The Brahma Beast

We have pondered a wheel lock for a few years now. Doing a little research, keeping an eye open in RV shops, but never really taking the plunge. I think the main factor that has spurred on this purchase is the current Alto wait time for delivery. On the Facebook group that we are members of, there are quite a few people who have ordered a new Alto, and from there we have learned of the long wait to take delivery.
It is now running almost 2 years before an Alto ordered is actually delivered. So it is not so much the cost of replacement, that's what insurance is for, it is the replacement time that we are trying to avoid. We cannot imagine not having our Alto, if something were to happen to it. Some things are somewhat out of our control, such as crossing paths with a moron behind the wheel, but an event such as having it stolen, well, we can play a part in making that more difficult.

We already have a hitch ball lock, but we have seen a rather interesting YouTube video, produced by a lock manufacturer, which shows a variety of popular hitch locks being rendered useless in a matter of seconds...our brand being one of them. Then there is another video that shows how thieves use the safety chains attached to the tongue, to pull your trailer away quite easily, hitch lock be damned.

There is the old adage that if someone really wants something, they will figure out how to take it. Countering that though, is the idea that even though they may want it, it does not hurt to make them really work for it, or force them to move on to easier pickins. We hope the Brahma will want them to move on past our little Alto.

We researched a number of locks, the yellow Trimarks, a line out of the UK called Milenco, which looked interesting but we could not find them distributed here, and a bunch of others. We then happened upon the Brahma. It looked to be an interesting design, covering the lug nuts, which I believe is critical, and it seemed very robust. We communicated with a distributer, Morrison Motorcycle Mounts, who have locations in Washington and British Columbia, and they spoke quite highly of the design and the company. One feature we liked is that the unit can fold flat for storage in your vehicle. We ordered the smaller version, 13-15" wheels, and waited for arrival.

This thing is solid...really solid. Heavy as well. Not crazy heavy, but enough to back up the solid feel it has. The metal body and pivoting arms are quite robust, the fit and finish is excellent. It comes with 4 keys, perhaps a statement that says, lose these 4 keys, and you deserve to have a hard time removing this lock.

Fitting is straight forward. Loosen the wingnuts, pivot the 2 arms 90 degrees to the body, tighten the wingnuts, then hang the lock on the wheel. Install the lug nut cover in place behind the lock body, then slide the remveable arm into the body. Snug the lock tight to the wheel, then depress the lock cylinder. It will seat itself into one of the lock holes drilled into the arm. That's it!

The lower arms hook around the wheel, and have plates welded to them to prevent the wheel from rotating. The upper arm is round, and is used to position and hang the lock on the wheel. Once I had it snuggly installed, I attempted to move it around to try to remove it. As it needs to fit a variety of tire sizes, even when installed correctly, there is a bit of play. It soon became apparent that the only way it is coming off, other than with a key, is to cut it off with a torch or grinder. Both of these activities would generate a fair amount of noise, and attention.
round lug nut cover prevents the wheel from being removed. this is the shallow version of the cover, an option, but required for the alloy wheels

rubber pads help the fitting
To help with the installation, I attached some rubber bumpers to the inside back face of each lower arm. This reduces the play, and custom fits it to our tire size. Yet another little mod to make things easier.

Overall we are pleased with this wheel lock. It is both a visual (being bright orange) deterrent, as well as a formidable physical deterrent. We do feel more secure knowing we have done a little something extra to keep our Alto where it belongs.

2015 Trip 4: tough to beat a water site...

Bonnechere Provincial Park - June 2015

Trip 4 already, and it is almost the middle of June...where does time go? Big storm front rolling in this afternoon, calling for extended periods of rain, however, it is supposed to be nice after this passes us by, and this is backed up by the radar imagery, so we are heading out regardless.

 We are heading west, so we should drive out of it.

Refrigerator Fan

There is a lot of discussion out there regarding the cooling efficiency of a propane absorption RV fridge. Some people have reported having difficulties getting the fridge to cool enough, especially if it is very warm outside. Overall, we have not had any cooling concerns with ours. An addition that apparently helps the fridge cool, is a small fan, installed behind the upper vent cover, above the top evaporator grid. The theory being that if you help the natural convection along a bit, the fridge become a little more efficient, and the cooling increases.

Safari Condo now has a fridge fan option, but being early adopters of the Alto, it was not on our option list. As I like modding, this became a nice little project. Even though we have had no concerns, there are times when that side of the Alto has been in full sun, so it would be helpful to be able to switch a fan on when needed. Not many parts needed…a fan, usually a 12v computer fan, a fuse of some sort, a switch, and some bits and bobs of wire and aluminum. At our local electronic parts store, I found a suitable fan, 120x120 mm square, ball bearing spindle, moving 70CFM. I also picked up a lighted rocker switch, as I want to know at a glance that it is running.

One change that SC has made on the fridge install is the addition of baffles inside the fridge enclosure. This is to help direct the airflow outwards. Looking at ours, without the baffles, there is a lot of dead air space, which can trap warm air. We have noticed that the inside of the little cabinet behind the stove can become quite warm, so I suspect the baffles will help that a bit. I fashioned the baffle out of thin galvanized sheet metal, that I found in the HVAC section of Home Depot. Standard stuff. My baffle install is not as fancy as the factory’s, but it serves the same purpose.

Next was to mount the fan on a piece of L aluminum, then this was screwed in place above the evaporator grid. I tapped into the 12v terminals for the refrigerator, and fished the wire up towards the fan. Next I drilled the hole for the switch, right beside the 12v plug I installed a few years back. Located here, it is out of the way, yet still visible enough to see that the switch is lit and on. A bit of wiring, including a low amp fuse in the circuit before the fan, so if something goes screwy with the fan, this fuse will blow first, and not impact the power feeding the refrigerator.

Re-installed the main refrigerator fuse, always wise to cut any sort of power, and flipped on the new switch. On went the indicator light, and on went the fan.

There is a nice little breeze being produced, so it should do the job. There is a bit of a noise as it is running, but not too noticeable. For the times it will be actually. In use, I figure the roof fan will also be running, which will mask most of the noise.
running...but you'll have to believe me
Put the cover back on, and the air was moving nicely through it. It will be interesting to see what sort of impact this fan has on the operation of the fridge, but regardless, it was a fun little project. In terms of costs, it was probably about a $30 dollar job, with a time investment of about 3 hours...most of that running back and forth to the basement when I forgot to bring a tool or something back with me. Always happens.

Water Heater Anode

Most water heaters have what is called a sacrificial anode, a part whose metal composition causes the galvanic activity in the water to erode the anode first, and not the tank itself. Over time, the anode will slowly erode away, reducing its effectiveness. It should be checked and changed every few years. We are a little late in checking and changing ours.

Naturally, removing the anode after it has been in place for a few years was not easy. There was some surface rust, and it seemed pretty seized in place. I did not want to really crank on the breaker bar for fear of damaging or cracking the tank. Now this was a couple of weeks ago, so since then, I have been applying regular doses of Liquid Wrench to it, and today was the day to give it another go.
It is more corroded closer to the threads, but overall, not too bad.

A little pressure on the bar, and I felt it give. Sure enough, we were off to the races. The tank is full, which will provide lots of water to flush as it drains. As the water was draining, it was encouraging to see that is was very clear with no rust or sediment. I had been expecting to see something. Wrapped the threads on the new anode with some teflon tape, then installed it. Snugged it up good, but not crazy tight. The teflon tape should help it come out easier the next time I want to have a look at the anode. Filled the tank, checked for leaks, and we were done.

Checking the Spare

I knew it was under there, but for some reason, had never really explored how it was attached. It was on my list this spring to check the pressure in the spare, and figure out how it was hanging there, two things that would make a roadside flat a little easier to cope with.

Pretty simple hanger mechanism that Safari Condo has created. A threaded rod runs through the centre opening of the rim, and turned onto this rod is a 1x1 block of UHMW, which is the black plastic material you see used to make assorted pieces throughout the Alto. This piece screws onto the threaded rod, and either raises or lowers the spare. Centering the rim is a brilliant piece of engineering...a hockey puck! Yup, a puck. Now how ingenious is that.
the puck...more than just for scoring goals.
The rod is long enough that if you unscrew the block almost all the way, the spare will hang just low enough to get at the valve. Checked it with my gauge, and sure enough, it was down to 20lbs pressure. Not surprising as it has not been checked for over 5 years. Filled it up using the bicycle pump, then raised it back into place. Now that I know how easy it is to check and fill, I think it will become a regular spring check.

2015 Trip 3: shad flies and geese...everywhere.

McLarens Campsite, St Lawrence Parks - May 2015

Off to McLarens this weekend, a destination that is close to home and a nice little getaway. McLarens is one of the campgrounds in the St Lawrence Parks system along the Long Sault Parkway, which is a series of eleven islands that arc through the St. Lawrence River.

Bridges and causeways connect these islands, which are actually the high points from a group of villages that were expropriated and flooded as part of a power project in 1958.