One good thing about not trading in your RV too quickly—you get to find out which “fixes” you have put to work really are fixes, and which ones you might just as well have done without. Over the years that we’ve had the pleasure of writing this column for RV Life, we’ve shared some things that we’ve put to work in our RV world. And since we generally “wear out” our rigs before we get a new one, we’ve got an opportunity to share some of the things that maybe didn’t work as well as we had hoped.
Headlight Lens Refreshing Systems
Back in the old days, if your motorhome or tow rig’s headlight element flickered out, you made a trip to the auto parts store, bought a new headlight, popped a few screws, and replaced that puppy. With the advent of replaceable headlight lamps, you don’t replace the whole headlight—just that expensive little inner element.
That may be good in some respects, but instead of having glass out in front of your rig, manufacturers have blessed us with acrylic headlight lens assemblies. And with time, these cursed things tend to haze over. Replacing those lenses is not an inexpensive proposition, so the alternative is using a headlight lens restoration treatment. These usually boil down to pastes or polishes that are often applied with an electric drill. All of these nostrums promise increased light output and visual clarity.
Back in 2012, we reported on our experience trying one of these systems out. We settled on one that the Consumer Reports testing organization rated fairly highly: the 3M headlight lens restoration kit. While the testing group suggested about a $17 price tag, we paid $23 at an AutoZone store off-the-beaten-track in California. We stepped through the process of how to use the kit, and we shared our immediate results: “The appearance of the headlights after the whole process was amazing. We had started out with a toad car that had milky-looking headlight lenses, both on the low and the high beam side. With an investment of about a half-hour and less than $25, the lenses looked incredibly better.”
And better they were—throwing more light out on dark roads, giving us an enhanced feeling of safety. But whatever gremlins caused our original “hazing” situation weren’t content to leave well enough alone. Here it is, about three years later, and for months we’ve been complaining about how thick those “cataracts” are on the headlight lens covers. Yep, with time, that great, clear view we once had has faded out. Is it worth another $25 or so, plus an hour and a half of labor to try it again? Since the little buggy now is pushing 200,000 miles, it’s probably a more reasonable bet than laying out $95 EACH for new covers. Still, it’s a bit of a frustration.
Push-on Electrical Connectors
If you’re a do-it-yourself RV repairman, you know that electrical issues will likely be a major part of your job. We keep a good selection of electrical connectors in our electrical tool bag because we never know when something will require repair—most likely when we’re out on the road.
A few months ago, a half-mile short of the freeway on-ramp, departing for a 4,000-mile road trip, we noticed a brake issue with our travel trailer. We found a shady spot, pulled in, and sent the pilot/repair tech under the rig to ferret out the problem. Somewhere on the last trip, we’d snagged an electric brake wire and yanked the thing loose, effectively wiping out a good portion of our brake power. Happily we had suitable wire for the replacement, and as always, that wide selection of electrical connectors.
Well, back in 2014 we had crowed to our readers about a new electrical connector system we were trying out. At that time we wrote: “In-Sure Push-In wire connectors, marketed by Ideal . . . have ‘ports,’ wherein you strip back your wire insulation and simply push it into one of the ports. Strip off the next wire you want to connect, push it into another port. The connector electrically connects all wires. Need to join more than two wires? These connectors come in a variety in terms of the numbers of ports and allow various wire sizes to be used on the same connector. For example, you could connect a small 18-gauge wire into a circuit with a couple of large 12-gauge wires.”
Having these In-Sure connectors in the assortment, we hooked up the replacement wiring in no time flat, and skated off down the highway. But now, 4,000 miles down the road, I have to do what one of my mentors advised I would occasionally have to do: eat crow.
Crawling under the rig to do an inspection, I, your pilot and RV technician, discovered with a great deal of dismay that those same In-Sure connectors that I’d dutifully installed a couple of months earlier were still with me—but were hanging by a thread, and had simply failed to keep at least one wire per connector in place. In short, I was lumbering down the road without the benefit of my rear axle brakes.
I can assure you that I pushed hard, following the manufacturer’s instructions for this product. But here the end result was staring me in the face. Now, I’ve used these connectors on other repairs and installations in the rig, but I will NEVER use them under the rig where there’s any chance of something snagging and pulling on the wiring—they just don’t seem to have the gumption required to hold up to pressure. I’m back to using electrical end crimp connectors. Not those cheesy “slip the wire in one end, crimp; slip the wire in the other end, crimp” types. No, I mean the ones that look a bit like a bell, wherein you firmly physically wind the wiring together, slip it in the bell, then crimp the bell. Properly sized and crimped, this kind of connector has never failed me.
All right, that’s it for confession week. We’ll keep you up to speed when we need to repent again.
Check out Russ and Tiña’s Internet blog on a variety of RV topics at ICanRV.com.