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Old 09-22-2016, 12:02 PM   #51
sak
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First Post. We are finally in the conversion queue for 2017at SMBW. 144, 4x, low roof, 3L, penthouse. We have a lot to learn and the posts here are a big help. Snowy, our build is similar to yours. I am wondering how your shower is working out for you with regard to size and location. My wife wants ours in the rear drivers side. We know that it will be inside of the wheel well, and decrease space between any cabinets on the adjacent side. We will have the curve porta potty and will be sitting to take a "Navy" shower. We want to have a Gaucho behind the drivers seat. Any Thoughts?
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Old 09-22-2016, 11:44 PM   #52
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snowy View Post
I observe that the sliding door routinely opens further than the mid-point, which is as far as I would ever want to open it. Lets all that Danhard A/C out. Anyway, when I get some matching material from SMB, I am going to mount a 20" 2"x4" (covered with matching material) on the sliding door at the two bumper locations.This should halt it at the mid-point just past where the 'catch' can hold it open. Considering screwing right into the door panel, or screwing in straps to hold it in place (and allow for small amount of for-aft movement).
Alternately you might want to consider the Norton Intermediate Door Stop kit used by many Sprinter owners:

Norton Fabrications, Inc. | Sprinter Van, Dodge ProMaster, Ford Transit Intermediate Door Stop Kit
.
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Old 09-25-2016, 10:14 PM   #53
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shakedown trip

Just back from first real shakedown trip. Lots of notes. Some quick thoughts before jumping back into a rough work-week before heading back out to CO for a real trip:

1. LOVE the penthouse. Wife and I slept up there the first night with windows open and it was great. A little wobbly, but we are used to a little movement in boats anyway. During evening beforehand, and all day/night the second night we had the bed lifted with it for the extra head room. What a luxury to sand so straight without worrying about hitting your head. Feels very spacious overall, which makes it easy to not notice the tight horizontal conditions.

2. Slept on the couches set up as bed the second night. Also very nice. For anyone curious about the diagonal setup - it works great for us and opened up the possibility of kitchen and bath and bed in a 144 wheelbase.

3. LOVE the awning windows. We had rain the second night and the ventilation afforded by these even with light rain was fabulous.

4. Did I mention we love the penthouse? It really hits home if it is raining outside and you spend so much time in the van. The open, airy, dry feeling was really nice. Two of us spent most of the day quite comfortably in there.

5. Issues with Espar heater that I need to work out with SMB. Worked first thing in the morning, but stopped blowing hot the moment I tried to use the thermostat and I could never get it to blow hot again. Checked fuses. Tried many permutations. Never got hot again. I am assuming user error at this point, but don't know what I'm doing wrong yet.

6. Induction cook top worked as stated. I had never used induction, and it was amazing on the Magnum(?) pot. Boiled water faster than jetboil, though I didn't measure. That said, the first night we sort of treated the van more like a small home than a fancy tent, and the pots are bigger than we need and we made a much bigger mess than I would ever make camping. By morning I was using my trusty ultra-light one-burner camp stove outside at the picnic table for morning coffee while the wife slept in, and back to the minimal footprint of previous camping style.

7. Microwave was nice for melting cheese on soft tacos. Also used it to boil a cup of water. Just testing it out. It worked great. Never had one traveling before and not sure how important it will be, but finding uses for it.

8. Our choice to do the Thetford in a bathroom seems to be validated. Normally we will be 'boondocking' and do our business outside, but at a campground with hookups, and the nearest bathroom coincidentally out of order, on a rainy night - I confess this was handy. The quality of the permanent mount Thetford and convenience of water flush is almost as nice as marine toilet, yet better when it comes to dumping. Our shower is big enough for enclosed seated navy shower, and is proving useful for certain storage (soft shoe rack hanging on door with incidentals, hanging wet towels to dry, etc.)

9. Weight!! Full fuel, 10G water, another ~5G water, two adults, way more canned food than we were going to eat, recovery gear, tools.. We were under Gross vehicle weight by ~250lbs, BUT we were also OVER on the front in particular by nearly 150lbs. We don't even have a winch up there, or any body armor other than the Aluminess light bar and receiver hitch. WATCH YOUR FRONT AXLE WEIGHT if you are doing the 4x4 2500!
Also, adding 3 more adults, even without the water and canned goods, may put us over on Gross. Something to keep an eye on. I would SO have gone with the 3500 if it came in low roof, which it did not, and high roof precluded the penthouse.

10. Mileage. After about 1,500 mile break-in (not perfect, but at least not constant freeway speed like this trip would be) - did another ~900 miles on this trip. Computer shows 14.3mpg, plus ~7% correction for tire size = ~ 15.3mpg observed. Avg speed 55mph. Mostly flat I10 in TX to/from, with ~100 miles of hilly canyon roads mixed in. No off-road or 4wd. See comments on weight above. This was heavily laden vehicle. I made no effort to 'drive nicely' either, so I assume this could be improved if someone was trying to be nicer on the gas. I also assume it could be much worse in the Rockies.

Off next Sat for a real trip (9 day trip to CO). May not be on much between now and my return.


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Old 09-25-2016, 10:18 PM   #54
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PeteM View Post
Alternately you might want to consider the Norton Intermediate Door Stop kit used by many Sprinter owners:

Norton Fabrications, Inc. | Sprinter Van, Dodge ProMaster, Ford Transit Intermediate Door Stop Kit
.
We already got the factory mid-point catch, which appear to be the same thing. The problem I observe is that almost everyone that opens that sliding door does so with enough force to go all the way past the mid-point catch. I.e., roll right over it. Then it is a matter of coming forward to find the latch. My hope is to make this thoughtless and effortless. I'm just going to tape up a 2x4 as a prototype and will get back on here with results.

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Old 10-01-2016, 04:30 PM   #55
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hi sak - like you, i'm in line for 2017 144" 4x4 w/ ph. i'm working w/ fresno, curious what timeline you've been told; last i heard was to expect van ~may then couple/few months for build-out.

so appreciate everyone's comments & perspectives -- truly helpful amid million details & questions!
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Old 10-02-2016, 12:29 PM   #56
sak
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Sprinter209. that is exactly the time line SMB west told me. The only good thing is that it gives me time to pour over the posts here to help me make a informed decision on the build. We have not made a final decision on the layout of the interior. This will be my first purchase of any kind of RV, so I have to get up to speed. I will follow your build. Good Luck!
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Old 10-09-2016, 07:04 PM   #57
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First ‘real’ trip feedback

Insulation: Windows are practically fans blowing cold air into vehicle they are such poor insulators. Penthouse also offers very little insulation. Not too surprising, but it was pretty remarkable to experience. Coldest night was mid-twenties. Interior fell to mid-forties by morning down below. No temp upstairs in the penthouse but suspect it was low to mid-thirties, and only because of what heat there was down below rising up before being wasted. For me and my intended use, I am still glad I got the windows. We have good 0 degree sleeping bags and a down comforter on top of that for the penthouse. Combined with the option to go down below where it is warmer when it is time to get out of the bag, we are set and I am glad for the windows and penthouse. Not saying this works for everyone, and for sustained sub-freezing temps I think I would skip windows and not expect to use the penthouse.

Espar hydronic heater/hot water: Worked as expected. I would wake up a couple of hours before daughter and turn it on, bringing interior up ~15 degrees or more by the 2 hour mark and making it downright hot the day we left it on. We tweaked the direction of air flow a bit with things in the cab. Also, we did not actually use the thermostat to turn heat on/off automatically. If it were going to be much colder or we were going to be there much longer, I would leave the heater on with the thermostat set to a relatively low temp to keep the interior from getting below freezing.
Another note on the Espar: it is designed not to start if the fuel tank is less than ¼ full. That means you have to ensure you have more than ¼ tank by the time you stop. There was only one time where we explicitly refueled prematurely for this reason. Something to keep in mind though.

Van handling: In a word, GREAT!
On-road, we did over 3,000 miles, including exceedingly tight twisties (15 north out of Silver City, NM to Gila Cliff Dwellings where RV’s and trailers are explicitly disallowed), and hours and hours at 85mph on Interstates (80mph speed limits on I10). Also, I like the cruise control. Very simple, and does a good job holding constant speed, even with heavy loaded vehicle in mountains. Very smooth ride. Very easy steering. Tracks well.
Off-road, we did Medano pass (medium difficulty), with some tight turns, a squeeze through some boulders, 7 water crossings, and SERIOUS climbing over fallen trees (separate and alarming story altogether). REALLY glad I had my tow strap since the winch isn’t mounted yet, and we had to back up and maneuver to pull trees out of the way. By keeping modest speed over sand the van handled fine in low range 4wd. Some spinning out, but nothing I couldn’t overcome by powering through to keep forward momentum. I didn’t even air down (but carry maxtrax just in case). In fairness, there had been a rain the night before so the sand was damp, which made a huge difference and this might not have been possible under the driest summer sand conditions. The low range was not nearly as low as I would have liked for delicate maneuvers, but WAY better than the normal and good enough for my purposes. Just spent a bit more time stop/go in the water crossings in particular.

2nd Alternator: The location for this is very low in the front, begging to be hit by rocks (or trees) or submerged in water.  My estimation is that this reduces water fording ability by at least 6 inches in particular, having the most vital of power cables completely exposed at the 17” mark. (See stop/go on water crossings above.) While better than flooding the engine, I am guessing the careless will see some major fireworks. Not sure of the implications in snow yet. This is a real bummer. I don’t make a point of going through deep water for the fun of it, but 17” before a major catastrophe is a harsh limitation.

A note on DEF: I was already down 3 gallons before the trip at about 3600 miles, as measured by how much I put in once I got the warning at ¼ full. It looks like I burned another 1.5ish on this 3,000 mile trip. Call it 4.5G of DEF for 5K miles. Quite a bit higher ratio than I was lead to believe. Not a problem per se, but something people should know. It is possible (probable) that my driving conditions (mountains), style (not gentle), and vehicle weight (pretty much maxed out) contribute to this. Would be curious what ratios others see. At 1200 miles per gallon, a 4 gallon capacity, and this available at many gas stations these days, I don’t see it as a problem. Just an observation.

Some modest body damage doing Medano Pass, mostly due to the vehicle being taller than others doing this trail, and minimal wheel articulation, causing the top to swing out and rub on branches on side of road. Also bent up the Aluminess nerf bars, which I feel did help protect the grey water drain (at least). I knew these were not sliders, but I guess I was surprised to see real stress at this location with what I thought was a pretty moderate trail. 144” wheel base may be short for a van, but it is probably 30-50% longer than a typical crawler, so extra care should be taken on the for-aft topology in addition to the obvious threats to flopping over.

Fiama awning: I think I would skip this if I were doing it over again. Out of alignment after the first few uses, and really ONLY useful when camped in rain/snow and wanting to keep it out of the van when enter/exit.. It was an impulse decision and I am actually lucky it hasn’t caught on brush and ripped off. We shall see. Aside from Nov., and Dec., trips, I have a trip planned in Jan. that will be in the same spot for 3 days with possible rain the whole time. I may be glad for it then.

In 7 nights, we only connected to ‘shore power’ one night, even though we had options a couple of other nights. Ditto water. We saw no reason to stay connect to water supply. We had to refill the 10G tank a couple of times and used the hose connection for this long enough to fill up. In the scenario where we are driving each day between locations, there was ample house battery to supply us while stopped, including use of the induction stove (on Inverter) for dinner and breakfast, water pump, lights, etc. Lowest we saw house battery I think was 11.3. I think that was after a pasta dinner followed by pancakes in the morning.

Really wishing I had the Aluminess rear bumper, spare tire mount, and large box. I expect to store the maxtrax on the tire, and the fuel cans / recovery gear / shore connections in the box.

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Old 10-09-2016, 07:07 PM   #58
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Minor damage to Nerf Bars

Minor damage to Aluminess Nerf bars from Medano Pass medium difficulty primitive road (pics attached).

Snowy
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Old 10-09-2016, 07:14 PM   #59
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Custom Paint Details courtesy Medano Pass

Some custom paint modifications courtesy Medano Pass medium difficulty primitive road (pics attached). At least the scratches are on both sides for symmetry. :/

Snowy
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Old 10-09-2016, 07:17 PM   #60
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protective covering doing its job

The protective covering on the lower portion of the body did its job. See pics.

Snowy
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