Trouble on the Frozen Horizon Part 1

We know that we are short-timers.  By that I mean, nothing serious has broken in the coach for way too long so it is just a matter of time before some part decides to add a little consternation to our RV retirement adventure.  That is why we are not surprised that on our last night in Delaware as the temperatures threaten to plummet to the low thirties, our Hydro Hot heat system starts groaning in agony, heaves a last sigh and dies.  Adamantly refusing to gently waft warm pleasing air into our coach over a scalding hot tank of water as we have come to expect from this system, it abandons us to the elements.  Normally this would not be a big deal as the RV has redundant heating systems. The natural gas like warmth of the relatively quiet diesel fired Hydro Hot is just so much more desirable than the toasty but cacophonous overhead roar of the electric heat pumps.  Further impediments to warming the coach include the fact that in Storm’s sister’s driveway where we are parked we only have access to an amemic 110 volt electric cord plugged into a GFI circuit that is as sensitive as a PMSing Drama Queen on prom night. Our small ceramic heater kicks the breaker as soon as the tiny heater blows out the briefest puff of warm air.

Since we want to depart Delaware at the break of dawn to arrive at our next stop before dark, we decide to tough it out in the cold RV under a summit of comforters and blankets rather than in the tempered comfort of Barbara’s spare bedroom.  In the morning, Storm leaps from the bed an hour later than he planned and as soon as he acclimates himself to the frigid temps outside our cocoon he tries to extract me from the snugness of my comforter cavern with no success.  Doing my best Punxsutawney Phil on a sunny groundhog day imitation, I retreat to my burrow each time Storm coaxes me to stick my head out.  A new inch of ice forms on the end of my nose every time I expose it and soon I resemble a frozen Pinocchio.  Storm starts the generator and waits for the bedroom to thaw enough to lure me out.  Once out in the “fresh” air we are inspired by the need to keep our blood circulating and build up body heat so we actually get on the road pretty quickly (skip the glacial shower, I am too cold for dirt to stick to).  Comforted by the knowledge that once we get set up in MY sister’s driveway we will have 50 amp service and can run the heat pumps, we bask in the rays of sunshine streaming through our windshield as we head south.

Storm attempts traditional repair methods to fix our heater

Storm begins operation Heat Recovery the next morning.  Thankfully he has cleverly stashed away an extra burner motor drive coupling set in anticipation of his annual service on the heater or of a premature encore malfunction of this part.  Unfortunately his initial belief that the drive coupling he replaced in February of last year has failed oversoon is only partially correct. After he replaces the coupling set the unit runs, but something is still making an unsettling noise.  In hopes of a speedy solution, he contacts Aqua Hot RV Hydronic Heater Repair Center at 916-214-6518 (just in case you are also being tortured by a recalcitrant heater) and after a few web forum exchanges determines that we need a $500+ control box.  To help me better understand what we are up against, Storm explains that the Hydro Hot will now run through both the water heating and motor cool-off cycle, but at the end of the cool-off cycle begins an alarming mechanical stutter instead of shutting down as it should. We order the part and try to decide how to manage our hot water limitations over the holidays.

Here are our options:

  1. We can use the electric hot water heater which supplies about 60 seconds of hot water (120 seconds if we use our onboard water and water pump to keep the pressure up rather than hooking to outside water).  Unfortunately my bird bath is more like an Ostrich’s ablutions not a Sparrow’s so with only the electric hot water I usually wind up shivering and only semi-clean in my rush to escape the Siberian Torture Chamber that I used to call a shower.
  2. We are parked near relative’s houses so we could use their bathrooms. Lord knows I love running 100 yards in my pajamas from the coach to someone’s house first thing in the morning for a shower when it is 27 degrees out as much as the next person – NOT.
  3. Lacking any real mechanical skills, Sunny employs her extremely effective "Stare of Repair" to the Hydro Hot
    Lacking any real mechanical skills, Sunny employs her extremely effective “Stare of Repair” to the Hydro Hot

    Storm reveals a more technical aspect of the problem to me that helps us develop a strategy that includes using the unlimited hot water supply of the now partially repaired Hydro Hot. It seems that if one of us stands outside the coach and listens for the cooling cycle to end (usually announced by the aforementioned groaning and gnashing of gears), that person can unplug a certain module on the control box and the unit will reset – problem solved temporarily. I agree to do this so Storm finally can take a long, restorative shower ONLY if he shows me exactly what to do (I am sure that married folks understand the latitude for controversy in a situation like this and I did not want to be accused of destroying the heater all because of a tiny plug misunderstanding).  Fighting my natural inclination to zone out whenever Storm tries to explain mechanical things to me, I focus sharply through both the heating and cooling cycles as Storm explains my role in this process.  When the moment arrives for me to “pull the plug” and before I can touch the plug …. It works!!!  The cooling phase cycles off just as it should and Storm can’t believe it.  He has tried this time after time and it failed.  I suggest we let it run through another cycle and all the while I throw daggers of fierce concentration at it and sure enough at the cycle end it shuts down just like a well-behaved heater should.  In disbelief, Storm heads for the shower.  After repeating my new mantra: heater hot, cooler cool, weird noise bad, pull the plug.  I take my stance as a lonely sentinel determined to quickly thwart any deviant antics by this mischievous piece of machinery.  Twice more, the system works fine and only on the last cycle does it stumble enough to require me to employ my newly acquired unplugging skills.

Stay tuned tomorrow for part 2 of our story…  Does the new part work and why is the Living Room Slide not retracting right anymore?!?!


About Sunny Weathers

Pilot, motorcyclist and full time RVer. Follow me as I travel all over the US in my Country Coach RV volunteering, making new friends and pursuing a constant outdoor temperature between 70F and 80F. I'll share the fun and the tribulations and any great survival tricks I learn!

6 Replies to “Trouble on the Frozen Horizon Part 1”

  1. We have learned that it is not a question of “IF” SOMETHING will go wrong, it is WHEN it does, and never at a good time either. I pulled a mud flap off pulling in the driveway on the curb, needs some wielding so I took it to the RV shop, also had problems with the wall plugs that kept blowing the main breaker. Once there and in the shop they found it leaking fuel, so now I need a low pressure fuel pump. Nothing that time and money won’t fix, but there is ALWAYS something, we having fun yet. ;>) Its all part of the game so we got over worrying about it and pressing on. Even gets downright funny after a couple of months have gone by. Hang in there. GOD BLESS
    Jim & Sandy

    1. Wow Jim, I am sorry to hear that your RV is acting up too. Storm told me yesterday that cold weather may be a culprit in some of our recent glitches, must be affecting everyone.
      I know what you mean about “always something” (but we are definitely having more fun than working no matter what!) and I only share these experiences because they are so funny and also in case someone else can use the sometimes brilliant (in my opinion) solutions that Charlie comes up with. I know one thing, I am soooo lucky to have him as my husband and RV partner. He is one creatively talented mechanic and I never cease to be in awe of how he fixes things on the RV. Who knows maybe one day some of it will even rub off on me! (I know he is hoping for that outcome :-)

  2. Hilarious! I only hope I can be half as entertaining as you in my blog!

    1. Sunny Weathers says: Reply

      I have read your stuff and you already far surpass me. I can hardly wait to read your first post!

  3. Can’t wait to hear “the rest of the story”!!

    1. Sunny Weathers says: Reply

      LOL…Coming soon!

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