By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Over the years we’ve had the opportunity to try all sorts of products. Some of them were “new” in the sense that they were industry breakthroughs, new concepts. Others were a company coming online with its own version of the “tried and true.” We usually report fairly soon after we’ve tested those products and give you our impressions.
Flipping back in the old test notebooks, we thought we’d come forward and fess up about a couple of products we tested and felt were “pretty good,” at the time – but now, with the passage of time, maybe weren’t quite as up to snuff as we thought.
Headlight lens refreshing systems
Back in the “old days,” if your motorhome or tow rig’s headlight element flicked out, you made a trip to the auto parts store, bought a new headlight, popped a few screws, and replaced that puppy. With the advent of replaceable headlight lamps, you don’t replace the whole headlight – just that expensive little inner element.
That may be good in some respects, but instead of having glass out in front of your rig, manufacturers have “blessed us” with acrylic headlight lens assemblies. And with time, these cursed things tend to haze over. Replacing them is far from an inexpensive proposition, so the alternative is using a “headlight lens restoration treatment.” These usually boil down to pastes or polishes that are often applied with an electric drill. All of these nostrums promise increased light output and visual clarity.
Back in 2012 we reported on our experience trying one of these systems out. We settled on one that the Consumer Reports testing organization rated fairly highly: the 3M headlight lens restoration kit. While the testing group suggested about a $17 price tag, we paid $23 at an AutoZone store. We stepped through the process of how to use the kit, and we shared our immediate results: “The appearance of the headlights after the whole process was amazing. We had started out with a toad car that had milky-looking headlight lenses, both on the low and the high beam side. With an investment of about a half-hour and less than $25, the lenses looked incredibly better.”
And better they were – throwing more light out on dark roads, giving us an enhanced feeling of safety. But whatever gremlins that caused our original “hazing” situation weren’t content to leave well enough alone. Some three years later, it dawned on us that for several months we’d been complaining to each other about how thick those “cataracts” were on the headlight lens covers. Yep, with time, that great, clear view we once had faded out. Was it worth another $25 or so, plus an hour-and-a-half of labor to try it again? Since the little buggy was then pushing 200,000 miles, it would have probably been a more reasonable bet than laying out $95 EACH for new covers. We didn’t get to spend much time stewing about a decision. A few months later the car flipped a timing belt, rendering the old toad car useless, and a donation to a public radio station.
Push-on electrical connectors
If you’re a do-it-yourself RV repairman, you know that electrical issues will likely be a major part of your “job.” We keep a good selection of electrical connectors in our electrical tool bag because we never know when something will require repair – and most likely when we’re out on the road.
A half-mile short of the freeway on-ramp, we were headed out on a 4,000-mile road trip and noticed a brake issue with our travel trailer. We found a shady spot, pulled in, and sent the pilot/repair tech under the rig to ferret out the problem. Somewhere on the last trip, we’d snagged an electric brake wire and yanked the thing loose, effectively wiping out a good portion of our brake power. Happily we had suitable wire for the replacement and, as always, that “wide selection” of electrical connectors.
Well, back in 2014 we had crowed to readers about a new electrical connector system we were trying out. At that time we wrote: “In-Sure Push-In wire connectors, marketed by Ideal … have “ports,” wherein you strip back your wire insulation and simply push it into one of the ports. Strip off the next wire you want to connect, push it into another port. The connector electrically connects all wires. Need to join more than two wires? These connectors come in a variety in terms of the numbers of ports and allow various wire sizes to be used on the same connector. For example, you could connect a small 18-gauge wire into a circuit with a couple of large 12-gauge wires.”
Having these In-Sure connectors in the assortment, we hooked up the replacement wiring in no time flat, and skated off down the highway. But 4,000 miles down the road, I have to do what one of my mentors advised I would occasionally have to do: Eat crow.
Crawling under the rig to do an inspection, I, your pilot and RV technician, discovered with a great deal of dismay that those same In-Sure connectors that I’d dutifully installed a couple of months earlier were still with me – but were hanging by a thread, and had simply failed to keep at least one wire per connector in place. In short, I was lumbering down the road without the benefit of my rear axle brakes.
I can assure you that I pushed hard, following the manufacturer’s instructions for this product. But here the end result was, staring me in the face. Now, I’ve used these connectors on other repairs and installations in the rig, and I’m a bit worried about it. Yes, physical snagging force brought that seemingly solid connection to a ruin, but what about ordinary vibration? I’m back to using electrical end crimp connectors. Not those cheesy “slip the wire in one end, crimp. Slip the wire in the other end, crimp,” types. No, I mean the ones that look a bit like a bell, wherein you firmly physically wind the wiring together, slip it in the bell, then crimp the bell. Properly sized and crimped, I’ve never had a failure with this kind of connector.
We’ll come back as needed to eat more crow.