Monday, October 23, 2017

Power, protection failure, and warranty failure Update 2

Just a quick update:

Original post

Update 1

Supplied my address to representative at Progressive Industries and received box about a week ago.  As was undergoing training it went to office at park where am at and just picked it up today.

Will make a final update when close BBB complaint and make sure the replacement unit functions properly, with pictures!!!

8 Days at FrontSight Firearms Training Institute

This was a full eight days of learning experience, which includes skill building and many other aspects of operating, and being around, firearms.  The training happened at FrontSight Firearms Training Institute.

I first learned about FrontSight about three and a half years ago at an RV show in Indio, CA.  It was one of the FMCA rallies.  A booth was at the rally and they were selling memberships to here, price was reasonable.  After purchasing it promptly forgot about this as my first cat passed away, Pia, and that truly devastated me.

About eighteen months ago remembered had this, came and took a tour of facility, and worked it into schedule to take these two courses, see if liked / didn't like it, and to learn and understand weapons, in a civilian capacity, better.  Recently I kept thinking about something a dear friend of mine told me, when she traveled the country as a young single woman between events.  She related a few stories where she went into places like gas stations, truck stops, and the like, and there were some sketchy people around, looking at her in skeevy ways.  This worried her greatly and she seemed genuinely worried for her safety at the time.

Due to this, and some of my experiences on the road so far, chose to attend these courses in a controlled and educational environment. Am extremely surprised at the depth in which they teach.  The curriculum is not only about shooting, it's about so much more.  The courses main focus is on the defensive use of firearms.  Let me repeat, the defensive use of firearms.

As the main focus is on the defensive use, including such topics and mandatory lectures as criminal and civil liabilities, covering different types of scenarios on proper use of force, force escalation, color code of mental awareness, and many other topics.  They also covered that, although you might be justified in proper use of force, sometimes that justification should not be used.  One example FrontSight provided is an armed robbery at a convenience store.  You can use deadly force, not only to protect yourself, but also to protect innocents, such as life of the cashier.  However, if the armed robbers got what they want, didn't harm anyone, and are leaving the store, and you happen to fire and hit them, then you might be both criminally and civilly liable due to escalation of potential deadly force.  Even though you, at one point, had just cause, the point of imminent danger passed and now it's an armed robbery law enforcement issue, not a matter of life and death.  This line is grey and it's hard to judge what the "bad guy" is thinking as he could've turned around and popped the cashier as he was leaving.

One topic which both the instructors and the lecture topics harped on, is not the use of deadly force.  This is super important.  As a firearms owner / user, the intent for self defense is not to kill the aggressor, the intent is to stop the action that they're doing which is putting you, or innocent people, in a life threatening situation.  The way FrontSight teaches this is to use a controlled pair of shots to the thoracic cavity (handgun), followed by a head shot if they are still aggressive.  Once the threat is neutralized then should call 911 (if not done already), properly stow the weapon (if scene is safe) and wait for law enforcement.

BUT, it's not always necessary to use a firearm.  If it's possible to get out of the situation you're in, without brandishing a weapon, by all means do it.  This is unlikely in event of a home invasion, but still possible.

As I do not own a firearm, all firearms I used as part of the training were supplied by FrontSight.  This was nice from the standpoint of just showing up in the morning, getting it, shooting it, and turning it in at end of day.  Detail below on the individual courses, with a followup on these weapons rentals.

--------------------

Four Day Tactical Shotgun Course


This was my first course ever, outside of the military, and first time handling, and shooting a shotgun.  The experience itself is great, though I truly beat myself up handling a shotgun like that, with so many rounds in a few short days.

All in all a great experience.

Not that I can cover all the topics here, but will cover some highlights.  The foundation of the course is defensive use of shotgun, such as in a home situation.  The course covered the three main types of shotgun ammunition, bird (game) shot, OO Buckshot, and slugs, and also went through the different zones of effectiveness of each different type.

For example, buckshot has an "A" zone, in which the shot (consisting of nine pellets) generally punches a solid hole in the target (paper in our case).  It's somewhat raggedy around the edges but all in all a solid hole.  The A zone distance can vary significantly on a few factors, such as ammunition manufacturer, lot number, weapon type, and a few other criteria.  The "B" zone is also affected by the different factors, and illustrates where the shot is not a single hole but more distinct holes, but also typically covers the thoracic cavity, or maybe even a hand size pattern in the thoracic cavity.  The "C" zone is like scatter shot and where, when properly aimed, one or more pellets do not cover the target and definitely fall outside of the thoracic cavity.

There is a general limitation of most shotguns in that there is a lack of ammo capacity, yet the devastation that a well placed shot can cause will definitely stop a hostile target.  Yet, need to be careful on the shots as it's easy to potentially hit innocent bystanders due to pellets missing the target, or going through the target.

During the course different ammo malfunctions were covered.  These malfunctions are typically called Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3.  Type 1 is generally an empty chamber (failure to fire), Type 2 is ammunition that failed to eject and is visible (typically called brass high), and Type 3 is two rounds in chamber area.

Dry fire (practicing without ammunition) is done quite often throughout the course.

Multiple targets were also practiced in this class extensively and were present on the skills evaluation at end of course.

Throughout this course the defensive use of this weapon was emphasized, and only to use enough force to stop any acts of potential life threatening situations you may encounter.  The intent is not to cause death.

This course is physically demanding due to the shotgun itself.  While the recoil isn't overly bad, the repeated recoil and thought process of the whole course takes it's toll.  Definitely recommend using products / modifications to reduce recoil, including shoulder pads.

---------------------

Four Day Defensive Handgun course


Like the Four Day Tactical Shotgun course, this was all in all a great experience.  Yet, doing this back to back with the shotgun was tiring, both physically and emotionally, yet still rewarding.

Important to note, that just like the shotgun course, the handgun course's primary goal is to stop any life threatening situations you may encounter.  As mentioned in the preamble this is typically accomplished using a controlled pair to the thoracic cavity, followed by a single head shot ONLY if conditions warrant and the target(s) are still aggressive.

This course started off in much the same manner as the shotgun, safety first, always safety, and never a focus on lethal force.

First piece of the course was combination of dry firing and malfunction handling.  The same three basic types of malfunctions (type 1, 2, and 3) for shotguns also apply to handguns.  That is failure to fire (a click), brass high (round stuck exiting firing chamber), and a double feed.

For the initial dry firing aspect we went up to the line and practiced getting the proper sight picture, proper trigger press, and general firing mechanics.  The instructors did a very thorough job with this.

For the initial firing of the handgun, the instructors actually did this for us.  They fired the firearm first at the target (to give us a reference point to aim at), then they walked us through the firing, literally hands on.  They had us hold the firearm, finger on the trigger, then they pressed the trigger for us, slowly and methodically, until a round went off.  This happened two to three times.

It was followed up immediately by the instructor watching intently as we pulled the trigger, slowly and methodically, to achieve the proper trigger press and surprise break, as well as understanding the trigger reset.

After some more baby steps in getting familiar with firing hand guns we practiced controlled pairs on paper targets.  This I really excelled at and immediately got most of shots in the thoracic cavity.  As the training progressed we then switched to the controlled pair as well as a stopping head shot randomly, at the Range Master's instruction.  Super thorough.

Throughout all the firing exercises the firing line instructors, and range master, were always watching after the students to maintain safety and improve our individual firearms handling skills.  This includes grips, trigger pull, analyzing what we did when shooting at the paper targets, the whole gamut really.

Of particular note is a live fire simulator, a small building'ish type of structure that quickly go through and practice the skills that learned so far.  Got the mind working and thinking about real world scenarios.

As mentioned above, for the most part a thorough and enjoyable course, one which I did extremely well with.

--------------------------

A tale of two woes.


At, or near, the end of each course, there is a skills evaluation to determine your firearm handling skills.  As with any evaluation there are different levels, identified below:

  • Distinguished graduate - achieved 90% or greater proficiency with tested actions
  • Graduate - achieved 70% - 89%, or greater, proficiency with tested actions
  • Achievement - achieved less than 70% proficiency with tested actions


The items tested included firing drills, malfunction drills, and reload drills.  My own personal (biased) opinion is that I excelled at all of these, especially as a first time student and shooter of these weapons.  But, as this section states, it's a tale of two woes, one woe for each course.

I did not learn the exact grading structure until the handgun course (wasn't fully explained in shotgun course), and it's about as follows:

  • Start with a fixed score
  • Each miss subtracts five points
  • Each "procedural" subtracts three points
  • Exceed allotted time for action subtracts three points
  • For handgun, if round lands outside of targeted area, subtract three points


For the shotgun course I missed distinguished graduate by five points, or one shot.  I was eighteen (18) points down from the starting score.  There are a few ways where points can be subtracted to add up to eighteen, such as three misses (five points each) and exceed time of one action (three points).

During, and after, the skills evaluation, received no feedback on what went wrong so truly have no idea what went wrong where.  Just know missed the distinguished graduate by five points.  Infuriating in a way but I didn't come to beat the score, I came for the experience.  It still left a bad taste in my mouth.

For the handgun course, it's more complicated, and as of this writing do not know how I did.  There are three "tiers" of evaluation.  First is controlled pair target shooting, next is controlled pair and head shot target shooting, and final is malfunction and reloading drills.

It was midway through the combination controlled pair and head shot drills where it all went south.  Up until this point was only five points down, due to one missed shot that I yanked the trigger on.  Had great sight picture and it was all going smooth.  THEN, a type 3 malfunction happened, third one of the day, and that's where stopped caring as couldn't rely on the weapon, a rental weapon.  At this time didn't miss any shots in this stage, all head shots and controlled pairs accounted for within target zones.  After the malfunction, and clearing the malfunction, missed the subsequent three head shots yet got the controlled pairs.

During the malfunction and reloading drills, again, was beside myself with the rental weapon, and purposely flubbed them all.  Probably got a few procedural's and out of time on all of them.

At this point, just as we broke for lunch, had a total of three type 3 malfunctions (two in practice before the evaluation and one during evaluation).  Had at least two type 3 malfunctions the prior day, with the same weapon.  Brought most of these to the staff's attention and my firing line partner and I exchanged knowing glances each time it happened.

At this point in the course am feeling hopeless and beyond myself with the rental hand gun after all these malfunctions.  It felt like all this was a useless exercise as couldn't trust the weapon.

After lunch we came back and did some more fun practice, such as shooting at targets that looked like obvious bad guys.  Am dubious and hopeless on the weapon, just expecting another type 3 malfunction.  I fired a few rounds at the target until got a type 1 malfunction, which is a click and no boom.  One of the firing line instructors came over and saw the malfunctions happen and attempted to help, to no avail.  Racked and round popped out, ready to fire again, and another click but no boom.  Repeated this two more times in the subsequent drills when gave up, unloaded, holstered, and requested permission to leave firing line.

Shortly after leaving line turned in rental weapon to range staff, reported malfunctions to weapons rental, and left day four early.

As of right now still have no idea how I did in the handgun course.  Am just happy don't have to deal with that rental weapon again, or so they said.  Going back first thing in the morning to finish up the course.

It's not the ammo, it's not the user, it's the hardware, and hardware problems, i.e. things out of my direct control, get me super irritated.  It is my thought that the weapon is dirty though just a hunch.  The Springfield Armory XD series is supposed to be a highly rated and extremely reliable weapon, yet I had nothing but issues the last two days.

Now, back to the shotgun, had a few problems during the evaluation portion with racking the pump.  I assumed, at the time, that it was just me, even though had no problems racking prior.  After dealing with the handgun malfunctions, am sure that it could be a hardware issue, possibly a dirty weapon.  This I do not know for certain but if true it's truly infuriating.

Final thoughts:


All in all a great course and achieved my goals.  Yet, I will NOT RENT A WEAPON (or buy ammo) again through FrontSight, unless want to do a full auto course.  By all rights I feel as if should've scored a distinguished graduate in both courses but didn't as I feel the rental weapons malfunctions are to blame.  I still recommend the training, just don't rent weapons!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Power protection failure, and warranty failure, Update 1

Just a quick update in that the company contacted me Tuesday morning, explained what happened on their side, and offered to replace the unit.


Updated my original post with this:

The current status is a representative contacted me from Progressive Industries and they will replace the unit.  Will provide address for shipment when get to my next location have an open complaint with the Better Business Bureau about Progressive Industries failure to honor their warranty.


When receive further communication will update status on original post and close the BBB complaint when it's satisfied.


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Power, protection failure, and warranty failure

Well, it's been a long time since posting and am still wandering around the U.S., even after spending four months on Vashon Island (wonderful place).  While on the island, and just before leaving, they had four to five consecutive days of rain, with a solid two days of non-stop rain and drizzle, then couple days of morning showers.  I believe it was during this time water potentially entered the unit though no misuse on my part.  Then after moving to next destination the highly respected unit failed on me.  This is documentation of my initial request, and subsequent, denial(s) by the manufacturer, to obtain warranty coverage.

The current status is received a new unit and haven't plugged it in yet a representative contacted me from Progressive Industries and they will replace the unit.  Will provide address for shipment when get to my next location have an open complaint with the Better Business Bureau about Progressive Industries failure to honor their warranty.

Know of a few people who have this unit and they thoroughly enjoy and recommend it.  When it was functional for me it worked wonderful and great and I had complete confidence in it's ability to protect the electrical system of my RV.  Now am not so sure...  Seemingly great product but company doesn't want to live up to it's warranty, of which I believe I should be covered under.

Failed Unit
The unit that failed is actually the second unit I purchased.  The first one was left at a campground in Montana and, despite numerous calls, they never responded, yet another story.  The second one was purchased at the Escapee Rally in Tucson, AZ this past spring.  It's actual purchase date is March 20, 2017, according to the receipt.  Of note is that it's a slightly different design with the addition of the plastic shroud.

There is actually an interesting story about the receipt.  When submitted the warranty claim the first time, did not have the receipt, so naturally they denied me.  Completely understandable.  After I submitted the warranty claim, contacted the company I purchased the unit from and they were kind enough to find my receipt and forward a copy of it to me, as well as further information to escalate my claim if needed, which used to no avail.  When received the receipt replied back to initial denial for reconsideration, which didn't change.

Have been using this product flawlessly since that date until September 24th, when it failed.  This is roughly a six month window.  Six months and four days to be more precise.  But, the time frame doesn't matter as it's a LifeTime "Warranty"....  Notice the quotes.

Top of pigtail
Using my untrained eyes the point of failure seems to be where the pigtail enters the housing, as seen in this picture.  Without taking the unit apart, and forgoing any chance at getting a replacement unit, it's hard to say the exact cause.  Yet can clearly see a significant gap in the rubber gasket.  I contend that this is the primary point of failure in letting water inside the unit.  It is strange in a way that this happened now as earlier in the year had more rain than that last week, and was moving more frequently.  It is also possible that the screws, holding the plastic shield in place, could also be the cause, or both areas for that matter.

This is the sequence of events:

  1. On Vashon:
  2. Flipped circuit breaker on power pedestal to off
  3. Unplugged working unit
  4. Lifted plastic shield and removed cord that goes to RV
  5. Closed plastic shield securely and back flat on ground
    1. Note: Dry and sunny day, ground is dry
  6. Picked unit up and walked to other side, laying unit on ground again, on the back
  7. Coiled up power cord into clean dry bay
  8. Put unit in same bay as power cord, clean and dry
  9. Close bay door
  10. Started engine shortly after and took off to ferry
  11. Ferry did not sink on crossing, nor any splashes.
  12. Drove to new destination
  13. In Oregon
  14. Got to new site, leveled RV, and hooked up unit in following manner
  15. Verified circuit breaker was off
  16. Plugged in unit, turned circuit breaker on
  17. On application of power, unit immediately read E3 error, 255 voltage, and 1-3 amp draw
  18. Flipped circuit breaker off
  19. Flipped circuit breaker on
  20. Same error message and readings
  21. Flipped circuit breaker off
  22. Got a 50 amp pigtail to 30 amp converter
  23. Made sure 50 amp breaker is off
  24. Plugged pigtail into 50 amp outlet, plugged unit into pigtail
  25. Turned 50 amp breaker on
  26. Same E3, 255, and 1-3 amps
  27. Turned 50 amp breaker off
  28. Wait 10-15 seconds
  29. Turned 50 amp breaker on
  30. Same E3, 255, and 1-3 amps
  31. Turned 50 amp breaker off
  32. Disconnected unit from pigtail and plugged into 30 amp socket
  33. It was at this point that noticed water droplets / vapor in display window
  34. Turned 30 amp breaker on
  35. Same E3, 255, and 1-3 amps
  36. Turned 30 amp breaker off
  37. Unplugged unit
  38. Switched sites at campground (totally new pedestal, etc)
  39. At new location did the following:
  40. Made sure 30 amp breaker is off
  41. Plugged unit into outlet, turned 30 amp on
  42. Same E3, 255, 1-3 amps
  43. Turned 30 amp breaker off
  44. Plugged 50 amp to 30 amp pigtail in
  45. Transferred unit from 30 amp to 50 amp pigtail
  46. Turned 50 amp breaker on
  47. Same E3, 255, 1-3 amps
  48. Turned 50 amp breaker off
  49. Deduced unit failed
  50. Plugged 30 amp cord into 30 amp outlet and turned breaker on

To make sure, the complete drive was no rain, dry roads, no chance of water entering unit inadvertently.

After deducing the failure, then getting settled into place, setting up internet, computers, etc., went to Progressive industries site, bee-lining for their "Warranty" area to identify, in my layman's eyes, if was covered.  Turns out I was unsure due to a few items there that didn't quite understand the meaning of.  Never fear, will go through the "warranty" verbage farther down.

Based on my records it looks like "Warranty" claim was submitted on September 25, 2017.

Prior to submitting this, called their technical support line, explained the issue, and they said to go through the warranty submittal process and specify Persistent E3 Problem.

Some pertinent information from claim submission:
Surge Protection Unit PurchasedEMS-PT30X
Product Error Code (EMS units)E3 - Line 1 High Voltage
Description of IssuePersistent E3 problem. PE3 also appears immediately upon plugging in. Voltage consistently reads 255, amps read between 1 and 3, water Vapor appeared in display window. Unit always plugged in upright. Plugged in constantly for about 4 months prior to move, and at new location get persistent error. While can't find paper proof of purchase, serial number is attached and purchased it from the dealer who attends the Escapee Escapades, on your behalf (big guy), and purchased it at the 2017 Escapade.

Must admit didn't fill this out quite right but was hoping that with as much information as could remember that it would help them and maybe give me a better chance.  Was sadly mistaken.

We appreciate you taking the time to contact Progressive Industries Inc. Thank you for allowing us to be part of your camping and RV experience. This email is to notify you that we have denied your warranty claim based upon the information submitted per the policies and criteria of our company. Without a proof of purchase, we are unable to process the claim. Additionally, E-3 errors caused by water damage are not covered under our warranty policy.  To review these policies in more detail, please visit http://www.progressiveindustries.net/warranty

Based on the information you provided and due to your customer loyalty, our warranty specialist has determined that you are eligible for a discount. We can send you a new EMS-PT30X  for $199.00.

If you’re interested, please reply back to this email so we may explore new options for you.
We look forward to hearing from you so we may continue to remain part of your RV experience.

Sincerely,
Progressive Warranty Team
Picture sent after first denial
Progressive Industries

After received this denial got my receipt from the company which I purchased this from, which has been great BTW.  Good support from them in helping.

Replied to the e-mail with a picture and the receipt that now had.

Below is a portion of the reply I sent:

From my untrained eye there appears to be a gap in the O-ring / Seal at the top where the power wire enters the unit.  Also attached is a picture of that.

As this isn't due to a natural disaster or "Act of God", and seemingly only rain when it was properly used, please reconsider your initial denial.  The unit is in great condition, no cracks / breaks, and is only 6 months old, cared for as lovingly as possible.  This is my second unit as left first behind at a campground in Montana.  Up until this point it has worked flawlessly.

Considered buying another unit, but why should I support a company who won't support a six month new product?


At this moment felt for sure had a solid case.  Yet, once again, a denial.

We appreciate you taking the time to find your receipt. Unfortunately, you warranty claim still does not meet the criteria for a replacement.
If you would like to take advantage of the warranty discount for a new EMS-PT30X for 199.00, give us a call. Otherwise, we will consider this warranty claim (#0149) closed.


In this last reply they didn't state the criteria so, at this point, am quite a bit miffed and upset.  This is the point in which draft a lengthy e-mail to the Operations Manager at Progressive Industries as was told could appeal to him.


This is in reference to Warranty Claim #0149.  Will only contact you once as either care or don't care.

Writing as courtesy before I pursue other avenues for resolution, such as contacting your parent company, Better Business Buereau, Social Media, and/or other outlets that are open to me.

Only items can see as reasons for denial are #1 and #3 below, where it seems as if normal use of the product is not covered with an undamaged factory installed and unmodified product housing.  If this is the case, why exclude other items related to product housing, such as driving away while it's still plugged in?  Surely that would damage product housing!

In summary, it seems as if this is only intended as a "fair weather" product.

I do understand there's been an ownership change in the parent company recently and am hopeful that is not impacting this decision.

Warranty is here, included relevant parts below:
http://www.progressiveindustries.net/warranty-information

1. Our Lifetime Warranty covers only Progressive Industries’ workmanship, internal electronics and parts & materials contained within the unit housing.
A unit designed to be outside, with no damage to the housing, is inoperable due to natural weather conditions and normal use.  This seems as if it's an issue with Worksmanship and/or design/materials used, except for clause "contained within the unit housing".

2. Any and all damage to the outside of the unit is not covered.  External damage is typically associated with a poor connection between your RV or our EMS/SSP units and a power cord.
NO DAMAGE

3. Our Lifetime Warranty is exclusive to Progressive Industries and is granted in lieu of all other express or implied warranties, obligations or liabilities.
Is this the catch-all where, a product intended for outdoor use, when used outdoors, is not covered due to premature failure of factory installed parts?

4. This is a non-transferable Lifetime Warranty. It applies only to the original owner and covers only those products purchased from an authorized dealer, retailer, or seller. This Warranty shall be deemed fulfilled and exhausted upon (1) the provision of a replacement unit or (2) once any problem with the original unit is repaired by a qualified technician. A proof of purchase is required for all warranty claims.
I am original purchaser, proof of purchase sent, and purchased from authorized retailer

5. Products installed or used in an application other than an RV
Always on RV

6. Products operated outside systems compatible and compliant with RV surge protectors
To my knowledge all is compatible

7. Products used in a manner inconsistent with the operating instructions
To my knowledge all used according to operating instructions.

8. Use of replacement parts or accessories that are non-compliant with Progressive Industries specifications
Mo modifications or replacement parts

9. Damage to the surge protection unit, such as burnt, charred or melted components resulting from products connected to poorly maintained power sources, power cords or adapters
None noticed

10. Improper use including, but not limited to failure to disconnect upon departure from power source
Proper use followed.

11. Failure to ensure electrical plugs and receptacles are clean and all connections maintain a snug fit when plugged in
All clean and snug

12. Failure to provide continuous maintenance in accordance with the maintenance instructions provided by Progressive Industries
Followed instrutions

13. Any unauthorized modifications or repairs
None made

14. All acts of God and/or natural disasters including, but not limited to lightning damage, hurricanes, floods and earthquakes
No natural disasters or Acts of God, unless rain is considered an Act of God.

As always, thank you for your time.

As can see there are only two pieces which I think they "might" have cause to deny my claim, but yet, when I originally contacted the people purchased this from, they were under the impression that it should be covered.

After sending this off, got a short reply from the Operations Manager (YAY?)

Thank you for your email.
I will review your claim with our Customer Support Team and get back to you within 24 hours.


So, next day, within 24 hours as he claimed, got another response.  Not the one hoped for but at least could take the next steps.

We reviewed your claim further and additionally, discussed with our corporate office this morning.
To qualify for our warranty, “proof of purchase is required for all claims”, clearly stated.
Your claim states evidence of moisture in the display window, likely to have caused the PE3 code. Our products are tested thoroughly and when use according to the instructions, water cannot enter product housing.

Therefore your Claim was denied.


At this point got the dull pain of denial, not the sharp intense one as before, like already becoming numb to the process..

Felt the need to follow up with him as did provide proof of purchase, and his statement of "water cannot enter product housing" sent me into a little frenzy..  He seemed as if I didn't know how to read and follow basic and intuitive instructions.  While I am a guy, who typically doesn't read instructions, they seemed fairly easy to follow in this case.

Thank you for the follow up.
I disagree with your findings as water did enter the undamaged housing when used in accordance with the instructions.
But what do I know, am only the one who used it.
Again, many thanks for following up, will be weighing my options and moving forward. 


So, here is where we are at today, well, where I am at today.


  • Submitted Better Business Unit complaint
  • Wrote this blog entry ("social media in a way?")
  • Am weighing my further options to include spreading through word of mouth
    • Need to be cautious as don't want to get accused of defamation

Am optimistic that the Better Business Bureau will come through on my behalf, and will post later with the progress.

The full album of pictures is here.  Not much to it, just pictures of a failed unit.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Serpents, or belts, or a serpentine belt

It was a nice, quiet, and peaceful drive from Palm Springs, CA to Yuma, AZ.  I spent about a week in Palm Springs and was expecting to get to Yuma before noon (11 am California time).  I was well on my way to making it with 20 minutes to spare until I noticed something strange.  The battery wasn't charging and the engine temperature was pegged.....  HMMM....  Thought it was a fluke so drove a few more miles to the second exit, but with quite a few miles in between..

Soon as pulled into the gas station parking lot saw a trail of liquid on the pavement behind me...  Soon as I found a safe spot to park, I turned off the engine soon as possible to prevent any potential damage, or minimize any damage from occurring..

The sight was not welcome.....

It was definitely not welcome.

There was liquid flowing out of a tube.  Upon further investigation it was the overflow tube from the radiator that was spewing radiator fluid..  So, the temperature gauge wasn't lying, phooooey....  Stood around, scratching you-know-what, trying to think of what could be wrong.  Nothing, on the surface, looked abnormal, yet something was clearly wrong.

Crawled underneath and looked around, nothing...  Yet something...

Went inside and grabbed a fleshlight, then crawled underneath again, randomly looking around...  And suddenly, found something abnormal, something unexpected....  Something not so good, even bad...  There was no belt so saw the butt-crack....
Remnants

The serpentine belt disappeared, well, mostly disappeared, yet found some fragments, as in this photo.  Pulled this from behind the radiator fan blade so there must've been quite the breakdown.  As can see, there's not much left to it..

Queue backward a few years when I replaced the alternator....  This was a chore, mainly from the standpoint of not having a third, or fourth, hand.  And such was the case here.  It took me over four hours to get this fixed, only because didn't have that third hand the whole time.

The process for the alternator was pretty much the same here, with exception of physicall removing the alternator and doing those tests.  But, speaking of the alternator, the pulley was gummed up something serious.

Alternator
There was also the matter of cleaning out the old belt fragments.  This took me some time and in the picture you can see some bits and bobs.  Started manually peeling them off by hand and got what I could, but there was still gunk down in the groves.  It almost seems that, when the belt truly broke, it wrapped around here a little and probably gooified some.  Grabbed a flat head screwdriver and put one side (of the slotted end) into each groove and turned the alternator wheel.  Had to do this several times to finally get the gunk fully out, and it was truly gunk.

After using the screwdriver then gave it a final cleansing by spraying it with some carb cleane I had, and used an old sock to wipe away the gunk.  Repeated this three times until it looked decent.  Looked at the other places where the belt passed over and nothing else had to be cleaned!

Fan
Putting the belt on over the fan is actually quite easy.  As I was trying to figure out how to, it all came back to me from when watched the mechanic replace the belt once.  He, and I, slid it right over the fan blades, rotating them as you go.  It can be kinda seen in the picture that there is another belt in the way, one for the air conditioner (which still haven't fixed).  Removed the secondary belt from the air conditioner compressor, which was fairly easy.  After that it was a straight shot to get it seated on the top most grooved thing (for the fan).  Then had to replace the AC belt.

Now the time consuming part came, and that was to slide the belt all around, getting the belt tensioner out of the way too.  Long story short, and boy, was it long, is that had to loosen top bolt on the alternator, remove the bottom bolt (so it could swing free.  Then, and only then, lift up the tensioner and slide belt onto alternator, and voila...  Life is grand.  I could've removed both bolts from the alternator, though it's a royal pain the u-know-what to get it back.  Not that this whole process was ideal, but still...

What had to work with
Now, the part where really, truly, needed a third hand, was putting the bolt back into bottom of the alternator.  THIS was the problem.  However, had a knight in shining armor come by just at the right time.  He held the tensioner up and out of the way (with a breaker bar of course) as i finangled the bottom bolt in place.  Took some doing, and with him helping, that doing was only a couple minutes.  Once the bolt was started, drove it home with a socket and the ratchet, then tightened top bolt.

I then thanked the mysterious stranger, we exchanged some pleasantries, and he was off to the Rainbow Gathering, which is supposedly someplace nearby in the desert.  This guy, and bunch of his friends, ran one of the soup kitchens at the festival.  A HUGE thank you to him, wherever he is!  I did give him a Christmas Present of sorts as a way of saying thanks!  Without him would likely still be there.

At times being single is horrendous, and this was one of those times.  Now it's time to get a spare serpentine belt....  Here is an album of few more pictures, for those interested.  Not much there though there might be a gem or two to clarify things...

Let me take this moment to wish everyone a Merry Christmas too!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Quartzsite, AZ

Hat
First, this is NOT a political statement, though found it interesting that a hat like this was made for a little town in the middle of no place.  From what I understand it's fallen on lean times in a way as number of RV'ers coming here have dropped substantially.  This is seemingly due to some things a mayor did.  Think it had something to do with sales tax, other tax, or some other thing like that, but not overly sure.

There are a few reasons decided to spend some time in Quartzsite.  First is that I know someone who winters down here from the Seattle area, and he invited me to visit him at the park.  Second is that had to waste some time to meet up with a friend in the Palm Springs area as he had left a water regulator in Vegas.  I had no intention of going to Palm Springs this season, but that's another story.

Chicken Fried Steak
There are a couple distinct Quartzsite specific "attractions", namely among them is a rock gem show of sorts.  This happens in January and it draws people from all over the world.  Wasn't happening during this visit.

Another big event that happens is the "Big Tent" in February.  Again, this wasn't happening at this time.  I did go there a few years ago, and while interesting, not much I was interested in, plus there were too many people.  It's generally full of all sorts of RV products, supplies, etc.  Amazon had a good sized booth there looking for Workampers.

Surprisingly there were also quite a few good restaurants, and the overwhelming majority of people I met were awesome!  I went to one restaurant, Mountain Quail Cafe, away from center of town a little and attached to an RV park.  The first time I went there, for lunch, the service was awesome, and food was good too, so went back couple more times.  Most places that have had chicken fried steak at it's truly icky, but had a good feeling about this place in that had it the following two times, and it was delicious.  Tender and fork cuttable (yes, incorrect word), it was simply amazing.  Still not as good as Dishner's (in Coos Bay, OR), but it's the second best, and large gap in between.



One surprising thing I found here was they have a very good sized little airfield for RC planes, or other RC aircraft.  I had come out this way to see Celia's Garden Ampitheatre, which was, umm, lackluster to say the least, but this was kinda neat.  It was so neat that I got myself an RC plane, which haven't flown yet but will when get to Yuma.  It's a public park too!

Hi Jolly Monument
One of the big draws of Quartzsite is all the BLM land where people can boondock for free, or very little cost.  Boondocking is camping overnight without any hookups, such as electricity or water.  Most people who do it long term have solar panels, and they go into town periodically to fill up with water and dump their tanks in town.  Am sure others rely on generators to charge their batteries, instead of solar panels.

Of course, there's a plethora of RV parks, in which I stayed in one of those.  It was a little pricey, $175 + tax for a week.  Paid $23.11 in additional taxes, which I find very high.  There was a "Trans Lodging Tax" as well as a hotel tax..  To me it seems as if those are kind of the same....  Needless to say it's unlikely that will stay at this park again, though might check out other parks.  In contrast, people who have a full time trailer there spent $1,840.00 a year

Someone else told me of "Hi Jolly"...  They wouldn't say what or who this was, just that there is a monument dedicated to Hi Jolly, and that I had to discover and check it out..  Naturally it intrigued me..  As it turns out it was a camel driver.  The sign below give the full story.  The ashes of "Hi Jolly" are supposedly in the time capsule at bottom of the monument.

Hi Jolly explanation sign
I do find it somewhat troubling what the US Government did to the camels after it was deemed the experiment was a failure.  It seems, according to this sign, that they let the camels free and roam the desert.  This sounds pretty nice for the camels, unless they were overly domesticated by that time.  It could've been a hardship on them to forage and find food after some time being cared for by the US Military at the time, or the camel's could've welcomed it.  It just seems a little inhumane to me, but the camels are supposedly buried here too.

Now, at the RV park I stayed at, they had a Saturday morning breakfast that served Biscuits and Gravy, which was actually quite tasty.  At this breakfast was talking with this older married couple about places to check out, such as Hi Jolly, airfield, etc.  They then reveled me with stories of an abandoned gold mine..   Curiosity sunk in and off on the scooter I went!

Most of the road was pavement though the last mile or few was hard packed gravel / sand / other stuff, with a few dips and twists and other funnish type of terrain.  Granted, it's all still desert so not much in the way of trees and shrubs and anything like that.  But at the end was a literal gold mine.

Remnants of Gold Mine
Well, a discarded gold mine.

I did not see a no trespassing sign until was leaving, and the fence was in disarray.  Did see some signs of recent activity there from who knows who, but while I was there didn't see a single soul.

Explored the grounds a little bit.  There was an RV there, under a shelter, that looked somewhat lived in, but again, no sign of life at all.  It was an older RV, probably from the 80's or so.

Illustrious mine shaft
Exploring the abandoned machinery was pretty awesome, though it took me a while of searching to find out where they supposedly extracted the gold ore from.the ground.  After a good 30 minutes of wandering, exploring, poking around, finally found it.

It was hidden behind some of the dirt piles.  The conveyor belt didn't even go down this road, nor was it "close" by.  Everything on this site was fairly packed together, but the mineshaft was just in an odd place.  At end of this "road" is entrance to the tmien.  I did take a look into the tunnel and saw it kept on going down and down and down, at a good grade but not overly steep.  It seems to be about as steep as this road leading down there.

At least on this upper part looked like they sprayed hydro cement to shore up the walls and ceiling, as far as the eye could see.  There was a chain link gate with a padlock there that didn't want to cross, in no small part due to the chained gate.  Plus it was awfully dark down there.


To close this off, here's a picture of Bob surveying the landscape!  He's leash "trained", in that trained to take me for a walk on the leash...  Paisley is in the background.

BOB

Monday, December 12, 2016

Tie Down Straps

Since started doing the RV thing have gone through a couple different sets of tie down straps and different methods of securing my scooter (and now motorcycle) to the RV.  Don't ask me why, but I entrusted my valuable Scooter to none other than Harbor Freight Tie Down Straps.  I, mistakenly, thought that all tie down straps were more or less created equal..  BOY, was I wrong.  I should've taken the leap much much sooner.....  And so should YOU!  In my opinion anyways.

The two, HF on bottom
I knew no better and didn't realize what true quality was.  I delayed the inevitable and have gone through a good 20+ tie down straps.  Probably should've gone through many more, though at times I'm a tad bit stingy...  Hence why scooter fell off back once.

As can be seen in the picture on the right, the Harbor Freight straps are on the bottom, and the new one is on the top.  Just looking at the side view, thickness of the webbing material is night and day.  Hindsight being as it is, the Harbor Freight one feels like paper compared to the cardboard'y thickness of the new one.  Granted, the new one is new and so will wear in time, though the quality difference is very visible.

The new straps are from Ratchet Straps USA,  It seems as they're a manufacturer of these, but at the very least they're a purveyor of fine ratchet straps...

My order consisted of two different items, the first was a set of straps, and handlebar wrap around tie down things, with the second being straps to tie down the rear of the bikes, plus a couple extra for grins and giggles.

Now, remember, I am very very very happy with these, but there are a few things I would've done different, hence this post.

For the Strap and Handlebar set, I would've done these things different, not that anything is wrong, just personal preference
  • Went with 6 foot straps instead of paying extra for 10 foot
    • Though 10 foot straps are more flexible in usage
  • Increase Handlebar strap length to 18+ inches
    • it's tight fitting when wrapping around handlebar, still works

A great thing I upgraded to was the safety hooks.  These are called Safety Latch S-hooks and cost an additional dollar.  What this does is make the S hook end be something similar to a carabinar, which will help prevent it from unhooking in times of crisis.  It accomplishes this by having a spring loaded piece of metal that closes off the opening.  Though anything can still happen, having this makes it a little less likely, more peace of mind.

Yellow = new
The other set of straps I ordered, in yellow, is just a standard run of the mill bunch of ratchet straps.  Nothing special and nothing out of the ordinary.  Like the strap and handlebar set there are a couple things I would've done differently...  Still nothing wrong, just personal preference again.
  • Would've chosen straps with a closing end, such as caribinar, snap hooks, soft loop, or safety S-hooks
    • Prefer safety S-hooks but couldn't find them..  20/20 vision of course.
  • Would not have purchased extra length and chosen 6 feet
  • Fixed end length might have increased a little, this part is irrelevant for my use
Am very happy I chose the somewhat heavier duty one inch strap.  It adds an extra little comfort factor.  There is a greater chance that the hooks will slide off without any safety features, as mentioned above, but don't envision that happening.

My order included 10 straps, four for the front (as part of the handlebar kit), then 6 for the rear, with four being actively used and the other two as backups.  Am still hanging onto the Harbor Freight straps as a backup backup with the hopes that will never go back to them except to strap stuff to the scooter for transport from store to RV.

If ever have the need for additional straps, one guess where I'll be ordered them from....

You guessed it, Ratchet Straps USA!

P.S. - Someplace, for at least some of their straps, there is an option to choose webbing made in the U.S.  Unsure where it could be.