Wednesday, December 19, 2012

RV Improvements

Reviewing my Page Views stats, the most visited pages on this blog have to do with RV Improvements!  Being as it's such a hot topic, I decided to catch the world up on my latest renovations on my Class C 27' Four Winds 5000, circa 1999.  Simple things that solve problems, make better use of limited space, and sometimes save money on far costlier solutions.

Low cargo door
High cargo door
Instant Outdoor Table:  "Mainstay Easy Hang Shower Rod" with non-skid rubber tips, very convenient for holding up the side compartment door, providing an instant table before unpacking any patio equipment.  The fact that the rod is adjustable from 36-60" and locks in any position makes it so the table can be leveled on very uneven terrain, and can prop up both the low or high cargo doors.  It gives me a place to put my coffee cup, cigs and ash tray, snacks, leashes, light tools, etc., while setting up my camp space. Cost: $6.95 (Walmart).  Why those RV engineers don't build in fold down legs for these compartment doors I can't figure. Not pictured, but I got some plastic mats to put on the surface to prevent scratches.

Leveling Boards: Whew! I priced those installable crank up leveling jacks, the yellow plastic locking leveling boards, and figured I could save myself a heap of money just making my own. After a bit of experimentation, I learned I could get all the leveling I will probably ever need with the pictured 3/4" thick 4" wide, 8" long and 16" long wood fencing boards. (I found a few of these boards on a scrap pile somewhere, and cut them the width of my tires.) I carry 2 sets. Cost: $0

I create a ramp behind the tires that need lifting, 2 boards thick, then 4, then 6, then 8 boards thick as needed, and easily drive the RV up onto them.

Both back tires rest on the long boards.

The longer boards provide a final resting place for both back tires to sit on, but the shorter boards are sufficient enough ramp to lift the unit using just the outer tire.

It surprised me how just a few inches thick makes a huge difference in leveling.  See how the unit is completely lopsided driven up onto those 8 boards pictured above?  And walking inside is difficult on this angle.  But if I wasn't on level ground already, you can see that I could make it level using my method.  Oh, and don't forget to chock your other tires so the unit doesn't blow off the boards.

Hanging closet conversion to shelves and bins.  I don't bring hanging clothes on trips, but if I did I have a second closet with a hanger bar.  So in the bigger closet I built 2 shelves to hold 3 16" x 22" Sterlite bins.  One is for my clean clothes, another for dirty clothes, another for a second person's gear, linens and pillows, or whatever.  I've stacked a 4th bin under the 3rd one, in case I need a large container to put wet stuff, wash a dog, store live fish caught in a nearby stream, or other useful purpose.  I built the shelves by lining the side walls with 3/8" plywood cut to fit, stained to match, and screwed in, then laying a 3/8" shelving board across the top, then repeat with another set of uprights and board.  Voila!  A much more useful space. Cost: $25 (Target for bins, Home Depot for wood)


Stained Glass Window:  I hate those curtains and flimsy curtain rods around the top bunk.  Romping up there, they are always bending, popping off, and the hardware sticks out and pokes/scratches you.  So I got rid of the long one and coated the interior window with a stained glass sheet (comes in a roll from Home Depot, several designs).  You clean the window immaculately clean, wet the precut sheet with soapy water, and position it on, then work out the bubbles with a credit card, per package instructions.  Once on, it stays there by suction. I've had one up on my art room door for years and it's still there.  But it comes off easy if you ever want it to.  It's pretty, creates ambiance, and filters out a good bit of sunlight. Cost $19

Windshield Privacy Shade:  My Class C unit came with a curtain you can velcro around the front of the drivers cab for privacy.  It hangs straight down (over the steering wheel), though, and blocks off a lot of valuable dash space and the cab seats can't be sat in with that curtain in your face.  Hated it.  Whose dumb idea was that?  I got rid of it and resolved the privacy issue with an oversize accordian style silver windshield shade (available at any auto parts store), held flat against the windshield by a flexible flat stick that contours to the windshield's curved shape.  It creates privacy, allows for maximum usable space, and also keeps the heat out.  When not in use, the screen folds up neatly and stores in the closet, and the stick stores nicely under the overhead mattress. 

3 tiers: open, filtered light, privacy
Picture Window Light Blockers/Insulation:
I love the double pull down window shades that came with my RV.  Very cleverly, they slide up and down and acordian fold into each other, providing a filtered light screen and a privacy screen.  But it does NOT block out heat/light sufficiently.  (Another bitch of mine, for I'm sure those engineers could solve this problem from the factory if the wanted to.) 

Meanwhile, I carry two more windshield screens with me, and can tuck the edges into any of my window boxes for a blackout feature.  They are the perfect size for my windows and their weight rests neatly on the back of the couch, or the basket on the table, or the bed.  I once made the mistake of setting up camp under a street light that would have beamed down in my face all night thru the back bedroom window, but I was able to block it completely with a windshield screen.  These also serve as great window insulators in freezing cold weather!  In my pop up camper, for example, they kept my feet and head from freezing while in bed, so near they were to the canvas sides. Cost: 3 x $10.

Cab Window Liners:  Once I X'd the wrap around privacy curtain, I needed to create something to block the driver and passenger windows.  Also block the sun. And cheap.  Using a small silver tarp from Harbor Freight, I cut out two pieces a wee bit taller than the windows.  To hold in place, I lower the window an inch or so, tuck the fabric over the glass, and roll up the window.  Presto!  Privacy and heat problems solved.  One can open and close the doors and the fabric stays in place.  Cost:  1 5x7 tarp $8

Later I ran across a large flat cardboard box, cut out two pieces the exact shape of the windows that tuck right into the upper and lower window grooves, and am now figuring out how to decorate them (contact paper, glued on reflective tarp, or maybe a laminated photo collage). 
I don't know whether I prefer the cardboard or the fabric.  Both work.  The loose fabric folds up and tucks away in the door pocket when not in use, and is the easiest to make.  The cardboard version stores flat under the overhead mattress or in a closet, but took more effort to build.  Cost:  $0

Sky Light cover
Shower Sky Light:  Man, this clear skylight lets in so much heat, you could toast bread up there in summer.  Had to buy or build a reflective cover!  The other sky lights came with a pillow to block them, but not the one in the shower.  Guess I could have spent a fortune buying one to fit, but nevermind.  I just whipped out some stiff cardboard, cut it to size, covered it with contact paper the same color as the shower walls, dotted transparent velcro strips around the edges, and built my own.  It works perfect, looks good, and stores flat when I want it down. Cost: $1.50

Shower Curtain held on track
by a tension rod.

Shower Curtain Repair: 4 of the top grommets on the flimsy built-in accordian shower curtain had ripped out, so when one opened the curtain it sagged into the shower in places. Bummer! Didn't think to open and check it out before purchasing the second-hand unit. I was faced with replacing the curtain, not cheap, reinstalling the grommets (tried that, but it was way too bitchy to fool with). Why those RV designers can't reinforce the top hem of the curtain so the grommets can't tear out, is baffling! Eventually I installed a little adjustable tension rod behind it near the top, and presto, problem resolved. When I open the accordian curtain, the loose parts just rest against the rod and don't fall in. Cost: $1.29 Walmart

Table basket: Can't leave pens, pencils, tape, scissors, rulers, salt and pepper shakers, post it note pads, and such stuff out on the table when in motion, but it's such a pain to take it out, put it away, take it out, put it away. I want to leave it out.  So I used a long thin bungie cord to affix a cute bread basket (that I picked up at a garage sale) to the wall end of my table where all that little stuff can stay while I bounce down the road. Works perfect. Easy, once I figured it out. Cost: $.75

Outdoor Thermometer:  I always want to know the outside temperature.  Glued a transparent velcro strip to the outside wall and the matching piece to the back end of the thermometer bracket.  I stick it up when I get to my campsite, and take it down when I leave.  Works perfect except in a very heavy wind it peels off.  Heavy wind, bring in the thermometer.  Forget to do that, it lands unharmed on the ground.  Cost: $3.50

Hooks, Hooks, Hooks:  For minimal expense, I've installed hooks galore all over the place.  This keeps my precious walkways, counters, tables, couches and bed clear of sweaters, coats, PJ's, bathrobes, leashes, damp ponchos, towels, pot holders, etc.    I despise clutter and having to move something out of the way every time I want to move into a space. Some hooks glue to the walls, some screw in, some hang over the doors. The factory provides some, but can you ever have enough hooks?

Exterior Cargo Bin Latches:  Horrible design.  To secure doors shut, these latches turn 90 degrees and catch behind a thin metal lip that sticks up about 1/2 inch.  The problem is that going down the road, if some piece of your cargo rattles up against the lip and pins the latch in place or blocks where it needs to turn to open, you are screwed!  No access to your cargo until you remove the whole door assembly.  Fixed that with some mason jar lid rings cut in half and edges smoothed with a dremmel, and glued to the cargo doors using E6000, such that they protect the latches as they turn.  So far they are holding up great!

I also ran some Rubber Foam Weatherseal Self Stick Tape (that I had lying around) along the bottom inside edge of the cargo bin to prevent anything pressing down along the bottom edge.  Of course I left a gap where the latches need to swing into place over the lip.  Cost:  $0.  Why can't those RV engineers eliminate this problem to begin with?

I still have more improvements in mind and will post them as I resolve them.  It's fun playing RV engineer, but extremely time consuming!

To see my earlier RV improvements, visit this page.  It is totally amazing to me how RV's are let out of the factory without these issues resolved! Just as amazing how each and every one of these problems can cost a fortune to resolve if you let the RV Repair people do them for you.  And they don't even have solutions for some of these problems!  We are pretty much on our own to resolve many issues.

Upwards and onward!

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