Replacing acrylic fabric Girard Omnistor awning

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astrnmrtom
Posts: 146
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2019 8:49 pm

Replacing acrylic fabric Girard Omnistor awning

Post by astrnmrtom »

After 25 years, the main awning fabric on our 98 Serengeti needs replacing. We are on the southwest coast, and southwest for the winter of 22/23. We talked to a tech with ShadePro, and they said they don't do these types of awnings anymore. Has anyone had theirs done, and if so who did it? We will not be leaving the western states this year so any place other than California, Oregon, Washington or western Arizona won't work. While as a last resort, I could do it myself, I'd rather not.

It's a Girard Omnistor.
Tom and Pris Masterson, w/ Buddy the 17 year old Siamese cat.
1998 Serengeti 3706
300hp Cat 3126, Allison 3060
900 Watts of Solar
17cf, Fisher & Paykel residential Refrigerator
Dragging four telescopes around the US seeking dark skies.
Safariowner
Posts: 14
Joined: Thu Mar 04, 2021 8:27 am

Re: Replacing acrylic fabric Girard Omnistor awning

Post by Safariowner »

Girard has a facility in the LA area . I know that a friend of our had service work done there a few years ago. Don't know if they still open but give them a try.
Ed and Brenda
1999 4006 Continental
Ex: 1998 3706 Serengeti
Ex: 1993 33' Serengeti
chuckster
Posts: 219
Joined: Thu Aug 27, 2020 4:53 pm
Location: Idaho

Re: Replacing acrylic fabric Girard Omnistor awning

Post by chuckster »

Tom,

They’re still advertising it. Call them.

https://www.shadepro.net/product-catego ... lacements/
Chuck & Mitzi
'01 Safari Zanzibar 3646 (side entry)
Cat 3126B / Allison MD3060
Magnum M-Series "Blue Max" chassis
2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland toad
astrnmrtom
Posts: 146
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2019 8:49 pm

Re: Replacing acrylic fabric Girard Omnistor awning

Post by astrnmrtom »

Thanks for the suggestions. We will check these out.

ShadePro sells the fabric and does acrylic awnings, but the tech says they stopped working on the recessed box awnings like is on our rig. Too many problems. I found a post on another forum that said the awning needs to be removed in order to get the end cap off the box, or at least loosened enough to pull one end clear of the recess. A few years back I was doing some caulking around the awning box and realized that the two back screws for the end cap are not accessible due to that part of the awning being back in the wall. I can see where removing the awning would be an absolute bear. Digging out all that caulking from around the box and accessing the bolts on the inside of the rig are difficult too. One other post says the refrigerator needs to come out to access one of the bolts, so I can see an awning place saying forget it, to these kinds of installs. A couple years ago I spoke to another RV owner who had the same awning, and he said it was $8000 to replace it - the whole awning, not just the fabric. Yikes!

I have a plan A, a plan B, AND a plan C for removing the end cap without removing the awning box. B and C would be the easiest. A is digging out the caulking on one end and using a Dremel tool to grind the heads off the two screws. When replaced, one remaining screw would hold the plate in the front, and the caulking in the gap between the box and the wall would hold the back, or I could make some nylon spacers or wedges to hold the plate that would then be covered by caulk. When finished it would look exactly like it does now. B is slicing the cap in half vertically so the buried part remains, and the front half comes off to r/r the material, then I'd connect the two halves with a backing plate of aluminum, painted to match the cap, and SS screws. C is drilling a 1/2 hole in the end cap in line with where the spline would be positioned for r/r, and cut a decently wide slot for the fabric, this too could be covered with a small aluminum plate painted to match. I have the tools and the ability to do this in a campsite, so it's the r/r of the fabric that's the issue.

My wife is the one who talked to the ShadePro tech, and I'm sure she didn't tell them that I'd remove and replace the cap. May not make any difference if the company policy is to not service this type of awning. Still, we will contact them and see if what the tech said was accurate. We will be spending some time in Quarztsite, and there are plenty of mobile techs that work that area, so that's another option.

As for the Girard facility. I'll check it out and see if it's still in business. I'm getting conflicting information. One is that Girard was bought out by Thule, and another searches come up with Lippert. There are two Girard "service centers" listed online in the area we are staying in now, but those businesses are not there anymore.

This may be a project that waits until next spring or summer when I'll be in a place near my home town for a couple months. I can then see if I can rope a friend into helping me install the fabric.
Tom and Pris Masterson, w/ Buddy the 17 year old Siamese cat.
1998 Serengeti 3706
300hp Cat 3126, Allison 3060
900 Watts of Solar
17cf, Fisher & Paykel residential Refrigerator
Dragging four telescopes around the US seeking dark skies.
chuckster
Posts: 219
Joined: Thu Aug 27, 2020 4:53 pm
Location: Idaho

Re: Replacing acrylic fabric Girard Omnistor awning

Post by chuckster »

Looks like you’ll pick up a new trade after this! :lol:
Chuck & Mitzi
'01 Safari Zanzibar 3646 (side entry)
Cat 3126B / Allison MD3060
Magnum M-Series "Blue Max" chassis
2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland toad
astrnmrtom
Posts: 146
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2019 8:49 pm

Re: Replacing acrylic fabric Girard Omnistor awning

Post by astrnmrtom »

Or I'll find out why Shade Pro doesn't do these any more. Could end up with the new fabric only half installed and stuck, or an awning that doesn't close, fall off the ladder and break a bone, or.... :o
Tom and Pris Masterson, w/ Buddy the 17 year old Siamese cat.
1998 Serengeti 3706
300hp Cat 3126, Allison 3060
900 Watts of Solar
17cf, Fisher & Paykel residential Refrigerator
Dragging four telescopes around the US seeking dark skies.
astrnmrtom
Posts: 146
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2019 8:49 pm

Re: Replacing acrylic fabric Girard Omnistor awning

Post by astrnmrtom »

Update.

Confirmed, Shade-Pro will no longer work on the recessed awnings. We are now looking at ordering the fabric and seeing if a local mobile tech will do the install, AFTER I remove the end caps.
Tom and Pris Masterson, w/ Buddy the 17 year old Siamese cat.
1998 Serengeti 3706
300hp Cat 3126, Allison 3060
900 Watts of Solar
17cf, Fisher & Paykel residential Refrigerator
Dragging four telescopes around the US seeking dark skies.
astrnmrtom
Posts: 146
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2019 8:49 pm

Re: Replacing acrylic fabric Girard Omnistor awning

Post by astrnmrtom »

Update to my update. Spoke to another ShadePro tech who happened to be visiting our campground in Quartzsite a few days ago. Confirmed the main problem with replacing the fabric on these awnings is the fact the awning is recessed into the coach wall which means the end caps can't be removed without dismounting the awning. He said if the cap could be removed, they might agree to replace the fabric, so....

Challenge accepted.

Dug away the caulking at the rear cap where it meets the wall. Turns out only one of the three caps screws can't be reached with a tool. I removed the other two screws and drilled out some small rivets that held an angled piece of aluminum that trimmed the opening. This gave me about a 1/4" gap between the inner wall box and the awning cap. Using a flat bladed screwdriver I drove it behind the cap along side the screw and distorted the recessed screw head hole just enough to form a small gap where I could feed in a hacksaw blade to cut the screw in half. This freed the end plate and I was able to remove it. Flattened out the distorted hole. When complete I'll fashion a thin plastic wedge to hold that corner of the cap tight and recaulk. The remaining two screws hill hold the cap in place along with the wedge.

Called ShadePro and asked if someone could come for an estimate. When they arrived they again mentioned the problem with the endcap. When I told them I removed the cap, and I'll have it off for them when they arrive, they agreed to do the work. It's a big awning so it's a pricey replacement, but worth it since my awning is 25 years old and the original fabric is failing. Cheaper than installing a new awning.

I'll update after the work is done.
Tom and Pris Masterson, w/ Buddy the 17 year old Siamese cat.
1998 Serengeti 3706
300hp Cat 3126, Allison 3060
900 Watts of Solar
17cf, Fisher & Paykel residential Refrigerator
Dragging four telescopes around the US seeking dark skies.
TDJohn
Posts: 451
Joined: Sun Oct 27, 2019 11:34 pm

Re: Replacing acrylic fabric Girard Omnistor awning

Post by TDJohn »

Tom,

Looking at your signature reminded me that you were expanding your solar last summer. How did that project go?

Did you end up upgrading to lithium batteries? If yes, what brand, how much amp hours.

With the additional solar, did you need to add another charge controller?

Are you satisfied with the upgrade thus far?
John
'95 Serengeti, Cummins C8.3-300
Allison 6spd.
astrnmrtom
Posts: 146
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2019 8:49 pm

Re: Replacing acrylic fabric Girard Omnistor awning Finished!

Post by astrnmrtom »

Update.

Awning is done! The two guys who did the install had to struggle to get awning in the last 3 feet of the grooves. Not cheap @$1800, but I expect it to last longer than I will.

Re: Solar. Grab a chair, a snack, and a drink. This is gonna be a long one.

Adding two more panels was pretty easy since I already had available connections on the roof's Y-cables. I was a little worried the air conditioner shrouds would shade the new panels but this only happens very early and very late in the day. I'm certainly glad I added two more panels.

With my AGM batteries giving up after 2 years of light use(!) I decided to bite the bullet and go lithium. Started off with 4-100ah Ampertime Self heating batteries. Right after the install, I started experiencing some strange electrical issues that I first attributed to a bad inverter. The inverter would shut down while going down the road. After checking all the connections I suspected a bad internal connection on a control board which would kill power when it got rattled on bumpy roads. Swapped it out for a upgraded unit. When I first installed my solar and swapped out the factory modified sine wave inverter, I went with separate components - an inverter, a charger, and a transfer switch. I replaced this with a all in one unit with a programable charger better suited for lithium.

Well, my problem continued. I then thought maybe my older Epever solar controller was sending spikes to the batteries sending them into self protect mode killing the inverter. I'm leaving out a lot of troubleshooting steps here - such as trying an assortment of charger settings. Eventually I was able to watch the battery voltage go wonky whenever voltage went from positive (charging) to negative (load). None of my multimeters were fast enough to track the voltage variations but I did see voltages jump around from normal - 13.8+- to as low a 6V and back up to normal over a few seconds. This would cause my inverter to either completely shut down without warning, or give a Low Voltage Protection alarm before shutting down.

It's important to note that whenever there wasn't any charging going on - i.e. at night when boondocking, the batteries were fine, and they'd charge fine once the input amps were high enough to never have the system switch from charge to load which happened mostly in the morning before my solar was putting in full amperage. If it was only putting in a few amps and the refrigerator compressor kicked on sending the system negative, the voltage would become irregular until I had a shutdown.

So, I decided to upgrade my solar controller with one that had a lithium profile. Since I was not significantly over paneled for my 40 amp controller, I upgraded to a Victron 150/60 smart controller. Alas, my problem persisted. While I wondered about the batteries, I just couldn't believe I'd received four bad batteries. I figured, if if one battery in the bunch was bad, the other three would continue working unless there was some sort of strange cascade event that triggered all four BMS.

The other thing that could trigger a shutdown was charging the batteries via the generator and an Ampertime dedicated 40 amp Lifepo4 charger, OR via the main generator using the inverter's built in charger. Everything would be fine until I shut off either charger or kill the generator. This would then send the system from input to output and I'd lose the inverter to low voltage. Restart the inverter and all was well again.

Ok, time to see if I had a bad battery. Pulled all batteries, numbered each one with a piece of tape. Checked voltages and tried them one at a time. ALL had the same issue. To eliminate the possibility of unbalanced cells or or batteries, I charged each one with the dedicated charger, let them rest and measured voltages. All were within a couple 1/00ths of a volt. Rewired in parallel, let them rest to balance as a group, and tried again. Same symptoms.

The final straw was one night boondocking in the desert and this time I was charging with the main generator and when I shut it down the whole coach went dark. Previously, the lights would flicker a few times and the inverter would drop out then voltage would stabilize. This time voltage went to zero and stayed there. I had to disconnect the batteries and let them sit until sometime later the BMS recovered and all was fine the rest of the night.

At no time was there ever any large load on the batteries. Usually <20amps. The four batteries wired in parallel were rated at being able to handle a 400 amp load.

That next day at the urging of my wife, I made an appointment at a solar/battery installer to check out my system. I asked if they had a battery I could try as a last step to eliminate the only thing left - my batteries. They said yes. Prior to trying a different battery I asked the tech to inspect my system to make sure it wasn't something I'd done wrong since I did all the work myself. After a thumbs up from the tech that everything looked great, we tried a different battery. That was it, everything worked fine and nothing I could do would trigger a failure. So, I bit the bullet again, big time and purchased four Lion Energy Safari (how's that for a battery name?) 105ah UT1300, Lifepo4 batteries for twice what I paid for the Ampetimes. Since then, my system has worked flawlessly.

This has been going on over the course of almost three months. It took a long time to figure out because most of my issue happened while going down the road from one campsite to the next. Symptoms led me down differing paths and I was moving fairly often so couldn't really sit and dig into what was happening. I even ended up ordering new cables for all the batteries just to be sure. Occasionally it seemed like I had the problem solved only for it to crop up on the next move. I had been in touch with Ampertime the past few weeks as well as posting on a couple forums including dyi solar. No one, I repeat, no one, had heard of a situation like mine. Ampertime was prompt at responding with questions and suggestions.

I have recently started the return process for the Ampertimes. Now that I'm in a major town for a couple weeks I hope to get them on the way back.

As for how the system works now with 900 watts, it's been great. I've been in Southern Arizona with excellent horizons and was in a spot long enough to warrant taking the time to tilt my panels for maximum winter sun. On sunny days I'd return to full charge by early afternoon. We've had some cloudy days and some with variable sun so I have had to use the generator. One big bonus with lithium is the fact unlike lead acid, they'll take lots of amps right up until almost completely full. With my AGMs, the last 10% of charge could take almost as long as the first 90% due to the final 10% going in at a trickle. If I do use the generator, I don't have to run it nearly as long to get to 100%.

With the additional capacity of the lithiums, I'm no longer grumbling at my wife to turn off lights right away, or to follow her around shutting everything off just so I didn't worry about making it through the night. I no longer suffer from SOC anxiety with nightmares of seeing my SOC anywhere near 50% by morning (in reality I never did). I now use my espresso maker in the morning instead of instant, and the microwave for heating small stuff instead of everything having to be heated on the propane stove. It's really nice and she's really happy with it too. When boondocking I go all throughout the rig unplugging any little thing that might draw an amp, and now I don't sweat the minutiae.

About a week ago after posting my solution on the dyi solar forum someone there shared the following video. https://youtu.be/MzGN9d0Sb9E It's a test and teardown review of an Ampertime self heating battery like mine - a 200ah one in this case. This, like other teardowns I've seen, seems to show the use of good quality components, at least at this price point, but the most interesting part is right near the end where he's testing the input and output voltages while charging with a load running. When he shuts off his power supply/charger, the BMS kills the battery output which is just what my batteries would do. It duplicates what happened to me that night I shut off my generator and the coach went dark. It's the same situation where a charge switches to a load, and the BMS thinks something is wrong. Makes me wonder about a design flaw in the BMS or possibly a bad batch of BMSes. Dunno.

Oh, I forgot. After my lithium install I removed the cable from the battery diode splitter that went to the house side to protect my alternator from overheating charging the lithiums. I let my solar charge the house batteries while going down the road. At one point I decided to install a DC to DC charger to let the alternator help out. I wired in a Renogy 40 amps DC/DC charger and it works great. I wired it a little different. Instead of it bridging the two sets of batteries, I wired it taking power from that disconnected cable, to then charge just the house batteries. This limits the maximum load the alternator would see to 40amps on that side leaving plenty of overhead for all other loads while under way without overtaxing the alternator. Wiring it this way saved on some cabling and utilized the existing circuit.

...One other thing to note is the Lion Energy BMSes are rated for 150amps max vs the Ampertime 100 amps max so obviously heavier duty. I did have the dealer install heating pads since the Lions are not self heating. While twice the cost, the Lions have a limited lifetime warranty - no time limit, vs 5 years for the Ampertimes. The dealer said he recently replaced one of their batteries that was 10 years old. The manufacturer exchanged it no questions asked. The dealer had both Battleborn and Lion Energy and spoke very highly of both companies. Both brands were priced the same. I asked which one would THEY put in their rig and they said Lions. In fact the tech was getting 6 Lions installed in his rig that week. Really they said I couldn't go wrong with either brand.

For anyone reading this, and is still awake. The Dealer was Solar Bill in Quartzsite AZ. Everyone in that place was awesome! I dealt with two techs. One who offered advice on how to set my charger to avoid (possible) over voltage spikes before I came in for the install, and another who did the install. Both were great. The owner even urged us to stay on the property over the weekend to test the new batteries. That way the techs would be available to troubleshoot should the issue continue. They have a handful of spots with power and water. We stayed the weekend and I tried everything I could think of to duplicate the problems and my system didn't even blink once. Problem solved. I'm still not sure what was causing the issue. I find it difficult to believe I got four bad batteries especially since no one else has reported a similar problem. But, my tests seem to show there was something wrong with all four.

That was the end to a few months of pulling out my hair trying to identify this weird gremlin. It's was one heck of a rollercoaster. Not sure I remember encountering anything quite like this, and I've done my own work and troubleshooting just about everything I've ever owned and worked on, both at home and at work. I've had to troubleshoot some real strange mysteries, but this one kept slapping me down each time I thought I was getting the upper hand. Several times I told my wife: "I think I got it this time" only to be punched in the gut the next time the inverter shut down. We even both ended up showing symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome where we started accepting the fact that we'd travel without power to the refrigerator or feel "happy" if the system worked long enough to be able to go sightseeing for the afternoon. I developed some small work arounds to keep the system from tripping as often, and it was almost like doing these little ceremonies to appease the electricity Gods before leaving the rig unattended. "Careful dear, don't make the inverter unhappy..." Flip the wrong switch at the wrong time and the heavens would fill with dark clouds and the lights would go off. Maybe if we built a little altar, lit some candles.... At one point we even considered just abandoning boondocking. Yeah, we were negotiating away our souls little by little with the electrical devil. :twisted:

In the end we won the battle. All it took was a checkbook and some ink. Oh yeah and a bucket full of curse words and large clumps of hair. Ouch!
Tom and Pris Masterson, w/ Buddy the 17 year old Siamese cat.
1998 Serengeti 3706
300hp Cat 3126, Allison 3060
900 Watts of Solar
17cf, Fisher & Paykel residential Refrigerator
Dragging four telescopes around the US seeking dark skies.
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