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Matthew_B

The boonies near Dallas, Oregon

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Posted: 08/25/06 01:00pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I'm starting a single page to compile all of the camper modifications onto one page. Most of what's here is going to be rehashing some of what I have put up on pages in the camper and tech issues forum so please forgive me if you have seen some of this before. I'm going to place it here over the next few days.

I think it would be worthwhile to mention how and why I got my camper and some of the history that lead me to make some of the modifications. That way I can better explain the why and what did and didn't work for me. Plus I will tout why you should get a TC over another RV - those on the TC forum should like that [emoticon]

Before I got my camper and truck, we tent camped and rented or borrowed travel trailers several times. We rented a TT from a rental place that mainly catered to class A and C customers, but did have a couple of nice 22 to 25 foot trailers. We took the TT on several regional trips. Even though the ~5,000 lb trailer was within the specs on my F150, I gained a great respect for having some margin. I had driven my in-laws F250 with a comparable trailer and it was quite a difference compared to the white knuckle driving in my F150. My truck was already getting old and tired, but I do believe those trips helped do it in. $500 to $700 for the rental once a year was a heck of a lot cheaper than owning a RV, but we wanted something we could keep stocked and take on shorter trips also.

Also, on those TT trips we sure gained an appreciation for forest service and state parks vs. staying in commercial RV parks that just were a giant parking lot. I decided that I really would prefer a RV that was fully self contained

My wife's family had a long annual tradition of going to Lake Odell in the central Cascade Mountains or Oregon for a week in August. For that and some other camping trips we used a large tent and hauled lots of our stuff. It seemed a little ridiculous to use my truck to haul the stuff and my wife's van to fit all three kids in. I knew I wanted a crew cab so all of the kids could get in one vehicle. I think it was those trips that made me decide on getting a camper. We were planning on getting a boat. With a TT, we would have been limited to a boat DW minivan could pull since Oregon doesn't allow double towing. It would also mean driving two vehicles, and we already decided we didn't like that. No offence to the class A or C owners, but I didn't like the idea of a separate power train that sat for long stretches idle to maintain. Plus since I have a hobby ranch, I need the pickup that can haul and tow anyway. With a camper I'm less limited on the boat size and it's only one vehicle to drive.

For the camper, I knew I was looking at the larger campers. That pretty well meant DRW time. I also wanted the full crew cab. It's no fun to drive with kid feet or knees in my back every time they wiggle back there. Crew cab long bed meant Ford since Chevy and Dodge have only the reduced legroom back seats available in long bed. I was hoping to get a 4x4, but I was quickly finding out that it was near impossible to find a DRW 4x4 that hadn't been beat to death unless I wanted a newer one for $25k or more. Turns out that Ford didn't even make a 4x4 DRW before '99 - they were all up-fitter conversions that dealers offered.

A neighbor of mine was advertising a camper, truck and truck cap for sale. It was in the price range I wanted, and he took real good care of it. He kept the camper in a shed, and pretty much used it only once a year. He pretty much stuck to the RV parks, so even though the camper was fully self contained, he hadn't concerned himself with long stretches of off utility use. That's where a lot of my modifications enter in. I wanted a week plus of power, water and waste disposal so I could stay at forest service campground or to boondock for hunting.

My first trip was for a week at Odell Lake. Several needed mods became readily apparent. One of the first things my dad had done when we got a TT as a kid was to put in an accumulator. Dealing with the pump going grunt, grunt, grunt and the pulsing water was a pain while trying to do dishes and not waste too much water. I decided while camping that was going to be one of the first mods. DW just looked at me weird when I told her what I was going to do, but once it was in she was sold. Power lasted about 3 - days, even with trying to save power. I think the big killer was the furnace. Next was fresh and gray water, lasted about 5 days. I knew I wanted to be able to unload the camper, but with the need to drive to charge the battery and dump water mid week, I just left the camper on. This lead to my major projects: adding a 6V battery bank and the ability to haul in fresh water and haul away grey water. My goal was to get these done in the year before my return trip to Odell. One other idea I had was to add a LED based night light. This was for oldest daughter - if she wakes in the night in the total darkness she totally flips out. She doesn?t even wake all the way - it takes a few minutes for her to gain her bearings before she can calm down. For camping we used take a chem light for each night to put near her bed.





Matthew_B

The boonies near Dallas, Oregon

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Posted: 08/25/06 01:11pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

OK, the first mod was to add a LED string of lights to the existing thin light by the entrance of the camper. This put it right next to the dinette and bunk.

I replaced the existing on-off switch with a three position switch. That is the same size case the original switch was. The switch turns the night-light on when down, everything off when in the middle and the main light is on when up. I got some light-ON LTL42CW65AT 3mm LED's from digikey. I am running three in series with a constant current regulator putting 25mA through the LED's.

Here is the mod when done with the cover off:
[image]

I put all of the electronics for the current regulator inside a heat shrink tube. Here is the regulator schematic:
[image]

I chose the transistors based on what I had available. The MJE15030 is rated above 100V so this regulator should be tolerant of high voltage spikes on the 12V. It also is a big transistor for the current so it shouldn't get to hot.

Each LED of the type I chose drops ~3.5V at 25mA. With three in series the drop is 10.5V. The regulator requires about 1V to regulate current so it is at full current above 11.5V coming in. The number of LED's in series could be increased for lower voltage LED's (red or green are usually less than the blue or white).

With the cover on, the cover spreads the light from the three LED's out quite well. My improvement will be to add a dimmer by putting a variable resistor in line with the 15 ohm resistor. On most nights the light level is fine, but on really dark moonless nights it's to intense once my eyes fully adjust to the dark.

Matthew_B

The boonies near Dallas, Oregon

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Posted: 08/25/06 03:19pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

My next change was to replace the converter from the stock boat anchor Magnatek for a three stage charger. The existing Magnatek had a 12A charger that sat at a fixed voltage. At first I had just dialed it back to 13.2V for storage to keep from boiling the battery. What's worse is that interference from the thin light fluorescents tweaked the charger and it went into full 12A output! Not good for long battery life

Before I went and bought a new battery, let alone add T105's, I knew I need a three stage charger. I waffled around on this for a while, and finally went and bought a www.bestconverter.com upgrade kit with a 45A WFCO. There is a really good picture sequence on their website so I didn't bother taking pictures to detail the upgrade. Bestconverter now has the same upgrade kits for Progressive Dynamics units. I will recommend that anyone else try those instead.

The other thing I did while I was in the panel was to rearrange the 120V breakers and add one circuit. The biggest thing I was dissatisfied with was that all of the plugs were on one circuit, and worse, the fridge was on the same circuit. Here was the panel layout:

[image]

I liked to store my camper with a dehumidifier and electric heater in it. After each winter trip and every couple of weeks otherwise, I would set the heater to 70°F and run the dehumidifier for a day. After that I would turn off the dehumidifier and dump the water, and then set the heat to 40°F to protect against freezing. With the fridge (300W) a 1500W heater and a dehumidifier was WAY too much for one 15A breaker. In addition to running the heater and dehumidifier, I figured I also might want to run a toaster or electric frying pan while also running a heater. Fortunately the plugs on the left side, plugs on the right side, and the fridge were all home run to the AC panel. That way I could easily move around each one.

I figured out that I could move the fridge to the same circuit as the microwave without trouble since the microwave was 1100W max. Both on would draw 1400W, less than 12A. But I need to figure out a way to separate the two plug circuits onto separate breakers. But my panel was full. I found this breaker:

[image]

I was able to replace the main 30A breaker with this one and now I had one more 15A circuit.
It's a Cutler-Hammer BD1530. I couldn't find it locally at any hardware stores, so I bought it online for $14. (Just google BD1530)

There is also a BD2030 if you want to add a 20A circuit instead.

When I was done, this was the panel layout:

[image]


I had the AC taken care of, but I still needed to make some changes to the DC side. One thing that really bothered me was the run to the propane detector and fridge. Western had tapped into the battery directly for those two runs. I'm sure it's because of the crappy output of the Magnatek converter while on AC power. Many electronic devices won't work without a smooth DC voltage, and the transformer / rectifier converters didn't output smooth voltage. My issue with the installation was that they didn't put the fuse in at the battery; they put an inline cartridge fuse right at the fridge and the propane detector. So I had 16 gauge wires with no fuse connected directly to the battery running through the camper. Since the WFCO upgrade kit included a new DC circuit board with several more circuits, I cut the wire connections to the battery and ran them to the power center. This way I could just wire them up as an extra two circuits out of the power center. It also made it nice to kill power to both if the camper wasn't going to be powered for a while since the fuses where now in the power center rather than buried behind the propane detector and behind the fridge.

Matthew_B

The boonies near Dallas, Oregon

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Posted: 08/25/06 03:24pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

My next project was to install a accumulator for the water system.

I installed it right behind the water heater. It's sandwiched in between the water heater and the back of the power center.
Here it is:

[image]

The water heater bypass used to run straight out from the water heater, making the space directly behind the water heater useless for storage anyway. I put street els on the heater inlet and outlet so that the bypass sits flat against the heater. The only downside with this spot is that I need to unmount the accumulator to pull the heater anode.

The accumulator is a 2 gallon unit meant for water heater expansion that I bought at Lowe's. $43 is a heck of a lot cheaper than the Shureflow unit.

The box and manual for the accumulator both said that the unit was precharged to 20 PSI, but when I put a gauge on it the gauge read 40 PSI. I bleed it down to 18 PSI to have a little margin for the pump cut in of 20 PSI.

I now have nice and smooth flow now. No more weeping from the water heater overflow. It also is easier to adjust the sink temp at low flow rates.

Matthew_B

The boonies near Dallas, Oregon

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Posted: 08/25/06 03:41pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

The next thing I worked on was a way to support the camper better while camping with the camper off the truck. I bought 4 stabilizer jacks from a local RV store. These are the aluminum stand types:

[image]

I bought three 8' 4x6 boards. One of them I cut in half and added cutout holes for placing on top of the jacks. I drilled a 2 1/2" hole about 3/4" into the board on each end. That way the board will sit on top of the jacks without sliding off. I take the two 4' lengths with me when camping. The original owner of the camper stuck a 4x4 at the front of the bed to keep the camper from rubbing on the bed. I just stack the two 4x6 pieces on top of each other and they take the same place. I also stuff the jacks in front of the wheel well. When storing at home, I add the two 8' 4x6 boards as shown in the picture for extra support.

If someone else does this, I would get a 10' 4x6 to cut in half. 5' will still fit in the bed cross ways at the front, and won't be as critical when lowering the camper on it.

Matthew_B

The boonies near Dallas, Oregon

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Posted: 08/25/06 03:47pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Now here is the picture Joe wanted:

[image]

I'll come back later and detail everything I did on the project, but I at least want to get that picture up. I was trying to put the projects in chronological order.

* This post was edited 09/01/06 11:42pm by Matthew_B *

JoeChiOhki

Sauvie Island, OR

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Posted: 08/25/06 10:01pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Nice, I like the jack project, and I can see why you weren't liking the battery box setup. My concept was similar in my mind, but I was going to make the compartment out of plywood and angle iron squares and edges to give it strength. I hadn't decided on what to paint the inside of the box with or line it to prevent battery acid damage.


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Matthew_B

The boonies near Dallas, Oregon

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Posted: 08/25/06 10:33pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

JoeChiOhki wrote:

Nice, I like the jack project, and I can see why you weren't liking the battery box setup. My concept was similar in my mind, but I was going to make the compartment out of plywood and angle iron squares and edges to give it strength. I hadn't decided on what to paint the inside of the box with or line it to prevent battery acid damage.


I'll need to take the time to write up the whole thing. What I was planning was to put a rim around the bottom to keep the battery in place. But once I got the batteries in place, the angle iron at the back started opening up and allowing the bottom board to tilt out. I was in a rush to get it done before a planned trip so I just added the front and back boards.

I bought the batteries and box from Battery Exchange in Corvallis. I believe they are in the Portland area also. The box was $60. It was the most expensive of the GC2 boxes they had - it lines the batteries up end to end. The side by side one was ~$50. If you don't want to spend that much money on a box, they have singles for $11 so you could have GC2 battery boxes for $22. I'm hoping the box will be the primary protection from acid.

I'm planning on re-doing the whole support in welded steel and powder coating it.

twins89

Western New York

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Posted: 08/25/06 10:59pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Just goes to show that this site could use a forum just for modifications. Some folks are really ingenious and we have learned a lot from them and copied a few.... ladder clothesline and sliding basement drawers to name a few.


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marly

Yutan, NE 68073

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Posted: 08/26/06 06:14am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I would also like a modifications forum. marly

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