burner tube… and the thermocouple melted. Luckily, the good folks at Atwood must know people like me, and they designed a safety feature to insure against stupidity. Thanks Atwood!

The scary $16 part that stood between me and hot water for months. Two of the three pieces aren’t even used!

I waited another week for it to arrive, and then procrastinated another week or so before “finding the time” to tackle the installation.

Well, after three months of procrastinating, it took about 5 minutes to change out the thermocouple, brush out the pilot tube, and put everything back together.

Easy. I snapped the old thermocouple off, and put the new one on. It really didn’t even require tools (but I did use a pair of needle nosed pliers because I was leary of the wires that were in there… I figured it was easier to stick in a tool rather than my fingers.)

My burned out thermocouple (top) and the new replacement (bottom.)

So, as I write this, I am enjoying the dull sound of a consistent flame and the sound of hot water being made on demand for me to do dishes later tonight!

$16 and 5 minutes. Probably not worth three months of worry and procrastination.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter

About a month ago, my microwave stopped working. I wasn’t sure why, so I checked the fuse box. The GFCI had somehow tripped. Everything else seemed to be working fine, so I didn’t pay it much mind…but for the life of me, I could not reset the GFCI. 

I tried flipping the switch. That didn’t work. I tried pushing the little yellow “test” button. That didn’t work either. I tried both at the same time. That didn’t work. I hauled out my giant Airstream manual and it had no information. I even tried Airforums. No luck. 

So today, the “check” light illuminated on my refrigerator, so I again checked the fuse box. I learned a few things…one, that my fridge has been running on propane intermittently (to my surprise) and second that the GFCI is reset   By pushing the switch DOWN and then up. 
Everything seems to be working now!

Remember: down then up!

 

A new skirt for Flo.

Though I am supremely hoping that el niño keeps the frigid winter temperatures at bay, the fact of the matter is that any temperatures below freezing can be unhealthy for Flo. Though she works to keep me warm, the extreme temperatures can’t be good for her underbelly or skin.

Last year, I used hay bales to create a buffer and to keep Flo’s underside warm. They worked great. Flo was snuggly warm all winter.

And then spring came, and I found myself hauling 20 water-logged, 200lb hay bales to the dump one at a time. It was like moving 20 dead bodies… or what I would imagine it to be like. Plus, it was messy and disgusting. The hay also seemed to attract mice.

So this year, I decided firmly: no hay. I had every good intention to build a styrofoam skirt and then… well, it never happened. I asked around at work and one of my colleagues (god bless him), Tim, offered to build Flo a skirt. Which is a million, billion, times better than anything I could ever design or make. It is really sturdy and fits like a glove (or a really perfectly tailored skirt!)

Here’s the skirt in its finished state. It’s perfect, and cuts down a lot on drafts and cold!

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A million thanks to Tim for his patience, help, and ingenuity! And here’s to an unseasonably warm winter!

 

Faucet Retrofit!

VDOMUS Handheld Shower

Nearly everyone I talk to about the Airstream asks about the kitchen and the bathroom. Everyone assumes that the bathroom is “tiny.” My response is that it is “larger than my bathroom that I had in Denmark.” (And that’s true.)

While the bathroom is compact (I am a large guy and I wouldn’t say it’s small), I am always surprised that it can accommodate someone of my height and size without feeling like I’m showering in a phone booth. Quite the opposite, it’s rather roomy and efficient.

The Airstream came from the factory with a hand-held shower spigot that was—meh—at best. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great either. It felt cheap and plastic-y in a high-quality aluminum environment.

So, I replaced it!

The job couldn’t have been easier. It literally screws and unscrews… so if you can change a garden hose, you can change the shower in your Airstream!

I purchased the VDOMUS Metal Handheld Round Bar Hand Shower from Amazon. It was about $20, and is exceptional quality for the price. I would say that it is nearly the same quality as the $500 Handsgrohe shower that I installed at home. After I installed the VDOMUS, I realized that the original shower must have been VERY corroded inside the hose. The water pressure from the new shower head is about five times what it was in the original. Plus, it looks far more sleek and stylish than the original. The hose seems much more sturdy and flexible, and makes showering with it a breeze. So, overall, time and money well spent.