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Matthew_B

The boonies near Dallas, Oregon

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Posted: 08/16/08 04:18pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I had an old mod page, and it went to the archive. I've posted a few threads here and there, and I wanted to resurrect the page.

Hopefully I'm not breaking any forum rules by posting old posts into a new thread and copying some others here too.





Matthew_B

The boonies near Dallas, Oregon

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Posted: 08/16/08 04:19pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

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

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: 08/16/08 04:21pm 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: 08/16/08 04:26pm 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.

On Edit: I've since help do a Xantrex XADC unit. Get it instead!!!! They're far better than any other unit!
END EDIT

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: 08/16/08 04:28pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

My next project was a way to carry in fresh water and haul away gray water for when I have the camper unloaded. I wanted this both for camping in FS campgrounds and when boondocking. For fresh water, I could just use a tote and dump the water into the gravity fill. But the idea of lifting a 50 lb tote 4 feet in the air and holding for several minutes to fill didn’t sound like fun. I have read of others using an extra pump to do this. But I decided I wanted a way to use the internal pump to do it since I already have that pump and it’s already wired in.

My plan was to plumb the pump so I could draw from a flexible tube, and discharge back to the line from the tank. I added two valves to do this. I put a three way valve on the pump suction. With this valve, I can select to draw from either the original line from the camper’s water tank, or I can draw water from a 1/2" flexible tube that I can connect to a water tote. For this valve, I used a Flair It valve meant for water heater bypass installations. (Flair It P/N 06910). For the discharge to the water tank, I added a valve that would connect the pressurized cold water line to the line from the internal tank. This way, I could use the valve both for drawing water from the tote and I also could use it as a water tank fill when I’m hooked up to city water without having to use the gravity fill. For the second valve, I used a tap valve. (Flair It P/N 06914) This is a T combined with a shutoff valve. The straight through line always is open. The side outlet can be opened or closed by the valve handle.

The water pump in my camper is mounted against the outside wall under the kitchen sink. Here is a picture of the plumbing after I was done.

[image]

After this picture was taken, I added a pipe anchor to hold the flexible tube in place so that the valve it was attached to couldn’t yank on the plumbing.

To connect the tote, I got 8 feet of 1/2" tubing. I chose a tube that didn’t look like it would collapse easy when lifting water but was still flexible. On the end, I added a garden hose female end. I also attached a cap meant for RV city water inlets to keep junk out of the tube. The lanyard for the cap is attached under the hose end screw so that it can’t get lost. When not used, I coil the tube up out of the way under the sink.

[image]

For the fresh water tote, I bought a couple of 7 gallon totes from Bi-Mart.

[image]

Bi-Mart is a Pac NW chain, but the same tote is carried by Wal*Mart. I bought the 7 gallon green narrow ones for fresh water. I also bought the cubic blue ones made by AquaTainer for hauling gray water. That way I can keep them separate at a glance… Don’t want any major yuks by mixing up the two.

The white shutoff at the lower right is what comes with the tank. It is attached to the cap by a 3/4 pipe thread. I removed the plastic tap and replaced it with a brass 3/4 MPT to garden hose adapter. I bought hose end caps to seal the tote when not pumping.

When I want to add water to the camper tank, I place the tote on the floor of the camper opening up. I change over the valves and hook up the tube. I then lay the tote down (like in the picture) so the opening is at the bottom. I then run the pump. When the tote is near empty, I lift it up and hold it so almost all of the water can be drained out. By this point, the tote only has a few pounds of water in it.

For the gray water setup, I changed the sewer cap to one with the garden hose fitting on it. I changed the AquaTainer to a garden hose fitting just like I did for the fresh water tote. I bought a washing machine hose to connect between the sewer cap and the AquaTainer since it’s a convenient short hose with female hose fittings on both ends. I use these in FS campgrounds to haul the gray water to someplace acceptable to dump it. Out in the boonies, I just dump the gray water directly.

Matthew_B

The boonies near Dallas, Oregon

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Posted: 08/16/08 04:22pm 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: 08/16/08 04:29pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I decided rather than to drop the $$$$ for both a new LPG detector (broken) and CO detector (wasn't put in RV's when mine was built) I would experiment with some of the combination detectors.

I found this one at Home Depot:

[image]
(clickable)

At $50 for a detector, it's far cheaper than individual CO and LPG detectors.

The owners manual doesn't say "not for RV use" anywhere in it, unlike many other CO detectors.

I built a simple regulator to drop the camper DC power down to 9V. I feed the 9V into both the battery clip for the backup battery and into the AC terminals after the wall adapter (it has a detachable 120V to 9V adapter). If only the battery is powered, it'll alarm for loss of AC and if only the AC input is powered it will alarm for low battery so both must be fed.

Schematic for the regulator:

[image]

I made the regulator up with point to point wiring and encased it in heat shrink tubing. The whole thing fits into the space intended for the backup battery.

The total DC draw at the input of the regulator is 24mA, quite a bit better than my old LPG detector before it went out.

* This post was edited 06/17/10 10:04pm by Matthew_B *

Matthew_B

The boonies near Dallas, Oregon

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Posted: 08/16/08 04:33pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

This is more of a truck mod than camper mod, but camper related:

I wanted a long extension for towing a boat or other trailer behind the camper. After pricing the superhitch, I decided it was time to fabricate my own.

Rather than take the load forward and transferring it sideways, I made an A frame extension that takes the load to directly below the frame rails. This way, the cross tube was no longer important for the main load. The cross tube only keeps lateral loads from opening or closing the A under longitudinal forces (braking or accelerating).

Here is the rear view of the receiver.

[image]

Receivers are 3.5" square tube with a 4" tube reinforcing wrapper around the ends. The tubes are set at an angle of 16°.

Side view:

[image]

The tubes are welded to a 3/8" angle steel that attaches to the frame.

Extension parts:

[image]

The two tubes are 3" square tube. They weigh 28 lbs each.
The center section is made from cut off 3.5" tube and a pre-fabricated standard 2" receiver piece from Reese. The center part including the chain and turnbuckle is 31 lbs.
Pins are 3/4" implement pins. (Regular 5/8" pins are commonly only 3.5" long, so I had to use implement pins to get the length.)

Installed:

[image]

[image]

Here is the whole assembly before installation:

[image]

PM me your email and I'll send the plans if anyone is interested.

Matthew_B

The boonies near Dallas, Oregon

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Posted: 08/16/08 04:36pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Now that I had 340 Ahrs of batteries in the camper, I found that it took a very long time to charge from the truck. So I decided to upgrade the charge circuit for MUCH lower resistance and a higher current capacity.

First off, the wiring diagram:

[image]

(Note that all pictures as scaled down, but are clickable for a full screen view.)

I'm using 4 gauge wire for all of the power connections between the alternator on the truck and the camper batteries. I debated several locations to tap power, but settled on the alternator to get the maximum voltage in the system to the camper batteries. I measured drops as much as .5V between the alternator and the engine compartment fuse box. I measured .25V between the alternator and the batteries when charging the batteries back up right after the glow plugs kicked off. By going to the alternator direct, no truck wiring is in the equation. For ground, I ran wire up to the front and tied the ground wire to the accessory mount bracket for the passenger side, right under the alternator.

I bought a 100A solenoid from NAPA to isolate the camper and truck. I picked up power for the solenoid from the glow plug relay. It's right near the alternator, and is only powered when the key is on. The PCM grounds the other coil terminal of the relay to turn the glow plugs on. I decided to connect the other terminal of the camper power solenoid coil to the glow plug wires so that the camper solenoid isn't powered when the glow plugs are on. When the glow plugs are off, the solenoid coil grounds through the glow plugs... at 160A nominal draw, the .6A of the coil is trivial. This keeps the camper batteries from trying to feed either the glow plugs or the starter. If they did, it would trip the breaker every time the truck starts. If you're wondering about the diode in the coil wire... it eliminates the possibility of back feeding the coil the wrong way.

For the camper to truck connector:

[image]

[image]

They are meant for powering lift gates on semi trailers. They are rated for 100 AMPS and take up to 4 gauge wire. To give a sense of scale, they are the same size as semi 7 pin connectors, which are a little bigger than the 7 way RV connector

Both are available from NAPA

Truck end: PHI-15-326, $22.49
Trailer end: PHI-15-336, $18.49

For the remaining connections, I used a common 4 pin round connection.

Connection at alternator:

[image]

The upper wire is the factory connection, the new one goes out the bottom of output stud.

The control wires for the solenoid slip under the vanity cover, and connect to the glow plug relay:

[image]

I mounted the solenoid and breaker in front of the battery. It's a pretty well protected location.

[image]

The lower wire is the feed from the alternator, and the upper heads back to the connector.

Here is the connector ready to load. Both the negative and positive leads are inside the loom.

[image]

And now the connectors in place:

[image]

Behind connector:

[image]

The view with the plugs installed:

[image]

[image]

The 4 pin connector attaches to a 4 wire 14 gauge cable and joins the wire loom.

I drilled a hole through the wing of the camper, and ran the loom through:

[image]

Behind the converter I have a power distribution block. I now added the two new wires to the distribution block. The 4 conductor cable from the 4 pin connector is spliced into the existing camper wiring:

[image]

After trying it out with batteries near 50%, I got 65A feed from the truck to the camper at idle, with .55V drop... .2V in the negative, .35V in the positive.

Matthew_B

The boonies near Dallas, Oregon

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Posted: 08/16/08 04:41pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I never really liked the location of the dump valves on the camper. They hung with the handles down, making them the lowest point on the camper. I also didn't like standing right in line with the hose when and reaching below the hose to open the black valve. I was convinced that the hose was going to come off one of the times...

Occasionally, when I needed a little more room in the gray tank, I'd open the gray valve wide and crack the black after making sure the cap was on tight. This would equalize the two tanks and make room for more in the gray tank. With a 27 gallon black and 22 gallon gray, the gray always fills first. But with the camper unloaded, I couldn't open the black valve since it was right by the ground.

I'd been planning on changing the valve, but now I was forced to. I hit a high spot and cracked the black tank valve. (Fortunatly, it didn't dump the whole tank right there.)

[image]

I added an extension to the black valve so it can be reached from the front. The black valve is tipped up just a little, so the extension naturally rests on the gray water pipe. I put a short length of brass pipe as a bushing so the handle extension is supported by the gray water pipe and the handle rod can't torque on the valve body.

They are also MUCH easier to reach, and now I don't have to stand right in line with the discharge and reach below it when opening the valve. If the hose ever comes off, I'll be out of the way now.

[image]

The handles are about 6" behind the bumper of the truck, and are well protected there.

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