Like many who buy campers & RV’s, I spent quite a bit of time making the RV more usable by tweaking some of the OEM systems. Some of my tweaks worked out as expected, some did not.
Mike’s mods – hits and misses:
Partially resolving the power problem by adding the Lithium battery, Redarc charger and fixing up the fridge venting were a hit. Without the increased battery capacity, faster charge rate and reduced power consumption we would have been forced to stay in electric campsites every night. We would have missed some of the best camping – most of which was in primitive campgrounds.
I need to keep working on this though. The current solar capacity barely keeps up with the fridge on hot days and doesn’t get the batteries caught up so I need to run either the generator or engine each day. Because the lithium charges at a fast rate, run times were fairly short – one or two hours per day. The generator is so noisy that any mods that I make will be oriented toward using either solar or the engine alternator to charge the batteries rather than the Onan generator. I might be able to add more solar to the roof and will likely buy one or more portable panels.
Earlier this week I pulled the fridge (again) and re-positioned the factory-supplied fan to where the Coachmen TSB says it should be, rather than where the dealer randomly placed it. That might help a bit – though it’s too cold out to verify.
I ended up with two battery monitors, a Xantrex Linklite that I installed last fall to help figure out power consumption and battery capacity on the original lead acid batteries, and a Thornwave battery monitor for the lithium/Redarc system.
When I installed the Xantrex I didn’t realize that the lead acid batteries were grounded under the chassis, so the Xantrex never monitored the current coming from the alternator when the engine was running. That resulted in wildly inaccurate battery status. I fixed that by re-routing the ground.
I much prefer the cheaper Thornwave over the more expensive Xantrex. The Thornwave is Bluetooth only – so you need to have a smartphone or tablet handy. I’ll probably buy another Thornwave and replace the Xantrex.
To help improve ventilation when the radiation absorbing dark blue campervan is closed and locked, I bought ‘Airvent‘ window vents. They work great. You can leave them in place when it rains, but not when driving.
When we were able to leave the van open the built-in cargo door and rear door pull-down screens worked OK – not great. They are a bit fiddly, and it’s hard to sneak in and out without letting bugs in.
Note to self – if you want to camp where its sunny, buy a light colored campervan.
Storage & Miscellaneous Mods
To help make up for the lack of storage in the campervan, I spent quite a bit of time adding new and tweaking the existing cabinets & various other mods. The replacement table, rear shelf, bathroom mat, galley cabinet, various drawer organizers, and bungee spice rack worked great. The small storage box that I added behind the drivers seat was OK – not great. We switched to using cheap packing cubes for our clothes, which helped keep that organized.
The dinette table that I built last fall worked OK. I’m thinking of re-doing it though, perhaps with a Lagun table mount and a table with a folding leaf of some sort.
My bathroom ‘cabinets’ however, didn’t work as expected. We thought long and hard of way to keep the bathroom organized & stash the typical bathroom odds & ends that normally end up in a medicine cabinet. I didn’t have time to build a cabinet, so we came up with the idea of using cheap plastic storage boxes stuck to the walls with 3M Command strips and bungees to dummy up small bathroom ‘cabinets’.
They turned out to be a PITA. We’ll have to re-think the bathroom cabinets.
Cargo Box – exterior storage
We were going to figure out how to add a cargo box to the back of the campervan. My idea was to add exterior storage without interfering with the tail lights, passenger side rear cargo door, backup camera and license plate. I had something mocked up with a cheap plastic bin and 2″ steel tubing, and was ready to start welding. My plan was to buy an aluminum under-bed cargo box, position it over the drivers-side door and support it via the trailer hitch.
I read what others had done and found that some van owners had started out with a cargo box but got rid of it by slimming down their ‘necessities’ instead. We decided to see if we could do that.
In the end we got along fine without the cargo box by using backpacking chairs, the smallest grill I could find, and about half the clothing and gear that we had along on our trip last winter.
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