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Old 02-15-2013, 01:33 PM   #51
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Re: My SMB Indiana Sprinter building experience

Hi Dave,

I've looked but can't seem to find the details: what model Wilson 4G cell amplifier setup do you have? I have a Wilson MobilePro 3G amp and antenna but haven't been all that impressed by it. Also, it doesn't do 4G. Is your setup a mobile setup that runs off 12v/USB, or AC?

Thanks...
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Old 02-15-2013, 03:44 PM   #52
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Re: My SMB Indiana Sprinter building experience

Hi Brian,

I bought these from 3gstore.com and added the model numbers to my site:

Wilson 21" Omni RV Antenna
Wilson Sleek 4G-A Signal Booster for AT&T 4G LTE 815326

http://3gstore.com/product/2294_wilson- ... tenna.html
http://3gstore.com/product/3749_wilson_ ... 15326.html

As I said before I have used these in the wilderness where you could not get data or voice without them. My iPhone 5 sits in the cradle above the window and becomes a hotspot for my laptop and iPad. The amp runs on 12V. I also wired in a charging cable to the van 12V, needed because the iPhone battery does not last long when used as a hotspot.

The antenna did not come with a mounting system for our van. SMB Indiana had a bracket that allowed them to install on a post for our solar panel.

Both the 4G booster and the iPhone 5 are new products available only in the past few months. Wilson also has the booster for Verizon. The frequencies are much different from 3G and so you will need the new amp and maybe antenna. The 3G store explains the capabilities of each antenna in detail.

Let me know if you have more questions.

David
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Old 08-05-2013, 04:42 PM   #53
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Re: My SMB Indiana Sprinter building experience

I did some major upgrades to Vanessa in June, then we traveled in July and so am only now posting photos. The positive side of the delay is that now I can also report our experience with them. I will report on each project in a separate post.

First the screen door. SMB Indiana did not offer to install one and suggested simple options such as a split screen that you push aside when you enter. We had had good experience with the sliding screen on the Great West Van we rented (see here) and so wanted one like that. The folding screen style on that van is not available in the USA any more but the same company makes a role-up screen and sells it only through Lowes with installation included for about $360.

Needless to say, installation did not include framing for it; that was my job which took me two full days not including planning time. The screen door on a house is installed outside the main door with the frame facing out. Here it had to be the opposite, facing in. I cut the vinyl flooring and rolled it back, then removed the plywood back about 6 inches to make room to install the door. On the forward side I used 1" plywood to extend out from the B pillar. On the aft side I used a 1x4 to attach to the side of the cabinet. After I installed and painted the frame, I met the door installer in a Lowes parking lot, and he took about 1 hour to finish the job (he had installed thousands of these, and this was not his first in an RV).

To cover the opening over the counter we sewed the hook side of Velcro onto a screen then used a strip of loop Velcro with adhesive on the van. This will be easy to remove if we are camping where there are no bugs. The Velcro strips came from Feiner Supply which has very good prices for large quantities.

Our experience with the door has been great with no problems and only minor annoyances. The screen closes with a magnetic catch which holds well and requires a jerk to open. When opening, if it slips out of your hand, it opens very fast with a big bang but does not hurt anything (except maybe kid's fingers that are in the wrong place -- this happened once without injury). The driver seat does not go as far back as it would without the screen. You can still rotate the seat 180 degrees and the door is not much in the way when sitting. The new wall space was a welcome place to put my beer opener and lid catcher, and a great place for the fire extinguisher. The grab handle that came with the van still works.

We used it for a month, sometimes in very buggy campgrounds, opening and closing it many hundreds of times. When passing through I would open with my right hand, step through then reach around behind me with my right hand to close it. This would leave my left hand available to carry something. I guess I need to post a video of this. The opening is 25 inches which is not small.





















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Old 08-05-2013, 05:40 PM   #54
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Re: My SMB Indiana Sprinter building experience

Most of the screen jobs I see look pretty shabby but yours looks very neat and functional. Well done and thanks for showing the updates.
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Old 08-05-2013, 06:23 PM   #55
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Re: My SMB Indiana Sprinter building experience

The next big project was installing two additional batteries. This is a follow-up to my earlier post here. SMB Indiana installed two group 27 AGM batteries, one under the right rear of the van, the other on the right side of the rear storage compartment (see my web site for diagrams and photos). For winter use these were not adequate, 200 A-Hr total, to last overnight when we are using lights, electric fridge, TV, and Espar D2 furnace, and there is little solar gain in the winter. Even in the summer it is nice to have more battery storage for the microwave, and so we don't have to run the generator every day.

Options for placing them were under the hood (a very tight squeeze), in the rear storage compartment (a very tight fit considering they need to be in vented boxes back there), and under the van, an alternative suggested by SMB. The best place I found under the van was between the diesel generator and the rear axle. So I designed and welded a steel cage as shown in the photos below. I purchased plastic battery boxes, threw away the lids, and placed them upside down over the batteries. This keeps water and salt off of them, allows them to vent out the bottom, and they take up less space without the lids. I attached with two posts left over from the spare tire carrier and two new ones I made.

The batteries plus cage weigh a total of 150 lbs, and so I needed a way to raise and lower them for inspection and repair on the road. I ended up buying a small winch from TECA as is used for storing a spare tire under a truck. It conveniently mounted at the rear of the storage area in the back behind the spare tire. I operate it with a socket wrench. The cable connects to the hole in the center of the top bar as shown here:



The photo below shows how the cage mounts under the van. You can see the generator on the left and the tail pipe on the right.



Here is the cage painted and batteries installed:



And here it is ready to be hoisted up under the van. I used 2/0 gauge cables.



Let me know if you have questions.

David
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Old 08-05-2013, 06:55 PM   #56
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Re: My SMB Indiana Sprinter building experience

You may have noticed the electric step below the screen door. The van step is 18 inches above the ground. We did not want running boards, and a portable step is a nuisance to store and place every time you stop.

This is the Kwikee automatic electric step series 28. To install it I had to weld together a custom mounting frame that bolted to the chassis. It needed to be as close to the side as possible and as high as possible. I couldn't get it as high as I wanted so I added some rubber pads on the step to make the step about half way from the ground to the van step, or about 9 inches above the ground.

The automation is very convenient. It withdraws back and up only when both the door is closed and when the ignition is on. It then extends as soon as the door is opened. If it runs into a curb or your leg, it stops immediately. A toggle switch can be set so it retracts with the door closing and ignition not on, such as you might want in a parking lot. Ground clearance is 7 inches which is about the same as the waste plumbing.

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Old 08-05-2013, 07:12 PM   #57
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Re: My SMB Indiana Sprinter building experience

The foot of our bed extends all the way to the back. This is the only opening from the back into the interior of the van. It is nice to keep the back doors open on hot nights, so we fitted fabric screening over this opening using velcro, the same as we did next to the screen door.

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Old 08-05-2013, 07:26 PM   #58
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Re: My SMB Indiana Sprinter building experience

I installed Airtabs. Although they are supposed to improve fuel mileage, my main interest was to improve van stability in gusty winds. After driving with them for a month, it is impossible to tell if mileage was improved since it is expected to be small compared to other factors such as speed, wind direction, and changing inclines. Our over-all mileage is 17 mpg and highway ranges 18-20. However, with even a small improvement here will cover their cost over the life of the van.

Stability in gusty winds is also hard to measure. Before installing Airtabs, I had to slow down to 40 mph on a windy day just to stay on the highway. After installing we had a few very windy days and I never had such trouble, but I have no way to compare wind strengths quantitatively. My overall judgement is that the van is much more stable in windy conditions.



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Old 08-05-2013, 07:40 PM   #59
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Re: My SMB Indiana Sprinter building experience

The left door armrest in the Sprinter is too low for me (The other armrest has a ratchet to adjust to any height). So I made one using a rigid foam base and a soft foam top. I covered it with the same shelf-liner fabric that SMB uses on the shelves. I bonded the seams with a hot glue gun which worked great. I attached it to the door with some Velcro "coins".

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Old 08-05-2013, 08:10 PM   #60
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Re: My SMB Indiana Sprinter building experience

Maybe Llamadave should open a customizing shop for camper vans. I 'm sure you could find find solutions for all kinds of rigs.
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