By Russ and Tiña De Maris
A few weeks ago, in the height of the Desert Southwest summer, we were trying to relax under the over-burdened air-conditioning. Suddenly, “she” turns to “he” and says those fateful words that every man hates to hear: “Do you smell that?”
He: “Smell what?”
She: “It smells like burnt rubber!”
He: [Who really had smelled something but, like most of the male species, wanted to ignore it] Sniffs air. “Smells more like ozone to me.”
What followed was a discussion of just what might make this unwelcome odor. She pointed out that the smell seemed stronger in the bedroom area. Nevertheless, it had pervaded the entire RV. A further discussion of just what sort of creek we might be up, if the situation were ignored, followed. “He” went up the ladder with a tool bag to the roof. Mind you, it was close to high noon, and the outside temperatures were somewhere near 115 degrees.
Just getting the shroud off the air conditioner was a chore. Subsequent checks of components with an infrared temperature gauge proved nothing. Shutting down the unit and prying open the electrical junction box showed no carbonized wires. Nor was there any other evidence of bumed connections. The quart of ice-cold “don’t get dehydrated” solution was gone by the time he managed to get started on putting the shroud back on. By that time, dizziness was having an effect. Just getting those 12 screws lined up and back in the shroud took nearly a half-hour.
Coming down the ladder was a study in stupidity – we’ll say nothing more about it. Inside, the burning rubber/ozone odor was still present, but he figured it must be better. And he promptly took a long nap. By evening time, the odor was but a memory.
A couple of days later, he, the appointed systems technician, noticed another problem. The battery bank voltage level was way down. The solar controller indicated a teeny-tiny fraction of the current that should be flowing into the batteries from the full-sun-on solar panels was getting in. Less than an amp. A current check showed that at the same time, the batteries were kicking out nearly seven amps. He then figured the solar controller was the cause. The best way to prove that was simply to wire the solar panels directly to the battery bank and see how much current flowed.
Crawling into the closet, which was where the wiring for the solar controller was accessed, led to another discovery. The fuse holder that was the go-between for the battery bank and the solar controller was a misshapen mass of melted plastic. Aha! The source of that evil smell really was in the bedroom. Evidently, somebody (who shall remain anonymous) hadn’t thoroughly torqued down the fitting that scrunched onto the hot wire. This led to a loose connection that, of course, got hot. Perhaps it was divine providence that the fuse holder hadn’t actually caught fire, torched the closet full of clothes, and left this writing team looking for a new home … at best.
To her credit, “she” did not harp on the fact that her nasal sensitivities had indeed pointed out earlier that the odor in question was stronger in the bedroom.
Lessons learned: Always double- (maybe triple-) check wiring connections, even on “low voltage” installations. And always listen to your wife’s nose when it speaks.