Thursday, December 19, 2013

Samuel P. Taylor State Park, Lagunitas California

Samuel P. Taylor State Park Campground is a short drive from Bay area. The campground is located within the state park and in close proximity to Muir Woods National Monument and Point Reyes National Seashore.

GPS Coordinates (Entrance Kiosk): 38.019266,-122.729944
Samuel P. Taylor SP website: Click here
Campground Map (Pdf): Click here
Campground reviews (RVparkreviews): Click here

Video tour of Samuel P. Taylor Campground (HD available).

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Sandy Riverfront RV Resort, Troutdale Oregon

Sandy Riverfront RV resort is located close to the Columbia River Gorge  and about 20 minutes east of downtown Portland. It is a good camp base to visit the waterfalls, the Columbia river, and all the surrounding cities.

GPS Coordinates (CG Entrance): 45.5383,-122.379096
Campground Website: Click here
Campground Map: Click here
Campground reviews from RVParkreviews: Click here
Video tour of Sandy Riverfront RV Resort Campground (HD available).

Permanent Black Holding Tank Rinser

If you’re tired of dragging the garden hose inside the RV to flush and clean the black holding tank, installing a permanent holding tank rinser may interest you. There are 3 permanent holding tank flusher/rinser device on the market that I know; one is the “Tornado Rotary Tank Rinser”, the “No-Fuss Flush” unit and the identical “Camco Quickie Flush” system. I went and bought the “No-Fuss Flush” unit as it was available at my local RV store. The “No-Fush Flush” unit does not come with an extension hose unlike the “Quickie Flush” seen on Amazon here: Click here. All of the above mentioned tank flush unit has a built in check valve to prevent any contents of the holding tank exiting via the flushing unit. The supplied holding screws (x3 zinc coated) for the "No-Fuss Flush" unit were not used, instead I purchased 3 stainless steel screws for this project.

1. Before starting with this project, make sure your black holding tank is empty; you do not want any surprises when drilling the required hole.

2. Raise the driver side wheels on ramps for easy access to underside of the RV. For safety, chock the passenger side wheels to prevent the RV from rolling off the ramps.

3. The installation location of the tank flushing unit is limited on the Agile as the only exposed side of the black tank is towards the rear end of the vehicle; all other sides are either covered by a shield or frame. Although, installing the flushing unit at this location is ideal as it can spray at the area where most solid waste might accumulate. The flushing unit does not spray directly at the tank sensors and at the area where the tank drains due to the tank design, although it might indirectly. The uppermost portion of black tank is partially covered by a frame, the most I can install it is about 3 inches from the top of the tank an inch shy of the flushing unit requirement of 2 inches.

4. Make sure you are 100% positive where to make the hole, this is a one shot attempt and cannot be reverted. “No-Fuss Flush” device requires an inch diameter hole.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Replacing the Macerator Impeller

A replacement impeller kit for SHURflo macerator pump is available on Amazon: SHURflo 9457100 Macerator Impeller Kit

Step-by-step procedures:
Before starting, make sure that the house battery is off or disconnected. Clean and empty both holding tanks. Some waste fluid is expected to drip when you start disconnecting the macerator inlet and outlet ports, so be prepared. I used a small bucket to catch all the remaining waste fluids in the line.

1. Raise the passenger wheels on ramps for easy access to underside of the RV. I made wooden ramps for this purpose. For safety, chock the driver side wheels to prevent the RV from rolling off the ramps. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Most Compact Portable Grill

For anyone looking for a really small grill, here it is... the Iwatani Cassette Gas Grill. I've been trying to find this here in the US for ages, it is now available on Amazon. It still shipped from Japan though, but I'm more comfortable buying through Amazon than from an unknown oversea online store. Here is the Amazon link: Iwatani Cassette Gas Grill.
The description from Amazon is misleading, it says "grilled skewers only", this is definitely not for skewers only, but its best use for skewered meat hence it's called "Yakitori" grill. I have tried grilling steaks, pork chops, burgers, hotdogs, veggies, etc. and it cooked nicely done.

I really like the grill because of its smaller footprint, saving a much needed storage space especially in a small class B RV's. It cooks great and evenly heats up, unlike my Coleman grill which gets really hot in the middle where the burner is located. For skewered meat, it's the best way to cook at the table while picnicking, the kids loved it.

The grill only measures about 15 x 7 3/4 x 4 3/4-inches (LxWxH). It uses an inexpensive butane canister as fuel source. One would ask, why butane? Butane don't work well in cold weather. The Iwatani grill has an ingenious metal heater plate that warms up the butane canister as it cooks, so cold weather is not an issue anymore. The heat is adjustable with the simple turn of the dial; it also has an auto igniter built in. The grid for the skewer is adjustable in 3 positions and it's easy to clean. The only thing lacking is a lid, which I don't prefer using anyway.

The Iwatani Cassette Gas Grill

I made a storage box for the grill. The box is air tight when locked to prevent the grill from smelling inside the RV when stored. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Custom Hitch Cover with RT Logo

Our RT came with a plastic hitch cover from the RV dealer; it was printed with RV dealer info/advertisement. I figured out why not make it an RT Logo print for custom look. To do this, I first scuffed the surface using fine grit sandpaper; with a black spray paint specially designed for plastics I painted the base color. Next I searched online for an RT logo, resized it to proper size then printed on a regular bond paper. I then traced the RT logo into a masking tape, cut-out the details and then transferred it into the hitch cover, spray painted the red side, then the blue side. After the paint has completely dried, I spray painted it with several layers of clear coat for protection.  

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

City Water Inlet Replacement

At one point, things in the RV will eventually break and the city water inlet is no exception. If it starts to leak, try to reseat the rubber check valve first and see if that cures the problem. I have reseated the valve on ours on many occasions and lately the spring that holds the rubber check valve  just came off. I decided to replace the whole water inlet valve assembly with a different brand; the new one is made of brass vs. the plastic old one. One drawback is that the mounting holes is different as it has 3 mounting holes as opposed to 2 on the original one, so I have to drill new holes into the mounting bracket.

If you decided to replace it with a new identical one it would be an easy DIY, all you have to do is remove the two rivets that holds it in place, unscrew it from the PEX tubing pipe thread adapter, replace it with a new one and rivet it back in place.
Picture above shows the check valve is not properly seated causing water to leak out. If this happens, your water pump will repeatedly cycle on-off as water pressure starts to drop inside the pipes.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Safety Issue: Continental Spare Tire Carrier Failure

I feel compelled to share this. One morning before heading to work, I decided to check on my spare tire and noticed that it was loose as if it was unbolted from the carrier. I immediately removed the plastic tire cover and to my demise, the flat metal bracket where the tire is bolted on has completely broken off and the tire was just hanging by its rim on top of the remaining broken bracket.  The failure was at the 90-degree bend of the bracket and to the weld joint where it meets the vertical square tubing (see picture). The welded spot has probably failed first as evident by some rust stains along the weld joints, then from shear load of the tire and road vibrations the bracket just could not handle the stress and broke off at the weak point. The welding looks sloppy with bad metal penetration and to make it worst, it was only welded to one side of the bracket. If I have driven the RV that day without noticing it, the tire could have simply slid out and have fallen on the road, which could cause a vehicle crash. I took the broken tire bracket to a local weld shop and have gussets added to corners for more suport.
For anyone with the “Continental Tire Carrier” option, it would be wise to thoroughly inspect it for signs of failure.


Friday, May 31, 2013

Privacy Curtain to Isolate Front Cab to the RV Cabin

I decided to add a curtain behind the driver seat for privacy and to isolate the front cab to the cabin. It literally takes seconds to pull the curtains close vs. the RT standard draw curtains that goes all around the windshield and the front windows which takes a bit of effort to close, as does securing them back in place. Also, there are times that you want the cab area open for viewing outside while keeping privacy to the  back of the RV.

The curtain track was purchased at a local IKEA store; model name is “KVARTAL”. It is 55 inches long which is the perfect length for mounting it under the overhead cabinet of the cab. I also purchased 3 ceiling mounting brackets, and a box of curtain rollers designed for the curtain track. I mounted the track to the corner trim piece (don't know what it's called) of the overhead cabinet. The installation is pretty straight forward; first locate the placements of the 3 curtain track ceiling brackets/mounts, one in the middle and one on each side, next drill the pilot holes, then mount the ceiling rod brackets using wood screws. The curtain rollers were not used in this project, it will depend on the type of curtain you will be using. I found a blackout curtain at home depot with rod loops on top, which works really well without the track rollers, I just slipped them on the curtain track. The curtains were shortened to about an inch and a half above the floor then hemmed. A word of caution though, if you constantly hitting your head on the  overhead cabinet when getting into or out the cab, I guarantee that you will be hitting your head more on the curtain track… did I say ouch!
With the curtains drawn open

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Preventing Accidental Activation of the Fridge Mode Selector Button

The Dometic fridge that came with the RV has selectors buttons mounted on the front plastic cover housing making it susceptible to accidental activation by simply leaning against it. The energy selection button (Mode) is the one that really concerns me. It happened to us once during dry camping; the fridge was running on propane and was accidentally switched to 12 volt, if I have not caught it early before we left the RV for a long hike, it could have easily depleted the house batteries.

To prevent accidental activation of the fridge “Mode” selector button, I covered it with a plastic switch guard pictured below. The switch guard was purchased at our local hardware store; it comes in tan and white color. I spray painted mine black to match the fridge cover. The mounting holes were cut off (optional) for an OEM look. It is then mounted over the “Mode” selector button using a double sided tape.
Plastic switch guard spray painted black.
Switch guard covering the fridge "Mode" selector button.

Compact Camping Propane Lantern

A good bright reliable camping light is essential for camping safety and comfort. For general camp lighting, an LED lanterns are good choice because of their low power consumption. The brightest LED lantern I can find is the 580 lumen Coleman Twin High Power LED Lantern, but it is too big for storage in an small RV where space is a premium. A compact/ smaller LED lantern like the 300 lumen Rayovac Sportsman LED lantern is another good option. For brightness, it is hard to beat the twin mantle propane lanterns, but again they are bulky and heavy.

For the above reasons, I really like the Primus EasyLight Lantern it is bright enough (max. 490 lumen's as per manufacturer) and packed really small into the included plastic internally padded storage case. We've been using one for couple of years without any problem. Amazon link/ reviews here: Primus EasyLight Lantern. The lantern is very fuel efficient for the amount of light it gives off, an 8oz. fuel canister should last about 12 hours on maximum brightness to 24 hours on lowest setting. The lantern also has an attached wire for easy hanging on trees or poles.

Primus EasyLight Lantern with an 8oz. Isobutane/Propane cartridge.

Plastic storage case. Size is about 3.3" x 3.3" x 5"

Monday, May 20, 2013

Adding a Slide-out Pantry

Added a full extension slide-out pantry to one of the lower cabinets located below the microwave. The cabinets here are placed so low to the floor that sometimes it's a pain in the back to get stuff out. I decided to add just one slide-out pantry for now. The slide-out draw is made using 1/2 inch birch plywood with simple butt joints. It is then sanded, stained, and added 3 coats of wipe-on polyurethane matte finish with light sanding in between coats. Also added 1/2 inch, 1/20 in. thick aluminum angle bar for accent (see pictures below). I used an 18-inch long full extension slides with soft-close feature that were purchased from our local hardware store. The outer extension slides were riveted to (6) zinc plated corner braces (3 on each side) which are then secured to the floor using wood screws. The cabinet door hinges were removed, and then it is mounted in front of the slide-out using 4 wood screws.

Update: The self closing mechanism of the slider is not enough to hold the pantry shelve from inadvertently opening while driving especially if filled with heavy items. I decided to reinstall the plastic push latch on the door panel, which is my original plan after all.

With slide-out fully extended.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Modifying the Small Vertical Pull-Out Pantry to a Waste Bin

Our small rectangular trash can tucked behind the driver seat has worked great for us, until I started using that space for the hinged front mattress. There is no alternate placement for the old trash can, for that, I decided to modify the small pull-out pantry as a waste bin with some extra space for storage. The size/shape of the modified waste bin is really dictated by the location of the sink drain and electrical outlet box for the microwave, which mostly occupies the back of the pantry space. After double/triple checking the shape/ dimension, and design of the waste bin, I started cutting pieces of ½ inch birch plywood. Pieces are then butt joined using a nail gun and lots of wood glue. It is then sanded smooth, stained, and coated 3x with wipe-on polyurethane matte finish with light sanding in-between coats. Pieces of 1/2 inch, 1/20 in. thick aluminum angle bar cut to lengths are then glued around the opening of the trash receptacle for accent.
Finished project pictured below.
 Noticed the right outer panel is only secured with wood screws for easy removal if it needed thorough cleaning inside the container.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

DIY Sprinter Window Insulation

Our Roadtrek is surrounded with single pane glass windows, although tinted, they don't do much to reflect/ block suns radiant heat. The AC struggles to cool the inside of the RV during summer, and there is a lot of heat loss through the glass windows during winter camping. Insulated window coverings should help.

I made the window covers using Reflectix insulation (available at your local Lowe's home improvement store) backed with an ironing board cover with special aluminized coating and padding (available at Joann Craft Store). I used newspapers to make window templates. The template is then laid into the Reflectix and traced the edges with a marker; I then cut about 1-cm. allowance outside the line to compensate for the Reflectix sagging overtime. The layers were fused together using spray adhesive, then a grey color seam bindings were sewn around the edges. The rear window covers just slips into the frame around the windows and they stay put real well. The covers make a huge difference in interior temps, both in the summer and winter.

For the front window covers, super strong neo-magnets were used to hold them in place. A more rigid reflective insulation was used for the windshield. I found a cheap ready-made windshield sunshade for trucks/RV's at Campingwold. It is thin and rigid and perfect for the sprinter, just needed some trimming to fit. But with the addition of the aluminized backing, the windshield cover becomes heavy enough that collapses on its own weight when installed. To prevent the windshield cover from buckling, I placed plastic ribbings in-between the reflective front and the backing for rigidity. The plastic ribbings were salvaged from a broken beach umbrella. The windshield cover is just held in place by the sun-visors.

If you decided that the DIY solution is not for you, Amazon has wide variety of window/ windshield sunshades from the fancy Remis privacy blinds to the pre-cut custom fit reflective sunshades- check them out first: Covercraft UVS100 and Coverking Custom Sunshade for Select Sprinters are available on Amazon.

Tap pictures to enlarge.

Portable Blongo Ball/ Ladder Ball Game

My kids love this game. Camping is always fun if they have something to do/ play with, and this is perfect. It is portable and cheap to make. For those who rather buy them ready-made, Amazon has them listed from $29.99 to the more expensive $89.98 sets. Here are the links: $29.99 set$56.07 set, and the $89.98 set.

For this project, you need a PVC pipe, PVC fittings, golf balls, a nylon rope, and a PVC cement. How much PVC pipe you'll need depends on how big you want your ladder to be - see the sample measurements below. You can use any size PVC, it's a personal choice, I used a smaller 1/2-inch pipe. You can find PVC pipe at a hardware store, as well as nylon rope. Buy 6-elbow fittings and 6-T fittings. Make sure the golf balls you choose are solid all the way through.

Cut all of your PVC pieces to size. Use a hacksaw, a miter saw or a plastic pipe cutter, I use the later, it's so much easier. For this built I ended-up using about 20 feet of 1/2-inch PVC pipe.
  • Cut (7) 24-inch  PVC pieces.
  • Cut (2) 18-inch  PVC pieces.
  • Cut (4) 8-inch PVC pieces.
Fit the pipes together. Build the ladder from the base upward. I did not use PVC cement on some of the PVC pieces so you can easily disassemble them for portability. I then painted (optional) the detachable PVC pieces for easy identification. Click on pictures to enlarge.