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Topics - Ron Dittmer

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1
I was just reading through my 2007 Ford E-series service manual.  I noted the following service intervals for our TorqShift transmission with OEM external bypass filter, a bell jar design.

Under normal operation.....

At 30,000 miles, drain the oil using the drain plug and replace the external bypass filter.  Leave the inside filter alone, no need to replace it yet.  You will need 9 quarts of Mercon-SP transmission oil.

At 60,000 miles, replace both the external and internal filters.
At 90,000 miles, replace only the external filter.
At 120,000 miles, replace both filters
....and so on....

Under extreme operation, everything changes to 15,000 mile intervals.  The choice is yours if you want to consider your PC operated in "extreme" conditions.  It just might be.

Here is the bypass filter.  The last year Ford used it was 2007.


The filter inside looks like a roll of toilet paper.  The filters are available at most auto parts stores, though you might have to order it at some places.  I bought my replacement from Autozone, the Duralast brand.


The instructions say to NEVER drive the vehicle without the bypass filter.  Being a bypass filter, it is safe to operate the vehicle with an extremely dirty plugged-up filter, but driving without the filter, the transmission will get damaged because most of the oil will pass through the bell jar instead of through the transmission oil cooling system.

This bypass filter when new allows 10% of the transmission oil through it by design.  As it gets dirty and slowly clogs, less and less oil gets filtered through it.

Unlike the primary internal filter, the bypass filter captures extremely small impurities, so it's really nice to have.  It makes sense to replace this filter every 15,000 miles, per the "extreme operation" service interval.

2
General Discussion / Broken Fridge Access Panel Retainer
« on: October 07, 2021, 08:37:59 am »
Cleaning up our 14 year old PC after our recent 4 week trip, I thought I would remove the outside fridge and furnace panels to inspect and clean.  I have not had either one off since 2007.  I was happy to see that everything inside looked good with minimal debris and grime, the result of indoor storage.

Anyway, while removing the fridge panel, either I broke one retainer, or it broke on it's own sometime over the years.




Shopping around for replacements, I learned there are two different choices.  There is a thick wall and a thin wall version.  Our 2007 PC takes the thick wall version.  I bought two packages of 2 from etrailer for $26.23 including taxes and shipping.

I found them cheapest at etrailer but maybe they are sold cheaper elsewhere.  I replaced only the broken one and reused the inner piece because it is painted silver from the full body paint job.  I have 3 spares now.

I would hate to loose that panel, especially because of the full body paint job.

3
General Discussion / Phoenix Reduces Their Models
« on: September 29, 2021, 08:27:11 am »
I just noticed that Phoenix dropped models 2350 and 2551.  They were the most popular models not so long ago.  I guess adding the extra foot in creating models 2351 and 2552 has been most successful.

I am partial to model 2350 because we've owned one for 14 years and counting.  I've always appreciated having an unmodified 158" wheel base chassis, keeping it all Ford-standard.  Oh well.  That's progress.

Another 6 years and we will own a classic.  :)


4
Each year my two original multi-turn (many turn) fresh water drain valves got harder and harder to open and close.  Today they were so difficult that I twisted off the handles breaking the valve stems, so it was time to replace them.  In my 2007 2350, they are located in the main outdoor storage compartment, right up against the forward wall.


Menards was the only store I found that stocked 90 degree PEX 1/4 turn ball valves that accepted 3/8 PEX piping.  CLICK HERE to see the ones I bought.  They are so much nicer than the original multi-turn valves that were never user friendly.

I re-learned today that 3/8" ID PEX piping requires THESE 1/2" copper crimp rings like Phoenix used.

Replacing them was not easy because of the limited space and length of pipe to work with.  It took some determination but I got it done and done right.




Imagine trying to fit this beast in such a confining space.

5
We have a 2007 Ford E350 chassis with the 6.8L-V10 engine and the Torqshift transmission of that time.  Our transmission has a secondary fluid filtration system, a bell jar design which I understand was installed for a 2 year period, 2006 and 2007.  Our PC has 38,000 miles and so I thought it would be a good time to change the oil and filters.  I bought everything, 9 quarts of Mercon SP fluid, primary transmission filter, and secondary filter that resembles a roll of toilet paper.

Well I chickened out changing the primary filter in the trans pan after draining the near perfectly clean trans fluid and change only the secondary toilet paper roll filter this first time.  The secondary filter was dark & dirty but not alarming.  It's condition indicated it was doing it's job well.  I will change the main filter and everything else again in 22,000 more miles when the odometer hits 60,000.

I found it interesting how the external secondary filter works.  It is not in-line with the trans oil system but rather taps off the system so some oil gets filtered through it and returned to the transmission while most oil gets cooled through the two external oil coolers.  The paperwork that came with the secondary filter stated that running the vehicle without this filter will greatly increase transmission operational temperatures, damaging the transmission.  It is fine to drive the vehicle with a 100% plugged-up filter, but do NOT use the vehicle with the filter removed.  With a plugged-up dirty secondary filter, the trans fluid would naturally get dirty more quickly.

This is the secondary filter cartridge.


The bell jar is very similar to this, if not identical.  It is mounted on the driver side of the transmission, hanging down in logical fashion.  I wonder why this secondary filter was removed in the years that followed.


6
I just learned this today and am passing it on to an unsuspecting owner.

Ford switched brake fluids....

from DOT3 up to and including model year 2012
to DOT4 for model year 2013 to current day

I confirmed this change comparing Ford owners manuals that are available on-line HERE.

7
Tips and Tricks / Adding A Propane Tank Shield On Our 2007 2350
« on: May 18, 2021, 06:23:52 pm »
This has bothered me for 14 years.  I finally got around to making a shield for our propane tank that was always fully exposed to the rear tires as shown here.

I bought a truck mud flap from a truck stop during one of our vacations.

I measured and cut out my shield, first with my table saw, followed with a large scissors for the detail work.
I used a generic perforated bracket for mounting it.
I used hardware I had around the house including nylon locking lug nuts.
Cost was only that of the mud flap which as I recall was around $25.

I assembled it followed by a final fitting, then decided to adjust the lower-right area for improved clearance to the leaf springs and parking brake cable.

Here it is installed and the project finished.

I screwed the perforated bracket up into and through the PC wheel well liner into the steel above it.  It wasn't too thick, the large screw was able to self-tap into it.  I got lucky, in that there was a large production hole in the thick hardened steel main cross frame to allow the screw to the far right to pass through it into the steel above.








8
Mister Procrastinator here.....

Our PC was built in the spring of 2007.  It is now spring of 2021, 14 years later.  I am finally replacing the original tires with 38716 miles as stated on the odometer.  The last cross-country trip we took was in August 2018 so our PC has been idle for nearly 2.5 years due to a focus on vacations in Europe with extra focus on Greece with Irene's family there, Egypt, and the Holy Land Israel.  But we are are back focusing on the good old USA so it's time to "reset" our PC with new tires and all fresh fluids.

Our original tires are just now starting to show some minor cracking as shown here, seen around the tire size.


Here is the thread wear on the rear tires that is very nice and even.  I never rotated them.


Here is one of two front tires, both worn poorly, caused by bad shock absorbers, those red Koni-RVs that were unevenly adjusted, also made worse when the top mounts worn away.


It is the perfect time to give our PC the full treatment with Alcoa wheels.  The way it works is that you replace only the wheels that show.  The inner duallies remain original steel.  These cost me $1,500 HERE.  I still await for Alcoa-specific Borg valve stems HERE (not extenders) than extend out for easy air filling.



I will be stopping by Discount Tire to purchase 6 new Michelin Agilis CrossClimate 115/112RE tires of the exact same size and load rating.  I will mount them myself at my church where I volunteer as a mechanic for the under-resourced, to assure the wheels don't get marred, then return to Discount Tire to get them balanced with stick-on wheel weights placed on the hidden inside.  They quoted me $1316 for tires, tax, and balance.

I will reassign the two front steel wheels to the inside rear and discard the two front tires.  The original 4 rear wheels and tires will be sold locally.  Hopefully someone who drives a lot locally with an E-series Box truck or landscape truck who lives on a tight budget will value them.

I will also be selling my PC-supplied wheel cover set.  They would do nice for someone with a motor home that lacks them.

9
I hope this will be a fun topic for all to participate in.  (cheer)
-----------------------------------------------------------

We bought our first motor home at the age of 25, the year we became parents.  We special ordered our new Toyota/Mirage in September 1983 paying $12,225 which was about the price of a big Buick at the time.  The Mirage factory was in Elkhart about 5 miles south/west of Phoenix USA.  Mirage went out of business sometime during model year 1986.  We sold our Mirage in early 2007 on eBay for $7,600.

We ordered our Mirage stripped to the bone for affordability and simplicity.  It was extremely basic by motor home standards.  It was more like a hard shell tent with furnishings on wheels.  Even the chassis was stripped with a manual 4-speed transmission, no radio, no air conditioning....not even power steering.

Our Mirage served us well for vacations during and beyond our parenting years.  Our annual trips with our two sons sometimes included one of their aunts.  With a 2.4L-L4 carbureted engine rated at only 96hp, our little Mirage was a turtle.  It's top speed, full throttle on flat ground and no wind, was 78mph.  With the small fuel tank, we learned it was best to limit our cruising speed to 57mph.  This actually made better time than increasing our speed because we stopped much less frequently for fuel.

Our Mirage was our second vehicle during our first 7 years of ownership.  Irene changed careers from software engineering to domestic engineering when we became parents.  Our Mirage was her vehicle for meeting her transportation needs.  I used it as a delivery vehicle bringing home all kinds of bulk including all the lumber for building our deck.  During the construction of our house in 1988, our Mirage was my mobile tool shed.

For a number of years prior to 2007, we talked about replacing our Mirage with something much better.  The defining moment was in 2006 driving in 117 degree heat through South Dakota.  That was our last trip with it.

This picture was taken during our last trip with our Mirage in 2006.  CLICK HERE to see many pictures.


In May 2007, we special ordered our Phoenix Cruiser 2350 of which we still own today.  We paid $67,205 but have invested significantly more thereafter to improve our needs, comforts, and conveniences.  CLICK HERE to see many pictures.


10
General Discussion / Parks And Places Online
« on: December 27, 2020, 08:56:51 pm »
My brother has been putting together YouTube videos of parks and places that he and my sister-in-law have travelled to.  It's sort-of a travel channel hobby he is establishing.

CLICK HERE to get to his YouTube listing of short videos.

I thoroughly enjoyed the one video called "No To Solar", primarily because he shares his opinion during a hike in Big Bend National Park.  I simply enjoyed his hike.

11
General Discussion / My Generator Needs A New Fuel Pump
« on: September 16, 2020, 12:25:47 am »
About a month ago, I was making a video how my PC V10 engine and generator started after sitting idle for two years.  It went uneventful until 20 minutes after I started the generator.  With the a/c cooling down the rig, the generator stopped dead.  I stopped the video and scrapped the idea of posting the event because of the generator dying.

After a while, I was able to restart the generator, but it shut down a second time after 10 minutes.  During the cooler time of day (still hot and humid but less hot), the generator with a/c on ran for 1.5 hours without incident so I shut it off thinking all is well.  When camping the following weekend, it was again hot outside.  The same shut-down happened again.

I researched this to be a very common problem with the Onan generator.  There are so many U-Tube videos on this.  Basically, the fuel pump becomes sensitive to hot operating conditions.  I wonder why the fuel itself is not enough to keep the pump cool.  Anyway, I ordered a new fuel pump and fuel filter (they are removed together) costing me roughly $45 for the pair.  I await their arrival.  The weather is now much cooler so I'll be changing parts without official confirmation that the problem is solved.  According to the videos, changing the fuel pump with the filter seems easy enough.

If you wonder, my 2007 Onan-4000 has only 162 hours of use.

Has any one here had a similar experience?

12
General Discussion / TV Channel Scanning These Days For Free TV Broadcasting
« on: September 01, 2020, 07:26:56 am »
Our 2007 2350 has the old style crank-up rotational Winegard antenna with the extra add-on signal enhancer that attaches to it's under-side outside.  Our main TV is an early digital 26" Samsung.

Last week, we went on a weekend getaway to Starved Rock State Park located between small cities Ottawa & Lasalle in Illinois.  That Thursday, we wanted to watch President Trump's final speech at the RNC so I made the attempt to connect to the air waves, the first time in 4 years.

For reference, the camp ground is located on high ground, but our site was forested.  I first pointed the antenna in the direction of Ottawa and scanned to find 5 strong TV stations and nothing else, not even a weak station.  They were all entertainment TV stations.  None were CBS, NBC, ABC, or other news outlet station.  So I rotated the antenna in the opposite direction towards Lasalle but got the same results.  I then rotated the antenna in the other two quadrants but got the exact same 5 entertainment stations, all with a perfect strong signal but no other weak station.  I was surprised that it didn't matter which direction I pointed the antenna, I got the exact same results.  I was also surprised that we could not get any of the main TV stations.

Is this typical throughout the country?

13
Before you start reading through all this, I need to state that this modification applies primarily to Phoenix Cruiser models 2100 and 2350 which have exceptionally light front ends.  Get your rig weighed empty and also during a trip to determine if this is modification is right for you.

Our 2007 E350/PC-2350 with no slide out always sat a little front/high, tail/low, most noticeable when on trips but even when empty sitting at home.  Also, the ride up front has always been more harsh than I thought it should be.  I looked into the specs of our 2007 E350 to learn that it is built with the same front coil springs as an E450.  Given our load distribution and axle weight numbers both when loaded and empty, it seemed logical to replace the front coil springs with lower rated ones that are more appropriate for the weight they support.

Here is the weight distribution of our 2007 PC-2350 with no slide out.  It was quite interesting that our front axle weighs 3160 pounds when the rig is empty with nobody sitting in the front seats.  During our heaviest trip, the front axle weighed 3260 (only 100 pounds more) with the two of us sitting in the front seats.  The weight behind the rear axle is reducing the weight on the front axle, acting like a teeter-totter.


Here are the springs I installed, made by Moog, sold by Rock Auto Parts.  I also bought the Moog insulators shown, assuming my original ones were needing replacement.  To my surprise, my original insulators are made of polymer, much more durable than the softer rubber Moog insulators, so I returned the new ones to the store.  I rotated my original insulators 180 degrees so there was a fresh surface for the new springs to rest on.


Here is an original and a new lower-rated spring side by side.  Note how the new springs have the coils closer together in the upper area.  Instructions that came with the new springs stated to place the closer-spaced coils "up".  I measured the material thickness of each, the new ones measure 0.02" less.


It took me about 1.25 hours to replace the first spring and a half hour to replace the second one because I then knew the tools and the tricks to speed up the process.

Once finished and cleaned up, I drove the rig to the auto parts store to return the rubber spring insulators.  I drove over a number of road imperfections, sewer covers, and even some train tracks.  It was a good test.  The best way to describe the change is like this.  Before, when going over imperfections, it was a bang/bang.  After the change in springs, it is a thump/bang.  I was very pleased with the results.  Admittedly there were some serious road imperfections (like the train tracks) when the bang/bang still happened.  But for the majority of road imperfections, the change is significant.

A few days after changing springs, we went on a weekend get-away where I was able to better evaluate the change.  I drove over 200 miles on interstate highways, state roads, farm roads, and city streets.  Our rig was loaded up with full fresh water, gear, food, etc and 3 adults.  I am even more pleased with the results than I was during the test drive.

I do need to get a front wheel alignment after the change in front springs, but 13 years and 38,000 miles later, it's time anyway.  I took pictures of the tires to compare their stance.

Before (You can see the right tire is slightly in toward the bottom, looking pigeon-toed.)


After (As expected, that same tire is now slightly outward toward the bottom.  The same applies to the other front tire but you can't see it because it's in the shadows.)


Here are other "before and after" pictures for comparison.  The front of the rig now sits 1-1/4" lower which I am very pleased.

Before


After


Before


After


Before


After


ADDING THIS SUPPLIMENT THE FOLLOWING SPRING, MAY 2021
Finally, our first serious trip coming soon.  In preparation, I replaced our six 14 year old tires, upgraded 4 of the 6 wheels to Alcoa alloys, and got a front wheel alignment which didn't happen without it's own saga....but turned out fine in the end.

My old shop Champion Frame Align in Elgin, IL permanently closed so I went to the competition that put them out of business, Cassidy Tire in East Dundee, IL.  They primarily service trucks of all kinds with special attention towards tractor trailer trucks with tires and wheel alignments.  They also service motorhomes.  They have 4 full-length bays and one 1/2 bay located behind the office.



For the curious..........
They clamp on wireless alignment contraptions that self-level.  They clamp on similarly to a wheel weight in 4 places around the rim.

Using a special floor devise, they push the rig so that the front tires rest on the round disks that float for resistance-free steering wheel turning.


The first wheel alignment resulted in a strong pull to the left.  Read on why.  They sent me home and called me back after they had their equipment recalibrated which resulted in a pull half as bad, also to the left.  Read on why.  They sent me home again, this time advising me to have a mechanic look at the steering gear box or something else.

This compares the initial visit to the final results.  The upper chart with "red" is what I introduced when changing to softer front coil springs.  The final results are the lower section.  I watched the guy work and there is a lot of inherent slop.  He touches something to tighten it after a tweak and it drifts significantly off the mark.  So he has to "anticipate" where it will rest after tightening.  Also when making one setting better, it makes the other setting worse, so everything is a compromise between caster and camber.

What I learned watching, a wheel alignment cannot be accomplished when the motorhome is new because Ford installs centered bushings.  The last picture in this post is of my shop manual which mentions this at the bottom.  Being centered eliminates the ability to adjust caster and camber.

Offset bushings are a requirement to change settings.  Here is one of mine.  It is mounted on top of the steering knuckle, influencing the position of the upper ball joint.  If you replace an upper ball joint, make sure to mark the position of the bushing or you will surely need a wheel alignment.




Back home, before running to a shop to investigate the "Pull To Left", I decided to place the front lower control arms on jack stands so I could freely turn the steering wheel left and right to investigate the cause for the "Pull To Left".  Watching the steering wheel go back to left of center on its own.....IT HIT ME.....the heavy duty Safe-T-Plus steering stabilizer I had installed was causing the "Pull".  I then adjusted it so it would hold the steering wheel straight rather than to the left, and all is well.  I am Very happy!  I called the shop and told them the cause for the pull.  They "Got It".

Here are two pictures of my aftermarket heavy duty Safe-T-Plus steering stabilizer.  The left end is attached with two "U" bolts to the steering linkage.  Loosen them, center your steering wheel, retighten, and it's done.  Being the fussy guy that I am, I test drove the rig and tweaked it twice for "PERFECTION On Center" when driving.




With the change to softer front springs, alloy wheels, new Michelin Agilis CrossClimate tires, and the front wheel alignment, our Phoenix Cruiser 2350 is riding better than ever before.  I can't wait for our next trip.

For Reference......
Here is the page in my massive 2007 E-Series Ford Shop Manual.  In the upper-left corner is what Ford says the setting should be.  The computer alignment machine matched these "optimal" settings before the alignment officially began.  If the alignment shop were perfectionists, and I had exceptionally deep pockets, they would have changed bushings a couple of times to tighten-up the tolerances.


This is probably way more about wheel alignments than most people care to know.

So in conclusion, here is the stance of our rig after everything was done from changing front coil springs, 6 new tires, new Alcoa wheels, and a front wheel alignment.  Also during the taking of this picture, my 35 gallon fresh water tank (located against the rear wall) is full, and all my heavy towing hardware is in the rear storage compartment to simulate "trip load" conditions.  The slight rear end sag is gone, the rig handles better, and the quality of the ride is improved for us sitting in the front seats.  Our PC appreciates the softer ride as well with reduced thrashing when being driven over road imperfections.


ADDING SEPTEMBER 2021, Our First Serious Cross Country Evaluation
We headed out from the Chicago area to Glacier National Park Montana, hitting places along the way.  This was my first serious evaluation with consideration to our trip-load and tow vehicle.  I found myself once again adjusting the Safe-T-Plus for our PC to track dead straight.  Once made perfect, I noticed a slight increase in steering floating.  It's not much but is noticed.  It explains why there was previously a slight pull to the right, assumed to be an intentional setting many years ago by my old shop to address that sensation.

I observed something surprising with the Safe-T-Plus.  When laying on the ground watching the steering linkage move, while Irene turned the wheel gently left/right, I noticed a gentle pivoting motion of it's long mounting bracket.  The leverage of the Safe-T-Plus bracket slightly bends the E350 frame which I believe is the source of that floating feel.  This leaves me to think the thicker E450 frame will flex less and therefore float less.

I weighed the rig on this trip and found it's weight and weight distribution very similar to previous trips.  Referencing the Michelin chart for our new tires, our front tires required 40 PSI and rears 60 PSI, but I put 50 psi up front and 60 psi in the rear.  I added 10 extra up front only because 40 sounded too little.  The reduction in tire pressure improved driving/riding comfort.  Next trip I will try 45 PSI up front and see if it helps address that slight floating action in the steering.

I have a ScanGauge-II mounted which indicated average fuel economy fairly consistent just over 10 mpg cruising at 60 mph on the open road.  We lowered our cruising speed from 67/68 to 60 on our return trip to avoid loud engine noise from down-shifting on every incline.  I also noticed a reduction in steering floating, additional incentive to slow down.  At 60, everyone passed us which was fine, and I was more relaxed and drove for much longer periods.  I could burn through nearly a half tank of fuel between stops.

It was interesting to see the same rigs pass us by many times, indicating they were stopping much more frequently than I was leaving me to wonder who was truly making better time.  When any Mercedes chassis motorhome passed us, I could hear it's turbo singing quite loudly, a sign of being pushed hard.

14
Our 2007 2350 brand new, came with the rear tires exposed to the batteries.  Needless to say, the batteries got very messy from all the road grime.  A few years later, I reworked the battery cables to accommodate a protective shield.  CLICK HERE to see what I originally had, and what I did about the condition.

I was wondering if Phoenix ever addressed the condition, or is it still their practice to have the rear tires splash up the batteries.  If your PC has the battery compartment adjacent to the rear tires, are your batteries protected from tire splash?  A few pictures would be appreciated.

15
After all these years, I am considering installing battery-disconnect switches on both the chassis and house batteries.  I assume they are installed on the ground terminal.

You with experience with these, which design was most reliable?  Which type would you avoid and why?

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