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Letters and email from readers about Backwoods Home Magazine and the BHM website


Archive for the ‘Motor Vehicles’ Category


Gold Beach Gestapo

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

I’ve been getting Backwoods Home for many years. And I really wanted to come to Gold Beach.  I even went so far as to plan a trip this year by Making my own bio diesel to make the trip.

After reading [issues] #128 & #129  I realize that I don’t have all the equipment to make the trip.

I don’t have an on board attorney.
I don’t have a radar jammer.
I don’t have a passenger to keep watch on other vehicles.  ie cops
I don’t have a measuring device to make sure I stop at stop sign with my front bumper even to the stop sign.
I don’t have a glow in the dark or florescent orange seat belt to make sure the Gestapo can see it.
I don’t have a permit to transport my bio diesel in Oregon, I’m sure the Gestapo would want to check after he smelled my exhaust.  It smells like french fries and not donuts.

I did check the web for speed traps and sure enough Gold Beach is on the list.

Sorry I can’t make the trip this year, but maybe in the future when you get rid of the Gestapo.

By the way do they were the Nazi swastika?? And have nice shinny black boots??

I have even had the thought about moving there.  Sure seems like a real nice place, but I don’t want to have the watch my back all the time.  Sure wish you all the luck in getting things taken care of so you can enjoy Gold Beach.

Thanks for hearing my side.

Robert Widmar


Potential for RV fire

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Hey, Claire,

Your otherwise excellent article has a couple of important omissions. The schematic diagram shows two deep-cycle storage batteries connected in parallel, but neglects  isolation diodes and fusible links, and there is no mention of either one in the text.

An isolation diode prevents one battery from discharging the other, while still allowing both batteries to be charged from a single +12VDC connection.  In actuality, as long as all batteries in a storage bank are diode-isolated, any number of batteries may be connected safely.

In a worst-case situation, and if directly connected to another, one battery (for whatever reason) could present itself as a dead short to the remaining battery(ies), draining all the ‘juice’ quickly enough to start a nasty fire and/or explosion.

I would also install a fusible link at each battery’s positive terminal, just in case… it would act as a high-current fuse, preventing the sort of massive current drain that could really heat things up in  a heartbeat.

In what I would consider a safe setup, each battery is contained within its own plastic battery box (vented to prevent the buildup of hydrogen gas) to catch acid leakage, connected to its respective fusible link, to a high-current conductor ‘manifold’ (I have used flattened copper pipe with holes drilled for connector bolt/nut/washer assemblies), each battery with its own isolation diode connected in series with its fusible link.

If a catastrophic failure were to occur, the fusible link would blow, removing the defective battery from the circuit altogether.

Talk to an RV dealer for more details, but the practice of directly connecting two or more high-energy storage components, without fusible links and isolation diodes is a potentially dangerous one.  I’m surprised the schematic diagram didn’t catch fire on its own.

Keith Savoy


Len Torney Article

Thursday, November 19th, 2009


Me and two auto buddies used Len Torney’s info for a fleet upgrade. Gas saver idea.

Thanks, he’s a smart dude!!

If we save what he says, I guess we should send him a case of Foam.


Phi, James & Bill the (aka Fat Tire)


Don’t Get Stranded In Winter article

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

I’ve been a subscriber for several years, and have the following feedback on the “Don’t Get Stranded In Winter” article from your Jan/Feb 2009 issue.

Freeze plugs:

The primary purpose of the holes these go in is to drain the sand (from the cores) after the engine block is cast. Protection against freezing is a secondary purpose, and should not be relied on. Also, while steel plugs corrode more readily than brass, brass brings its own problem: copper and its alloys have a stronger tendency to grab electrons than iron or aluminum, so brass freeze plugs increase the rate at which the water passages in your cylinder block corrode (although with the plug being much smaller than the block, this is unlikely to be the limiting factor in engine life).

Engine block heaters:

The article mentions that block heaters are a problem for off-grid people due to their high power consumption. There are fuel-burning block heaters available (e.g. the Espar Hydronic series, and the Webasto BlueHeat coolant heater, both of which have gasoline and diesel models), although they cost more than electric block heaters. These have no “outside the vehicle” connection required, so in addition to not draining an off-grid power system, one of these will let you run your block heater when you are away from home with no electrical outlet available (e.g. out in the bush on a hunting trip).

Winter specific “must-have” items:

– A bag of abrasive material such as sand, salt, or kitty litter (good for added traction).

While salt is used for de-icing pavement, it takes time to work, and the resulting slush gives even less traction than the original packed snow. Grit is a much better solution. Also, some of the “traction sand” available is so fine as to be virtually useless – you need fairly coarse (1/16″ to 1/8″) sand with sharp-edged grains (i.e. not the rounded grains from river-bottom sand). With kitty litter, you need the conventional (clay-type) litter, not the newer clumping or “pearls” type. Finally, don’t carry a bag of it – after you’ve opened the bag and used some, it can’t be re-closed properly, so it’s likely to spill all over the trunk of your vehicle. Instead, save and dry out some empty washer fluid jugs, and fill them with the grit.

– Jumper cables

Be sure to get a set that is both heavy-gauge (able to handle the current needs of a starter motor) and long enough to reach (you can’t always get the helper vehicle “nose to nose” with the dead one) – the 10 gauge 8 foot cables commonly included in automotive emergency kits are vitrually useless. I carry a set of 6 gauge 16 foot cables (long enough to reach even if the dead vehicle is parked “nose-in” with other cars on both sides) in my car, and 2 gauge 20 foot cables in my work vehicle.

Also, not all vehicles have a good ground easily accessible and within cable reach of the battery (last connection is made to a ground, **NOT** the negative battery terminal, on the dead vehicle, since a spark can ignite hydrogen gas). I have a “cheater cable” – simply a battery cable with the battery end replaced by a jumper cable clamp. Attaching this to the negative terminal of the dead battery provides a good electrical connection far enough away to avoid igniting the hydrogen gas. Finally, some jumper cables have a retractable “tongue” on their clamps for side-terminal batteries (used on GM vehicles), or you can get side-terminal adapters (look like a large spade lug with a tapered throat). Good to have even if your vehicle has a top-post battery – the other one might have side terminals.

Robert Wolff
Willowdale, Ontario, Canada



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