Mice Mice Baby

Thu Aug 13 2020

We're used to being surrounded by wildlife while camping, but boundaries are important...

Mice Mice Baby
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Mouse in the house

Our camping spot in rural northern Washington state is beautiful - rolling hills covered in meadows and forest. But the same meadows that are home to beautiful wildflowers are also home to animals - birds of prey, cows, and mice...

Cows near an RV
A few mornings we've woken to find cows in our camp! They're allowed to roam on any unfenced land.

Unfortunately, despite trimming back the grass around the trailers, the mice don't want to stay away. Since we arrived here about a month ago, we've been placing mouse traps around the trailer each night. So far, we've caught about a dozen or so.

Last week things escalated.

I was outside, doing some repair work on the side of the RV (replacing a piece of broken trim with a new part we had picked up at the Outdoors RV factory on our way here), when I heard a rustling in the trailer's underbelly.

3 Nights, 3 States

In the last week, everything has changed - we're back on the road (just!) and trying to remember how to dry camp again!

3 Nights, 3 States

We've been fortunate to have never had a mouse in our RV before. We've always tried to be good about leaving clear space around the RV, and I think the slightly higher clearance of our trailer also helps. Until now.

Since it was already inside, we wanted to wait for it to come out before sealing up a few tiny openings in the underbelly - a job that's been on my list for too long! Then, we planned to surround our trailer with as many traps as possible.

That evening, I was walking back towards our RV, and I stopped dead in my tracks. There was a mouse just sitting there by our wheel! Right below where I had heard the sound!

Mouse in RV
This tiny little mouse was hiding just under our trailer wheel in broad daylight!

I don't know if he was injured or just paralyzed with shock, but he just sat there - eyes closed almost as if he were asleep. In fact, we were able to position that trap next to him without him moving! After a couple of minutes, he seemed to realize he was being watched, and darted into a hole in the ground a couple of feet away.

We positioned the traps overnight, and the next morning, had caught several. Since then, we've not heard anything else inside our trailer.

While it's not particularly pleasant to kill the mice, we don't have much choice. Even if we seal up the underbelly, there's still plenty of damage they can cause - chewing through exposed wiring on the truck and trailer for example. The traps are an effective solution, and for now we're continuing to deploy them each evening.

Truck problems

On our drive up to Washington a month or so ago, we were happily driving along the road and suddenly I lost power. The engine didn't stall, but there was no throttle response and all the electrical driver aids stopped working. I pulled off at the side of the road, and turned off the engine. I turned the engine back on and it was fine - we continued our journey without further issue.

Then two weeks ago, it happened again when I started the truck one morning. And a few days later, as we drove to Omak, WA to go grocery shopping. That time, I stopped the car and left the engine running - it was idling really roughly, and no throttle response whatsoever.

I pulled the air filter to see if the engine was struggling for air. No change, but the air filter did look a little dirty (I was disappointed to find that hadn't been picked up at the service a few weeks earlier).

One of my favorite truck accessories is my WiFi OBD-II adapter - I also have a Bluetooth version and a USB-only version. A good OBD-II adapter lets you do some very useful hacks in an F-150 using the awesome Forscan tool.

Ford F-150 FORScan Hacks

Using nothing more than a laptop and a cheap diagnostic dongle, I'll show you how to unlock loads of new features on your Ford F-150.

Ford F-150 FORScan Hacks

But better yet, it lets me quickly and easily read the Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs) from the truck. Still at the side of the road with the engine running, I plugged it in and pulled the code with the free Car Scanner iOS app.

Car Scanner iOS
An OBD-II adapter makes it easy to pull codes from your vehicle - much quicker than going to a dealer.

My truck had thrown the P2112 code - Throttle actuator control stuck closed.

We picked up a new air filter in town, but after some digging on the internet later on, it looked like the truck was going to need a new throttle body. I left a message with the service department at the Ford dealer in Omak, but never got a call back.

However, several years ago I bought the workshop manual for our truck - this is a VIN-specific 13,000 page (!!) 600MB PDF that has detailed instructions for anything you'd ever want to do on the truck. In fact, it's an exact copy of what the Ford technicians have access to at a dealership. I bought it through Factory Manuals for $130, and it took them 8-days to produce.

Looking in the workshop manual, replacing the throttle body seemed straightforward, so I ordered the throttle body and a new gasket online for about $130 delivered. My plan was to hold onto the new parts until we made it out east - that way, if something went wrong, we'd be closer to several Ford dealerships to get it fixed.

But a few days ago, the truck engine cut out three times on a short, 8 mile drive. I had to do the repair now.

The repair was straightforward - after letting the engine cool down, it took me about 20 minutes with basic tools (socket set and screwdriver) to remove the old throttle body and gasket, and install the replacements.

Ford F-150 Throttle Body
No obvious (to me) signs of damage on the old part (left) but I installed the new one (right) anyway.

Comparing the two parts, I couldn't see any visible signs of a problem. But when manually actuating the valve by hand, the sound made by the motor or gears in each was very different! We later opened up the case of the old one, but couldn't see any obvious problems - my guess is something inside the motor housing was failing.

So far, everything seems good with the new throttle body - I cleared the DTCs and a quick test run out that evening showed no issues.

While it was a quick and relatively repair (and doing it myself saved the hassle of taking it to a dealership and about $400 in labor charges based on what I read online), I'm disappointed that it needed doing. While it's a known issue on the F-150 apparently, this is now the second time it's been replaced! The first was at around 40k miles, and now again at 70k miles.

I'm going to be keeping a close eye on it - maybe if it happens again, I'll splurge on an aftermarket upgrade part (~$450) rather than another unreliable OEM replacement.

Electrical installation

I've been continuing to help Brian on their Airstream electrical upgrade this week. It's modeled on our own RV electrical system, and we're just finding a couple hours here and there to work on it.

Our Perfect Off-Grid RV Solar System

Find out how we upgraded our RV with Lithium batteries, solar panels, an inverter and more so we could camp off-grid in comfort!

Our Perfect Off-Grid RV Solar System

One major difference with their system is that whereas we installed a REDARC 40A DC-to-DC charger, they're installing two 50A chargers - for a total of 100A (or about 1300W) of charging power whenever they're towing! We still need to do the wiring on their truck, and he's going to upgrade the alternator, but I can't wait to see these fire up!

REDARC BCDC1240D DC to DC Charger Review

Installing a DC to DC charger in our RV is probably the most unusual but best upgrade we've ever done!

REDARC BCDC1240D DC to DC Charger Review


Lastly, it's not all work and seriousness - we've been having fun too, with some backyard badminton!

I was a competitive badminton player back in the UK, but in the US the sport is much more commonly known as a fun, outdoor recreational activity. There were very few places to play near where I lived in California so I've hardly picked up a racquet in years!

Backyard Badminton
Playing some backyard badminton with Brian and Leigh.

But Brian and Leigh have a badminton net here, so we spray painted some lines on the ground and set up a court. While it wasn't quite the competitive sport I'm used to (wind definitely complicates things!), it was still a lot of fun!

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