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Old 06-09-2012, 03:57 PM   #1
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Notes on SMB Indiana visit

We made our second visit to the Huntington Indiana facility to discuss our Sportsmobile plans based on a 170Ē Sprinter. See our current configuration here: http://www.davidelmore.com/Sportsmobile.html Our Sprinter order has been submitted and our SMB will be built starting in October. An important goal for us is to have long dry camping times in both hot and cold weather. We talked to Nancy, Don, and Chad.

Batteries. The Sprinter has an option for a second battery in the engine compartment. SMB tried to use that in parallel with other house batteries and ran into problems with the van computer and with the fact that the batteries are different. It is good practice to use identical batteries in parallel. However, it is a shame to waste that space up front. We will have three batteries in the back. When the Sprinter engine is off the house electric can charge the Sprinter battery but not vice versa.

Black tank. We want at least 10 gallons which should last 10 days for two of us. The standard marine toilet they use comes with a 5 gal tank under the toilet above the floor. There is a 10 gal version that needs to extend under a cabinet behind the toilet. This will work great for us if we put a closet behind the toilet and the water heater will go above the tank.

Macerator repair. If the built-in macerator gets stuck on something that should not have gone down the toilet (pill bottle etc) then I donít want to be stuck with a full black tank half way to Alaska where I canít get it fixed. Chad assured me that it will be very messy, but I will be able to remove the macerator and dump with a large diameter hose until I can get it fixed. He said it is best not to flush toilet paper. We already use a trash can for TP on our big rig.

Water heater. We considered electric but this requires too much power and we canít use it in parks that have no electric hookup and no generators allowed. Diesel heaters are too expensive and not worth the maintenance headaches, so we will go with propane. SMB prefers the Atwood water heater. We will use the 6 gal Suburban propane water heater SW6D because it requires only 12x12Ē opening in the side of the van. It will go right behind the driver seat because if on the other side of the bath it would be between the two windows where there is a post you canít cut into.

Mattress/cushions. The bed mattress can go all the way back to the rear door and will have rear corners cut off to make room for the door mechanism. The rear mattress will not have button tucks. The dinette cushions need button tucks to keep the cover from rotating around the foam after sitting many times (SMB does not fix under warranty if no buttons). The buttons are pulled tight into the foam and I did not notice any discomfort when lying on them. Not sure why there have been complaints about them in this forum.

Awning. They demonstrated it and it is easy to open and looks well built.

Screen door. SMB does not provide, but they suggested I install a Magic Mesh Magnetic Screen. I read on a forum that it does not work with the Sprinter (a Roadtrek). I am thinking I could install a permanent hardwood frame in the opening to provide a vertical rectangle to attach it to. If the Magic Mesh doesnít work, I will try a retractable screen door kit by Glide Screen.

A/V and antennas. I want AM/FM, Sirius, CD, MP3, iPod, CB, 4G, TV, DVD, good stereo speakers, capability to add Blu-ray later, maybe a subwoofer later. SMB can install a TV/DVD combo with built-in speakers, but I want more than that so I will provide most of this. The Sprinter radio works only on the Sprinter battery and so is not a good solution for radio and CD except while driving (I think this advice from SMB may be wrong per above info under batteries). I will probably go with Jensen products AWM975, JE2212LEDWM, and MSX60RVR. SMB will install a Winegard wind-up TV antenna. I will need to provide and install antennas for CB, FM, Sirius, and 4G Wi-Fi before I deliver the van to them.

Generator. We listened to the PowerTech Diesel generator on one of the Sprinters in the lot. It is noisy compared to the Onan Quiet Diesel in a compartment in our present big rig, but the only other option is a propane generator that uses up the propane tank in 1 day and probably is just as noisy. The PowerTech is installed centered right behind the axle. We will need skid wheels on the MB hitch to protect it.

Furnace. With the large Fridge, propane water heater, and full bath there is not a place for a propane furnace since you canít have penetrations on the right behind the sliding door (is this why Roadtrek puts the counter on the left?) Anyway with cold-weather camping the propane tank would not last long enough, probably just a few days. So we are going with the Espar D4 diesel furnace for which the exhaust goes down through the floor. The only place left to put it is under the sink. If the gray tank gets in the way for that then it will have to be installed under the van floor somewhere else.

Front table. We brought 20x20 and 24x24 boards to test space for a table up front (see drawing). I was very pleased that, when the front seats are rotated towards each other and slid back against the doors, our knees did not collide, and there is plenty of space for the 24x24 table, and I can still get out of the driver seat without removing or even rotating the table. I will have to build a special mounting bracket on the floor since we canít put holes in the floor above the transmission and canít limit access for transmission service. I will probably use the same mounting to rig up a laptop computer stand for Delorme GPS use while driving.

Water system. We want to use our SMB in freezing weather. Only the gray tanks and macerator will be below the van, but I am concerned that pipes on the van floor will freeze since there is no insulation in the floor. The macerator will need pink liquid since freezing will damage it --We need to pump until pink comes out, then close the valves. Water pipes can handle freezing without pink liquid if we turn off the water pump and open faucets. The water lines will have some insulation under them, but I am also considering a closed loop pump on the hot water to keep all pipes and fresh water tank warm. We will add a 2 gal expansion tank so the pump does not have to run as often and to keep the water heater from building up pressure.

Comments on all this are welcome and I hope my info will help others.

David
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Old 06-15-2012, 10:26 PM   #2
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Re: Notes on SMB Indiana visit

Some interesting and unique design features on your plan! It should serve you well.
We'll be making our first trip to SMB next week for a possible Sprinter EB and I'm hoping you can help with one question: are price negotiations with SMB similar to other RV's - bargaining is part of the game and a 10 - 15% reduction in the quoted price could be expected?
thanks
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Old 06-16-2012, 07:17 AM   #3
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Re: Notes on SMB Indiana visit

Good question. No. I asked about discounts on the conversion and was told they do not offer them at SMB Indiana. It would be good to hear from others on this. However, negotiations on the van go as usual. I ended up changing from the dealer they suggested to get a better price.

David
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Old 06-16-2012, 03:07 PM   #4
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Re: Notes on SMB Indiana visit

Being custom made to your specs I dont think so. Never even thought to ask when having ours done. Ordered our van through there recommendation in Huntington....they took care of the order....there was a rebate at the time, which Nancy made sure the order got in before the deadline. Plus after ordering we received a post card from Ford saying if purchasing a ford truckor van there was a $500, rebate. Called Nancy and she got us the extra $500 off. All in all very pleased with SMB in Huntington.
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Old 06-17-2012, 12:21 PM   #5
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Re: Notes on SMB Indiana visit

Regarding plumbing in freezing weather. We live in Anchorage, AK with winter temps in the low -minus teens at times. I just got our Sprinter 2500 RB PH this spring and will be careful to completely drain, air purge or replace with pink stuff ANY liquid in the domestic water system. The Diesel water heater uses 100% antifreeze in the heat side of the exchanger so it is rated to -20F. My experience with the primitive (or simple depending on your viewpoint) plumbing with Westys for over 25 years in AK in that if you don't get all the water out, the pex piping and the plastic storage tank does not break but freezing water pulls apart the clamps or pushes out the fittings and wrecks the diaphram in the pump if you let any water stand in it.

Winter wet camping: Circulating the warm water is a very good idea for winter wet camping but does no good protecting the pipes if the vehicle is shut off and parked in under 0 C weather. Also that propane exterior vent for the furnace box lets in a lot of cold into a relatively closed area under and behind the cabinets and can quickly supper chill this area even if the main cabin is above freezing so keep water pipes out of that same area. Also realize the -20F rated fluid in the Diesel water heater will get denser in minus freezing weather and not sure if the circulating pump is that robust for extended use in cold weather with the denser liquid.

BTW we had the closed cell insulation installed under the floor sheathing by SMB West. I think it was an extra $195 for the RB floor. We can tell the difference in floor temp in bare feet compared to our trusty Westy and I think it has helped reduce road noise. Of course that is a subjective observation as a Westy is always very noisy at road speed compared to the Sprinters quite operation.
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Old 06-17-2012, 12:53 PM   #6
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Re: Notes on SMB Indiana visit

Quote:
Originally Posted by Spenard
BTW we had the closed cell insulation installed under the floor sheathing by SMB West. I think it was an extra $195 for the RB floor. We can tell the difference in floor temp in bare feet compared to our trusty Westy and I think it has helped reduce road noise. Of course that is a subjective observation as a Westy is always very noisy at road speed compared to the Sprinters quite operation.
Wow. Wish I had known about the added floor insulation option before having mine built. The floor is cold so we use slippers.

Is the closed cell stuff like a hard foam board? How many inches did it raise the floor by?
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Old 06-18-2012, 02:43 PM   #7
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Re: Notes on SMB Indiana visit

The floor insulation was only5/16 thick closed cell foam with reflective surfaces. Basically a thermal break between steel and wood with I'm guessing an R value of 2+ or so. It not house insulation but better comfort wise than nothing. It does not extend forward of the front seats.
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Old 07-02-2012, 05:17 AM   #8
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Re: Notes on SMB Indiana visit

Don't forget what CA offers may not be the same as TX which may not be the same for IN.

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Old 07-08-2012, 03:02 PM   #9
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Re: Notes on SMB Indiana visit

We made our third visit to the Huntington Indiana facility to discuss our Sportsmobile plans based on a 23 foot Sprinter. Thanks to Nancy, Don, and Jim for answers to lots of questions. I made lots of changes to the design, some not reported here. See the design on my web site http://davidelmore.com/Sportsmobile.php.

Furnace. Since the Espar furnace will not go under the sink above the gray tank, we looked for another above-floor location and found one under the dinette seat next to the dually wheel well. The model D2 will fit there, not the D4. Jim assured me that the D2 will provide enough heat for winter camping. I am not so sure since it provides only 7,000 btu/hr or 2 kw, about half what the smallest propane furnace provides and only about the same as two electric heaters. Has anyone gone winter camping with a D2?

Freezing pipes. All water pipes will be above the floor and insulated from below. This is possible since we have a bed in the back. I had grand schemes for either a recirculating pump or routing furnace heat ducts next to the pipes. Nancy nixed these ideas (pun intended), but I could do them myself. On further thought, if needed I can install one or more small fans in appropriate places to blow warm room air into the compartments where the water pipes go.

Fill water tank. SMB Indiana normally provides filling only from the city water connection. To fill the water tank you have to hook up a supply hose to the connector on the outside of the van, go into the van and open a valve under the dinette seat, watch the tank or listen for water leaving the overflow tube, close the valve, and disconnect the hose. Disadvantages of this, besides the large number of steps, are 1) that the drinking water hose at many dump stations does not have a hose connector on it and 2) that the tank becomes pressurized and then some of the water is siphoned out when finished. I think I will install a short gravity fill line in the back with a cap on it.
To use I will open the back door and feed the line through the door jamb. I donít think there is a good place to mount this permanently (I assume why SMB does not use this method) and there are water security issues (Roadtrek puts the fill line in the passenger door jamb, others have a lock on it).

Dump hose connection. SMB will pipe the output of the macerator to a convenient location under the van for me to build some sort of shelf to hold the coiled sewer hose. This way I will not have the messy job of hooking up that hose every time I dump and will not have to store the smelly hose inside the van. I will put a ball valve on the end of the hose.

When in a campground with drains, the above hose will not drain the gray tanks without running the macerator. Therefore I may tap into the gray tank and attach a second hose that bypasses the macerator.

Bath walls. SMB Indiana has a problem in their demo Sprinter: In the summer heat the vinyl lining on the bath interior walls expands more than the base plywood and buckles slightly. Jim says more stronger glue will solve it, but I am not so sure. Anyone else had this problem? What is on the walls of your shower area?

Size of propane tank. They were not sure if the ď8 gallonĒ propane tank holds 8 gallons considering that they are filled only 3/4 full. Can anyone report how much propane goes into an empty 8 gal tank?

Running boards. We decided against them. They do not look attractive to me, do not seem very strong, are expensive, and decrease ground clearance. I will probably install an automatic Kwikee step.

Antennas. I will purchase antennas for CB, TV, Sirius/XM, and 4G. SMB will install. Not sure if the Winegard RV3095 Sensar III TV antenna provided by SMB will work for AM/FM Ė any experience with this?

Comments on all this are welcome and I hope my info will help you.

David
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Old 07-08-2012, 04:24 PM   #10
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Notes on SMB Indiana visit

Hi;

Legally the propane tank can only be filled to 80% of it's volume so your 8 gallon tank will yield 6.4 gallons of propane in liquid form.

Regards,

Gavin
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