Products we tested – and later failed

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

Over the years we have had the opportunity to try all kinds of products. Some of them were “new” in the sense that they were industry break-throughs, new concepts. Others were a company coming on-line with its own version of the “tried and true.” We usually report fairly soon after we have tested these products and give you our impressions. –

Flipping back into the old test notebooks, we thought we’d come forward and fess about a few products we tested and felt were “pretty good,” at the time – but now, with the passage of time, maybe weren’t as sniffing as we thought.

Headlight lens refreshing systems
Back in the “old days,” if your camper or tow truck headlight element flicked out, made a trip to store the car parts, bought a new headlight, shot 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 ways, but instead of having glass for 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 a cheap proposition, so the alternative is using a “headlight lens restoration treatment.” These usually come down to pastas or polishes that are often applied with an electric drill. All these nostrums promise more light output and visual clarity.

Back in 2012 we reported on our experience trying out one of these systems. We settled on one that the Consumer Reports testing organization rated quite high: the 3M headlight lens restoration kit. While the test 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 with a toad car that had milky-looking headlight lenses, both on the low and on the main light side. With an investment of about half an hour and less than $25, the lenses looked incredibly better.”

And better they were – throwing more light out on dark roads, giving us an improved sense of security. But what gremlins caused our original “hazing” situation were not satisfied to leave well enough with peace. About three years later, it dawned on us that for months we had been complaining about how thick those “cataracts” were on the headlight lens covers. Yep, with time, that big, clear view that we had once faded. Was it worth another $25, plus an hour and a half labor to try again? Since the small buggy was then pushing 200,000 miles, it would probably be a more reasonable bet than fixing $95 each for new covers. We didn’t spend much time stewing about a decision. A few months later the car flipped a distribution belt, rendering the old pad car useless, and a donation to a public radio station.

Push-on electric connectors
If you’re a do-it-yourself RV repairman, you know that electrical problems will probably be a big part of your “job.” We keep a good selection of electric connectors in our power tool bag because we never know when something will need to be repaired – and probably when we’re on the road.

Half a mile short of the highway on-ramp, we were on our way on a 4,000 mile road trip and noticed a brake problem 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. Sometime on the last trip, we had an electric brake wire knotted and pulled the thing loose, effectively wiping out much of our braking power. Fortunately we had suitable wire for replacement and, as always, that “wide selection” of electric connectors.

Well, back in 2014 we had crowed to readers about a new electric connector system that we were trying out of. At that time we wrote: “In-Sure Push-In wire connectors, marketed by Ideal … have “gates,” in which you strip back your wire insulation and just push into one of the ports. Strip the next thread you want to connect, push it into another port. The connector connects all wires electrically. Do you want to connect more than two wires? These connectors are available in different terms in terms of the number of ports and allow different wire sizes to be used on the same connector. For example, you connect a small 18-gauge wire to a circuit with a pair of large 12-gauge wires.

After these In-Sure connectors in the range, we connected to the replacement wiring in no time flat, and skated off on the highway. But 4,000 miles away, I have to do what one of my mentors advised that I should do occasionally: Eat crow.

Crawling under the rig to do an inspection, I, your pilot and RV technician, discovered with great dismay that those same In-Sure connectors that I dutifully installed a few months earlier were still with me – but were hanging by a wire, and just didn’t have to hold at least one wire per connector in place. In short, I was carpentry on the road without the benefit of my rear axle brakes.

Bc999 (Black crow) on wikimedia commons

I can assure you that I pushed hard, according to the manufacturer’s instructions for this product. But here was the end result, staring me in the face. Now, I’ve used these connectors on other repairs and installations in the platform, and I’m a little concerned about it. Yes, physical snag brought that seemingly solid connection to a ruin, but what about ordinary vibrations? I’m back to using electric end fold connectors. Not that cheesy “slip the thread into one end, shrink. Slide the wire on the other side, shrink,” types. No, I mean those who look a bit like a bell, where you wind the wiring firmly against each other, slide it into the bubble and then fold the bell. Well sized and pleated, I have never had a malfunction with this type of connector.

We’ll come back as we need to eat more crow.

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