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Rig Review - Mojave East - What worked and what didn't?

March 17, 2020

Back from the eastern Mojave, it's time for another look at how the truck performed over the course of the last 5 day's adventures. If you haven't read those - and want to - go right ahead, I'll wait.

The Whole Story

Front ADS Coilover Spherical Bearings (again)

TL;DR - I think I need to replace the spherical bearings again. Already. They are squeaky and I've only put 14K miles on the new set.

From the moment we set out on this trip, I could hear the front suspension. In the past, I've thought this might be the springs, but I was educated in Colorado last year that the squeaking is the spherical bearings... and when they stop squeaking, that's when you know things have gotten really bad. Mine are squeaking again after just two trips (and only maybe 300 - 500 offroad miles), which I don't love. I'll need to check into their condition - and the condition of the misalignment spacers and lower shock bolts - before the next trip.

Second (House) Battery Seems to be Low

TL;DR - Even with relatively cool days and nights, something was wrong with my house battery. Need to investigate.

I have a confession to make - a few days before departure, I left the ignition on in the truck overnight, and that meant that the radio, clock, and maybe a few other little things were on for ~24-36 hours. My batteries didn't love it, and the draw was low enough that the Blue Sea ML-ACR (automatic charging relay/battery controller) did not isolate the batteries at any point. When I discovered my mistake, the voltage of both batteries was at something like 12.1 volts, and I let the truck idle for 30 minutes or so just to get things back to a happier place.

I figured that the 18 hour drive south would be plenty of time for the alternator - which hums away at 14.5-14.7V - to get both batteries back into primo condition for the remainder of the trip. But that was not the case. The starting battery seemed to recondition well, but the house battery didn't. I would get up to a full charge, but it also seemed to lose that charge more quickly than usual.

I plan to get a CTEK 56-959 battery conditioner/charger and see if I can recondition it properly. If not, it's still under warranty, so I'll need to look into that.

On the plus side, having two batteries meant that I could still isolate the starting battery in camp at night, and not have to worry that I wouldn't be able to start the truck in the morning, so that was a huge plus!

Propane Bottle is Leaking

TL;DR - It's time to get a new 1lb propane bottle; the current one has a slow leak through the valve.

I've been using the same 1lb propane bottle for something like 15 years. For the first 12 of those, I used it in my shop for my propane torch - mostly for household plumbing, heating up the branding iron I use to mark my woodworking projects, etc. The last few years it has been a staple in the kitchen box, where it has seemed to last about a week or so - usually a whole trip - before needing to be refilled with an adapter from my 20lb tank when I come home.

This time however, when we'd disconnect the 1lb bottle from the Coleman Camp Stove/Grill, there was a slow leak that I couldn't get to stop by shaking or blowing into the valve. Likely the valve spring has simply worn out (finally), so I'll be switching to a new bottle.

Mobilinkd TNC 2 failure (APRS)

TL;DR - My APRS stopped working, because my Mobilinkd TNC 2 died early in the trip.

The Mobilinkd TNC 2 has been a great little APRS TNC and I highly recommend it. Its weak spot - like so many battery powered devices - lies in its battery. I leave it plugged in to USB (for charging) at all times, and that means the battery is either fully charged - when I'm plugging away on a trip, or basically dead - when the truck sits for a week or two at home between trips.

This is terrible for LiIon batteries, and my Mobilinkd is essentially at the point where it doesn't hold a charge. And that means, each time I turn on the truck, the TNC comes on; and each time I turn off the truck, it shuts down. Or really, it crashes, because the power just stops.

This happened when we were getting lunch on our way through Oregon on this latest trip, and the result was that the TNC somehow lost some of its programming. It still seemed to be functioning when I looked at APRSDroid, and beacons were being received correctly, but it wasn't actually broadcasting any beacons - so no one knew where we were.

The indicator that something was wrong, was that when I connected to the TNC with the Mobilinkd Android Configuration app, it was unable to read the firmware version from the device.

I discovered that I could flash Mobilinkd TNC 2 with the current firmware to fix the problem - which I did - but I need to come up with a better, more long-term solution. I don't know if this means getting a replacement battery or what, but it's something to look into.

Removed from previous Rig Reviews

  1. The Swing-Out Table - I still don't have one and the truth of the matter is that I've been getting along fine without by using the tailgate. Adding a table would be a nicety, but would also add weight - even if only a small amount - so for now it's off the list of things to fix on the truck.

Unchanged / Still an issue from previous Rig Reviews

There are some things that have been featured in Rig Reviews that are - as yet - unchanged from when I originally reviewed them. Rather than highlight those things again, I'll simply link to them here.

  1. The Ham Radio Antenna - continues to have the shortcoming mentioned.
  2. Oil Leaking from Transfer Case - I haven't done anything about this yet, though I seem to be getting less leakage.
  3. Relentless Skid Plate Attachment - continues to need the modification mentioned.
  4. The Windshield Has Seen Better Days - I plan to wait until summer to fix this, just so winter rocks, sand, etc. don't immediately destroy the new one.


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