Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Class B Camper Upgrades

I've been performing some maintenance / upgrades to the Dodge Van the past couple of weeks.
Since I had no maintenance records I decided I had better inspect / pack the front wheel bearings...also check the front brake pads. Packing wheel bearings is not one of my favorite past times so I stopped at a local Tire Shop to see what they would charge....their quote was over $200.00...$100.00 / axle. Well, I'd say that was a motivating factor to perform the work myself.
I spent an afternoon completing the task and spent a total of $12.00: Two new wheel seals, 2 cotter pins and a tube of wheel bearing grease. I had purchased a "wheel bearing grease cone" years ago so had to get that out. The brake pads appeared about at 80% as new so no need to replace them.
Messy darn job but I was glad I got it done.

We found that the little 15" TV / DVD in the camper was a bit "dated" worked but was having issues accepting DVD's ….it would take a dozen or so tries to get a DVD to start reading. Plus it was a 110 volt unit, so either shore power was required, or running our small (slightly noisy) 175 watt inverter when using.


I'd been "hoarding" a couple old BMW "Teutonic QSL 1000 Mile Solo Seats" for a while which I didn't plan on using....only bought them because the price was right and they are somewhat rare. Sold off two of them on eBay to finance some upgrades for the van. Found the above 19" TV/DVD combination on eBay for a reasonable it is a 12 volt unit so won't need to run an inverter. It fit the existing swivel mount and is actually over all smaller than the old one. 

Brother in Law had given me a couple of LED lights which I planned on mounting as additional  backup lights on the rear.....after looking things over I decided one would be sufficient and the second one would be held as a spare, if ever needed. It was wired into the backup light system so activates only with reverse selection. 

Next in line was the sewer hose storage....the Van had a storage tube, but it was basically a useless space...a small tube which would hold a sewer hose, but not the end fittings. No one wants to assemble / disassemble their sewer hose with each use....for obvious reasons. 
Currently I've had to store the sewer hose (in a plastic bag) under the rear seat / bed. I did not like that situation, also for obvious reasons. 

I removed the tube and then cut out the back plastic area around the enclosure with a "roto-zip" tool on my Dremel. This enlarged the opening into the underside of the van....and will allow the sewer hose end fittings to fit into the area.

Inspecting the area behind the opening I had found that it would be possible to make a "floor" enclosure to access through the door opening. I cut a card board "template" to initially size the floor and then cut some scrap sheet metal we had in the shop.

The sheet metal fit tightly and I was able to secure each corner with screws / bolts. It is not a "sealed" area since I want any water to drain away after use....should work! 

After a few uses I was able to get all functions of the refrigerator to work...12 volt...110 volt...and propane. The fridge has a 12 volt cooling fan which activates when a pre set temperature is achieved. On a very hot day I found that the fan would activate even when the fridge was not turned on. I installed a toggle switch behind the fridge rear access door to be able to deactivate the circuit. It appears that the previous owner had the same situation and removed an inline fuse when the fridge was not in use. Just need to activate the circuit when the fridge is in use. 

Next on my list was the existing roof vents / fans. They were the original units and the little fans had succumbed to the elements with the blades degrading / rotting away. The units also had 12 volt lights in the "surround" but they were not functional. I thought of replacing the fan blade units but these types of fans are quite loud / noisy so decided to upgrade to one "Fan-Tastic Fan" in the bed area and a standard vent fan in the kitchen area. 

The "Fantastic-Fans" are pretty quiet and move a LOT of air...also have 3 speeds. We have two of these in our large with an automatic rain sensor, powered lid, thermostat control. The "optioned" units cost nearly $400.00 so I opted for the cheaper "standard" model at $130.00. 

Above is the "standard" roof vent / fan similar to the original ones, but without the lights. This one sits above the "kitchen" area so can vent out when cooking in the van. 

Installing the new vents took a few hours each....removing the old ones / cleaning up the old sealant was the hardest task. Crawling around on the fiberglass roof was a bit of a challenge as I had to be careful to not stress the roof close to the openings. I used a butyl compressible tape under the frames and then a self leveling "DuCor" sealant around the frames and screws. The DuCor Sealant is great stuff and does not harden / become brittle. Had to re-drill all the holes (over 50) in the roof cap for both vents as the old ones were a different layout. I simply used a 1/32 nd. bit to drill pilot holes then used self tapping screws (with a bit of sealant on each). 

We will be leaving our car here in Montana this Winter for the first time. My Brother in Law has a huge shop and offered to let us leave the car here. My Wife has never ridden South with me in the big RV since she has always had to drive our car South....this year we will ride together to AZ in the big RV, then fly back to MT. for a couple more weeks and then return to AZ with the camper van....hoping to take a circuitous route South in the van and make a "tourist" trip out of it. We found air fare from Mesa AZ to Billings MT for less than $150.00 for both of us. We'll need to rent a car "one way" for Yuma to Mesa but car rentals are fairly inexpensive for one day. 

The Camper Van has sort of sidelined me from my normal routine of motorcycle riding this Summer. But that is OK and I'll get some riding time in this Winter. I feel it was time to give the MC riding a "break" for some reason. Riding is still my favorite passion / activity and I'll balance the riding with the camping van activities. 

Big Horn Mountains - Wyoming:
                                                           Big Horn Reservoir - Wyoming:

                                                               Black Hills - South Dakota:

So far we've visited 6 + different Hot Springs around MT. / WY. / SD.
We've visited different areas of Yellowstone Park twice......been through a large area of the Black Hills in South Dakota.....criss-crossed the Big Horn mountains in Wyoming numerous times. Also attended Grandsons soccer tournament in Bozeman. Camping / staying in the van suits us perfectly and has already saved hundreds of $$$$ in lodging costs!


RichardM said...

The interior of that van looks to be in nice shape!

BMW HACKER said...

Yes Richard, the woodwork is in hood shape.... would like to change the flooring behind the drivers area to a wood flooring but my skills in that area are sketchy at best...maybe I'll get some help from a friend in Yuma.

Gila Mtns.

Gila Mtns.