Updating RV Cooking Appliances

After a couple of years of real life experience on the road, I’m deciding to update the appliances in my 1975 Argosy/Airstream 24. Which is to say, I’m going to get rid of the original MagicChef range and oven.

I have a really great (relatively compact but powerful) microwave and a really great toaster oven (big enough for a 12″ pizza) in the pantry, but those can only be used on shore power or generator.  I’ve always thought it was a good idea to be able to *fully* prepare meals while running only on propane, but after a lot of time in the vehicle, I’m rethinking that notion.  Plus, I’m about to buy a dual-fuel generator, so technically I will be able to use those electric appliances via propane.

A quick aside before I go on… in the past, a “combo” microwave/oven has not been a realistic option.  The technology has just not been there.  No combo microwave unit could cook a crispy crust pizza, so that was that.  I think the technology is improving, but I am still utilizing two separate units.  I make toast/bagels often enough that I feel justified in having a separate microwave and toaster oven, and the toaster oven definitely makes a good pizza (or poppers, or frozen egg rolls, etc.).  Also, there are some really great multi-function toaster ovens now that include an “air fryer” option, so I think a microwave with a separate toaster/oven/air fryer is currently the best set up.

On to the cook top…

In the past, I usually scoffed when I saw galley set ups that included only a two burner cooktop.  In reality, I have NEVER used more than two burners at once.  I do almost always use two burners, but never more (quoth the raven).

The actual oven has never been used for anything but “storage” (and bad storage at that).  Not in my Argosy; not in my Landyacht; not ever.  Since the toaster oven is a good one, I have always done any “baking” (usually a pizza or lasagna) in the toaster oven.  I know if I was without shore power I couldn’t do this, but at that point planning a different meal is fine.  Plus, I recently installed an exterior grill (Olympian 5500 professional series) that could easily function as an oven if I absolutely had to have a propane powered oven to cook something.

So now the question is: what cooktop to install?  The main issue I have with the current cooktop (other than taking up too much counter space), is that the burners don’t have a high enough output.  I think they were probably originally rated around 6500 BTU, but after 40 years, even that is likely an optimistic figure.  It takes a million years to heat up water for coffee, and I can’t even think about boiling a large pot of water for pasta.  This probably makes this particular cook top safer (it’s not creating as much combustion exhaust inside the camper), but I am aware of the issue and pay attention to that factor when cooking, so I’m comfortable moving to something with a higher BTU output.

Another factor that needs to be considered is the “travel-ability” of the cook top unit.  What this means is being able to cover it up (ideally creating a flush countertop) and not having the burner covers, cooking grates, etc., rattle around while bouncing down the road.

There are a slew of $100-200 two burner units on Amazon, etc., but even if they are labeled “drop in,” almost all of them sit above the counter.  They also have grates and burner covers that simply rest on the surface, so they will definitely bounce around and cause a lot of noise (and possibly damage) with road vibration.

It’s also surprising to me how many cook top burners, even ones designed specifically for RV’s, have only 120v igniter options (they plug into a regular household outlet just to start the flame).  Why in the world isn’t 12v or even a AA battery the standard here?!  That problem can be easily remedied with modification (installing your own igniter), but it seems crazy that I will have to make this mod in the first place.

Dometic seems to be the only readily available unit that is properly “recessed,” but the burners are only rated 7,200 and 5,400 BTU.  This unit does however have a 12v igniter, so at least there’s that.  I don’t think I would be happy cooking on the “wire” grate pictured on the unit above, but for an extra $50 they do offer a more sturdy cooking grate option.  Here’s the kicker though… all of the reviews I’m reading about this unit (mostly 1 star) are people ranting about the fact that the description does not disclose that you can’t use it over 4,500 ft.!  I LIVE at 6,000 ft., so this thing won’t even work in my driveway!  Obviously the Dometic is not for me.

All of the other recessed propane burners I’m finding are really chintzy looking “camping” units (I’m looking at you Atwood and Suburban), so I have a feeling I’m going to end up finding a commercial two burner unit and modifying it for my own needs.  I plan on installing a butcher block countertop, so I could modify the opening to allow the cook top to sit lower, and then I can make a flush-fit cover.  So… as usual, I guess custom is the only answer.  Perhaps I will dismantle a stainless steel grill and go from there.

I do have to admit, this little Wedgewood is gorgeous…

1975 Argosy MH Tank Sending Unit and Sock Filter

The biggest reason I scored my Argosy Motorhome (other than my neighbor being a great guy) is because the previous owner couldn’t get fuel to the motor.  He had “help” from a friend who tried replacing the fuel pump (with one that wasn’t powerful enough), but the actual issue was that the fuel line from the tank was severely blocked.  In the gallery below you can see what I removed from the lift tube in the fuel sender.  Not only was the “filter sock” pretty much full to the point of saturation, but the metal tube from the bottom of the tank was filled with a lot of black, rubbery crud.

To get the Argosy back to my place from where it had been sitting for more than a decade, I had bypassed the gas tank by placing a small fuel reservoir inside the cabin and installing  a Carter P4070 fuel pump to move the fuel.  It is common consensus that a fuel pump should be as close to the tank as possible, with no part of the fuel line “behind” the pump; thus, inside the tank is the very best placement.  My intention for the *final* fuel delivery solution was to install an in-tank lift pump, and with the access port that my Argosy has in the floor above the tank, I think that’s still a viable option, but after seeing how everything is set up, I think I’m going to just stick with the Carter as close to the tank as I can get it (not inside the tank).  This just makes replacing/servicing the fuel pump that much easier, because you don’t have to open up the access port in the floor to get inside the fuel tank.

I was considering adding a “better” fuel filter inside the tank, but after doing a lot reading, apparently the sock is the best way to go, because it soaks up fuel, and allows the vehicle to run when the tank is virtually empty.  If the fuel is moving around in the tank while driving, the sock soaks it up and keeps it at the intake line.  If the sock weren’t present, there would be an empty tube trying to suck up fuel from places in the tank it can’t reach.  I may need to replace the sock filter in another 50 years, but I’ve got the floor access panel, so dropping the tank isn’t necessary for that procedure.

So now that I have my tank opened up and the sender removed, I will replace the fuel sock and clean out the tank before hooking everything back up and driving away!